This NFL Week Separates the Contenders from the Pretenders
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
The Bucs are an ugly football team right now, and are led by a coach who appears clueless and out of his league. Atlanta is desperately trying to get into the playoffs since their division appears to have been won by New Orleans. The return of star running back Michael Turner for Atlanta gives the team the balance it seeks on the offensive attack.
Falcons 31 Buccaneers 17
Carolina Panthers @ New York Jets
Both teams have just four wins and are seemingly finishing this season for pride and job security right now. Neither team has played as well as they had hoped, so it will be interesting to see if they have given up hope or are angry.
Panthers 27 Jets 24
Seattle Seahawks @ Saint Louis Rams
These are two teams that should play their youngsters and see what positions need help for 2010, because this season is over as far as playoff hopes are concerned. If you watch this game, you may be watching a few players finishing up their careers for the next six weeks. Some of them will be watching with you, because they are on injured reserve.
Seahawks 24 Rams 10
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills
The Dolphins are clinging to their slight playoff hopes right now, and will be facing a Bills team that is hurting all over. Buffalo will possibly be missing a starters on defense, and appear to not like any of the quarterbacks on their roster to lead the offense. Expect Miami to try to grind them into submission.
Dolphins 26 Bills 16
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Redskins wish their season was over about a month ago. The team has been victimized by bad coaching, a bad front office, and a plethora of injuries. The ones that are healthy enough to suit up are playing for their careers now.
Philadelphia has been immensely inconsistent all season, and have also been hit hard by the injury bug. Still, the Eagles are very much in the playoff hunt and really need this win a lot more than Washington does.
Eagles 23 Redskins 17
Cleveland Browns @ Cincinnati Bengals
Fans of the Browns got very excited last week to see their team score one point less in one game than they had in seven other games total this year. There are three reality checks to damper that happiness.
One is that the Browns lost the game anyways. Another is that they won the only game of their season in one of those seven weeks. The final reality check is that they scored those 37 points against the Detroit Lions. Cincinnati is not Detroit in geography nor on the gridiron.
The Bengals are also mad they lost a winnable game to the unpredictable Raiders last week. Expect them to vent their anger on their in-state rivals.
Bengals 37 Browns 6
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans
Houston is on the verge of oblivion right now for the 2009 season. They have dropped to third place in their division and see the resurgent Tennessee Titans charging hard behind them.
Pile on the loss to the former Houston Oilers, now the Titans, at home on national television last Monday, and you see a season the Texans were not hoping for. This game is their season most likely, and facing the undefeated Colts is a daunting task with everything on the line.
Texans 34 Colts 30
Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego Chargers
The Chiefs are playing spoiler right now, ask the Steelers, because there is nothing left for them to play for other than pride and job security. They do present a problem for the suddenly hot Chargers. San Diego is aware what their divisional rivals did last week and should be prepared.
Chargers 31 Chiefs 20
Jacksonville Jaguars @ San Francisco 49ers
Do not look now, but the Jaguars are in second place in their division and very much in the playoff hunt. Jack Del Rio has done a great job keeping his team competitive as he rebuilds the roster. Watching the youngsters step up has inspired Jacksonville two games above .500.
The 49ers still have a glimmer of hope to win the very weak NFC West, but it is faint. This game will be run heavy, so the battle in the trenches is key.
Jaguars 28 49ers 27
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
Chicago traded away a lot to get Jay Cutler to quarterback the team. It has not worked out well for them this season, and now all they have left to play for is pride. It may not be enough to defeat a Vikings team that is rolling in every aspect of the game every week thus far.
Vikings 38 Bears 27
Arizona Cardinals @ Tennessee Titans
The Cardinals are riding a three game winning streak and have taken a commanding three-game lead in their division. However, their leader, Kurt Warner, is battling symptoms of a mild concussion and is questionable this week.
It may be smart to sit him this week against a rejuvenated and hungry Tennessee Titans, and go with flop Matt Leinart at quarterback instead. I doubt Warner will sit, so this has the makings of an exciting game. Chris Johnson cannot be stopped, and is a leading candidate on many peoples MVP ballots.
The insertion of Vince Young at quarterback was a brilliant demand by owner Bud Adams that has made him look like Nostradamus almost.
Titans 34 Cardinals 30
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Baltimore Ravens
A few weeks ago, this game had a look like it could have a great impact on who sat on top of the AFC North. How can time change things drastically? Well, the Ravens are at .500 and might be a loss away from losing any chance of making the playoffs.
Pittsburgh, the defending champions, are just one game better than Baltimore. Instead of fighting for the division, these teams are fighting to stay alive for the 2009 season. Bruises will be plentiful for each team, because they do not like each other. Baltimore is looking to settle a score with Steelers team that ended their season last year.
