And the 2012 NFL MVP is…

Peterson re-enacting the movie poster for Platoon

Peterson re-enacting the movie poster for Platoon

Adrian Peterson

Rushing: 348 rushes, 2,097 yards, 6.0 avg, 131.1 yards/game, 12 TD - Receiving: 40 receptions, 217 yards, 5.4 avg, 13.6 yards/game, 1 TD – Vikings’ record: 10-6 (#6 seed in the NFC playoffs)

For those that feel that the MVP award should go to a player based on statistics alone, the numbers speak for themselves. And when you consider that the Vikings’ offense lost Percy Harvin (their second-best weapon who was generating MVP buzz himself before getting hurt) after nine games and were led by quarterback Christian Ponder who ranked 21st in passing, APete’s 2012 statistics become even more staggering.

Those that insist that the MVP play on a winning team will be satisfied by the Vikings’ playoff berth. Those that insist that the MVP be indispensable to their team will surely see that if you remove Peterson from the Vikings and replace him with even an above average running back, there’s no chance this team makes the playoffs. APete put up one of the best statistical seasons for a running back ever (falling only 9 yards short of the all-time rushing record) and it still took until the final seconds of the final game for the Vikes to clinch the last NFC wild card spot.

Honorable Mention:

Tom Brady – New players, injuries to the line and receiving corps, another bad New England defensive unit; same results for TB12: 4,800 yards, 34 TDs (and another 4 rushing), just 8 interceptions, 63% completion percentage, 12 wins.

Peyton Manning – He’s baa-aack. It was a vintage Peyton year in 2012: 4,600 yards, 37 TDs, 11 INTs, 69% completion percentage, 13 wins. While doing this after coming back from 47 neck surgeries is an incredible story, it shouldn’t be a factor in MVP voting.

Mark Sanchez – Was anyone more valuable to the opposing team than Mr. Buttfumble himself?

 

The NFL MVP Race

Since NFL fans can’t chant M-V-P! when their star player stands at the free throw line, how can we possibly figure out who deserves the award? Here’s an update on the 2012 NFL MVP race through Week 15.

brady

The Frontrunners:

Tom Brady: Brady’s numbers are staggering yet again. Making them more impressive is the fact that the Patriots’ offense is built around their two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, both of whom have missed significant time with injuries this season. But no matter who Brady has on the field with him, he puts up the same incredible numbers and has led New England to yet another 10+ win season. Had Brady completed the historic comeback against the 49ers top-ranked defense on Sunday night – when he put together what was quite possibly one of the greatest performances of quarterbacking in NFL history during the second half – the debate for MVP might have officially ended.

Adrian Peterson: The Vikings have a sub-par second year quarterback in Christian Ponder and a passing game that defenses justifiably do not respect – and Percy Harvin, their second best offensive weapon, hasn’t played in more than a month. That means every week, Minnesota’s opponents game plan for the Vikings with one single goal: to stop Adrian Peterson. And yet, every week they are unsuccessful. AP faces eight or even nine men in the box for the majority of each game, and yet he still has 1,812 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns through 14 games. In addition, the team is in the thick of the NFC playoff picture. Take Adrian Peterson off of the Vikings and they are quite possibly one of the worst teams in the league.

The Second Tier:

Peyton Manning: Sorry members of the media, you just can’t give the MVP award to your boy Peyton this year. He took over a team that made it to the second round of the playoffs last year – with Tim Tebow at quarterback! In 2011, Tebow went 8-5 with the Broncos including the playoffs and won the AFC West. So how valuable and irreplaceable is Peyton Manning this year if he takes over the same team (if not slightly better at other positions) and wins the AFC West? Peyton should get the Comeback Player of the Year Award and nothing more.

Robert Griffin III: If the MVP award was given to the most exciting player or to a player that rejuvenates a franchise, RGIII would be listed amongst the frontrunners. Instead, Griffin will walk away with Offensive Rookie of the Year honors (in a race almost as interesting as the MVP itself with sensational rookies like Griffin, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Doug Martin). The slim chance RGIII had of winning the MVP disappeared when Kirk Cousins started – and won – last week’s game against Cleveland.

The Longshots:

Matt Ryan: MVP’s don’t throw 5 interceptions in a game against the Arizona Cardinals.

J. J. Watt: When a defensive lineman beats out the two greatest quarterbacks of our time and one of the greatest running backs of all time who is flirting with breaking the single season rushing record for the MVP award, you give me a call okay?

The NFL Week 15 Quick Recap

AP

Vikings 36 – Rams 22

This was the week that Adrian Peterson won the MVP award. AP broke off another 212 yards on the ground as Minnesota improves to 8-6, moving one step closer to a playoff berth.

