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He Got Game
New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has the most difficult job in the league this weekend trying to formulate a game plan to stop the amazing RGIII, Robert Griffin III in the NFL.
Thursday, November 29 8:20 PM ET – TV: NFL Network
New Orleans Saints 5-6 @ Atlanta Falcons 10-1
This game has all the implications of having a high-scoring contest. Both offenses have an extreme amount of weapons for their quarterback to exploit defenses with. Both defenses have the same opportunistic approach, but Atlanta is more physical on the defensive line anchored by defensive end John Abraham. The Saints defense has been more susceptible to the pass than Atlanta’s. Look for the Falcons to work physical running back Michael Turner early on between the tackles, giving quarterback Matt Ryan better reads to exploit New Orleans backend defense, as the Saints may have to drop down a safety near the box to stop the run. The Saints don’t sport an effective running game, and that will keep quarterback Drew Brees in more third and long situations than Matt Ryan. And Jacquizz Rodgers spelling Michael Turner has been a dynamite factor for Atlanta closing games out in the fourth quarter. Pick: Falcons 34, Saints 27.
Final Score: Falcons (11-1) 23, Saints (5-7) 13
Sunday, December 2
1:00 PM ET
Jacksonville Jaguars 2-9 @ Buffalo Bills 4-7 – TV: CBS
Jacksonville’s offense has been much more efficient, particularly in the passing game with Chad Henne under center. Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon is getting the football, and Cecil Shorts has become a threat because of his ability to catch the deep ball and run after the catch. Buffalo’s defense has been dismal against the run, and exploited against the pass. But on the road, you need an effective running game in most cases. Without Maurice Jones-Drew (foot), the running game has been dreadful. And as bad as Buffalo’s defense has been, I trust the offense at home and running back C.J. Spiller carrying the load. Pick: Bills 27, Jaguars 22.
Seattle Seahawks 6-5 @ Chicago Bears 8-3 – TV: FOX
It amazes me how some teams around the league have multiple skilled players on offense, but a bad offensive line. Surely, the Bears defense has done most of the talking, while offensive coordinator Mike Tice has found ways to position his most skilled offensive threat Brandon Marshall for Jay Cutler to get the ball in his hands. They’ll have lots of issues protecting Cutler from an extremely speedy and physical Seattle defensive front with some new faces like right guard Gabe Carimi and hopefully recently signed five time pro bowler Andre Gurode plays to help a dreadful injured part of the team. But I won’t bank on that considering he hasn’t played since last season with the Ravens. Having said that, I think Chicago catches a break against the homesick Seahawks, 1-5 on the road. Pick: Bears 23, Seahawks 19.
San Francisco 49ers 8-2-1 @ St. Louis Rams 4-6-1 – TV: FOX
Colin Kaepernick it is. I’m not surprised by this at all, and I don’t think anyone else should. Kaepernick quarterbacking brings excitement to the 49ers offense, and the luxury of opening up the playbook to take more shots down field with the passing game. And I’m not buying the old saying that you can’t lose your starting job due to injury, because you can. Didn’t Alex Smith just lose his? My point is Kaepernick is no joke. Besides, why didn’t coach Harbaugh extend Smith’s contract? And as we waited so patiently for coach Harbaugh to make his decision, here’s what he said about going with Kaepernick: “What tips the scale, is Colin, we believe, has the hot hand and we’ll go with Colin. And we’ll go with Alex. They’re both our guys.” I get it coach, Kaepernick is better than Smith. You have a player that has potential to only get better and fits your system perfectly. Kaepernick was your guy ever since you drafted him. Pick: 49ers 29, Rams 19.
New England Patriots 8-3 @ Miami Dolphins 5-6 – TV: CBS
Miami’s defense has been solid against the run. That’s a key factor considering that New England has an effective running game that features Steven Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen. Miami’s defense can limit them from making big plays on the ground, but when you have to deal with an offense as good as New England’s that keeps defenses guessing on what they’ll do on first down, run or pass, at some point, Tom Brady will find holes in the backend of your defense. And Miami offensively will have to be superb running the football with Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. Good won’t be good enough to beat the Patriots. Pick: Patriots 38, Dolphins 24.
