Games for the holidays
It's time again to tune in for a couple days of of hard-nosed gridiron action. These last two weeks will determine the final playoff picture and yield some intense performances unseen in previous weeks.
Games like Houston v. Miami, Baltimore v. Pittsburgh and Denver v. Philadelphia represent what is at stake this week. Will Andre Jonson continue his hot streak against a consistent Dolphins team? Will Baltimore be able to face Ben Roethlisberger for the first time this year? Can the Denver secondary put straps on an explosive Eagles wide receiver corps?
The answers to these questions will determine who's in and who's out for the playoff race. The hard truth is that some players just won't find January football under their Christmas trees this season. From us here at Silver Chips Online: happy holidays and have yourselves a merry little week of pigskin football.
Sunday, Dec. 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12-0) at New Orleans Saints (13-1-0)
Rose - New Orleans
Dennis - New Orleans
Ava - New Orleans
Both these teams had surprises last week. Tampa Bay's decrepit defense actually managed five turnovers from Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, while the previously undefeated Saints lost their perfect record to the second-place NFC East Cowboys. But that doesn't change much. The Saints are still first place in the league for offensive points and yards, and the Buccaneers still have a lowly .143 winning percentage. It's the top of the NFC South versus the bottom, and New Orleans is the clear victor in this match-up.
New Orleans suffered its first loss of the season against the 'Boys last week, but that doesn't mean they'll lose against one of the worst teams in the league. The Saints will win. It's logic.
Tampa Bay is not a good team, at least not as good as the Saints. Although New Orleans is coming off a strange loss to the Cowboys, it wasn't the Saints that fell short; it was the Cowboys' extraordinary playing. Drew Brees, who had just under 300 yards last week, and the rest of the Saints will be able to bounce back.
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-7-0) at New England Patriots (9-5-0)
Rose - New England
Dennis - New England
Ava - New England
Atop the AFC East, the Patriots are sitting pretty. They've just defeated the division rival Bills and have both second place offensive yards and fourth place passing going for them. The mediocre .500 Jaguars just won't be able to pull through.
Randy Moss came roaring last week and proved his critics wrong. Now, with momentum on the Patriots' side, Jacksonville is in for a tough defensive game. On offense, the Jags' running game will need to step up.
New England's top ten defense will be able to handle MJD. Plus, Randy Moss has returned from his slump and is back to his old ways (he had 70 yards and a touchdown last Sunday). The Patriots will take care of business.
Houston Texans (7-7-0) at Miami Dolphins (7-7-0)
Rose - Houston
Dennis - Houston
Ava - Miami
The pressure is on both the Dolphins and Texans to win this game - it will determine whether they advance into postseason. Miami will have to work hard to overcome the dominant duo of Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson; Schaub has thrown for an NFL record of 4,181 yards this season and ranks second in the franchise for eight 300-yard passing games. Johnson ranks first in the NFL for 1,433 yards. Overall, Houston has the defensive upper hand. The Dolphins won't advance to a winning record this Sunday.
Miami has been a consistent team for this last stretch of the regular season. Chad Henne has been sufficient and the Wildcat has been getting things accomplished. The Dolphins' biggest obstacle is obviously in Andre Johnson, who literally has the potential to win the game for the Texans.
This is a tough choice! The teams are pretty evenly-matched, but Gary Kubiak isn't the best of coaches. In fact, he's the root of some Houston problems this season. Additionally, the Texans tend to dig themselves into holes (see Week 12 at home against the Colts - too many turnovers and bad time management by Kubiak). As for Miami, Ricky Williams has been on a roll with an average of 85-plus yards per game since Ronnie Brown was benched, so I'll take Miami at home.
Seattle Seahawks (5-9-0) at Green Bay Packers (9-5-0)
Rose - Green Bay
Dennis - Green Bay
Ava - Green Bay
Especially after the Seahawks' embarrassing loss against the lowly Buccaneers last Sunday, they won't be in a great mood to compete against the playoff spot-seeking Packers. Also, Seattle's QB Matt Hasselbeck has been struggling and weak, which was especially obvious with his five turnovers last game. Although Green Bay's secondary has many injuries, that won't be an issue in this match-up. Packers move toward a NFC wild-card spot.
