Tag Archives: Ben Roethlisberger

Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Preview

Nothing is more daunting than a lifetime Bears fan and franchise-long Ravens fan attending the carving up of Super Bowl assignments at GASB headquarters.

In short: which No. 1 hated division rival would you like to analyze and assess more? Thankfully, GASB will always love the game much more than we hate our mortal enemies, so let’s take a hard look at the Pittsburgh Steelers, inarguably one of the greatest franchises in NFL history.

Pittsburgh comes into this game as the only franchise with six previous Super Bowl victories and the only franchise to have won eight AFC Championship Games. This means that in seven prior Super Bowl appearances, the team has only been defeated once.

ROONEY ROYALTY

If it weren’t for loyalties elsewhere, the Pittsburgh Steelers are precisely the type of organization that GASB loves and they certainly run the type of system that other teams around the league should certainly aspire toward both on the field and in the front offices.

Consider that this particular team is still owned and run by the Rooney Family (since 1933) and has tenured a mere THREE head coaches in the modern Super Bowl era.

Rather than take impulsive mulligans or “adapt” to the more corporate Snyder/Jones one-and-done style of modern front office and personal changes, the Steelers get their men and stand by their men.

They consistently build immense teams via the draft and grow their players in a uniquely Steelers system from the ground up. The loyalty pays off: Chuck Noll delivered four rings, Bill Cowher delivered one and Mike Tomlin matched it a mere three years later and is sitting on the doorstep yet again.

One would be hard pressed to find a team with as much talent in the office as on the field, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are unquestionably that team. And as with every Sunday, it will ultimately come down to the men standing on the field executing what they’ve been drilled on since OTA’s and mini camp the preceding summer.

Let’s examine who’s coming charging out of the tunnel.

Quarterback: Love him or hate him, “Big” Ben Roethlisberger is unquestionably in the top three realm of modern quarterbacks.

If we’re talking about one game for all the marbles, Big Ben is right up there with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. All three have demonstrated what it is to be clutch when it counts the absolute most. What makes the Steelers’ quarterback position so terrifying for Green Bay and Packer fans everywhere in this matchup is that they are facing an especially dangerous Roethlisberger coming out of the story arc that was the 2010 season.

IF THIS MAN DOESN'T LOOK INNOCENT OF ALL RAPE CHARGES I JUST DON'T KNOW WHO DOES

Forced to sit for four games (reduced from six) at the front end of the schedule for particularly a scandalous and alarming pattern of offseason misconduct, Ben was faced with a simple choice: shape up now or suffer the fate of former teammate Santonio Holmes (traded to the Jets after a nightclub incident).

Accordingly, Roethlisberger focused in on the difficult road to redemption before him and made massive strides. He recommitted himself to the game and, upon reinstatement, went out to light it up like a man literally playing for his life.

Roethlisberger 3.0 was an absolute monster during the remaining 2010 regular season and playoffs.

His mental and physical toughness were unparalleled while stacked AFC defenses tried to simply break him in all facets from week to week. They smashed and broke his nose across his face. He stayed in. They nearly snapped his ankle. He put a boot on and ran right back out onto the field.

He threw for over 3,000 yards in 12 games, he lowered his head and picked up first downs and touchdowns at will and, while unquantifiable on a stat sheet, he seemed much wiser in his trademark gambling methodology of navigating the pocket.

Yes, Ben Roethlisberger holds onto the ball longer than any QB in the league. This has not changed. What has changed is that he’s seeing the peripheral landscape better and creating many more offensive opportunities than ever in doing so.

Nobody wants this game more than Big Ben. You could argue that nobody needs this game more than Big Ben.

This is an entirely frightening premise if you’re Dom Capers on the Packers sideline.

Offensive Line: Of note and of great significance: reports have emerged that starting rookie center Maurkice Pouncey will not play in Sunday’s showdown due to an ankle injury suffered in the AFC Championship Game.

He remains listed as “questionable” as of press time. This is a massive blow to the Steelers and will absolutely be a major factor heading in. Pouncey put forth a Pro Bowl effort in 2010 and certainly demonstrated what a modern center in the league CAN be. Doug Legursky has been tapped to step in.

His reward? BJ Raji staring him down from across the line. To quote a legendary canine cartoon, “ZOINKS!”

I JUST LIKE SCOOBY DOO

The good news? The Steelers are absolutely stacked with grizzled and energized veterans on the left and right sides.

Jonathan Scott, Chris Kemoeatu, and Flozell Adams are household names for a reason. Second-year right guard Ramon Foster is quickly proving himself and earning his keep with the big boys. So while Legursky has his work cut out for him, expect more than a little help from his not-so-little friends.

Anticipate a showdown of epic proportions as the Packers send Cullen Jenkins and Clay Matthews slamming into these Steeler workhorses.

Running Backs: Now in his third season, Rashard Mendenhall has proven yet again that the Steelers know how to draft. Plucked straight from the Big Ten and thrust immediately into the Super Bowl season of 2008, No. 34 was forced to learn the system immediately and be ready when his number was called.

