Bengals and Redskins shaken by death and resignation
With only three weeks left in the season, football fans learned of Chris Henry's untimely death on Thursday. The Bengals franchise will have to work through this tragedy and adapt to Henry's absence, a loss that will definitely affect them as we near the end of the season and begin the playoffs.
In other news, Vinny Cerrato, vice president and director of player personnel for the Redskins, resigned this week. Cerrato decided which players the Redskins would take on each season, and his resignation "stunned" Washington players. The home team experiences another twist in an already tough season.
Though fans have a lot of sad news this week, we've got some good games to watch that can cheer us up. Dallas faces off against undefeated New Orleans in a special Saturday match-up, which means that Tony Romo and the Cowboys will have the chance to prove themselves against the stupendous Saints once and for all. Monday Night Football features the Redskins vs. the Giants, a polarizing game to say the least. The Giants have had their good and bad moments this season, and the Redskin have one last chance to show they're not too awful after all.
Thursday, Dec. 17
Indianapolis Colts (13-0-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-6-0)
Rose - Indianapolis
Dennis - Indianapolis
Ava - Indianapolis
The Colts are perfect, thanks to the help of their three-time MVP QB Peyton Manning. He ranks number one in the league for passing, and teammate WR Reggie Wayne ranks fourth for receiving. On the other hand, the Jaguars just let their game slip against the Dolphins; they allowed Miami to show off one of the team's best defensive performance of all season. They won't stand a chance against Manning and his team of powerful players. Colts keep their flawless record.
Jacksonville is barely hanging on to the last AFC wild card spot. With a running game that has not lived up to its potential in the past couple of weeks, the Jaguars look to lose it. Indianapolis will have a field day as they exploit the holes in the Jags' coverage.
For some reason, I feel repetitive picking the Colts game after game. But it's not my fault that no other team can beat Peyton and his praise-worthy party of players. Jacksonville doesn't stand a chance.
Saturday, Dec. 19
Dallas Cowboys (8-5-0) at New Orleans Saints (13-0-0)
Rose - New Orleans
Dennis - New Orleans
Ava - New Orleans
The Cowboys used to be NFC East leaders, but their recent slip has caused critics and fans alike to wonder if the 'Boys will be able to pull past Philadelphia before the playoffs begin. The month of December marked the beginning of a series of consecutive losses for Dallas, plagued with missed field-goal attempts and injured players. Against the Saints, who rank first in the NFL for offensive points and yards, the Cowboys won't be able to match their division rival Philadelphia's nine wins.
I expect this game to be a nail-biter, but the Saints will win in the final minutes. In their last several games, New Orleans hasn't looked like a Super Bowl-caliber team; only in the fourth quarter, with the game on the line, do they pull out their skill. But the 'Boys have been plagued by December performances in the past. They won't win this one.
Dallas just had a tough loss, although it was predictable (at least to most people, ahem, Dennis). This week won't be much better. The Cowboys are traveling to New Orleans and they aren't a great team in December. While Dallas is a no-go, everything seems to be working in the Saints' favor! On a side note: in lieu of the college season, I'm glad I still get to enjoy football on a Saturday.
Sunday, Dec. 20
Cleveland Browns (2-11-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-10-0)
Rose - Kansas City
Dennis - Kansas City
Ava - Cleveland
Unfortunately, it's too late for the Browns to redeem themselves, although their surprising win against division rival and defending Superbowl champion Pittsburgh shows some defensive potential. Cleveland's defense snagged control of the ball in the first half of the game, as the team sacked Roethlisberger five times and Phil Dawson kicked two 29-yard field goals. But the struggling Chiefs also showed some power despite their loss last week. The team had a career-high 143 yards and QB Mat Cassel had three interceptions in the fourth quarter. But overall, the quarterback is still shaky and struggling. Against a confident Cleveland coming off a win, Kansas City won't hold up too well, although this game of NFL weaklings will be a close one.
Since the first few weeks of the season, Jamal Charles has shown great skill. But he has only recently emerged from his shell. Cleveland still has Josh Cribbs and as long as he's playing everything but linemen, the Browns have hope.
Needless to say, these are two pretty bad teams. But the Browns somehow got a good win against the Steelers, and the Chiefs lost at home last week. Cleveland has more momentum right now and that's really all I have to go on.
Houston Texans (6-7-0) at St. Louis Rams (1-12-0)
Rose - Houston
Dennis - Houston
Ava - Houston
With a Houston passing game that can beat anything the Rams throw at it, the Texans should be in a great position to get rid of their losing record and go .500 this Sunday. Although the playoffs are no longer a possibility, Houston should still be able to get some pride out of a winning record, although defeating lowly teams like the Rams can't cause too much excitement. Regardless, the Texans face an easy win this Sunday.
