Fade Material: NFL Week 15 Predictions

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scrambles for two yards on a keeper in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on December 4, 2011. The Patriots defeated the Colts UPI/Matthew Healey

A personal thank you goes out to the Bengals and Panthers for blowing decent leads at home versus the Texans and Falcons last week, and to the Bucs and Raiders as well, who never bothered to get off their respective planes in Jacksonville and Green Bay. With their powers combined, the Bengals, Panthers, Bucs and Raiders contributed to my 0-4 Sunday in Week 15. That hideousness dropped my season record to 24-29-2 with just three weeks to go to try and get over .500. The true season starts now, folks. It’s time for me to make my own version of a playoff run…

Redskins @ Giants, 1:00PM ET
September 11, 2011, the Giants walk into FedEx Field and walk out with a 28-14 loss to the Rex Grossman-led Redskins. October 9, 2011, the Giants host the Seahawks after nearly losing to the Cardinals in Arizona the week before and are crushed by Seattle, 36-25. October 30, 2011, the Giants barely squeak by the then-winless Dolphins, 20-17. November 20, 2011, the Giants lose 17-10 as a 6-point favorite to the Vince Young-lead Eagles. Whenever you think the Giants should win, run the other way. They’ve played down to their competition all year and while I realize the NFC East is on the line for NY, the Skins have already proven that they can beat the Giants and have nothing to lose. They’ve also been more competitive with Grossman at the controls than John Beck so while I don’t think Washington will win, I like the Skins to keep things close.

Saints @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET
The Vikings nearly knocked off the Lions last Sunday thanks to Joe Webb and they’ll have Adrian Peterson back this week against a New Orleans team that hasn’t looked sharp on the road this year. But unless Peterson transformed into the second coming of Deion Sanders over these past couple of weeks, then Minnesota will have a hard time keeping up with Drew Brees today. The Saints’ passing game versus the Vikings’ pass defense is one of the biggest mismatches of Week 15. I’m hesitant to lay 7.5 points on the Saints when they’ve been pretty average on the road this year but they should open up things today at the Metrodome.

Jets @ Eagles, 4:15PM ET
The Jets would be the sixth and final seed in the AFC if the playoffs were to start today but the problem is that the playoffs don’t start today. And with Tennessee, Cincinnati and San Diego still nipping at New York’s heels, Rex Ryan and Co. need to play their best football today in Philly. While I don’t trust Mark Sanchez as far as I can heave him, the Jets’ running game looks like it’s finally starting to take shape and Ryan’s defense should give Michael Vick fits. Given how inconsistent the Eagles have been this season, three points seems like a gift.

Patriots @ Broncos, 4:15PM ET
I fully expect Denver’s defense to play well again this week but eventually the Patriots will figure things out and score their 20-plus points. The question is whether or not Tim Tebow and the Broncos will be able to keep pace. At this point it’s probably foolish to doubt Denver’s ability to pull off the upset but I think the Pats will serve the Broncos a very rude awakening today.

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2011 NFL Week 15 Primer

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan works on the sideline during the first half of their NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Maryland, December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

MARQUE MATCHUP: Patriots vs. Broncos, 4:15PM ET, Sunday
For the Broncos, this matchup with the Patriots is more than just about this game. It’s about seeing how well they stack up against one of the best in the AFC. Granted, during the Broncos’ current six-game winning streak they’ve beaten the Raiders, Jets, and Chargers, who are three teams still vying for a playoff berth in the conference. But Tom Brady and Co. is obviously a different animal. If Denver’s defense can’t keep guys like Brady and Rob Gronkowski in check, will Tim Tebow and the Bronco offense step up? Will Tebow be able to make plays through the air? Will his receivers win their individual matchups and actually catch the ball? Even though Denver now has the inside track to a playoff berth, doubts still remain about Tebow’s ability to win when he usually doesn’t even warm up until the fourth quarter. This will be a great test for a Denver team that still has plenty to prove.

THE POTENITAL (NOTEWORTHY) UPSET: Redskins over Giants, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
While the victory did come at home, Washington has already beaten New York once this season. Eli Manning threw one interception and no touchdowns while Rex Grossman completed 21-of-34 passes for 305 yards and two scores in the Redskins’ 28-14 victory in Week 1. The Skins have lost two in a row and eight of their last nine but they’re clearly a more competitive team with Grossman under center than John Beck. The Giants are currently the owners of first place in the NFC East by virtue of their win over the Cowboys last Sunday night. But the Giants have made a habit out of playing down to their competition all season. Even with a playoff berth on the line, Tom Coughlin’s squad always seems primed for an upset.

