The NFL 2009 regular season is wrapping up and the playoff picture still remains just as fuzzy as it did last week. While three teams have clinched spots, there are still 24 teams technically alive for postseason play. The NFL playoff picture should clear up slightly after this week’s games.
The Indianapolis Colts have clinched a spot and are the only undefeated team left in the AFC. What the Colts and New Orleans Saints have done this season is simply remarkable. If it proves anything it proves that you do need a great quarterback to win games in the NFL. Well for the Jacksonville Jaguars, they are missing that component yet they provide a fairly intriguing matchup for the Colts on Thursday night.
The big debate now for the Colts centers around how long their starters will play. Nobody will catch them, but they have already gotten a ton of grief from the NFL in regards to sitting starters in the regular season. The Jags on the other hand are fighting for their playoff lives. To the Jags, this is a playoff game. To the Colts, this is just a few more weeks before they can take a long vacation. Will that play a factor Thursday night in Jacksonville?
One thing to keep in mind here is that the Jags tend to play the Colts tough. The Jags held the Colts to just 14 points in Week 1 this season. The Jags were down two points and had the ball in the final two minutes of the game. Unfortunately for Jags fans, the Jags were unable to complete the drive. Think about how different this season would have been if the Jags were able to drive for a field goal and win that game. Well they didn’t, and I am sure the Colts are reminded of this daily in game preparation this week. I wouldn’t be shocked with an upset, at the same time I also wouldn’t be shocked to see Peyton Manning sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter with a comfortable lead.
The NFC’s undefeated darlings, the New Orleans Saints also play in a featured game this week. The Saints play a struggling Dallas Cowboys at home on Saturday night. NFL fans started counting this one down three weeks ago and a week later they stopped. Talk about two teams going in entirely two different directions. The Dallas Cowboys continue to choke in December and are on the verge of seeing their playoff hopes completely slip away barring a miracle over the next few weeks.
Unlike the Jags-Colts, I would be shocked to see an upset here. The Saints have had a couple of tough games back to back in recent weeks against teams a lot worse than the Cowboys. However, if there is one thing I love about the Saints it is that they get up for big games. This is a big game and they know the world will be watching. Ask Tom Brady what happened the last time the world was watching a Saints game. This team can run, they can pass, and they can certainly defend against anyone. Is there anything that leads me to believe that this one will be anything but a blowout? Nope.
I remember a game late in Sean Payton’s first season as the Saints coach between these two teams. The hype surrounded Payton coming back to Dallas to coach against his mentor Bill Parcels. The Cowboys were red hot around this time, Tony Romo had become the darling of America, and the Saints were seen as a big underdog in that game. Payton coached out of his mind and stunned the Cowboys in Week 14 42-17, Brees had 384 yards, and the Saints just went crazy with gadget play after gadget play. The Cowboys don’t have a defense that can contain an offense like this. Add in the chance of no DeMarcus Ware, and this one is a recipe for disaster for the Dallas Cowboys. I love the Saints with a huge win and another T.R. problem for Dallas fans.
I don’t think anyone expected a Week 15 game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles to mean much going into this season. However, this is looking like the marquee game of the day. Both teams are coming off of red hot performances in prime time games. On paper, these two offenses have the potential to light up the day with big yards and flashy plays. This is going to be a good one.
Will the real San Francisco 49ers please stand up? The 49ers that blew out the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night were the most impressive 49ers I have seen in a long time. How the heck do you lose to Seattle in one week and destroy the Cardinals the next? Whether it was Mike Singletary pulling down his pants or changing up their defensive schemes, something worked. No quarterback likes pressure, and Donovan McNabb is no exception. Teams that get pressure on McNabb make him look like Jake Delhomme on third down. The Eagles offensive line has really come together lately, but they are beatable and will need to play their best to keep McNabb vertical.
The Eagles put a show on Sunday night that the New Orleans Saints would be proud of. The NFL is finally learning what us Eagles fans have known for two years and that is that DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive players in the NFL. He had a monster game last week, including back-stepping into the end zone for a score. Keep in mind that he did this without Jeremy Maclin or Brian Westbrook taking coverage away from him. The guy is just a nightmare for defensive coordinators. Oh yeah, and how about that Michael Vick guy?
I have been critical all season of the Vick signing. I still don’t like him, but the Eagles are finally starting to use him as they promised. The birds came up with some really exciting plays including one where both McNabb and Vick were in at the same time. If there is any positive to this slow start for Vick, it is that teams haven’t seen half of what the birds plan to do with Vick. He looks like he is starting to get his legs back and could be a difference maker. The problem I still have with Vick is that he is high risk/high reward. Sure, he absolutely has the potential to come in a game and stun a defense. At the same time, I still think you play with fire when you put him in on red zone plays and break up the momentum of a long drive for the offense. Over the course of the season, it hasn’t worked out. Over the last few weeks, it has been a dream for Eagles fans. Sunday will be an interesting test to Singletary and his defense to see if they can stop this new offensive machine.
