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Week 16 Games to Watch


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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.

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Here's hoping there is some good prophecy in your take on this week's games! Of course I want the Broncos to go down, but that ain't happenin'. Neither are the Browns going to take it from the Steelers. But if only the Chargers and Texans win ... then doom might be just around the corner for the Steelers! That would make for a wonderful Christmas in my house!!!

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I really appreciate your effort on these threads joisey, they are fine reads.

And, like you, I take a second lingering look at that Broncs/Raiders game. The Raiders somehow always seem to find a little something extra for that game, could potentially be testy. Loving your Texans call, and think you are dead on with that one.

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Thanks. I'm glad people enjoy it. I just have too much time on my hands...

I think the Raiders could surprise. A while back Kirwan mentioned in a column (here: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9036040 ) how tough it can be to sweep a division rival. There's always a bit of "'throw the records out" about them. And notably, of all the games Bengals fans will be watching this week, the only one that isn't a division matchup is Cincy-Buffalo! So this weekend could bring a lot of unforseen results.

Really, the game I keep going back and forth on is the Browns-Steelers game. Now, let me preface this by saying that I would rather face Pitt than SD in the playoffs, so I'm not especially rooting for Pitt to lose...but I think the Browns have a real shot.

I just keep looking at Cleveland's last few games; they have not given up a lot of points, and what they have given up tends to have come off turnovers/bad field position. They gave up 3 TDs to the Vikes, for instance, but Minny's longest TD drive was 41 yards. They just held Oakland to 7 points last week. Yeah, Oakland's O isn't great but that's less than half their 16 point per game average. They didn't make it easy on us, and they were up 14-3 over Jax at the half a couple weeks back.

And I keep looking at a Pitt offense that's had problems scoring. Last week, for example, their offense managed a TD and 3 FGs against an unspectacular Vikes D. And that single TD came off a 14 yard drive. For the season, they're averaging a bit more than 22 points a game -- but they've only cleared that mark once in the past four outings (against us).

Then I look back at that Browns-Jags game and see how Cleveland gave up something like 5 sacks in the second half when the Jacksonville D got serious and I think what the Steelers might do. And I look at Cleveland's anemic run defense and think about how shutting down the Pitt run game is the key to victory (Steelers are 0-5 when they rush for less than 100, 9-0 when they go over). And I think it'll be Pitt. And that's what I called.

But I still keep going back and forth.

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i dont like the bold texans pick. no chance of them beating jax even if they didnt have a qb. jax d alone can beat the texans.

and the other pick about the chargers...how can u say its a lock even with lt not 100% just cuz they beat the colts in the dome. did u see them lose to miami 2 weeks ago? chargers are not that good and can be beat. ill go chiefs by 4.

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and the other pick about the chargers...how can u say its a lock even with lt not 100% just cuz they beat the colts in the dome. did u see them lose to miami 2 weeks ago? chargers are not that good and can be beat. ill go chiefs by 4.

Could happen. I just like the Chargers in this game. Yeah, they lost to Miami. KC lost to Buffalo. I try not to base things on one game. Thing about the Chargers is that they have been thisclose in every loss. In their 5 losses, they have gone down by 4, 3, 2, 3, and 2 points. That's a 2.8 average. When they've won, their average margin of victory is 16.5 points. In short, if they aren't blowing another team out, they are at least hanging around, and given the Chiefs' poor D (ranked about 27th) that's a recipe for disaster for KC.

Interesting factoid about SD: tho everyone focuses on LT, in their 5 losses, a big key has been the opposing team getting to Brees. Brees has been sacked 13 times in 5 losses, versus 12 times in 9 wins. Under pressure, he throws more picks (7 in 5 losses vs. 7 in 9 wins), he has a lower completion % (generally around 60% versus 70-80% in wins), and has a tendency to run (half his runs and most of his yards are in the losses). KC does not match up well with that. Their pass rush has generated just 27 sacks (for comparision purposes, the Bengals' anemic pass rush has managed 23) and their pass defense currently ranks 30th.

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