Sunday + Monday record was 6-6… and ONE! (106-69-1)
The Tiewatch Hits!
One day short of 54 weeks since the Rams and Niners gave us five of their ten epic quarters of futility last season, another divisional tilt comes through for Steve. Looking up the list of tied games in NFL history, two things hit me. First, the Bengals-Eagles tie that inspired the Tie Watch occurred in 2008. This is the SIXTH season of Tie Watch! Second, EVERYONE jumped down the Packers’ throat for not going for it on 4th down from the 2 to try to win the game. “What’s the worst that could happen?”, you say? “You get Christian Ponder on the 2 yard line?”. Actually, the worst thing that could happen is turning the ball over and watching your jumbo package chase a linebacker or defensive back darting 98 yards the other way with the ball. The presumption is the Packers would have to pass to punch it in. Imagine a deflection? *shudder*. Imagine AP breaking one on the first play of their drive (He’s actually especially productive when backed up on his own goal line for some reason)? Is that forgivable? I think not. Make their whole team beat you. Also, kicking the field goal forces Ponder to drive 80 yards for a TD. Missing the 4th down only forces him to drive 63 yards for a FG.
Granted, Washington has essentially packed it in, and their pass defense was awful on their best day in 2013, but if you’re going to bet on one player to explode in December and scare the hell out of the playoff picture, you have to go with the incumbent right? After establishing a 3 TD night with Manningham, Boldin, and Vernon Davis back in the fold, the eventual addition and inclusion of Michael Crabtree, the receiver he far and away trusts the most, as a #1 receiver with a pair of fresh legs is daunting for the competition. In a conference where Seattle is losing their star DBs to suspensions, New Orleans is an obviously different team on the road, Carolina and Arizona don’t really scare any contenders, and the Eagles are a black box of consistency, are the Niners suddenly lurking in the weeds?
With regard to the Redskins, Mike Shanahan is completing year four of what was a five-year plan when he was hired. He is on pace to finish in last place 3 of those four seasons, and the way Robert Griffin has been handled since his injury points right to the top and not to Griffin. An athlete of Griffin’s caliber should be playing on a fast field, or at least one that’s fucking tended to by professionals. I also never understood, as a rookie, how he was able to bypass a Hall of Fame caliber coach and the premier orthopedist in the NFL on the sidelines to run out on the field after an injury without being examined. I think RG3 can succeed in the NFL, and the warranted criticism of his game and behavior this year should be a learning experience for him. He’s not stupid. He’s been treating the Redskins as a franchise that needs him more than he needs them. He does, however, have a TON of veterans in his text inbox in his ear. Shanahan is not well liked by players, and Griffin comes across like he thinks he has to stand up to Shanahan, which does nothing for his long-term goals. I think a coaching change is on the horizon.
Packers at Lions – To me, this is by far the most interesting game of the three. Jim Schwartz is essentially coaching for his job here. Schwartz has done well to put his fingerprints on this Lions team, a high-flying heel-wrestler group of size-speed guys who don’t mind bending the rules and don’t back down from their more storied opponents. The problem is his fingerprints are all over the Lions’ flaws, too. They get served inopportune personal foul penalties at the worst possible time, they’ve been awful on the road, and after an inexcusable home loss to Tampa Bay suddenly have to convince themselves they belong in the playoffs despite having the only healthy quarterback left.
Lots of teams shit the bed at home, but a well-coached team bounces back and spanks the backup-led Packers at home, right? It’s not easy to trust the Packers either. If you’re buying into Matt Flynn’s comfort zone, know that all of Flynn’s Green Bay heroics have come at Lambeau. He’s never done this on the road, though playing indoors against a bad secondary aids the Packers’ desire to balance Lacy’s workhorse material with an air attack. This is coming back to bite me hard, but I’m picking an organization over a team here. The Packers have depth, know their opponent, and are fully capable of slowing this game down with the run to diminish any difference in firepower. I at least know the Packers are well-coached enough to stay in the game. One of these has to be an upset, right? Packers 30, Lions 24.
Raiders at Cowboys – You know, at least the Lions have the balls to play a real opponent at home. The Cowboys have repeatedly hosted a professional homecoming game on Thanksgiving for years. It didn’t used to be this way. Dallas used to play divisional games here. Now they’ve used it for TWO consecutive home games against the Raiders. In 2009, that’s right, the Raiders were EXACTLY in this spot, quarterbacked by Bruce Gradkowski, who inexplicably led a last minute drive to beat the defending champion Steelers IN PITTSBURGH earlier that season and bamboozled me into picking him for the upset. He threw three fourth quarter touchdowns, and this was back when the Steelers HAD a defense.
I’m not falling for it this year. You can kick me in the McGloin all you want. Cowboys 24, Raiders 7.
Steelers at Ravens – I know these games have been close over the years, and there’s no reason to EXPECT a blowout from either end, per se, but these aren’t exactly your annoying older cousin’s Steelers and Ravens. The Ravens can’t run, the Steelers can’t run, the Ravens can’t pass, the Steelers can. I think that’s how this game turns. I think Pittsburgh comes in to Baltimore and just flings it everywhere, daring the Ravens to keep up.
I’m really surprised more people aren’t predicting this to happen. How are the Ravens handling all three of Pittsburgh’s receivers AND keeping track of Heath Miller wherever he leaks open. Barring a rash of turnovers, I don’t anticipate Joe Flacco, who’s having an awful year, to keep pace with Ben Roethlisberger. I know the Ravens are great at home, and Pittsburgh has won only 2 of its last 8 road games, but I think the matchups prevail over history. Steelers 29, Ravens 19.