Week 15 Preview: Smash-mouth Sunday (no, not the band)
When the league makes the schedule, they try to make competitive games for the end of the year. But who knows how a team is going to be by week 15? Well whoever designed Week 15 deserves a pat on the back, a hug, or even a cookie for putting together these games. Normally we get two to three games really worth watching each week. But, no. This week we have six high quality, high-powered, and meaningful match ups to soak up on Sunday. I know you’ll be entering sensory overload. Try not to have a stroke during the 1:00 games or you’ll miss the rest of ‘em.
49ers @ Patriots (8:20 PM EST)
When you think of job security, Tom Brady has to be on the top of the list. Alex Smith may have thought he had some, but Kaepernick evaporated those thoughts quickly. The explosive sophomore has undoubtedly given the 49ers an extra dimension in the running game, but some questions are arising in the passing game. He hasn’t thrown a TD pass in two weeks, and has just one in the last three games. While San Fran is a run-heavy team, they’re going to have to try to pass against this Pats defense. The Pats will probably practice with the roadrunner at quarterback or something; they always come up with weird stuff (last week they practiced with tennis rackets to prepare for J.J. Watt). They’ll have to bring in a Rhino to simulate Aldon Smith, who will give Tom Brady fits when he drops back. Aldon is closing in on Michael Strahan’s single season sack record, something additional to play for. If anyone can slow down this offense, it’s the 49ers. But… can they?
Colts @ Texans (1:00 PM EST)
The AFC South was wrapped up when the Texans started 6-0… or so we thought. The Colts have surged onto the scene powered by their cancer-embattled coach Chuck Pagano. They’ve won 7 of their last 8, not necessarily in pretty fashion, but they win. They’re two games behind Houston, which sounds insurmountable with three games to go. However, they play Houston this week, and then again in Week 17. That makes this game a must win for the Colts, if they want to challenge for the AFC South title. The Texans have got to be livid at how they played on Monday night against the Pats. They will come out fired up. But if the Colts can make an early statement, that wind could come out of the Texans sails.
Broncos @ Ravens (1:00 PM EST)
The Ravens are hitting the boiling point. After starting 9-2, they’ve dropped their last two games. They’ve fired their offensive coordinator, but the coordinator can’t make Joe Flacco become something he’s not. Flacco has made a career out of underwhelming. Every pre-season, it’s “oh, Flacco has learned how he needs to play” and blah blah blah. Then, every year, he just can’t fill the shoes. This year is looking no different, and with an amazing QB coming to town, the Ravens are going to have to lean heavily on their defense to get it done. The Broncos have won eight in a row, and I don’t see the streak ending… especially with a first-round bye on the line.
Giants @ Falcons (1:00 PM EST)
The Giants just do not get a break. I’m a fan, sure, but their schedule is brutal. They’ll head to Atlanta after playing the Saints and Packers at home, and the Redskins on the road. The Falcons are 6-0 at home this season, but are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Panthers where they were never really in the game. Perhaps they were looking ahead to the Giants matchup. Even so, they’ll have to plan for an increased dose of David Wilson, who set a Giant single-game all-purpose yards record on Sunday. The college sprinter can flat out fly, and is starting to do what the Giants drafted him to do. The Falcons have wrapped up the NFC South, but the Giants are trying to claw their way into the playoffs. That could be the difference in this contest.
Packers @ Bears (1:00 PM EST)
Da Bears and the Packers are battling for the NFC North. One of the most difficult divisions to win has come down to this. The Packers are
set to pull away with this one, as the Bears have lost four of their last five. Jay Cutler has been in and out of their starting lineup due to injury, but he claims he will try to play on Sunday. I don’t think there is any question that if it’s Jason Campbell at QB for Chicago on Sunday, the Packers are walking away with an NFC North title.
Steelers @ Cowboys (4:25 PM EST)
One sportswriter likened the Steelers current woes to those of the Jets. I’m not sure it’s quite that bad, but there’s no doubt they’re sliding. They’ve lost three of their last four to teams like San Diego and Cleveland. They now have Roethlisberger back, who seemed to be shaking off some rust last week (and by rust I mean the absolutely terrifying prospect of having a rib jab your aorta and dying). The Cowboys are on the other end of the spectrum after winning four of their last five. Let’s not get too excited, they beat the Browns and Eagles twice. I think the Steelers go in, win this game, and silence the “Jets” comments.