Tag Archives: nfl

Monday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles @ New Orleans Saints- Pregame Breakdown

I have seen both of these teams at their best, and when they are on their game it is some of the most beautiful football that can be played.  In theory, this game should be very high scoring, filled with big plays, and should please anybody who likes a good ol’ shootout but as we all know it is very rare that two teams meet and play their best ball together.  If there were ever a game where that would be the case I would bet money that this is it.  Both teams have their backs against the wall.  For the Saints, their season is essentially done with a loss at home against the Eagles.  I expect them to rally behind a home crowd that is sure to be in full throat on Monday night.  New Orleans fans certainly don’t want to see the Saints season collapse before their very eyes in New Orleans.  As for the Eagles, their dilemma has been well documented.  Owner Jeffrey Lurie made it clear that another 8-8 season will not cut it.  Everybody knows that both Andy Reid and Michael Vick are fighting for their jobs.  When many people thought the team would gel coming out of their BYE week, they failed to live up to expectations.  Will Monday night be the game where it all finally comes together?

Let me start off by saying that this is the game I am most looking forward to seeing this week.  It literally has everything: a load of offensive talent, two teams that will be fighting like it is a playoff game, and a rabid crowd during prime time.  What else could a fan want?  While Philadelphia may not be in must-win mode yet, I can assure you that New Orleans is after their disappointing loss in Denver.  They will also be without their electric return man in Darren Sproles, after he underwent surgery on his hand this week.  The first guy who I would think that the Saints would replace Sproles with in the return game, Courtney Roby, will also be out this week.  The Eagles can breathe a sigh of relief since kick coverage is something that the team has struggled mightily with this season.  Jimmy Graham looks like he could be returning to his top form and could be utilized a lot in this game.  The Saints have only won one game at home this season and it was also in prime time.  Performance during prime time games have been a strength lately for the Eagles.  Since 2009 they are 10-5 in night games but that is not why I am picking them.

I like the Eagles in this game IF they can get the ball to LeSean McCoy.  He should get at least 25 touches in this game if Philadelphia wants to win.  He should find some holes to run through if he does get going since the Saints are 31st in stopping the rush.  Dual threat Michael Vick has talked about possibly reverting back to his old self.  This week he said that he has to get his swag back.  Perhaps a nice game on the ground for him will help bolster his confidence.  Above all else he will need to finish another game without a turnover before Eagles fans will get off his case.  I thought Vick did a nice job against Atlanta (who is fourth in the NFL in takeaways).  He did not cough the ball up at all in that game.  Andy Reid has done his best to try and turn Michael into more of a pocket passer, and Vick is getting hit like he has never been hit before.  Andy will probably be just as happy with Vick scrambling around as long as he is not making critical mistakes with the ball.  If the Eagles can win this game without turning the ball over, I think that will go a long way for them.

The last thing I wanted to hit on was the play of both defenses.  The Saints have not looked like a NFL defense very much this year.  I don’t mean to be harsh but teams are scoring points at will on them.  Unless the Eagles are engaging in some type of experiment where they see if they can win a game without scoring any more points than they absolutely need to, then I think they will be able to light up the scoreboard.  As for the Eagles’ D, they were harassed by Matt Ryan last week.  Todd Bowles did not make the greatest impression in his debut.  It was not his fault.  I saw the same problems from the Philly defense that I have seen since 2009- bad tackling and poor execution.  Matt Ryan did see some guys wide open in Philadelphia but the tackles were not being made by the first guy in a lot of instances in that game.  The press coverage has looked good so far, but all eleven guys need to make sure that they stop a play where it should be stopped.  Drew Brees will go nuts on the Eagles if he can get guys running after contact.  If Matt Ryan looked like an expert picking apart their defense then things could get ugly in New Orleans on Monday night.  Philly does do a nice job at stopping the run, but the Saints hardly run the ball at all, so that will not matter very much.

