Bill Belichick and the Patriots can win their fourth straight AFC East title with a win at Miami
Hard as we tried, our post for Thursday’s clash in the NFC South between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons went by the wayside.
We had Mike Smith’s team winning the game, 23-13, as Saints quarterback Drew Brees would not throw a touchdown pass, rather he’d be picked off four times by the Atlanta defense.
Okay, we just missed.
But we have 15 more opportunities to right the ship and given our track record in 2012, we’ll be just fine.
We hate to tell you that we told you so (eventually), but apparently it’s what we do best. Perhaps that’s a bold statement, but that's what we do.
Speaking of bold...
After consecutive seasons with seven wins, the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks are one victory away from equaling that total with five games to play.
And fortunately for Pete Carroll’s team, three of those final five contests are at home, where the ‘Hawks are a pristine 5-0 this season.
Of course, it’s been a totally different story on the road, where Seattle is just 1-5 and has lost three straight away from home. And it should be noted that each of those six games have been decided by seven points or less.
This Sunday will be no different. Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson will have his good and bad moments vs. the Chicago defense, throwing for 265 yards and a pair of scores.
But one of his three interceptions will be returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Bears cornerback Tim Jennings, the difference in a 24-20 loss in the Windy City.
Despite a few recent hiccups, how many out there truly expected the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings to have doubled their win total from a season ago and do that before December?
A closer look reveals that Leslie Frazier’s team has lost four of its last six games following that surprising 4-1 start. But with three games remaining against the Packers (2) and Bears, the team’s hopes of winning a division title are far from impossible.
Speaking of impossible, could anyone have foreseen the play of running back Adrian Peterson in 2012? Off a severe knee injury last December, the star performer leads the NFL with 1,236 yards rushing and heads to Lambeau Field this week having totaled 100-plus yards on the ground in each of his last five games.
The Green Bay Packers come off a 38-10 loss to the New York Giants in which Dom Capers’ battered defensive unit allowed 147 yards rushing, the most by the team since the Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers (186).
So it will only make sense when the Pack limits Peterson to a season-low 42 yards while quarterback Aaron Rodgers throws three touchdown passes in a tidy 27-10 victory.
How about that quarterback situation?
Yes, we already know that second-year pro Colin Kaepernick gets the nod in St. Louis as San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will stay with the hot hand in this important rematch with the Rams.
As will Jeff Fisher.
Lost in all the quarterback talk in San Francisco has been the steady play of Sam Bradford, who’s been far from spectacular but quite productive. One season after throwing as many touchdown passes as interceptions (6) in 10 games, the former No. 1 overall pick has totaled 14 scores and nine picks in 11 contests.
Bradford has also thrown two touchdown passes in each of his last three games, starting with the Week 10 tie at San Francisco in which he threw for 275 yards and two scores in the 24-all stalemate.
With all the attention on Kaepernick and Alex Smith, Bradford will steal the show vs. the Niners, throwing two more touchdown passes and running for another as St. Louis remains unbeaten within the division via a 21-16 victory.
Talk about two teams headed in the same direction.
The Arizona Cardinals have lost seven in a row following a 4-0 start and are on their third starting quarterback of the season.
The New York Jets are 2-6 in their last eight games and have lost their last two home games to the division rival Miami Dolphins (30-9) and New England Patriots (49-19) a combined 79-28.
Rex Ryan’s team struggled in all three phases of the game in those setbacks, most notably on special teams, where blocked punts, blocked field goals and fumbled kickoffs returned for touchdowns were the lowlights in those losses.
But here’s a switch. The Jets get a 78-yard punt return for a score by Jeremy Kerley, a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Joe McKnight, and linebacker David Harris picks off Cardinals’ rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley and takes it back 23 yards to pay dirt, all the points the Jets need in a 21-10 win.
Romeo Crennel’s team has lost eight straight games this season and seven consecutive games at Arrowhead Stadium dating back to last season.
The Chiefs are last in the NFL in scoring and have totaled 16 or fewer points in seven straight games.
Enter Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, fresh off their third win of the season, a 30-22 triumph at Philadelphia in which the Panthers’ quarterback threw for a pair of scores and ran for two more.
Kansas City’s lone win of the season came in overtime at New Orleans way back in Week 3.
