2011 NFL Week 12 Primer

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) leads his team on the field before their game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on November 14, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. UPI/Brian Kersey

Packers @ Lions, 12:30PM ET, Thursday
I truly believe that it’s Green Bay and then everyone else when it comes to the power structure of the NFL. But don’t think for a second that the Lions can’t beat the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. They’ve been waiting a long time to be strong enough to finally punch the bully back and they’ll have their opportunity tomorrow. The key for Detroit is its front four. If they can rush Aaron Rodgers with only Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch, then they’re going to be fine. And with how suspect Green Bay’s defense has been this year, if its still a game in the fourth quarter then the Lions have a shot to pull off the upset.

Dolphins @ Cowboys, 4:15PM ET, Thursday
This is definitely the weakest of the Thanksgiving matchups but this game still offers plenty of intrigue. The Cowboys are now tied with the Giants for first place in the NFC East but they’ve turned in inconsistent performances all season. And during Miami’s three-game winning streak, the Dolphins haven’t allowed a touchdown in 12 quarters. This is going to be a bigger challenge for Tony Romo and Co. than people think.

49ers @ Ravens, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
Forget the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh stuff – this is a great matchup between two physical teams that will fight for four quarters. The Ravens have been playing up and down to their competition all season and their offense has sputtered at times. On the other side, San Francisco’s defense has been a rock for nine straight weeks but Baltimore’s run defense is outstanding so it’ll be interesting to see how the Niners fare when they have to lean on Alex Smith and the passing game. There doesn’t figure to be much scoring in this game but if you like hard-nosed football, then it doesn’t get better than this.

Vikings @ Falcons, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
This isn’t a very exciting matchup with Adrian Peterson out with an ankle injury but it’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons stay with their no-huddle attack on offense. They ran the no-huddle exclusively in their 23-17 win over the Titans last Sunday and had great success with it (outside of settling for field goals when they reached the red zone, that is). Matt Ryan looks most comfortable running that offense but will OC Mike Mularkey make it Atlanta’s identity on offense? He’s been hesitant to ditch his “smashmouth” approach but at some point the Falcons need to develop more consistency on offense. Maybe running the no-huddle full-time is the answer.

Texans @ Jaguars, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s time to see if Matt Leinart has matured as a quarterback. He failed in Arizona because he wasn’t ready to lead a young team with potential (unlike Kurt Warner, who prospered in the situation). Now Leinart is at the controls of a veteran club that has an outstanding running game and a sound defense. Can he manage games and make plays when his number is called or will he crumble under the pressure? In Jacksonville’s defense, he’ll face a stiff test right out of the gates.

Buccaneers @ Titans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
One of these teams will keep its playoff hopes alive on Sunday while the other could be looking at a long offseason. The Titans remain two games behind the Texans in the AFC South but with Matt Schaub out for the season, Tennessee has a golden opportunity to get back into the divisional race if it can string some wins together. On the other side, the Bucs continue to fall further behind the Saints and Falcons in the NFC South. In some respects, this might as well be an elimination game for these two teams (although more so for the Bucs).

Cardinals @ Rams, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney’s jobs seem safe for now in St. Louis. But any more displays like last Sunday and the Rams could be searching for a new head coach and/or general manager this offseason. Sam Bradford and Co. were pitiful on offense in their 24-7 loss to Seattle last weekend.

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Six-Pack of Questions for Week 12 in the NFL

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked for a five yard loss by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in third quarter of a NFL football game at Lambeau Field Green Bay, Wisconsin October 3, 2010. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

What are some of the big questions heading into this week’s action in the NFL?

1. Can the Bears survive without Cutler?
In a word, yes. Remember, this was the same team that once went to the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman at the controls. They have a physical, unrelenting defense led by Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers, a star at running back in Matt Forte, and the most dangerous returner in the league in Devin Hester. But the biggest question is whether or not Mike Martz will adjust. Leopards don’t change their spots and Martz is a leopard thru and thru. If he wants to run his offense with Caleb Hanie the same as if Jay Cutler were under center then the Bears are going to die a very quick death. But if Martz relies on Forte and the running game and allows Chicago’s defense and special teams to win games, then there’s no reason the Bears can’t still make the playoffs with Hanie under center.

