Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Week 15 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 17, 2009

Before we get to week 15, I want to point out that I think the Broncos actually played one of their better games on Sunday, even though they fell to the Colts 28-16.  Now, this does not mean that I excuse them for their inability to convert in short yardage or in the red zone, but when you compare it to previous outings against the Colts over the years, this was definitely progress.  The Broncos intercepted Peyton Manning three times, and really stiffened up defensively in the second half.  The Broncos held the high powered Colts offense to just 27 total yards in their first seven possessions of the second half, a number that is nothing short of incredible considering Manning was at the controls.  This was after the Broncos fell behind 21-0, a broken record for the Broncos in Indianapolis.  Unlike in the past however, the Broncos kept fighting, and almost put themselves in a position to win, cutting it to 21-16 with more than nine minutes to go.  Now, in the end, Manning was Manning, but I am convinced that the Shanahan Broncos would have lost this game 40-10 or something along those lines.  The way the defense took control and gave the team a chance to come back is something that had been lacking in Denver for many years.

I would of course also be a fool not to give a tip of the cap to Brandon Marshall for his NFL record 21 receptions on Sunday, breaking a single game record previously held by Terrell Owens.   Marshall has continued to show throughout this season why he is one of the best receivers in the game and why he is almost unstoppable when his mind is right.  I think the Broncos need to make retaining him their biggest priority in the offseason.  I will say that this also means the Broncos need to take better advantage of their other weapons, especially Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley, but it can’t be denied that Marshall is a big time playmaker who has the chance to change the outcome of games by himself each week.

It is interesting to think that the Broncos are in almost the exact same position as they were a year ago.  They currently sit with an 8-5 record, and are on the inside track for a playoff spot.  The biggest difference is they are looking up at San Diego instead of holding the three game lead that they let slip away last year, but that says a lot more about San Diego’s consistency this year than it does about the Broncos.  Considering the panic shown by almost everyone about Denver’s hectic offseason, I think their season to date shows nothing less than a tremendous achievement.  It is almost comical now to think that everyone was sure they would win less than five games and wouldn’t be worth anything.  Anyone still think Josh McDaniels should have been fired before he coached a game?  I sure don’t, and never did.  Sure the team is still a work in progress, but if they take care of business against two woefully inferior opponents at home, they will be back in the playoffs for the first since 2005 while Jay Cutler and Mike Shanahan watch on television.  That’s good enough for me.  Now, on to the picks.

Last Week: 11-5 Season: 139-67

– Jaguars over Colts: UPSET ALERT.   The Thursday night game this week is one of the most intriguing games of the week, and certainly more interesting than many of the Thursday night offerings we’ve seen so far this season.  My reasoning for this pick is relatively simple actually, even if it is a bit out there.  I think that with home field advantage cinched up the Colts will soon go into rest their starters mode and will start to take things easy as they head into the playoffs (which I think is a huge mistake and might actually prove to be their downfall in the playoffs but that’s another discussion).  In any case, even if the Colts’ starters play most or all of the game, it really doesn’t mean anything tangibly for them, whereas for Jacksonville this is practically a playoff game.  The Jaguars are currently in playoff position if the season ended today, but they know they need to keep winning to hold that position.  Also, when these teams played in week one in Indy, the Colts won 14-12.  Jacksonville has always had some success slowing down the Colts’ offense, and with Maurice Jones-Drew leading the way, they have the ability to play ball control.  Being that is practically a playoff game for the Jaguars, and that they will have a raucous home crowd behind them, I think the recipe is there for Jacksonville to pull this off, especially if Manning and other starters aren’t out there the whole time as I suspect they won’t be. 

– Saints over Cowboys: The other 13-0 team gets its shot in a rare Saturday night game this week.  Unlike the Colts, I believe the Saints will finish 16-0 because they seem more inclined to keep playing their starters as opposed to resting people.  Their schedule is also friendly enough that they just might be able to beat their last two opponents (Tampa Bay and Carolina) even while resting their starters.  In the end, I do think the Saints will suffer the same fate as the ’07 Patriots and will not win the Super Bowl, but I do think they’ll finish 16-0.  This game is more important for New Orleans than Indy’s game is this week, because the Saints still technically have not secured home field advantage yet.  Unlike the Colts, the Saints have no reason to rest anyone Saturday night even if they wanted to.  This is also an important game for the Cowboys, who are quickly fading fast in the NFC East, but it certainly doesn’t appear that they have what it takes to hang with the Saints in the Superdome right now.  The interesting thing is that Tony Romo’s numbers have actually been pretty good even in the last two losses, but I think this will turn into a shootout (especially with DeMarcus Ware likely out) and that is bad news for Dallas.  I like the Saints in a thriller.