Bengals 31 – Eagles 13

Forget about the infamous booing of Santa Claus by Philly fans, ol’ Kris Kringle might get waterboarded at the Linc this Sunday once the Eagles inevitably fall behind the Redskins.

Texans 29 – Colts 17

A win by Indy in this game would have put them just one game behind the Texans in the AFC South – with a rematch scheduled in the regular season finale. But as we expected, the Colts are not ready for primetime just yet.

Broncos 34 – Ravens 17

After a very soft 9-2 start, the Ravens are hurtling back to earth. Losers of three straight, they face playoff contenders in the final two weeks (Giants and Bengals) and are in danger of not even making the postseason.

Dolphins 24 – Jaguars 3

What should you have been doing for three hours on Sunday instead of watching Miami/Jacksonville? Anything else.

Redskins 38 – Browns 21

The Terry Robiskie Bowl! Kirk Cousins has proven himself to be adequate and effective as a quarterback the past two weeks which means that in the 2012 draft alone, the Redskins drafted not one – but two quarterbacks that are better than any of the quarterbacks on the Jets, Cardinals, Browns, Jaguars or Chiefs.

Saints 41 – Buccaneers 0

You just knew that the Saints would be all fired up during a week that saw them receive some measure of vindication for Bountygate.

Falcons 34 – Giants 0

Can we all stop talking about how disrespected the Falcons are? Yes, they’re 12-2. Yes, they just thrashed the defending Super Bowl champs. But their true test is winning a playoff game or two. Until that happens, the disrespect will continue. End of story.

Packers 21 – Bears 13

Green Bay has won eight of nine games and after getting Greg Jennings back a few weeks ago, now bolsters their defense with the returns of Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson. Don’t look now, but the Pack could be the best team in the NFC.

Seahawks 50 – Bills 17

It’s pretty trendy to jump on the Seattle bandwagon right now after they’ve scored 108 points in the past two weeks. But couldn’t the Alabama Crimson Tide score 108 points against the Cardinals and Bills? Seattle’s three best opponents so far this season have been the Patriots (who they beat by a point at home), the Packers (who they “beat” in the game that ended the referee lockout) and the 49ers (who beat them). Let’s slow our roll on the Seattle love for right now…

Panthers 31 – Chargers 7

Will either of the coaches in this game have their job in 2013? Has the Philip Rivers-to-the-Cardinals-for-Patrick-Peterson discussion started yet?

Raiders 15 – Chiefs 0

Pop quiz: What would you have rather done on Sunday? Watched the entire Miami/Jacksonville game followed by the entire Oakland/Kansas City game – or masturbate with a cheese grater for six hours? The fact that you even had to think about that question says it all.

CARDINALS 38 – LIONS 10

Really Detroit? Really?

Cowboys 27 – Steelers 24

At 8-6, Dallas controls their own playoff destiny which means they just need to win the last two games and they’re in. With Jason Garrett managing the clock and Tony Romo under center, what could possibly go wrong?!

49ers 41 – Patriots 34

This game is exactly why Jim Harbaugh chose Colin Kaepernick over Alex Smith. San Francisco could have won 12 games this year with Smith and entered the playoffs with an offense that had a ceiling of around 25-30 points. Instead, Harbaugh risked an extra regular season win or two and chose Kaepernick – who gives the offense a ceiling of at least 40 points – in anticipation of playing teams with high-scoring offenses like the Packers, Falcons and Giants in the playoffs. With the best defense in the league, the only knock on the 49ers was that they couldn’t hang offensively with teams like the Patriots in a shootout. Clearly that knock is no more.

Titans 14  – Jets 10

Mark Sanchez has turned the ball over fifty times in the last two seasons. That was not a typo. Mark Sanchez has turned the ball over fifty times in the last two seasons. Once more for your viewing pleasure, is the absolute best of those fifty:

NFL Week 14 Football Sunday Preview

turner

Kansas City at Cleveland (-7) – 1pm ET

The 2-10 Chiefs rallied around the murder/suicide of their linebacker Jovan Belcher last week to beat Carolina for their second win of the season. And while that might sound all well and good, it means that they are now tied with Jacksonville for the worst record in the league and are only a game ahead (behind) the Eagles and Panthers for the first overall pick in next year’s draft. If you’re going to have 10 losses, you might as well have 15 and assure yourself the top pick. But alas, the 2012 Chiefs are a study in dysfunction and poor decision-making.