2. Can the Lions bring down the Pack?
This is the moment the Detroit Lions have been waiting for all season: To finally be able to punch the bully back. The Packers have been abusing the Lions for years but now Detroit is bigger, better and meaner. The way to beat any elite quarterback is to pressure him using only the front four because it allows a defense to drop the rest of its defenders into coverage. And thanks to guys like Ndamukong Suh, Willie Young and Cliff Avril, the Lions have one of the best pass rushes in the league. Aaron Rodgers will make plays; that’s just what he does. But the Lions certainly have the pass rushers to make his Thanksgiving a little uncomfortable if the secondary can hang with guys like Jordy Nelson in coverage. The biggest question is whether or not Matthew Stafford can avoid mistakes. Turnovers will kill the Lions but otherwise, they have the tools to slay the dragon. Now they just have to go out do it.

3. Can Leinart keep the Texans moving ahead?
The Texans own a two-game lead over the Titans in the AFC South but Matt Leinart hasn’t taken a snap in a regular season game since 2009. And when he did have his opportunities to start, he flubbed things up pretty good. But from Kurt Warner to Rich Gannon to Kerry Collins, there have been plenty of quarterbacks who prospered after first facing adversity in their careers. Leinart has first-round talent but. he wasn’t ready to lead in Arizona. That said, he’s older, wiser and hopefully more mature. Armed with a great running game and a defense playing at the top of its game, the Texans are playoff-ready. All Leinart has to do is manage games and not muck things up but can he do it?

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Fade Material: Week 11 NFL Predictions

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton warms up at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 18, 2011 in Denver. The Broncos try to avoid their first 0-2 start in 12 years. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Why do you smite me NFL prediction Gods? WHY! WHY I ASK!

For those that continue to fade me, I say nice work. I’m now 17-23 on the year after another 2-2 week (the Steelers and Patriots covered while the over in the Saints/Falcons and under in the Giants/49ers games did not) and chances are I’ll either go 0-4, 1-3 or 2-2 again this Sunday. Winning would be too much to ask apparently.

WHY!

Bengals @ Ravens, 1:00PM ET
When Baltimore jumps out to a 42-point lead in the second quarter I’ll say to myself, “Yep, that makes sense.” But for now, I think Cincinnati is being undervalued while Baltimore is being overvalued. Seven points is a lot in a divisional game, especially considering how the Bengals have played all season. Yes, I know that Leon Hall and A.J. Green are out with injuries but Andy Dalton has made plays all year. Plus, and this is a biggie, Baltimore has been so inconsistent on offense that the Bengals could feasibly win this game outright. I don’t think that’ll happen, but I do like Cincy to keep it close.
THE PICK: BENGALS +7

Raiders @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET
Oakland really needs this game after Denver beat New York on Thursday night making the AFC West race even tighter. The Raiders are banged up but they were banged up last week in San Diego and beat the Chargers by a touchdown. Carson Palmer needs to play mistake-free football, especially considering Minnesota’s run defense isn’t going to allow Michael Bush to run all over them like he did versus San Diego. With the spread sitting so low I like Palmer’s chances of beating the rook Christian Ponder, even through this game is at the Metrodome.
THE PICK: RAIDERS –1

Titans @ Falcons, 4:15PM ET
Six points is way too much to lay with an Atlanta team that likes to keep things conservative by staying on the ground and eking out victories instead of stomping on their opponents’ chests. The Titans should be extra motivated to win now that Matt Schaub is out for the season and they have a realistic shot of winning the AFC South. With Chris Johnson coming alive the past two weeks, I think Tennessee will stick with Atlanta throughout and maybe even win outright.
THE PICK: TITANS +6

Eagles @ Giants, 8:20PM ET
The Eagles are 4-0 against the spread in their last four trips to East Rutherford but I don’t trust Philly as far as I can throw Andy Reid. And I cannot throw him very far. He’s a very large man and I just can’t seem to get the leverage. Vince Young is likely starting tonight for the injured Michael Vick, which means a quarterback with zero experience running Reid’s offense during the regular season will be counted on to win the most important game of Philadelphia’s season. I don’t like the Eagles’ chances. Eli Manning is playing the best fourth-quarter football of any quarterback in the league and I like the Giants to rise up against a Philadelphia team that looked as if it quite last Sunday versus the Cardinals. Let’s up that same Eagle team shows up again tonight.
THE PICK: GIANTS –4.5

Philadelphia Eagles go for broke with major upgrades

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick leaves the field after the team lost to the Green Bay Packers in their NFC Wild Card NFL playoff football game in Philadelphia, January 9, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

You can’t buy your way to a championship in the NFL. Just ask Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins. That said, free agency and shrewd trades can push a good team over the top, and everyone seems to think that the Philadelphia Eagles have made enough upgrades during this frenetic free agent period to make them a serious contender for the Super Bowl. The moves will definitely make this team better.

