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The FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST: Back To Camp Edition

At last, our long national winter is over. FOOTBALL IS BACK!  NFL training camps opened up in 32 American cities this week, and provided story after story worth batting around on the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST.  FootballSickness.com’s Ryan Burns and Sen Sogah know you’re depending on them to break it all down for you, and they won’t let you down. They talk about big stories around the NFL, introduce new nominees for the HALL of SICKNESS, drop some fantasy tidbits, and even cover some quality college football items.  The SICKNESS PODCAST reverts to its natural weekly state from here on out, and the camp-opening edition has a little extra goodness for you.  The only thing left to do is to GET YOUR HELMET ON!!!

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Click HERE for the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST, Back To Camp Edition

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Click HERE to SUBSCRIBE to the FOOTBALL SICKNESS PODCAST via iTunes.

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FANTASY SICKNESS: 2011 NFL LEAD DOGS

Once again I offer this rather important disclaimer: I am not- I repeat- NOT- a fantasy expert. Sincerely. I’ve played plenty, and somewhere along the line I became that dude at your office who everyone stops by to chat with for 5 minutes on Thursday morning before the waiver period ends or the lineup locks hit.  (Don’t worry- I’m not the one who insisted on barging into your office incessantly to discuss your WR3 issue.  In this case, the mountain ain’t movin’.)  And the fact of the matter is that the SICKNESS as we know and love it would not exist without fantasy football.  Good friends from the home league started batting around trash talk/trade negotiation/strategy sessions via email, and a lightbulb appeared. And then, there was the Sickness.  And it was good.  Or something.  Anyway, back to fantasy football. I offer the second annual version of Lead Dogs as an example of the kind of fantasy information you’re going to get here.  I’m not giving advice.  I offer perspective.  Do with it what you will, but recognize in so doing that we all make choices in life.  If you draft Brandon Lloyd because I like him and he goes bust, you need to wear it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  These are the guys I want first for fantasy football purposes from each team in the NFL, with last year’s call in parentheses.

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ARIZONA CARDINALS: Larry Fitzgerald. This should be obvious, and if he gets even remotely competent QB play from Kevin Kolb, he’s back to top 5. (Fitzgerald)
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ATLANTA FALCONS: Roddy White.  Yes, again.  What, last season wasn’t convincing?  Julio Jones is going to take all his catches? Please. (White)

I expect plenty of this in 2011 with Vontae Leach grading road.

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BALTIMORE RAVENS: No more Willis McGahee to vulture TD’s, and now he has Vontae Leach to clear the way?  Ray Rice in a walk.  (Rice)
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BUFFALO BILLS: More plausible choices all of a sudden, aren’t there? But I’m a believer in Stevie Johnson. CJ Spiller’s coming, but not yet. (Spiller)
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CAROLINA PANTHERS: I had to re-write this one. Didn’t expect DeAngelo Williams to come back.  It’s him, by the way.  (Williams)
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CHICAGO BEARS: Matt Forte. I was hesitant on him last year, but he impressed me regularly. It’s hunchy, but I see a big year. (Jay Cutler)
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CINCINNATI BENGALS:  Yuuuck.  I’ll say AJ Green and suggest that you use this one for dynasty purposes only. Hey. I’m the author. (Chad OchoCinco/Cedric Benson)
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CLEVELAND BROWNS: Thank God for Peyton Hillis. He’s saving me from both extended thought and preposterous reaching here. (None of the above)
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DALLAS COWBOYS: Tony Romo.  I like all his weapons, and I think he’ll use them well under coach Garrett. Elite fantasy QB in 2011. (Dez Bryant)
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DENVER BRONCOS: Tim Teb- just kidding. Give me Brandon Lloyd.  (Knowshon Moreno)
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DETROIT LIONS: Calvin Johnson.  That preposterous, other-worldly season  you’ve been expecting? This is it. (Jahvid Best)
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GREEN BAY PACKERS: Ladies and Gentlemen, the host of the Aaron Rodgers Variety Hour, Mr. Aaron Rodgers!  He’s in the zone. Still. (Rodgers)
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HOUSTON TEXANS: Andre Johnson. You can keep Foster.  He does that again, I’ll live with it. (Johnson)
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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Too easy: #18. And I didn’t even glance at Austin Collie.  (Manning)
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JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Pocket Hercules until he drops. (MJD)
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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: It’s not obvious to me why it’ll be any bigger than last year, but Jamaal Charles. (Dwayne Bowe)
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MIAMI DOLPHINS: Brandon Marshall. With Davone Bess closing in a PPR.  (Marshall)
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MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Adrian Peterson. Still my #1 overall player until further notice. (Peterson)
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Still my overall Lead Dog.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: If you’re reading this, I assume you know the answer already: Tom Brady. (Brady/Randy Moss)
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NEW YORK GIANTS: Hakeem Nicks. Huge fan.  Put him up in the top tier.  (Steve Smith) (Wait, what?) (Steve Smith. Ugh.)
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NEW YORK JETS: Santonio Homes. A full season, no Braylon, and he and Plax have worked together before.  (Shonn Greene)
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NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Drew Brees until something serious changes. No, not Mark Ingram. Stop it. (Brees)

Top 3 QB & Top 10 RB potential all in one dude. Yes, please.

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OAKLAND RAIDERS: Darren McFadden. Another good one is Jacoby Ford.  I’m fully convinced. Of course, I was fully convinced about my 2010 Raider, too. (Michael Bush)  UPDATE: Ford broke his hand yesterday. We’ll see.
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PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: Michael Vick. He’s a video game and his character has already acquired all the special additions. (DeSean Jackson)
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PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Rashard Mendenhall, by a nose over Mike Wallace.  (Mendenhall)
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ST. LOUIS RAMS: Steven Jackson for at least one more year.  Sam Bradford could get involved, though.  (Jackson)
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SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates are both unassailable candidates to lead their position in points, but Gates has the foot issue. (Rivers)
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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Frank Gore.  He was going bonkers before the injury.  Heard this one before?  (Gore)
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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS:  Would’ve said Big Mike Williams, but now it’s Sidney Rice in a walk.  (TJ Houshmandzadeh) (!!!)
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TAMPA BAY BUCS:  Threw a dart here last year. This year it landed on Mike Williams. Or is that LeGarrette Blount? It’s on the line. (Sammie Stroughter. See?)
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TENNESSEE TITANS: Chris Johnson.  You were expecting Jared Cook, perhaps? (Johnson)
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WASHINGTON REDSKINS: I have absolutely no idea. Should know better after some preseason games. For now, I’ll say Santana Moss. (Donovan McNabb. Oops.)

NOW I’VE SEEN IT ALL: NFL Week 15 In Review

What a Sunday! An epic comeback lead by a one-of-a-kind superstar quarterback, a number of key games coming down to the wire, a seventy-one yard kickoff return by a guard…this was one of those quintessential classic NFL weekends that has infected us all with the Sickness. And you know what’s even better? The playoff picture isn’t really all that much clearer today than it was yesterday, meaning we’ve got a couple more weeks of this insanity in front of us. Yes, my friends. Life is good.

