Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Week 16 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 24, 2009

Obviously I’m not going to want to spend too much time delving into last week’s embarrassment for the Broncos, a 20-19 home loss to the Raiders in which JaMarcus Russell woke up from the dead and led the Raiders to the winning touchdown.  Needless to say, this is same old same old for us Broncos fans, who have watched the team collapse in December year after year.  Last year’s was particularly bad when they let a three game division lead get away with three games to play, so forgive us Broncos fans if we’re starting to get a bit restless.  Despite all that, no one expected the Broncos to lose a home game to a Raiders team that was starting Charlie Frye at quarterback.  Unfortunately for the Broncos, the following proved to be their downfall:

– Lack of a running game: Knowshon Moreno was held to just 42 yards rushing, and the Broncos routinely fell short on 3rd and short conversions during the game.

– Red zone execution: Twice the Broncos had a first and goal inside the five yard line, once in the first quarter and once in the fourth.  Both times they kicked field goals.  That’s eight points left off the scoreboard.

– The last drive of the game:  Russell came in for an injured Frye and proceeded to carve the Broncos’ defense up.  Oakland converted a key fourth and 10 along the way and Russell actually showed a spark maybe for the first time in his career.

Now to address  these three points.  As far as the running game, I’m sick and tired of Broncos fans who are bagging on Moreno.  Admittedly he has struggled to find holes the last two weeks, but let’s not forget that he leads all rookies in rushing by a country mile, despite good seasons from Beanie Wells and LeSean McCoy.  There is a lot more to running the football than just the back.  The offensive line is not getting the push up front, especially on 3rd and 1 situations.  On some of these plays, I don’t care if Walter Payton is back there, he’s not finding a hole to run through if the line isn’t preventing the defense from getting penetration.  I do wonder why Peyton Hillis isn’t in the game on some of these short yardage plays, but again the offensive line is responsible here too.  As for Moreno,  I do think he’s being asked to carry a lion’s share of the load with the injury to Correll Buckhalter, and he’s also hit that proverbial rookie wall.  I still think he’s due for a great future in the NFL and he has the talent to be a Pro Bowl back.

As for the red zone, there isn’t much to say there except for the obvious.  Goal to go chances have to be converted into touchdowns, period, end of story.  If you kick red zone field goals time after time, you’re going to lose the game every time.  This was Denver’s downfall under Mike Shanahan, and it has continued to be a problem this year with Josh McDaniels.  The Broncos must figure out a way to consistently punch the ball in the end zone. 

As for the defense, it is not entirely their fault the Broncos lost the game to Oakland.  If the offense took care of business in the red zone, the game never would have been in doubt in the fourth quarter.   That said, given that the Broncos were holding a six point lead, the defense did not step up and shut down the Raiders at the end when it was needed most.  Denver’s defense is improved over last season (the numbers very clearly say so) and it largely because of them that the Broncos even had the lead in the first place, as they shut down the Raiders most of the afternoon.  Still, they needed to come up with a play at the end and didn’t.

The bottom line for the Broncos is they let a huge opportunity slip away.  Had they won, the Broncos would have virtually assured themselves a playoff spot.  Now, they might need a little help to get in.  They currently sit at 8-6, and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but there are six teams at 7-7 right behind them.  From what I’ve looked at in regards to tiebreakers, the Broncos may still be ok even at 9-7, but they also might be the odd team out depending on who they end up tied with.  Now on to the picks, listed in chronological order of when the games will be played.

Last week: 9-7   Season: 148-74

– Chargers over Titans: This will be a special Friday night contest, owing to the timing of the Christmas holiday.  For the Chargers, they have already won the AFC West and have a stranglehold on the number two seed and a first round bye.  They would need to lose both remaining games to fall to the three seed, and given that they’ve won nine straight, such a collapse in unlikely.  San Diego has quietly played some of the best football in the league, and I think they have what it takes to be a legit contender for the Super Bowl.  Philip Rivers is playing at an MVP level, and the Chargers have enjoyed good all around play both offensively and defensively.  Tennessee is also playing very well, having won seven of their past eight games (the one loss to the Colts) after a disastrous 0-6 start.  Vince Young has been one of the prime reasons for the resurgence, playing through injury last week to throw three touchdown passes.  Chris Johnson is also going for a 2,000 yard season on the ground.  The Titans do need to win both of their remaining games to have a chance to get in, and even then the tiebreakers may not be in their favor.  They did suffer a disastrous blow this week with news that star linebacker Keith Bullock is out for the season.  I think that tips the scale in San Diego’s favor in this game and allows the Chargers to pull out a close one.

