Apple Picking

Week 12

Last Week: 12-2

Season Record: 108-52

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!  And then after that we are stuck with only one game featuring two teams over .500.  So move your TV into the kitchen while you cook, put the feasting table in the same room as the TV for your big meal, and fight off the tryptophan in front of the tube, because it won’t be worth watching much on Sunday.

Green Bay Packers (10-0) @ Detroit Lions (7-3)

It’s all happening again.  I don’t know about all you other football fans, but I’ve seen this game before.  The 10-0 Packers.  Green Bay the defending champs.  Thanksgiving Day.  It’s all coming back… YES!  1962!  Green Bay came into that season’s Thanksgiving Day match up as the defending NFL Champions (Pre-Super Bowl) and the Lions gave the Pack their one and only loss of an otherwise perfect season.  To make Packer fans feel a little better, that game took place in a stadium that got knocked down and there is an Eminem music video to prove it.  Even though Tiger Stadium is gone, this group of Lions is pretty talented.  They did need a lot of offense to overcome the Carolina Panthers last week, offense they will need to overcome the Packers on Turkey Day.  Green Bay had a little trouble with the Bucs at home last week, and the offense had to bail them out again on what Aaron Rodgers described as a “bad day.”  Wish I had bad days like that.  Detroit has had 34 bad Thanksgiving Days, with only 33 good ones (and two ties).

They will have themselves a good day this year.  It ends Thursday.  Green Bay loses 38-35

Miami Dolphins (3-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-4)

It’s harder to get streakier than the Dolphins.  Their record tells you the two streaks they’ve had this season.  Seven losses that were mostly competitive with few exceptions.  That was followed by three wins where the average margin of victory was 22 points.  They haven’t lost by 22 points this whole season.  Now, all three teams they beat are either bad or on the downswing in their season.  It also helps that two of those games were on South Beach.  For those ‘Phin fans who are ticked about Andrew Luck not wearing Aqua next season, there’s the tiniest of chances they have solved their quarterback problem for now.  Matt Moore has been pretty hot these last three games, including having 147.5 quarterback rating against the Chiefs and a 133.3 rating against the Bills this last week.  He may not be the long-term answer, but he can get them through the next couple years while the new guy is groomed.

Wait, its happening again.  Dallas and Miami.  Thanksgiving.  A Big Cat.  (Cowboy fans are gonna want to punch me in a second.)  1993.  The Cowboys block a field goal near the end of the game.  There SNOW way the fates would Lett Dallas lose now, is there?  For those that can’t get to the video, Dallas did eventually lose because of Leon “Big Cat” Lett screwed it up.

Leon Lett isn’t sliding through that door, but a bad outing from Tony Romo is.  Miami in an upset 24-21

Jim Harbaugh (9-1) @ John Harbaugh (7-3)

Ok, ok, it’s San Fran @ Baltimore, but people are talking so much about the first time brothers have coached against each other in the NFL it might as well be the Jim’s versus the John’s.  Jim has figured this NFL thing out quickly, losing only one game since he joined the 9ers, and that was in overtime.  His football team has just found ways to win.  As we discussed last week, they can run the ball and they can stop the run, which is a good thing.  There are three studs on defense that really have made it tough on teams to move the ball.  Justin Smith has gotten his name mentioned in MVP talks, NaVorro Bowman is trying really hard to become a household name and Patrick Willis already is a household name.

Baltimore is the team no one can get a grasp on for whatever reason.  Maybe the lockout messed with something in their preparation.  Maybe they are getting all their “off days” out of the way before the postseason starts.  Whatever the case, they needed three interceptions of Andy Dalton and a questionable touchdown reversal to hold off the upstarts from Cincinnati last week.  The win did spring them into first place in the AFC North, however ugly and Ray Lewisless it may have been.  To keep their perch they must protect home field after a big divisional win, something they have yet to prove they can do.

And they still can’t do it.  Jim beats John by a hair 28-20

Minnesota Vikings (2-8) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-4)

The Purple Norsemen enter the Falcons nest still a little wounded.  They were pillaged by some Raiders from Oakland last week with quarterback Christian Ponder taking the biggest hit as the rookie threw half of his season total of six interceptions.  The good news is he was the team’s leading rusher with 71 yards on five carries.  He is going to need to have that kind of effect on the running game again as Adrian Peterson’s sprained left ankle is likely to keep him out of action against the Dirty Birds.

Atlanta has strung together a solid six-week stretch, going 4-1 with a bye.  Their only loss was costly as it was in the division, but compared to the way they had been playing at the beginning of the season when they nearly let the Seahawks beat them, a three-point loss in overtime to the division leading Saints doesn’t look as bad now.  Last week may have been their ugliest game in the stretch though as they let rookie Jake Locker (Yeah Jake!) lead the Titans on two touchdown drives in relief of the injured Matt Hasselbeck to make it interesting late.  Atlanta has to travel to Houston next week, so feeding on the untalented Viking team minus it’s best player is something they must do to keep pace with New Orleans in the NFC South.