Cleveland on the other hand has shown a little something the last several weeks. In their last seven games, the Browns have won four and lost three by a total of 17 points. At 4-8, they’re not a good team ostensibly, but they play hard every game and are built on rushing and defense, giving them a chance in most weeks. They’ll have a really good chance this week against the snake-bitten Chiefs. Arbitrary prediction: Browns 17-9

San Diego at Pittsburgh (-8) – 1pm ET

What do you get when you take the awful Chargers who’ve quit on equally awful Norv Turner and combine them with a WC@EC@1PM (West Coast team playing on the East Coast at 1pm ET) game? You get the 7-5 Steelers as eight-point favorites against 4-8 San Diego in what should be a one-sided affair.

If Mike Tomlin could pick any opponent for the return of Ben Roethlisberger to work off the rust, it would probably be the Chargers. The San Diego defense gives up 241 passing yards per game and rank 25th in sacks with 23, meaning that Big Ben will have plenty of margin for error in his first game since November 12. Look for the Steelers to take care of business against home and move even closer to a playoff berth. Arbitrary prediction: Steelers 23-10

Tennessee at Indianapolis (-5.5) – 1pm ET

How do you not like the 8-4 Colts this week? They’ve turned out to be a really good team this year, especially at home where they’re 5-1 and even more so since the beginning of Chuckstrong. Hosting the 4-8 Titans will be no problem for Andrew Luck and company who could win 12 games this year and still be no better than the #5 seed in the AFC.

The Titans lost to the Colts 19-13 in Tennessee in Week 8 and haven’t really gotten any better. This could be another game decided by double-digits as the Colts keep rolling towards January. Arbitrary prediction: Colts 30-17

Baltimore at Washington (-2.5) – 1pm ET

If you’re Baltimore and trying for one of the top two seeds in the AFC, a home game against Charlie Batch and Pittsburgh is a must-win. Especially with the troublesome schedule that awaits them the rest of the way.

The 9-3 Ravens have been very fortunate this year, making a habit of escaping with wins in very close games against the better teams on their schedule. What’s up ahead for Baltimore? More games against better teams beginning with today at the 6-6 Redskins, hosting the 10-3 Broncos and the 7-5 Giants, and then ending on the road at 7-5 Cincinnati – teams with a combined record of 30-19. Just a week removed from having their sights on a first-round bye, Baltimore could be in danger of losing the AFC North. Pittsburgh , who welcomes Ben Roethlisberger back today, finishes their season with home games against San Diego, Cincinnati and Cleveland and a road game at Dallas – teams with a combined record of 21-27. I’m a little nervous, quoth the Raven fan.

But first things first. Baltimore will have their hands full with the suddenly red-hot 6-6 Redskins, winners of three straight. After their win on Monday Night Football against the Giants, Washington pulled to within a game of the NFC East lead and has people believing. RGIII is a special talent and always gives them a chance to win – especially if the defense plays like it did against the Giants. Still, the Ravens have proven they can do just enough to squeak these times of games out. Baltimore’s good fortune will run out, but the horseshoe stays up their ass at least one more week. Arbitrary prediction: Ravens 27-17

Side note: Before everyone goes crazy about Robert Griffin III, we should probably look back all the way to last season, when Cam Newton, another mobile rookie quarterback sensation wowed the NFL, drawing all sorts of praise and accolades. Cam has taken a major step backwards this season after his breakout rookie year and it’s astonishing to hear people praising RGIII and talk about his next decade or so in the league as Newton is struggling in real time. Granted, RGIII has a far better arm and appears to be in a better offensive system so a Cam-type drop off could be avoided, but can we let him at least finish a full season before putting him in Canton?

NY Jets (-3) at Jacksonville – 1pm ET

Fear not Kansas City and Cleveland fans! Your teams’ game this week is not the worst game of the week. That special designation is reserved for the 5-7 Jets when they visit 2-10 Jacksonville. Neither team was very good at the beginning of the season but with injuries to their best players (Darrelle Revis for the Jets, Maurice Jones-Drew for the Jags), this is now the NFL equivalent of D-III game.

