Jared & Kerry

Sampling the Box of Chocolates

You Never Know What You Might Hear

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NFL Week 16
Jared & Kerry
Friday night brought the Titans back to earthin a hurry. I'd thought I'd get a better game from them with San Diego having to have dealt wiht a tough, emotionally charged Bengals team last week. A short week is typically tougher on the traveling team, and traveling across time zones amplifies the rigors of being the road team. It was there for the taking up until kickoff, but at that point the Titans refused. I won't hear any of this nonsense about officiating either. Vince Yung's interception near the San Diego red zone and his fumble near midfield in the second quarter were fatal. If one of those drives gets seven, it's 21-10. If they both do, it's 21-17, even assuming Rivers is able to guide his team to touchdowns when they get the ball anyway. 21-10 and 21-17 are a lot easier to come back from than 21-3, and 21-3 is doubly crucial for Tennessee to avoid since their best offensive weapon is undeniably their running game.

The point of all if this is to give San Diego some credit. They're good. Real good. If they knock the Colts out of the playoffs there'll be a lot of talk about the Chargers being some mysterious, unbeatable obstacle for the Colts. =Commentators will start analyzing Indianapolis's draft choices from the prospective of trying to match up against San Diego, just like they used to talk about Indianapolis's draft choices matching up against New England. It might not be a bad idea at that. But the Chargers aren't just some novelty team that can get to Peyton Manning and then bow out in the next round. They're a team loaded with physical gifts that might be gaining a measure of poise and stability as Phillip Rivers asserts himself as the unquestioned leader of the team. Tennessee had looked better than respectable, even in their lost to Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago, and the Chargers embarrassed them. ON their own field. On Christmas!

As for today:

Seahawks at Packers
Seattle is by no means a great team, but Green Bay needs to bring a hefty measure of intensity to this game anyway. You don't want to leave complicated tie breakers to decide who gets into the playoffs. A win today and Green Bay seals the deal, since Seattle effects interdivisional record and that's what will decide a potential tie breaker against the Giants. In the grand scheme of things the Steelers needed last week's game a lot more than the Packers, but it would have been great to see Green Bay gut it out on the road against a playoff tested team. Hopefully there's no hangover from that tough loss and Green Bay gives the last fans to see a game at Lambeau this season an afternoon to enjoy. It shouldn't be excessively difficult. Seattle is terrible.

Ravens at Steelers
IN a game that pits two recent Green Bay opponents against one another, the Ravens and Steelers meet up for what could very well boil down to being an unofficial playoff game. The Steelers played very well without their heart and soul (Roethlisberger) the last time they played each other, and with Big Ben now ready to go and coming off a 500+ yard passing performance, I'm inclined to think Pittsburhg can pull off the win. Ray Rice is an excellent tailback on account of his ability to also catch passes out of the backfield. He's a dangerous player, and all the more dangerous because of how many different places he gets the football.

The problem for Baltimore is that this game is looking more and more like a 34-31 type of game than a 20-13 type of game. I'm just not sure Baltimore can win a game like that. Their secondary, highlighted by Ed Reid's lackluster season, hasn't been able to stop anybody with a respectable passing offense. Why, then, should I believe they'll keep Wallace, Ward, Holmes, Miller, etc. shackled? Baltimore's defense got older faster than their offense could mature, and I think that'll basically end up the story of their season. Look out for them once they reload in the back half of the defense in 2-10 or 2011, especially with the volatile salary cap ramifications of upcoming seasons. I think that 3-6 skid in the middle of the season will still be their undoing. They still hate that kicker that blew the Vikings game. Maybe more than ever now.

Broncos at Eagles
Everyone sure turned on Denver again real quick after the loss to Oakland last week. And rightfully so, to some extent. Oakland's a less than stellar team. But the difference between bad teams and good teams in the NFL is not that large, and Al Davis's men will always be ready to play the Broncos. So while I can't pardon Denver, I can offer an explanation on their behalf.

The serves to preface the fact that I'm taking them on the road against the current NFC East leaders. The type of short passing attack Kyle orton excels at is a decent point of attack against the Eagles' linebacking corps and secondary. Asante Samuel won't have two picks today, mostly because Orton isn't the type of quarterback that'll give him two easy opportunities for them. That's an often overlooked positive about Orton's game. No, he's not going to score from 75 yards out on the bomb, but so very rarely does he place Denver's defense in undesirable predicaments. Orton, in my view, is a distinct case of the things he does well not being immediately statistically evident, and thus he will always be undervalued. But watch this game today and see Denver win 24-20, just like Kyle Orton tends to do.

Texans at Dolphins
Another elimination game in the AFC playoff picture. If Houston doesn't win this week, one has to start really thinking their troubles in big impact games is starting to get to their heads. Some weeks the Texans just look excellent, even against decent competition like Cincinnati or San Francisco. But once the game matters, such as either of the games against the Colts, they wilt. They wilt just like flowers in a stifling heat. They come out and spot the other team 21 quick points, and by the time they've worked the jitters out it's too late. Miami controls the clock real well with their unique, run-centric offense, which will compound matters if Houston lets that happen this week specifically. Miami has let a few key games go themselves, such as last week against Tennessee or their Monday night game early in the season against Indianapolis, but they've had their struggles at the end of games. Houston has had their struggles at the beginning. And if you play like garbage in the beginning, it usually doesn't matter about the end. Just hold on to the ball, Ricky!

