Week 15 Cheat Sheet
Week 14 saw a Brandon Marshall record-breaking performance, yet
another eye-opening day out of Chris Johnson, and Day One of the
Keith Null era in St. Louis. New Orleans and Indy each improved to
13-0, Randy Moss and the Giants’ defense took days off, and the
Jets and Dolphins won big road games in Florida. What’s in
store for Week 15?
Let’s dig in to this week’s Cheat Sheet:
Indianapolis at Jacksonville: The Colts have now
won an NFL-record 22 straight regular-season games. Last season,
had San Diego not A) been given the home field despite winning four
fewer games than Indy last year, or B) won the overtime coin toss
in that playoff game, we could very well be looking at a 13-0 Indy
team riding a 25-game win streak and looking to defend a second
Super Bowl crown in three years. But that’s neither here nor
there. No reason to look at the past; just the future. And that
future? Well, it’s 14-0.
Colts 27, Jaguars 16
New Orleans at Dallas: Sean Payton was an
assistant in Dallas under Bill Parcells from 2003-05. Think Dallas
fans would take him as an offensive coordinator this year? Perhaps.
At 35.8 points per game, New Orleans scores more than any other
team in the NFL. Dallas, meanwhile, continues to struggle in
December. Ah, December. What’d the Counting Crows sing?
“It’s been a long December?” Hell yes, it has.
And yes, that was indeed a Counting Crows reference. Dallas is 5-10
in games played during the calendar year’s 12th month since
2007. The ‘Boys’ December woes continue for another
week. Almost makes you feel bad for Mr. Jones. (Another Counting
Crows reference … I’m sorry.)
Saints 42, Cowboys 31
Sunday 1 p.m. ET games
Chicago at Baltimore: Jay Cutler has 3,023 yards
and is just the fifth Bears quarterback to reach the 3,000-yard
mark in a season. He also happens to lead the league in
interceptions with 22, and has been one of the greatest
disappointments of the season. Baltimore, meanwhile, still has a
playoff pulse. Look for another big day out of Ray Rice, another
big day out of Billy Cundiff and another maddening day of mayhem
for Jay Cutler in Charm City.
Ravens 26, Bears 13
New England at Buffalo: Gimme Fewell, Gimme Fire!
Another win for the Bills last week in a surprisingly exciting game
out in Kansas City. New England’s win over Carolina,
meanwhile, was anything but inspiring. Randy Moss gave up, the
offense sputtered and the Pats escaped a near home loss to a guy
named Matt Moore. If there was some sort of economic model or
scientific PowerPoint chart to show these two teams right now,
Buffalo would be peaking and New England would be sinking.
Let’s make things interesting in the AFC East. Give me the
up-and-coming Bills in an upset at home.
Bills 30, Patriots 24
Arizona at Detroit: With a win, Arizona clinches
the NFC West and back-to-back division titles for the first time
since 1974-75. Kurt Warner has 97 TD passes with Arizona and needs
just three more to join Fran Tarkenton (Vikings and Giants) as the
only two players in NFL history with 100+ TD passes with two
different teams (102 with St. Louis). Warner should get those three
in the first half on Sunday.
Cardinals 42, Lions 17
Cleveland at Kansas City: Eric Mangini is 2-0
against the Chiefs all-time. Yes, Eric Mangini has a winning record
against a team. Amazing, I know. Say what you want about the state
of Cleveland Browns football, the team put together an impressive
performance last Thursday night vs. the defending champs. Mike
Furrey was playing receiver and defense, undrafted free agent Chris
Jennings scored his first touchdown, and some guy named Evan Moore
made you ask, “Kellen Who?” I loved what I saw out of
the Browns last week. I loved them so much, I think they’ll
lose by only three touchdowns this weekend at Arrowhead.
The Pick: Chiefs 38, Browns 17
Atlanta at New York Jets: Ask any longtime fan of
Gang Green, and they’ll tell you — these are the exact
types of games the Jets lose. Just when you start looking ahead to
Indianapolis and the prospect of an AFC East division title or a
wild-card berth, the Jets lose a game at home to a team
that’s already all but eliminated from the playoff race.
