Today for each game, I'm going to not only predict the outcome and the game MVP, but give you a storyline you're VERY UNLIKELY to care about! Feast your eyes on my predictions, if you dare...
Chicago at Washington - This is one for the centuries; the battle between teams who are very disappointed in Adam Archuleta. I can just see it now: Archuleta goes up to Lovie Smith and says, "Hey, start me, I want a chance for payback at the team who gave up on me." Lovie coolly responds, "Adam, we're both the team that gave up on you. Please just retire." It's my #2 team visiting my #1 (but no, we're not going to call it the Toilet Bowl), and one is going to pretty much knock the other out of the playoff race. I see Washington's troubles continuing, unfortunately, and Rex keeps the "what the heck, nothing to lose, I guess I'll play good football" attitude up. Bears 24, Redskins 16. Game MVP: Bernard Berrian - 6 catches for 116 yds, 2 TDs.
Miami at Buffalo - Ted Ginn, Jr., the Dolphins' 9th overall draft choice, needs 156 receiving yards to tie for second place on the team in receiving yards. In doing so, he'd vault over a running back who's been hurt since week 7 (Ronnie Brown) and a WR who was traded before the week 6 deadline (Chris Chambers). Both teams hope that this is the first of many meetings between John Beck and Trent Edwards, as both think they drafted the QB of the future. I think one of them is right, and I'm not going to tell you which Bills team it is. The NAPOs have the Dolphins winning, and I like the attitude I'm reading about - they've gotten to the point where they're laughing this season off, which means one of these weeks, they might just go out there and have fun and inadvertently win. But Zach Thomas is out, Jesse Chatman's ankle still hurts, Marshawn Lynch might be back, and the Bills have something to play for, so I have to go with them. Dolphins 13, Bills 16. Game MVP: Aaron Schobel - 6 tackles, FF, sack
St. Louis at Cincinnati - While it's 816 miles from Joplin, MO to Conneaut, OH, it's a mere 311 from St. Louis to Cincinnati, which is just about the closest point between the two states. The Rams are praying they won't need Brock Berlin to take his first ever NFL snap, with Gus Frerotte out and Marc Bulger recovering from a concussion. Bulger has been cleared to play, but we all know how concussions can be. I don't like the Rams' odds of being able to keep up with or slow down the Cincinnati passing game, especially now that CB Tye Hill is out for the season. If they can get Palmer to make the uncharacteristic mistakes he's been making this year, they have a shot, but I don't see it happening. Rams 24, Bengals 35. Game MVP: T.J. Houshmandzadeh - 10 catches for 128 yds, 2 TDs.
Dallas at Detroit - Roy Williams, Mike Furrey, Calvin Johnson - this receiving trio looked pretty fearsome at the start of the season. By the season's end, Shaun MacDonald will most likely lead the Lions in receiving with Williams out at least until week 17. The Lions have dominated FanNations Truth & Rumors section this week, with all kinds of locker room nonsense going on. Williams and Kevin Jones want a trade, there's a contract out on Kitna, Kitna's insinuating in several comments that the whole team isn't in this thing. The first half of the season was pretty drama free, and yet here it all comes again. The Cowboys aren't the team to get your running game working again, as they'll probably jump out to a lead and you'll need to pass to have a hope of catching up. The Lions don't. By the way, guess who's the Cowboys' record holder for most TD passes in a season? Not Troy Aikman. Not Roger Staubach. Cowboys 38, Lions 17. Game MVP: Record-holder Tony Romo - 26 for 36 passing, 335 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.
Oakland at Green Bay - Should newly re-acquired Packers QB Craig Nall be needed, and should Josh McCown be playing at the same time, it won't be the first time they've faced each other. They were both quarterbacks in the I-AA (it was okay to say it then) Southland Conference six years ago; McCown for Sam Houston State and Nall for Northwestern State. McCown was picked in the third round of the 2002 draft, Nall in the fifth. If you ask me, this is the most likely game for a ridiculous upset this week. Oakland's been clicking, and the Packers don't really have a lot on the line. Still, I'd be foolish to pick against the Pack at home in December against a California team. Raiders 14, Packers 20. Game MVP: Charles Woodson - 4 tackles, 2 INTs.