– Falcons over Bills: One of the dud games of the week with no playoff possibilities for either team.  The Falcons can still achieve a winning season, and I think they’ll get this one at home.  Buffalo isn’t sure who will start at QB for them, so that is bad news for Terrell Owens and company.

– Raiders over Browns: Might as well flip a coin in this one.  This is a game between two bad teams who have been playing well and winning lately.  Both teams have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers, and both are coming off road wins last week.  Charlie Frye will start at QB for Oakland despite Russell’s heroics last week, while Derek Anderson is back under center for the Browns now that Brady Quinn is shelved for the season due to injury.  This game may be blacked out in Cleveland due to a non-sellout, but the Browns were granted an extension to try and sell the remaining tickets.  I like Oakland to win just on a hunch.

– Bengals over Chiefs: Cincinnati showed a lot of heart last week playing hard in memory of Chris Henry.  The Bengals need only to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the AFC North (they own the head to head tiebreaker with the Ravens), and they shouldn’t have any trouble at all against a bad Chiefs team at home.  Kansas City allowed James Harrison to run for 286 yards last week, and they also allowed two kickoff return TDs to Josh Cribbs.  I smell a big day for Cedric Benson, and perhaps former Chief Larry Johnson on the ground.  I also like the odds of a couple scores for Ochocinco.  Bengals win big and clinch the division.

– Saints over Buccaneers: New Orleans no longer has a shot at an undefeated season, and frankly looked lost and confused offensively for most of the game against the Cowboys.  They did wake up late, and in the playoffs they will still be very dangerous because of their ability to strike quickly.  One of their issues though could be on defense against a quick strike team like Arizona or Philadelphia.  In any case, they need one more win to cinch up home field, so expect the starters to play all the way through in this one, and expect the Saints to get back on track with a blowout win against a bad team that is just playing out the string.  Even though Tampa Bay won last week, I don’t expect them to really challenge the Saints.

– Dolphins over Texans: This is essentially an early playoff game for both teams.  Houston has surprisingly fought their way into the logjam of 7-7 teams, and is not eliminated yet, although they are on the wrong side of every tiebreaker and will need help even if they win their last two.  Miami is also 7-7, so the winner of this game is still alive while the loser will be essentially eliminated from playoff contention.  The Dolphins suffered a heartbreaking OT loss last week, and they suddenly have a problem with Chad Henne launching interceptions (eight in the past four games).  However, Henne still throws the ball well and Ricky Williams is running hard.  Houston struggled to win a close game against the awful Rams last week, so I am not sure about their ability to win on the road against a better than average team.  I think this should be a very close game, and as such I’ll take the home team, meaning Miami will keep their playoff hopes alive.

– Patriots over Jaguars: Jacksonville nearly shocked the undefeated Colts last weekend thanks to three scores from Maurice Jones-Drew and an inspired performance by David Garrard.  In the end though the defense couldn’t stop Peyton Manning and the offense couldn’t get a late score when one was needed, despite scoring 31 points overall.  That was essentially a playoff game for the Jags especially in terms of effort and intensity, so it will be interesting to see what they have left for their final two games.  For New England, they won a game they had to get last week in Buffalo, and I’m sure Patriots fans were glad to see Randy Moss step up with a solid game.  The Patriots need one more win to lock up the AFC East, while Jacksonville is in the 7-7 wild card logjam.  The Jaguars do have a conference record edge over the other 7-7 contenders, but they still need to win two to assure themselves a chance at a spot.  So far this year I have not seen much evidence the Jags can win a big road game, and as such I take the Patriots, although this should be a close game.  A New England win would clinch the division and keep alive their hopes for a bye if the Chargers lose.