The dual threat of the Michael Vick Experience was too much for the Giants to handle.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 38, NEW YORK GIANTS 31: I’m going long on this one, because in all seriousness it was one of the most exciting football games I have ever seen in my life, and I still cannot believe I saw it. (Brief aside: it is at times like these that my cup of gratitude for the fact that I was born into the NFL’s technological golden age does indeed run over. Here’s to you, Sunday Ticket, Red Zone Channel, picture-in-picture, and High Definition. Well done.) Anyway, like I said in my picks last week: I think the Eagles take a close one and I think Michael Vick is the difference. Check and big, fat bold CHECK.

Any other takers on the “Michael Vick should not be an MVP candidate” argument? I thought not. Consider this: #7 did damn near nothing the entire first half of the game as the Giants’ D put together another successful hailstorm of pass rush designed to contain him by forcing him into quick decisions. The second half was a completely different story, as Michael Vick suddenly remembered, “hey…I’m Michael Vick.” Thirty minutes and thirty-five points later, Vick had almost single-handedly won the game, finishing with 130 yards and a score on the ground and 3 touchdown passes. That, my friends, is video-game-level SICK.

The Giants choked away a 21-point lead. Then came the kill shot. Those who follow me on Twitter know that about 30 seconds before the game ended, I tweeted: “Do NOT punt this ball to #10. Don’t do it. Just trust me.” And that, as they say, was that.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 31, GREEN BAY PACKERS 27: That was a valiant effort by Matt Flynn and the Packers’ O, and if not for a team-wide case of the dropsies the underdogs from Green Bay probably win this game. The defense dropped two sure picks and a third pretty easy one, and the offense dropped several big passes. Nevertheless, Flynn looked poised and deadly accurate for the bulk of the game, and if nothing else likely gained some vital confidence in the locker room and front office of Lambeau Field. The Patriots were fortunate to come away with this one, but you have to be impressed with how seamlessly they’ve reinvented themselves since a year ago. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are the centerpieces of their passing offense. Think about that. 12-2 gets it done in any season.

The Closer.

BALTIMORE RAVENS 30, NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 24: This was exactly the kind of win I needed to see from the Ravens. As in, one that showed me they remembered who they are at their best: a strong D and and game and a half’s worth of Ray Rice stuffed into 60 minutes. They’ve been holding him back, but no more. They’re about to unleash fresh Ray Rice on people, and that makes them infinitely better. What’s more, they did it against the defending champs, who had been one of the hottest teams in the league coming in. Bravo, indeed. Meanwhile, the Saints are now essentially guaranteed to go into the playoffs as a wild card. A repeat will be infinitely tougher winning three road games just to get there. I can’t say I see that happening.

NEW YORK JETS 22, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 17: The Jets are another team that rediscovered their identity this weekend, and not a moment too soon. You had to figure Rex Ryan was going to run home to the ground n’ pound philosophy, and he did so successfully and impressively. The Steelers, of course, are a totally different defense without Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu on the field, but the Jets did what they needed to do to win. Mark Sanchez returned to managing the game and taking well-placed shots, and the formula got them back on track and a huge win in the playoff race. The Steelers aren’t likely to miss the postseason, but the way they are playing right now they will struggle to win a game once they get there.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 34, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 24: A couple of MVP candidates in Maurice Jones-Drew and Peyton Manning went at it, and #18 got the best of the matchup and the W. The game was marred by another full-body cringe-inducing hit on poor Austin Collie, who is almost certainly finished for the season given the league’s focus on head safety. Scary stuff, and we can only hope Collie is OK. I know it’s his job to go get it, but I find it interesting that going unmentioned is the fact that Collie is getting thrown into some tough spots. Also worth noting from this game was the Donald Brown explosion. Did we just find out who has Joseph Addai’s old gig in 2011? Oh, and Jacksonville: here’s your DONE stamp.

Don't worry, Tim. There will be brighter days.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 39, DENVER BRONCOS 23: I don’t need to see anything else to know three things about Tim Tebow in the NFL. One, from a throwing the football standpoint, he can throw the football just fine. Two, a significant chunk of his ground game translates. Three, so does the rah-rah stuff so readily dismissed by all the cool kids as schoolboy schtick. Bottom line: real passion is infectious. People know it instinctively. And like it or not, Timmy’s got it in spades. Unfortunately for Tebow, however, one cannot win on passion alone, at least not most weeks. The Raiders dominated the game in the trenches where it matters and remained unbeaten in the AFC West. Remember that. It could come into play later.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 27, ST. LOUIS RAMS 13: A nice steady return for Matt Cassel getting a much needed win against an improving St. Louis squad. Jamaal Charles touches the ball and good things happen. Case in point: 11 carries, 126 yards, 1 TD. I might give him the ball a bit more. Just a thought. The Rams are still tied for first, somehow, with games against the two teams they’re battling in the NFC West remaining. I honestly expect them to finish third, but it will be fascinating to see if Sam Bradford and the boys can duke it out with their division rivals.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 34, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 7: The Niners maintained their familiar inconsistency, showing up somewhere midway though the fourth quarter. The Chargers dropped the V-JAX Bomb on them, and it was over quickly. And yet somehow San Francisco remains alive in the playoff hunt in the NFC.

DETROIT LIONS 23, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 20 (OT): This one had to hurt in Tampa. In what may be the game they look back on as the one that got away and cost them a playoff berth, Tampa just could not hang on to a lead built on solid, mistake-free football. Meanwhile, someone in Detroit deserves a ton of credit for the fact that they have gotten solid play from all three quarterbacks on their roster this year. Fairly impressive.

ATLANTA FALCONS 34, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 18: Speaking of fairly impressive, the Falcons just keep getting it done. They took advantage of one Seattle mistake after another, spread the ball around to their two superstars and quality supporting weapons, and dominated possession of the football. In other words, standard operating procedure. Meanwhile, Matt Hasselbeck got (deservedly) pulled in favor of Charlie Whitehurst, and it’s fair to wonder if the ol’ “change of scenery” card needs to be played. No matter who plays quarterback, the Seahawks need to get the O-Line to gel before it will matter.

DALLAS COWBOYS 33, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 30: I will just say this: Andy Reid has been right about a great many things in the year 2010.

TENNESSEE TITANS 31, HOUSTON TEXANS 17: I’m through with you, Texans. Call me when you grow up. And Tennessee, I’m not all that happy with you either. Where have you been for the last month? You both wasted promising starts, and it’s a shame.

CINCINNATI BENGALS 19, CLEVELAND BROWNS 17: Colt McCoy’s return could not inspire a Cleveland sweep of the Battle of Ohio. Cedric Benson looked outstanding, showing great patience and burst through the hole as the Bengals finally got off the schneid in the division.

BUFFALO BILLS 17, MIAMI DOLPHINS 14: Hey, Dolphins, here is your DONE stamp. A good win for the Bills, who have been competitive in the vast majority of their games.

CAROLINA PANTHERS 19, ARIZONA CARDINALS 12: Let’s ignore this one, shall we? Good.

Enjoy the Monday Night Football Blizzard Bowl from the University of Minnesota.

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STILL THE ONE: NFL POWER RANKINGS

Tom Brady is on a mission and has his team playing deadly football.

1. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: By a LOT.  Save yourself the embarrassment of arguing. Have some dignity. C’mon, man, you’re better than that.

2.  ATLANTA FALCONS: 11-2 and straight-up balanced. They execute more consistently in all three phases than any team in the league.