He responded with a 2009 that saw him break 1,000 yards on the ground while stepping into that every-QBs-best-friend role of hovering just outside of the pocket on pass plays for the last option dump off pass. In 2010, he showed improvement across the board — making a case for elite status.

Look for entirely solid and potentially game-breaking plays from Mendenhall under the big lights. Do not count on costly mistakes: Mendenhall only put the ball on the ground twice this season.

BLACK-AND-GOLD BRUISER

Fullback David Johnson will have his work cut out for him alternating between trying to shore up the Pouncey-free line and creating lanes for Mendenhall to bust through.

As he’s proven in the last two seasons, he is ready, willing, and able to do just that when called upon.

Other than that, look for Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman to see some snaps and give Big Ben some options if Matthews and Jenkins manage to get past the O-Line quicker than anticipated.

Tight End: Simply put, Heath Miller is your prototypical AFC North tight end.

Deftly skilled at both blocking and receiving, look for the Steelers to call upon No. 83 in any scenario where the chips are down. His field vision will enable him to pick up and thwart oncoming defenders and, if Charles Woodson plugs up the deep threat, Miller is not afraid to run a route across the middle on any third-down situation.

With a weakened line, Heath will absolutely need to be on point on every down he plays. Count on it. Beyond No. 83, the Steelers could not ask for a better number two guy than Matt Spaeth.

Set your watch to both men executing their assignments with ferocity.

Wide Receivers: Once again, the Steelers prove that they are top-tier genius status when it comes to drafting correctly.

Hines Ward is now in his thirteenth year with the team and is still one of the most explosive and game-breaking receivers in big game situations. He simply grins in the face of opposing defenses as he’s breaking their backs with clutch catch after catch.

WINNIN' RACES, BREAKIN' FACES

Those unfamiliar with the Steelers’ 2010 season might look at the stat line and surmise that No. 86 had a down year. That’s not the case when you factor in Roethlisberger’s newest toy at the No. 2 spot: another draft pick turned gold in second-year man Mike Wallace.

Accounting for over 1,250 yards and 10 TD’s in year two? Welcome to prime time, youngster.

After the monster season Wallace enjoyed, look for him to shine and truly make a name for himself in front of the biggest viewing audience of the year (perhaps all-time).

The Steelers are as balanced as ever at this position and the war chest runs deep receiver-wise. If Hines gets stymied, Monday morning water cooler talk could be all about the rise of the “Young Money Fellas” (more later).

Defensive Line: The Steelers continue to run a 3-4 defense, so look for the 920-pound three-headed dog-from-hell also known as Brett Keisel, Ziggy Hood, and Casey Hampton to put constant pressure on the Packers and Rodgers.

Ziggy’s had a bit of a breakout year in only his second year in the league, so definitely keep your eye on him with each snap. It looks like Aaron Smith will not be available for the game, so the Steelers will have to count on Chris Hoke and Nick Eason for support behind the starting three.

GASB expects some major disruptions at the hands of the D line versus the Pack. The timing of these disruptions and how Rodgers adjusts and handles pressure from all sides will be a huge determining factor in this game. Rodgers has seen some exotic blitzes during the course of the season. On Sunday, he will literally see the best the league has to offer.

Linebackers: As we take a peak over the front three, we’re beginning to become a little terrified for Aaron Rodgers and James Starks. Let’s say the Pack pitches a perfect game versus Keisel, Hood, and Hampton. Okay, then what the hell do you do with “LIGHTS OUT. NO SERIOUSLY, LIGHTS OUT” James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior, and LeMarr Woodley wanting to decapitate any and every man attempting to advance the football past them?

THIS MAN PAYS MORE MONEY IN FINES THAN YOU WILL EVER MAKE IN A SINGLE YEAR

GASB would prefer to go to any California State Penitentiary wearing nothing but assless chaps for a day than be asked to stave off the homicidal maniacs that comprise the modern day Steel Curtain for even a single down.

Put it down: all four of these men are going to put their mark on this game. There is not an offensive scheme on the planet that can keep these four from feasting at will. They are going to get to you and they are going to make your internal organs scream. The only way to address the linebacking corps of the Steelers is to attempt to keep their big plays manageable within the context of the entire offensive attack.

In this regard, The Packers will need to hone in on a perfectly balanced attack of both the run and the pass, as we now enter into the third and near-inpenatrable component of the Steelers D.

Secondary: With such a formidable front line and linebacking corps, sometimes the only possible solution is to take your chances on the secondary. Not with the Steelers, man.

You know you’re in deep, deep trouble when the STRONG SAFETY for the other team has more national endorsements than your starting franchise quarterback.

Simply put, you can try testing Troy Polamalu, but he’s going to eat your lunch more often than not. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “how many times?”
How many times are you going to issue a death sentence to your own tight end or receiver by trying to pick up yardage in the middle?

TIP DRILL

How many times is one of those 300-pound giants going to bat a ball up into the air only to see it come down into the hands and fleet-footed blur of hair and black and gold?