Andre Johnson confirmed he's among the best, if not the best, receiver out there, although most of us knew that before the season even started. Matt Schaub isn't so shabby either, with 24 six-pointers this year. On the other hand, St. Louis has Steven Jackson and that's about it. Texans keep playoff hopes slim, but alive.
At 1-12, the Rams are clearly a bad team. The Texans, on the other hand, have the eighth best total offense in the league with 374 yards and 1,153 rushing yards per game. The Texans also have a knack for shutting down low-life teams like St. Louis! Houston could have a better record than 6-7, so this game will be no problem.
New England Patriots (8-5-0) at Buffalo Bills (5-8-0)
Rose - New England
Dennis - New England
Ava - New England
Despite the controversy with the Patriots right now, they are still in a great position to solidify their AFC East title this Sunday. But it won't be a complete shut-out victory for New England. The Bills have a pretty decent ground game that could pose a challenge for the Patriots. But coming from a team that's trying to avoid their fifth losing season and 13th consecutive loss to New England, the challenge won't be too imposing. Buffalo doesn't have a chance.
This one's a sure win for New England. Though the Patriots may eventually lose their playoff spot to Miami, that won't happen this week - they face a Buffalo team that has revolved around rookie Jairus Byrd for much of the season. Patriots take this one easily.
The Bills won last week, but we can't read too deeply into that game because they squashed the awful Chiefs: big deal. New England also won last week, but they're 1-5 on the road. That record only reinforces my doubts about a Patriots win! It seems that every time the Pats have a pretty easy match-up, they find a way to lose (remember Miami?). But I'll pick the Patriots with caution. Let's see if Papa Brady can bring it.
Miami Dolphins (7-6-0) at Tennessee Titans (6-7-0)
Rose - Tennessee
Dennis - Miami
Ava - Tennessee
Dolphins defense had a field day in their game against the Jaguars last week, but they won't be able to pull such a feat against Tennessee. It seems as if Vince Young and Chris Johnson are the key to Titans success. Although the Dolphins are in the middle of an intense AFC playoff race, Tennessee is in a comparable position. Plus, the 40-point margin by which they won their last game against the Rams is their largest in almost two decades! The Titans certainly have this one laid out for them.
Sure, Chris Johnson has been looking nothing short of amazing as of late. But Miami is on a playoff run and Ricky Williams has been filling in nicely in the absence of Ronnie Brown. All eyes will be on Joey Porter as he attempts to put an end to CJ's success.
Now this should be an interesting game! Miami has been spotty this season; they've beat some powerful teams, but they've also lost to several weak teams. If we disregard the Colts game, the Titans are on a six-game win streak. Tennessee's been on a roll since Vince helped them find their second win, and I think they can take Miami.
San Francisco 49ers (6-7-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-4-0)
Rose - Philadelphia
Dennis - Philadelphia
Ava - Philadelphia
San Francisco had a surprise smash-hit victory last week over Arizona. The 49ers forced seven turnovers for the first time in 12 years, Frank Gore was the most productive he has been since Week Three and defense was unrelenting. But, then again, the sloppy Cardinals might have hand-delivered that win. They definitely weren't on their game. On the other hand, the Eagles conquered a powerful New York team, which gave them the lead in the NFC East and the stamina to win even more. Eagles take it.
Both teams looked quite impressive last week against top-notch NFC teams, but San Fransisco just doesn't have the defense to put up against DeSean Jackson and the rest of the Eagles' big-play power. Also, the 49ers have been struggling with road games all season long.
Although the 49ers had a good win against the Cardinals last week, they won't upset the Eagles at home. Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson played particularly well last week, with 178 yards and a touchdown. McNabb also had 275 yards and threw for two touchdowns. The odds are certainly stacked against San Francisco this Sunday.
Arizona Cardinals (8-5-0) at Detroit Lions (2-11-0)
Rose - Arizona
Dennis - Arizona
Ava - Arizona
Although some lowly teams like the Lions have managed to beat prominent competitors in recent weeks, I don't think the Lions will have that capacity this Sunday. Although the Cardinals were plagued with inept fumbles and sloppy turnovers last Sunday, their embarrassment will be short-lived. Arizona has shown some power on the field this season, and still have a chance at winning the division title, especially if they emerge victorious this Sunday. All odds are certainly in favor.
This one doesn't even need a prediction. Can Detroit stop the passing threat of the Cards? No. Can they stop the running game? Again, no. So, the question is: what can the Lions do? Not much. Arizona will win...by a lot.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals lost to the 49ers last week. Although good ol' Kurt Warner got only 178 yards and made no touchdowns, it's tough to imagine him losing to the Lions, even if the game is in Detroit.