3.  NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: They’re back, and they’re dangerous. Those turnovers and big plays that the defense created last year were the difference between the Saints and everybody else, and they’re coming in bunches all of a sudden.

4.  PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Their winning culture pulls them through more often than not. But the offense right now leaves much to be desired.

5.  PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: When they put it all together, they’re unstoppable, but the injuries are piling up on defense.

6.  NEW YORK GIANTS: Yes, Eli turns it over too much. But Brandon Jacobs’ resurgence and the defense have them looking like a team built for January.

7.  BALTIMORE RAVENS: In immortal the words of John Kreese: “FINISH HIM!” Here’s a question: Question: What do you have when you have zero 300-yard passing games and one 150-yard rushing game as an offensive unit? Answer: nothing special.

8.  NEW YORK JETS: That Miami team is really good at times, but there can be no ignoring the Jets’ self-inflicted wounds. Still, as bad as the offense was, they win that game if Santonio Holmes simply catches a pass at which my three year old would have a fighting chance. But you better show me something against the Steelers this week.

9.  SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: That was the Charger team that beats most teams in the league more often than not. It would be nice if they showed up every week.

10. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Losing Matt Cassel was the biggest problem, but far from the only one.

11. GREEN BAY PACKERS: With the parade of injuries, nobody has had more of a roller coaster season in 2010, and if Aaron Rodgers isn’t in the game they’re more like 21 than 11.

12. CHICAGO BEARS: Uh-huh.

13. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: I’m not sure they deserved that win, but they got it, and that’s what counts.

14. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Maurice Jones-Drew is an easy top 5 MVP candidate.

15. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: It’s no gimme against the Jags this week, but it’d be a surprise if #18 and friends didn’t get it done.

16. HOUSTON TEXANS: Far too many of their games are like Chargers seasons played in 60 minutes. They dig a giant hole at the outset and spend the remainder of it digging out.

17. OAKLAND RAIDERS: Offensive explosion and defensive implosion in Jacksonville. When they put it together, they’re tough.

18. MIAMI DOLPHINS: The defense can be stifling. But so can the offense.

19. DALLAS COWBOYS: They’re playing much better ball. Kudos to Jason Garret.

20. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Overmatched in New Orleans. Nothing to be ashamed of for a team that has already long since exceeded expectations.

21.  CLEVELAND BROWNS: A frequent lack of offensive imagination or adaptation is the strongest argument against a continuation of the Mangini Era in 2011.

22. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: The division title is in reach. That’s all I got.

23. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: In the words of Porky Pig: That’s All, Folks.

24. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Somehow, they are still in the division title race. This bothers me. Immensely.

25. TENNESSEE TITANS: Finnegan vs. Johnson Redux this weekend!

26. BUFFALO BILLS: They beat the Browns but didn’t look any better than the Browns in doing it.

27. DETROIT LIONS: I think that game said more about the current state of the Packers than anything else.

28. ARIZONA CARDINALS: The John Skelton Era begins. Whatever that means.

29. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: I’ll just repeat last week’s comment: Circus. Three rings.

30. CINCINNATI BENGALS: 81 & 85 finally blew their mutual gasket this week on their TV show, just in time for the Battle of Ohio.

31. CAROLINA PANTHERS: At least Panthers fans saw this coming.

32. DENVER BRONCOS: Really? I mean…REALLY? If only for the novelty of it. Pretty please. It’s Tebow Time.

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Week 14 Fantasy Football Campfire Discussion

Our own Ryan Burns joined Clint Chugg of You Heard It Here First and Phil Gentile of IHateJJRedick.com for a post-game chat covering the fantasy football bases after all the Sunday action in Week 14. Have a click on the link below, and follow both these fine gentlemen on Twitter at @YHIHF and @IHateJJRedick. GET YOUR HELMET ON!

FANTASY FOOTBALL CAMPFIRE DISCUSSION at YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

LET IT SNOW: NFL Week 14 in Review

Let’s see…What did I learn this weekend? Tom Brady is awesome and the Patriots are playing better football than anyone (to be fair, I knew that first half already). Peyton Manning is going to be just fine, but his team is still playing with fire on a weekly basis. The Chargers are still the best team in the AFC West, and either Brody Croyle is not ready to run the offense in Kansas City or Todd Haley trusts him less than Ed Rooney trusts Ferris Bueller. The Jets are knee-deep in an identity crisis of unknown origin. The Eagles can score. The Jags refuse to go away. The Bears…are who I thought they were. So is the entire NFC West. The Eagles are dangerous, but so are all those hits their superstar QB is taking. That’s a quick spin around the league. As we await an unexpected Monday Night Football doubleheader thanks to Mother Nature (who apparently has a crush on Brett Favre and his consecutive games streak), let’s dive in a bit deeper, shall we?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 36, CHICAGO BEARS 7: Tom Brady threw for 369 yards and two scores in a freaking blizzard, and the Pats utterly demolished the Bears on every level. This surprises me, like, not at all. Anybody listening or reading along this season knows I think the Bears are total frauds, and I’d like to thank the Patriots for driving home the point. The Pats are on a mission. Look out, NFL. That is 81-10 combined the past two weeks over the Jets and Bears, both playoff teams (allegedly). The new offensive gameplan has been largely unstoppable, and the defense is getting better every week with a ton of young, fast, smart, explosive talent. And oh, by the way: the Patriots have more early round picks than anyone in the next couple of drafts. The Hoodie has created a scenario usually reserved for my Madden Franchises. Are we witnessing the dawn of a second Belichickian Dynasty?

Neither snow, nor wind, nor the vaunted Bears D could stop Deion Branch and the Patriots..

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 30, DALLAS COWBOYS 27: Hey, here’s an idea for teams that play the Eagles going forward: keep an eye on DeSean Jackson on the game’s opening play. That’s twice he’s toasted inexplicably unsuspecting defensive backfields. How do you not see that coming? At any rate, Jackson put up a ridiculous 210 yards on four catches, for a staggering 52.5 yards per catch. The guy is essentially uncoverable, and he and Michael Vick are a perfect fit. The Eagles also showed some much needed brute force as they ran the clock down to finish it off. LeSean McCoy put up 149 yards rushing and the Eagles held off the ‘Boys to improve to 9-4.  Their awful start destroyed their season, but the Cowboys are playing much better football under Jason Garrett, and I would be stunned if Jerry Jones did not remove the interim tag. It’s what he wanted to do in the first place anyway.

Hydro Holmes' wide open drop in the end zone was both a microcosm of the Jets' day and a perfect example of the underlying problem: they've forgotten who they are.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 31, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 0: I went back and forth on Twitter yesterday with the very knowledgeable Herbie Teope over this one. I tweeted that the Chargers were just the better team. Herbie correctly pointed out that the Chiefs offense is a totally different unit with Matt Cassel at the helm, a point I readily concede. Indeed, Cassel has been playing some of the best quarterback in the league. But I don’t for a second believe he’s worth 31 points all by himself, and last I checked, he doesn’t play defense. The Chiefs got beaten up in the trenches on both sides of the ball in this one, and the Chargers scored 31 points without their favorite offensive weapon. Herbie agreed on the trenches, specifically noting that the Chiefs lack the NT they need to successfully run the 3-4. As a result, the Chargers ran it down the Chiefs’ throats all day with Mike Tolbert and Ryan Mathews, and Philip Rivers conducted the attack with his usual symphonic brilliance. And, once again, Todd Haley was a little too cute or stubborn, depending on how you see it, with the playcalling. The Charger defense ignored the pass all day, and Haley never really tested it. Perhaps he simply didn’t trust Croyle, but they got down big and should have been trying to get Bowe, Moeaki and McCluster involved much earlier. They’re not quite championship ready, and Cassel’s absence, if it extends into next week, could cost them a trip to the playoffs.