Whether it’s Chris Redman or Matt Ryan, I think Atlanta finds
a way on the road on Sunday.
Falcons 23, Jets 9
San Francisco at Philadelphia: This Eagles offense
is downright scary. The most horrifying part? Brent Celek, Jeremy
Maclin, LeSean McCoy, and DeSean Jackson — Philly’s top
four playmakers — are all under 24. I liked what I saw out of
San Fran’s young foursome —
Smith-Gore-Crabtree-Davis but just can’t see Philly
losing this one at the Linc.
Eagles 24, 49ers 16
Houston at St. Louis: The Keith Null Era has begun
in St. Louis! Hide the women and children. The 2009 sixth-round
draft pick out of mighty West Texas A&M threw five
interceptions in his first career start and the Rams lost 47-7.
Null’s college position coach? None other than Ryan Leaf.
Would it be OK for the Rams to have multiple first-round picks next
April? Like seven or eight. They need them. Houston wins easily.
Texans 34, Rams 13
Miami at Tennessee: Forget all the Chris Johnson
stats for a moment. Ricky Williams needs just 25 rushing yards to
set the NFL record for longest span between 1,000-yard seasons. The
last time Ricky broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark was 2003. As for
Mr. Johnson, well, he’s pretty good, huh? The second-year
back out of East Carolina needs 72 rushing yards to surpass Hall of
Famer Earl Campbell (1,697 in ’79) for second-most rushing
yards in a season in Oilers/Titans franchise history. Johnson also
leads the NFL with a franchise-record 2,017 scrimmage yards (1,626
rush, 391 rec.). This one should be a dandy in the Music City. In
one of the games of the year, give me the home squad on a Rod
Bironas overtime field goal.
Titans 33, Dolphins 30
Sunday 4 p.m. ET games
Oakland at Denver: Before we just give this one to
the Broncos, let’s take a second to acknowledge that the
Raiders are 18-5 vs. the Broncos in December. OK, who am I kidding?
The Raiders team that took the field last week vs. the Redskins
couldn’t beat a high school JV squad. Kyle Orton appears to
be the real deal. The former Bears gunslinger is 4-1 at home this
year for Denver. But the real strength of the 2009 Broncos is the
defense. Ranked third in the league and made up of a motley crew of
big-name veterans (Brian Dawkins, D.J. Williams and Champ Bailey)
and unsung heroes (Darrell Reid, Elvis Dumervil, Marcus Thomas,
Andre Goodman), they could end up giving a conference favorite fits
Broncos 23, Raiders 10
Cincinnati at San Diego: The last time these two
teams played, San Diego scored 42 second-half points to beat Cincy
49-41 in 2006. It was one of the wildest games of the decade.
Don’t expect that many points in this one; the defenses are
just too good. With a first-round bye potentially in the balance,
look for the red-hot Chargers to get the job done in their
building. Want a good stat? Philip Rivers is 16-0 all-time as a
starter in December. Make it 17-0 and notch the ‘Bolts down
for a week off in early January.
Chargers 24, Bengals 20
Green Bay at Pittsburgh: There was a moment last
Thursday night, probably sometime between a Josh Cribbs 20-yard run
and one of the eight times Ben Roethlisberger was sacked by a
Browns player who wasn’t close to being on an NFL roster last
season, where I received a text message from my Steelers fan friend
that read: “NFL Draft … Who are some of the offensive
linemen I should be researching?” I gave him the names
— Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Mike Iupati, and Mike
Johnson. Yep, it’s gotten to that point. The fans of the
defending champions are Googling Mike Iupati, a guard from Idaho.
