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Welcome to the blog of The Killer Nacho, known to most mortals as Timothy J. Sharpe, a Computer Science graduate of Messiah College and currently a Systems Analyst for Sunoco Logistics. Within this tome of pages, one will find my innermost thoughts about various things concerning things that I enjoy. These subjects include, but are not limited to, roleplaying, gaming, American Football (the NFL), things to do with computers, philosophy, movies that are awesome, TV shows that are awesome, my own writings and creative works, and dangerous Mexican snacks.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

NFL Week 17 2011 Power Rankings & Predictions

One week to go until playoffs! Of course, we already know the majority of teams that are going to be in it. With the exception of the AFC West, NFC East, and the AFC 6th seed, playoff teams are set. Week 17 will be all about playoff position! Which teams will get homefield advantage? A first round bye? Who will be playing who? All will be determined by this final week in the National Football League!

Biggest Winner: Seattle Seahawks (+3)
Biggest Loser: San Diego Chargers (-6)

1. Green Bay Packers (14-1, +0): Green Bay clinched homefield advantage in the playoffs in Sunday night's matchup vs the Bears, but the key defensive problems they had were still present. Chicago's offense, which featured a starting Quarterback who was unemployed just three weeks ago, and has struggled in almost every game this season, seemed to move the ball effortlessly against Green Bay. This is not the defense of a champion. Still, when your Quarterback throws for a career-high 5 touchdown passes, you will likely win that football game. Green Bay will likely rest their starters against Detroit in Week 17 (a wise precaution since they can't afford any additional injuries).

2. New Orleans Saints (12-3, +0): Congratulations to Drew Brees for snapping Dan Marino's season yardage record on Monday night against the Falcons. While this was one of his worst games of the season, throwing two picks, he still played well enough to crush the Falcons 45-16. The Saints remain a top team moving forward, and one of the largest obstacles for a Packers repeat Super Bowl win. Finally we saw the Saints play good defense, they have struggled forcing turnovers all season.

3. New England Patriots (12-3, +0): Tom Brady struggled early against the Dolphins defense, but finally found some rhythm in the 2nd half (or as it a Dolphins collapse?), overcoming a 17-0 halftime score to clobber the Dolphins 27-24. While part of it may have been due to Dolphin injuries (Vontae Davis went down to injury, as did Reggie Bush), the Patriots rally was impressive enough to keep their #3 spot. With a win against the Bills, they will clinch homefield advantage through the AFC playoffs.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4, +1): The Steeler defense is getting hot at the right time. Then again, it could be just because they were playing the Rams. Either way, I don't know if anyone could've expected a 27-0 victory without star Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. I don't know if he'll play in Week 17 ... if he's not healthy, he shouldn't since they will certainly need him come playoff time, but if defense wins championships, Pittsburgh should be in good shape to make a run at the title.

5. San Francisco 49ers (12-3, -1): The 49ers had a bit of a scare in this potential trap game against the Seahawks, allowing a late rushing touchdown by Marshawn Lynch (the first the 49ers have allowed all season). However, they were ultimately able to rally and defeat the Seahawks 19-17, keeping their hopes of a first-round bye alive. They face only one more "challenge" in their quest ... the lowly Rams. They should be able to easily clinch a first-round bye here but if not... the Saints could easily steal that from them.

6. Baltimore Ravens (11-4, +0): Baltimore controls its own destiny to win the AFC North, but they face a tough matchup at Cincinnati in Week 17 to do it. The Bengals will be at home playing for their playoff lives (the Bengals need a win to clinch a wildcard spot), and the Ravens tend to struggle away from their home stadium this season. The Ravens need this win, however, they cannot afford to lose here. As I mentioned, the Ravens do much better at home... a playoff home-game and a first round bye would help this team tremendously in a championship run.

7. Detroit Lions (10-5, +1): In a game which both teams were playing for their playoff survival, Detroit took the initiative over San Diego by destroying them 38-10. This is a young team brimming with talent, it actually reminds me a lot of their "big brother", Green Bay... strong passing game with a ball-hawking defense. With the Packers likely resting their starters in Week 17, they have a good opportunity to get a pretty easy W and clinch the #5 seed. This is critical since the #5 seed gets to play the Giants or Cowboys... a much better scenario then being the #6 seed and having to travel to New Orleans to play the Saints!

8. Atlanta Falcons (9-6, -1): It's hard to win at New Orleans, but that does not excuse a win that would've helped Atlanta tremendously. With the Lions playing the Packers backups next week (and the 49ers getting the Rams), they will likely have to play New Orleans again during the wildcard round of the playoffs. As we saw here, Atlanta's chances are not very good on the road against New Orleans.

9. Dallas Cowboys (8-7, +0): I'm not really going to hold their loss to Philadelphia against them. This was a meaningless game for the Cowboys, as a win or a loss still means they have to beat the Giants in Week 17 to secure the NFC East. They rested their banged-up starters in this game. The defense played fairly well against Philadelphia, which is a good sign. The NFC East championship comes down to Week 17.

10. New York Giants (8-7, +2): The Giants got their much-needed win against the other New York team in Week 16. If they had not won, the Cowboys could've clinched the NFC East. They were able to sustain their control of their own destiny, and it now comes down to an epic Week 17 showdown between the Cowboys and the Giants. Which team wants a chance at a championship more? All I can say is we saw some good things in the 4th quarter from this Giants team. But they need to bring it together to be a complete team.

11. Houston Texans (10-5, -1): And so, the Houston Texans are STILL winless at Indianapolis. I feel bad for the Texans... this year was their perfect opportunity with Peyton Manning being absent, Chris Johnson struggling and they were a very good team before the injury bug crept in. Matt Schaub (and his backup, Matt Leinart), Andre Johnson, Mario Williams and more... these injuries hurt the Texans too much... The good news is that Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be back after his surgery. If they want to really compete in the playoffs, they will NEED good defensive play.

12. Cincinnati Bengals (9-6, +1): The Bengals survived the 4th quarter surge of the Cardinals to win on Sunday. Their defense was brutal, sacking John Skelton 5 times, and picking him off thrice while allowing no running room for Beanie Wells. This is the kind of the defensive play that will allow them to complete in the playoffs... if they get there. The Ravens also have a lot of reason to want to win in Week 17. And losing opens the doors to Oakland, New York Jets, and Tennessee - all of which can take their playoff spot if the Bengals fall to the Ravens here.

13. Denver Broncos (8-7, -2): What's the excuse, Tebow fans? He can't play in cold weather? The game got out of hand for the Broncos in the second half, and Tebow's usually good 4th quarters backfired here, as he threw two pick sixes in a row in the 4th quarter to all but clinch the win for the Bills. They can still clinch the AFC West with a win against the Chiefs, however. With the Chargers and Chiefs losing in Week 16, the only team that could take the Broncos' playoff spot with a win is the Oakland Raiders. I think Tebow will actually be able to bounce back a Week 17 matchup against the guy who started off the season as Broncos starting Quarterback, Kyle Orton.

