The playoffs unofficially begin in the NFL on Friday. There are three NFC teams alive for two NFC playoff spots, while the AFC has six 7-7 teams fighting it out for a couple of available spots. This may be the most exciting week of the year with so many teams left playing for so little spots in the NFL post season.
The NFL opens up the week with a great prime time special on Christmas night. The San Diego Chargers look for 10 straight as they travel to Tennessee to play the Titans. Vince Young and the Titans are still alive for a playoff spot. After starting off the season winless in six and being blown out in embarrassing fashion by the New England Patriots, a playoff spot for the Titans would truly be a Christmas miracle.
Vince Young continues to do what he does best and that is win games. Young has brought his winning attitude to the entire team, as the Titans won a recent game that featured Young on the bench for most of the contest. The Titans have only had one loss since Young took the quarterback spot and that was against the Indianapolis Colts. Kenny Britt and Justin Gage have come out of nowhere over the last few weeks as one of the most dangerous wide receiver tandems in the NFL. This is a very good team playing their best ball of the year at the right time.
It is very hard to pick against a team that has just won 10 in a row and I won’t start now. The obvious line of thinking is to take the home team on Christmas night. However, most NFL analysts will tell you that the road team has a bigger advantage on a holiday night. While the home team is busy getting extra tickets for family, hosting family for the holidays, and spending the day at home, it is just business as usual for the road team who tend to be more focused in these situations. I look for the Chargers to win a tight one here and cruise into the playoffs with the number-two seed.
On the flip side, the Philadelphia Eagles have quietly become the hottest team in the NFC. The birds have rolled off five in a row, including a big division win over the Giants. The birds are 9-2 against NFC teams losing only to the Saints and Cowboys. Even more impressive about their recent run is that they have done it without key players. DeSean Jackson, Brian Westbrook, and Jeremy Maclin have all missed at least one game, and in the case of Westbrook it has been quite a few games. This week the birds are expected to have their offense back in full force for the first time in weeks as they host the Denver Broncos.
It is amazing how different the context of this game is to Denver Broncos fans and Philadelphia Eagles fans. For the Broncos it is a must-win situation. After starting the season 5-0, the Broncos have stumbled and are now 8-6 and on the playoff bubble. Denver Broncos fans are thinking about one thing here and that is the post season. For Philadelphia Eagles fans, it is about one Denver Bronco in particular. This Sunday marks the homecoming for one of the most beloved players in Philadelphia Eagles history, Brian Dawkins.
The Eagles are currently in a situation where they could jump up and steal the second NFC playoff seed from the Minnesota Vikings. The Eagles have clinched a spot, but they need to win Sunday to have any hopes at a week off and January football at the Linc.
There are several trends over the course of Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach that remain constant with most of Reid’s Eagle teams. The Eagles are undefeated coming off the bye week and horrendous against the AFC. This season alone the Eagles are 1-2 against the AFC with their only win coming against the Kansas City Chiefs. This is hardly the lock that most experts think it is.
The Eagles have also struggled against 3-4 defenses. The Broncos play a 3-4 defense and Donovan McNabb tends to get hit a heck of a lot more against 3-4 defenses. I also think it is a bigger advantage for Denver than most think to have Dawkins on the team. Dawkins played with and against McNabb in practice every day of McNabb’s career. Dawkins knows McNabb’s tendencies and these are intangibles that the Broncos will attempt to use on Sunday. This has the potential to be a long day for the birds.
On the other hand, how confident can the Denver Broncos be after dropping a game at home against the Oakland Raiders? I was always dubious of the Broncos 5-0 record and was never quick to crown them as some kind of juggernaut. The Broncos won a lot of games in the last minute and could have just as easily been 2-3 as they were 5-0. Denver may also have a bigger advantage than most think at quarterback. This won’t be Kyle Orton’s first dance against the Philadelphia Eagles. Orton threw three touchdowns against the Eagles last season and led the Chicago Bears to a win in Week 4. Kyle Orton can beat this team and isn’t scared of Asante Samuel.
All in all I think the Broncos come away with a win here. They are catching the birds at a good time. The Eagles have two division games to close the season against the Redskins and the Cowboys and may look past the Broncos. I also think the birds tend to look past AFC teams in general, hence their record. The Broncos will also be highly motivated to get a win on Sunday for Brian Dawkins who has reportedly been the same locker room leader in Denver that he was here in Philadelphia. Not even Mr. Courageous himself Michael Vick can save the birds on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Steelers try and keep hope alive as they host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. As dreadful as the Steelers have looked lately, they lit up the Green Bay Packers for over 500 offensive yards last week and pulled out a clutch win at home. The Steelers can’t catch the Bengals for the divisional spot, but are still alive for a Wild Card slot. The Ravens would take that Wild Card spot if the season ended today. This is about as big of a regular season game as you can get between two divisional rivals that already hate one another.
The Ravens beat the Steelers earlier this season on Sunday Night Football. The difference that night was no Big Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers. Even playing against Pittsburgh’s third-string quarterback, the Ravens needed overtime to beat the champs. Big Ben has won four in a row against the Ravens, including three games last year (2 regular season and 1 playoff game). The Steelers will continue to play without Troy Polamalu on defense. Don’t be fooled by the win last week. The Steelers defense is still awful, and gave up 36 points and 383 yards in the air last week. If not for a revamped offense and confused Packers defense, the Steelers would have been embarrassed once again at home.
