Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Week 13 NFL Down To Nitty Gritty

The nitty gritty has now begun for the NFL's 2016 season and what has been a much more competitive season than I think a lot of people thought looks to be even more so.

Week 12's touchdown montage

Cowboys over Vikings - The Cowboys have only failed once this year - in Week One, with a rematch pending and a far different Cowboys team coming in. The Vikings meanwhile have faltered badly with Sam Bradford and it won't get any better this week.

Lions over Saints - The three best things to happen to Matthew Stafford have been - the hiring of Jim Caldwell as head coach, the firing of Joe Lombardi and replacement with Jim Bob Cooter - yeah yeah, the name sounds like something out of 19 Kids And Counting, big deal - as offensive coordinator, and the retirement of Calvin Johnson.   Caldwell clearly fits with Stafford and Cooter clearly fits far better than Lombardi, but perhaps the biggest deal is Calvin Johnson had become Stafford's binky and now without a binky Stafford has had to throw to more people - and it's made him a better quarterback to where he's now beating quality opponents where for the longest time he couldn't.

One of Stafford's signature games was the amazing 2013 shootout win over the Cowboys - it was also one of just a few wins over a quality opponent Stafford pulled off until the last year or two.

The Lions get a Saints team that's certainly played well but is only 5-6 and has gone just 3-3 the last six games (the Lions in contrast are 5-1) and New Orleans' defensive woes are too well known to require any elaboration.   The trendings have been for the Lions and against the Saints.

Last year the Niners pulled off one of the wildest finishes of the 2015 season

Bears over 49ers - Matt Barkley we think will start this game and after a very slow start against the Titans led a spirited comeback attempt decided on a goalline stand.   Barkley may be the quarterback John Fox needs with the incompetent volume stats whore Jay Cutler clearly done.   The Niners are stuck with Colin Kaepernick, who nonetheless has been playing better the last few games.

Packers over Texans - Just 2-3 in their last five games, the Texans are clearly falling out of the playoffs with the Tennessee Titans on their bye week, and they go to Lambeau Field to face a Packers team that got a morale-boosting win at Philly.   Not only is Osweiler playing more and more poorly, Bill O'Brien is showing more and more he is not the quarterback guru people thought he was.\

Broncos over Jaguars - The loss to the Chiefs was a major blow to a Broncos team now out of the playoffs on tiebreakers but they get a Jaguars team that's 2-9 and a quarterback in Blake Bortles who has now shown little reason to feel a renaissance can happen.

Eagles over Bengals - The Eagles are no longer a playoff contender, but they get a reeling Bengals squad this week.

Patriots over Rams -  The Rams looked encouraging earlier this season but have faltered and now are starting Jared Goff, whose completion percentage is slightly lower than Case Keenum's.   The Patriots are banged up and trying to rest some of their starters as much as they can, but with a race for the top seed developing with the Raiders the good news is Brady is now throwing to more people in Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell, not to mention the returning Dion Lewis.  

Dolphins over Ravens - It's clear Adam Gase is getting more out of Ryan Tannehill than anyone thought he had and the Dolphins have everything to play for now plus they've beaten some respectable competition in their winning streak.   They get an inconsistent Ravens squad that's won three of its last four but they've all been against their division foes and the only quality opponents they've beaten are the Bills and the Steelers.  

Chiefs over Falcons - Beating the Broncos was huge for the Chiefs and the division is a real possibility now as they face a Falcons team that's gone 3-3 their last six games; one also has to remain dubious about Matt Ryan down the stretch.

Raiders over Bills - The Bills have been good; the Raiders, though, are playing lights-out and Derek Carr is the real deal.   The wildcard angle is the mediocrity of the Raiders defense; the Bills, though, haven't reached 29 points scored since lighting up the Niners.

NY Giants over Steelers - Speaking of rejuvination the NY Giants are that with six straight wins despite no more than 28 points scored in any game all season.  They get a woefully inconsistent Steelers offense that hit 28 or more points four times yet failed to reach 20 in three of the four games in their recent losing streak.  

Redskins over Cardinals -  The Redskins are still a playoff team and the Cardinals are effectively out of the playoffs.   The Cardinals defense is still 11th in points allowed yet has been lit up for 30 or more in their last three losses.

Buccaneers over Chargers -  The Bucs surprisingly have been a better road team (4-1) than a home team (2-4) while the Chargers have been uneven (2-2) at home and have not shown as much improvement as needed in the wild wild AFC West.    The Bucs have a lot more to play for than the Chargers.

Seahawks over Panthers - There seems no bloom left for the 2015 NFC champs as they limp into Seattle off another bitter loss, but upon further review the Panthers have won three of their last five.  The inconsistency of the Seahawks may also factor in favor of the Panthers - 3-2-1 in the Seahawks' last six games and with a semi-epic meltdown at Tampa Bay to go with a 1-2 record against the NFC South.   So this may be a tougher game than one might think a #2 seed in the NFC would get.

NY Jets over Colts - What one needs to know about this matchup - Scott Tolzien cannot play (winless as a starter) and Andrew Luck is atrocious against AFC East teams - 2-9 lifetime and hasn't beaten an AFC East team since beating the Dolphins in 2012.   The Jets limp into this game looking to salvage something and look to get it, though their longer-term issue of trying to sell tickets instead of build a credible program remains.

So it's down to the nitty gritty - we apologize for the cliches.

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