The Cowboys have a chance to beat the Bucs on Saturday night and then sit back on Sunday and hope the Redskins can upset the Giants to give them a one-game lead again in the NFC East. There’s simply no excuse for Dallas to lose to Tampa Bay. The Bucs have lost seven in a row and are coming off a defeat in which they allowed 41 points to a horrendous Jacksonville offense. Raheem Morris is now on the hot seat and the Bucs don’t have the weapons to slow the Cowboys down on either side of the ball. True, Tampa will have home field advantage but how many Bucs fans will show up to Raymond James on Saturday night to root on a 4-9 team? The Bucs have a hard enough time filling their stadium when the team is good, nevertheless spiraling out of control. If Dallas can win, it puts all the pressure on New York to produce a victory at home the following day against a Washington team that’s slightly better than its record would indicate.

Some were ready to write the Jets off when they lost 17-13 to the Broncos back on that Thursday night in mid-November. But they’ve quietly rattled off three straight wins against inferior opponents in Buffalo, Washington and Kansas City, respectively. Their latest victory (a 37-10 shellacking of the Chiefs) has allowed them to take control of their own destiny in the AFC. If the playoffs were to start today, the Jets would own the sixth and final seed in the conference. But with Tennessee (7-6), Cincinnati (7-6), Oakland (7-6) and even San Diego (6-7) still very much alive, New York can ill-afford to suffer any losses. They’ll travel to Philadelphia this Sunday to take on an Eagles team that has been a mixed bag all season. You don’t know whether or not they’ll come out completely flat and disinterested or focused and inspired. That’s why if Rex Ryan wants people to start believing in “Gang Green” again, the Jets better come out this Sunday and beat a Philadelphia squad that for all intents and purposes is just riding out the rest of its schedule. Given how poorly the Eagles have defended the run this year, this is a great opportunity for Shonn Greene and the Jets to establish the run, play great defense and walk out of Philly with a victory.

2010 NFL Week 13 Picks

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins waits for play to resume in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

As expected, the wheels have fallen off. I’ve gone 2-6 the past two weeks and my once-winning record is now tattered and torn. But f&$k it, let’s make some picks this week anyway.

Falcons (9-2) @ Bucs (7-4), 4:15PM ET
Call it a hunch, a feeling or intuition, but I think the Falcons are due for a letdown. They’ve won five in a row, have covered in three straight games and have not turned the ball over in four straight. Five straight would be a NFL record, so something tells me this house of cards comes down on Sunday in Tampa. That’s not to say that I’m not a believer in the Falcons because I am. But I can see it now: On Monday, everyone will be talking about how the Saints are the “forgotten team” in the NFL. If they win in Cincinnati on Sunday and Atlanta loses in Tampa, the Saints and Falcons would have the same record. The media is dying for a here-comes-the-Saints frenzy and I think they’re about to get it. The Bucs have yet to beat a team with a winning record this year, but they’ve always given the Falcons trouble. I smell an upset.

Saints (8-3) @ Bengals (2-9), 1:00PM ET
As previously mentioned (if you had bothered to read my write up on the Falcons-Bucs, that is), everyone is ready and waiting to jump back onto the Saints’ bandwagon. The Saints have been lying in the weeds for most of the season and now their crap schedule (the Bucs and Steelers with winning records that the Saints have beaten this year) has allowed them to stay right up the Falcons’ butts in the NFC South. And once they wax the floor with the inconsistent Bengals on Sunday and the Bucs spring an upset over the Falcons in Tampa, New Orleans and Atlanta will be tied at 9-3 heading down the stretch. Oh yes, I can see it all now.

Redskins (5-6) @ Giants (7-4), 1:00PM ET
Everyone has been ready and willing to write the Redskins off and at 5-6, maybe we can. But when nobody expected the Skins to beat Dallas in the opener, they did. When nobody expected them to take down the Eagles in Philadelphia, they did (albeit without Michael Vick playing most of the game). When nobody expected them to go on the road and beat the Packers and Bears, they did. So now that nobody expects them to pull off an upset in New York this Sunday, will they surprise us again? Donovan McNabb has had the G-Men’s number over the years and even if Washington doesn’t win outright, I’m willing to bet the Skins keep it close.

Steelers (8-3) @ Ravens (8-3), 8:20PM ET
This one is set up too nicely for the Ravens. Big Ben is hobbling around with a bad foot/ankle, the Ravens are at home and they’ve already beaten the Steelers once this year (in Pittsburgh, no less). But Roethlisberger (much like McNabb when it comes to playing the Giants) has had Baltimore’s number over the years. In games that he starts against the Ravens, he’s 7-2 in his career. When he doesn’t start due to injuries or him being suspended for being a perv, the Ravens are 4-0. There’s just something about the Steelers getting points that makes me feel all warm and secure inside.

