By Josh Kramer
We have now reached the final quarter of the NFL season. And there are a few things we know for sure. The Colts are absolutely awful. Green Bay is the team to beat. And the “North” appears to be the elite division in both the AFC and NFC. The Harbaughs may be the NFL’s power family now, but there are still many other key players as we enter the home stretch of the regular season.
As has become the tradition, we are once again having “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge.”
The participants this season are as follows:
TheSportsKraze (TSK) (defending champion)-Josh Kramer-Founder/Editor-In-Chief of “TheSportsKraze” and former ESPN intern.
CV3-Chad Vordenberge-An elite high school wide receiver and a very successful business owner.
CB-Craig Baker-A former collegiate baseball player and current special education teacher.
DC-David Clark-A dedicated sports fan who was coached by TheSportsKraze on his fraternity flag football team. After playing for TheSportsKraze, he has developed a slow but steady motivation to show his coach who the real pick’em champion is.
After Week 12, here is the scoreboard.
Carolina Panthers (CB, CV3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (TSK, DC)
-The Word: Two terrible defenses go head to head. Who will have the bigger day, Cam Newton or LeGarrette Blount?
Cincinnati Bengals (CB, CV3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (TSK, DC)
-The Word: This game is in essence a must-win for the Cincinnati Bengals. How will the young Bengals respond to the experienced Black and Yellow at Heinz?
Atlanta Falcons (CB) at Houston Texans (TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons offensive attack look to slow down the AFC’s hottest team. Can T.J. Yates do enough to keep the Texans winning?
New York Jets (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at Washington Redskins
-The Word: Despite being on the road, expect an inspired performance from Rex Ryan’s team in a must-win game for the Jets at FedEx Field.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: This game used to hold heavy significance. Now it is just a blowout in the making.
Oakland Raiders (TSK, CV3) at Miami Dolphins (CB, DC)
-The Word: The Dolphins are a far better team with Matt Moore under center. Sadly for Miami, Carson Palmer is having a rebirth in Oakland.
Denver Broncos (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at Minnesota Vikings
-The Word: Tim Tebow and the Broncos are supposed to beat a Vikings team that will like be Peterson-less. You never know with Tebow though.
Tennessee Titans (TSK, DC) at Buffalo Bills (CV3, CB)
-The Word: It was fun while it lasted in Buffalo. Maybe Stevie Johnson will focus on football this week.
Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: If Caleb Hanie is unable to lead the Bears to a victory at home against KC, Chicago is in big trouble.
Baltimore Ravens (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at Cleveland Browns
-The Word: I feel bad for the Browns. I truly do. The AFC North is flat-out loaded.
Dallas Cowboys (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at Arizona Cardinals
-The Word: Dallas finally seems to get it. Expect Romo and Co. to keep rolling in the desert.
Green Bay Packers (CB, TSK, CV3, DC) at New York Giants:
-The Word: Who made the Giants schedule? The G-Men were set up for failure with this bitter stretch.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: This is just not St. Louis’ year. Maybe the sophomore hangover (Sam Bradford) really is a fact of life in the NFL.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints (CB, TSK, CV3, DC)
-The Word: A Suh-less Lions team is going to have a very long night in the Superdome.
San Diego Chargers (CB, TSK, DC) at Jacksonville Jaguars (CV3)
-The Word: I am not sure which team is in the midst of a worst nightmare. Talk about a disappointing year for both teams.
Game of the Week: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
-It is safe to say at this point that Andy Dalton has no fear. I realize that he is 0 for 2 against the Ravens and Steelers on the year, but in both contests, the Bengals had a chance to win the game. The fiery red-head has to be at the top of a very short list for the NFL’s rookie of the year. He has the poise and swagger of a seasoned veteran. Pittsburgh is a team that is no stranger to big time games. They are in the playoff hunt every year, and really consider any season a disappointment when they do not play in the Super Bowl.
-The Steelers are doing what they do every year. Winnings games in any way possible. It may not be pretty, but Ben Roethlisberger’s broken plays are no fluke. They are a regular occurrence in Pittsburgh. Cincinnati has proven that they are a team that deserves to be in the playoff discussion. But they have failed to get over the hump in the real big games. Well here is a major opportunity for them against their arch-rival. Sadly, I just do not see it happening. The Bengals have won ugly all season long, including last weeks come from behind W over Cleveland. There is no team in football that wins ugly better than Pittsburgh. Do not expect the Steelers to get outdone at their own craft at home.
Stat of the Week:
-Pittsburgh has won 8 of the last 10 times they have taken the field against Cincinnati. The Bengals are having a somewhat magical season in which they are vastly exceeding anyone and everyone’s expectations. But Pittsburgh is not a team of fairy tales. They flat-out win each and every year. And in recent history, they have absolutely dominated this rivalry against their divisional foe.
CV3: Round 2 for the Bengals and Steelers. Did Andy Dalton learn enough in the last meeting to pull the Bengals ahead? This will be a tough game for both teams in a match-up that has playoff implications on the line.
CB: No doubt about it, the game of the week has to be the Bengals vs. Steelers. This game is very important for both teams because it keeps them in the hunt for the division title and also for the playoffs. Since the Steelers won the last meeting, the Bengals want to prove that they are for real. It is going to be critical that Andy Dalton is mistake free against the nasty Steelers defense. With all the pressure and confusion that the Steelers D creates, Andy Dalton needs to not only be mistake free, but the receivers need to play at their highest potential. Having Mr. Green for the entire game this time around could be the difference maker. It will be important for the Bengals to not give up the deep ball to the explosive Steelers wide receivers since the Bengals are without Leon Hall for the rest of the season. I expect this to be a slugfest on Sunday.
DC: Heinz Field is where all eyes should be focused on this weekend. The Bengals and Steelers go toe to toe for Round II. How will the rookie Dalton respond to the madness that will ensue from Terrible Towel Nation? We will find out on Sunday.
TSK: Not a plethora of marquee matchups this week. Definitely keep an eye on both of the New York teams, as they play in must win games. Also pay close attention to the showdown in Pittsburgh, where the Cincinnati Bengals look to make a real statement that they are indeed a contender in the AFC.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.