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- Ian's week 13 picks and thoughts

Ian Hetherington November 29, 2007
Ian Hetherington
NFL Columnist

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NFL Week 12 thoughts

Sean Taylor: What can I say that hasn't been said? Nothing. Another talented player, he'd had his problems but those who knew him have been quick to say he has improved for the better since the birth of his daughter. And so we are dealt another infuriating, tragic loss of a young man, husband and father,

3-0? How does a game even finish 3-0? We have a playoff-bound team at home against the worst the league has to offer and you win with a field goal at the end of the game? Seriously, ONE field goal?

Hester 1, Denver 0: I said last week Denver had the kickers to play Hester, and in the first half they did. Then Todd Sauerbrun lost his marbles and kicked the ball twice down the middle to Hester without the height to delay him. He gets a kick nearer the Bears half due to a post-touchdown penalty but instead of planting it through the end zone he shows his fear by squibbing it which he proceeded to do for the rest of his kicks. Oh, and those slips/dives on Hester’s returns were pretty poor too. On the subject of that game though…

Tony Scheffler’s miracle-catch: If you didn’t see it, find a highlight reel of the Denver/Chicago game and watch out for Scheffler’s touchdown. Almost horizontal he clawed the ball away from the defensive backs, it rolled down his body, he snatched it back from its descent while his body twisted, as he falls he catches the ball with his knees and then pulls it back into his hands as he falls onto the turf. Quite something and my description doesn’t do it justice.

Why I love the Eagles: Don’t worry, dear reader. My impartiality remains, I just liked what I saw of the Eagles last week because they showed a real desire to actually try and beat New England. They nearly did too. These tough games will actually make New England stronger I think, but it’s still good to see them looking like a team who can be beaten if you play them right.

G’bye, Ricky: What an anti-climax. He gets back and after a handful of plays he’s out with a torn chest muscle. Is it the beginning of the end for Ricky Williams as an NFL player?

NFL Week 13

Game predictions
***Game of the Week***
Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys
Yes, yes, it’s another “Game of the Season”, but this time it solely involves NFC teams. This is the most highly anticipated NFC non-rivalry showdown in quite some time and promises to deliver the goods. Brett Favre will pull the strings for the Pack as they take their exciting passing game to Dallas and put it to work against a patchy Dallas secondary. Dallas are solid against the run, and provided everybody plays to form they will focus their attentions on rushing Brett Favre. The key though will once again rest in the capable hands of Tony Romo who will be feeling good after a warm-up against the Jets where his running game looked pretty capable too. In the frosty surroundings of Green Bay this would be a different affair and the Packers will cause Dallas all sorts of trouble, but I think in Dallas Romo can help the ‘Boys take the home-field initiative. He’ll need to be careful though, even with Marion Barber and Julius Jones on their mind the Packers will still let Aaron Kampman loose now and then and he’ll be making sack-hungry eyes at Romo.

Atlanta Falcons vs. St. Louis Rams
Even with a subdued second half performance, the Rams weren’t far off matching my prediction by beating the Seahawks in week 12. Atlanta come off a longer break due to having played on Thanksgiving but looked so utterly uninspiring against the Colts it’s hard to find many other positives. They’ve won three games this year and they’re absolutely no better than that. The Rams season is done now but now they know they’re a team who can win games again they’ll be doing what they can to at least restore a little pride.

Buffalo Bills vs. Washington Redskins
Even in light of my correct pick that the Redskins would lose last week, I’d have picked them to beat the Bills at home anyway. Whether Joe Gibbs mentions it or not, the ‘Skins players hurting over the tragic death of Sean Taylor will likely spur them on. Buffalo have a shot, but somehow on a day when every NFL team will be bearing a tribute to Taylor the Redskins seem destined to win.

Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings
This one comes down to which of these two teams, who both appear to suffer from multiple-personality disorder this year, happens to show up on the day. If it’s Minnesota’s best rushing performance against Detroit’s best passing performance then I’d actually go for the Vikes. Starting the game by peppering them with short, wearying gains, the Vikings would later start to put in the big hits as a Lions defense tired from spending so much time on the field begins to tear at the seams.

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans
Irony is a strange thing. People complained about Vince Young not passing the ball more and allowing himself to be carried by the running game and the Titans D. Albert Haynesworth is injured, the defense is having trouble stopping people, Young is passing more (and better) but the defense is letting him down. Seems a little unfair, but that’s sport for you. Their guests, the Texans, had started to hit their stride a little before the defeat to Cleveland and will plan on using the Schaub-Johnson relationship to power them to a win over a Titans team reeling after three straight defeats. I’m inclined to agree.