Season Record: 21-22-1

T.G.I. Friday’s NFL Weekend Preview – Week 13

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The Scores Report has teamed up with T.G.I Friday’s to promote the action in Week 13 of the NFL. Here’s a look at Sunday’s top games.

The Top-5 Games of Week 13:

1. Jets (9-2) @ Patriots (9-2), 8:30PM ET, Monday
Besides Panthers-Seahawks on a Sunday evening, does it get any better than Jets-Patriots on Monday Night Football? Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick. Tom Brady vs. Darrelle Revis. Mark Sanchez vs. Mark Sanchez. It’s outstanding football! The winner of this game will own sole possession of first place in the AFC East and if the Jets win, they’ll essentially have a two-game lead over New England by virtue of a tiebreaker (they would have won both games in the series this year). If last year is any indication, the Patriots could roll on Monday night. They lost to the Jets earlier in the season (Week 2 in fact, the same week they lost to gang green this year) and then stomped them 31-14 in Foxboro later in the year. Can Ryan figure out a way to beat Belichick on his home turf?

2. Steelers (8-3) @ Ravens (8-3), 8:20PM ET, Sunday
The two primetime games are outstanding this week. Just like in the Jets-Pats matchup, the winner of this game will have sole possession of first place in the division. And just like the Jets, if the Ravens win they’ll have a two-game lead over the Steelers because they would have beaten Pittsburgh twice this season. Of course, that win came during Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension and even though he suffered an ankle injury last Sunday in a win over the Bills, Baltimore has had issues with Big Ben in the past. Roethlisberger has missed four games against the Ravens due to injury or suspension since entering the league, and the Steelers have lost all four games. But when he starts, they’re 7-2 against Baltimore. Can the Ravens get the best of Big Ben this year?

3. Falcons (9-2) @ Bucs (7-4), 4:15PM ET, Sunday
The Bucs have earned respect around the league for hanging with teams like the Falcons and Ravens over the past month. But if they truly consider themselves a playoff contender, then they need to do more than just gain teams’ respect. They’re lacking that signature win this year – one in which they beat a playoff contender (or at least beat a team with a winning record). Their seven wins have come against the Bengals, Rams, Cardinals, Panthers and 49ers. Not exactly a murderous row of opponents. But they have an opportunity this Sunday to beat a team that has struggled against them in the past. The Falcons own the top record in the NFC but Tampa Bay has always proven to be a difficult place for them to win, which dates back to the Michael Vick era. Win, and the Bucs will keep their playoff hopes very much alive. Lose, and maybe reality will start to set in for this team that they’re still a year away from competing for the postseason.

4. Redskins (5-6) @ Giants (7-4), 1:00PM ET, Sunday
The pressure is on the Giants after the Eagles beat the Texans on Thursday night. If New York loses this weekend, then it’ll be a full game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East and the Eagles already own the tiebreaker between the two teams (although they do play again in three weeks). This is a game that the Giants should win, but they’ve had issues with Donovan McNabb-led teams in the past. When McNabb was with the Eagles, he beat the Giants 11 out of 18 times, including once in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean his success will carry over now that he’s with the Redskins, but the Giants are well aware of what he’s done to them in the past. New York has been a careless team for most of the season and now would be a great time to start protecting the football more. They’re averaging –0.6 turnovers per game, which ranks them 26th in the league. If Tom Coughlin’s team can’t figure out a way to stop turning the ball over, then they may cough up an opportunity to go to the playoffs.

5. Cowboys (3-8) @ Colts (6-5), 4:15PM ET, Sunday
Everyone wants to know what’s wrong with Peyton Manning. Is his poor play of late a direct result of the injuries that the Colts have or are his skills as a passer declining? He still owns a 90.8 QB rating this season, but he’s thrown seven interceptions the past two games. Granted, those numbers are a little misleading. In the Colts’ loss to the Chargers last Sunday night, Eric Weddle should have been flagged for pass interference on one interception and another pick came at the tail end of the game when Manning was just trying to make a play by heaving one to the end zone. Still, even if you subtract those two interceptions he would still have five INTs in two games. That’s a very Brett Favre-like ratio. On the other side, the Cowboys are playing remarkably better under Jason Garrett than Wade Phillips. This isn’t the same team that was blown out by the Packers on Sunday Night Football a couple weeks back, even though Tony Romo is still nursing a shoulder injury. This is a game Manning and the Colts need to win so they can avoid dropping to 6-6 on the year. (Can you imagine the Colts at .500 this late in the season? Yeesh.)

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