And that’s just Polamalu’s impact.
Have you SEEN Ryan Clark and Ike Taylor give interviews lately? Could there be a more cold-blooded, Secret Service-level of assuredness and confidence coming from two men?

GASB thinks not. We’re talking about two men in their athletic primes (nine years in the league for Clark, eight for Taylor) realizing that the window is closing on another ring and wanting absolutely nothing more in present tense. Expect athletic brilliance from both, with Clark making savant-like freelancing decisions and Taylor blanketing all assignments.

If all else fails and Rodgers looks left for intermediate, manageable gains, expect no mercy. Bryant McFadden will be watching. Waiting. Studying. He’s already looked over every tape of every tendency Rodgers has shown in his entire career. He knows how to tackle in the open field (2010 marked a career high 74 solo tackles). He’s absolutely going to get there and, if he sees something he recognizes, it’s going to make for a long day for the men in yellow and green.

Special Teams: This is the one area where the Steelers aren’t exactly as superhuman as the other facets of the game.

Punter Jeremy Kapinos, in spite of being a Penn Stater, hasn’t exactly had the most solid NFL career to date. Four different teams in as many years, and just not many reps. He came over to the Steelers in week eight of the 2010 season and didn’t see consistent action until week fourteen, where he slid into the starter role.

With the exception of a rough game versus the Jets in week fifteen, he’s been “okay” for the Steelers. If SB XLV turns out to be the defensive war it has all the potential to be, field position will be at a premium and Mr. Kapinos will need to back up his Nittany Lion pedigree by putting it back long and in the corner.

Placekicker Shaun Suisham scares the bejeezus out of GASB if this game indeed comes down to defense and field goals. GASB spends a lot of time in the greater Washington, DC metro area, where Suisham was run out of town at the behest of a rather angry pitchfork and torch-wielding mob of Redskins faithful.

While he’s shown decent acumen in his seven-game run this season with the Steelers, history dictates that at some point Shaun Suisham will become Shaun Suisham. For the sake of the biggest game of the year, we sincerely hope it’s not this Sunday.

Finally, in the latter half of the season, the Steelers discovered big-play ability in a young rookie named Antonio Brown. It began with a game-winning dagger of a catch versus GASB’s beloved Ravens and simply did not end there. Accordingly, the Steelers have put 1/3 of the “Young Money Fellas” (the other two being fellow WR’s Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders) back for both kick and punt returns on top of what is quickly becoming his “late-game heroic” status in the offense.

The hope is that his explosiveness and excitement-raising style of play will energize the offense and Terrible Towel-wavers alike heading into each and every series.  We anticipate Brown to deliver at some point, likely when it matters most (think Santonio Holmes in their last SB appearance).

NOPE, STILL NOT LOOKING LIKE A SEXUAL PREDATOR

Side note on Antonio Brown: If you’re looking for a Michael Oher Blind Side-esque backstory to get behind and really pull for for this weekend, GASB highly recommends looking into No. 84’s rise to the NFL. It’s the classic narrative of daunting, oppressively hard times failing to break a human spirit driven to compete at the highest level.

Super Bowl XLV has all of the makings of a game for the ages and this writer wishes a sincerely fantastic and fun-filled viewing experience to everyone in GASB-nation.

– Brent Eyestone

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NFL Week 11 picks and predictions

It’s Week 11 and in both conferences, division and wild card races are finally starting to take shape.

Pictures are murky at best, but this week’s batch of games should help in clearing the waters. The game to really look out for is San Diego at Denver, where the suddenly resurgent (stop me if you’ve heard this story before) Chargers take on the suddenly tail sliding Broncos. Can echoes carry over from one season to the next?

I (obviously) didn’t finish this column in time for the Thursday night game due to some travel, but I’ll be honest and say I had picked the Panthers to win that game.

And prior to kickoff, all signs pointed to just that happening. The Panthers have been playing good football as of late, the Dolphins were to be without their best players on both sides of the football and it was in Carolina. And then, something happened.

More specifically, John Fox happened.

What his rationale was in letting Jake Delhommne throw over 40 passes while his star running back — who had averaged over 10 yards per carry through three quarters — sat idly by may never be known. What is, now, is that Carolina is out of the wild card race and John Fox has no one to blame but himself.

I went 10-5 last week to push me to 94-50 so far this year.

Let’s get on with the show, shall we?

Washington (3-6) @ Dallas (6-3):

Let’s get something straight right off the bat: Washington is not a good football team.

Yes, they beat what was a 6-2 Denver team last week, but it was a team without its quarterback and it was due in large part to a how-the-hell-did-that-just-happen 114-yard performance from Ladell Betts. A second consecutive win is out of the question; the Redskins will be traveling to Jerryworld to play a Cowboys team that needs a win to keep pace ahead of the Eagles and Giants in the NFC West.

Now that Romo has his monthly clunker out of the way, he will need to get back to business — and the rushing game will have to follow suit — against the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL.