In the final seconds of last week's game, Green Bay suffered a heart-breaker against the Steelers. Still, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson have made the Packers a dominating team on defense. Seattle won't know what hit 'em.
If records don't spell the result of this game clearly enough, remember that Green Bay lost to the Steelers in a heart-breaker last week. Unfortunately for Seattle, Aaron Rodgers & Co. will be looking for a win on Sunday.
Carolina Panthers (6-8-0) at New York Giants (8-6-0)
Rose - New York
Dennis - New York
Ava - New York
While Carolina had an impressive game against Minnesota last week (QB Matt Moore threw for a career-high 299 yards and three touchdown passes), the Panthers weren't perfect; weak offense and significant mistakes prevented any major points until the fourth quarter, when they managed an improbable touchdown. On the other hand, the Giants just crushed the home team last week (even though Dennis and I had faith in the them!). This game will grant the Giants the win they need in order to stay alive for the playoffs, despite their relatively slim chances.
The Giants made a huge statement against the Redskins last week by shutting them down in virtually every facet. Now it's a battle over which is the better Steve Smith: the one on the Giants or the one on the Panthers? It's most likely the one on the Panthers, but the Giants will still take the "W."
I'll take the G-men at home, especially after the smack-down they gave the Redskins last week. Since Panthers QB Matt Moore pulled 299 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota last week, I won't say Carolina doesn't stand a chance. Nonetheless, I'm sticking with the Giants.
Oakland Raiders (5-9-0) at Cleveland Browns (3-11-0)
Rose - Cleveland
Dennis - Cleveland
Ava - Cleveland
The used-to-be lowly Raiders rallied for an unexpected (albeit close) victory against AFC West division rival the Broncos last week. To be honest, Oakland isn't nearly half as bad as they were earlier this season - they've managed victories against several good teams. But the Browns are also coming off a two-game win streak and their players have been putting up pretty good performances lately. Joshua Cribbs and Jerome Harrison were credited for Cleveland's last win, as Harrison rushed for the greatest number of yards in his entire career. The Browns are on a roll, and they'll extend their winning streak to three games this Sunday.
We all knew about Josh Cribbs and his amazing athletic ability, but where in the world did Jerome Harrison come from? Although Harrison's one game isn't enough for us to fully judge his talent, his 286 yards and three touchdowns certainly didn't come from luck.
The Raiders are the best of the worst in the NFL - their five wins have come against fairly decent teams (Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Denver, to name a few). At the same time, the Raiders also managed to lose to horrible teams! Cleveland's got the momentum of a two-week winning streak and can take Oakland, according to logic. I'm sticking with them.
Baltimore Ravens (8-6-0) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7-0)
Rose - Pittsburgh
Dennis - Baltimore
Ava - Pittsburgh
The Ravens won against Pittsburgh in Week 12, but they won't do it again in Week 16 because Ben Roethlisberger will be there to save the day. The team almost kissed their season goodbye last week and they still hang by a thread. But the Steelers have a history of wins against the Ravens; in their last four winning match-ups, Roethlisberger threw for 901 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception. Pittsburgh grabs a winning record this Sunday.
This classic AFC North rivalry game will either bring the Ravens closer to securing a playoff spot or shove them out of reach. The game also has similar implications for the Steelers. Let's see how Joe Flacco fares against a defense with tons of potential.
Two big AFC North division rivals – this is the game to watch for Week 16! Last Sunday Pittsburgh had a dramatic last-second win and the Ravens just beat Chicago. Because Pittsburgh has proven itself to be a two-sided team, I'm not sure which Pittsburgh will show up, but they should be able to get a home win. The Ravens have a solid defense, but Pittsburgh will pull through.