The only way this matchup could possibly get worse is if Rex Ryan does NOT put in Tim Tebow. In his hometown of Jacksonville today, Tebow has the opportunity to finally get playing time if (when!) Mark Sanchez struggles. Yahweh was robbed of that chance last week when he was sidelined with a rib injury when Ryan pulled Sanchez in favor of Greg McElroy. You can only hope that things play out differently today and Tebow is healthy enough to get in the game when it’s inevitably time to bench the Buttfumbler. Arbitrary prediction: Jaguars 17-6

Chicago (-3) at Minnesota – 1pm ET

Are the Bears the worst 8-4 team of all time? Probably not, but it’s fun to ask those types of questions. They are certainly not a very good 8-4 team and have really only beaten one good team (the Colts all the way back in Week 1) all season. Having just beaten the 6-6 Vikings two weeks ago in Chicago, it’s going to be really tough to beat them again in the Metrodome. Despite being just an average team, the Vikings will have enough defense and enough Adrian Peterson to give the Bears their fourth loss in their last five games. Arbitrary prediction: Vikings 24-17

Atlanta (-3.5) at Carolina – 1pm ET

Another week, another temptation to doubt the 11-1 Falcons. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. The line tells you how Vegas feels about the Falcons: even on the road, when 11-1 plays 3-9, they usually get a little bit more than 3.5-points. But alas, everyone seems to be waiting for the other shoe to drop in Atlanta and after the wild affair in Week 4, the first time these two teams played this year, it’s possible this could be the week it happens. The only problem is that Carolina is really, really bad. Arbitrary prediction: Falcons 34-20

NFL Week 14 Thursday Night Football Preview

manning

Denver (-10) at Oakland – 8:20pm EST

If you’re not a fan of Peyton Manning, you have had your emotions toyed with this year. Before signing with Denver, you felt somewhat bad for him: the Colts had just turned their back on him, he broke down at his farewell press conference, no one knew how his neck would hold up. Then the season started. His allegedly flaccid right-arm was every erect and the Peyton of old began to emerge. As you watched this comeback unfold, you were also forced to watch his Papa John’s and Buick commercials (“Phone call, Papa Bear, hut-hut”) non-stop and now you’re back to hating him. What’s more, you also hate yourself for having felt any type of sympathy for him in the first place as he now has Denver sitting pretty at 9-3, having already clinched the AFC West.

But whether you like it or not, Peyton is Peyton again. Despite not having a proven wide receiver like Marvin Harrison or Reggie Wayne, Manning’s offensive weapons are very good and possibly even better than several of his Colts’ teams. The Broncos come into tonight’s game with a seven-game winning streak and their eyes set on a first-round bye in the playoffs.

In order to get that bye and the #2 seed in the AFC (Houston appears to have a firm grip on the top spot), tonight’s game is a must-win for Denver. Luckily for John Fox’s crew, they face the 3-9 Raiders who are dangerously close to being the worst team in the NFL. This game will be just another in a long line of awful Thursday Night Football games this season. Look for Peyton and Co. to win big over their division rival and cover the ten-point line. Arbitrary prediction: Broncos 34-13

Baseball’s Hall of Fame Class of 2013

bonds_sosa

This is the Hall of Fame year we’ve all been anticipating since steroids entered the MLB lexicon. 2013’s first-time eligible candidates feature the two best players of their era – who are also two of baseball’s most prominent steroid-users. Let’s take a look at the key players amongst the group of 37 possible Hall of Famers up for induction in 2013:

The Definites

Craig Biggio

Key career stats: 20 seasons; 3,060 hits; 62.1 WAR; 414 SB; 1,844 R (#15 all-time); 12,504 plate appearances (#10 all-time); 2,850 games played (#16 all-time); 7-time All-Star; 4 Gold Gloves

Biggio reached one of the Hall of Fame’s magic milestones with his 3,060 hits and, with his modest power numbers,  is above suspicion for PED use during a career played in the Steroid Era. While more of a compiler (he had 200 hits in a season just once), he was undoubtedly the best second baseman in the National League during the decade of the 1990s. He’s not a sexy player but his gritty play, clean record and impressive stats (only nine other players in the history of the game have had more plate appearances than Craig Biggio) will get him in Cooperstown on the first ballot.

Plaque Suggestion: Craiggers’ head should be adorned with a pine-tar covered helmet.

Barry Bonds

Key career stats: 22 seasons; .298 BA; 762 HR (#1 all-time); 1.051 OPS (#4 all-time); 158.1 WAR (#3 all-time); 1,996 RBI (#4 all-time); 5,976 TB (#4 all-time); 2,227 R (#3 all-time); 2,558 BB (#1 all-time); 514 SB; 2,935 H; 14-time All-Star; 7-time MVP; 2 batting titles; 8 Gold Gloves

It will be very interesting to see what comes of Barry Bonds and the Hall of Fame. Some say he was so great a player before his steroid use that he deserves entry and consider his juiced numbers from 1999 through retirement as a mere smudge – albeit an ugly one – on his stellar resume. Others say that no steroid user should be granted entry into the Hall under any circumstances. Further complicating matters is Bonds’ notoriously surly relationship with the media – many of whom are HOF voters.