MIAMI DOLPHINS 10, NEW YORK JETS 6: Anyone want to tell me why the New York Jets would throw the ball 46 times out of 75 plays in a game that ended 10-6 and was played in a driving rain storm? Anyone? No? Against a top 5 defense with quality pass rushers like Miami’s, that’s a good way to end up getting your young, still relatively inexperienced quarterback in trouble (remember, Sanchez started only 16 games at USC). Like it or not, Rex, this one’s on you. It’s your job to tell Mini-Schottenheimer what to do when he’s doing it wrong. And I bet his daddy would even do it for you in this instance, because nobody loves to pound the rock like Martyball. The Dolphins D showed up to play, but Chad Henne (55 yards passing) and the offense were atrocious. Brandon Marshall’s second TD of the year was the difference.

DETROIT LIONS 7, GREEN BAY PACKERS 3: The gasp of dread from Green Bay was audible all the way out here at Sickness HQ in Southern California when Aaron Rodgers got drilled into the turf headfirst and left with his second concussion on the season, which puts the rest of his campaign (and thus, the Pack’s) in jeopardy. Matt Flynn came on and could get nothing done, but the fact of the matter is the Lions seemed to have the Packers befuddled on offense even before the injury. Props to The Schwartz on a solid defensive game plan. The Lions couldn’t do anything on offense either, but they got the game’s only touchdown and that was enough.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 17, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 16: Graham Gano misses two chip shot field goals and the tying PAT with 9 seconds left. Any other questions? In all seriousness, of course there were other impact plays, but that’s the ballgame right there. Sidenote of congratulations to Redskins TE and fellow Bruin Logan Paulsen on his first career NFL touchdown catch.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 38, OAKLAND RAIDERS 31: I knew I shouldn’t have picked Oakland in this one. The Raiders’ defense couldn’t stop a thing, and despite a monster day from Darren McFadden and a fairly strong performance by Jason Campbell the offense couldn’t keep up with all the not stopping the defense was doing. Jacksonville, despite being outscored by its opponents on the year, are now 8-5 and a game ahead of the Colts with three to play, having beaten Indy earlier in the season. That makes this weekend’s trip to Indianapolis fairly important, I should think.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 30, TENNESSEE TITANS 28: As #18 said, people kept asking him about his ‘slump’ when the fact of the matter is he has been on an eight and a half-year hitting streak. But they still only beat a suddenly mediocre (at best) Titans team by 2 lousy points. Peyton is still Peyton, but the D and running game simply are not getting it done. The Titans are 0-5 since trading for Randy Moss. Probably not the key factor, but might be worth cutting him now just in case, since you’re not going to use him. At this point, one has to wonder whether the Titans were just grabbing him to deny others his 9 route. And also whether he’s going to play anywhere in 2011, lockout or no.

BUFFALO BILLS 13, CLEVELAND BROWNS 6: Browns fans saw an all too familiar pattern reinforced yesterday, as two solid opening drives resulted in 3 points because Jake Delhomme sucks and Peyton Hillis thinks he’s Edwin Moses. Good win for the Bills, who are more talented than most realize, are well coached, and have come close way too often this year not to come away with a couple toward the end here. Chan Gailey has done a pretty darn good job in 2010. Bills fans are bummed they’re losing draft standing, but it hasn’t gotten them very far in 2 decades to have high picks, so…yeah.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 23, CINCINNATI BENGALS 7: Carson Palmer is absolutely terrible. It’s time. Cincinnati needs to go into full blow-up mode, because they are far and away the worst team in their division and it’s not getting better. Quite the contrary. Two more pick sixes, one to Troy Polamalu and another to Lamarr Woodley. I know what you’re thinking- “shouldn’t it be ‘by’ Polamalu and Woodley? In theory, sure. But when the QB actually throws it to the DB, I choose accuracy over custom. Meanwhile…wait for it…the Pittsburgh Steelers…just…know how…to win. See what I mean by that? It’s uncanny, isn’t it? But that’s what makes them the Steelers.

ATLANTA FALCONS 31, CAROLINA PANTHERS 10: The Falcons made like BTO and took care of business.

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 40, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 21: The Niners team many of us thought we were going to see in 2010 showed up and pasted a division foe at the ‘Stick. Why are they so incapable of playing like this from week to week? I’ve said it many times- consistency is the difference between garbage and greatness in the NFL. Speaking of which, Seahawks…you go to the garbage pile this week. Not the first time, not the last in 2010. Somehow, the ‘Hawks are still tied with the Rams for first place in the sorry NFC West at 6-7. Gross.

The Saints celebrating a pick 6...where have I seen that before?

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31, ST. LOUIS RAMS 13: About what I thought. Sam Bradford moved the Rams decently, but made a couple of big mistakes, including a 96-yard pick six by Malcom Jenkins, who baited the rookie into making a throw outside the left seam just a second too late, snatched it, and took it to The House. Meanwhile, don’t look now, but the Saints are 10-3, and you’re only not noticing because the Falcons are 11-2. New Orleans never trailed and won their sixth straight. They’re getting healthy at the right time, are starting to make more plays on defense, and are a threat to win it all once again.

ARIZONA CARDINALS 43, DENVER BRONCOS 13: I have literally no idea why Kyle Orton was still in this game in the second half, because the Broncos certainly weren’t. Cardinals rookie QB John Skelton didn’t put up any numbers, but then he didn’t have to, did he? He did, however, look relatively poised and kept the offense moving. He even got the ball to Larry Fitzgerald 6 times for 72 yards, something Derek Anderson and Max Hall had struggled at times to do. Tim Hightower had a big game statistically, but much of it was in garbage time as the Cardinals defense just confounded the Donkeys (hey, you’re 3-10. Wear it.) all afternoon. Wouldn’t it be funny if the new Broncos coach, whomever he turns out to be, wanted to draft Cam Newton?

Enjoy the Monday Night doubleheader. Oh, and Minnesota: it was a lovely 80 degrees and crystal clear here in SoCal today. Think Zygi noticed as he was mentally noting how much it would cost to put a new baggy on that dinosaur? I bet he did.

SHOWDOWN OUT WEST: Week 14 NFL Preview & Picks

THURSDAY NIGHT SPECIAL

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT TENNESSEE TITANS: Just a few weeks ago I looked at the schedule, saw this game and thought to myself, “that will be a big, fantastic game. Both teams are winning (as usual) and should be amped up for a big battle that will matter in their division.” Well, I was half right. The Titans have been one of the biggest pushovers in the NFL the last couple of weeks, and we have to be asking ourselves if Vince Young is going to win his micturation battle with Jeff Fisher. If so, Coach Fish will be available for all of about 3.8 seconds before several teams come calling with enormous offers. At any rate, the Titans are playing for pride at this point. Which is where the Colts will be if they don’t rattle of a string of wins to finish the season. It means more to the Colts, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to be the idiot to bet on Peyton Manning playing a fourth straight bad game at quarterback.  COLTS 27, TITANS 16.