Arizona Cardinals 4-7 @ N.Y. Jets 4-7 – TV: FOX
Losing center Kyle Sendlein has made matters worse for Ken Whisenhunt’s Cardinals. The offensive line has been far worse than any team losing three starters due to injury. Look for the Jets defense to take full advantage of this, and for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano to steal a page from what St. Louis did to Arizona’s defensive front last week, gashing them with a power running game. Pick: N.Y. Jets 21, Cardinals 13.
Indianapolis Colts 7-4 @ Detroit Lions 4-7 – TV: CBS
The Colts don’t feature a running back as good as Houston’s Arian Foster who gashed the Lions defense on the ground on Thanksgiving. But they’ll try to establish an effective running game. Detroit’s defensive line matches up well against a Colts offensive line that has flaws from time to time. That alone should have Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians looking to keep Andrew Luck out of third and long situations. On the opposite side of the ball, despite losing, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is getting better production from his offense with a balanced attack. Bottom line, Detroit is a much better team than what their record indicates. And with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford connecting, they’re capable of hanging with anyone. Pick: Lions 30, Colts 24.
Minnesota Vikings 6-5 @ Green Bay Packers 7-4 – TV: FOX
Good coaches know how to make adjustments. I expect Packers head coach Mike McCarthy to change things up this week with Green Bay’s injured offensive line. The Packers got ambushed in New York last week, and have another difficult task going up against Minnesota’s defensive line led by Jared Allen. Green Bay gets receiver Greg Jennings (abdominal) back, Aaron Rodgers most reliable target when healthy. As far as the game goes, I think Minnesota will run the ball effectively with league leading rusher Adrian Peterson against Green Bay’s banged up defense. But I think the Packers defense plays the role of bend but don’t break, not allowing Minnesota to punch it in the endzone when in striking distance. That will be the major difference as the Packers have more weapons offensively to score touchdowns than kick field goals. Pick: Packers 31, Vikings 20.
Houston Texans 10-1 @ Tennessee Titans 4-7 – TV: CBS
Last time these two meet was on September 30th, a game Titans star running back Chris Johnson ran for 141-yards. You would think a good performance from Johnson would give Tennessee a chance to win. That wasn’t the case. Matt Hasselbeck was Tennessee’s starting quarterback then, as Houston demolished Tennessee 38-14. This time around Jake Locker will be under center, a quarterback that has less experience and yet to face a pass-rush as good as Houston’s. And I don’t see how Tennessee keeps Houston’s J.J. Watt from getting after Locker, or how they can slow down Arian Foster and the Texans ground attack. How? Pick: Texans 36, Titans 22.
Carolina Panthers 3-8 @ Kansas City Chiefs 1-10 – TV: FOX
In the near future, the Panthers need to do something about their running game to take the weight off Cam Newton’s shoulders. It still mind-boggles me how they can’t do anything spectacular with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. As for Kansas City’s near future, I like Tamba Hali and Justin Houston as pass-rushers, but they really have to pursue looking at what they need to do about their quarterback situation. Matt Cassel just doesn’t cut the cheese for me. Neither does Brady Quinn. Pick: Panthers 22, Chiefs 19.
4:05 PM ET
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6-5 @ Denver Broncos 8-3 – TV: FOX
The ideal plan for Tampa Bay would be to pound away with running back Doug Martin, moving the football methodically to control time of possession, keeping Peyton Manning on the sideline as much as they can. But I wonder if they can go the opposite way and win this game in a high scoring battle? Tampa has more skilled players on the offensive end than the football world thinks. Receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are capable of making big plays, and tight end Dallas Clark has become a reliable option for quarterback Josh Freeman on passing downs. I’m not saying that coach Schiano will get out of the norm that works best for them running the football. Sometimes you need that extra to win a game of this magnitude. I think they make big plays and test Denver’s secondary, but not enough to edge Peyton Manning and the Broncos at Mile High. Pick: Broncos 29, Buccaneers 26.