Jaguars at Patriots
One wonders if New England might take their foot off the gas a bit, since San Diego clinched the second seed with their domination of the Titans Friday night. Yours truly thinks having the 3rd is a huge improvement over the 4th seed for two reasons. Firstly, if the two top seeds flounder after their byes, (not unheard of), the 3rd seed gets to host the championship game. This happened to the Colts and Patriots in 2007 when Indianapolis won the Super Bowl. Does Indy beat New England that year in Foxboro? Yeah, I thought not.

The other reason the 4th seed is a decidedly worse spot to be in than the 3rd seed is that 6th seeds tend to be worse than 5th seeds. Who'd have figured, right? But seriously, the 5th seed is often a team that probably should have been a division winner but was simply in the wrong division or had a brutal schedule stretch that undid them. Over in the NFC for instance, Green Bay is a lot closer to Minnesota and New Orleans than the Cowboys and the Giants are. This doesn't appear to be especially true in the AFC this year, but we do know that the 6th seed will probably be one of the very inconsistent teams at 7-7, and so that should be decent insentive to gun for the 3rd seed. All that said, 3rd seed still just means a game at home, on the road after that barring upsets.

I don't know what to say about this game itself. I think Jacksonville is a sham. If they make the playoffs, they'll get a Colts over Broncos style 35-7 exit in the first round from Cincinnati or New England. The Patriots might just dink around with the Jaguars today to see them up close in preparation for a first round beat down. I'm taking New England, but not knowing how the Patriots will approach this game, it's not a very confident pick.

Jets at Colts
The quest for perfection continues, and the Colts have conquered all the legitimate regular season obstacles on the way to that goal. That says nothing of the playoffs, which is the real meat of the undertaking, but if Indy wants to match the 2007 Patriots' 16-0, it should be quite achievable. The Jets could present a little more of a challenge for the Colts defense than initially thought. Mark Sanchez isn't doing his team too many favors as a rookie, but the Jets do have a fantastic running game. If people are worried about the Colts defense being exposed by the Bengals or Chargers in January, this will be a notable benchmark test to observe. The reason the Colts should still be fine is that the Jets defense is founded on a lot of blitz pressure. Against less mentally precise quarterbacks this can be a nightmare. But Manning picks the blitz apart routinely. It just isn't a good matchup for New York's defensive schemes. They'll either be playing into Manning's hands or playing unfamiliar strategies, neither of which are a good thing to have to do against an offense as explosive at the Colts'.

Gonna run the rest down real quicklike, since they really aren't worth watching anyway.

Bills at Falcons: The Falcons are struggling with their second quarterback, but the Bills are down to their third. Neither run defense is very good, so if you like seeing runningbacks steal the show this might be a good game to watch. Atlanta at home.

Chiefs at Bengals: There will probably be some residual emotion hovering over the Bengals in their first home game since Chris Henry's passing. They'll want to do him proud in front of the home fans, and the Chiefs are a great team for doing such an honor.

Raiders at Browns: What might this team have done had they just given the reins to Jeff Garcia in the preseason? They are obviously better than their record, hindered by the continual mistakes of JaMarcus Russell. Derek "5 TD's or 5 INT's" Anderson is starting for Cleveland which creates a certain level of volatility in picking this game, but I really was more impressed with the Raiders than disappointed in the Broncos last week in the few minutes of their game I saw. I'll take the Raiders.

Bucks at Saints: Extra day off, at home, coming off a tough loss, trying to lock up home field for the playoffs. Check this one off for New Orleans and move along.

Panthers at Giants: I don't know if Matt Moore is the answer at the quarterback position in Carolina, but I'll say this. He looks better to me than Jake Delhomme did all season. And New York has been just flaky enough that I could see them squandering away their last gasp at a playoff spot at home against this young upstart. Panthers in the upset.

Rams at Cardinals: Arizona. St. Louis, the season is almost over. Promise. Start thinking about that draft pick.

Lions at 49ers: SF really should get back to running the football. Alex Smith's reemergence is heartwarming, but he isn't the focalpoint of the offense. Find ways to run out of the shotgun formation if that's what it takes, but Frank Gore needs to run the ball more than 16 times to win. Well, I mean, to win against teams other than the Lions. It doesn't matter what you do, you'll probably still beat the Lions.

Cowboys at Redskins: The NFL went to all this trouble to permit flex scheduling, and this is the trash we end up with on Sunday night? A 4-10 Redskins team that just got absolutely embarrassed on national TV six days ago? By a team that probably won't make the playoffs? Pitiful. And this is merely the latest in a season of terrible, terrible flex schedule choices. Taking the Cowboys.

Vikings at Bears: Jay Cutler will throw another four picks. And I'll get to laugh at him. And enjoy it. I believe if the Vikings win they clinch the second NFC seed, so that should be enough motivation for them to take care of business. They need a good ol' 35-10 romp to smooth over the Brett Favre/Brad Childress drama besides.

Happy football! The holiday that comes once a week!


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