FOOTBALLSICKNESS.COM GAME OF THE WEEK DOUBLEHEADER:

Philip Rivers and Jamaal Charles are both having huge years in prolific offenses.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: This game got even bigger- like, “better win it or make a lot of golf reservations for mid January through late February” bigger- when the Chargers got blown out of their own building by a gale force Autumn Wind out of Oakland. They can afford no further losses or their string of fortuitous comebacks from early-season losing streaks will be over. And you can rest assured that nobody would enjoy finishing them off more than the Chiefs, a young, talented, spirited bunch that are proving every week that the moment is not too big for them. Matt Cassel is playing Pro Bowl-level quarterback, the running game is dominant, they’ve got athletes all over the place, and the D bends but makes plays when it must, characteristic of a Romeo Crennel defense. But Philip Rivers is playing even better than Cassel, and the Chargers are the defending division champs several times over. The trump card? The rule of desperation. The Bolts are far more desperate, and will win it because they have to.  CHARGERS 27, CHIEFS 23.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT CHICAGO BEARS: Ah, here we are. Another nice test for the Bears, who continue their stubborn and misguided refusal to prove me right. They squeaked by the Lions for the second time this season, and are now an impressive 9-3. Mostly, it’s impressive because, as with a great magician, I have absolutely no idea how they’re doing it. But whatever they’re doing, I doubt very much it will work against the Patriots, who appear to have been awakened from a deep slumber by the thumping they took from the Browns a month back. Since then, they’ve rattled off four quality wins, culminating in Monday Night’s 45-3 thrashing of the Jets. Tom and Bill don’t allow letdown games.  PATRIOTS 30, BEARS 20.

THE REST:

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT DALLAS COWBOYS: The Cowboys wasted the first half of their year, but if the second yields them a new coach and a new organizational culture, perhaps it will have been worth it. The Eagles spent most of this season finding out that they scored big time when they chose to act as Michael Vick’s lifeline two years ago. Vick has turned into one of the more impressive stories in the NFL in a long time, and has the Eagles looking like a Super Bowl contender. But they have to be concerned at their inability to pound it on the ground when the time comes to do so, and the injuries in the secondary are an issue on defense. I like them to beat the Cowboys, but Jason Garrett has Dallas executing, so Philly better come to play. EAGLES 33, COWBOYS 30.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: This should really be a bigger game on the national radar, and is one of the better new school rivalries in the NFL. But both teams have given us reason not to take them too seriously this year. The Niners fell on their collective face coming out of the gate, and while they have put together a few wins of late, they have not been anything resembling consistent. Now, Frank Gore is done for the year and the primary curiosity is whether coach Mike Singletary survives to 2011. The Seahawks had lower expectations to start the year but are at .500 with four games to play and tied for the NFC West lead. They’ve got more to play for, but have struggled on the road. Who knows what’s going to happen, but I’ll take the Seahawks as they try to get out in front of the Rams. SEAHAWKS 23, NINERS 20.

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT DETROIT LIONS: The Packers have a division title to chase and cannot be bothered. They will brush the Lions aside like an actual lion brushes aside a fly. PACKERS 37, LIONS 22.

The vastly underrated Marcel Reece and the Raiders still have a look at the postseason as they head to Jacksonville.

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: This game actually has a ton of relevance to the AFC playoff picture. A win would thrust the Raiders toward the top of the bubble crowd, while a loss would drop Jacksonville back into that group, with the Colts hot on their heels. These are both physical teams, but to me, the Jags have been getting by on the residue of preparation and a little Gus Johnson – MoJo Drew magic. The Raiders absolutely pounded on the Chargers in San Diego this Sunday, and while I am going back on an earlier self-warning never to trust them to string two together, I’m going to pick them. I’m not trusting them, mind you. I just think they’re better. RAIDERS 24, JAGS 20.

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT BUFFALO BILLS: The Browns are 5-7 and have to feel like they blew their shot to be right in it, because they could easily have won several of those 7 L’s. Of course, the same can be said about the Bills, to a lesser degree. Buffalo has suffered several late heartbreakers, but is showing signs of growing up. Both teams require continued injections of talent, but the programs appear to be on track. This is the kind of game the Browns will almost always lose, so…I’m going to take them.  BROWNS 24, BILLS 20.

NEW YORK GIANTS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Will he or won’t he? Everybody (or so I’m told by ESPN and the NFL Network) is waiting to see whether Brett Favre’s streak of consecutive starts, which dates to the Mesozoic era, will finally be broken. I assume he’ll play until I’m informed otherwise. That plan has served me well for two decades now. Either way, Leslie Frazier has made clear that Adrian Peterson will be the centerpiece of the offense, to which I think we can all say “it’s about freaking time.” They’ll be a tough out at home for the Giants, who are now looking to Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to carry them into the postseason. It all depends on which Brother Eli shows up: the one who throws touchdowns or the one who throws picks and breaks out regularly into a super-sour ManningFace. I’ll guess the former. GIANTS 28, VIKINGS 24.

MIAMI DOLPHINS AT NEW YORK JETS: This is normally a close divisional battle, but I would not want to be the first team to face Rex & his Jets after that beat-down they took on Monday Night. And the ‘Phins just scored 10 points at home against the Browns. Yikes.  JETS 30, DOLPHINS 13.

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS: How To Do It Right vs. How To Do It Wrong. STEELERS 23, BENGALS 17.

Josh Freeman, #5 is leading a better team than DMac5.

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS: A fascinating study in contrast. On one hand, we have a young, talented squad led by a young, inspiring coach and a gifted young quarterback on the rise. And on the other, an aging roster laden with has-been’s, could-have-been’s and never-will-be’s led by a recycled, uninspiring former Super Bowl winning head coach and a declining quarterback whose body is much older than his age and who just signed a massive extension. And who just suspended their best defensive player for stealing $20 Million, which seems a reasonable punishment. Maybe even a bit light. The only similarity is the quarterbacks are both wearing #5. I’ll take the team that looks every week like it really cares. BUCS 24, REDSKINS 17.

ATLANTA FALCONS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS: Best team in the NFC versus the worst. FALCONS 34, PANTHERS 17.

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: A year ago, there would have been no reason to tune in. Now? Sure, I expect the Saints to win, but I’m actually really curious to see how Sam Bradford and the young Rams’ D handles a trip to the SuperDome. Hey, the Browns won there handily just a little over a month ago. It can be done. It won’t, of course- the Saints are back to playing really good, championship contender football. But it can.  SAINTS 33, RAMS 23.

DENVER BRONCOS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS: Here’s a fascinating battle between two teams with a lot going for them.  BRONCOS 24, CARDINALS 17.

MONDAY NIGHTCAP

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT HOUSTON TEXANS: The Texans are D-U-N with 7 losses, but that doesn’t mean you want to be trying to beat them in Houston to cement your own spot. They’re tough to beat and this is usually when they play their best: when the chips are no longer down, but have been collected and pushed over to the guy with the blue horseshoe on his hat. The Ravens, on the other hand, are right in the thick of the playoff picture, but blew a golden opportunity to put the Steelers behind them in the divisional race (and also to prove that they were finishers…so much for that). Baltimore couldn’t put Pittsburgh away despite an evening full of opportunities to do so, and that is not the mark of a championship football team. It’s just one game, but the Ravens better strap it on for a fight down in H-Town, where the Texans play well.  RAVENS 27, TEXANS 24.

