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Playoff Push. Week 15 NFL Picks

The Giants host Michael Vick and the Eagles with hopes of retaking the NFC East lead while first place in the AFC South goes up for grabs when the Jaguars visit Peyton Manning and the Colts. Playoff lives are at stake across the NFL in week 15, so don’t blink. You might miss something.

Last Week:  9 – 7 – 0
Season:     129 – 84 – 0

Thursday Night (8:20PM ET)

49ers at Chargers
Last week I detailed the awkward situation San Francisco put itself in by implementing Alex Smith back under center. As expected, Smith produced, throwing for 250 yards and 3 TDs. This week, Smith will face a tougher defense, one of the league’s best, in fact.  All in all, Thursday night games have been surprisingly entertaining this season, especially compared to last’s. Tonight’s matchup should continue that trend as both teams are desperate for wins to keep playoff hopes alive. While a loss wouldn’t technically eliminate either team from playoff contention, it would, for all intents and purposes, eliminate either team from playoff contention. In other words, it’s do-or-die. Also, I can’t believe I used to like Joe Theismann in the booth. The guy just repeats the same thing over and over again. Plus, he talks 75% more than Matt Millen. I stopped watching last week because I couldn’t take anymore. Anyway, I like Mike Singletary. His struggles in San Francisco can be attributed to getting a head coaching gig too early. Hopefully, he’ll get another shot down the road. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -10

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Browns at Bengals
Also known as the “Crap bowl,” the “LeBron stabbed us in the back bowl,” the “Jake Delhomme-Carson Palmer pick-6-athon bowl,” or, the more friendly, “Ohio bowl.” Needless to say, I won’t spend too much of my Sunday afternoon on this one. I still don’t get all the excitement about Peyton Hillis being the first white guy to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a bazillion years. Has everyone forgotten he also leads the NFL in fumbles? Let me know when an anyonebutwhiteguy wins the NHL MVP award. Now THAT would be exciting. Cincinnati’s climb to respectability starts (and ends) here.  BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals -1.5

Redskins at Cowboys
I can’t remember the last time Redskins/Cowboys meant so little. Both teams are eliminated from the postseason. Both have coaching situations that need fixing. Both are owned by two of the most inept individuals in football (as far as constructing a team is concerned). As an Eagles fan, I’m enjoying the show. Anytime a Dallas Cowboy requests an autograph from the Eagles quarterback immediately after a game, you know it’s a good season. The same can’t be said for Donovan McNabb, who was booed at a Wizards game this week, and Hunter Smith, who the Redskins foolishly cut. Let me get this straight. The field goal kicker misses field goals of 24 and 34 yards in a game decided by one point. The punter allows a high snap on a cold, wet, rainy, miserable day to slip through his hands… and the Redskins cut the punter? Mike Shanahan’s comeback is beginning to rival Brett Favre’s on the “should have stayed at home,” scale. How many times do you think McNabb has apologized to God for whining about his situation in Philadelphia? 200? 300? COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys -6

Texans at Titans
5-8 could just as easily be 8-5 for the Houston Texans. A Hail Mary and two frantic rallies derailed in overtime are the difference between the talent laden Texans fighting for a playoff berth and playing for pride. Such is life in the NFL, or the National Football League, as Ron Jaworski likes to emphatically say so often. Speaking of football announcers, how hilarious is it when an analyst offers, “the Redskins need to get first downs and extend their drives.” Oh really? Is that what a successful offense does? I’m so glad you’re here to pass along this ground breaking information. Seriously, if you don’t have something useful to offer, just be quiet. It’s ok not to talk. Believe it or not, we tune in to watch the games, not listen to you. Thanks. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans +1.5

Jaguars at Colts
There’s a plethora of meaningful games this week, two of them with first place in the division on the line. In all, eight games pit playoff contender against playoff contender. Because I’m great at math, I’ll remind you that that’s half the week’s games. HALF! Unfortunately, the NFL screwed up the schedule and put the two best games at 1PM (this one and Eagles/Giants). These are the Sundays I wish I could customize my viewing experience. Ideally, I would record one of the early games to watch later in the afternoon along with the Jets/Steelers game. However, because of the scrolling score bar that updates every game throughout the afternoon, I’d be unable to keep the outcome of the recording game a mystery. That is why CBS and FOX should allow TV viewers the option to remove the game break highlights and score bar updates for a specific game. Regardless, be sure to appreciate this week because it only goes downhill from here. Based on current standings, next week has five games between playoff contenders, one of which is an NFC West battle (yuck), and week 17 has four games between contenders but that includes two NFC West battles (really yuck). So, enjoy it while you can. As for what should be a great game; the Colts better win. If not, Peyton Manning will face an offseason of scrutiny and questioning. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -5