They will protect their house, beat Minny 31-14

Cleveland Browns (4-6) @ Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

Cleveland got a much-needed win at home last week over another struggling team in the person of Jacksonville.  The win killed a three game losing streak in which they averaged 11.3 points per game.  They blew THAT average out of the water by almost a field goal by scoring 14 points.  It was enough for the W though, bringing their record to 4-6. (the same as the Eagles who some fans think could still reach the playoffs by the way.)  The Eagles have shown the ability to score more than 20 points a game this season though, something the Browns have only accomplished against the putrid Colts.  Take out the Indy game, where they scored 27 points, the Browns have averaged 13.1 points per game this season.  By the way, the Colts D is 29th in the league and without their two best defenders in Gary Brackett and Melvin Bullitt.

Not often you come off a week in which the Browns won and the Bengals lost, but this is one such week.  While you can blame Andy Dalton for his three picks, you can’t blame him in the 4th quarter when he brought his Queen City Kitties clawing back against the North leading Ravens in Baltimore.  Were Jermaine Gresham’s touchdown actually ruled a touchdown we might be having a much different conversation about Cincy this week.  As it is, they are back in the Tiger Den hosting the team named for the name of their stadium. (Weird, but true in a roundabout way) The only thing scary for Dalton this week is the Browns are ranked first in stopping the pass, so they may be able to up his interception total if he’s lazy with the ball.

Tigers love pepper.  Remember that as they enjoy some home cooked Brown steak 28-17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) @ Tennessee Titans (5-5)

The Bucs make about as much sense as the song Better With the Lights Off.  What guy in his right mind is going to tell that to a lady and expect that she WON’T take it the wrong way?  How is there a RIGHT way to take it?  Maybe that she is so hot and the guy wants to, hmm, how to say this, make Missy Elliot happy…(If you can’t get to the video, this will make no sense)  Might I also point out the irony that Chris Brown is part of a song requesting no lights, while his ex-girlfriend Rihanna is part of a song where she wants the lights on extra bright?  Do with that what you will.  But I digress.  Let’s just say I don’t know what to do with a team that is destroyed by the 49ers one week, then beats the Saints the next, only to lose the four games since the Saints win.  .

Tennessee finishes a three-week stretch in which they see three-fourths of the NFC South.  They are 1-1 so far in those games, with the loss being in Atlanta with rookie quarterback Jake Locker (I know I said this earlier, but Yeah Jake!) throwing two touchdown passes to Nate WASHINGTON (Loving the irony there) to make it a game late.  It looks like Matt Hasselbeck will be back this week to wreak havoc on the Tampa secondary.  Good thing too, because Chris Johnson continues his dread(on purpose)ful season.  He had 13 yards on 12 carries against Atlanta.  Jake Locker had 11 yards on one carry.  Matt Hasselbeck had 17 yards on one carry.  CJ has some work to do.

Tampa’s defense hasn’t stopped much, but it will also stop CJ and the Titans 21-20

Carolina Panthers (2-8) @ Indianapolis Colts (0-10)

Carolina has to be the most exciting team with two wins in the history of the NFL.  Ok, Ok, there’s no possible way to know that, but six of their ten games have been decided by one score, but five of those were losses.  Their offense has scored less than 20 points only three times, and one of those was a win.  They are the anti-Browns in many ways, but have managed two less wins.  You’ve got to think they will be looking to upgrade the defense this offseason.

What else can you say about the Colts?

Nothing.  They get smashed at home 35-0

Arizona Cardinals (3-7) @ St. Louis Rams (2-8)

It is like the consolation matchup in the NFC West after last weekends “preliminaries.”  The Cardinals actually managed to keep their game in San Francisco closer than the Rams could at home against the Seahawks.  Fine, it was 23-7 in San Fran compared to 24-7 in St. Louie, but Arizona has been playing a little better since John Skelton has taken over as the starting quarterback for the injured Kevin Kolb.  He is 2-1 with wins over the Eagles in Philly and this Ram team in Arizona.  It shouldn’t be hung on him too bad that he lost to the second best team in the NFC as far as record is concerned.  St. Louis may have officially talked to Dido about a White Flag after last week.  The Hawks are not a terrible team, but to have them storm into St. Louis and rock them after St. Louis gets two early picks for themselves sent a message that these Rams are done.  Arizona has a blueprint to beat St. Louis after beating them Week 9, which only makes things Ram Tougher.