– Patriots over Bills: As is the always the case in upstate New York this time of year, the temps will be very low and the wind will be howling.  That makes predicting any game very difficult especially if neither team is able to throw the ball, as was the case when these teams squared off in December last season.  This will likely come down to who can run the football, and in that case I give the nod to New England if nothing else because the game is meaningful for them whereas the Bills are eliminated from playoff contention.  I still think the Patriots will end up winning the AFC East due mainly to their schedule down the stretch, but they do have a big problem if Randy Moss has mentally checked out, as was clearly the case last week against Carolina. but they won’t need Moss to win this game. 

– Dolphins over Titans: This is a very interesting game because both teams are in similar position.  Both have a shot at the playoffs still, but both will very likely need to win out to have any chance at actually getting in.  Miami has a little bit more wiggle room due to their 7-6 record and the fact they still have hope of winning the division, but realistically this is an early playoff game for both teams.  Tennessee has been one of the hottest teams in the league since a disastrous 0-6 start, but one of the big reasons they’re hot may not play Sunday.  Vince Young had to come out of last week’s win against St. Louis due to a right leg injury, and frankly they are not the same team with Kerry Collins under center.  Chris Johnson is still arguably the best back in the league, but if Young isn’t in there, it may hamper Tennessee’s ability to move the football.  The Dolphins have shown in the last two weeks that they don’t need the Wildcat to have success, for that has essentially been out the window since Ronnie Brown’s season ending injury.  Ricky Williams is running well and Chad Henne is quickly showing he has the tools to be a good quarterback in the NFL.  This will be a very close game, but Miami has proven they can win tough games on the road.  I like Miami to keep their hopes alive in a squeaker. 

– Jets over Falcons: Atlanta has been a disaster since Matt Ryan and Michael Turner have been sidelined by injury.  They did give the Saints a pretty big scare in the Georgia Dome last week, but I think they used up all of their eggs so to speak in trying to win that game, so it seems inevitable that they’ll have a letdown in a tough outdoor game where bad weather is likely.  The Jets may or may not have Mark Sanchez available for this game, but Kellen Clemens gave a serviceable effort last week and may be able to do so again against an Atlanta defense that have struggled all year.  I expect another big day from Thomas Jones, and I expect the Jets to win this game without too much trouble, thus keeping their playoff hopes alive. 

– Chargers over Bengals: First and most important, our thoughts are with Chris Henry’s family.  Henry has died one day after falling out the back of a pickup truck, and now the Bengals organization is left to deal with the second tragedy of the season (Vicki Zimmer, wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, died unexpectedly in October).  Comments from Bengals players indicate they will try their hardest to honor Henry and will dedicate the rest of the season to him, but it seems clear that this will be a very difficult thing for the players to fight through the rest of the way.  Cincinnati is one win away from clinching the AFC North, and they have all of the division tiebreakers in their back pocket, so I still think they’ll win the division eventually, but I just can’t see them getting it together this week to win a very challenging game on the road.  San Diego is on fire right now, and I just don’t see them slipping at home in any case.  The Chargers may well be the team to beat in the AFC.

– Ravens over Bears: This has complete mismatch written all over it.  The Ravens defense is still playing well at home, and they have shut down several bad offenses this year.  They are about to face another struggling offense in Chicago that can’t run the ball worth a lick, and I’m sure the Ravens secondary is looking forward to several good interception chances courtesy of Jay Cutler, who still leads the league in that category with 22.  Baltimore did find their offense as well last week (albeit against the Lions), and they have the look of a team that may not lose the rest of the way in the regular season.  They may need to win out to make the playoffs, but they certainly look very capable of doing that.  I like Baltimore in a blowout at home, further jeopardizing Lovie Smith’s job.

