Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NFL 2011, Week 13: The 3rd Quarter Ends as the Playoff Contenders Step Forward

The 2012 season ends its third quarter with this weekend’s game with the playoff possibilities clearly in sight. Perhaps the biggest story of the season has nothing to do with victories, but instead, failure. Would anyone have foreseen the Indianapolis Colts being winless with five games to go even without Peyton Manning?

Clearly, there are issues at play on that team that are deeper than the leadership afforded by one key player out of action. The Detroit Lions started off as one of the real happy stories of the year winning their first five games but going 2-4 since with the insane conduct of Ndamukong Suh’s out of control nonsense getting most of the attention including stomping on an opponent’s head and then trying to justify his action on a nationally televised Thanksgiving game. That earned him a two game suspension, a fate that could eliminate Detroit not only from its first shot at the playoffs in ages but they’ll have to step it up to avoid yet another losing season.

Could Rex Ryan and his nonstop bloviating be wearing out his welcome in New York? The Jets are not going to make the playoffs without one of the leaders in the AFC North, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, or Cincinnati self-destructing. Does anyone believe Norv Turner will return to coach San Diego next year?  San Diego would be the choke tale of the year were it not for the Colts.

Dallas could win the NFC East, but no one should buy into the hype that they are a great team. They have a light schedule for the rest of the year and have looked terrible at times. Why they continue to maintain the America’s team hype defies imagination.

The NFC battle for the Championship looks clear. It will be San Francisco versus New Orleans to attempt to knock off the Green Bay Packers. The AFC seems pointed to Baltimore, but the Ravens have a funny habit of losing to miserable teams after clobbering the big boys. They must show championship caliber play Sunday versus Cleveland while Pittsburgh plays Cincinnati; otherwise, it will probably be a pick between Pittsburgh and New England for AFC supremacy.

The following teams can only at best tie for their division lead. Jacksonville (AFC South), Miami (AFC East), Carolina (NFC South), Arizona (NFC West). These teams are toast: Indianapolis (AFC South), Minnesota (NFC North), St. Louis (NFC West).

Here are the battles for week 13.

Thursday Night:
Philadelphia (-3) @ Seattle
The Eagles are a mess and face playing cross country on a short schedule. Seattle should prevail.

Sunday Afternoon:
 New York Jets (-3) @ Washington
This is a must win for the Jets if they want to stay in the playoff hunt. They should have the edge over the chaotic Redskins.

Oakland @ Miami (-3)
This is the kind of game Oakland needs to win to show themselves a real post season threat not just the lucky team in a bad division.

Denver @ Minnesota (-1 ½)
More Tebow magic? Don’t count the little guy out. They’ll play with enthusiasm something the Vikings sorely lack.

Indianapolis @ New England (-20)
Remember when this matchup of Olympian proportions?  Manning versus Brady, but somehow New England at least held their own when they lost Brady for a season. What’s up with the Colts who will be brutalized on Sunday?

Atlanta (-3) @ Houston
This was supposed to be Houston’s break out year and on paper, a 7-3 record looks great, but that doesn’t reveal they’re now down to a 3rd string quarterback. They won’t beat Atlanta, but should make the first round of the playoffs then be sent home.

Tennessee @ Buffalo (-1 ½)
Buffalo’s lost four straight and are 2-6 since their fast three wins to start the season while Tennessee seeks to stay in the playoff hunt with Houston ahead by two games but damaged. Tennessee should be able to beat Buffalo.

Kansas City @ Chicago (-7)
Chicago should prevail with ease.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh (-7)
If Pittsburgh loses, their dreaded rival, the Ravens should be in the driver’s seat to win the division and both Pittsburgh and Cincinnati would be in line as wild cards. If Pittsburgh wins, then Cincinnati is thrown to the pack of other wild card contenders with Baltimore and Houston ahead on their schedule. This game should belong to the Steelers.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-3)
There are no guarantees in this match up. If Cam Newton is on top of his game, Carolina can win, but Tampa Bay, a most inconsistent team, should win if they play their “A” game.

Dallas (-4 ½) @ Arizona
Okay, the Cowboys will win this. Don’t draw any grand conclusions about this being any kind of triumph.

Baltimore (-7) @ Cleveland
Baltimore has to win this game and not resort to the pattern of losing to losing teams after big wins against tough opponents. Cleveland is a tough spot. The Cleveland fans HATE the Ravens more than any other team believing in their hearts the team dressed in purple and gold should be their gladiators. Get over it and prepare for the wrath of the Ravens.

Green Bay (-7) @ New York Giants
The Giants looked terrible against New Orleans and now they face another even tougher foe. Although Eli Manning is giving the game a fine effort, the Giants’ defense and special teams are so awful, they’d have to pull the upset versus the Packers to have any hope short of a total Dallas collapse for post season play. The Packers should win with ease. The Giants one saving grace is facing Dallas twice before season’s end.

St. Louis @ San Francisco (-13)
Here’s a game for the Giants to feel good after losing the Brother Bowl Thanksgiving night – a nice win against a division opponent.

Sunday Night:
Detroit @ New Orleans (-9)
This will be a painful realization for Detroit, a team that looked so promising starting 5-0, has gone 2-4 since with Ndamukong Suh’s bully antics getting much of the press. New Orleans looks like a team on the ascent with Drew Brees running the Saints’ offense brilliantly. Detroit faces a tough loss on the Sunday night stage.

Monday Night:
San Diego (-2 ½) @ Jacksonville
Jack Del Rio got the ax fulfilling a rumor that has been festering for over two seasons. Meanwhile, San Diego’s horrible play has Norv Turner a dead man walking who perhaps might not make it to the season’s end given their dreadful 4-7 record with star QB Phillip Rivers looking horrible consistently this year. Who will win this game is truly a toss up. They’ve lost six consecutive games but unless the team has mailed it in entirely, they should prevail on their home field.

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