HoosierCat Posted December 21, 2005 Report Share Posted December 21, 2005 Some thoughts on this week's other games of interest. As always, comments, opinions, etc. welcome...Oakland Raiders (4-10) @ Denver Broncos (11-3)The Bengals, hoping to capture the second seed in the AFC, along with a bye week, need some help, since the Broncos hold the AFC conference tiebreaker. Don't hold your breath here. Oakland, which lost at home to the Browns last week, is 2-5 on the road, 0-5 against division foes like Denver (including a 31-17 home loss to the Broncos), and has lost its last four. Yes, the Broncos have looked unimpressive over the last couple weeks, barely squeaking by Baltimore at home, and trailing early against the Bills last week, and do need to step it up a tad...but a tad is all they ought to need against the Raiders. Kerry Collins is back in for Oakland, and he did hit Moss for a TD last week, but Norv Turner is widely viewed as a dead coach walking and locker room morale is said to be low. On top of that, RB LaMont Jordan looks to be out (turf toe). This smells like Denver by (at least) 14.Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) @ Cleveland Browns (5-9)The Steelers head to Cleveland, where a scrappy Browns squad refuses to roll over and play dead. The Browns appear to have rallied around young Charlie Frye, and first-year head coach Romeo Crennel has them playing hard. Though out of the playoff hunt, a win against Pittsburgh would set them up for a shot to finish 7-9 by beating Baltimore in Cleveland in week 17. That would be a notable achievement considering their crash-and-burn act last year and would give Crennel a good foundation on which to build next year.Unfortunately, Frye's favorite target, rookie WR Braylon Edwards, was lost two weeks ago for the season, and just this week the team was forced to put starting C Jeff Faine on IR. Even more unfortunately, while the Browns are playing for 7-9, the Steelers are still fighting for their playoff lives. They know that even if they win out, they could miss the postseason; if they drop another game they will almost certainly play their last game in week 17. Pitt is playing well on the road (5-1) while Cleveland is just .500 at home. Pitt may also have tackle Marvel Smith back; he practiced Tuesday and is listed as questionable. The Steelers are 2-3 without him.I expect this one to turn on defense. Both teams have played good D all year (Cleveland has allowed only 7 more points than Pitt all season), while both offenses have struggled to score lately. Special teams and field position could play a big role in this game, and there the Browns have a definite edge, with STs ranking 11th per the Fox/Footballoutsiders rankings versus Pitt's 27th. Look for penalties and turnovers to be a factor as well; in the first meeting in Pitt Cleveland turned the ball over twice and had 75 yards in penalties to Pitt's 30. I think Cleveland keeps it close but in the end it's Pittsburgh by 5.San Diego Chargers (9-5) @ Kansas City Chiefs (8-6)Playoffs likely hang in the balance for these two division rivals. KC will be knocked out with a loss, and SD needs a win to stay in the hunt after dropping a gimme to Miami two weeks ago.SD is coming off a road victory against the undefeated Colts; KC is coming off a road embarrassment in New York. No disrespect to Tiki Barber intended, but Tom Coughlin could have gone in and rushed for 200 yards the way KC was (not) tackling. You have to think that pure shame would incite the Chiefs to better efforts this week.Against the Chargers, they'll need it. KC has already lost one to SD, 28-20, a game in which they horked up nearly 100 on the ground and 324 through the air to the Chargers. (The game was not quite as close as it sounds, with the Chiefs last TD coming just before the 2 minute mark; SD did give them the ball back but they had time for just one play before the clock expired.) The Chiefs will especially need to contain TE Antonio Gates, who torched them for 135 yards and 3 TDs in the game. KC did generate a lot of yardage in that meeting, with Trent Green throwing for nearly 350, but he was also harassed and sacked 4 times.The wild card in this game is LaDanian Tomlinson. The SD RB has a nagging rib injury that forced him from the Indy game last week. Fortunately backup Michael Turner came up big.But even with LT less than 100%, if they can beat the Colts in the dome, look for them to win at Arrowhead by 7.Jacksonville Jaguars (10-4) @ Houston Texans (2-12)The Jags say that QB Byron Leftwich is aiming to return by the finale against Tennessee. That's good, because they may need him to seal a playoff deal. Backup David Garrard hasn't been bad, but he hasn't been good, either, and last week's squeaker against the horrid 49ers was a clear warning shot.Houston always plays Jax tough. In their week 9 meeting in Jacksonville, Houston blanked the Jaguars in the first half and led 14-7 in the fourth before surrendering two TDs to fall 21-14. Houston's downfall, as usual, was its o-line, which allowed 6 sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble by David Carr and an easy 29-yard Jags TD drive. But even with that, Jacksonville needed a perfect second-half performance from Leftwich -- 11 for 11, 162 yards, 1 TD -- to win the game.Look for the Jags to struggle and fall short by 6. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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