By Sex Panther
I looked at my weather forecast to see a low of 31 tonight, and 27 tomorrow night. Many of the grizzled cold-weather football fans start to get excited about this time of year. The teams from Florida, Arizona, and California have to travel to places like Green Bay, Chicago, Buffalo, and New England with pretty predictable results. The added wrinkle this year is the damage Hurricane Sandy left to the east coast, and how (to a far lesser degree) residents of the costal cities will rally around their sports teams in the same way New Orleans embraced the Saints post-Katrina. Maybe more than any other sport, football players thrive off of crowd noise and emotion, just look at what happens every time somebody goes to Seattle. So with these factors in mind, lets take a look at this week’s games.
Broncos @ Bengals
This is a chance for the Broncos to become part of the AFC elite, get a little separation from San Diego in the division. This is starting to look like a last gasp for the Bengals. If they go to 3-5 we can probably kiss their playoff hopes goodbye, especially with the Steelers starting to come on late. Bengals are at home, more desperate, and coming off a bye. Still doesn’t matter.
The Pick: Broncos
I almost went Browns for a minute. They’re riding a wave of momentum and the offense is starting to look, dare I say, adequate. Everyone keeps reminding us about how the wounded Ravens are flying with one wing, but really, they traded a healthy Ray Lewis for a healthy T- Sizzle, an upgrade I’d take any day of the week. People keep expecting them to fall off, and while the loss of Ladarius Webb is significant, it won’t be much of a factor this week. The untold story line is that the Ravens are coming off a much needed bye where they sat around the facility and listened to pundits pronounce them dead while pumping iron and looking at pictures of Brandon Weeden’s mug. This game has a whiff of “nobody believes in us” to the tune of a 34-9 Ravens win.
The Pick: Ravens
Cardinals @ Packers
The Cards are who we thought they were! Sorry couldn’t help it. They folded (sorry again) against the 49ers last Monday night, and I would expect much of the same for a warm weather team traveling to Lambeau as the weather turns.
The Pick: Packers
Bears @ Titans
This one was a little bit interesting. The Bears are giving off an air of “overrated” after last week’s squeaker against the Panthers, and the Titans have been the ultimate “pulled this out of my ass” team this year. That crazy game against Detroit, beating the Steelers on a Thursday. Both of those games came at home too. If I had just a tad more confidence in an awful Titans defense, I might predict the reemergence of Bad Jay Cutler. But….
The Pick: Bears
Dolphins @ Colts
If I told you in September that the Dolphins and Colts would be squaring off for the inside track on a wild card spot, would you think I feel through a time warp to the mid 90’s? It won’t be Dan Marino and Peyton Manning squaring off Sunday, but there’s no debating that these two teams are on the rise. In a strange way, I think that speed of the dome is more of an advantage for the fast Dolphins defense than it is for the Colts, and any time the Fins get to play in a climate controlled stadium it’s a win.
The Pick: Dolphins
Panthers @ Redskins
The matchup we’ve all been waiting for; Cam Newton vs. RGIII! A little bit of the luster has worn off because Newton has spent this year looking like the egomaniacal douche people predicted coming out of Auburn, and not the humble, smiling Dante Culpepper 2.0 that he was last year. However, the Panthers are better than their record and did almost beat the Bears last week and their last four by 12 points total. And the thing is these Redskins are worse than the Falcons, Bears, and Seahawks, with an argument to be made about the Cowboys. Still, the Skins are at home and the Panthers are 0-3 on the road. But wait, what’s that I hear? The DC crowd rising to their feet in support of RGIII.
The Pick: Redskins
Lions @ Jags
The Lions second half schedule gets easier, and they need wins badly to keep pace in that division. The Jags have rumors swirling about Tim Tebow and sucking for the #1 pick. Easy peasy.
The Pick: Lions
Bills @ Texans
Mario Williams triumphant retur…. oh wait. Never mind. Texans at home, coming off a bye. No contest here.
The Pick: Texans
Bucs @ Raiders
Hard as it is to believe, if the Raiders win they’re in the race for the AFC West crown and a playoff spot. Yes, the AFC is that bad this year. Thankfully the Bucs are starting to look like we envisioned offensively, and the D isn’t too shabby either. I have a feeling that this young team rallies around the departure of Aquib Talib.
The Pick: Bucs
Vikings @ Seahawks
If Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady struggled in Seattle, what does that hold for Christian Ponder? The ‘Hawks are 3-0 at home with wins over the Patriots and Packers, and a trouncing of the Cowboys. The Vikings are coming off a loss to the Bucs, and are quickly losing all of that early season momentum.
The Pick: Seahawks
Steelers @ Giants
Upset special! The Giants lead seems a bit too comfortable for this team, and the Steelers are flying under the radar. The fly in the ointment here is that the Steelers weakness (offensive line) is the Giants strength (defensive line). Could we see Roethlisberger running for his life like so many before him? For some reason I think not. As with everything about the Giants, I may live to regret this.
The Pick: Steelers
Cowboys @ Falcons
Cowboys calling audibles in a loud Georgia Dome at night with all eyes on them? I think not.
The Pick: Falcons
Monday Night Football
Eagles @ Saints
As Bill Simmons called it, “the loser leaves town” game. Whoever loses might as well start playing the backups, because they’ll be officially out of the playoff race. The Saints are teetering right now, and usually get a boost from playing at home, but if they try to go up-tempo they’re playing right into the Eagles style. Nobody does big play track meet better. Too bad they can’t do anything else right. Still, someone has to win.
The Pick: Eagles