– Browns over Chiefs: I mentioned last week that the Chiefs barely avoided a tv blackout due to a last minute extension from the NFL.  This week no such extension was granted, even with more than 5,000 tickets still available earlier in the week.  As of this writing the deadline has come and gone, with no announcement as to whether the Chiefs succeeded in selling out this awful matchup.  This leads me to believe that negotiations are in progress to make the game available to Chiefs fans within a 75 mile radius of Arrowhead Stadium, but my question is why bother?  Clearly Chiefs fans are fed up enough with their team to not pay to see them, and I’m sure many of them would rather watch a meaningful and more interesting matchup on Sunday.  As for the game, it features this week’s strange but true bit of information, and that is that Brady Quinn has outplayed Matt Cassel in absolutely every statistical category over the past month, and most of the numbers aren’t even close.  The truth is that Quinn may in fact be saving his job for next season, while the Chiefs are concerned enough about Cassel’s poor play that they are reportedly going to explore other options in the offseason.  Cleveland got a monster win over Pittsburgh last week, and while a letdown could be possible, the Chiefs aren’t likely to provide strong opposition considering they couldn’t win a game last week against Buffalo that the Bills kept trying to give them.  This game is the clear dud of the week, and I hope that fans in Kansas and western Missouri aren’t actually subjected to this garbage. 

– Steelers over Packers: If Pittsburgh has any pride whatsoever, they will find a way to win this game at home.  The Steelers have dropped five straight, including dreadful ones to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland, and in the process have pretty much eliminated themselves from playoff contention.  Mike Tomlin has quickly gone from being the city’s crown citizen to being roasted over the coals.  This matchup in many ways looks to be a very winnable game for the Packers, who are clearly the better team and a clear contender in the NFC, but Pittsburgh is a veteran group and the players in that locker room have to be absolutely embarrassed about what has gone down in the past month.  I can’t imagine guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward will allow this thing to slide down any further than it already has.  In the end, Green Bay will be in the playoffs and Pittsburgh won’t, but I think it will take a perfect game by Green Bay to win this one on the road.  That is, if Pittsburgh has any pride at all, and I know that those players do. 

– Texans over Rams: Houston continues its tradition of winning December games that don’t matter because they are already out of it.  Texans fans have to be tired of getting close to the playoffs every year and watching it slip away by a hair.  In the case of this year, they’ve lost two games via a missed field goal on the final play, and lost another when they let a huge lead slip away against the Colts.  I still think Houston has way too much talent not to be in the race, but I’m not going to point the finger at coach Gary Kubiak either.  I think the Texans have the pieces in place, and just need something to bring it together.  They’ll win this one quite handily, but then again who hasn’t pummeled the Rams this year?  St. Louis desperately needs help at every position, but if they have the top pick in April, I hope they have the sense to take Ndamukong Suh instead of reaching for a quarterback that isn’t worthy of the top spot. 

– Broncos over Raiders: This is clearly a game that the Broncos should win for all of the obvious reasons.  It is a home game against a bad team, one that the Broncos destroyed in week three in Oakland.  The Raiders are coming off a home loss to Washington in which they surrendered 34 points to a mediocre offense.  Granted, Oakland had been playing well since making the switch to Bruce Gradkowski, getting surprise wins against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.  Thing is, Gradkowski hurt his knee last week and may miss the rest of the season.  The Raiders have been nothing short of awful in games started by JaMarcus Russell, so much so that Russell will not get the start on Sunday.  Instead, Oakland is going with journeyman Charlie Frye, which tells me that the Raiders are so fed up with Russell that are they willing to go with anyone else if it means not having to play him.  For the Broncos, this is the type of game they have let slip away in the past (06 against San Francisco and last year against Buffalo coming to mind right away), so in that sense this is a very worrisome game for many Bronco fans precisely because it is a game they are supposed to win handily.  I still think the Broncos will get the job done, but it wouldn’t shock me if turns into a struggle or a close game.  Nevertheless, I pick the Broncos to win 24-14.