14. Seattle Seahawks (7-8, +3): Honestly, I don't know of a single team that really deserves being #14. I ended up choosing a team which lost in Week 16, and is now eliminated from playoff contention. Still, I see a lot of good things from this team. This young defense has grown and developed. Shout out to Kam Chancellor for a great sophomore season... him and Earl Thomas will be a good Safety tandem for years to come. Also, well deserved Skittles for Marshawn Lynch, who snapped the 49ers streak of not allowing a rushing touchdown this week. Seattle is a team to keep one's eye on in the off-season and next year. If they can get a serviceable Quarterback (Kyle Orton maybe?), they will surely compete next year.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (7-8, +1): The Eagles are finally playing good football... but its just too late. With the Giants triumphing over the Jets in Week 16, the Eagles were eliminated early into their matchup against Dallas. That didn't stop them from playing Dallas hard, although it was only their backups. I'll buy into the fact that the lockout hurt the Eagles more than other teams with all of their Free Agent acquisitions... it can be hard to build team synergy without significant practice. That still doesn't change my belief that Andy Reid needs to go, however.

16. Oakland Raiders (8-7, +2): Granted, they needed overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive vs Kansas City, but they were still able to defeat the same team that defeated Green Bay earlier. Michael Bush seems to have worn down later into the season, however. This team obviously is hurting by their loss of Darren McFadden this season. Also, the defensive secondary leaves a lot to be desired... defensively, they will struggle against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers offense. But to benefit from a Broncos loss against the Chiefs, they need to beat the Chargers.

17. New York Jets (8-7, -2): After their performance the last two weeks, I'm not sure at all if this team really deserves to be in the playoffs. A week after being decimated by the Eagles, they are demolished by the Giants. This is a team playing for their playoff lives, here. Now they face a hot Miami team, and they need help to make it in. It's not looking likely for the "other" New York team.

18. Carolina Panthers (6-9, +1): Carolina will be primed to take over as a new Playoff contender next season. Cam Newton has played great all season. If he can continue taking steps forward, he can look forward to another successful 2012 campaign. The rest of this team seems to be improving around him, too. In particular, both the running game and the defense has played significantly better towards the end of the year then they have at the beginning.

19. Tennessee Titans (8-7, +1): The Titans don't really belong in the playoffs either, but its now a possibility going up against a Texans team with nothing to play for in Week 17 (they have virtually clinched the #3 seed in the playoffs). They still need help, but it could happen. That doesn't change my belief that this team is nothing more than a .500 talent, however.

20. San Diego Chargers (7-8, -6): Everything on the line going into a harsh Detroit environment... this is what defines a team.. especially one fighting for their playoff lives. Well, the Chargers are weak. The only positive thing Chargers fans can take out of this is that this may be the catalyst that gets Norv Turner (and maybe the GM as well) fired. If that is the case, San Diego becomes the most prized coaching vacancy in the NFL since they already have a franchise Quarterback and a lot of talent in place.

21. Chicago Bears (7-8, +0): The Bears offense moved the ball pretty well against Green Bay, but that didn't matter when Josh McClown throws interceptions and your defense implodes, allowing Aaron Rodgers a career-high 5 touchdown passes. On a positive note, the Bears have to like what they saw from 3rd-year man Kahlil Bell (even it was against a defense that can't stop a nosebleed recently). He rushed for 121 yards on his 23 attempts, a YPC of 5.3. With Marion Barber aging, he could develop into the change-of-pace back for Matt Forte in 2012.

22. Miami Dolphins (5-10, +2): I'm not sure if Todd Bowles is the guy, but the players seem to be playing pretty hard for them. Of course, the Dolphins still fell to their normal 2nd-half collapses against the Patriots, blowing a 17-0 halftime lead. If it weren't for the injuries to Vontae Davis and Reggie Bush however, they could've seriously had a chance to upset the Patriots. Still, its probably better to lose than to win at this point... the Dolphins would have a much better chance at getting a franchise back with a 5-11 record. Then again, with Matt Barkley staying in USC, the chances a blue-collar prospect is still available when Miami picks is slim (unless they trade up?).

23. Arizona Cardinals (7-8, +0): It seemed the whole week Kevin Kolb would be able to go against the Bengals, but was ruled out before gametime. This obviously threw off the Cardinals' gameplan, who struggled early behind backup John Skelton. They were able to make a 4th quarter surge but ultimately fell short at keeping their slim playoff hopes alive. There's always next year... the NFC West may develop into a competitive NFL division after all.

24. Kansas City Chiefs (6-9, +1): The Chiefs continue to play hard for Romeo Crennel, especially the defense. While they ultimately lost to the Raiders in overtime, I like the leadership I see from the man. He could very well earn himself a chance to be "the man" next season... which in my opinion, he deserves. He may have failed in Cleveland, but so did Bill Bellichick... hmm...

25. Washington Redskins (5-10, -3): There's no excuse to lose at home to one of the league's worst franchises when they lost their starting Quarterback and Runningback. Rex Grossman didn't really play badly either, but their defense fell apart allowing 33 points to the Vikings. I have mixed feelings about Mike Shanahan, but I feel he deserves at least another year to prove himself. But I'm concerned about the Redskins defense "giving up" towards the end of this season.

26. Buffalo Bills (6-9, +1): We saw a glimpse of what made this Buffalo team so effective early in the season here. I still think this team's biggest off-season need is depth however. Another positive note for the Bills is that C.J. Spiller continue to plays well in place of Fred Jackson. It looks like that first round pick wasn't wasted after all. This kid reminds one of Chris Johnson and LeSean McCoy. He should be in for a larger role in 2012.

27. Minnesota Vikings (3-12, -1): Bravo, Minnesota for killing your hopes at the #1 overall pick with a win here. They'll probably pick 3rd overall now... which means the two best Quarterbacks could feasibly be off the board. Luckily, their need at Defensive secondary is a more pressing issue with first-round pick Christian Ponder still being on board. At least now they can address a true need... or trade the pick to a franchise who does need a signal-caller.

28. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-11, +1): Jacksonville can finish the season strong against the Colts. While the Colts have been playing better as of late, Maurice Jones-Drew should still cause problems for one of the league's worst run defenses. Ending the year on a positive note would really help Mel Tucker's chances at holding on to the head coaching gig next year. Unfortanutely, I hate everything I see from Blaine Gabbert. I wouldn't be surprised if Jacksonville targets another Quarterback early in next year's draft.