Chiefs at Rams
A battle for California, a battle for Ohio, and now, a battle for Missouri. Maybe the NFL is secretly paving the way for intrastate rivalries to fill up an 18 game schedule. Anyway, Kansas City proved last week they have zero chance without Matt Cassel at quarterback. I’m not sure how Cassel’s presence translates to the defense’s performance, but apparently there’s a correlation because the defense gave up 31 points last week. Although this game doesn’t have the flash of the other battles between playoff contenders, there’s plenty at stake, especially for the Chargers and the NFC West. A win, combined with a Kansas City loss, would put the Chargers in the driver’s seat in the AFC West. A Rams loss would keep the 49ers alive (win or lose) for another week and also give Seattle an opportunity to jump into first place with a win over the Falcons (don’t laugh). This is the biggest professional football game Missouri’s hosted since Steve Smith broke the Rams’ hearts in double overtime back in 2004. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +1

Bills at Dolphins
At the beginning of the season, do you think the Dolphins would’ve accepted an exchange of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne? No way. Currently, do you think the Bills would approve the same exchange? No way. The Dolphins can’t even run the football anymore, so it’s up to their defense to win. The Eagles once traded a rising backup to Miami for a second round pick. Perhaps Kevin Kolb will meet the same fate this offseason. BILLS If I were Charles Barkley; Bills +5.5

Lions at Buccaneers
My day got significantly worse when I came to the following realization; a Buccaneer win and an Eagle loss would drop the Eagles below the Bucs in the NFC wildcard standings and out of the playoffs altogether. I nearly vomited. As you can see, the playoff competition in the NFC is unbelievably tight. The Lions looked horrible last week with Drew Stanton at quarterback. He’s starting again Sunday. That’s bad news for Eagle fans, unless of course the Eagles win. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions +6

Cardinals at Panthers
If all goes well, Steve Smith is one week closer to Andrew Luck. He’s also a week closer to adding Jimmy Clausen’s name next to Ken Lucas’ on his “teammates I’ve punched,” list. I can’t say I’d blame him, either. I took some heat for accusing the Panthers of closing up shop and playing for that top pick, but I’m convinced that Clausen’s horrendous play leaves them no other option. I watched the trailer for Fast and the Furious 5 this week. (Why? I’m not really sure.) In the clip, Vin Diesel’s character says, “We’ll do one last job, and then we disappear forever.” I believe he’ll really disappear forever as much as I believe the Panthers will do whatever it takes to win on Sunday. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals +2.5

Saints at Ravens
New Orleans is arguably one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Regardless, I can’t predict a dome team to go into Baltimore against that defense and win with temperatures in the 30s. The Saints are a tough bunch, but they’re not THAT tough. I know Matt Schaub tore the Baltimore defense to shreds in the 4th quarter last week, but the Raven defense is notoriously a different monster at home. And yes, I’m already excited about the sarcastic emails coming my way when the Saints win in a shootout 42-38. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -1.5

Eagles at Giants
A reader reminded me that my son didn’t have to see me cry last week because the Eagles won. Obviously, this was a plus. A traumatic experience like that isn’t ideal for a six month old. Truthfully, though, my son goes to bed at seven, so he wasn’t awake anyway. This week, he will be, and we always watch the early games together. Needless to say, I’m nervous. The Eagles haven’t looked like a Superbowl contender for a month. The defense is suspect, the offense erratic, and Reid rejects all running plays unless he has a lead in the 4th quarter or Michael Vick is on crutches. I laugh at how two big plays last week erased what was mostly a horrible outing for the Eagle passing game. Big plays don’t win playoff games. Consistent, grind it out offenses do. Just ask Tom Brady. The Giant defense has only gotten better since these teams last met and it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a bounty on removing Vick from the game. On the other hand, the Eagles’ defense has been poor and getting worse. The only thing that depresses more than the Eagle D is the big money the organization is going to fork over to a diva receiver that won’t go across the middle, refuses to take a hit, acts like a child (did you see the post game interview on Sunday night?), and suffers 3.7 injuries per game. Despite all that, Eli Manning lost his favorite target this week and Asante Samuel should return. Let’s hope that’s enough. EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles +3

Game to Watch: Eagles at Giants
Game on Call: Jaguars at Colts

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Jets at Steelers
How bad was Mark Sanchez last week? Well, the opposing offense managed 30 total passing yards, committed three turnovers and averaged 3.2 yards per rush. And, you guessed it, still won. That USC quarterback tree of Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Sanchez isn’t looking so hot anymore. Obviously, Sanchez is still young, but he’s been awful in the winter months for two straight seasons now. Lucky for him, the Jets travel to a warm city to take on a fluff defense this week. Just kidding. The Jets go to Pittsburgh. I’d take Ben Roethlisberger with a broken nose, bum ankle, no offensive line, and an extended rap sheet over Sanchez any day of the week and 52 times on Sunday. I can hear the Mark Brunell chants now. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +6

