Week 13, can you believe it? By our accounting there are still 17 teams, (18 if you throw in the 49er's), who can reasonably lay claim to a shot at the coming Winter Extravaganza. The NFL Playoffs, the end all single elimination tourney that will make even the most casual follower's hair stand on end and has been know to bring about full on or at least seeming heart failure in the most ardent amongst us.
No, it's not to be compared to the recent Iraqi war conditions, but in football speak, coming down the stretch run games will reach do or die proportions, so with out further ado, let's take a look at how this Sunday's match-ups break down.
Buffalo @ MInnesota (- 5 1/2) .... One of the few games not including at least one playoff contender, the city of Buffalo is still in recovery over Stevie Johnson's horrifying, OT end zone drop that cost them dearly against Pittsburgh. Very surprisingly Johnson blamed god, which come to think of it, considering the number of pro athletes who give all credit to the Almighty in post game interviews, was kind of an original slant. This week he can blame ex Stanford stud Toby Gerhart who may have to step in for injured Adrian Peterson who's a game time decision. Either way, Vikings prevail at home 28-21.
Cleveland @ Miami (-5) .... Now if the Dolphins want to talk to Jon Gruden then maybe the city of Miami can get somewhere. Don't be fooled by easy win over Bruce Gradkowski led Raiders. If Delhomme can keep from throwing a host of picks (always a big ? with streaky Jake taking snaps) this one will go down to the wire. Cleveland 27-24.
Jacksonville @ Tennessee (-3) .... If Tennessee can get Kerry Collins back under center and Kenny Britt back at wideout they might be able to take Garrard and Co. at home. But those are big ifs and the alternative is appropriately named Rusty Smith calling the signals where the odds of a home victory become immeasurably slimmer. There's no real pick here, but for the sake of being thorough Jacksonville 17-10.
Denver @ K.C. (-9) .... I give credit to Josh McDaniel for holding together a Bronco team that lost their biggest offensive & defensive threats, (W.R. Brandon Marshall, QB Killer Elvis Dumervill), before the first licks were even laid in the 2010 regular season but this one has slaughter written all over it. Jamaal Charles continues to run wild, K.C. 35 - Denver 14.
Redskins @ Giants (-7) .... In the 70's Hall of Famer George Allen brought the city of Washington to it's collective feet with an exciting veteran mix that found a way to win with a high degree of frequency. To a certain extent his son & current Redskins G.M. Bruce Allen has tried a little of the same bringing in some toothy vets who to the most part have kept the 'Skins competitive.
Note to Bruce, at week 13 the tread has worn ultra thin and even with all the injuries the Giants found out late last Sunday that they can still dominate the opposition with a little well thought out initiative. This one also gets ugly, (for Washington), Giants 31-10.
Chicago (-4 1/2) @ Detroit .... For us this falls under the category of living lock. Sure Detroit has played some competitive football at home but they haven't lost a truly extraordinary amount of games these past 5 or 6 seasons (2-9 in 2010) by sheer fluke. It seems every week they find another ridiculous way to lose and tomorrow they're going up against a fast rising, very motivated defense (do the oddsmakers yet realize that the great Julius Peppers plays for the Bears), and a Cutler led offense that has finally become functional. Chicago in a walk 27-10.
San Francisco @ Green Bay (-9) .... The 49er's have no chance, but on the positive side they get to freeze their tushies off. Green Bay 33 - 14
New Orleans (-6 1/2) @ Cincinnati .... There have been many perpetually god awful franchises in the history of professional sport. The Bengals are one of them and they're catching New Orleans on the upswing. Saints 42 - 21.
Atlanta (-3) @ Tampa Bay .... Before the season started my buddy Peck raved about Tampa's overall speed. I figured that would keep them from going winless. I don't see Atlanta letting up here and when we start to truly contemplate this teams ability to go deep into the playoffs one has to consider the greatness of Tony Gonzales, how much attention he draws and everything he can do on a football field.
Note to Josh Freeman, take off out of the pocket a little more. There were endless opportunities against Baltimore. Atlanta 27- 17.
Oakland @ San Diego ....They can start the Blow Out chant right about now. Slow start, 6-5 record notwithstanding, San Diego is one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the NFL. Chargers 38-14, and that's only because all their starters are sitting the 4th quarter.
Carolina @ Seattle (-5) .... I refuse to discuss this game on the grounds that a remarking of any kind might persuade even one human being to tune in to what promises to be one of the ugliest games of the year.
Dallas @ Indianapolis (-5) .... There are truly gifted players in the NFL who never find their way to greatness for lack of whatever particular intangible it is that might apply to their individual shortcoming. That's kind of a fancy way of saying, "how the hell did Roy Williams fumble that football against New Orleans?" Figure Manning comes back big against feeble Dallas secondary. Indianapolis 28-14.
St. Louis (-3 1/2) @ Arizona .... I'm officially loving the Rams, at least I think they'll win the West. Road warriors again, St. Louis 24 - Arizona 17.
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore (-3) .... For me the Steelers are one of the most over-rated teams in the league, albeit with James Harrison & Troy Palamalu on patrol for the defense which always makes them dangerous. I mean in general you love their roster, but I don't love the way they've been playing the last month or so and I don't think they'll beat the Ravens in Baltimore. Of course we could be wrong, nobody can call a divisional rivalry game like this, especially with so much on the line, but that having been said we'll say Ravens 27-24.
Monday Night, New York Jets @ New England (- 3 1/2) ... The Jets have stayed mighty healthy this year and in frequently shaky fashion they've piled up the wins. Now they're down scrappy safety Jim Leonhard just in time to face a reborn offensive juggernaut in the New England Patriots in a showdown of 9-2 divisional rivals. The Pats owe the Jets a beat down, but they don't have the defense to lay the clamps on Sanchez and Co. in full. This one might live up to expectations, I don't see Brady losing at home though, New England 35 - Jets 31.
Good luck pigskin lovers, that's it for now,