So what becomes of Barry? Whether he gets in or not, odds are it won’t happen in his first year on the ballot. However eventually, you would have to think that if any of the confessed or busted steroid users of this era are ever to be enshrined in Cooperstown, Bonds has to be not only one of them – but probably the first. He will get in the Hall, but not next summer.

On a side note, I finally picked my favorite steroid-inflated Barry Bonds stat. It’s his 1.422 OPS in 2004! That’s his on-base percentage – .609!! – plus his slugging percentage – .812!! – in a season he played at the age of 39.

Plaque Suggestion: Barry’s legendarily massive head on his plaque should be at least three times bigger than any one else’s.

Mike Piazza

Key career stats: 16 seasons; .308 BA; .922 OPS; 2,127 hits; 427 HR; 1,335 RBI; 56.1 WAR; 1993 Rookie of the Year; 12-time All-Star

Piazza’s run from 1993 to 1997 with the Dodgers might be the most impressive offensive five-year stretch by a catcher ever. In those five seasons, Mike hit .334, averaged 33 home runs and had a .971 OPS. Did I mention he was a catcher?!

Detractors will point to his subpar defense and his extraordinary offensive prowess during the Steroid Era as reasons not to vote for him in his first year of eligibility. But let’s face it, you don’t get into the Hall because of defense and Piazza has remained relatively (and surprisingly) suspicion-free in regards to PEDs. The second-act of his career as a grinding gamer from 1998 until retirement, when he single-handedly turned around the Mets’ franchise and hit the now-legendary home run in the first game played in New York after 9/11, further cements his Hall of Fame resume.

Plaque Suggestion: Mike should be wearing a broken helmet and be glaring in the direction of wherever Roger Clemens’ plaque would have been.

Hall Me, Maybe

Roger Clemens

Key career stats: 24 seasons; 354 wins (#9 all-time); 3.12 ERA; 1.17 WHIP; 2,776 IP; 4,672 SO (#3 all-time); 8.6 SO/9; 133.9 WAR (#8 all-time); 46 SHO; 11-time All-Star; 1 MVP; 7 Cy Youngs;

I believe it was notorious wedding and funeral crasher, Chazz Reinhold who once stood over a casket and yelled, “Goddamn you Roger – Goddamn you!” Such an exclamation is also quite appropriate when looking at Clemens’ Hall of Fame Resume that leaves you wondering what might have been.

"Goddammit!"

“Goddammit!”

Before getting on the juice and becoming uber-Rocket, Clemens had 192 wins in 13 seasons with an ERA of 3.06, 2,590 strikeouts, a 1.16 WHIP, 2 Cy Young awards and 1 MVP in a career spent entirely with the Red Sox. At age 33, the stage was set for him to spend the next 5 plus years quietly accumulating numbers and strengthening what was already a strong case for the Hall of Fame. You could make an argument that with Roger’s legendary work ethic, he would have ended up with nearly 4,000 strikeouts and more than 250 wins – two numbers that would have made him a lock for the Hall during the Steroid Era. Instead, he super-sized himself and cast a shadow on a once-great career. What’s more, his post-retirement antics that featured him perjuring himself to Congress, lobbying elected officials and even flirting with a comeback in 2012 to delay his HOF eligibility have only further hurt his Cooperstown chances.

It’s likely that voters will eventually take the same stance they are likely to have with Barry Bonds, granting Clemens quasi-immunity in regards to steroids because of his epic pre-PED statistics, and allow him into the Hall. There’s just no chance that it happens in his first year on the ballot.

On another side note, my favorite steroid-inflated Roger Clemens season is his infamous 1997 campaign. After posting ERA’s of 4.18 and 3.63 in ’95 and ’96 – his last two seasons with Boston – the Rocket was classified as being in the “twilight” of his career. Clemens headed north to Toronto with a chip on his shoulder and a syringe in his ass and “responded” by going 21-7 with an inconceivable 2.05 ERA with 292 strikeouts in 264 innings. At the age of 34. In the AL East. During the Steroid Era.

Curt Schilling

Key career stats: 20 seasons; 216 wins; 3.46 ERA; 1.14 WHIP; 3,261 IP; 3,116 SO; 8.6 SO/9; 76.9 WAR; 6-time All-Star

Schilling is one of the best pitchers to pitch in the Steroid Era that was never accused of nor linked to steroid use. While this sounds like a pretty specific and niche title, it should actually carry a lot of weight with HOF voters who will look more kindly at the pitching stats of non-users that had to contend with the increased skill and ability of the actual users of their time.