– Ravens over Steelers: This is always a tough, physical low scoring game with a lot of hard hitting.  Pittsburgh nearly pulled the road upset in the first meeting with Dennis Dixon under center, so it would stand to reason that they are in better shape with Ben Roethlisberger under center and a home crowd behind them.  Roethlisberger threw for 503 yards last week against the Packers, so the passing game was clicking, but I somehow think the Ravens defense will step up and hold those numbers more in check. The Steelers defense did surrender a ton of points last week against Green Bay, so that doesn’t bode well for them.   Baltimore is starting to get hot at the right time and they would love a chance to stop the playoff hopes of their rival.  Joe Flacco has played better the last two games (granted against subpar competition) and the defense is starting to play like the Ravens defense of old again.  The Ravens are 8-6 and in the best position of any of the wild card contenders, while Pittsburgh is in the 7-7 logjam.  If the Steelers lose, they are essentially out.  I think that is more than enough motivation for Baltimore, and I’ll take the Ravens to win this defensive struggle on the road.

– Giants over Panthers: Carolina has come out of nowhere and played some good football this year against some of the best teams in the league, particularly last week in their dismantling of the Vikings.  The thing is, they’ve played bad football against teams they should beat, and thus are out of the playoff picture.  The Giants are still alive for a wild card spot in the NFC, but they do not control their own destiny.  They did play nearly flawless football last week against the Redskins, and they will need to do so going forward to have a shot.  I don’t see much trouble for them in the Meadowlands against the Panthers, but this is also the type of game that has given them trouble in the past.  Still, I expect the running game of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to carry the day for the Giants, and I expect them to win and keep their playoff hopes alive.

– Packers over Seahawks: Green Bay knows they let a win slip away last week in Pittsburgh, and with it they lost any faint hopes they had of a division title.  Still, the Packers are in excellent position for a wild card berth if they take care of business.  I expect a nice bounce back game Sunday from Aaron Rodgers and company on the offensive side of the ball, and I also expect the defense to have a big game against the struggling Seattle offense.  The Seahawks of late can’t run the ball worth a lick and Matt Hasselbeck continues to go in the tank.  I would be really surprised if Hasselbeck remains Seattle’s starting quarterback in 2010 the way he has underperformed this season.  This is a classic late season game of playoff contender rolls over non-playoff contender.  Packers win easily.

– 49ers over Lions: San Francisco is out of the running for a playoff spot, but this is a team that looks to have some positive momentum heading into 2010.  The Niners are getting rejuvenated play from Alex Smith at quarterback, and they are starting to fill in the pieces on both sides of the ball.  They have an opportunity to finish out their schedule on a positive note and I believe they will be a playoff contender next season, particularly if they can figure out to get more big plays out of Michael Crabtree in the passing game.  As for the Lions, Matthew Stafford has been placed on injured reserve, and they are left to compete with the Rams in the Ndamokong Suh sweepstakes.

– Cardinals over Rams: Arizona has clinched the NFC West title and a playoff home game.  The Cardinals interestingly are looking eerily similar to last season’s team that made the Super Bowl.  Last year’s team stumbled into the playoffs and then got hot at the right time.  This year’s team is showing a lot of the same characteristics.  If Kurt Warner and the offense is clicking on all cylinders, there isn’t a team in the league that they aren’t capable of beating.  That is, if they play well.  They’ll have no trouble here against a Rams team that would benefit more from losing and getting the top pick in April’s draft.

– Colts over Jets: This is actually a tough game to pick because I’m not sure if the Colts will actually play their starters and try to win this game.  They did play to win last week in Jacksonville, but at some point you have to wonder if Peyton Manning and company will start watching from the sidelines in these final weeks.  I do think the prospect of an undefeated season should ultimately win out in Indy, and I think the Colts would be much better served to keep playing everyone than to start resting people.  The track record in NFL history is clear that teams who take their foot off the gas when they got everything clinched often tend to lose out in the playoffs.  As for the Jets, they are alive and in the 7-7 logjam, but when Braylon Edwards come out and says his team doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, you have to think the Jets don’t have what it takes to win at Lucas Oil Stadium if the Colts are playing to win.  I do think the Jets could win if the Colts sit Manning after the first series, but I think he’ll play a half at least.  In any case, I’ll take the Colts in this one, which would pretty much eliminate the Jets.