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-11, -1): Raheem Morris probably doesn't deserve to keep his job after witnessing the complete collapse of this team in 2011. Its hard in a lockout year and such a young team to find success, but dropping from 4-2 to 4-11 is unacceptable, as is the defense's inability to stop anything, Josh Freeman's obvious regression, and the playcalling that excludes their best offensive playmaker, LeGarrette Blount.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-11, +0): The Browns fought hard at Baltimore last week, but ultimate lost due to their offense, which has been incredibly lackluster this season. Colt McCoy's lack of progression under Pat Shurmur has been highly disappointing, as he was one of the most promising young Quarterbacks entering this season. I do not know if Shurmur will get another year or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if they give up on the Colt McCoy experiment and go after a Quarterback in the Draft.

31. Indianapolis Colts (2-13, +1): Honestly, I didn't think I would be moving the Colts up from #32 at all this season but with how solid they've been playing recently combined with how awful the Rams are, I must admit they aren't the worst team this year. They could finish the season with 3 wins if they win against Jacksonville... which would, of course, thrill Peyton Manning as it eliminates the Colts from the Suck for Luck sweepstakes.

32. St. Louis Rams (2-13, -1): St. Louis is so bad, I don't really even know where to begin. Okay, I'll start with Kellen Clemmens, who is, without a doubt, one of the worst Quarterbacks to play in the NFL. I'll also go into how their defense can't stop anybody, and how their receiving corp sucks. No doubt a lot of these problems are due to the huge amount of injuries they have sustained but I think it is also coaching. Steve Spagnuolo and Josh McDaniels is not the answer, they need to go. And if the Rams have a chance at pulling the trigger for Andrew Luck, they better take it. He'd be a huge improvement over Sam Bradford.

Predictions for Next Week

TKN's accuracy, Last week: 12-4 (75.00%)
Billy's accuracy, Last week: 11-5 (68.75%)
AFS's* accuracy, Last week: 11-5 (68.75%)

TKN's Overall 2011 accuracy: 158-82 (65.83%)
Billy's Overall 2011 accuracy: 161-79 (67.08%)
AFS's* Overall 2011 accuracy: 155-85 (64.58%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.

As you can see, a pretty good week for all last week. I got the best end of the deal with 12-4, but it only earned me a 1-game advantage over Billy and the Simulator. Billy still sits in the lead with a 3-game advantage over me. The Simulator is lurking, 3 games under me. This is the last week of games, so I want to earn some more ground here... as I prepare to overcome Billy for the playoffs!

Sanchez needs to rebound; his play was a cause for their 2-game slide.
New York J (8-7) @ Miami (5-10)
TheKillerNacho: New York needs this victory, but Miami is playing hard right now and is fully embracing their role as spoiler. New York, on the other hand, has been anything but a playoff-quality team as of late, and will come in demoralized after two crushing defeats. Miami pulls off an upset in Week 17 here to eliminate the Jets.
UPDATE: Reggie Bush has been ruled out for Sunday. The Jets struggled against speedy RB this season, so this is a pretty big blow for the home team. I'm still choosing Miami, but with a closer margin. Dan Thomas will get a chance to show why he was worth a 2nd round pick in this year's draft.
New York J 23, Miami 24

New York J 16, Miami 37

American Football Simulator:
New York J 24, Miami 21

San Francisco (12-3) @ St. Louis (2-13)
TheKillerNacho: The 49ers' last "challenge" before clinching a first-round bye is the lowly Rams. Even in St. Louis, I don't see the Rams scoring many points at all against the tough 49ers defense, whether Bradford plays or not. San Francisco earns a first-round bye here.
San Francisco 23, St. Louis 3

San Francisco 21, St. Louis 13

American Football Simulator:
San Francisco 26, St. Louis 21

Carolina (6-9) @ New Orleans (12-3)
TheKillerNacho: While the Saints know its unlikely to be able to get a first-round bye at this point, that won't stop them from trying. The Saints are great at home. While the Carolina Panthers under Cam Newton is certainly a threat, it is a threat I think the Saints can overcome.
Carolina 23, New Orleans 28

Carolina 30, New Orleans 45

American Football Simulator:
Carolina 23, New Orleans 30

Tennessee (8-7) @ Houston (10-5)
TheKillerNacho: The Texans are locked into the #3 seed, so I think they will play it easy here, and probably rest key starters like Arian Foster for the majority of the game. The Titans need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Its ironic since if they do make the playoffs, Houston will be their Wildcard round opponent.
Tennessee 24, Houston 17

Tennessee 24, Houston 23

American Football Simulator:
Tennessee 24, Houston 25

Washington (5-11) @ Philadelphia (7-8)
TheKillerNacho: The Eagles should avoid a losing record here at home against the Redskins. While I have no doubt the Redskins will come looking for the upset, the Eagles are also playing for respect... and the job of their coach, Andy Reid. It sickens me to say this, but with a win, Reid may see his job safe for another year.
Washington 20, Philadelphia 26

Washington 15, Philadelphia 30

American Football Simulator:
Washington 21, Philadelphia 27

Kevin Smith has a great matchup against GB this week.
Detroit (10-5) @ Green Bay (14-1)
TheKillerNacho: All reports coming from Green Bay say that Mike McCarthy plans to rest his starters for the majority of the game against the Lions in Week 17. This is a meaningless game for the Packers, and they are already hurt by injuries. This opens the door for the Lions to clinch the 5th seed of the NFC. The Lions will probably rely heavily on Kevin Smith, who faces a Green Bay defense inept vs the run in recent weeks (and he'll likely be playing the backups most of the game, too!). The Lions should be careful though... Matt Flynn is one of the more competent backup Quarterbacks in the league, and its never an easy win in Lambeau.
Detroit 27, Green Bay 24

Detroit 27, Green Bay 17

American Football Simulator:
Detroit 19, Green Bay 24

Chicago (7-8) @ Minnesota (3-12)
TheKillerNacho: With the Bears being eliminated in Week 16, this game is all about respect. I doubt Kahlil Bell will find the same kind of running room he did against Green Bay against Kevin Williams and the Vikings defense. Still, with Adrian Peterson on I.R., the Vikings offense should struggle against the Bears, too. This game is unpredictable by nature, but I think the Bears will come out wanting one more victory before the season's done. Expect a low-scoring affair.
Chicago 16, Minnesota 13

Chicago 20, Minnesota 23

American Football Simulator:
Chicago 20, Minnesota 21

Indianapolis (2-13) @ Jacksonville (4-11)
TheKillerNacho: I have a strong feeling I'll regret this pick later, but I'm going with the home team. Maurice Jones-Drew should be in for a monster game against the soft Colts defense. Then again, that is what I thought about Arian Foster and despite a good game the Colts were somehow able to defeat the Texans by abusing their rookie Quarterback. Jacksonville also has a rookie Quarterback, and a bad one at that. So... this could go either way.
Indianapolis 17, Jacksonville 19