Curt was an above average pitcher for a lot of mediocre Philadelphia teams and became a great pitcher during his time in Arizona and Boston. His proclaimed desire to end the Red Sox’ 86-year championship drought and subsequent “bloody-sock” performance are the stuff of legends and when added to his borderline HOF numbers in an offensive era, make for a compelling case. His contempt for the media during his playing days and hypocritical, post-playing days job as a member of the media won’t help his cause, but something tells me Schilling gets in at some point in the future.

Will Be Avoided Because He Roided

Sammy Sosa

Key career stats: 18 seasons; .273 BA; 609 HR (#8 all-time); 1,667 RBI; 54.8 WAR; .878 OPS; 2,408 hits; 2,306 SO (#3 all-time); 7-time All-Star; 1 MVP

Poor Sammy. Beloved and adored as recently as 2003, Sosa’s corked bat that season followed by the steroids fallout in ensuing years has made him a forgotten man. His Garrett Morris as Chico Escuela routine during his career was endearing – until he testified in 2005 and apparently forgot how to speak English, an act that ranks just below Rafael Palmeiro’s finger wagging and just above Mark McGwire’s repeated refusal to “talk about the past” on the Most Egregious Behavior of a Steroid User Testifying Before Congress Scale. His now pasty-white face that he attributes to a “rejuvenation process” has also him the target of countless punchlines.

A member of the once-elite 600 home run club, Sosa is the leading candidate of all the steroid users to be made an example of by HOF voters because of his extreme career arc, cheating history and non-power related statistics.

Nice Career but Not Hall-Worthy

Sandy Alomar Jr., Jeff Cirillo, Royce Clayton, Jeff Conine, Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Ryan Klesko, Shawn Green, Roberto Hernandez, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa, Reggie Sanders, Aaron Sele, David Wells, Rondell White, Mike Stanton, Todd Walker, Woody Williams

NFL Week 13 Monday Night Football Preview

RG3 Eli

NY Giants (-3) at Washington – 8:30pm EST
After the season, we might be looking back at tonight’s Monday Night Football game as the tipping point in the NFC East: two possible outcomes leading to two very different scenarios.

The 7-4 Giants have a chance to end the already-slim playoff hopes of the 5-6 Redskins tonight. With a win, the Giants will increase their lead in the NFC East to two games over Dallas and three games over Washington and will all but be assured another division crown. Nothing to it right?

A Redskin win tonight however, makes things really interesting. With a win, they will move to just one game behind the Giants, into a second place tie with Dallas at 6-6. And after next week’s game at home against Beltway-rival Baltimore, it looks like somewhat-smooth sailing in the last three weeks of the season with matchups at Cleveland, at Philadelphia and hosting the Cowboys – opponents with a combined winning percentage of .361%. The Giants meanwhile are looking at a schedule that features next week at home against the 5-7 Saints, then at 11-1 Atlanta and at 9-3 Baltimore – opponents with a combined winning percentage of .694% – before finishing up with Philly at home in a game that will be even more intense and emotional than usual with Andy Reid more than likely coaching his last game with the Eagles.

You know Tom Coughlin knows what the schedules look like and there’s little doubt he’s been in the ears of his players this week, reminding them of how winning this game makes their lives infinitely easier. On the other side, you know Mike Shanahan has been hammering the point home that if the Skins don’t win this game, their season is effectively over.

So what to expect in this ripple game? As usual, the role of quarterback has the biggest impact.

In their first meeting in Week 7, Robert Griffin III went 20-28 with two passing touchdowns through the air and added 89 yards rushing. However, RGIII also had two costly turnovers in the second half that helped lead to the Skins 27-23 defeat. Since this game, Griffin has been unconscious putting up incredible numbers for a veteran, let alone a rookie. In the four games since, RGIII has nine touchdowns, just one interception, a 63% completion percentage and is averaging 224 passing yards and 44 rushing yards per game.

Conversely, Week 7 was Eli Manning’s last good game for nearly a month. After beating Washington in vintage Eli fashion (a 77-yard touchdown to Victor Cruz with 1:13 remaining), Manning played poorly in his next three games, losing two of them and sparking questions about a potential arm injury that might have been causing the quarterback’s struggles. Last week against Green Bay, the Eli of old emerged tossing three touchdowns and 249 yards.

We can only hope to see both quarterbacks at their best tonight. This game will come down to which Eli shows up as well as whether or not RGIII is truly a more developed and responsible quarterback who can hold onto the football in big spots. The Giants don’t handle prosperity well and on the heels of a big win against the Packers, the defending champs are about to leave the window to the NFC East title wide open. Arbitrary prediction: Redskins 31-23

NFL Week 13 Thursday Night Football Preview

New Orleans at Atlanta (-3.5) – 8:20pm EST – Thursday Night

Either Vegas really respects the Saints or they’re just not completely sold on Atlanta yet.  The 10-1 Falcons host 5-6 New Orleans on Thursday Night Football and are just 3.5-point favorites, despite being 5-0 at home this year.

