Friday, November 16, 2007

Five that Matter: 11/18/07

Every Friday, Alex and Zac come together and pick the five games that they feel best advance the epic story that is the NFL season, and point out the important football and narrative implications of each game. This Saturday happens to be THE GAME Saturday, so neither of us is feeling very professional. All times PST

Chiefs @ Colts (10 AM)

No one wants to be the rebound. After a flukey monsoon loss at San Diego (it rains in San Diego?!) and a collapse at home against the Patriots, the Colts need to win this game like I need to find a real job. Desperately. Yes, the Colts have eleventy-billion injuries on both sides of the ball, but if ever there was a time to prove that you're not going to cave to injuries, this is it. Look for Peyton to make fewer mistakes and for Tony Dungy to feast on pal Herm Edwards' lousy clock management skills.

Kansas City is fighting for its playoff life. The Chargers, even in victory, look eminently beatable, and the Broncos are hitting heavy duty dysfunction. Pulling out a win against the Colts, at the beginning of the Brody Croyle is a statement to the rest of the AFC West (the NFC South of the AFC) that the Chiefs are ready to party.

I will also guarantee that a player named Tony Gonzalez will score at least one touchdown. I don't know for which team, but he will.

Giants @ Lions (10 AM)

Are records meaningless in the NFC? Both of these teams are 6-3, second in their respective divisions and…no one really seems to care except the people demanding that Eli get benched for not smiling as much as Tony Romo. The Giants and Lions got exposed last weekend.

The Lions rushed for -18 yards against the Cardinals, who have a good defense, but not a negative rushing day defense. Maybe it's time to declare the Lions o-line the worst o-line in pro-football. Remember kids, friends don't let friends get sacked, particularly when that friend is the only reason your offense works and has possibly been favored by God.

The Giants looked flat against the Cowboys. Their vaunted pass rush managed only two sacks. The Cowboys racked up five. I venture to say the loss was more the fault of their defense, a questionable o-line, and a couple of gutless field goals while down by less than a touchdown than Eli not doing a good job.

The winner of this game gets a little gold star that says "legit playoff contender" next to their name in the good behavior column.

Bucaneers @ Falcons (10 AM)

The NFC South is so bad, the 3-6 Falcon's are technically not out of the running. Winners of their past two, they rewarded their quarterback with what every great team does to its winning quarterbacks: bench 'em. Joey Harrington must be used to this. It's shades of Nick Saban all over again. Look for Byron Leftwich to chubby kid with sandwich his way to another injury by the 3rd quarter, and for Atlanta to either a) come hungry b) drop 30 passes c) violently protest Bobby Petrino's play calling and sit in the middle of the field with picket signs.

The Bucs are at the top of their division, but that's like being the world's tallest midget. You're not that much bigger than everyone else. Establishing the running game is key (and Graham-cracker gets some much needed help from Michael Pittman's return), as is getting under D'Angelo Hall's skin—which is about as easy as making Alex cry at movies. If they win, the Bucs shore up their place at the top of the division. If they lose…some 8-8 team will make it to the playoffs from the NFC South. It just may not be the Bucs.

Browns @ Ravens (10 AM)

Every game is a playoff game in the AFC North, and this game is no exception. Both the 5-4 Browns and the 4-5 Ravens have a realistic shot of making the playoffs, and bumping off the other is the only way of accomplishing that. Think of this as an epic matchup between an incredibly incompetent defense (Cleveland) vs the most painful offense in football (Baltimore). Someone has to stop somebody, but I'm placing my bets on people cringing every time the B-more offense takes the field. As long as Billick starts Steve McNair, the Ravens will have no shot unless the defense helps them out.

Cleveland has been exciting to watch whenever they get the ball. Joshua Cribbs' performance last week—one return for a touchdown, another for 90 yards—gives the Browns an element of surprise on offense that they didn't have before. Jamal Lewis isn't going to get much revenge yardage, but boy is he going to try. Expect Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards to have a big day against a softish Baltimore secondary.

Patriots @ Bills (5:15 PM)

Seriously, in this last spot we could have picked any number of games. San Diego at Jacksonville, for instance, is an ideal test case to see just how bad Philip Rivers actually is. Redskins/Cowboys is one of the last cross country rivalries in football, and Joe Gibbs has to prove to everyone that he's not an old, washed up, NASCAR owner. However, there's something so epic about the Pats this season, it's hard to vote against them. Every opponent becomes a metaphorical David (and the Bills are particularly scrappy) against their Goliath. The audience is split between those who want to see history made, and those who want those pompous jerks knocked down a peg or two.

JP Losman is starting for the Bills. Marshawn Lynch is out. That means one thing and one thing only: JP Losman to Lee Evans ALL NIGHT LONG. Gee, isn't that easy to plan against?

That said, as flawless as the Pats have looked most of the season, you can get to Tom Brady (knock him down. A lot). Their defense has some squishy spots in the secondary, and if you can get the ground game going (a difficult prospect without Lynch in the lineup), you can throw long on them. The Bills D is solid, although I have no idea if anyone can cover Moss and Welker at the same time. It should be fun to watch.

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