WINNERS BY A NOSE: NFL Week 13 In Review

Big Ben put on a gutsy performance despite his scrambled face.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS 13, BALTIMORE RAVENS 10: The Ravens had every chance to win this game and just could not get it done at home. They re-arranged Big Ben’s face and nearly decapitated Heath Miller, but they could neither intimidate nor out-physical the Steelers, who got a game-breaking play by- who else?- Troy Polamalu, who came untouched on a perfectly timed blitz to strip-sack Joe Flacco from the blind side. Of course, another way to say it is that Joe Flacco totally failed to read a blitz he should have seen coming and fumbled away a game his defense has every right to feel it won. Sound familiar, Baltimore? Terrell Suggs showed some warranted frustration after the game with the same old Ravens story: “Is that something new? We’ve just got to know our opponent better. It’s like, ‘Have we learned nothing?” Good question. And, I’ll keep repeating it every week: The Pittsburgh Steelers…just…know how…to win.

ATLANTA FALCONS 28, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 24: This game underscored the predominant thought going in: the Falcons were a class above the upstart Bucs. Tampa has no reason to hang their heads. They played a strong game and had the lead late. But the Bucs are now 0-5 against winning teams in 2010. They’re simply not as good or as deep as the conference-leading Falcons, who look every bit the Super Bowl contender increasingly large segments of NFL observers are making them out to be. This time it was Michael Turner and a kickoff return to the house by Eric Weems, wrapped in a Matt Ryan 4th-quarter game winning drive. I’ll say it again: Do not let the Atlanta Falcons get home field advantage in the playoffs. Don’t do it.

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 34, HOUSTON TEXANS 24: Whatever you may think of him as a person, the Michael Vick football story is incredible. He has become a prototype QB for the West Coast Offense, and does it while possessing the skills of an elite running back. The Eagles are going to be a lot for any defense to handle. The Texans have to be kicking themselves. They got out to a hot start and the Colts have played along, struggling to 6-6 and looking like they are going to run out of gas. But Houston is not the one benefitting and it has to be killing them. Bottom line: they just can’t stop anyone on defense, and that’s no way to win football games. Even in a ‘passing league.’

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 34, CINCINNATI BENGALS 30: Ah, the Bungles. Could it have gone any more predictably for this group? It’s gotten so bad at this point, I think they need to be rooting for another couple of wins for the Panthers and Bills so they can replace Carson Palmer with another Pac 10 #1 overall pick, Andrew Luck. It won’t happen, but another blow-it-up-and-start-over offseason looks increasingly likely. The Saints are now 9-3, Drew Brees is in The Zone, and they get another shot at the Falcons. I’d watch that game two more times, frankly. Maybe we’ll get to.

#18 is serving up plenty of Manning Face lately.

DALLAS COWBOYS 38, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 35: Four more picks for #18, two more to the house, which makes it 24 points he has scored for the opposing team the past two games. Which they have lost by a combined 25 points. Yikes. And let’s call it like it is; Yes, the Colts have suffered far too many injuries to absorb, but that doesn’t excuse Manning forcing bad balls and costing his team games. Jason Garrett is easing into this head coaching thing nicely. They’re one Princess Roy fumble away from 4-0 under the kid. I would say he’s about got it wrapped up. It’s what Jerry wants to do anyway, and now, it looks like it’s overdue.

OAKLAND RAIDERS 28, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 13: Wow. I did not expect that. Not at all. Jason Campbell looked poised and in control, like a starting quarterback. It helps that the Raiders racked up 251 rushing yards against the previously sturdy Bolts defense. On the other side of the ball, the Chargers just could not get anything going, although Antonio Gates did have yet another of his patented “how the hell does the premiere tight end in the game get that freaking wide open” touchdown catches. And, of course, they had their obligatory special teams gaffe. They now sit on 6-6, in third place in the division, and in serious danger of missing the postseason altogether. And still, no one has hired me to run an NFL franchise. Not so much as an interview or courtesy call. The world has gone completely insane.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 10, DENVER BRONCOS 6: I admit it: I’m highly disappointed we didn’t see Todd Haley get a chance to run it up on Josh McDaniels, just to see if he would. They hugged in the post-game and all appears to have been forgiven, but it probably helps that this ugly win combined with the Chargers’ loss puts the suddenly formidable Chiefs two games up on the Chargers with four to play. Interesting note- Dexter McCluster started opposite Dwayne Bowe, who finished with a bagel. McCluster got several targets and several carries, and appears to be a Haley/Weis favorite. The Broncos… aren’t very good. Obviously. I don’t know if the rumblings about McDaniels being on the hot seat are true, but I think they probably should be.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 38, BUFFALO BILLS 14: “This is the end…my only friend..the end.” Brett Favre is done. He knows it. Leslie Frazier knows it. Zygi Wilf knows it. We know it. Most dangerously, opposing defenders know it. It’s time. The offense even got a lift from Tarvaris Jackson, who was a little loose with the ball but showed some grit. He also showed he has learned a lot watching #4. He gave Sidney Rice a bunch of chances, and Sidney rewarded him with 105 yards and two TD’s. CJ Spiller got a little work for the Bills but they were never really in the game thanks to Adrian Peterson’s return to dominance (107 yards, 3 TD’s including a 43-yard game-sealer).

CLEVELAND BROWNS 13, MIAMI DOLPHINS 10: To see the average Dolphan post-game tweets and message board posts, you’d think the Browns had come into this game 0-12 without having scored a point. The sky is falling in Miami. I’m not sure why exactly they thought they had much of a look at the postseason anyway, but they are nonetheless losing their minds over this loss to the now 5-7 Browns, who could easily be 8-4 or better. Don’t feel so bad, Miami. The Patriots and Saints both got waxed by this improving Cleveland squad. Of course, that was with Colt McCoy at the helm. The Browns won this game on the strength of a defense that is becoming one of the game’s best at taking the football away. Joe Haden had a pick in his fourth straight game, the Browns had three overall, and won it on a Phil Dawson chip shot.

NEW YORK GIANTS 31, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 7: The Giants have lost so many guys in the receiving corps that they have been forced to return to the power running game. I’m impressed with how seamlessly and effectively they have been able to do so. Conversely, I’m impressed with absolutely nothing about the Washington Redskins. One of my favorite Twitter follows, Terry Corcoran (@Corcoran310), tweeted some good stuff on an under-noticed storyline in DC: “If I’m the owner of #Redskins, I really want my $7M/yr head coach to explain why my top 10 defense 3 yrs in a row is now dead last in #NFL.” Exactamundo.

CHICAGO BEARS 24, DETROIT LIONS 20: The Bears really tried not to win this one, but the Lions couldn’t hold them off. Chicago is 9-3, which, despite being one of the great smoke-and-mirror tricks of all time, puts them in a playoff spot if they keep winning. I have to believe they have one really bad loss coming (in addition to the one I expect them to suffer at the hands of the Packers to finish the season). The Lions keep proving they are talented but flawed, and not remotely deep enough. It seems like they lose a tough one every week. It’s good for them. Builds character.