Tampa Bay at Houston - Jeff Garcia has never faced the Texans, even though he's been in the league longer than they have. The Bucs have been pretty consistent this year; losing or winning by about what you'd expect depending on their opponent. Look at what they've done against the AFC South. Against the best team, they lost by 19. Against the second-best, they lost by 1. Against the third, they won by 3. Garcia should be healthy enough to play, Matt Schaub shouldn't, and that'll make a big difference, no disrespect to his backup. I think I'm gonna name my kid Sage. That's a kick **** name. Buccaneers 26, Texans 20. Game MVP: Joey Galloway - 9 catches for 159 yds, TD.
Carolina at Jacksonville - Here's a recipe for a holiday treat if you're up for a Gamble. It's Fudge with Curry and Peppers as a Spicer. Okay, it sounds Gross. But you can give it to your Cousin, making him shout "Omiyale" while the Goings-on in his stomach make his face turn Gray and he has to Hoover. Thank you, I'm here all week. So I'm not in the mood to research this further, but I'm going to go ahead and boldly say this game has more food-related last names than any other this week. In the battle of the expansion class of 1995, pretty much everything tilts in the Jags' favor. Better QB, better RB platoon, better coach (says I), more diverse passing game, better health, home-field advantage, and Marcus Stroud is back. Panthers 14, Jaguars 27. Game MVP: Marcus Stroud - 2 sacks, 7 tackles, FF
NY Giants at Philadelphia - The Giants coveted the Eagles' pass rush and hired one of their assistants as a defensive coordinator to establish some of the same in New York. It's worked beautifully, as their pass rush has enabled them to overcome much sloppy play at quarterback and earned them a 8-4 record. This is Steve Spagnuolo's first game back in Philadelphia. The Eagles get a lot of players back this week, including Donovan McNabb, Brodrick Bunkley, and Quinton Mikell. In the earlier loss to the Giants, Brian Westbrook was out, so I expect this one to be a lot closer. In fact, I'm going to pick the Eagles to take the win - I'm still impressed by how close they played the Pats, I guess. Giants 28, Eagles 30. Game MVP: Brian Westbrook - 17 rushes for 100 yds, 6 catches for 58 yds, 2 TDs.
San Diego at Tennessee - Everybody's favorite breakout first-year-starter quarterbacks of 2006, Philip Rivers and Vince Young, have thrown more TDs than INTs in only 7 games COMBINED this year. Somehow it's more disappointing from Rivers, since stats were never Young's thing - it was all about "he just wins games." Well, now that he's only 6-5 this year, we can modify that statement to "when Vince Young and Albert Haynesworth both play, the Titans win games." Under those conditions, they're 13-3, with losses only to Indianapolis, New England, and Tampa Bay. That's pretty dang good. And here's another question to ponder: name some of the best DTs in the league. I'd come up with Pat and Kevin Williams of the Vikings, Vince Wilfork of the Pats, Marcus Stroud and John Henderson of the Jags, and Albert Haynesworth of the Titans. The Chargers have lost to all of them. Give me Tennessee in this one. Chargers 20, Titans 22. Game MVP: Rob Bironas - 5 for 5 on FGs, including 3 over 45 yds.
Pittsburgh at New England - The Patriots have only finished with a prime number score once this year, and that was against Philadelphia (31). Okay, the Patriots have come close to losing in consecutive weeks to Mid-Atlantic state teams with a strong pass rush and a secondary with Pro Bowlers in it; and with a good yard-churning running back. Sounds like Pittsburgh, doesn't it? And the Steelers do all those things better (except be located in a Mid-Atlantic state). So all this hype about how the Steelers might win is pretty reasonable, right? Yeah, except for the part where Tom Brady doesn't come back and win it at the end. Steelers 23, Patriots 30. Game MVP: James Sanders - 3 tackles, INT, FR, TD.
Minnesota at San Francisco - Hm...those last two were actually relevant. I should do something outrageous to compensate. Okay, an anagram for Brad Childress is "Bald Dress Rich." An anagram for Mike Nolan is "Manlike? No." If Tarvaris Jackson completes 75% of his passes again and at least breaks even in the TD/INT department, I may have to start thinking about him as a legitimate quarterback. Scary. And with all the attention the Niners are going to have to devote to the run, it might happen. Of course, Fox is going to stick me with this game, and won't switch away from a Minnesota blowout, even when the Seattle-Arizona game, which will be so much closer and mean so much more, is going on. Vikings 37, 49ers 10. Game MVP: Adrian Peterson - 18 carries for 149 yds, 2 TDs, and by the way it's brilliant to give a guy a nickname dependent on your team colors that no one else in the league shares. How can he be Purple Jesus if he signs with somebody else? I'm gonna start calling Clinton Portis "Run Burgundy."