The Eagles haven’t played a quarterback as hot as Alex Smith in a long time. As good as Tony Romo has been this season, he didn’t come into the Linc as hot as Smith will be on Sunday. The birds had some major breakdowns in their rushing defense Sunday, and that is not a good sign when you have Frank Gore coming in. I think the big difference here is the travel. The 49ers will be traveling across the country on a short week. That is a horrible schedule this late in the season, and almost unfair if you ask me. The game is also at 1 PM/EST which is 10 AM California time. I think these are huge intangibles that will be the difference in the game. Don’t be surprised to see a sluggish 49ers team for these reasons on Sunday. I like the birds in a tight one at home on Sunday afternoon.
Quick Hits – Call me crazy but I am actually intrigued by the Monday night game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. A great defense against a pretty good passing offense could be a fun game to watch. I almost feel sorry for the Panthers this week, but not after they ran their mouths about a team that just beat them. The Steelers couldn’t beat the Browns or the Raiders, so what makes me think that they have a prayer against the Packers? Actually, I like them a lot. If sitting Peyton Manning in Week 17 hurts the integrity of the NFL, what does a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15 do for the league? As impressive as the San Diego Chargers have been this season, I won’t be convinced until they do it in January. Remember when fans of defensive football circled the Bears-Ravens game in Week 15 this season? I hope you didn’t use ink. The Patriots are winless on the road (in America) this season and the Bills almost beat them in Week 1. It could get very interesting on Sunday if things go wrong early for New England. Fantasy Football owners can let out a big sigh of relief now that it looks like they will have Larry Fitzgerald available for the Detroit Lions game.
Fantasy Fix – Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals – The former Buckeye has been a very frustrating player for fantasy owners this season. He has only three touchdowns in seven weeks. However, you probably drafted him for the Cardinals late-season schedule. This week he has the Detroit Lions. Ray Rice is still running all over the Lions. Rice put up over 20 points for me in both of my leagues last week. The Lions have all but given up at this point. I don’t care who your other running backs are, play Beanie and enjoy a nice playoff victory.
Jason Campbell, Washington Redskins – As bad as the Redskins started this season, they have actually had some good offensive numbers the last few weeks. Maybe the key to getting the most out of Campbell is keeping him away from his offensive coordinator? Regardless, he has put up some great numbers the last few weeks. Did you see what Donovan McNabb did to the Giants on Sunday night? He is no Donovan McNabb, but if you read the New York papers this week you know that the Giants are a complete mess right now. The Redskins have a great passing defense and they are bound to get some turnovers. Campbell should have a drive or two started with great field position. Better yet, Campbell is available on just about every waiver wire. Sure he is a risk in a playoff week, but he has a better matchup this week than over half of the other fantasy quarterback options. I love his matchup this week on Monday night, making him a must-start.
Randy McMichael, St. Louis Rams – I am not as bullish on McMichael as I am the other guys here, but in looking for a dubious tight end his name jumped out at me. Finally, McMichael caught his first touchdown pass of the season last week. Keith Null started at quarterback last week and as the saying goes, a tight end is a rookie QB’s best friend. The quarterback situation is once again in limbo this week, but McMichael is a must-start if Null starts at quarterback for the Rams. The Rams play the Houston Texans team this week and the Texans are very generous to tight ends. The Texans give up almost 67% more fantasy points to tight ends than the average NFL team. Even with Boller in the game, I still like McMichael yet I love him with Null.
CamelClutchBlog.com Fantasy Football Playoff Standings
Team The Nice Guys 1-0 (Jeff Porrini)
Dusty’s RedBellySpot 1-0 (Eric Gargiulo)
…Not You!!! 0-1 (John Yomtov)
Havertown Spoilers 0-1 (Bryan Reigel)
1st Place 0-1 (Derek Sabato)
Team Wheelhouse Radio! 1-0 (Jeff Peck)
Team Nuetral Zone 1-0 (Brett Clendaniel)
Team We Own You 1-0 (Erik Espenberg)
The Kings of Krista 0-1 (Josh Usher)
Team Rowland 0-1 (Justin Rowland)
NFL Week 15 Picks!
I had a huge bounce back week witn my first 12 win week of the season on CamelClutchBlog.com, going 12-4. I am 134-74 overall on the season. Now for the NFL Week 15 Picks (Picks in BOLD) –
Indianapolis Colts vs Jacksonville Jaguars
Dallas Cowboys vs New Orleans Saints
New England Patriots vs Buffalo Bills
Arizona Cardinals vs Detroit Lions
Miami Dolphins vs Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns vs Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Texans vs St Louis Rams
Atlanta Falcons vs New York Jets
San Francisco 49ers vs Philadelphia Eagles
Chicago Bears vs Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals vs San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders vs Denver Broncos
Green Bay Packers vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Seattle Seahawks
Minnesota Vikings vs Carolina Panthers
New York Giants vs Washington Redskins
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