Kansas City Chiefs (3-11-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (9-5-0)
Rose - Cincinnati
Dennis - Kansas
Ava - Cincinnati
The Chiefs are on a terrible four-game losing streak. The Bengals are also coming off losses, but both were tough games against two of the top teams in the league. Despite their continued mourning, it won't be difficult for them to beat the lowly Chiefs. Cincinnati will definitely keep its AFC North division title and head to the playoffs.
This pick is purely intuition. Despite a sloppy defense, the Kansas City offense is still explosive and full of life, thanks in part to Jamaal Charles. Cincinnati is a real solid team right now, but the Bengals might be taking the Chiefs a bit too lightly.
The Bengals certainly had a rough week last Sunday and they're eager to honor Chris Henry with a win, as Chad Ochocinco demonstrated after his amazing 49-yard touchdown reception last week. Cincinnati will certainly take advantage of this second-rate Kansas City team and pull out a victory.
Buffalo Bills (5-9-0) at Atlanta Falcons (7-7-0)
Rose - Atlanta
Dennis - Atltanta
Ava - Atlanta
The Bills have been throwing their quarterbacks around; Gribran Hamdan, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards have all been on the field for Buffalo and the situation is uncertain for this week. But the Falcons have Matt Ryan, who managed a career-high 17 touchdown passes even after returning from an injury. Ryan can definitely take Atlanta to a victory this Sunday, which will grant the unqualified playoff team consecutive winning seasons.
While playoff talks have quieted down for the Falcons, they're still looking to end their season with a winning record. The Bills are the team to beat if they want to accomplish this, especially because of Buffalo's inability to cover tight ends consistently. Tony Gonzalez might just have a field day.
Good news for Falcons fans: Matt Ryan returns this week! Hopefully he will spark something in his teammates and push them to grab a home win. If the Falcons can't get this "W" over the inferior Bills, then they've got bigger problems than their 7-7 record.
St. Louis Rams (1-13-0) at Arizona Cardinals (9-5-0)
Rose - Arizona
Dennis - Arizona
Ava - Arizona
The NFC West top is playing the NFC West bottom, and we all know how this is going to turn out. The Cardinals have more than twice the receiving and passing yards of the Rams. Arizona is also one of only three teams to win against Minnesota and the powerful Favre. St. Louis doesn't have a chance.
Arizona has pretty much stuck to the same formula for the entire season: pass the ball a lot. If they can do that against St. Louis' measly defense, the Rams don't stand a chance. Not even Steven Jackson can put the pulse back in his team.
St. Louis is in a pretty bad place right now. They've got a six-game losing streak that isn't going to change any time soon! Our favorite grandpa Kurt Warner has been doing very well recently and the Cardinals are actually looking decent, save that game against the 49ers.
Detroit Lions (2-12-0) at San Francisco 49ers (6-8-0)
Rose - San Francisco
Dennis - San Francisco
Ava - San Francisco
The 49ers may finally finish the 2009 NFL season with their best record in seven years. QB Alex Smith may need a little improvement, but this season marks his best pass completion and most yards in a game (against Seattle Dec. 6). Lucky for San Francisco, they're finishing the season with match-ups against two weak teams. The 49ers will be able to pull off a fair .500 win percentage in these next two weeks, beginning with a victory over the lowly Lions this Sunday.
Much like the St. Louis and Tampa Bay games, the outcome of this game has been predetermined. Vernon Davis looks like a legitimate elite tight end and no one on Detroit can keep up with the big man. Frank Gore is also sure to do some major damage to a lackluster Lions' run defense.
San Francisco has a 6-8 record and Detroit has something much worse. Frank Gore has been doing especially well with over 100 yards last week. Plain and simple, it would take a Christmas miracle for the Lions to beat San Francisco at home on Sunday.
Denver Broncos (8-6-0) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-4-0)
Rose - Philadelphia
Dennis - Philadelphia
Ava - Philadelphia
The Eagles rank second in the NFL this season for points, although the Broncos currently have the third best defensive corps in the league. But Philadelphia is also great at stopping the passing game - they've managed a third-highest 23 interceptions this season - and Denver will have to really step up their running in order to challenge the Eagles' defense. The Eagles ease into their January season with a victory this Sunday.