As I said before, this game looks like it could be the highest scoring of the week.  I thought we would see a shootout last Sunday night, but Brees and the Saints did not look like they brought their “A” game with them.  If New Orleans has any hope of turning their season around and making the playoffs, they had better be on their game Monday night.  Also, the Eagles could benefit greatly from a nice win this week.  You can credit the Eagles three wins on solid defensive play.  This week I think it is time for the offense to pick up the slack and help the Eagles back to .500.  After this game, the Eagles do not have a really tough schedule.  They could still be looking at a 10+ win season if they are able to clean up their silly mistakes.  I think the offense will get back on track against the Saints in a shootout, and if not then there will be some major problems when Philly fans wake up on Tuesday morning.

Eagles 37, Saints 30

Week 9: Sunday Night Football- Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons- Pregame Breakdown

The Falcons continue to soar above the competition holding the only spotless record in the league.  At the same time, America keeps trying to figure out just who the Dallas Cowboys are.  One week they play well and the next they are down.  Will Tony Romo keep himself from throwing it to the other team in this game, or will he revert back to the “gun-slinger” that we all know he can be and throw some risky passes.  It isn’t exactly fair to criticize Tony for being a gun-slinger.  That is simply the type of quarterback he is- he takes risks.  Nobody pokes at him when things are going his way.  Anyways I am going to tell you why I think that the Cowboys will end Atlanta’s reign of perfection.

This game comes down to one thing, and that is winning at the point of attack.  Will Atlanta corners be able to shut down the trio of Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten?  How about on the other side of the ball- the Falcons do have some solid targets in Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Tony Gonzalez.  Last week it was Jones who shined in Philadelphia; he and Roddy usually go back and fourth.  I actually think that Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have the best shot at shutting down both wide-outs.  Right now, the Cowboys own a better defense than the Eagles, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie did an excellent job containing White last week.  Nnamdi Asomugha  was torched by Jones on a long touchdown.  I just think that the Cowboys corners will do a better job at jamming the two at the line of scrimmage which will disrupt their ability to run a lot of timing patterns (which is paramount for a Dirk Koetter offense).  Dallas did it to the Giants twice, they should be able to do it in Atlanta.

Tony Romo also plays quite well against the Falcons.  In his career, he is 2-0 vs. the dirty birds, and has passed for 5 TDs vs only 1 INT with a completion percentage of 74.  I have also witnessed the Cowboys take down another undefeated team from the NFC South.  I am referring to the 2009 season where the Cowboys bested the Saints during Week 15 (24-17).  The environment will be equally as loud in this one and I think that Dallas will handle it quite well.  They say your supposed to pick an upset each week.  Well here it is.  I am picking the Cowboys to bring down the Falcons in Atlanta.

Dallas 31, Atlanta 24

Week 9: Pittsburgh Steelers @ New York Giants- Pregame Breakdown

The class of the 2004 draft will be on display in East Rutherford, New Jersey in this game.  It’s Ben Roethlisberger vs. Eli Manning.  These two teams have won four out of the past seven Super Bowls and are considered by many to be the class of their conferences.  When these two teams collide, what is there in this game that wouldn’t excite an NFL fan?

The major underlying story to this game is the fallout of Hurricane Sandy.  Because this game is in the late window (4:25 e.s.t.), the Steelers have the opportunity to stay in Pittsburgh until game day since all available hotels will be without power until at least Tuesday.  They will take a one-hour flight to New Jersey Sunday morning and ready themselves to play almost immediately.  That would be tough for any team to overcome.  For the Giants and their fans, they have to deal with what the Saints did after Hurricane Katrina: a lot of damage to their community.  What the Saints and their fan base did in 2006 was pool together under one roof and will their team on to victory during a Monday Night contest against the Falcons.  They won that very emotional game 23-3.  I expect Giants fans to do the same and come out to support their team and scream their heads off looking for something positive to take home with them.  This will be a very tough game for the Steelers to win because of the surrounding circumstances, but if any team in the NFL can win in this situation, it would be Pittsburgh.