The Cardinals still rule St. Louis, 17-10

Buffalo Bills (5-5) @ New York Jets (5-5)

This is the “Loser Out Bowl” in the AFC East.  Buffalo’s fun story has one last-ditch effort to stay alive after being put on life support the last three games, including a loss at home to these Jets.  Most unnerving for hopeful Bills fans is the 35-8 loss to the Dolphins last week.  While winning in Miami against a heating up Dolphin team would have been tough, getting destroyed by them is another thing altogether.  The Bills have averaged just under 9 points in each of the last three games and Ryan Fitzpatrick has “big contractitis” since signing his extension.

New York is fresh off getting Tebowed.  For 58 minutes they made him look like the bad pro quarterback he likely is.  The problem is the Jet offense couldn’t create any separation from Denver, and they left the door open for a miracle comeback.  Now Rex Ryan’s preseason Super Bowl favorite sits at .500 with the prospect of their season slipping away completely.  Both of these teams need this game more than the other (did that just blow your mind?) or else they’ll be planning for the 2012 draft earlier than they wanted to.

Jets eke out an ugly win 13-10

Houston Texans (7-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)

In what should have been one of the most frustrating bye weeks for any NFL teams, fate smiled on the Texans just a bit.  Sure, they lost their starting quarterback for the season and their fate is now in the hands of first round flop Matt Leinart.  There’s no more, losing your franchise quarterback in a season where the division is yours just shouts “Texan Luck” like few other things.  Being a Cleveland football fan, I understand the frustrating plight of a Houston football fan better than most.  At least they have a core of awesome players that put fear in opposing teams to build around.  And this week every other team in the AFC South is coming off losses (even the Colts!) so they actually gained ground while half the team sat in their hospital beds.   So they have that going for them, which is nice.  I actually have more faith in Leinart than others do.  He is in an offense he is comfortable in, has a two game lead, a running game, and one of the three best receivers in the game coming back soon.  (Though having Larry Fitzgerald in Arizona didn’t help much)

Jacksonville managed only ten points in Cleveland against a team ranked 29th against the run.  Yes it was on the road, but that was a golden opportunity for the Jags to grab a win, and letting the win slip away made it that much harder for Jack Del Rio to keep his job past this season.  There are still a couple winnable games left on the schedule, but not enough to get this team back to the playoffs.

This is NOT one of the winnable games.  Houston 31-10

Chicago Bears (7-3) @ Oakland Raiders (6-4)

Welcome to the Caleb Hanie show!!  Our last episode featured the former Ram of Colorado State relieving starter Jay Cutler in last season’s NFC Championship game against the Packers.  There, our hero threw two passes that turned into touchdowns!  Sadly, only one of those touchdowns were for his Bear team as he was picked off by BJ Raji and returned for a touchdown (BJ Raji!).  Now watch as the Bears playoff hopes ride on Hanie’s back!  (Note: this episode of the Caleb Hanie show will not be seen if it is preempted by the return of the Kyle Orton Show in Chicago)

Speaking of new quarterbacks, Carson Palmer is starting to look less and less new with each passing week.  He is 2-1 as a starter (remember, even though he threw three picks against Kansas City, he came off the bench.) and is figuring things out with his receivers.  With the Chargers seemingly falling out of contention, Denver set up for a fall when teams figure out that they just need to score 20 points to beat them, and Kansas City way to beat up to hope to contend, the division looks to be Oakland’s to lose.

They will start by winning this game over the Hanie (or Orton) Show 24-21

Washington Redskins (3-7) @ Seattle Seahawks (4-6)

So with Rex Grossman back as the starter, am I done doing Beck jokes?  Hell Yes!  Ok NOOOOOWW I’m done doing Beck jokes.  Washington’s quarterback situation is a joke right now along with just about every other part of their team.  It wasn’t that funny to the Dallas Cowboys last week though as Washington rallied enough that they forced overtime and had the winning field goal lined up until it was Grahm GaNO GOOD!  Dallas got the ball back and promptly drove for the winning points.  Their sails officially windless, Washington now flies across the country to take on a downright hot Seattle team.

Winning two in a row feels great at any level of football.  Add to that they have done it against the Baltimore Ravens and then on the road and the two game win streak feels about as good as a guy feels when he actually does what the song says and Grabs Somebody Sexy and tells ‘em “HEY!  Give me everything tonight!”  (Sadly, Neyo never says what a guy should say AFTER “Give me everything tonight” and the dance gets a little awkward.)  The Hawks haven’t gotten to that point of the night yet though and with the Redskins coming to town, the defense has to be thinking that holding Washington out of the end zone is a legit goal.  Now they just need the offense to do their part and maybe turn the quarterbacking duties over to Sydney Rice.