Philadelphia is on a hot streak right now and DeSean Jackson looks to be the best big playmaker in the league. Denver has gone just 2-6 in the past eight games and has a high chance of being knocked out of the wildcard race if it loses this week. The Eagles have been playing well over the past few weeks, so that Denver loss seems very feasible.
The Eagles aren't consistent, but Denver hasn't had the smoothest season either. The Eagles just had a solid win against San Francisco, though, and I like DeSean Jackson; he's been playing insanely well for most of the season with over 250 yards in the last two games. I'm going with the Eagles, especially in Philly.
New York Jets (7-7-0) at Indianapolis Colts (14-0-0)
Rose - Indianapolis
Dennis - Indianapolis
Ava - Indianapolis
Jets coach Rex Ryan joked that the Colts should rest their star players and put back-ups in this Sunday so the Jets have a better chance at a playoff spot. Although it was said in good humor, Ryan might get his wish because Indianapolis is a perfect 14-0. But more likely, Colts coach Jim Caldwell will keeping Manning, etc. in the game and the Jets will lose their playoff opportunities. Regardless, New York has the best ranked defense in the league, but the Colts have the best passing offense. Indianapolis will continue throughout this season undefeated.
Indianapolis remains the only undefeated team in the league. This match-up will pit one of the best wideouts (Reggie Wayne) against one of the best corners (Darrelle Revis). It'll be interesting to see how each performs going head-to-head, while Peyton Manning plays against the likes of Dallas Clark and Austin Collie.
And we're down to the last men standing: the triumphant Colts! In all seriousness, Indianapolis can do it all. They win the close games, they blowout teams before halftime and, unlike the Saints, they seem impervious to freak upsets. Peyton Manning is too much for anyone to handle. The Colts will neatly devour New York on Sunday.
Dallas Cowboys (9-5-0) at Washington Redskins (4-10-0)
Rose - Dallas
Dennis - Dallas
Ava - Dallas
The Cowboys should definitely be confident in this match-up. After the Redskins lost to the likes of New York when they had a chance at a victory last week, they won't be able to pull off a win against the team that ranks third in the league for offensive yards, especially because the Redskins rankings have sunk dramatically in the last several weeks (what happened to their top-tier defense?). Cowboys pull a win over Washington.
Washington has shown signs of great play against certain teams, but against the Giants they just looked sloppy. Dallas will use Miles Austin at great lengths to reveal the holes in the Skins' secondary.
Hoo boy. This isn't a game Redskins fans are looking forward to. Last Sunday Dallas offense clicked like it never has this season and the Cowboys pulled off a miraculous upset. Meanwhile, the Redskins suffered a debacle on Monday Night Football. Sorry Blazers, there's no way Washington wins this game.
Monday, Dec. 28
Minnesota Vikings (11-3-0) at Chicago Bears (5-9-0)
Rose - Minnesota
Dennis - Minnesota
Ava - Minnesota
Despite Favre's recent "beating" against the Panthers, Minnesota still tops Chicago in both offensive and defensive rankings. In Week 12, the Vikings solidly defeated the Beats, and they can do it again this week. The Bears are also in disarray, and Favre should have no problem matching the career record-breaking performance he managed in the last Chicago match-up. Vikings take the win.
Minnesota was greatly disappointed about its loss to Carolina last week; it was dominated by a rather mediocre team and Chicago fits that description as well. However, the Bears' run defense may not be capable of handling Adrian Peterson. In addition, Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice are probably too much for most of the league to handle.
The Vikings had a downright weird loss to the Panthers last week. Apparently, Brett Favre and Brad Childress are having sideline spats and their arguing won't help team morale. However, the Viks have to be embarrassed after losing to Carolina and will certainly take some of their rage against the Bears.
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 »