Outside of the emotional turmoil that is behind this game, there is also a football perspective to keep in mind.  The Steelers and Giants are two of the best fourth quarter comeback teams in the entire league.  Just this year, Eli Manning has three fourth quarter comebacks.  In his career he has totaled 28 game-winning drives.  Roethlisberger has two game-winning drives this season and matches Manning’s 28 career game-winners with 28 of his own.  These two quarterbacks are always being compared to one another, and with good reason.  They both entered the league in the same year, they both have two Super Bowl rings, and they both have totaled a large amount of wins.  To me, all this means that we are in for an amazing fourth quarter.  I am going to use last year’s Week 9 match-up between the Patriots and the Giants as an example to how I think this game is going to go.  I expect to see a lot of good defense played in the first half, and then a back and fourth scoring contest during the second half.  Actually the Giants have been in a couple of those this year (Week 1 vs. Dallas and Week 4 @ Philadelphia).  The Giants lost both of these games.  If we get a game like this (and I expect we will) I will look for the Steelers to pick up the “W”.

I do not have any good case to make for either team in this game.  The Giants have looked very impressive so far this year, and have proven that they can win games outside of their division.  The Steelers do not play as well on the road as they do at home, but they are one of the few teams in football that can make another stadium home for themselves.  Their fans travel better than just about any other franchise in the entire league (them and Green Bay).  As far as statistics go, I would say that you can call this game a stalemate.  Pittsburgh’s strength is still their defense (which is ranked #2 in the league) and so far this year, the Giants offense is what is keeping their team afloat (ranked #4).  When it comes down to it, I have to say that I think the Steelers’ defense will do enough to contain the right arm of Eli Manning (which didn’t look particularly sharp against another good defense in Dallas).  I know that this is the generic reasoning behind anybody who picks against the Giants, but I think that Roethlisberger has a  chance to dissect an injury-torn secondary.  I do like what Stevie Brown has done for the Giants so far this season, but at this point the Giants’ defense is a house of cards; one big blow from falling apart.  This could be the potential downfall for them as we head into the second half of the season.

Ben Roethlisberger may not have a field day against the Giants, but I do expect him to do just enough to get the job done in what should be a very close game with a very exciting fourth quarter.  Like I said, neither team has a clear-cut advantage over the other.  I just think the Steelers will earn the victory, despite the mess created by Hurricane Sandy.

Pittsburgh 28, New York 24

Week 9: Minnesota Vikings @ Seattle Seahawks- Pregame Breakdown

Predictably, the Vikings have hit a cold streak.  It does appear as if their Cinderella season is over.  The Vikings never did play particularly well on the road this season, as indicated by their 1-2 record away from the dome.  Add that to a game in Seattle, where the Seahawks are perfect this year at 3-0 (against quality opponents in Dallas, Green Bay, and New England), and you could have a recipe for disaster.  Percy Harvin may get his signature underneath/quick-scree receptions, but I predict that the Seattle secondary will shut down the deep passing game of the Vikes.  Yes, Sidney Rice gets some revenge against his former team.

Seattle 20, Minnesota 10

Week 9: Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Oakland Raiders- Pregame Breakdown

What a game!  During this 4:05 game, there will probably be enough people dressed up as pirates in one stadium to set a world record.  It is not the pirate smorgasbord that has my attention in this game, but rather the playoff implications that it could have.  While this may not be the sexiest of all of the inter-conference match-ups this weekend, it certainly could be one of the most important.  Both teams are sitting second in their divisions at 3-4.  Both teams are on the raise though, and are playing well enough to be above .500 clubs.  To say that this game is a must-win for each team could be a little out of line seeing as how this is only Week 9, but a loss for either team could spoil any postseason aspirations that they may have.  If I had to choose who needed this game more, I would have to say Tampa since they play in the only division in which there is an undefeated team, and their conference overall seems to be more stacked with regards to wild card teams.  Down the road they may have to compete with teams such as Seattle, Green Bay, Philadelphia, New York, and Chicago.  This is a crucial game for Tampa Bay, unfortunately I do not think they will be able to pick this one up.