Points will be at a premium, but the Cowboys take it at home.

JORDAN SAYS: Cowboys 20, Redskins 10

—————

Cleveland (1-8) @ Detroit (1-8):

No. Just no.

JORDAN SAYS:
Lions 22, Browns 6

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San Francisco (4-5) @ Green Bay (5-4):

These are two teams that both still have realistic playoff hopes. Slim? Maybe. But hopes none the less.

The Packers’ hopes are contingent on the offensive line improving at least to a point where Aaron Rodgers is on his feet more than his back. And give credit where it’s due; Rodgers is the fifth-ranked passer in the league even without a running game or an offensive line to protect him. Miraculous doesn’t even cover it.

"WHY YES, THIS IS MY REAL HAIR."

Rodgers should have plenty of time to throw against the 49ers’ lackluster pass rush (just 17 sacks this year) but the same will be true of Alex Smith.

Smith faces a tougher overall defense, though.

The Packers have flawlessly implemented the 3-4, and San Francisco running back Frank Gore is going to have tough time getting past linebackers Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk. If the Packers can lock down Gore and force the visitors into third-and-long scenarios the game is theirs to win because Smith isn’t capable of routinely beating Al Harris and Atari Bigby on bump-and-run coverage.

JORDAN SAYS: Packers 24, 49ers 16

—————

Pittsburgh (6-3) @ Kansas City (2-7):

The Chiefs may have shed a burden with the recent release of the much-maligned Larry Johnson, but addition by subtraction it wasn’t.

Not only did Kansas City’s already embarrassing run game take a hit, the fact that Johnson was released instead of being moved at the deadline did nothing to shore up a defense allowing just shy of 24 points per game. That average will certainly go up with Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and their high-powered squad rolling into town.

Kansas City ranks near the bottom of the league in sacks (12), interceptions (5) and forced fumbles (0). That inability to force turnovers means the defense will be out there even longer than usual.

JORDAN SAYS: Steelers 30, Chiefs 12

—————

Atlanta (5-4) @ New York Giants (5-4):

It’s very possible that neither of these teams, both of which came into the 2009 season with Super Bowl aspirations, don’t even make the playoffs.

And they’ve arrived at their respective underachieving status’ through vastly different paths.

The Falcons have played a brutal schedule, and three of their four losses have come at the hands of the Patriots, Cowboys and Saints. No shame there. On the other hand, the Giants are experiencing a precipitous fall after mopping through their early, creampuff schedule.

THERE IT IS

Most importantly, the Tom Coughlin face is back.

You know the one. The “wait… did I leave the oven on this morning? I wonder what the population of Norway was in 1923” face after Eli Manning throws an errant pass or Brandon Jacobs is stood up by a defensive back half his size.

It’s not a good sign for a New York team too talented on both sides of the ball to be where they are. The aforementioned Jacobs is having trouble penetrating the line of scrimmage, Manning’s connection with Steve Smith 2.0 that looked so good through five weeks has withered, and the vaunted defense is allowing over 22 points per game — good for just 20th.

New York is simply too talented to lose five straight, especially  against a Falcons team that will be without the services of Michael Turner.

JORDAN SAYS:
Giants 27, Falcons 23

—————

New Orleans (9-0) @ Tampa Bay (1-8):

The Saints, despite being undefeated, have had a tough go of it the past three weeks. Narrow wins over Carolina and St. Louis have raised from warning flags, and the struggles are coming from the most unlikely of places.

Drew Brees, who started the season on pace to shatter every major single-season passing record, has shown a propensity to turn the ball over — through fumble and interception — and its hurt his team in recent weeks. Luckily for the Saints, they now have a defense to bail them out.

Not that they’ll need it against the Buccaneers.

And not to take anything away from them — rookie Josh Freeman has this team playing great football, but Tampa Bay still has the second-worst defense in football. The pass defense has markedly improved since the beginning of the season thanks to lockdown corner Aqib Talib and the emergence of Tanard Jackson, but only Buffalo has a worse rush defense.

So with Reggie Bush not playing due to a groin injury, Mike Bell and Pierre Thomas will each get plenty of touches. Look for New Orleans to lean on that run game at the outset, before turning the ball over to Brees, Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey.

JORDAN SAYS: Saints 31, Buccaneers 16

—————

Buffalo (3-6) @ Jacksonville (5-4):

Jacksonville has been a thorn, no, a spear in my side all year. I expect them to zig, they zag. I expect the Jets to beat them, they beat the Jets. I can’t win.

Until this week.

This game is as simple to pick as last weeks was. Now, Maurice Jones-Drew is no Chris Johnson, but he is a powerful, game-changing runner and he’ll take full advantage of the gaudy 173 yards per game the Bills are surrendering on the ground.

ONE OF FOUR TACKLES THE BUFFALO BILLS DEFENSE HAS MADE THIS SEASON

It’s the same every week for Buffalo. Their defense performs admirably through three quarters (holding New Orleans 10 points in as many quarters, Houston to nine) and then falls apart in the fourth due to sheer exhaustion. As if the Bills’ run defense wasn’t bad enough, they’ll be without the services of run-stopper Marcus Stroud and leading tackler Keith Ellison.