GREEN BAY PACKERS 34, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 19: No mystery here. The Packers were at home and are a much better team on all levels and in all phases than the Niners. Plus, they had to win to keep pace with the Bears in the division. Took them a few minutes to get going, but once they did it was smooth sailing in the cool Lambeau breeze.

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 17, TENNESSEE TITANS 6: Warren Sapp tweeted it best: “The Tennessee Titans have QUIT.” Perhaps it says something about the modern professional athlete that Vince Young appears to be winning this little southern pissing contest with coach Jeff Fisher. If the Titans fire Fisher, he’ll be on the street for approximately 3.8 seconds before he lands another gig, and somebody might even fire their present guy just to go get him. But we know the owner favors VY a great deal…and the players are voting with their film right now. It’s never good when the inmates run the asylum. Might be time for a new warden. Meanwhile, the Jags are now two games up on the whole division and keep winning close games. They’re going to get rolled by the top AFC teams, but with each win it looks like they’ll at least get the opportunity to do so on national television.

ST. LOUIS RAMS 19, ARIZONA CARDINALS 6: The Cardinals have no quarterback and, as a result, are terrible. The Rams have a quarterback and are thus tied for the division lead at 6-6.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 31, CAROLINA PANTHERS 14: Fact: The Seahawks are tied for the division lead and have now surpassed their win totals from each of the past two years. That’s a success for a first-year regime. A good, taking-care-of-business kind of win at home against the hapless Panthers, who have been playing out the string for some time.

LEADING THE LEAGUE IN WINS! Week 13 NFL Power Rankings

Santonio and the Jets are flying high. So to speak.

1.  NEW YORK JETS: 9-2 overall, 5-0 on the road, Sanchez is making just enough plays, the defense is Rex Ryan-worthy, and they can run it. Vince Wilfork said it this week: “They’re probably the best team in the league. The tape doesn’t lie.” I’ll go ahead and emphasize the ‘probably’ on behalf of the big fella but for now they get the top spot.

2. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: I don’t like the disparity in quality of play at home versus on the road, but everybody’s got warts. Not everybody has Tom Brady and the Hoodie. (Sidebar: someone with talent needs to draw a comic cross-over of the Pats’ Ring Trust as Pinky & The Brain).

3. ATLANTA FALCONS: Steady as she goes. Captain Mike Smith and First Mate Matt Ryan have this ship under control.

4.  BALTIMORE RAVENS: They can put a stranglehold on the AFC North with a victory over the hated Steelers this week.

5.  PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: They’ve come back to earth a bit against the Giants and Bears, but most teams can’t throw that kind of pass rush at you. And the Eagles still have fewer flaws over the long haul than those teams.

6.  PITTSBURGH STEELERS: They’re a really outstanding football team, but they are also a long way from being healthy. How long can they absorb these losses up front?

7. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: Very quietly back to 8-3 and playing explosive football.

8. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: It’s time you believe in them. Jamaal Charles is incredible, Dwayne Bowe is unstoppable, and Matt Cassel- don’t look now- is playing Pro Bowl quarterback whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. More TD passes than anyone in the NFL since week 3. Good enough for you? It is for me, especially when he’s got the top-ranked run game in the league to go with it. These guys are for real.

9. GREEN BAY PACKERS: I like the Falcons, but I was still surprised the Pack were so punchless in Atlanta.

10. SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: And skyrocketing. Philip Rivers is your MVP as of now.

11.  NEW YORK GIANTS: Playing solid football, finding ways to win tough games. That pays off in the long run, IF they can survive all the injuries. They’re dressing peanut vendors as receivers at this point.

12. CHICAGO BEARS: OK, they’re better than I thought. Obviously. But that doesn’t mean I have to buy it completely. That was by FAR their best offensive performance of the year. Still, they’re clearly getting better, and they lead their division by a game over the Packers.

13. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Speaking of struggling to deal with injuries. They can’t block, can’t run the ball, aren’t tackling particularly well…could this be the year the run ends (even if only temporarily)?

14. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: 7-0 versus losing teams. 0-4 versus winners. The prosecution rests.

Rumor has it this started as a disagreement about the FootballSickness.com Power Rankings.

15. HOUSTON TEXANS: Big game against the Eagles tonight…and they can’t afford more losses.

16.  JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: Yes, they’re in first place. But they won 2 games they had no business winning and their point differential is -54. Yes, that’s a negative sign. Negative fifty-four.

17. TENNESSEE TITANS: Yikes. Rusty Smith is not the answer. They were the highest scoring team in the league just a couple of weeks ago…they got shut out by Houston on Sunday. Too much drama. Can Kerry Collins rescue them?

Sam Bradford has the Rams in contention for a division crown as a rookie.

18. ST. LOUIS RAMS: Sam Bradford is going to be great for a long time. Imagine the legend he’ll be immediately if they win their division (however weak) his rookie year?

19.  MIAMI DOLPHINS: Pounded the Raiders to keep slim playoff hopes alive. And they get Jake Delhomme this weekend.

20. OAKLAND RAIDERS: So much for that.

21. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: We know they’re not great. But they can still win their division, and that’s something a first-year regime and an aging quarterback can hang a helmet on.

22. CLEVELAND BROWNS: Unfortunately, they’re back to Jake Delhomme, and the downgrade from rookie Colt McCoy was obvious last week as the crafty vet did his best to get his former squad into a position to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They’re on the right path, but they’re winning so infrequently still that it will be no surprise to hear the name GRUDES on the lips of Browns fans and executives this offseason.

23. DALLAS COWBOYS: Sure looks to me like Jason Garrett is the guy.

24. MINNESOTA VIKINGS: Ditto Leslie Frazier.

25. DETROIT LIONS: Lots of talent at the top end, but as shallow as a kiddie pool.

26. WASHINGTON REDSKINS: I remain totally unimpressed on every level. Feels like a lost year to me. Lost to poor talent, lost to poor management, lost to too much drama. Blah.

27. BUFFALO BILLS: They’ve played some good teams very tough of late, and I bet they finish several spots higher in the year-end power rankings. They’re dangerously close to being a week-in, week-out competitive NFL team. My hat is off to Chan Gailey.

28. ARIZONA CARDINALS: The Cardinals are going in the totally wrong direction. D.A. probably does work his tail off, and I think he’s long gotten a bad rap for a laid-back appearance, but he also showed why he isn’t the leader of men you need at quarterback in the NFL.

29. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Down goes Frank Gore. The hits just keep on comin’.

30. DENVER BRONCOS: Those are real pretty numbers, Kyle. Now try getting some before you’re down three scores.

31. CINCINNATI BENGALS: They went 6-0 in the AFC North last year.

32. CAROLINA PANTHERS: Still haven’t seen enough from Jimmy Clausen not to take Andrew Luck. Not even close. But the next head coach is starting from scratch on offense anyway. Talk about a mess. Who would want this job?

BELIEVE IT! NFL Week 12 In Review

The Falcons were after Aaron Rodgers all day. (Caption it yourself, sickos.)

ATLANTA FALCONS 20, GREEN BAY PACKERS 17: Dear Raheem Morris: The Atlanta Falcons, as a matter of fact, are the best team in the NFC. Says so right here. Consider me impressed. Help me out, here: what does it mean if you are unbeatable at home and you have the homefield advantage in the playoffs?