Ravens 30 Steelers 28
New England Patriots @ New Orleans Saints
Game Of The Week
This will be an interesting battle, and finally Monday Night Football can claim to have a game worth watching for all football fans this season. New Orleans put their undefeated season up against a Patriots team that still struggles in short yardage situations.
New England should take advantage of a depleted Saints defense that recently rehired the washed up Mike McKenzie to bolster their beat up secondary. Randy Moss should have a few big play opportunities available.
Patriots 37 Saints 27
Last week, including Thanksgiving, I went 14 - 4 . I am now 101 - 45 overall.
This might be one of the most mediocre seasons the NFL has had in recent memory. After 10 games, there are 14 teams over the .500 mark. Of those teams, four of them have a winning percentage of .600 or less. Most teams have been struggling to stay healthy on the eve of the league thinking of shortening training camps and extending the seasons.
What has been the most obvious flaw in the game the NFL pushes out today is poor fundamentals. Even after the league has revamped their rule books to cater to a group of mostly average quarterbacks and players who rely on kill shots over proper tackling technique, you are left still seeing sloppy football games each week.
Offensive linemen, who hold every play, are now less important to protecting the quarterback than the NFL. The hit zone on the quarterback has now shrunk to the coffee can strike zone of baseball, so that points can be put up on the board with much more ease. Even special teams has been effected by changes from a group of men largely consisting of guys who haven't put on pads since school yard days.
Though it is understandable the NFL is trying to progress with society, the failure to hold onto old school principles has helped the game suffer to the point it now resembles basketball with a helmet. To show further example, many players go out on Sunday without hip or thigh padding, because they rather protect up high where most end up head hunting.
The NFL probably doesn't see this, much like they did not see their game stagnating in the 1960s. This allowed the fourth version of the American Football League to gain a following and then later force a complete alignment between the two leagues. Other previous leagues that competed against the NFL had forced the NFL to emerge some of those defunct leagues into theirs, but not all like the AFL did.
Now, the United Football League has just completed their first season with an overtime championship game. The difference between the UFL and other leagues that competed against the NFL in the past is that the UFL is being almost marketed as a minor leagues for the NFL by some.
The UFL refers to itself as a complementary addition, though they have several rules different. Their overtime rule is like the college rule, where both teams get a chance to play offense.
The UFL might now have a chance to survive with the NFL shortening training camps. There will be even more excellent football players available after the NFL makes cuts faster, many will happen because of the lack of opportunity many will get with less time in camp or exhibition games.
Then there is the chance the NFL players could strike after 2011, much like they did in 1982 and 1987. The NFLPA is advising cut players from going to the UFL, which echoes the same message the league gave to players when they jumped to the AFL in 1960.
If the UFL plays this smart, much like the AFL did in the 1960s, they could offer much needed competition to the perceived fat and lazy NFL. Perhaps the UFL can go a step further and enable the defenses to play less inhibited, unlike the castrated version of defense in the NFL.
If the 2009 season keeps wafting along in a uninspiring waddle for the NFL, fans will begin to look more into the other option. Much like they did for the AFL only 40 years ago. The timing of the AFL anniversary and the UFL inception is no coincidence.
Perhaps some of you readers will find this installment of Lucubration tinged with unrealistic hope for more well played football, and perhaps even a few will nod in agreement on some avenues that were attempted to be taken. The ones that are skeptical need only look at the 12 teams in the NFL that were born in other leagues.
The AFC itself houses only six teams that have just played in their league alone, though the Bengals franchise is still considered an AFL franchise on paper.
Some say more is better, and this can apply to professional football too. The UFL should continuing applying wrinkles to their game to attract fans. One suggested wrinkle is to apply some old school playing that thr NFL once lived and breathed on. It can work, much like how the AFL once showed the NFL that lots of scoring can bring in fans. It did.
NFL Power Rankings
1. New Orleans Saints
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. Minnesota Vikings
4. New England Patriots
5. Cincinnati Bengals
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. San Diego Chargers
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Atlanta Falcons
10. Denver Broncos
11. Philadelphia Eagles
12. Baltimore Ravens
13. Green Bay Packers
14. Arizona Cardinals
15. Jacksonville Jaguars
16. New York Giants
17. Miami Dolphins
18. Houston Texans
19. Tennessee Titans
20. San Francisco 49ers
21. New York Jets
22. Seattle Seahawks
23. Carolina Panthers
24. Chicago Bears
25. Oakland Raiders
26. Kansas City Chiefs
27. Buffalo Bills
28. Detroit Lions
29. Washington Redskins
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
31. Saint Louis Rams
32. Cleveland Browns
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