Look for Crennel and Co. to post a 32-21 win, taking advantage of a Panthers’ team traveling on a short week. The hero for Crennel’s team will be kicker Ryan Succop, who kicks six field goals by day’s end.
Last week, the Indianapolis Colts showed their resiliency, bouncing back from a 59-24 loss at New England with a hard-earned 20-13 victory over the visiting Buffalo Bills.
But it’s been the opposite for the Detroit Lions, losers of three straight games for the second time this season. Jim Schwartz’s club finished 10-6 a year ago and went to the playoffs. But at 4-7, that appears to be a longshot in the cluttered NFC.
Considering both teams’ defenses, you can look for your share of points in this interconference tilt. And you can look for the host Lions to take a 26-20 lead with 3:20 to play on a Matthew Stafford touchdown pass to Brandon Pettigrew.
But speaking of former No. 1 overall picks, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has already teamed with veteran wideout Reggie Wayne for a pair of scores.
But on fourth down and from the Lions’ 5-yard line with 10 seconds to play, Luck is headed towards the end zone on a rollout but steps out of bounds at the one, preserving Detroit’s six-point win.
No doubt the Buffalo Bills are more than familiar with Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne following his first four NFL seasons, all with the Miami Dolphins.
We’re not sure that the Bills have seen this Chad Henne.
The former Michigan standout never threw more touchdown passes than interceptions in a season in his days with the Dolphins. But Henne has been on fire as of late, throwing for 615 yards and six scores with only one interception and leading the Jaguars to 61 points in their split with the Jaguars and Titans.
That’s even more impressive when you consider Mike Mularkey’s team totaled only 127 points in their first nine games this season.
And Henne will continue his steady play this Sunday at Buffalo, throwing for 275 yards and a pair of scores. But the former Dolphins’ quarterback will also have an interception and a fumble returned for touchdowns in a disappointing 34-24 setback.
The math is pretty simple.
Not surprisingly, the New England Patriots lead the NFL with 407 points and have scored more than half of those (219) in their last five games.
Also not a shock that the new-look Miami Dolphins have scored only 211 points in their first 11 games this season. But at 5-6, Joe Philbin’s team is in the midst of turning things around and comes off a 24-21 win over the defensively tough Seattle Seahawks.
The Patriots have won four straight in this series and have had few problems along the way, outscoring Miami a combined 144-69 in those victories. And look for Tom Brady and Co. to have few issues ringing up the scoreboard again.
But also look for a surprise of two from the Miami running game via Reggie Bush, who will burn the Pats for 153 yards and two scores.
Add in a few touchdown passes from Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a fumble (by Brady) and a return for a score by defensive end Cameron Wake and the Dolphins come away with the 35-32 victory.
As some once said (or “rapped”), “don’t call it a comeback.”
It’s been an amazing two-game stretch for Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson as the former Pro Bowler has totaled 23 receptions for 461 yards and a score in the team’s back-to-back overtime games.
But while Johnson has already reached the 1,000-yard mark in receiving, he’s caught just three touchdown passes in 11 games.
Meanwhile, the Tennessee Titans remain one of the league’s most challenged in terms of stopping the opposition. Mike Munchak’s club ranks 29th in yards allowed and only the Raiders have surrendered more points.
The good news for Tennessee is that Johnson is held to only six receptions for 83 yards. The bad news is that quarterback Matt Schaub finds him three times for touchdowns in what will amount to a 31-19 victory for Gary Kubiak’s club (setting a new franchise record for wins in a season).
A season after starting 8-5 and going on to losing their final three games of the regular season, the Denver Broncos are 8-3 and riding a six-game winning streak.
And while last season’s club captured the AFC West with a .500 record, this year’s edition could be in store for a whole lot more.
Quarterback Peyton Manning is one of many factors in the team’s revival in 2012 but he’s a pretty big one. Only Brett Favre has thrown more touchdown passes in NFL history than the former Indianapolis Colts’ star.
But as it turns out he will wind up needing a whole bunch of those against the game Buccaneers, who own a supposedly safe 35-14 lead with less than five minutes to play.
But an incredible set of circumstances, seen only once before, Manning will rally his team and forge a 35-all tie. And in the extra session, a 48-yard field goal by kicker Matt Prater proves to be the difference in a 38-35 Denver win.