Indianapolis 9, Jacksonville 10

American Football Simulator:
Indianapolis 20, Jacksonville 26

Buffalo (6-9) @ New England (12-3)
TheKillerNacho: The Bills won the first matchup and had a really good Week 16, but that doesn't make me think they will get a victory over Tom Brady at Gillette here. The Patriots have homefield advantage on the line, something they could lose to the Steelers / Ravens with a loss. Tom Brady won't let this happen.
Buffalo 21, New England 30

Buffalo 20, New England 38

American Football Simulator:
Buffalo 20, New England 27

Seattle (7-8) @ Arizona (7-8)
TheKillerNacho: It would be a big confidence boost for both teams to get back to .500 here. Both teams are out of it, so this game is all about respect and who will be #2 in the NFC West. I absolutely love how the Seahawks defense and Marshawn Lynch are playing recently, so I'm going to go with the Seahawks.
Seattle 23, Arizona 20

Seattle 18, Arizona 25

American Football Simulator:
Seattle 23, Arizona 22

San Diego (7-8) @ Oakland (8-7)
TheKillerNacho: Playoffs are on the line here at Oakland. For San Diego, Norv Turner's job is on the line. If he doesn't show the San Diego front office why he deserves to keep his job here, he'll probably be out of a job. I really like Phillip Rivers' matchup against the Oakland defense, so I'll go with San Diego... but it won't be easy.
San Diego 27, Oakland 26

San Diego 17, Oakland 24

American Football Simulator:
San Diego 25, Oakland 24

The season ends as it started for the Broncos... Tebow vs Orton.
Kansas City (6-9) @ Denver (8-7)
TheKillerNacho: Tim Tebow is trying to rebound and win the division after a disappointing collapse against the Bills. Romeo Crennell has the Chiefs playing hard for him, and is trying to prove he deserves another shot at Head coach. I think at Mile High, Tebow will be able to bounce back and secure Denver's playoff spot. We'll see, however, as Kansas City's defense has played very well in two straight weeks. Also it will be interesting to see Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow duel.
Kansas City 19, Denver 22

Kansas City 16, Denver 17

American Football Simulator:
Kansas City 20, Denver 22

Tampa Bay (4-11) @ Atlanta (9-6)
TheKillerNacho: While I would obviously take Atlanta easily any normal day, Atlanta may have nothing to play for here. This is a 4:15 game, and they will find out the result of the Detroit @ Green Bay game likely before this one starts. If Detroit wins, Atlanta will be locked into the #6 seed and may rest starters. Then again, they may not, wanting to go hot into the playoffs. Either way, Tampa Bay is horrible so even the Falcons backups could probably beat them. So yeah, I'll pick Atlanta. If the Falcons starters play, I foresee a large workload for Michael Turner. The only chance the Bucs have is running LeGarrette Blount, as the Falcons have struggled against the run and Blount is the only talented Runningback the Bucs have on their roster. Of course, the Bucs coaching staff doesn't seem to know that...
UPDATE: Mike Smith has gone on record saying the Falcons would NOT bench their starters this week, whether being eliminated from #5 seed contention or not. Due to this, I believe this is a sure-fire Atlanta victory now. Michael Turner will tear this Tampa Bay team up.
Tampa Bay 20, Atlanta 31

Tampa Bay 10, Atlanta 35

American Football Simulator:
Tampa Bay 22, Atlanta 28

Baltimore (11-4) @ Cincinnati (9-6)
TheKillerNacho: This is probably the most interesting individual game aside from the "NFC East Championship" game when it comes to playoff relevance. Cincinnati needs a win to secure their spot in the playoffs. Baltimore needs a win to clinch the AFC North (And they surely can't count on the Browns beating the Steelers). Baltimore struggles on the road and Cincinnati's defense will focus on stopping Ray Rice, forcing Joe Flacco to beat them (without Anquan Boldin). I'll take the Bengals, but this will be close and hard-fought.
Baltimore 23, Cincinnati 24

Baltimore 14, Cincinnati 28

American Football Simulator:
Baltimore 26, Cincinnati 20

Pittsburgh (11-4) @ Cleveland (4-11)
TheKillerNacho: Another easy matchup for the Pittsburgh defense, and another game Roethlisberger could potentially rest without much consequence. Pittsburgh needs a win here and a Baltimore loss to win the AFC North (and therefore a first-round bye), I think there is a good chance of that.
Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 14

Pittsburgh 19, Cleveland 10

American Football Simulator:
Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 19

Victor Cruz has been the big-play WR the Giants needed.
Dallas (8-7) @ New York G (8-7)
TheKillerNacho: Last year we got the NFC West "Championship Bowl" on Sunday night football, this year we get the NFC East's. This is not an easy game to predict, but I like how the Giants match up against Dallas. Dallas will struggle running with a banged-up Felix Jones, and Dallas' defense has not played well recently, I think Eli Manning could be in for another big game.
Dallas 25, New York G 27

Dallas 33, New York G 31

American Football Simulator:
Dallas 21, New York G 26

Question of the Week

Last week, I asked my readers Which division in the NFL will be the toughest in 2012? between the NFC South, NFC North, AFC North, AFC East, or Other (please comment). Most readers seemed to agree with me, as the NFC South won the poll with 75% of the vote. The AFC North won the other 25%. Both of these were good choices, but I'm kind of surprised that not a single person voted with the NFC North.

This poll will be somewhat interesting... Which teams will be in the playoffs this year?. Included in the poll are all the teams currently not clinched a playoff birth: New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans. You can select multiple answers, check all that apply but I do ask that you only select realistic possibilities (don't check every team; for example, both the Giants and the Cowboys can't make it in... only 3 of these 7 teams will make it in). My answers, derived from my Week 17 predictions are: The New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Cincinnati Bengals. Will be interesting to see this poll at the end.

Vote on the right-hand side of my blog!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NFL Week 16 2011 Power Rankings & Predictions

Next Sunday is Christmas, meaning most games will be played on Saturday... an early Holiday treat. Week 16 will be immensely important for all teams in the post-season hunt. Several teams can clinch or be eliminated this week... how exciting! Also, I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Boy, did Week 15 really shake things up or what? Green Bay dropped to a losing team, Indianapolis beat a winning team, and plenty of other teams were upset this week. Our predictors took a major hit this week. I'm happy to say that I was the only one with a positive score, of only 9-7. While the Simulator had it particularly hard this week, going 5-11.

How does Week 15 shake up the Power Rakings? Let's examine.