So, for those of you keeping score at home, Buffalo will be without both starting defensive tackles, both starting outside linebackers, both starting cornerbacks and the starting strong safety.

It’s going to be a long day.

JORDAN SAYS: Jaguars 28, Bills 10

—————

Indianapolis (9-0) @ Baltimore (5-4):

The Ravens are already at a point where every week will present a must-win game, because 11-5 or 10-6 may not be good enough to make the playoffs, let alone the 9-7 mark they’re on pace for.

I’m not questioning Peyton Manning’s competitive spirit or that of anyone on his team, but the simple fact is this is an irrelevant game to the Colts. They’re going to be a 13-win team and a loss on the road to a possibly playoff-bound Ravens team wouldn’t look badly on them.

Conversely, Ray Lewis and Co. will be fired up not only because it’s a must-win, but because it’s a chance to knock off the undefeated AFC juggernauts and re-assert the Ravens as a conference power.

Tom Brady and the Patriots exposed the vulnerability of the Colts’ secondary last week, so Flacco would be wise to attempt some deep strikes to Derek Mason to get an early lead. The bigger necessity, though, is establishing Ray Rice and Willis McGahee on the ground. Rice is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and is bruising between the tackles — another place that Indy is vulnerable — and McGahee has been a sure thing in red zone situations this year.

Ravens play just enough defense on Manning and Rice has a big day in the win.

JORDAN SAYS: Ravens 23, Colts 20

—————

Seattle (3-6) @ Minnesota (8-1):

I don’t know how in the world it’s possible, but the 8-1 Minnesota Vikings are flying beneath the radar. There’s plenty of talk about the Saints, Colts, Cowboys, Steelers, Patriots and Bengals, but the Vikings definitely have a case for best team in the league.

CHARACTER ISSUES ARE OVERRATED

The Seahawks will find that out first-hand on Sunday.

With only one victory over a winning team (a 41-0 romp over the mercurial Jaguars) there’s just no evidence that Seattle can hang with Minnesota. Their middle-of-the-road defense may keep Adrian Peterson under 100 yards, but putting eight in the box to do that means the play-action that the Vikings run to perfection will be even more dangerous.

Couple the play-action threat with the ever-dangerous Percy Harvin and you’ve got an incredibly tough offense to stop. The only advances from Minnesota that Seattle will be able to stop are Brad Childress’ if they’re able to get a hold of Chris Hansen before kickoff.

JORDAN SAYS:
Vikings 29, Seahawks 14

—————

Arizona (6-3) @ St. Louis (1-9):

After getting blown out of the water in four out of its first five games, St. Louis has settled down. True, the Rams’ only win was over the Lions, but they played the Jaguars into overtime and the Saints deep into the fourth quarter, so this is a team capable of pulling the upset.

HOPING HE CAN RUN SO HARD HE ENDS UP ON A DIFFERENT ROSTER

And the reason why is quite simple — Stephen Jackson. Even on a bad team, with no offensive line and every defense knowing they have to stop him, Jackson has rushed for at least 130 yards in three consecutive games.

Now he gets to face a Cardinals defense allowing over 100 rushing yards per game.

So the question isn’t whether Jackson will get his touches and get his yards, but whether or not he’ll be out-dueled by Father Time for the Cardinals. Warner is coming off his best game of the season — a 340-yard, two-TD performance against the Seahawks — so there may be a bit of a letdown and Beanie Wells is not yet to the point where you can count on the type of performance he gave last week regularly.

JORDAN SAYS: Rams 20, Cardinals 19

—————

New York Jets (4-5) @ New England (6-3):

Rex Ryan is a crier.

That just feels good to say.

The brash, arrogant, sore loser of a Jets coach had a little tear duct issue when addressing his team this week, and there’s a good possibility that it flares up again after New England runs roughshod on the Jets this week.

One of the Patriots’ three losses came against the Jets earlier this season in a game Ryan predicted they’d win — believe that New England has been thinking about that non-stop since it happened. No Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team has lost twice to a division opponent in one season. New England isn’t going to be taken by surprise by Mark Sanchez this time, and now that Tom Brady has his confidence in the pocket back, he won’t be intimidated by a Jets squad ranking third in total defense.

Revenge will be sweet for the Patriots.

JORDAN SAYS: Patriots 26, Jets 14

—————

Cincinnati (7-2) @ Oakland (2-7):

The bad news for the Bengals is that Cedric Benson is doubtful for Sunday’s game.

The good news is that they’re playing the Raiders.

INTERCEPTION IN FIVE... FOUR... THREE

That’ll make any team feel fortunate, and even the combination of Bernard Scott and Over the Hill Johnson should be able to exploit a Raiders team giving up over 155 yards per game on the ground. The Silver-and-Black have allowed their last three opponents to have hundred-yard rushing days, and none of the teams that had those performances were even in the top half of the league in rushing.