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 45, DETROIT LIONS 24: I’ll say this for Detroit: they kept it close for awhile. But no team full of youngsters, no matter how talented, is going to stop #12 from his weekly dissection. These Patriots are solid, but here’s what I can’t help thinking: If Brady can make it another 7 years, he might win another three rings. The defense is young and raw, but improving rapidly and LOADED with smart, fast talent. The McCourty, Chung, and Mayo’s of the new Foxboro are stepping in for the Samuel, Harrison and Bruschi’s, and if you squint just right, you can see it coming. Put that with an efficient offense and they’ll be a 12-wins-in-their-sleep juggernaut for a good stretch. The Lions just don’t have enough to match up yet. But that Megatron dude is ridiculous. Someone should sign him up.

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 30, DALLAS COWBOYS 27: That’s why they’re the Cowboys, and they’re the Saints.  But still, Jason Garrett keeps the Cowboys looking like that and the job is his. Don’t look now, but the defending champion Saints apparently aren’t willing to just concede their repeat dreams just yet. Go figure.

NEW YORK JETS 26, CINCINNATI BENGALS 10: I know, it wasn’t pretty. But they won like that all the way to the conference title game last year, when Sanchez was a rookie. What’s more, he played like a rookie this week, and they still won. In a walk. On the road. Yes, it was to an absolutely horrible Bengals squad that, frankly, should be ashamed of themselves, and of whom I shall speak no more…but still. The Jets are that team that just can’t be killed. And that’s on their off days. When they’re on, you have no chance. OK, I lied: Carson Palmer sucks, real, real…REAL bad.  There is no excuse for a high school quarterback making some of the throws he made this week, much less a millionaire NFL signal caller. Atrocious. Had to get that out.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS, BUFFALO BILLS 16 (OT): The Bills are going to benefit from all these close, heartbreaking losses. One, they build character, hunger and unity. And two, it should net them a difference maker in the draft. This team is on the cusp of being pretty damn good. I’m serious. They’re just not deep enough yet, particularly in the trenches. But Kyle Williams is damn near unblockable. The  offensive skill positions are outstanding aside from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who might be pretty solid if protected better. Fred Jackson is a machine and CJ Spiller is coming back. They need more, but they’ve got something going on in Buffalo. And- say it with me, loyal readers- the Pittsburgh Steelers…just…know how…to win.

NEW YORK GIANTS 24, JACKSONVILLE 20: The first place Jaguars had this one for the taking and couldn’t hold on, perhaps a slice of justice poetry pie to go with their turkey and stuffing after they won two games they really had no business winning against Houston and Cleveland. Nevertheless, you have to hand it to coach of the year candidate Jack Del Rio: his team is overtly physical, particularly in the defensive front, and they are rarely out of position on that side of the ball. The offense continues to be consistently inconsistent. It looks as though they can’t decide whether they can still ride Maurice Jones Drew into the ground and benefit from it. Good question. Giants needed this one, and got it…but Eli absolutely MUST be more careful with the ball. But they’re tied for first going into the final month. I suspect they’d have taken that in the preseason.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS 17, WASHINGTON REDSKINS 13: The Vikings rally up and give Leslie Frazier the Jason Garrett Bump. Nice. The Redskins…aren’t very good. At…anything.  Win ugly, lose ugly…just ugly. Speaking of which…

This guy is REALLY good. Check the numbers.

HOUSTON TEXANS 20, TENNESSEE TITANS 0: Anybody else see the SoundFX on NFL Network this week from when VY hurt his thumb and Fisher takes about a nanosecond calling for “Rusty!! Where’s Rusty!?!?! Get me Rusty!!?!” ?  In retrospect, I’m thinking he might have been a tad itchy with the trigger finger. This guy isn’t ready for the NFL. He threw a couple of balls that looked as though the DB were running the route, because he threw it to them, in stride, out of the break, on the hands. Seriously, they would have been absolutely beautiful strikes if only the jersey on the receiver were the same as his.  Good win for Houston, keeping their dwindling playoff hopes alive. And Andre Johnson got to drop a couple of bombs on much-hated Tennessee corner Cortland Finnegan, creating a vicarious living moment for receivers league-wide.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 42, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 24: Getting warmer, Todd Haley. Jamaal Charles got a healthy 22 carries, gaining 173 yards and scoring his second TD of the year. Meanwhile, Matt Cassel and Dwayne Bowe hooked up to the tune of 13/170/3, officially cemeting D-Bowe as a first round fantasy pick for the foreseeable future. What a monster. This team can be an offensive juggernaut when it just gets out of its own way (and by that, I mean, gives the ball to Jamaal Charles on the regular). The Seahawks getting rolled at home is not a good sign, no matter the foe. They need to seize the rebound opportunity when Carolina comes in this weekend.

MIAMI DOLPHINS 33, OAKLAND RAIDERS 17: I officially give up on the Raiders. Mr. Jones, a big Raiders fan, texted me today: “I hate the Raiders. The most gutless team in the f*&%ing league.” Lifelong Raiders season ticketholder. The Dolphins are still alive, but only in that “we have to pretend they’re still alive” kind of way.

ST. LOUIS RAMS 36, DENVER BRONCOS 33: Whippersnapper QB beats whippersnapper coach. And once again, Kyle Orton racks up all kinds of yards between the 20’s and after his team gets down by three touchdowns. He’s put up really respectable numbers for a guy who is such a mediocre quarterback. I’m sorry, but it’s still about sustaining drives and managing the game such that your team has a chance. Especially when it’s not all that good to begin with. I really couldn’t tell you who to blame, but a lot of Denver players seem to be really on board with McDaniels. They’ve lost so many games lately I can’t imagine why, but there you have it. The Rams have themselves a football team. They were awful a year ago. They will now be playing meaningful football in late December. Congratulations, Rams fans. Football is again fun.

Matt Forte and the Bears have most of the NFC in their rearview mirror.

CHICAGO BEARS 31, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 26: Alright. Dammit. I reluctantly concede that the Bears might be a decent team. But let’s be honest: I’m still not sure. Because, by my estimation, that was their best offensive performance this season by about 600% (I’ll have to run the actual numbers later). And it came against an Eagles team that was missing their two starting corners, one of whom is known for picking off careless QB’s (like, say, Jay “I could throw 5 TD’s or 5 picks at any time” Cutler).  But the defensive performance against a potent Philly attack cannot be ignored, and the fact of the matter is they are now 8-3 and leading the team I picked to win the Super Bowl in the NFC North race. So, OK. I give. And I expect to hear my good friend Sen Dog discuss the virtues of the concept of an offensive gameplan that includes the ground game. As in, running the ball behind the offensive line. Seriously, I bet that comes up.

BALTIMORE RAVENS 17, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 10: Thaaaaat’s what I thought. Quiet down, youngsters.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS 36, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 14: This shouldn’t have surprised you. The Colts are down to guys they never thought would put on a uniform this season. Even with the great #18, you can’t win enough games like that. Now Indy has to be officially worried about “their” playoff spot, because it is very much up for grabs. The Chargers appear well on their way toward reclaiming “theirs,” but the Chiefs are going to make it awfully interesting this time around. I assume, regardless, that I will see no further Kyle Orton-Philip Rivers comparisons in the Indy media.

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