Falcons at Seahawks
We need to make sure next Monday’s game maintains the same importance it would have if the Saints and Falcons played tonight. To accomplish this, please root for one of the following options; both teams win, both teams lose, or just the Falcons lose. Any of those scenarios will work. However, if the Saints lose and Falcons win, the NFC South would belong to the Falcons (barring a loss to the Panthers in week 17). Actually, never mind. You can ignore everything I just said. To win the South, New Orleans must finish a game ahead of Atlanta, or beat them next Monday and hope Atlanta losses to either Seattle or Carolina. Atlanta owns the tiebreaker due to record in common games (currently 6-1 to 5-2). Those losses to Cleveland and Arizona are haunting the Saints. (By the way, I really did realize this all as I typed it. I just couldn’t come up with anything else to write, so I left it. Sorry) FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -6

Broncos at Raiders
I can already see the offseason headline; “Elway and Shanahan return to lead Broncos.” Now, I have no idea how good or bad John Elway is as an NFL executive, but from what I’ve read, other teams in the league are rooting for the Broncos to add Elway – and that’s not rooting in a complimentary way, either. As for Shanahan, he won’t come back to Denver, but rumors are flying that he could be done in D.C. Let this be a lesson to all you legendary coaches sitting at home: the Redskins’ stink got the better of Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs, and Mike Shanahan. Stay away. Stay far away. RAIDERS If I were Charles Barkley; Raiders -6.5

Game to Watch: Jets at Steelers
Game on Call: Falcons at Seahawks

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Packers at Patriots
With a prolific aerial attack and stout defense, I really thought the Packers could pull off an upset. But that was before Aaron Rodgers got knocked loony for the second time this season. While his status is still undecided, there’s no way the Packers allow Rodgers to play after his second concussion in a few months with only a week off. Besides, their chances of beating the Patriots right now are slim anyway. Give Rodgers another week to heal and focus on beating the Giants and Bears. If they win those two, they should be in decent shape for a playoff berth and maybe a division title depending on how the Bears fair against the Jets and Vikings. As for the Patriots, what can you say? Best coach, best quarterback. Those two positions translate to wins more than any other. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -14

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Bears at Minnesota
Brett Favre is out, Tarvaris Jackson is on injured reserve, and the Vikings don’t currently have a home, or purpose for that matter. The 2010 season can’t end soon enough for the Vikings. In fact, the Minnesota Vikings owe their fans an apology. Instead of an apology, though, the Vikings reached out to fans this week and requested they help shovel out The University of Minnesota’s football stadium so Monday’s game could remain in Minnesota. That’s correct. A 5-8 team that began the year with Superbowl aspirations and wasted a 3rd round pick on a lazy receiver is begging fans to leave their warm homes to shovel snow. Even Sal Alosi thinks that’s bush league. BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +9

*****

Last Week: 5 – 11 – 0
Season:    87 – 116 – 5

5 Comments

  1. Andy

    “Anytime a Dallas Cowboy requests an autograph from the Eagles quarterback immediately after a game, you know it’s a good season.” So glad the camera caught that one – made my night!

    Andy

  2. Ryan (Author)

    Agreed. I would rank it just below the James Willis-Troy Vincent 103 yard pick-six, the pickle juice game, and Donovan’s 14 second scramble as my favorite Cowboy stadium moment.

  3. Mike Shanahan and his son the offensive coordinator are treating Donovan McNabb like trash. Don’t they know McNabb is a probowl QB and has proven himself in this league to be a top player? How can you bench a Pro Bowl QB for Rex Grossman? If I was the owner I would fire both Mike Shanahan and his inexperienced son.

    That Giants and Eagles game was entertaining all the way down to the end. The Giants’ punter is going to hear it from his coach all week for kicking it to DeSean Jackson. I hope Vick wins the MVP, he has been playing like a MVP all season.

    The backup QB for Green Bay put on a good show Sunday and I was surprised how well he played. However, at the end his inexperience hurt him and the Green Bay Packers’ chances to end the Pats win streak.

    I’m looking forward to the Bears game tonight. It should be another snow game, and I’m sure it will be another entertaining game.

  4. Mike Shanahan and his son the offensive coordinator are treating Donovan McNabb like trash. Don’t they know McNabb is a probowl QB and has proven himself in this league to be a top player? How can you bench a Pro Bowl QB for Rex Grossman? If I was the owner I would fire both Mike Shanahan and his inexperienced son. That Giants and Eagles game was entertaining all the way down to the end. The Giants’ punter is going to hear it from his coach all week for kicking it to DeSean Jackson. I hope Vick wins the MVP, he has been playing like a MVP all season. The backup QB for Green Bay put on a good show Sunday and I was surprised how well he played. However, at the end his inexperience hurt him and the Green Bay Packers’ chances to end the Pats win streak. I’m looking forward to the Bears game tonight. It should be another snow game, and I’m sure it will be another entertaining game.

  5. That Giants and Eagles game was entertaining all the way down to the end. The Giants’ punter is going to hear it from his coach all week for kicking it to DeSean Jackson. I hope Vick wins the MVP, he has been playing like a MVP all season.

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