Chicago Bears (5-8-0) at Baltimore Ravens (7-6-0)
Rose - Baltimore
Dennis - Baltimore
Ava - Baltimore
Two weeks ago, the Bears hoped that their match-up against the Rams was the cure to their string of losses. It was, but it didn't last more than a week. While Chicago sits in their slump, the Ravens soar over opponents such as Pittsburgh and the Lions as Roy Rice heats up the field. He had a career-high 219 total yards last week, and surpassed 1,000 yards in rushing. Coming off a record-setting game, Baltimore should be in the right position to sweep the struggling Bears off their feet.
Chicago's run defense ranks among the bottom 10 in the league and Baltimore's Ray Rice is, well, a beast. The Bears will find themselves planning for a handful, with the ever-consistent Rice and Ravens' receiver crops on the rise.
This is a pretty evenly-matched showdown in Baltimore. Chicago just lost to Aaron Rodgers & Co., but the Ravens are sure to have some home-field confidence, especially after their big win over the Lions. (I know, the Lions are weak, but a win is a win.) Ravens all day!
Atlanta Falcons (6-7-0) at New York Jets (7-6-0)
Rose - New York
Dennis - New York
Ava - New York
After coming up close in an overtime game against the undefeated New Orleans last week, the Falcons showed some impressive football. The team lacked key team members Matt Ryan and Michael Turner due to injury, and still managed to pull a close one against the top-ranking Saints. Also, Atlanta's Curtis Lofton ranks fourth in the league for tackles. In the Jets' game last week, Kellen Clemens did a decent job filling the shoes of injured QB Mark Sanchez, although his performance wasn't jaw-dropping. Regardless, their top-ranked ground defense is formidable, and should allow them to conquer the Falcons this Sunday.
The Jets are playing quite a stout defense. With the star players gone for the Falcons, the Atlanta offense doesn't look too bright. Both need this win for any hope of January football, but Darrelle Revis and his Jets will take this one.
The new Atlanta quarterback Chris Redman put forth a surprisingly notable effort last week; he threw for 303 yards and didn't have a single pick! He appears to be stepping into Ryan's shoes just fine. For Atlanta, Michael Turner is out and their new quarterback is facing the best defense in the league. Although the Jets have been inconsistent, they'll capitalize on Turner's absence and handle Redman just fine.
Oakland Raiders (4-9-0) at Denver Broncos (8-5-0)
Rose - Denver
Dennis - Denver
Ava - Denver
The Broncos are definitely the stronger team in this match-up. DE Elvis Dumervil has the most sacks (15) in the NFL right now and Denver as a team can boast the second-best pass defense. But now that Oakland's JaMarcus Russel won't be starting on Sunday, the Raiders have slightly better chance of avoiding a game strewn with consistent and careless mistakes. But Denver shouldn't worry about giving up an AFC wild-card spot - they'll win this week.
Just when you thought the Raiders had found an identity in Bruce Gradkowski, he gets injured. The Raiders might have to look towards JaMarcus Russell yet again against an Elvis Dumervil-led defense. The biggest match-up here puts Brandon Marshall and Nnamdi Asomugha in an intense battle.
The Raiders are simply a bad team, there's really nothing more too it. The Redskins absolutely punished them last week, while the Broncos fell to the unstoppable Colts. Neither team is really on a roll, but Denver's 8-5 beats Oakland's 4-9 any day.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-0) at San Diego Chargers (10-3-0)
Rose - San Diego
Dennis - Cincinnati
Ava - San Diego
The Chargers have two key things that the Bengals lack: consistency and balance. San Diego has won a league-high 16 straight December games - they've been simply thriving in the past several weeks. On the other hand, Cincinnati is experiencing a bit of turmoil. The death of WR Chris Henry is no doubt a terrible blow to the team! And on a more trivial level, Carson Palmer was limited to only 94 yards last game, which resulted in the Bengals' third straight loss. Overall, the Bengals are a little shaky. They won't be able to sustain their ground-focused offense against the Chargers, even if both teams are division leaders.
The Cardiac-Cats will play their hearts out this week following the loss of their teammate and friend Chris Henry. However, San Diego seems to be on a roll with Phillip Rivers leading the way towards an MVP-caliber season.
Last week the Vikings gave the Bengals a smack down in what should've been a close game. On Thursday, the unfortunate news of receiver Chris Henry's death shook the Cincinnati franchise, which may inspire the Bengals to play with extra zeal. Most likely, however, the Bengals will be too affected by the tragedy to pull out a win. The Chargers just had a huge victory at Dallas and are playing at home this week. I'll take them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-12-0) at Seattle Seahawks (5-8-0)
Rose - Seattle
Dennis - Seattle
Ava - Seattle
Seems like this match-up against the weak Buccaneers will give the Seahawks just what they need to rebound from the disappointment of last week's killer defeat against Houston. QB Matt Hasselbeck was sacked three times and had three fumbles, but he has never lost against Tampa Bay in his entire career. Plus, Seattle has more power and play at home and should better their offense to beat the road win-less Buccaneers this week. And who knows? Maybe the Seahawks will even tie for second place in their division after this Sunday.
