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When the calendar hits December, it’s a football fan’s dream. It’s the beginning of the stretch run of the NFL season. Gone are the bye weeks; it’s time for the NFL contenders to separate themselves from the pretenders. No nonsense, straight into the picks.
Philadelphia @ Seattle
Another week of Vince Young at the helm for the Eagles. Most troubling for the Eagles was how their much improved defense got shredded against the Patriots. It’s understandable though, Brady does that to a lot of defenses. With both team’s chances to make the playoffs all but over, let’s take a look at a couple of key things going into the 2012 season. For the Seahawks, Pete Carroll has quietly put together a very good young defense. Their defense is built very similarly to the vaunted USC defenses he was famous for in college. They are good up front (D-Line) and have two great young safeties. For the Eagles it’s simple, they need to find a defensive coordinator. I don’t know what Andy Reid was thinking promoting an offensive line coach to defensive coordinator. All the pieces are there, they just need to find a way to put it together.
Indianapolis @ New England
The seemingly annual Manning-Brady Bowl at Foxboro. Except Peyton isn’t playing therefore New England isn’t losing.
Denver @ Minnesota
The Broncos are doing it with defense. They’re proving something to the NFL, you can still win with a bruising committed rushing attack and a defense that is great against the run. For Minnesota it is simple, if Peterson does not play, they do not win.
Tennessee @ Buffalo
Two teams headed in completely different directions. The Titans were given new life following the injuries to Matt Leinart and Matt Schuab for Houston. The division title once seemed improbable, now it’s within grasp. The Texans are starting T.J. Yates at quarterback down the stretch. They’re just two games behind the Texans and have a Week 17 date in Houston for what could be the division title.
The Bills on the other hand were fun while they lasted. They had the Jets on the ropes. They were really a Stevie Johnson drop away from being in prime position to pull off another game winning drive against the vaunted Jets defense. I’m convinced that if Fred Jackson were playing, the Bills would have won that game Sunday.
Oakland @ Miami
I love the way the Dolphins have been playing. I just feel Carson Palmer is due for one of those Palmer games. Oakland should have enough to win the AFC West but, they sure won’t make it easy for their fans.
New York Jets @ Washington
The Redskins have trouble moving the ball but they are a very good defensive bunch and should give Mark Sanchez and Co. fits defensively. This is going to be a low scoring punt-fest. This should fit right into the way the Jets like to play. Every game from this point on is basically a must win for the Jets. They will more than likely need to run the table if they want to make the playoffs.
Atlanta @ Houston
Atlanta is very good against the run and they’ll be using a lot of eight man fronts. Why? Because T.J. Yates is starting at quarterback. Houston will have a chance to win this game because they still have two offensive studs but I think Atlanta wins a close one.
Kansas City @ Chicago
The battle of backup quarterbacks. It won’t really be a battle because Chicago is better than the Chiefs in every single category, probably even backup quarterback.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay
If not now then when for the Bucs? On an extremely more interesting note than the game itself, Cam Newton is on pace to break the single season rushing touchdown record (12) for quarterbacks. Newton has 10 already and with 5 games left to play, it’s all but a lock.
Baltimore @ Cleveland
Been saying this for weeks, the Ravens are the best team in the AFC but they are not a particularly good road team so it’ll be important for them to secure a bye in January.
New York Giants @ Green Bay
Things aren’t looking good for the Giants, they’re staring 6-6 dead in the face. But look on the bright side, if the Giants take care of business against the Cowboys, they should still win the division. It’s not like the Cowboys could be trusted either. New Orleans were able to keep the Giants off balance by running the ball, the Packers won’t have that luxury. The Giants seem to match up well against the Packers but after watching the way their secondary played against the Saints, you can’t have much confidence in the Giants to pull off the upset.
Dallas @ Arizona
As a Cowboys fan, this game should scare the hell out of me. Beanie Wells is running like a man possessed and the Cards have a pretty good punt return man, if you haven’t heard already. This has the feeling of a classic “how in the world did the Cowboys blow this one” feel to it. Giant fans are hoping for one of those Romo moments.
St. Louis @ San Francisco
These next two weeks are a tune up for the 49ers. Two Mondays from now, San Fran takes on the Steelers in another game that should test whether they can really compete against the NFL’s elite.
San Diego @ Jacksonville
I was going to write a bit about dead coaches walking but then the Jaguars had to jump the gun and fire Jack Del Rio. So we’re left here with nothing.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
This Bengals team reminds me a lot of that team that won the 2009 AFC North title. A team with a steady, unspectacular running game, big play potential in the passing game, and a stout defense. A.J. Green is back and looking like his old self, a much needed boost for the Bengals passing attack. A deep threat was something they desperately lacked against the Steelers in the second half the first time they met. I think the Bengals come out playing like this their Super Bowl and pull off the upset.
Detroit @ New Orleans
The Lions get another chance to prove they belong with the NFC’s elite. The Lions may have lost 4 of 6 but they are still in good position for earn a wildcard spot. A lot will depend on their confidence. If they play the Saints tough, even if they don’t win, it will go a long way towards how the Lions finish the season. The key for the Lions is discipline, discipline, discipline.
Last Week: 13-3
Upset Special: 4-8