Oakland will combat, er, try to combat the Bengals’ offense with Bruce Gradkowski.

I’m sure I’m not alone in laughing after reading that sentence.

JORDAN SAYS: Bengals 24, Raiders 3

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San Diego (6-3) @ Denver (6-3):

Tell me if you’ve heard this story before: the Denver Broncos start out hot and fade down the stretch, and the San Diego Chargers start off cold and heat up down the stretch.

For the second straight year, we’ve been bamboozled in the AFC West.

And the Broncos’ struggles are not indicative of a team on the verge of collapse — not yet. There’s no shame in consecutive losses to the Ravens and Steelers, and the loss to the Redskins last week stems from Kyle Orton getting knocked out of the game in the first half.

Still, as I’ve been saying all year, the Broncos cannot play from behind and the Chargers are a team that loves to put some quick points on the board in the first quarter. The emergence of Vincent Jackson as one of the game’s more dangerous deep threats has given Philip Rivers a needed field-stretching element, because the running game is still one of the league’s worst.

The Chargers get up early and keep the lead.

JORDAN SAYS: Chargers 21, Broncos 12

—————

Philadelphia (5-4) @ Chicago (4-5):

There is nobody in the NFL better at throwing interceptions than Jay Cutler. He is the gold standard to Jake Delhomme’s and Jamarcus Russell’s bronze.

SECONDS BEFORE DISASTER

No one is going to accuse Chicago of having the best wide receivers corps in football, but the amount of times that Cutler forsakes the right play for the one that shows off his arm strength is alarming. Couple that with the lack of Matt Forte sightings and a defense that frankly isn’t very good — over 22 points per game allowed — and the result is a team that’s headed for the offseason instead of the playoffs.

Philadelphia still has a chance for the playoffs, but it has got to start running the ball.

Andy Reid is a pass first, ask questions later coach, but with the Bears having just the 21st-ranked pass defense, he’d be wise to get Lesean McCoy into the game early.

JORDAN SAYS: Eagles 31, Bears 19

—————

Tennessee (3-6) @ Houston (5-4):

This is likely to be the most exciting game of the week.

With Vince Young revitalizing the Titans offense — and playing damn well in the process — and Chris Johnson leading the in rushing, they have the cogs to go toe-to-toe with Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton.

With points sure to come from both teams, this comes down to which team can play better defense. The Texans will need linebacker Brian Cushing to be an omnipresent force shadowing Johnson’s every step and Mario Williams will have to find a way to beat the double-coverage pitted against him because nobody else on Houston’s d-line can so much as spell quarterback pressure.

Tennessee will need the same kind of performance from Keith Bullock and Cortland Finnegan will need to do his best in locking down Andre Johnson.

A key turnover could help swing what should be a close matchup.

JORDAN SAYS:
Texans 27, Titans 26

– Jordan Rogowski

NFL Week 7 picks and predictions

The next two weeks may very well determine the course of the NFL season.

With three unbeaten as many winless teams remaining through six weeks of action, these next couple crops of matchups should go a long way in giving clues as to whether or not those unbeaten and winless teams will remain such when Week 17 comes to a close.

The smart money is on no team winning or losing 16, but in a season that’s been anything but ordinary, that money may not be so smart after all.

I went 11-3 last week to move to my best standing of the season at 60-30.

On wit ze show…

Green Bay (3-2)  @ Cleveland (1-5):

Aaron Rodgers finally had his 2009 coming out party in style against the 29th-ranked Detroit secondary last week and this week will be more of the same against a Cleveland team ranked 23rd.

Greg Jennings, fresh off a 1,000-yard receiving season, has yet to have the breakout game that Rodgers had and now’s as good a time as any. He’s going into the game with just one touchdown reception on the season, but there’s a very good chance he’ll be leaving with two or three.

Especially given how much the Browns’ defense will be on the field.

Derek Anderson is venturing into Jamarcus Russell’s realm in completing just 44% of his passes and he’s got three times as many interceptions as touchdowns. Against the Packers’ speedy 3-4 squad, look for the number of interceptions to spike while the touchdown count remains stagnant as ever.

JORDAN SAYS: Packers 30, Browns 6

———–

San Diego (2-3) @ Kansas City (1-5):

Few things in life make me happier than watching Philip Rivers fail.

And I don’t care that he’s commanding the fifth-best passing offense in football, nor do I care that he’s thrown seven touchdowns to three INTs. What I care about is Rivers losing games, and he’s been damn efficient at that.

WITH APOLOGIZES TO BEAKER

WITH APOLOGIES TO BEAKER

Some people may cite the Chargers having the NFL’s most inept run game, or a defense that can’t stop anyone — not I. I place 200% of the blame on Philip Rivers. Fair or not, this is his team. Not LDT’s, not Merriman’s, and certainly not Norv Turner’s. It’s his team that eked out a win over the hapless Raiders thanks to a terrible no-touchdown call. It’s his team that barely held off a Miami team that had yet to click.