– Eagles over 49ers: This has suddenly turned into one of the better games of the week.  Philadelphia has arguably been the NFL’s most exciting team over the past few weeks, due in large part to the play of DeSean Jackson and an increased presence from Michael Vick.  The Eagles defense still has some holes, but they way they are playing offensively right now they have the potential to really make a run in the NFC.  Perhaps the most amazing part about their play is that they’ve been able to do this without Brian Westbrook, who has been absent from the lineup due to continuing concussion like symptoms.  San Francisco meanwhile believe it or not still has playoff hopes alive, although they will probably need to win out to ultimately get in.  They did show a lot last week in their thrashing against Arizona, enough to make be believe they could be a contender in 2010, but I would be surprised if they had the same kind of performance against a red hot Eagles team on the road in nasty Philadelphia.  I like the Eagles to break open a close game late and win this relatively comfortably.

– Cardinals over Lions: Arizona should be hopping mad after their embarrassing seven turnover performance on Monday night in San Francisco.  The Cardinals at times this year have looked every bit like last year’s Super Bowl team, and there have also been times like last week where they looked like the worst team in the league.  I do think that if the Cardinals play to their ability, they are capable of beating any team in the league including Indianapolis and New Orleans.  While the lack of consistency has been baffling, I don’t see any scenario in which they don’t get it together and win against the Lions on Sunday.  At that, I even expect them to blow Detroit out from the word go.  I believe last week in particular was an aberration for Kurt Warner, who otherwise has been playing some of the best football of his career this year.  As for the Lions, they can perhaps also look forward to maybe being able to draft Ndamukong Suh in April.

– Seahawks over Buccaneers: This is a close contender for dud game of the week.  Seattle has shown a few flashes here and there this year, but overall they have to be considered one of the league’s biggest disappointments.  I’m even wondering if Matt Hasselbeck is close to being done as quarterback of the Seahawks, for his numbers have taken a big tumble and he shown a complete inability at times to get the ball to his talented receivers.  I also have to think that T.J. Houshmandzadeh has to be regretting his departure from Cincinnati, watching his former team have great success without him while he once again plays for a struggling team.  Tampa Bay has been awful with the exception of their one win against Green Bay, and it is interesting to wonder how they will go about their massive rebuilding project in the offseason.  Seahawks should be able to win this one at home comfortably. 

– Vikings over Panthers: How this game ended up as the Sunday nighter is a head scratcher to say the least.  I’m sure it’s because NBC wanted to showcase Brett Favre, but didn’t they just do that two weeks ago?  I thought the point of flexible scheduling was to ensure that the Sunday night game is always a meaningful matchup, not to keep showing the same teams over and over.  In this case, I don’t see how this is anything other than a blowout in favor of the visiting Vikings.  Minnesota bounced back nicely last week and blew out  a very good Bengals team, while Carolina couldn’t get anything going against New England.  There is a chance the Panthers could consider this game to be their Super Bowl of sorts and come out guns blazing, but I don’t see how they will be able to run on the Vikings front four or contain Minnesota’s offense.  I still stand by my preseason pick of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, and if they are going to live up to that, they shouldn’t be slipping up in a game like this. 

– Giants over Redskins: The Monday night is a curious choice as well, only because I’m not sure who actually thought the Redskins would be competitive when the schedule was announced back in April (On that note why is Washington on Sunday night next week?  Seriously the schedule makers are either being really lazy or actually think we want to be subjected to bad teams in prime time.)  Granted, the Redskins have been playing better lately, but they are still not in any way a playoff team, and I would think that this time of year the meaningful games should be showcased, not necessarily those involved big east coast markets.  The Giants are continuing to fade very quickly, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where they surrendered a staggering 45 points to the Eagles last week, but I still think they are a team that no one would want to see in the playoffs because of their ability to score points offensively.  It remains to be seen whether or not they will actually make the playoffs, but I like them to win this game primarily because I can’t envision a Jason Campbell-led offense being able to keep up with the G-men if they are scoring points the way they have in the past two weeks.

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One Response to “Week 15 Picks”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Despite their fast start and seemingly improved team, I am afraid your Broncos might be out of luck.

    You were close on the JAGS game…I wished they had pulled it off, even though the Pats are probably better off with the Jags out of the picture if we go on a losing streak.

    I think the Steelers are done and going to get whipped by the Packers.

    And the Patriot are disappointing me with the disarray!

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