With Matt Hasselbeck under center, the Seahawks have been much more successful. Tampa Bay's lost season hasn't seen much rushing production, and the team won't hold up against a linebacker corps that should be among the best in the league
The Buccaneers are a bad team, but Mike Singletary actually called the Seahawks "soft" in an interview this week. Still, the Seahawks are at home and the Bucs won't pull out a win, no matter how "soft" Seattle may be.
Green Bay Packers (9-4-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-7-0)
Rose - Green Bay
Dennis - Pittsburgh
Ava - Green Bay
The Steelers just haven't been able to match the prestige they managed last season. They've experienced unexpected losses against three of the NFL's worst teams (the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns), which has sent the playoff door slamming shut on the defending Superbowl champions. They have five straight losses; Green Bay has five straight wins. The Packers are also looking at a better offensive line and MVP-worthy CB Charles Woodson. If the Steelers couldn't even handle the NFL's lowest, they definitely won't be able to handle one of the NFL's hottest, even if it is to salvage a division reputation.
Ryan Grant won't have anywhere near the same success against the league's number one rushing defense. Also, Pittsburgh has all the pieces of the puzzle to make a complete team - they just need to bring them together for these last few weeks. If Ben Roethleisberger can find that chemistry with his receivers again this game, the cheeseheads will not win.
This week I'm definitely sticking with the Packers. To go with the unsatisfactory Steelers would be bad for my record and just plain disheartening. Pittsburgh played poorly last week and I honestly thought they were better than the Browns. I don't think the Steelers will reach their potential this week either.
Minnesota Vikings (11-2-0) at Carolina Panthers (5-8-0)
Rose - Minnesota
Dennis - Minnesota
Ava - Minnesota
Minnesota occupies one the top five spots in the league for rushing, receiving and sacks. But some believe that the team isn't up to it's full potential because Brett Favre's magic is leaving him. The quarterback has had fewer touchdown passes and three interceptions in the last two games. But overall, the Vikings are the stronger team. They have balance; the Panthers have an overly-conservative offense. Minnesota shouldn't have any uncertainty about whether they'll cinch the NFC North spot for the second season in a row.
In his first game back, Vikings' Antoine Winfield looked great. If Percy Harvin also returns, watch for the Vikings to have an even better team all around. Carolina has relied solely on their rushing game and if the Vikings can stop that, they have victory in the bag.
The Vikings are the obvious choice here. But if the Panthers want to make a statement, this would be a great game to do so; Carolina should be hungry to beat a solid team at home. But Rice and Peterson, both of which had three touchdowns last game, will squash the Panthers' hopes.
Monday, Dec. 21
New York Giants (7-6-0) at Washington Redskins (4-9-0)
Rose - Washington
Dennis - Washington
Ava - New York
The Redskins may seem like an inferior match-up for the 7-6 Giants, but despite their inadequacies, Washington can put up a fight. They occupy two of the top five spots in the NFL for sacks, have shown major improvement in the last five weeks and have maintained their unrelenting defense. They'll use it in this match-up to hand the struggling Giants and their mellowing defense exactly what the NFC East rival has been fearing: a slip up. Quarterback Eli Manning and his receivers can't afford to lose anything at this point, so they'll initiate a ferocious attack on the Redskins' secondary. It'll be a game of two formidable fighters, but who will emerge victorious? Definitely Washington, even if only by an inch.
While this game may be a close NFC East rivalry, the Redskins may be able to pull off a surprise win. The Giants' secondary has been falling apart, but the Redskins' receiving corps has only been improving. Also, with Brian Orakpo tearing up left tackles everywhere, look for Eli Manning to get hit a lot more this game.
This pick comes from my little faith in the Redskins. I really think that Washington could win after their huge victory last week, especially since this game is at FedEx field. The Redskins will be at home, pumped up for MNF and ready to take advantage of the Giants' numerous faults. Though all arguments favor the Redskins, I can't bring myself to believe in them enough.
Dennis Chae. Whhaazzaaa, I'm Dennis Chae. I love my Baltimore Ravens and shoes. In fact, I collect sneakers and am always looking for a new pair of Nikes. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is probably going to be the greatest thing ever in a year or so. I … More »
Ava Wallace. More »
Rose Wynn. I love piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and the ladies of the Blair Pom Squad. More »