Friday, December 9, 2011

NFL Week 14 Games to Watch

Even though the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers have clinched their divisions, the remaining division races are still very much open, and even more so for the wildcard spots.  That means we’ve got a full plate of GTWs this week…

Houston Texans (9-3) @ Cincinnati Bengals (7-5) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS):  The Texans can clinch the AFC South with a win and a loss by Tennessee.  With their starting and backup quarterbacks in the infirmary, the Texans signed retired quarterback Jeff Garcia, who will be their #3 QB behind T.J. Yates and Jake Delhomme.  Yates had a decent game in the win over Atlanta last week, but the Texans want to cover all bases.

New Orleans Saints (9-3) @ Tennessee Titans (7-5) (Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, FOX):  If the Titans can beat the Saints, they will still be alive for the AFC title.  It doesn’t look likely against a rolling Saints team, but the best way to beat an explosive offense like New Orleans is to keep them off the field.  The Titans might be able to do that by giving the ball to running back Chris Johnson, who can grind out the yards while taking time off the clock.

Chicago Bears (7-5) @ Denver Broncos (7-5) (Sunday, 4:05 PM ET, FOX):  While Denver is basking in the glow of Tebow Time, Chicago is looking for any bright spots in can.  The offense is limping into Denver with their top playmakers, QB Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte, out with injuries.  On the defensive side of the ball, however, the Bears are not short on motivation.  Bears linebacker Lance Briggs was quoted this week as saying he’ll “be frickin’ pissed” if the Bears can’t stop Tebow and his read-option offense, which has been tailored for Tebow to keep him from having to rely on throwing.

Oakland Raiders (7-5) @ Green Bay Packers (12-0) (Sunday, 4:15 PM ET, CBS):  The Raiders are still in the hunt for the AFC West championship and would love nothing more than to end the Packers’ perfect season.  With the NFC North title already guaranteed, the Packers may be approaching the point in the season where they shelve plans for an undefeated season and rest their stars instead.  However, they should still be motivated to win for at least this week because their next goal is to clinch first place overall in the NFC.  A first-place finish would give them a bye in the first week of the playoffs.  Raiders QB Carson Palmer seems to have gotten settled in his new gig, and should continue to get comfy this week against the Packers’ second-worst passing defense.

New York Giants (6-6) @ (7-5) Dallas Cowboys (Sunday, 8:20 PM ET, NBC):  The race for the NFC East title has been neck-and-neck all season between these two teams, but they have yet to play each other.  That changes Sunday night with the first of two games between these clubs; the second is the last game of the season, in Week 17.  Dallas head coach Jason Garrett is under fire this week for icing his kicker, who missed what would have been the winning field goal after the ill-advised time out, and for his conservative clock management that kept his offense from getting their kicker closer to the uprights.*  These teams have similar looks right now:  both QBs have similar stats for the season; both offenses have injured players that should be coming back for this game; and both have been very average.  But, someone has to win this division, and with Washington and Philadelphia out of the picture, whoever sweeps this two-game series will take the crown.

*Click here for my post on timeouts, including a discussion of "icing" a kicker.

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