The Ravens on the other hand have been rolling through their opponents over the last few weeks. Fantasy football owners like me have cashed in on the greatness of Ray Rice and the Ravens running game. The combined scores of the last two Ravens game were 79-10 in the Ravens favor. Joe Flacco did it in the air last week throwing for a career-high four touchdown passes. Oh yeah, something I forgot to note here about those games. Those big wins came against the 5-9 Chicago Bears and the 2-12 Detroit Lions. Come to think of it, those numbers don’t sound that impressive anymore.
ESPN had an interesting stat on the Ravens. The Ravens are 9-0 in games played below 40 degrees and the temperature will definitely be below 40 degrees in Pittsburgh on Sunday. I don’t think that stat holds too much water in this game considering who they are playing. Sorry, I’m trying Ravens’ fans! The big questions here are the offenses for both teams. The Ravens and Steelers have played inconsistent offense all season. One week they struggle and the next they are rolling up the points. I am not ready to trust this offensive turnaround for the Ravens. I’ll lean towards the champs in a close but great NFL regular season victory on Sunday.
The most curious game of the week has to be the Indianapolis Colts against the New York Jets. The Jets boast the overall number one passing defense in the NFL as the Colts boast the number one passing offense in the NFL. Something has to give in this one. Win or lose, the Jets just don’t give up a lot of points. Win or win, the Colts have won by large and small margins throughout the season. Who do you trust? Do you trust Rex Ryan and the boys to hold Peyton Manning to 10 points or do you trust Manning to score 21?
The Jets are still alive for a playoff spot which is news to Rex Ryan. It is never a good thing when your own head coach isn’t aware that his team is still in the playoff hunt. Maybe he’d coach differently if he did?
The Colts may not be saying it, but they are going for 16-0. They have the overall first spot locked up and are on the verge of making history. I am sorry but all of these doubters are just throwing air balls in my opinion. I hear a lot of analysts claiming the Colts have holes on defense, this, and that. They may, but I don’t think there is a team anywhere close to their hemisphere right now in the NFL.
Unless Darrelle Revis can defend all of the Colts wide receivers and Dallas Clark, the Jets don’t have a chance of stopping Peyton Manning. The Jets do boast the overall number one rushing offense, which has meant nothing for other great rushing teams against the Colts. Now keep in mind if Manning sits for the entire game or second-half, all of this is moot.
For the Jets, Mark Sanchez has turned out to be a huge disappointment thus far. USC quarterbacks usually go through college without getting hit. There aren’t many great defenses in the Pac 10. The Colts will likely get a good pass rush going on Sanchez and give him happy feet throughout the game. I love the Colts to win big on Sunday.
Another big game with playoff implications has the Houston Texans traveling to Miami to play the Miami Dolphins. This is a battle of two 7-7 teams with the loser out of the playoff hunt. The Texans look for their third in a row as the Dolphins look to get back into the win column.
I look at this game statistically and it greatly favors the Houston Texans. The Texans are arguably the most talented 7-7 team playing football right now. Then I look at the head coaches. Tony Sparano has played in this situation and beat the Jets in the final game of the season last year in a win-and-in situation. Gary Kubiak has also played in this situation the last few seasons and came up small every time. The coaching factor makes me lean way more towards the Dolphins than the Texans in Week 16.
I have watched the Texans closely the last two seasons due to owning several of their players in fantasy football leagues. Matt Schaub has been unbelievable this season, as has the always constant Andre Johnson. The other constant for this team is the head coach. I think Gary Kubiak may be the worst coach in the NFL. I have never seen a coach do more to cost his team more wins this decade than Kubiak. I can think of at least three games that were lost due to his bad coaching decisions. His musical chairs of running backs have turned the running back situation into a joke. I just can’t see a team winning a big game in Week 16 with so many question marks at running back.
CamelClutchBlog.com Fantasy Football Playoff Standings
Team The Nice Guys 2-0 (Jeff Porrini)
Dusty’s RedBellySpot 2-0 (Eric Gargiulo)
Winner’s Consolation Ladder
…Not You!!! 0-2 (John Yomtov)
Havertown Spoilers 0-2 (Bryan Reigel)
1st Place 1-1 (Derek Sabato)
Team Wheelhouse Radio! 1-1 (Jeff Peck)
Team Nuetral Zone 1-1 (Brett Clendaniel)
Team We Own You 1-1 (Erik Espenberg)
The Kings of Krista 1-1 (Josh Usher)
Team Rowland 1-1 (Justin Rowland)
Fantasy Fix – This isn’t the week to play “reaches.” This is the week you play your go-to guys and the usual suspects. Unfortunately with that said, I will not be writing about anymore fantasy reaches this season. Except Matt Moore, Carolina Panthers and Quinton Ganther, Washington Redskins. I just won’t do it!
NFL Week 16 Picks!
I slipped up a bit last week going 11-5 after going 12-4 last week. I am 145-81 overall on the season straight up in games. Now for the NFL Week 16 Picks (Picks in BOLD) –
San Diego Chargers vs Tennessee Titans
Buffalo Bills vs Atlanta Falcons
Kansas City Chiefs vs Cincinnati Bengals
Oakland Raiders vs Cleveland Browns
Seattle Seahawks vs Green Bay Packers
Baltimore Ravens vs Pittsburgh Steelers
Houston Texans vs Miami Dolphins
Jacksonville Jaguars vs New England Patriots
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New Orleans Saints
Carolina Panthers vs New York Giants
Detroit at San Francisco
St. Louis at Arizona
New York Jets vs Indianapolis Colts (A loss if Manning sits)
Denver Broncos vs Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins
Minnesota Vikings vs Chicago Bears
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
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