Before we look at this game, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that we are finally getting a quality Thursday Night Football matchup. It took 13 weeks, but we finally have two decent teams going at it in the weekly Goodell Cash Grab Bowl. Hell, we might even be able to get excited for this game without Cee Lo’s pre-game assistance!

The Saints handed Atlanta their only loss of the season so far in Week 10 in New Orleans. The 31-27 victory by New Orleans featured the greatest combined tight end performance in fantasy football (and possibly regular football) history. Tony Gonzalez had 11 catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns while Jimmy Graham caught 7 balls for 146 yards and two touchdowns of his own. Matt Ryan and Drew Brees combined for over 700 yards passing and 6 touchdowns in what was essentially a really great back-and-forth game of Madden you used to play with your boy before the legendary video game became more complicated than an M. Night Shyamalan script. All signs point to this game following suit.

The Saints’ playoff hopes are hanging on by a thread so you can expect them to come out flying tonight. However, the short week usually hurts the visiting team more than the home team and it’s a tall order to expect New Orleans to win both matchups with Atlanta in any given year, let alone in a season when the Falcons just aren’t losing.

We can expect another close game with a lot of points scored in the dome – but this time with Atlanta coming out on top. Arbitrary prediction: Falcons 38-30

NFL Week 12 Monday Night Football Preview

Carolina (-3) at Philadelphia – 8:30pm EST

Oh how the mighty have fallen. The Philadelphia Eagles host the 3-7 Carolina Panthers on (Cyber) Monday Night Football as three-point underdogs. Has a visiting team as bad as the Panthers ever been favored against the Eagles in the Andy Reid era? It’s pretty safe to assume that the answer is no (and since I’m not going to research the answer to such an objective question, let’s run with that assumption.) Granted, the 3-7 Eagles are without Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy, but Reid’s teams always seemed to have the knack for filling in well for key players who were injured in the past (Kevin Kolb stepping in for Donovan McNabb; Correll Buckhalter stepping in for Brian Westbrook, etc.) This season however, the starters haven’t been able to get the job done themselves, leaving little hope for the backups.

Nick Foles gets the start under center again for Vick and Bryce Brown gets the starting running back assignment for the concussed McCoy. Neither is especially good but should fare relatively well against the Panthers’ poor defense. (Fantasy note: If you’re looking for a spot-start in fantasy football in Week 12, Brown could be the beneficiary of a lot of dump-offs from Foles who will need to get rid of the ball quickly behind Philly’s dreadful offensive line.)

The highlight of this game will be the opportunity to see Cam Newton in primetime. Tonight’s game marks the first Monday Night Football appearance for the exciting quarterback who has struggled much of this season. Under the bright lights against the porous Eagle defense, we might see Cam perform more like successful 2011 Cam than mediocre 2012 Cam. If that’s the case, darkness will continue to wash over Lincoln Financial as the Eagles establish a new rock bottom for their season. Again. Arbitrary prediction: Panthers 31-17

NFL Week 12 Preview

Denver (-10.5) at Kansas City – 1pm EST

The 1-9 Chiefs should personally thank the Jets for setting the bar so low this week. Kansas City needs merely to show up, absorb their two-touchdown beating by the 7-3 Broncos and return to the lower intestine of the AFC West to avoid being the most embarrassing display of football ineptitude in Week 12. And they will. Arbitrary prediction: Broncos 30-13

Oakland at Cincinnati (-8.5) – 1pm EST

What do we know about the 5-5 Bengals so far this year? Other than the fact that A.J. Green is good for one touchdown catch per week, it’s that the Bengals can’t beat the good teams on their schedule. Other than their one win over a team with a winning record (a 31-13 thrashing of the Giants in Week 10), Cincy has lost nearly every game against a competitive team. The good news for the Bengals however, is that Oakland is not a competitive team. The 3-7 Raiders have lost three straight and are once again without Darren McFadden and Richard Seymour. Making things more difficult for Carson and Co., Oakland is playing in a dreaded WC@EC@1PM game (West Coast team playing on the East Coast at 1pm EST). Look for the Bengals to continue beating lousy teams and for the Raiders’ losing streak to reach four. Arbitrary prediction: Bengals 27-14