Even on the road, I can’t see red-hot Green Bay losing to the
squad I’ve been watching over the past four weeks in
The Pick: Packers 31, Steelers 21
Tampa Bay at Seattle: If you had a quarterback on
your roster who was 1-0 and another who was 0-12, would you not
start the former? If your team was 1-0 when they practiced just
four days a week and 0-12 when they practiced five, would you not
cut back the practice schedule? Of course you would. So why are the
Buccaneers — 0-12 in that hideous pewter and 1-0 in those
beautiful Creamsicle uniforms — still wearing those ugly
new-age silverish costumes? Bring back the Creamsicles, Tampa!
Bring back the Creamsicles! Until then, you’ll continue to
lose. Even to the Seahawks.
The Pick: Seahawks 31, Buccaneers 17
Minnesota at Carolina: Back in August I would have
circled this as one of the top games of the year. Now? It’s a
good night to catch up on “The Simpsons,” perhaps read a book or
maybe do a little online holiday shopping. Carolina’s done
for the year. Depending on what New Orleans does on Saturday night,
Minnesota may be looking to take the foot off the pedal a bit, too.
Brett Favre needs three touchdown passes to have 30+ TD passes in a
season for the ninth time. No other quarterback’s done that.
He also wears Wranglers, has a lot of fun when he plays football,
and loves the darn game.
The Pick: Vikings 27, Panthers 20
New York Giants at Washington: Courtesy of Dan
Steinberg at the
Washington Post, I present you Clinton Portis on Tiger
Woods: “I say don’t get married, if it’s not out of your system.
I’m not married. You know, I would love to be able to say, I’m a
perfect guy, yeah, baby, yeah. I’m not. You know, I may have
temptations. If I find the temptation worth fulfilling, I’m gonna
fulfill my temptation. If that ends up getting me in trouble at
times, you know, I’ll deal with it then. But right now I’m not
married, and I’m 28 years old, and I’m gonna enjoy my life … If
he could keep that a secret and ain’t nobody came out and told [on
him], hey, congratulate him. You know, most of the time there’s one
or two, and you can’t keep that a secret. So if he can balance 14
and keep it a secret, congrats.” I’m not surprised a guy named
Clinton would get Tiger’s back. Thank you! I’ll be here all week.
The Pick: Redskins 27, Giants 23
Reader E-Mail of the Week
With Thomas Jones now well over 1,000 yards for the fifth
year in a row, I’ve got to throw the idea out there —
is he an NFL Hall of Famer?
Phineas, New York City
First off, I love your name. A “Separate Peace”
reference, I assume? That’s my favorite John Knowles book. It
also happens to be the only John Knowles book I’ve read. I
also love your question. My first instinct is to chuckle heartily
and immediately dismiss the idea, but the more I look at the
numbers, the more I’m intrigued by the sound of “Thomas
Jones, NFL Hall of Famer.”
I look at the Hall of Fame in terms of generations. Based on
the numbers and previous inductees, you’ve got to think 5-6
running backs per decade will be elected to the Hall. Marshall
Faulk, Emmitt Smith and LaDainian Tomlinson are already locks for
Other recent retirees in the NFL’s top 12 all-time
rushing list include Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis. I think both
have a very strong chance of ending up in Canton. Behind them?
It’s guys like Edgerrin James, Shaun Alexander, Fred Taylor,
Warrick Dunn, Jamal Lewis, Tiki Barber and Eddie George.
You can make the argument for guys like Clinton Portis and
Steven Jackson, but I think both will probably fall short in the
end. Priest Holmes? Eh, probably not. Brian Westbrook? Probably
Behind all of those guys is Thomas Jones. With a Super Bowl
appearance and several big games on his resume, Jones has some
legitimate Hall of Fame talking points. But the first five years of
his career — spent in relative anonymity in Arizona and Tampa
Bay — will ultimately keep Jones out of the Hall. It’s
amazing how the age of 30 — something that’s been
viewed as a glass ceiling of sorts for NFL running backs (see
George and Alexander) — has been no such hindrance on
Jones’s career. It’s as if the guy gets better as he
That said, I just don’t see him ever wearing a yellow
jacket on a podium in Canton. A Pro Bowl in the year 2013? The way
this guy’s playing, I wouldn’t rule that out.