No matter who quarterbacks the Hawks, they keep the Skins out of the end zone on D 21-3

New England Patriots (7-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)

This had to be a game that networks were considering for Sunday Night or Monday Night at the beginning of the season.  Now the networks are breathing a collective sigh of relief that they didn’t give this game one of the marquee time slots.  New England has lived up to their normal hype and separating themselves from the rest of the AFC East, turning that division into a battle for second place.  Their Achilles heel continues to be their defense.  They only surrendered three points to Kansas City last Monday Night, but they let former California Redwook cutee Tyler Palko throw for 236 yards.  Yes, they picked him off thrice, but they’re gonna have to watch themselves against whoever the Eagles jog out there as they will be oodles better than Palko.

Whoever indeed.  It might be Michael Vick and his busted ribs.  It might be Vince Young and his funky sidearm delivery.  It might be Mike Kaf… no it won’t be Mike Kafka.  Either way, it will be a team coming off a stirring victory over division rival New York.  The win even has some fans thinking the Eagles still have a shot at the playoffs (but you’ll have to go back and read the Browns section Eagle fan reader.  I have to drive people who skip to their favorite team to the Browns section SOMEhow.  I can’t even show Browns cheerleader photos.  They don’t have cheerleaders.  That poor organization.  Cleveland deserves so much better.)

New England knocks some sense into those fans, and flips the Eagles out of the “playoff picture” 31-24 (Note: I went from 10 points for the Eagles, to 14, to 20, to 24.  I just can’t trust that New England defense against the best rushing team in the league.)

Denver Broncos (5-5) @ San Diego Chargers (4-6)

This could be the “Man I Feel Sorry For THAT Guy” Bowl.  I know Tim Tebow rubs some people the wrong way.  Jake Plummer can only handle so much Bible thumping.  John “Horseface” Elway doesn’t see Tebow as the quarterback of the future in Denver, but he has more of a future than Kyle Orton.  It’s ugly, its unorthodox, it makes NFL purists cringe, but the man is 4-1 as starter this year.  With exception of the Raider game, if the defense keeps the opposition under 20 points, Denver can Tebow them with a late score.  It even makes this born Bronco hater (Hawk/Brown) not be that unhappy to see Tebow succeed.  Yet the man can’t get a positive shake from anybody.  He seems to use it to fuel him, which can only mean bad things for the rest of the league, at least for a few weeks.

Poor poor Takeo Spikes.  It finally looks as if he’s joined a team that couldn’t miss the playoffs if they tried.  Now, not only are they trying to miss the playoffs, they are looking like they will succeed, while his former 49er mates may earn themselves a first round bye from the playoffs.  In 12 years in the league, Spikes has managed to miss the playoffs the whole time, and suddenly this season looks like it will be 13.  San Diego’s last win came against these same Broncos.  Wait, no, it was not against the Tebows, so they have no idea what’s coming at them in the South West.

The Chargers won’t lose six in a row though, just scoring enough to hold of a Tebow 21-17

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (4-6)

I can hear it now.  “Cutler and Roethlisberger each have a broken thumb, and Cutler is sitting for the season while Ben is manning up and playing!”  Not fair, but there are people out there who won’t see that Ben is a freak of nature compared to most (and it’s not exactly the same injury).  Tackling him is like tackling a tree with legs.  His thumb will be fine.  It just had a week off from being hit with the Steelers bye week, and some will argue it has another week off as the Steelers will travel to Kansas City for a game.

Tyler Palko tried.  But when he couldn’t put up more than three points against a defense as weak as the Patriots (gosh it’s weird to type the words “weak” and “Patriots” in the same sentence) he didn’t try hard enough.  He still put up over 200 yards, which is pretty good since he hasn’t thrown an active pass in years.   Now, like a Trekki, he has to figure out how to score.  Here’s the Pittsburgh defense.  Good luck.

Pitt rips the former Panther and the Steelers romp 35-9

New York Giants (6-4) @ New Orleans Saints (7-3)

And we finally get there!  After waiting almost four whole days, we finally get to the third game featuring two teams with winning records!  Monday Night gets a good game before having back to back games (Chargers @ Jags, Rams @ Hawks) in which the best they can do is one of the four teams being at .500 (and that would be if the Hawks beat Washington and Philly).  New York comes in having missed a major opportunity to put the Cowboys way behind them.  Philly flew in with their backup quarterback and did enough to beat the surprised Giants.  That’s two losses in a row for the G-Men, who are going to need to win to keep pace with the Cowboys.  (Unless the Dolphins help them, and me, out.)

New Orleans comes out of their bye week with Atlanta still sniffing at their hindquarters, but not close enough to really be worried yet.  Obviously they have one of the tougher games of the Sunday as they must play a team that has won more than they have lost, but they have shown that the teams that really have a better chance of beating them are under .500 teams on the road.  Only Green Bay, who needed a late goal line stand at the gun to beat New Orleans, is still above .500.  New York doesn’t stand a chance.

Ok,  they do stand a chance, but not a big one.  New Orleans 31-24

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