By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Sunday Preview: Week 13
PHILADELPHIA – As the calendar turns to December, the NFL enters into the final stages of their 88th rendition. This season has been filled with more highs and lows than I can remember in quite some time, but on the field teams are either moving forward toward the playoffs or getting ready for the April draft.
Playoff positions are becoming clearer weekly as the Patriots (11-0) and Cowboys (11-1) have already clinched spots in the dance with it looking more than like that these two teams will be hosting the AFC and NFC championship games. But beyond the two behemoths there is a mad scramble for the precious five remaining other playoff spots in both conferences.
Currently in the NFC, twelve teams are within one game of .500 or better entering the final five weeks of the season and conversely in the AFC there are 10 teams that have a chance. Parity is definitely a big factor with the NFL going down to the wire as it seems almost every team — Eagles, Redskins, Bears, Vikings, Cardinals, Texans, Broncos, Bills, and Saints — is at 5-6 with a chance to make or break their season in the next few weeks.
We always say around the NFL that “Every Game Matters” and this slogan always rings true in the month of December. As Colts head coach Tony Dungy said recently of the crucial games this time of year, “Even though every game counts the same during a season, December games always are huge”.
The Super Bowl XLI champion coach added, “Playoff standings can dramatically shift with one win or one loss. You always want your team playing its best as you head into the playoffs, so it’s not just winning in December that’s important, but continuing to improve as well.”
One thing for certain is that people love this game and everyone seems to be watching — except on NFL Network which is a huge fight that will need to be settled by the attorneys — as the NBC Sunday night game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots was viewed by 21.8 million fans, ranking as the second most-watched prime time program last week.
This week’s marquee match-up occurred on Thursday night (11/29/2007) featuring the 10-1 Cowboys hosting the 10-1 Packers in a game that featured for only the eighth time in history two teams with 10-1 or better records. Unfortunately for me my cable operator chose not to show the game — seems like everyone else I talked to on Thursday night had the same problem as 2/3 of the country couldn’t see the game — because of the cable operators ongoing fight with the NFL Network, leaving me with the internet to track the game.
For those that missed the game, the Cowboys won 37-27 as Tony Romo (19/30, 309 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 INT) solidified his position as the best quarterback in the NFC while Packers quarterback Brett Favre (5/14, 56 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs) didn’t even finish the first half after receiving a hellacious hit by DB Nate Jones that separated his left shoulder and injured his left elbow.
The other storyline of the game was the continued improbable climb of Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens (7 catches for 156 yards w/ 1 TD) from Bill Parcells’ doghouse to Wade Wilson’s team leader. The ‘Boys are now 11-1 and seem poised to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.
Here are some of Lloyd’s Leftovers before we head to our featured game.
– The NFL will do the right thing by honoring tragically murdered Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor in every stadium this week. The heavy-hearted ‘Skins will be sporting a “21″ decal on their helmet for the remainder of the season, starting this week. Just as important, the Cleveland Browns will honor Hall of Fame player Bill Willis by wearing a “BW” decal on their helmets for the rest of the season. Willis died recently at the age of 86 and he deserves high praise for being one of the first African American players after the 1933 to 1946 “dark” period in the NFL.
– The New England Patriots will be attempting to become only the sixth team in history to start a season with a 12-0 record when they travel to the Baltimore Ravens (ESPN, 8:30 PM ET). The Patriots who are chasing the 1972 Dolphins “Holy Grail” of an undefeated season would join the 1985 Bears (12-0), 1934 Bears (13-0), 1998 Broncos (13-0), 2005 Colts (13-0), and 1972 Dolphins (14) with the distinction. I think they will be safe this week, but the Steelers (week 14) and Giants (week 17) will be looking for their chance to knock out the town bully.
– The top three teams in the NFL (New England (11-0), Dallas (10-1), and Green Bay, 10-1) combine for a 31-2 record, which matches 1984 (Miami, 11-0; Denver and San Francisco, 10-1) as the only NFL seasons with the top three teams with such a record through 11 games.
– Minnesota Vikings rookie running back Adrian Peterson looks to return to action this Sunday against Detroit after missing the last two games with a knee injury. The first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma has played nine games and leads the NFL with 1,081 rushing yards. Peterson needs 143 yards this week against the Lions to pass Pro Football Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson (1,223) for the most rushing yards in a player’s first 10 games.
– New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady leads the NFL with 39 touchdown passes this season and needs one more to become only the fourth quarterback to throw for 40 touchdowns in a season. If Brady throws a TD this Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, he will reach the 40-touchdown plateau in his 12th game, the second fewest needed to reach the mark.
Featured Game and Other Games
Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3) at Indianapolis Colts (9-2) @1:00 PM on CBS
Broadcast Team: Jim Nantz, Phil Simms
I am extremely excited to see if the Jaguars are ready to seriously challenge the champs for supremacy of the AFC South after the Colts have dominated them over the years owning a 10-3 advantage in the series with the champs winning 4 of the last 5 meetings. The last time they played on 9/24/06 the Colts won 21-14 with Indianapolis WR-KR Terrence Wilkins having an 82-yard punt return touchdown and QB Peyton Manning throwing and running for a touchdown.
Since the two teams joined the AFC South Division after the realignment of 2002, they have never met in December separated by only one game. Veteran Jaguars running back Fred Taylor said of the game, “We know what’s in front of us, we know what’s at stake.” These two teams are not particularly fond of each other especially after the Colts humiliated the Jaguars 29-7 on Monday Night football this past October. In that game QB Peyton Manning had 259 yards w/ 1 TD and DE Dwight Freeney had 2 sacks, including 1 safety on Jags backup quarterback Quinn Gray, but this time things might be different.
Freeney is out for the year with a foot injury and efficient Jags quarterback David Garrard (136-209, 1,626 yards, 9 TDs, 0 INTs) will play in the game. Garrard is third in the conference in quarterback rating and he has not thrown an interception in 209 attempts. But remember Manning (240-379, 2,821 yards, 19 TDs, and 12 INTs) and RB Joseph Addai (202 rushes for 876 yards w/ 4.3 ypc and 9 TDs) will try to pickup the slack for injured WR Marvin Harrison (knee). The Colts will also be trying to shake off a hangover from since their second half collapse against the Patriots.
Jags also think they can out-physical the Colts as shown by their 375 yards rushing — tied for the second most in the NFL since the 1970 merger – in a 44-17 win over the Colts in December 2006 game. With a win and other outcomes this week, the Colts will earn their sixth consecutive playoff berth. Remember these teams inevitably will play it close. Other than the last two games between the two (a split) every Colts-Jaguars meeting since 2002 has been decided by no more than 10 points.
Week 13 Schedule
GB 27 @ DAL 37
DET @ MIN 1:00 PM FOX
SEA @ PHI 1:00 PM FOX
SD @ KC 1:00 PM CBS
NYJ @ MIA 1:00 PM CBS
JAC @ IND 1:00 PM CBS
SF @ CAR 1:00 PM FOX
HOU @ TEN 1:00 PM CBS
ATL @ STL 1:00 PM FOX
BUF @ WAS 1:00 PM CBS
CLE @ ARI 4:05 PM CBS
DEN @ OAK 4:05 PM CBS
NYG @ CHI 4:15 PM FOX
TB @ NO 4:15 PM FOX
CIN @ PIT 8:15 PM NBC
NE @ BAL 8:30 PM ESPN