Arizona at Seattle - After four weeks, Shaun Alexander's 70-yard game was his fourth highest yardage total out of four games. Today, it's his fourth highest out of nine games. To anyone who says the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league, please take note of the fact that Alexander, not Maurice Morris who got only one fewer yard on fifteen fewer carries last week, is the starting running back for this game, despite the fact that with Morris starting, the Hawks won three straight. Both teams come into this game hot, but Seattle's done it against better teams, and have only lost one at home so far this year. Cardinals 22, Seahawks 30. Game MVP: Matt Hasselbeck - 24 for 40 passing, 289 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT.
Kansas City at Denver - I have this bottle of barbecue sauce on my desk that I put on sandwiches frequently. Yes, smart arse, I put a bottle on my sandwich. Geez. So anyway, this is some of the best-smelling barbecue sauce I've ever come across. It's Archer Farms' Texas-Style, made with molasses and rum. So sometimes when I'm sitting here at work, I feel compelled to smell it, just unscrew the cap, take a whiff, and put it back. It puts me in a good mood for some reason. Hey, I said I'd give you "a storyline you're very unlikely to care about," I never said it'd have anything to do with the game. All right, so I'm sick of the AFC West. Just when I thought I had them figured out, I got both games wrong last week. So I'm going to keep it simple here, say the Chiefs don't have the kind of offense to score touchdowns against the Broncos, and call it there. Chiefs 12, Broncos 21. Game MVP: Travis "Love Potion #9" Henry - 24 carries for 116 yards, 2 TDs.
Cleveland at NY Jets - New York Jet rhymes with Juliet. Romeo rhymes with Romeo. Raise your hand if you can figure out the Jets. Edge the Steelers in overtime. Get slaughtered more than the turkey did on Thanksgiving against Dallas. Destroy Miami. One thing's certain as far as the Browns are concerned - they won't win by more than a touchdown. They haven't done so yet on the road, no matter who they've faced. Considering how many teams seem to be having an up-down pattern week-to-week, I'm gonna pick the Browns. For the second straight week, 14 of 32 teams are on a one-game streak. Most of their outlooks are bleak. Is this a legit pattern, or just chance, a freak? I could keep going, but I won't. Browns 28, Jets 27. Game MVP: Braylon Edwards - 10 catches for 138 yds, TD.
Indianapolis at Baltimore - The Colts will be looking to overtake the Ravens for 4th in the NFL in assisted tackles (SI.com's stats). So be watching for that. Yeah, the Ravens did well against New England. Means squat. The Colts are figuring out how to live without Marvin Harrison, which is what they do. When they lose a key player, there's an adjustment period, but they figure it out. The Colts are going to win, by plenty. And when they first run out on the field, I see Anthony Gonzalez turning to Reggie Wayne and asking, "Hey, man, why are they booing us so much? I mean, yeah, we're the other team, but it seems like they really hate us." Wayne responds "Apparently the Colts played here, like a really really long time ago." Gonzalez will pause for a second. "Some girl stole my dessert back in 2nd grade. The b----." Colts 34, Ravens 17. Game MVP: Peyton Manning - 29 for 36 passing, 277 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs.
New Orleans at Atlanta - Whichever team wins, it'll be their first non-Sunday win of the season. How bad is quarterback coaching in the NFL when you're starting a guy who was out of the league for three years and was never any good before that over two top 5 picks? Seriously, that's unbelievable. But here it is, Chris Redman, who was drafted a year before LaDainian Tomlinson, has only two more career passing TDs than LT. And he'll be starting Sunday. I think the Falcons are going to come out and play with heart, and look good at times. They're committed to getting Jerious Norwood more involved, Roddy White's looking great, and they're figuring out what they're going to look like going into the future. But that heart won't be enough against the Saints, who are trying to keep another losing streak at bay. Saints 29, Falcons 26. Game MVP: Reggie Bush - 20 rushes for 110 yds, TD, 3 catches for 87 yds, TD.
Check out Josh's picks, and keep an eye out for our Friday Debate!