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
They’ve had their blip and I suspect that until they’ve got a playoff spot in the bag, and in spite of injuries, that will be that. Jacksonville are gunning hard for a playoff spot too and being only a game behind Indianapolis in the AFC South a win here would do them the world of good in a variety of ways. Can they get it though? The answer is yes. They proved last season that when they move up a gear they’re capable of capitalizing on their strengths matching the Colts’ weaknesses. Will they? I don’t believe so. Peyton Manning is starting to make the most of his injury-riddled group of receivers again and Joseph Addai will provide the bait for the Jaguars tough run defense to bite on, letting Manning do his job.

New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
This is not a typographical error. I will always believe a team will find a way to win at least one game in a season, and against the Jets at home this is Miami’s best chance. What? Stop looking at me like that.

Update: Apparently, Miami are actually now considered favourites for this game. I know they’re playing the Jets but they’re 0-11! That’s eleven consecutive defeats? Now if they win I don’t look so good and if they lose I’ll look like a sheep that just got caught up in the Oh-My-God-The-Phins-Might-Win-One mood.

San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Quarterback crisis? What quarterback crisis? Okay, one game doesn’t make up for a bad season. In the AFC West though, San Diego are still top despite only being 6-5 in the division that keeps on giving. A trip to San Diego could be a tougher affair than first thought if the Chiefs can help Kolby Smith repeat his showing against the Raiders, but the rest of the team let him down to a degree I can’t compel myself to pick against San Diego. Still, this Chargers team in the AFC West…. Anything could happen.

Seattle Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles
I’m playing a dangerous game here, because I’m basing this decision in part on their performance against New England. Okay, if a team plays well in New England then they should be onto a good thing at home right? Wrong… perhaps. Against the Patriots the Eagles looked like they were playing as though their lives depended on it, and it was because they were playing a team expected to squash them. There’s a danger that after they ran the Patriots ragged and gave them a scare they’ll fall back down to earth with a thump. But hey, I’m an optimist.

San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers
This pick is more by default because the 49ers beat on a hapless Cardinals defensive performance last week. I just wanted to make that clear before you thought I appreciated the 49ers work or something. Of course, a few long bombs to Steve Smith could all see this highly complex analysis unravel. It’d be just like those dastardly Panthers to end their huge losing streak just in time for me picking against them.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
Either this game is too important for New Orleans to lose at home, or it’s so important that they’re going to kill off their hopes for the season with glorious failure. They’ve built a reputation out of succeeding when everybody thinks they’re done and failing when we think they’re good again. My money goes on a Garcia-controlled first quarter and a half giving the Saints the boot up the backside they need to score a touchdown before the half and take over the game from there.

Cleveland Browns vs. Arizona Cardinals
I like the Cardinals more than I feel I ought to but they keep letting teams off the hook. At 5-6, they should have beaten the 49ers twice this year but for giving them too many yards and silly turnovers, failed to punish the floundering Redskins and gave themselves an uphill battle against a poor Baltimore offense before letting the Ravens have the win with a field goal. Cleveland continue to astound people and I think many are still unwilling to really believe they are where they are. Derek Anderson is capable of going the distance with Kurt Warner and we could end up with quite the shootout on our hands. As with last week, I reckon the power option of Jamal Lewis gives Cleveland an extra edge.

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders
It’s okay, Mr Sauerbrun. No Devin Hester this week, you can make like it never happened and go back to your work without fear of putting the ball in the air. Persisting with Daunte Culpepper doesn’t look to be giving the Raiders the boost they’d hoped for and I think there’s more chance of him being shut down or out-gunned against Denver than hauling the team across the finishing line. Oakland do have a decent running game but they won’t be alone there as Denver almost turned Andre Hall into their latest hundred-yards-rushing back. Shanahan’s men have shown a propensity for shooting themselves in the foot this season but they know the division can still be won which will give them extra motivation in this game with their rivals.

New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears
If the Giants are what I think they are, two losses in three games is them getting warmed up for a repeat of last season’s troubles in the latter half of the season. Away at Chicago, Philadelphia and Buffalo. Home against Washington and New England. Some tough’uns in there and the Giants really need to knuckle down and man the defenses. Eli’s struggles are nothing to do with his personality as some have started suggesting again. Not for my money anyway, I just don’t think he’s ever going to be a top-end quarterback. Chicago are readying themselves for a tough run as well with a wildcard spot still there for the taking, and if they’re going to put a streak of wins together then the time to start doing so will be now.

Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Given my reasons for saying Cincy would lose to the Titans last week, this seems like a perfect opportunity to show I’m not a disgusting hypocrite and pick the Bengals -who pummelled Tennessee- to beat the Steelers -who beat Miami 3-0. I wish my mind worked like that, I really do.

New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
If Tom Brady was walking into an acid test against the vicious, marauding Ravens passing D of 2006 then this would be an altogether different kettle of fish. He isn’t though, so why bother with the ifs and buts? Baltimore could learn a lesson from Philly: Any team can be beatable if you box clever and play with all your heart. Close wins against the likes of Indianapolis and Philadelphia will strengthen this Patriots team, not weaken them. Should the Ravens defense regain a little swagger they still don’t have the offense to give New England any real headaches.

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