It’s lucky number Week 13 in the National Football League.
For the second time in three weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens renew acquaintances.
Back in Week 10, John Harbaugh’s team held on for a 13-10 victory as the Steelers played without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Including playoffs, the Ravens have won 16 straight home games. Their last loss in Baltimore was a 13-10 setback to the Steelers in Week 13 of 2010.
Harbaugh’s team seeks its 10th victory of the season and knows that a win and a Bengals’ loss later in the day give them the AFC North title. And despite a game effort by Mike Tomlin’s team, the Steelers will fall short as Baltimore makes it four straight in the series.
Final score: Ravens 13, Steelers 10.
You can’t make this stuff up.
It’s not been the best of seasons for Cleveland Browns wideout Greg Little.
Off a rookie year in which he led the team with 61 catches for 709 yards, the former second-round draft choice remains the team’s most targeted receiver but has produced only 31 receptions for 360 yards and two scores in 11 games this season.
Of course, the Browns have not faced the Oakland Raiders until now this season. Dennis Allen’s club has lost four straight and allowed a whopping 169 points in those games, a big reason the Raiders have allowed a league-high 356 points in 2012.
Last season, the Raiders allowed 31 touchdown passes, the second-most in the league. This season, they’ve already given up 23 scores through the air, tied for the most in the NFL.
And they’ll give up three more this Sunday to Little, who has a breakout game at Oakland.
But that’s before the Raiders break out kicker Sebastian Janikowski, who launches a 54-yard field goal at the gun in his team’s 37-35 victory.
It’s been and up-and-down year for the Cincinnati Bengals, with all signs pointing up at the moment.
Marvin Lewis’ team has rebounded from a four-game losing streak with three straight wins, all by at least 18 points and by a combined score of 93-29.
Oops. Don’t say 29 in front of the San Diego Chargers. We all know what happened on fourth down late in the game last week as Norv Turner’s team turned an almost certain win over the Baltimore Ravens into a 16-13 overtime loss.
As fate would have it, the Bolts will find themselves in a similar situation against the Bengals. Trailing 20-16 with 37 seconds to play, Philip Rivers and his team are backed up deep at their own 20-yard line and face a 4th-and-28.
But the turnover-prone quarterback throws one of his finest passes of the season, a quick slant to Malcom Floyd which turns into an 80-yard score and a 23-20 San Diego victory.
Well, just remember where you read it first when it actually happens.
Yes, we’re aware it’s the Philadelphia Eagles who have lost seven straight games and nine weeks after owning a 3-1 mark and first place to themselves in the NFC East, these Birds have flown south for the winter.
So why would they have a fighting chance against a Dallas Cowboys’ team playing in their own digs and one that three weeks ago beat the Eagles in Philadelphia, 38-23?
That first part of the equation happens to be the problem. The Pokes are 2-3 at home this season and in those five games have committed 18 turnovers in 5 games, 14 by quarterback Tony Romo.
Dallas has also been outscored a combined 81-30 in the first half at Cowboys Stadium in 2012 and in their last four home games have trailed in each, by a combined score of 74-20.
But while Andy Reid and Co. would love to play spoiler here, there’s that matter of their own miscues. The Eagles turned over the ball three more times on Monday night in the loss to the Carolina Panthers, bringing their total to 27 in 2012.
We’ll make this simple. Cowboys 9, Eagles 3.
And that will be the final score. Not the turnover count.
Thanks in large part to what rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has done over the last two weeks, the Washington Redskins have won back-to-back games vs. the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
And thanks to what he hasn’t done throughout most of the season, Mike Shanahan’s club could be dangerous if they somehow get themselves into the playoffs.
A year after turning over the ball 35 times, 30 by their quarterbacks, the Redskins have coughed up the pigskin just 10 times (six by Griffin) in 11 games.
When last we saw Washington face the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin’s team rallied late for a 27-23 win. But a big part of the Redskins’ defeat was the lack of ball security, with four of their 10 turnovers this season coming in that contest.
However, also remember that rookie running back Alfred Morris had 120 of the Redskins’ 248 yards rushing that afternoon.
So turnabout is fair play. It’s Shanahan’s team that comes up with five Giants’ miscues and it’s the Redskins who will walk away with a 23-17 win. And Morris goes for another C-note against the New York defense.