Pittsburgh (-1.5) at Cleveland – 1pm EST

Cleveland has made a name for themselves this year as one of the best bad teams. They’re competitive in almost every game they play, but seem to fall just short each time. The 2-8 Browns host 6-4 Pittsburgh and while that might seem like it has the potential to be another near-victory for Cleveland, consider that the Steelers will be quarterbacked by Charlie Batch. This is really bad news for Pittsburgh. Chazz failed to beat out brittle Byron Leftwich as Ben Roethlisberger’s backup and even as Leftwich was clearly playing hurt during last week’s game against Baltimore, head coach Mike Tomlin still did not turn to the veteran Batch for relief. This once-heated division rivalry is essentially the Browns’ Super Bowl this season – and they should be able to handle Chazz and the Steelers today. Arbitrary prediction: Browns 17-10

Buffalo at Indianapolis (-3) – 1pm EST

The 6-4 Colts host the up-and-down Bills in Indy, where they are an impressive 4-1 this season. Before getting blasted by the Patriots last week, the Colts had won five of their previous six, were coming together in support of their sick head coach and looked like a legit playoff contender. Look for them to get back to their winning ways this week against 4-6 Buffalo who have yet to notch a quality win this season. – and no, we’re not counting their 3-point win in Week 6 against the then 4-1 Cardinals as quality (seeing as how they are now the 4-6 Cardinals). Arbitrary prediction: Colts 34-17

Tennessee (-4) at Jacksonville – 1pm EST

Is there any conceivable way this game is NOT blacked out in Jacksonville? And in the spirit of the holidays, shouldn’t the NFL do us all a favor and black this game out nationally? Even the RedZone Channel should black out highlights from this game. Okay, that might be going too far since fantasy football owners will be looking for the likes of Chris Johnson and Cecil Shorts to help their teams. But other than fantasy implications, this game will be harder to watch than a Blaine Gabbert screen pass. Fortunately for the 1-9 Jags, Gabbert is out for the season and the semi-more competent Chad Henne will be under center. Unfortunately for the Jags, the 4-6 Titans are coming off a bye week and while not exactly a juggernaut themselves, should have enough to beat Jacksonville. The Jags are winless in five home games this year and the Titans will make it 0-6. Arbitrary prediction: Titans 34-24

Minnesota at Chicago (-6.5) – 1pm EST

After putting up 51 points against Tennessee and earning their sixth straight win in Week 9, the Bears were considered amongst the NFC elite. Dropping their last two, the Bears now sit at 7-3, tied with Green Bay for first in the NFC North. The silver lining for the Bears is they lost the last two games against very good teams (the 9-1 Texans and the 7-2-1 49ers) and had Jay Cutler for just two quarters in that span. The good news is that Cutler is back this week and they’re facing a Vikings team without Percy Harvin that has looked very mediocre after their 4-1 start. Arbitrary prediction: Bears 27-10

Atlanta (-1) at Tampa Bay – 1pm EST

After being knocked off the unbeaten perch by the Saints in Week 10, the Falcons narrowly eked out a win against the Cardinals last week despite Matt Ryan throwing five picks. The whole foundation of Atlanta’s season – which seemed so promising at 8-0 just two weeks ago – is in danger of collapsing with a loss in this game. While making the playoffs is all but certain, a loss today would make them 9-2, and just two games ahead of the 6-4 Bucs in the division. Atlanta faces a somewhat rough schedule the rest of the way: the Saints and Bucs again (both at home this time) as well as the defending champion Giants at home and road games against the Panthers and Lions. Recent history has shown us that teams that get off to great starts and then get tripped up in November and December do not fare well in the playoffs. In fact, the last five teams to start the season 9-1 have not made the Super Bowl. Do you know who does make the Super Bowl? Teams that begin their ascent in the second half of the season; teams like Tampa Bay, winners of five of their last six. With a tough schedule remaining in their own right, the Bucs are no lock to go on a magical run, but they should at least get the win in the outdoors today to make things interesting. Arbitrary prediction: Bucs 31-21

Seattle (-3) at Miami – 1pm EST

Another WC@EC@1PM game! On top of that, the 6-4 Seahawks are just 1-4 away from home. That being said, the 4-6 Dolphins seem to be regressing a bit and have lost three straight so who knows what the hell happens in this game? It’s been almost a week and a half off since Miami lost in Buffalo on Thursday Night Football so you’d like to think they’ve had plenty of time to look at Seattle and sculpt a solid game plan. Miami looks to get Ryan Tannehill back to his adequate caretaker form of earlier in the season and Seattle will try and pound the ball all day with Marshawn Lynch. Whoever is able to accomplish either of these goals more successfully will control the game and go home with the victory. The Dolphins should have enough in their favor to take care of business. Arbitrary prediction: Dolphins 23-16