The NFL’s late afternoon games this Sunday offer a good competitive mix, with the lone potential stinker being the Sunday night game that still offers hope as a divisional rivalry game.
Everybody needs to be prepared for Monday night, though. It should be the kind of game for which prime time was invented.
After putting an 8-5 Week 12 in the calculator, the prediction record on the season has inched up to the .600 mark based on a cumulative total of 105-70. Both of those totals are minus last week’s Packers-Vikings tie that gets thrown out because, unlike the NFL, we don’t calculate on the basis of half-wins.
Falcons at Bills - It’s a sad situation in Atlanta as we again say “So long, and thanks for the memories!” to Tony Gonzalez, whose Hall of Fame career really deserved an exclamation point. (At least Dan Marino got to play for a championship.)
Buffalo clings to slim playoff hopes, but their timing couldn’t be worse. For this is the Bills annual “Home Away From Home” game across Lake Ontario in Toronto. Atlanta has an “indoor” offense and without the advantage of having a cold weather game at their backs, the Buffalo defense is going to be put to the test by a team with nothing left to play for but pride after losing five straight.
Still, the “home” team is coming off a bye week, so it’s hardly likely that a patched-together unit like the Falcons’ defense is going to keep the Bills from scoring. It just doesn’t add up to enough when Matt Ryan still has plenty of targets downfield.
Rams at 49ers - St. Louis is beginning to unleash some explosive tendencies on offense and a pretty studly presence on defense. Coach Jeff Fisher is finally beginning to bear some fruit from his labors these past two years. His stamp of fearless determination is getting embossed on these guys.
But there are still too many holes and too much inexperience on offense to expect the Rams to hit the road with a lot of success against a defense like the Niners. Provided San Francisco doesn’t get itself into trouble with some turnover fiasco or special teams foibles, the outcome should be close but expect another home team win in their divisional rivalry series.
Broncos at Chiefs - Recent losses by these two demoted this game into second place for Game of the Week honors. It’s still likely to be a dandy, but key injuries to the Kansas City defense last week has to give the advantage to the visitors.
Without the critical members of their pressure defense and an effective blitz package, the Chiefs will not knock Peyton Manning off his spot. You simply cannot beat him with coverage schemes. He beats you with them. The way to beat Manning is to literally beat him.
Arrowhead Stadium is every bit as intimidating an environment as that weird arena contraption in Seattle. It’s not a consequence of acoustic design, but an expression of full-throated fury that’s 76,000 voices strong.
Never underestimate the 12th man, but don’t overvalue him either because he never made a play in his life.
Bengals at Chargers - Cincinnati has a two-game lead in the division and as an added bonus their nearest competitors face each other this week. But this is a team that just cannot ever get comfortable.
Every time they think they are in a good place you might as well call it the henhouse because they go lay an egg.
The Bengals’ defense has to take the lead here because if San Diego gets into its groove, the offense will press and show its immaturity. It’s time now for Andy Dalton to graduate, but Philip Rivers is proctoring the exam. The Chargers are explosive, motivated and ready for a home stretch of four out of their last five.
If the Bengals come through here it just might be worth believing they have something really good going on together because they would actually have valid reasons to believe it themselves. So far, they have not proven to be a “grace under pressure” team away from home.
At Paul Brown Stadium, they are a perfect 5-0 with signature wins over the Packers and the Patriots. The stripes seem to fall off when they hit the road, as their 2-4 record there attests, with three of those losses being of the overtime variety. So they are very close, but we all know when that ever counts for something.
At this point, take the home team, but hang on. It could be a very fast and bumpy ride around the barnyard.
Giants at Redskins - Altogether now: “Playing out the string. Playing out the string. We shall go reclining, playing out the string.” (Somehow a Salvation Army theme seems apt for this.)
What’s really left to do? Pity Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan for the preparation work they are facing for another five weeks amongst a begrudging group of dejected souls who probably won’t even bother to pick each other up after the whistles blow.
NBC’s Sunday Night ratings take another huge hit from The Walking Dead (and I’m not just referring to that zombie show on AMC). Might as well take New York since Washington can’t even score now.
Saints at Seahawks - Before Seattle begins to fray at the edges in December, they should have one last spectacular to share with us before being forcibly pulled off the stage. For this week at least take the Seahawks, but if you’re playing the spread beware.
On the horizon is the coming decimation of the heart of Seattle’s defense - its bruising secondary. Brandon Browner is about to be suspended for a year for yet another substance abuse violation. Walter Thurmond has decided to drop his appeal of a four-game suspension for, yes folks, a substance abuse violation, meaning he might be back for playoff time.
These party boys need to get their heads on straight, and probably will someday in another town.
Fortunately (I suppose for somebody) Richard Sherman’s suspension for violating the league’s performance enhancing drug policy was dropped because of a leaky sample container in the lab, but everyone knows and believes he has been cheating so we can just wait for another shoe to drop fairly soon.
Seattle may actually have a viable replacement plan for these guys, but high quality professional football talent is hardly ever hiding in the wings waiting to be discovered.