And now it’s his team that’s going to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs.

A bold claim? Yes. Crazy? No. The Chiefs have been in every game but a loss to the Eagles; they played the Ravens, Chiefs and Giants well into the fourth quarter and Dallas into overtime before bad tackling did them in.

It only takes one win to change momentum, and KC got that last week.

JORDAN SAYS: Chiefs 20, Chargers 19

———–

Indianapolis (5-0) @ St. Louis (0-6):

Getcha popcorn ready.

Lets just put the cards on the table right now:

  • Peyton Manning has thrown for over 300 yards in every game so far this season.
  • St. Louis is surrendering over 250 yards per game through the air.
  • Bob Sanders — the same Bob Sanders that has put more people on the IR than the rest of the NFL combined — is making his 2009 debut for the Colts.
  • The Rams are putting up an NFL-worst nine points per game.
  • Reggie Wayne.

Bet it.

JORDAN SAYS: Colts 37, Rams 3

———–

Minnesota (6-0) @ Pittsburgh (4-2):

The world is in love with the Minnesota Vikings. And who can blame them? The ol’ gunslinger, Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, Jared Allen, Antoine Winfield.

MUSTACHES = SACKS. IT'S SCIENCE, DON'T QUESTION IT.

MUSTACHES = SACKS. IT'S SCIENCE, DON'T QUESTION IT.

What about this team isn’t exciting?

The Vikings have a dirty little secret, though. One that nobody is talking about.

Minnesota isn’t blowing anyone out — unless you count the barely-an-NFL-franchise-Rams — not even the bad teams. The Vikings hold two-score wins over the Lions and Browns and beat the Packers, 49ers and Ravens by a combined 11 points. I know, I know — a win is a win. You can’t argue results. But Minnesota is due for a rude awakening.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are going to give it to them.

Ben Roethlisberger is leading the second-best passing offense in the NFL and Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 5.1 yards per carry since usurping the starting tailback spot from (not so) fast Willie Parker. And the former juggernaut of a Vikings defense has come back to the middle of the pack in allowing over 90 rush yards a game and 250 pass yards a game.

If Roethlisberger can protect the ball from Jared “the mad mullet” Allen, the Steelers will score enough to win.

JORDAN SAYS: Steelers 24, Vikings 17

———–

New England (4-2) @ Tampa Bay (0-6):

This one is very, very simple.

The suddenly revitalized Patriots dropped 435 yards on the Tennessee Titans last week. In the first half. The Buccaneers give up more big pass plays than any team in football and surrender over 28 points per game.
Something tells me this game won’t be competitive past the quarter, either.

Tom Brady has only been sacked seven times all season, and his offensive line is going to have all the time in the world against a defense that has registered a paltry ten sacks on the year. All the talk about Brady being gun shy and unsure in the pocket will be for naught as he picks apart the Tampa Bay defense with slants to Welker and deep outs and crosses to Randy Moss.

Laurence Maroney — named the No. 1 tailback in the wake of injuries to Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor — will have free reign between the tackles thanks to a Tampa defense that will have to routinely drop seven or eight into coverage.

JORDAN SAYS: Patriots 32, Buccaneers 9

———–

San Francisco (3-2) @ Houston (3-3):

The 49ers have had two weeks to stew over a blowout home loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Two weeks for Mike Singletary to rev up his players. Two weeks for Frank Gore to get healthy.

THE BEST PART OF WAKIN... WAIT SORRY, WRONG GUY

THE BEST PART OF WAKING U... WAIT SORRY, WRONG GUY

That all spells trouble for a Texans team riding a high after knocking off the Cincinnati Bengals.

San Francisco has to fly to Indianapolis next week to take on what will surely be a 6-0 Colts team, and the gravity of going into a premier matchup at 3-3 is something Singletary will make sure is not lost on any of his players. He’ll need to have that defense, the secondary especially, focused on a Houston team that has scored at least 20 points in five of six games on this season.

Matt Schaub is quietly having a Pro-Bowl season in throwing for over 1,800 yards with a 65% completion rate and a league-high 14 touchdowns. He’s got four 200-yard receivers on the team and running back Steve Slaton at his disposal, too.

Fortunately for the 49ers, the Texans give points up as freely as they score them.

JORDAN SAYS: 49ers 28, Texans 27

———–

Buffalo (2-4) @ Carolina (2-3):

I hate to do this to my own team, but this is GASB’s “go on a beer run, take a nap, file your taxes early or vacuum behind the entertainment center instead” game of the week.

JORDAN SAYS: Panthers 21, Bills 9

———–

New York Jets (3-3) @ Oakland (2-4):

I don’t know who paid who to make it happen, but Jamarcus Russell looked like a bona fide NFL quarterback last week. If I was to give you some Trent Dilfer-esque insight, I may say “Jamarcus Russell played well at the quarterback position.”

He made good reads, he was judicious with the ball, he completed over 55% of his passes and was only sacked twice. The important part, though? He won the football game. Moreso even than Philadelphia lost it. But don’t expect a repeat performance.

