Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tuesday Forecast: Week 12

Be forewarned. I won’t mention the words “Eagles” or “Patriots” in this upcoming article. Well, not as much as you might expect me to. Honestly, unless you’re brain-dead, you’d be clueless not to have heard too much analysis on the following issues:
1) Donovan McNabb’s job status in relation to AJ Feeley
2) The “blueprint” to beat the Patriots (or at least give them a close game)
3) The emergence of Wes Welker as perhaps the elite possession receiver in the NFL
4) Bill Belichick’s constant stress of fall fashion

Moving along…

#1. Cleveland and Tampa Bay are “those teams”

Almost every season, the AFC and NFC deliver a team or two that surprises all preseason expectations and makes the playoffs. Whether it is a team like the Jets last year (I need to promote something positive out of NYC this week), it’s ironic how quickly 6-10 expectations can turn into a 10-6 reality. This year is no exception. The AFC has the surprisingly 7-4 wild-card slotted Cleveland Browns and the NFC has the NFC South leading 7-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (by 2 games over the Saints). Yesterday, Washington was in the Christmas spirit a month early and the Bucs were given a key victory. This was a victory that last year’s team was unlikely to win. But things change that quickly in the Not For Long. Similarly, the Browns took care of business against a pesky Houston team despite a shaky first half. Whether Derek Anderson is the future in Cleveland is a legitimate question. Ditto for Earnest Graham in Tampa. So much for high-draft picks, right? More importantly, two coaches on the tip of the hot seat at season’s beginning are suddenly looking at potential extensions. To think that these two teams were overwhelming choices in August and early September to lose double-digit games is an afterthought. Now, they’re legitimate playoff contenders.

#2. Welcome to Seattle, Patrick Kerney

Two years ago, the Seattle Seahawks overcame their playoff dropsies and marched to Super Bowl XL. They played a flat game and lost out to some trick plays by Steelers, and yes, some dropsies when it mattered the most. So they dumped All-World guard Steve Hutchinson and picked up two players for a little over $100-million. While I commend them for making a push for then-injured Julian Peterson, WR Nate Burleson was a waste of money. Big time. Especially considering that money could’ve easily gone to Hutchinson (who could’ve spent his entire career side-by-side with potential Hall of Famer Walter Jones). This off-season, the Hawks addressed a gaping hole. One never filled by underachieving Grant Wistrom. Enter Patrick Kerney.

While missing 7 games last season and only registering 4.5 sacks, the Hawks didn’t hesitate in doling out the big bucks to Kerney. In return, through 11 games, he has delivered them 10.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. Not a bad investment for a team with a two-game division lead and a potential 1st-round home playoff game at 7-4.

#3. Don’t do it! DON’T!

Why Mike Shanahan would choose to kick directly at All-World Kick Returner Devin Hester, three times no less, is beyond me. Sure he can burn you once, or twice, but why allow him three times? I know you’re thinking about checking the box score to make sure Hester didn’t take a hat trick worth of TDs back. Don’t worry…he didn’t. However, Todd Sauerbrun tried to kick the air of the ball during his last punt. Of course, it wound up blocked and the Bears received the ball inside the Broncos’ 20-yard line. The cliché, “a loss that may haunt them at season’s end” has never been so poignant. Funny how things work out when you’re terrified of the NFL’s most dominant return man ever. Sorry, Vai Sikahema.

#4. Turkey Day Tanking

I know the schedule makers have their work cut out for them every season; however, this year’s Thanksgiving Day games just plain stunk. Detroit lost by 99 more than 9, the Jets had more punts than first downs until late in the game and I won’t even mention the atrocities coming out of “Hotlanta” this season either. While it was nice to see three stud QBs (Favre, Romo and Manning, respectively) at very different times – or perhaps “primes” – in their career, the opposing QBs (Kitna, Clemens and Harrington, respectively) ruined what could’ve been a holiday tripleheader delight.

Until next time…

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