4:25 PM ET
Cleveland Browns 3-8 @ Oakland Raiders 3-8 – TV: CBS
Both teams stand with dismal records out of the playoff picture. The Browns have the better future, however. They have some good food cooking in their kitchen. Trent Richards will only get better at running back, Greg Little and Josh Gordon show promise at receiver, and I’m really starting to see positive traits in Brandon Weeden’s game. The guy can really throw the rock. And as bad Oakland’s defense has been, I see Weeden and the Browns exploiting the Raiders dreadful secondary to end their twelve game road losing streak. Pick: Browns 26, Raiders 21.
Cincinnati Bengals 6-5 @ San Diego Chargers 4-7 – TV: CBS
Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of Norv Turner’s life as head coach of the San Diego Chargers. This is a good soap opera. You have one coach living on the edge and the other that has a team turning the corner at the right time. Bengals owner Mike Brown could’ve pulled the plug on Marvin Lewis a couple of seasons ago, but stayed patient with him. This might be the best thing he’s ever done with signs showing that he’s all in for winning. Pick: Bengals 33, Chargers 27.
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5 @ Baltimore Ravens 9-2 – TV: CBS
Even with Pittsburgh riding the Charlie Batch race-car, I still think they make this game interesting. And I know Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will look to be more creative then the last time both these rivals met. He’ll throw out a few more spread formations to spread the Steelers defense out to help quarterback Joe Flacco stretch the field. That will be the difference maker in this matchup. Joe Flacco will make more plays in the passing game than Charlie Batch in the final quarter to ice the game. Pick: Ravens 27, Steelers 17.
Sunday Night Football in America – TV: NBC
Philadelphia Eagles 3-8 @ Dallas Cowboys 5-6
I feel bad for Eagles head coach Any Reid. The man lost his son, he had to make changes on the coaching staff to try to help a struggling defense, his starting quarterback who’s now injured, never got things going, and he’s stuck in the middle trying to develop a rookie quarterback knowing that his days as head coach are running out of time. Surely, the Eagles will dismiss him at season’s end. This can also be the best thing for a coach that’s had lots of success in this league. A change of scenery sometimes can be the best thing for any of us in life. And if I was running the front offense of the Raiders, Chiefs, Browns, Lions or Chargers, I’d consider interviewing him in the near future. Reid is a good coach. It’s just the simple fact of the matter that good things don’t last forever. As for the young head coach in Dallas Jason Garrett, no excuses for an offense even with a vulnerable offensive line to not move the football against a defense that’s pretty much tanked the season. Pick: Cowboys 27, Eagles 16.
Monday Night Football, December 3 8:30 PM ET – TV: ESPN
N.Y. Giants 7-4 @ Washington Redskins 5-6
No doubt, all camera’s on RGIII, our modern day best athlete with Michael Jordan like features, wearing a football uniform, playing quarterback at the pro level. Robert Griffin III is the most dangerous man on the planet any defense has to face at the moment. New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck gave his take on the rookie sensation: “He is one of the best dual threats in our game today and we’re going to have our hands full trying to stop that guy.” If there’s any defensive front that can put out the fire, the Giants talent on the defensive line is the best group to do it. Just take a look at what they did pressuring Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers last week. I understand that Griffin III is a different kind of animal, and he’ll make plays with his feet regardless of who’s on the opposite side of the ball, but I think New York’s defense can limit the homerun play. Huge factor for New York’s defense defending the deep ball: Safety Kenny Phillips (knee) was limited in practice this week. His status for the game is questionable. With him back in the lineup last week, the Giants rolled three safeties that stumped a high powered passing attack, taking away the deep ball. And the Redskins like to throw the ball deep to speedy receiver Aldrick Robinson. I think Phillips plays and helps New York limit Washington’s deep threat forcing them to move the football methodically. And whenever you have a suspect secondary going up against Eli Manning, it spells trouble for your defense trying to keep the Giants offense out of the endzone. Pick: N.Y. Giants 27, Redskins 24.