Biggest Winner: Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs (+5)
Biggest Loser: Tennessee Titans (-5)

1. Green Bay Packers (13-1, +0): One loss isn't going to make me drop them from #1, as they have shown all season that they deserve to be here. However, their defense is now a spot of major concern. Kansas City moved the ball down the field effortlessly against Green Bay, sustaining long drives. While Green Bay held them to 19 points, the time of possession and their inability to get turnovers killed them for their first loss of the season. However, this loss may end up helping them in the long run, as it forces them to address these issues. It could be argued that a Green Bay repeat is now more likely than it was before. A win or a San Francisco loss clinches home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

2. New Orleans Saints (11-3, +0): Drew Brees is a madman when indoors, that much is clear. He made it look easy against Minnesota's soft secondary last Sunday. They are still behind San Francisco due to tiebreakers in the race for a first-round bye, so they will continue to play tough. The largest problem with New Orleans is, "Can they win outdoors?". Luckily for them, at least one home playoff game is virtually assured. They will struggle if forced to go on the road against Green Bay or San Francisco, however.

3. New England Patriots (11-3, +2): Leave it to Tom Brady and the Patriots to snap Tim Tebow's winning streak in Denver. Although the defense is still a spot of concern especially with all of those injuries, at least they are getting it done. Their defensive injuries get even worse with the loss of DE Andre Carter, who has had a very solid year. With a pretty soft remaining two games though, the Patriots seem likely at this point to win homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. This plays into Belichick's hand, as they are extremely difficult to defeat in Gillette.

4. San Francisco 49ers (11-3, +2): On Monday night, the 49ers proved they deserved their record against the Steelers, dominating them defensively in a 20-3 win. Their defense has been absolutely dominant throughout the year. Sure, you can say Ben Roethlisberger was playing hurt, and that might be true, but San Francisco was leading the NFL in takeaways prior to this game as well. The one area of concern is the redzone offense. San Francisco has had to settle for a lot of field goals this season. If they want to win in the playoffs, they need to work harder on scoring touchdowns.

5. Pittsburgh Steelers (10-4, -1): Those blackouts at Candlestick Park hurt the Steelers far more than it did the 49ers. Ben Roethlisberger struggled all game, and its hard to argue that the loss of momentum and adrenaline caused by these delays were not a factor (not to mention the pain medication wearing off). The defense played pretty well against the 49ers all things considered, but its very hard to win when your Quarterback throws three interceptions.

6. Baltimore Ravens (10-4, -3): Their inability to win on the road is going to kill this team. They didn't just lose against San Diego, they were crushed. For a team fighting not only for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs but their division as well, you have to win these key December games. They are lucky that the Steelers too faced defeat. But I am not confident that this team can make a Super Bowl run unless they can prove they can play on the road as well as they play at home.

7. Atlanta Falcons (9-5, +0): The Falcons avoided a potential trap game in glorious fashion on Thursday night football, dispatching the Jaguars 41-14. The WR corp of this team is really starting to come together with Julio Jones back. Not only is he a dynamic receiver in his own right, his presence also opens up Roddy White and slot man Harry Douglas while also allowing Michael Turner to get more lanes to run the ball. This offense is quite dynamic and is getting hot at the right time. I don't know if anyone wants to face Atlanta in the playoffs.

8. Detroit Lions (9-5, +2): Calvin Johnson, after several weeks of lackluster production, finally had another break out game. Against my fantasy team, of course. In a game where Kevin Smith was healthy but did not help the running game much, the Lions' ability to pass the ball more than made up for it. Stafford was able to overcome a huge 4th quarter deficit to win the ball game in the final moments. This is a good sign from a young Quarterback.

9. Dallas Cowboys (8-6, +4): It seems like every week I'm bouncing back and forth between the Cowboys and the Giants. But when it comes down to it, the Cowboys took care of business while the Giants did not. While the division could still go either way, this is a good sign for the Cowboys. With Murray out, they relied more on Tony Romo, who did not disappoint. While I still doubt Romo's ability in the clutch, at this point in the season, Dallas is playing better than the Giants.

10. Houston Texans (10-4, -2): That showing against Carolina really should move this team down farther than #10, but luckily for the Texans, other teams really stunk it up in Week 15 too. Without Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, this offense focuses far too much on the running game, allowing teams to gameplay against them better. When Carolina's defense can limit you to 13 points, you know you have issues. And its not like this game meant nothing to Houston, either. Even with the division locked up, they are in a very tight battle for both homefield advantage and a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. The loss of Defensive coordinator Wade Philips was certainly shown by the Texans allowing 28 points. They need this man back ASAP.

11. Denver Broncos (8-6, +0): As I mentioned last week, I still very much doubt Tim Tebow's ability to compete in a shoot out. He has benefited a ton from a strong running game from Willis McGahee and good defensive play during his win streak, but those things alone could not get it done against the Patriots. While Tebow still played very well in his own right, I just don't see how Denver will compete in the AFC playoffs against teams that could obtain huge leads. Still, I view them as the favorite in the AFC West at this time.

12. New York Giants (7-7, -3): As humiliating as getting swept by the Redskins is, this loss did not really hurt the Giants as badly as one might think. The Giants still control their own destiny due to a Week 17 matchup against the Cowboys. If they win out, they are in. However, that really highlights how bad the NFC East has become. The worst division in football? Maybe, its close between the NFC East and the AFC West...

13. Cincinnati Bengals (8-6, +1): The Bengals proved they were one team that would not give up without a fight. Despite a saddening late-season fall, the Bengals were able to rally and beat the Rams in St. Louis to keep their playoff hopes alive. With a Jets loss, their playoff hopes are now rekindled. Still, there is absolutely no room for error. If the Bengals want to taste the playoffs, they must win out.

14. San Diego Chargers (7-7, +2): Philip Rivers can win in December. Honestly, if only San Diego could consistently remain this hot. If I'm a Chargers fan, I'm hoping this late-season surge won't protect Norv Turner's job, as this man is directly responsible for the hole they are in. However, their playoff hopes are not dead. If Denver is to lose the AFC West, I strongly believe it is the Chargers that will overtake them.

15. New York Jets (8-6, -3): Pitiful. That is the word that best describes the Jets' performance against the Eagles. They were destroyed in all phases of the game. The offense was turnover prone. The defense allowed big drives to Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy. They looked as far from a playoff team as a team can get. They need to win out if they want to be in the playoffs. But they won't win another game if they continue to play like that.

16. Philadelphia Eagles (6-8, +5): Finally, this team is starting to look like the "Dream team" it was dubbed earlier in the season. It has come a bit too late, I'm afraid. Technically, they are not eliminated but this is what needs to happen for the Eagles to win the NFC East: 1) Eagles need to win out. 2) The Giants must lose to the Jets next week, and 3) the Giants must defeat the Cowboys in Week 17. Not exactly the most likely of all scenarios. Then again with how inconsistent both the Giants and Cowboys have been playing of late, it is at least possible... as sad as that is.