The acquisition of Nnamdi Asomugha was a shocker and rates as the most important addition. He’s a shut down corner and can elevate this defense. The Eagles added another talented corner in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as part of the ransom Arizona paid for Kevin Kolb. They also added pass rusher Jason Babin who’s coming off a breakout season. With stud corners and an improved pass rush, the Eagles defense could be dominant.

I like the addition of Vince Young as well, but this is still a risky move. Getting a big-name quarterback as a backup to the brittle Micheal Vick makes a ton of sense, but I don’t see Vince Young as a West Coast offense quarterback. You could have said the same thing about Michael Vick, but Vick was always a better passer than Young. Also, while Vick had his own share of troubles, Young’s problems seem worse. There’s a real issue of whether he can handle the pressure. That said, he’s a real talent, and Andy Reid always gets the most out of his quarterbacks.

The Eagles have stunned the NFL with these upgrades, and now we’ll see if they have enough to topple the Packers in the NFC.

Upgrade today like the Eagles and Best Buy will buy it back when you’re ready for the next big thing

2011 NFL Free Agency Predictions: Where will Nnamdi Asomugha land?

Seattle Seahawks Golden Tate (81) can’t hold on to a Matt Hasselbeck pass as Oakland Raiders Nnamdi Asomugha (21) defends in the second quarter at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 31, 2010. The Raiders defeated the Seahawks 33-3. UPI/Terry Schmitt

With the lockout in the rearview mirror, NFL fans can now put away their “Lawyer Jargon for Dummies” textbooks and start hitting the rumor mill once again.

Since I’m a fun guy who likes to have some fun and enjoys a little fun, I’ve decided to have a little fun by trying to predict where some of the top free agents will land over the next two weeks. Remember, this is all for fun and is not to be taken too seriously. If you’re the asswipe who reads these things and immediately gets in a tizzy because you disagree, then be aware of my one and only rule when it comes to predictions: Don’t criticize me if you don’t have the stones to leave your own predictions in the comments section.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s have some good ol’ fashion family fun! (Have I overused that word yet? Did the joke land? It wasn’t funny in the first place? All right…) Here are 10 free agents and my predictions for where they might land. In the “Hedging my bet with” section, I list an alternative to where I think said free agent may wind up.

Nnamdi Asomugha, CB: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It has been reported that the 2011 NFL salary cap will (roughly) be around $120 million, which leaves the Bucs with (roughly) $60 million to spend in free agency. Of course, that doesn’t mean that cheapo Malcolm Glazer will open his wallet, but we do know that the new CBA comes with a salary cap floor. Thus, teams like the Bucs will have to spend something in free agency. The Bucs have built a solid, young core centered around quarterback Josh Freeman. With Aqib Talib’s legal situation up in the air, they have a definite need at corner and if teams like the Eagles, Cowboys and Jets feel as though Asomugha’s price tag is too steep, maybe the Bucs will step in and shell out big money to land the top free agent on the market. (And if you’re wondering about whether or not Asomugha is a fit for Raheem Morris’ defensive scheme, don’t worry about it because the man is a fit for every defense.)
Hedging my bet with: New York Jets

DeAngelo Williams, RB: Carolina Panthers
The emergence of Mike Goodson and Jonathan Stewart make Williams expendable but the Panthers are still the frontrunners to retain him in my eyes. He says he wants to stay in Carolina and while he’d be a fool to not at least test the market, I think he’ll eventually stay put. The Panthers realize they need a good stable of running backs no matter who starts at quarterback this season, so re-signing Williams is still a priority despite expanding rolls for Goodson and Stewart.
Hedging my bet with: New York Giants.

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