It seems a little odd for me to pick against the Buccaneers after I praised what they were doing so much last season, but hear me out.  I remember clearly the last time these two teams played; it was a game that the Bucs needed to win in order to make the playoffs, and they were almost a lock to pick up a victory against the hapless JaMarcus Russell lead Raiders.  Obviously, since I bring this up, Tampa could not close out their season with a win and this actually knocked them out of the playoffs for good (once Philadelphia won later that day).  Besides this game, this all-time series is one that the Raiders have owned (with a record of 6-2).  It may also be noteworthy to bring up the fact that Tampa Bay has never won in Oakland.  That record has to be broken at some point, right?  Well, the Buccaneers have had a bad history with teams on the west coast.  They have an all-time record of 20-45 against teams that play on the West Coast (i.e. Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, and Arizona).  The Raiders should do enough in this one to pick up a victory, even though it will be extra hard to get McFadden going on the ground against Tampa’s #6 ranked run defense.

Oakland 20, Tampa Bay 14

Week 9: Carolina Panthers @ Washington Redskins- Pregame Breakdown

This game (along with the Tampa Bay/Oakland game) was the hardest for me to pick.  This one could literally come right down to a coin toss.  Upon a quick breakdown, one could easily say that the Redskins should win this game.  They have been playing much better than Carolina this season and they have the #6 ranked offense vs. the Panther’s #15 ranked defense.  Robert Griffin III has been playing lights out this season, and in some ways trumping what Cam Newton did last year.  The major story-line that everybody will look at in this game is Cam Newton vs. RGIII.  However, I am going to tell you why it is something else that is more important than the QB battle because it is what will help Carolina win this game in Washington.

With all of the offense that will be taking the field on Sunday, I am going to focus on the defense since that is what this game is going to come down to.  Let’s face it, the only thing the Redskins defense has done this year is play just well enough to make Robert Griffin III look like Hulk Hogan with all of his incredible comebacks.  At the same time, what was once a weak point on the Carolina side of the ball now looks like it is their strength this year if you factor in Cam Newton’s struggles.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that it is because of one guy in the middle: Luke Kuechly- who I think should win defensive rookie of the year.  What a find was this man out of Boston College.  He tackles better than most players in this league already, and he fills the hole better than any rookie linebacker I have ever seen.  He will have his eyes on Alfred Morris the whole game.  With Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme, he likes to use pitches to help Morris gain the outside edge.  That has worked to perfection this season, except in this game he has to try to gain the edge against this man, who is on pace for 142 tackles this season.  He is second (as far as rookies go) in tackles behind Indianapolis’ Jerrell Freeman.  I just don’t think the ‘Skins will be able to use their speed to get outside quite like they have to this point in the season.

I would also like to note how well Carolina played against the Bears.  This was a game that the Panthers should have won.  They put up over 400 yards on one of the league’s best defenses.  This is something that they were able to do for a lot of the season last year.  Perhaps Steve Smith can build a little momentum off of his huge game against the Bears in this game against the last ranked pass defense in the league.  If Cam Newton has a bounce-back game in him, this will be the week that it happens.

Carolina 33, Washington 30

Week 9: Chicago Bears @ Tennessee Titans- Pregame Breakdown

Chicago is off to its best start since the 7-0 run they had in their 2006 campaign which ended in a Super Bowl loss.  Their defense is play much like it did during their NFC Championship season, completely smothering their opponents.  The Bears already have 6 TDs on defense, which is a franchise record, through only 7 games!  Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are playing cornerback like no other tandem in the league right now.  The Bears offense has been doing just enough as of late to help their team win.  Was this the formula Chicago had in mind when they brought Brandon Marshall in this off-season?  Perhaps not, but it seems to be working.  As for Tennessee, they are winning all of the games that they are not supposed to win.  Victories over Pittsburgh and Detroit spring to mind, and even the Week 7 shootout over Buffalo was a game that they were not favored to win.  As I said before, Matt Hasselbeck has his team playing better than it was with Locker.  The Titans have not caught much of a break in their schedule.  It is no wonder the team is 3-5.  New England, Houston(x2), Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, Miami, and Detroit, plus two tilts with Indianapolis is about as hard of an opponent schedule that any team can draw from the AFC.  Given that the Titans are winning some games in which they were not exactly supposed to, will this be another one of those shocking victories for them?  I hardly think so.  All three of Tennessee’s wins this season have come in close games, and the Bears have shown me that if the game is close, they know how to seal the deal.  Chicago Bears all day in this one.

Chicago 38, Tennessee 16