17. Seattle Seahawks (7-7, +2): I mentioned last week how much I like this Seattle team. They are still playing with heart, trying to cling to their playoff hopes. With Detroit and Atlanta winning, their hopes are all but dead, but this is a team to keep your eyes on next season. They need to lock up Marshawn Lynch, as this man is running very hard for them. If they can address the Quarterback position, this team will instantly become a contender.

18. Oakland Raiders (7-7, -1): They were so close to keeping their playoff dreams alive, but fell to the Lions in the final moments. This defense is really lacking this season. If Nnamdi remained in Oakland, I think this team would've locked up the AFC West but their defense has been so bad that every team has been able to hang with them the whole game. You can't win games like this. The good news is it appears like the Carson Palmer trade may have worked out for them, he could be a long-term answer. The bad news is they won't be able to really address their key issues with the lack of draft picks they have. Poor Oakland. At least Darren McFadden will be back from injury come 2012...

19. Carolina Panthers (5-9, +1): This young team is coming together, at last. They went into Houston and challenged a playoff team fighting for playoff position and blew them out, 28-13. Finally Cam Newton is starting to get some help from his defense. This is another team to watch out for in 2012. The NFC South is going to be a powerhouse division for years to come, I believe.

20. Tennessee Titans (7-7, -5): The first team giving a win to the Colts quite obviously gets no love from me. This Titans team has given up. Their playoff hopes weren't dead before, especially with the Jets losing against the Eagles, but they are now. This team is now completely demoralized, and for good reason. They have some pieces in place, but this team is about average. I've said all along this team is an 8-8 talent. Looks like I'll probably be right.

21. Chicago Bears (7-7, -3): Seattle is much improved since the start of the season, but that doesn't make being blown out 38-13 at home at all acceptable, especially when your playoff hopes were on the line. At 7-7 with the Lions and Falcons both at 9 wins each, their playoff hopes are all but dead. They now face a Packers team coming off their first loss of the season, meaning they will be motivated. This team could not survive losing their two best offensive players, and Caleb Hanie has been nothing short of horrible. The Bears are considering benching him for Josh McClown. That's how bad he is. At this point, Chicago probably hopes they lose out so they can get a better draft pick for their run next year.

22. Washington Redskins (5-9, +0): They came out against the Giants and proved that they at the very least had some good pieces in place under Mike Shanahan. A win like this will likely buy him another year, as it should. The good news for the Redskins is that they are bad enough to be in position for a signal-caller in next year's draft. Rex Grossman is a playmaker, but you need consistency at that position to be a contender in the NFL. They were able to survive his two early interceptions this week, but that won't always be the case. The Redskins may be a Quarterback away from truly competing. Actually, that's true of a lot of NFL teams.

23. Arizona Cardinals (7-7, +0): The Cardinals are back to .500? How did this happen? Well, an easy schedule plus a few upsets is how. They're doing this without their top Free agent acquisition, Kevin Kolb, too which makes it all the more surprising. At 7-7, one has to be optimistic about this organization's future. Their defense has had a surprisingly good season, and they have found a dynamic return man in Patrick Peterson who could end up being Arizona's Devin Hester if they keep him there. Plus, Beanie Wells has matured into an every-down back. I seem to be saying this about a lot of teams, but this is defiantly a team to keep your eye on in 2012.. if Ken Whisenhunt can keep his job after this year.

24. Miami Dolphins (5-9, +0): The Dolphins came out and played hard for interim coach Todd Bowles, playing at Buffalo in the snow no less to blow them out 30-23. The real story was Reggie Bush's career day, where he ran for over 200 yards. Bush has really proven he can be an elite runner in the NFL with Miami, he has very quietly put together quite a good year. He's averaging 5 yards per carry and has over 1,200 yards from scrimmage. For what the Dolphins paid for him, they most certainly got the better end of the deal. Next year, expect Bush and second year runner Daniel Thomas to make one up one of the league's better dual RB threats. However, this win may have done more harm than good. Their one big weakness is still the Quarterback position and this win makes it likely they will be drafting outside of the Top 5. Will they get their man at Quarterback?

25. Kansas City Chiefs (6-8, +5): Romeo Crennel has really thrown this Kansas City organization a curveball with his huge upset win over the undefeated Packers last Sunday. They fired Todd Haley expecting to get ahead in their race for a new Head coach, but his performance has shown Crennel may be ready for his second chance at being an NFL Head coach. The Chiefs have a lot of pieces in place and will be a ton better once they get all of their IR players back in 2012. Further, Kyle Orton looked poised as he marched against Green Bay effortlessly... he could be a short-term solution at Quarterback and could push Cassel for the starting job in 2012 if retained. It will be a very interesting off-season in Kansas City.

26. Minnesota Vikings (2-12, +2): Once again, do not let their 2-12 record fool you. They are not nearly as bad as this record indicates. They are still playing extremely hard, and Adrian Peterson has returned from injury and should be healthy in Week 16. Their underachieving record may aid them in the long run, though, as now they are virtually guaranteed to obtain a Top 3 pick. Honestly, I do like Christian Ponder despite his struggles. Their biggest need is in the defensive secondary. If they could trade back to a team needing a Quarterback, they could easily have a very good draft. Heck, with Indianapolis beating Tennessee, they still have a shot at the #1 overall pick if they lose out. Will be interesting to see how the off-season goes here in Minnesota, too.

27. Buffalo Bills (5-9, -2): My, my, how the mighty have fallen. I feel so bad for Bills fans, how can they deal with this crap? The positives for the Bills is that C.J. Spiller looks like the real deal. He's played very well with the absence of Fred Jackson. With Jackson being 30 (about the age where RB start to decline), its good to see your high-round Runningback starting to show he can be the featured back. This team was decimated by injuries, exposing a huge lack of depth. Depth should be the area Buffalo targets next offseason. Their starters are solid, but you can't rely on a good "starting" roster in November and December.

28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-10, -2): A long time ago, this team was 4-2 and was being talked about as one of the greatest young teams in football. But those times seem to be long gone. Now, they are 4-10 with an 8 game losing streak. There are talks that Head coach Raheem Morris's job is in jeopardy. This is one of the league's youngest teams. And this inexperience has hurt them this season. If Morris keeps his job, they will likely hire a Defensive coordinator to assist him (Tampa Bay currently doesn't have one). While the defense is the real culprit for their collapse, one has to be concerned about Josh Freeman's regression this season, too.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-10, -2): The defense, which has been so good this season, has finally dropped to mediocrity due to the injuries that kept piling up. The Jaguars may be headed in the right direction. They have a talented defense and one of the better backs in the league in Maurice Jones-Drew. Mel Tucker has proven  he has some things to offer as a Head coach. However, Blaine Gabbert leaves a lot to be desired, even for a rookie. Granted, he has arguably the worst receiving corp in football to work with, but even David Garrard fared better in this offense. You won't compete if you have the worst passing offense in football.

