By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NFL Picks: Week Fifteen
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Welcome to the stretch drive of the NFL season. Other than the playoffs themselves, nothing is more nail biting or nerve wracking than the drive to make the playoffs.
So instead of going through all the games over the next three weeks, we’ll focus on the games that have a bearing on the postseason picture.
It’s no disrespect to the other teams, but it’s just more fun (and easier!!) for our loyal readers.
As for on the field, the season has three weeks remaining and 10 clubs are squeezed into the AFC’s playoff picture. The Titans (12-1) are the only team among the 16 AFC clubs to have clinched a playoff berth, securing the AFC South title and a first-round bye last week.
They can take home field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win on Sunday. Pittsburgh (10-3) and Denver (8-5) have the opportunity to clinch division titles this week and Indianapolis (9-4) and Baltimore (9-4) are both on the cusp of earning playoff berths.
The Jets (8-5), New England (8-5) and Miami (8-5) are battling for the AFC East title and San Diego (5-8) also aims for the AFC West crown.
In the NFC, 12 teams are still alive for a playoff berth. Two teams — the Cardinals and Giants — have clinched division crowns. Big Blue (11-2) can secure a first-round bye this weekend.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
Tennessee rookie running back Chris Johnson (1,094) currently ranks second in the AFC in rushing, while Houston’s Steve Slaton (1,024) is third. Both have an opportunity this season to join a rare list of nine rookie running backs who rushed for 1,000 yards while maintaining an average of 5.0 yards per carry or better. Slaton (5.0 average) and Johnson (4.9 average) have each eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark already.
What player has the most consecutive 100 reception seasons in NFL history?
A. Marvin Harrison B. Jerry Rice C. Herman Moore D. Sterling Sharpe
(The answer comes at the end of this column).
LAST WEEK: 11-4 (125-80-1 overall)
For our last week of picking all the games, we went out in style posting back-to-back double-digit win weeks. I just wish I had went with my gut and took the Niners over the Fighting Manginis. We did warn you about the Panthers, Steelers, Eagles, and Bears.
STEELERS at RAVENS
The NFL’s top two defenses will square off this weekend when No. 1 Pittsburgh (241.9) visits No. 2 Baltimore (253.4) in a big AFC North match up. When they last met back in September (a 23-30 OT win by Pittsburgh), there was the usual hard hits, jawing, and all that good stuff. Like a former player once related to me, this is looking like a “three ambulance” game — two at the game and one waiting. When you consider the fact that these two teams have combined to win six of the seven AFC North titles since 2002, one gets the feeling that there’s a third part to this story. As for Part Two, despite the Steelers’ winning streak, we’ll go with the home team.
BUCCANEERS at FALCONS
Just as they’re trying to get the remains of Monday’s whuppin’ in Carolina out of their psyche, Tampa must travel to Dixie to take on the Dirty Birds. Atlanta will also be in an ornery mood following their tough loss to New Orleans. Like the previous match up, Sunday’s road team won the previous meeting. In the 24-9 loss, Atlanta was held to a season-low 234 total yards and Matt Ryan tossed two picks and no TDs. I know the Tampa D usually doesn’t play two bad games in a row, but I get the feeling that Atlanta’s not quite ready to go home yet.
VIKINGS at CARDINALS
As was previously mentioned, Arizona finally got the whole division crown thing all wrapped up. As for the Purple Gang, they literally got outta Dodge just in time last week to beat the Boys from Detroit. It was really nice to see Tavaris Jackson help rally Minnesota in their biggest game of the year. TJ will be under center again this week and I think he’ll have a better opportunity to show himself. We’re not saying that the Cards will be laying down, I just think that the Vikes’ D will be able to handle them.
GIANTS at COWBOYS
Ouestion: If the whole Plaxico Burress affair was a distraction, why didn’t Big Blue lose at Washington? Just a thought. As for this week, New York gets set to take on a team that is in full free fall on and off the field. From Agent Romo’s best Drew Bledsoe impersonation to JJ’s cowardly character assassination of Marion Barber, it appears that the star on Dallas’ helmet should be replaced by a picture of the nearest zoo in Irving. Talk about distractions. Can they right the ship? Sure, but not this week.
BROWNS at EAGLES
Now that the Iggles have somewhat survived their “week of chaos”, the playoff chase is still within grasp. And there’s nothing like hosting a team that just trying to stay above water. However as we’ve seen at various times during the end of the year, this can also be the type of team that can bite you in the butt. Just ask the Packers about the Texans. The only difference here is that I don’t get the feeling that there’s any bite left in this Cleveland bunch.
A. From 1999 to 2002, Indianapolis’ Marvin Harrison had an NFL-record four straight seasons of 100 or more catches. Jerry Rice (1994-96) and Herman Moore (1995-97) did for three straight seasons.