Not even against the I-told-you-they-were-overrated New York Jets.

Expect Rex Ryan to tighten the reigns this week on Mark Sanchez, leaving the Jets offense to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington — a tandem that ran for over 300 yards last week against a run defense that’s statistically not much worse than what the Raiders will bring to the table.

JORDAN SAYS: Jets 20, Raiders 12

———–

Atlanta (4-1) @ Dallas (3-2):

Lets give an honest appraisal of a Cowboys team that is not as good as their middle-of-the-road record would have you believe. They’ve beaten a winless Tampa Bay team, a then-winless Panthers team and a then-winless Chiefs team.

The two winning teams Dallas has played — New York Giants and Denver — resulted in losses.

BETTER THAN THE SHIRTLESS VOLLEYBALL-PLAYING ICEMAN

BETTER THAN THE SHIRTLESS VOLLEYBALL-PLAYING ICEMAN

Dallas’ offense has the capacity to turn it on when Romo isn’t doing his best Favre-in-a-four-INT-game impression and Felix Jones is healthy (he’s not), but Atlanta is allowing the fourth-fewest points per game and has a better offense to boot.

Matt Ryan is a maestro in the pocket and with targets like Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins to throw to, the Falcons will be able to stretch the field and pound Michael Turner up the middle to the tune of a two-score win.

JORDAN SAYS: Falcons 27, Cowboys 13

———–

Chicago (3-2) @ Cincinnati (4-2):

This game is the reason the Bengals fell last week to Houston.

Cinci was no doubt preoccupied by a terrific opportunity to make their first statement against a solid NFC team, and its not going to let that opportunity slide.

Both teams are in the middle of the pack on offense and on defense, with the one difference being the run game and the Bears’ inability to get Matt Forte going thus far. One of last season’s most promising rookies has floundered so far this season, only breaking the 100-yard mark against the Lions. He’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry and that puts even more pressure on Jay Cutler to make plays downfield.

The Bengals will take full advantage.

With 16 sacks so far this season, Cinci ranks fourth in the league and its five interceptions is good for a tie for fifth.

This should be a close contest, but in the end the Bengals’ run game is the difference.

JORDAN SAYS: Bengals 23, Bears 21

———–

New Orleans (5-0) @ Miami (2-3):

Miami has some solid momentum after reeling off two straight victories against division opponents, but no team in the NFL is hotter than the New Orleans Saints.

Every aspect of this team is clicking in ways it never has before. Brees is an early MVP candidate and his video game-like numbers almost don’t seem real. Through just five games, Brees has amassed 1,400 yards, 13 touchdowns and a 70% completion ratio. He’s got a five-headed monster in the passing game that includes Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore, Jeremy Shockey and Reggie Bush.

The Saints have a three-headed monster to match in the run game with Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush.

This team is flat-out scary.

The much-improved defense is causing coaches just as many sleepless nights with its league-leading 11 interceptions and Will Smith-led defensive line. Miami will have a harder time running on the Saints than any team its played this year and Darren Sharper is always lurking in the secondary, and he’s got to be chomping at the bit waiting for Chad Henne to be throwing in just his third career start.

JORDAN SAYS: Saints 35, Dolphins 14

———–

Arizona (3-2) @ New York Giants (5-1):

After an extremely slow start, the Arizona Cardinals are finding their legs after back-to-back wins. Kurt Warner isn’t looking quite as old as he did against the 49ers and Colts early on in the season.

Don’t expect that to continue against a Giants team that is going to be home and mad as hell after being embarrassed by the Saints.

KURT WARNER: GET ACQUAINTED

KURT WARNER: GET ACQUAINTED

Since the Cardinals’ run game is a complete non-factor, New York’s pass-rushers can get after Warner and with linebackers changing their looks in zone blitzes, he’s liable to throw at least a couple of picks. It’s not just the defense that wants redemption after last week, though.

Eli Manning needs a bounce-back game and he’ll get it against the 31st-ranked pass defense in the NFL. Steve Smith, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks will all get ample looks. And it’s a catch-22 for the Cardinals; if they rush more than four, Ahmad Bradshaw will be taking bubble screens for 15+ yards regularly. If they drop six or seven in pass coverage, Brandon Jacobs will pummel through a spread-out offensive line.

Giants get back on track.

JORDAN SAYS: Giants 27, Cardinals 10

———–

Philadelphia (3-2) @ Washington (2-3):

Last week I wrote that the Oakland Raiders were a “trainwreck of biblical proportions.”

Is there something higher than biblical proportions? Because that’s where the Washington Redskins are at right now. The (meddling) owner has no faith in the coach, the coach has no faith in the players, the players have no faith in the gameplan and the (two remaining) fans have no faith in anything.

Smells like a blowout.

JORDAN SAYS: Eagles 26, Resdskins 6.

———–

BYE: Denver, Detroit, Tennessee, Seattle, Jacksonville, Baltimore.

– Jordan Rogowski