30. Cleveland Browns (4-10, -1): Will Pat Shurmur get another season? That is the question in Cleveland right now. As for last week's game, Seneca Wallace was able to come in and make a game of it. They lost 20-17, but they were able to force the Cardinals to overtime. I'm actually thinking Seneca Wallace is a better Quarterback than Colt McCoy right now. While Peyton Hillis has returned, he's still not playing up to par to his level last year. This team lacks offensive production.

31. St. Louis Rams (2-12, +0): The Rams are painful to watch. Maybe even more so than the Colts. This team has been the worst team in football by far the last 5 years. There's also a lot of rumors about the Rams possibly being the team that moves to Los Angeles, a rumor that has crippled the little fan support they have. Sam Bradford seems to have regressed but with the amount of injuries the Rams have had with not a particularly talented roster prior to those injuries, they are lucky to have two wins. I honestly can't see them getting another. I doubt Steve Spagnuolo will survive the off-season as it has been reported by the Rams owner that the Rams will "shake it up" in the off-season.

32. Indianapolis Colts (1-13, +0): I really honestly expected that this team would be the second team in NFL history to go 0-16. Honestly, I still think they are worse than that 0-16 Lions team but at least they proved that they had heart, at least on the defensive side of the ball by defeating the Titans, a team that should've been fighting hard for their playoff lives. With this victory, it was announced by Bill Polian that Peyton Manning would not see the field this season (presumably because he would've only played to try to avoid the Colts from going 0-16). They should be careful, though. The Rams or the Vikings may steal the first overall pick if they were to somehow win another game (a distinct possibility considering they still have the Jaguars on the schedule).

Predictions for Next Week

TKN's accuracy, Last week: 9-7 (56.25%)
Billy's accuracy, Last week: 8-8 (50.00%)
AFS's* accuracy, Last week: 5-11 (31.25%)

TKN's Overall 2011 accuracy: 146-78 (65.18%)
Billy's Overall 2011 accuracy: 150-74 (66.96%)
AFS's* Overall 2011 accuracy: 144-80 (64.29%)
*American Football Simulator averages of 2,000 simulations.

The Simulator has nose-dived its chances this year, really. 5-11 is by far the worst record weekly for the season, and it was pretty close to Billy prior to this week. With one win more than Billy, I was able to make up some ground, however, but Billy still has the edge with a four-game lead against me. With two weeks and the playoffs to go (which will be worth double points per game), it is still anyone's championship to win, though.

Arian Foster ought to keep alive HOU's chances at a first-round bye.
Houston (10-4) @ Indianapolis (1-13)
TheKillerNacho: The Colts morale is high after their first win. The Texans morale is low after a heartbreaking home loss. Does this make Indianapolis the favorites...? No, I don't think so. Houston is still the clear favorites even on a short week. The Colts struggle against the run, which the Texans can still do with Arian Foster. Houston needs this win to keep their hopes at a first-round bye alive. Look for the Texans to find a way to win here.
Houston 21, Indianapolis 17

Houston 34, Indianapolis 28

American Football Simulator:
Houston 27, Indianapolis 23

Miami (5-9) @ New England (11-3)
TheKillerNacho: The schedule makers gave Miami no favors in December. Right after a snowy affair against Buffalo, Miami goes on the road again to the North-East to play one of the hottest teams in football. Look for New England to get another win here, furthering its case for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
Miami 24, New England 30

Miami 21, New England 31

American Football Simulator:
Miami 20, New England 26

Denver (8-6) @ Buffalo (5-9)
TheKillerNacho: Tim Tebow won't have the same kind of trouble against Buffalo as he did against New England. Unlike New England, Buffalo also has a beaten-up offense to go along with their defensive injuries. Tebow will probably find a way to be down in the 4th quarter in this game, but I can't see him losing it. Willis McGahee may be in for a big game against a team that allowed over 200 yards on the ground to Reggie Bush.
Denver 23, Buffalo 22

Denver 27, Buffalo 23

American Football Simulator:
Denver 23, Buffalo 22

Jacksonville (4-10) @ Tennessee (7-7)
TheKillerNacho: Tennessee is not technically eliminated, so this is still a big game for them. They just allowed the worst team in football to best them but at home against another one of the league's worst teams, I think they can find victory.
Jacksonville 16, Tennessee 20

Jacksonville 13, Tennessee 16

American Football Simulator:
Jacksonville 22, Tennessee 24

Ray Rice wants to repeat his 200 yard performance against CLE.
Cleveland (4-10) @ Baltimore (10-4)
TheKillerNacho: At home against a team that struggles stopping the run, it would be quite hard to see the Ravens not bouncing back here. Ray Rice 204 yards rushing against the Browns in Cleveland, he could be in for a repeat performance on Christmas Eve.
Cleveland 13, Baltimore 26

Cleveland 12, Baltimore 33

American Football Simulator:
Cleveland 18, Baltimore 27

Oakland (7-7) @ Kansas City (6-8)
TheKillerNacho: I think the Chiefs will continue to come out playing hard for Romeo Crennel here against the Raiders. Kyle Orton was able to move the ball effortlessly and safely against the Green Bay defense, I expect nothing less against the Raiders. Oakland will be once again without Darren McFadden, and Kansas City's defense has been much improved with their pass rush in recent weeks. I think the Chiefs will come out and officially put an end to the Raiders' playoff hopes.
Oakland 20, Kansas City 24

Oakland 16, Kansas City 28

American Football Simulator:
Oakland 21, Kansas City 20

Minnesota (2-12) @ Washington (5-9)
TheKillerNacho: We should get to see "good Rex" here at home against arguably the league's worst secondary. Minnesota struggles on the road away from their dome, but Adrian Peterson should be healthy this week which should allow for a solid running game. The Redskins defense took the ball away from Eli a few times last Sunday, and should force some turnovers from either Christian Ponder or Joe Webb in this one. While I could easily see the Vikings upseting the Redskins, I think its fair to say the Redskins are the clear favorites.
Minnesota 18, Washington 23

Minnesota 7, Washington 17

American Football Simulator:
Minnesota 19, Washington 21

In a battle between New York teams, the question is who wants it more?
New York G (7-7) @ New York J (8-6)
TheKillerNacho: Wow, what a game. This is a dual home game, and both teams playoff hopes are on the line. Both New York teams must win out to make the playoffs, but only one can do so. I actually like the Giants here as the Jets won't have much of a "homefield advantage" and I think the Giants can abuse the Jets' weakness against the run. The Giants defense will come out angry. They had two picks of Grossman last week, and I think they will get more against the Jets this week.
New York G 23, New York J 20