– Eagles over Broncos:  I don’t want to do it, but I just can’t see my Broncos going to Philadelphia and beating one of the hottest teams in the league.  Denver’s defense is still playing well for the most part, but I think they’ll have trouble stopping an Eagles offense that is getting Brian Westbrook back this week, and also has playmakers galore with DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and oh yeah Donovan McNabb leading the way.  I think the Eagles will be a very dangerous team in the playoffs, and they are capable of winning any road game, including New Orleans.  For the Broncos to have any chance to win they’re going to have to score minimum 24 points and probably 30, and I just don’t see them being able to do that right now in this game unless things change in a hurry.  The Eagles are fighting with the Cowboys for the NFC East title, but they should make the playoffs in any case.  For the Broncos, a loss drops them down to the logjam of teams, but tiebreakers may still allow Denver to get in even at 9-7.  It just depends on how the other games go this week and how many teams Denver would be tied with.  It is too early to tell yet, but right now the Broncos are in danger of falling out of the postseason after a 6-0 start.  In this game, I’ll take the Eagles rather handily 31-17.

– Cowboys over Redskins: I once again will say that I do not understand the NFL tv schedule sometimes.  This is the second straight week that we’ve been handed a Sunday night game that makes no sense whatsoever.  It is also the second straight week we’ll be subjected to the awful Redskins in prime time (they played on Monday night last week).  What good does flex scheduling do if they’re going to put a bad team in the Sunday night contest this late in the season?  I can think of no less than seven games that are more important and more compelling this week than this snooze fest.  At any rate, Dallas proved last week that they are not dead yet, and with a win here they can actually put themselves in a position to possibly win the NFC East next week.  If the Redskins play like they did last week, the only question here is margin of victory for the Cowboys.  Washington is playing like they’re looking forward to a new coach already.  The big question for them is will they hire Mike Shanahan after the season is over Jan. 4?  The rumors say yes.  In any case, book a win here for the Cowboys and maybe make alternate plans Sunday night to keep yourself entertained.

– Vikings over Bears: The big drama here is between Brett Favre and Brad Childress.  Minnesota has been blown out in two of their past three games, and are in danger of losing the number two seed in the NFC and a first round bye.  The good news for them is they should have a relatively easy win on deck on Monday night in Chicago.  The way things have been going, Jay Cutler should be guaranteed two interceptions minimum, and the Vikings offense is more than capable of turning those turnovers into points.  For Minnesota, the question going forward is will Brett Favre carry them to the Super Bowl, or will the chemistry just get completely blown up leading to an early first round playoff exit?  The Vikings are also worried about Percy Harvin, who is headed to the Mayo Clinic to try to cure his migraine headaches as well as a bulging disc in his neck.  I think the Vikings will win this game rather easily, and then we’ll see how the attitude is going forward.  I still stick with them as my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, but that is looking a little shaky right now.

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3 Responses to “Week 16 Picks”

  1. Doug Baker said

    Great picks. Last week was a weird, weird week. I have a strong feeling that the Steelers are going to take down the Ravens this week.

  2. Ivy said

    Do you want more interesting?
    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not contacted former NFL Draft coach Bill Cowher about possibly coaching the team in 2010, according to a source close to the team’s owners.
    An NFL Draft.com report said team officials contacted Cowher.
    “That’s not true,” a source with knowledge of the Glazer family’s intentions told the Tampa Tribune. “That’s just people speculating.”
    According to a story by An NFL Draft.com reporter Jason La Canfora, Bucs officials reached out to Cowher to gauge his interest in possibly coaching the team in 2010. The story cited “a source with knowledge of the situation.”

  3. Hmm it seems like your website ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any suggestions for rookie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

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