New York G 3, New York J 35

American Football Simulator:
New York G 22, New York J 23

Tampa Bay (4-10) @ Carolina (5-9)
TheKillerNacho: At this point, I doubt Tampa Bay will be able to snap its 8-game losing streak. Carolina is hot right now with their defense finally coming together against Houston last week. Tampa Bay's defense on the other hand has been absolutely horrid. Owners who have Cam Newton in their fantasy championship game this week couldn't have asked for a better matchup.
Tampa Bay 21, Carolina 28

Tampa Bay 17, Carolina 31

American Football Simulator:
Tampa Bay 24, Carolina 26

Arizona (7-7) @ Cincinnati (8-6)
TheKillerNacho: Both of these teams have an over-acheiving record, but the Bengals playing at home should win this one and keep their playoff hopes strong going into Week 17. The Cardinals are a dangerous team with a scrappy defense and will play the Bengals close. The Bengals better be ready, because their season could be made or destroyed in this one.
Arizona 23, Cincinnati 24

Arizona 21, Cincinnati 24

American Football Simulator:
Arizona 20, Cincinnati 24

St. Louis (2-12) @ Pittsburgh (10-4)
TheKillerNacho: Much like their rivals, the Ravens, the Steelers couldn't have asked for an easier rebound game. The Rams may be the worst team in football right now (Yes, even worse than the Colts). I think there's a good shot that they may not get a single offensive point against one of the most dominant defenses in football. Roethlisberger should rebound against the Rams secondary.
UPDATE: Roethlisberger won't be rebounding because Roethlisberger will probably be out, according to Jason LaConfora. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Steelers won't win anyway. As we saw vs the 49ers, Roethlisberger may be more of a liability at the moment, and its not like the Rams will be able to score on the Steelers anyway.
St. Louis 3, Pittsburgh 20

St. Louis 10, Pittsburgh 19

American Football Simulator:
St. Louis 17, Pittsburgh 26

San Diego (7-7) @ Detroit (8-6)
TheKillerNacho: I do not want to be any team playing the Chargers right now. They are red-hot. The Lions nearly dropped to the Raiders last week, but Matthew Stafford took a major step forward in his development with a 4th-quarter comeback. I'm going San Diego here because they are playing better football now and need to win out. Then again, winning out is something Detroit needs to do to guarantee a playoff birth, too.
San Diego 28, Detroit 27

San Diego 30, Detroit 34

American Football Simulator:
San Diego 25, Detroit 24

Philadelphia (6-8) @ Dallas (8-6)
TheKillerNacho: Much like the Chargers, the Eagles are red-hot right now, finally playing up to their pre-season expectations. The Cowboys are hit and miss every week, and have not performed well at home. The stakes in this game are far higher for Philadelphia however than for Dallas. Dallas can lose this game and still win the division with a win against New York next week, no matter if the Giants win or lose this week (although if they win and the Giants lose, Dallas clinches the division). Meanwhile, this is a must-win game for the Eagles who need a Giants loss this week then a Giants win next week. Then again, they could be eliminated from playoff contention by kickoff with a Giants win over the Jets, making this game tough to predict. Both teams will have more on the line if the Giants lose to the Jets, which is not what I expect. I think the Dallas will rest starters in a meaningless game though so I'll go with Philly.
Philadelphia 28, Dallas 27

Philadelphia 38, Dallas 35

American Football Simulator:
Philadelphia 28, Dallas 26

San Francisco (11-3) @ Seattle (7-7)
TheKillerNacho: This game will be harder than the 49ers may expect. Seattle has played very well towards the end of the season and has one of the greatest homefield advantage in the NFL. The 49ers really need this win as they can't afford to lose if they want a first-round bye since New Orleans is unlikely to lose again this year. I'm going with the better team, but I would not be surprised with a Seattle upset.
San Francisco 22, Seattle 21

San Francisco 20, Seattle 18

American Football Simulator:
San Francisco 25, Seattle 20

GB's defense looks to rebound against a depleted CHI offense.
Chicago (7-7) @ Green Bay (13-1)
TheKillerNacho: I fully expect Green Bay to come out hungry in this Christmas Day game. After their huge loss to Kansas City, the defense will come out angry looking to prove that last week was a fluke. And they get an easy matchup against whoever Quarterbacks for Chicago. Hanie has been awful, but their other options aren't much more promising. Meanwhile, Chicago's defensive weakness is their secondary, so I expect to see some big plays from Jordy Nelson and James Jones looking to prove that they can still be effective without Greg Jennings. Expect the Packers to dominate the Bears to lock up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. I think the Bears would've had a better shot had the Packers not lost last week.
Chicago 9, Green Bay 31

Chicago 13, Green Bay 27

American Football Simulator:
Chicago 17, Green Bay 27

Atlanta (9-5) @ New Orleans (11-3)
TheKillerNacho: Another excellent Monday night matchup. Both teams want to win here. The Saints need to win out and hope for a 49ers loss to secure a first round bye, while Atlanta is a win away from securing an NFC wildcard spot. Drew Brees is spectacular indoors and especially so at home, however, so I suspect they will get a win here. Atlanta is hot right now, though, so they better not underestimate the 2010 South champs.
Atlanta 27, New Orleans 30

Atlanta 32, New Orleans 45

American Football Simulator:
Atlanta 26, New Orleans 28

Question of the Week

Last week, I asked my readers What do you believe the Colts will do with the 1st overall pick and Peyton Manning? between the Draft Luck & trade Peyton, Draft Luck & keep Peyton, Draft another player (Not Luck), or Trade the first overall pick. The Colts ended up getting their first win last week, but it was no thanks to their Quarterback, as they still had less than 100 yards passing. While the poll was extremely close, Drafting Luck & Trading Peyton won with 37%. Draft Luck and Keeping Peyton and Drafting another player was tied for second with 25%. Only 12% of the voters thought the 1st overall pick would be traded. When combing the first two answers, one can say over 50% of voters thought that the Colts will end up drafting Luck, however. Then again, with a win against Tennessee, there may be doubts they'll get the first overall pick at all.

As I mentioned earlier, gone are the days in which the NFC East is the league's best division. Of course, many more divisions have taken over with strong claims for that right. Today's question is Which division in the NFL will be the toughest in 2012? between the NFC South, NFC North, AFC North, AFC East, or Other (please comment)? While all four of these divisions have several quality and/or up-and-coming teams, I think the NFC South will be the best division over the course of the next several years. The Saints and Falcons are already to the point that I believe they can remain competitive year to year, and the Panthers are finally looking to turn the corner with one of the best rookies I've seen in recent years, Cam Newton. The Bucs may have stunk it up this year, but last year they were promising with 10-6 and with the youth and talent they have there, they will get more competitive as the team matures. What do you, the readers, think?

Vote on the right-hand side of my blog!