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Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Pulling Linemen Predicts: Week 4 + Games of the Week

Toby Durant's Game of the Week: Minnesota Vikings (0-3) @ Kansas City Chiefs (0-3)

That’s right folks, I’m picking the bottom of the barrel, 0-3 vs 0-3 match up.

Braaaaaains...
This game will go a long way towards helping with a few things. Firstly, how long is Zombie-McNabb going to get before 1st round pick Christian Ponder is given a chance? And secondly who will take the lead in the much talked about Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.


McNabb has been a shell of what he used to be, what some thought of as a blip in Washington last year clearly wasn’t. In fact his last days with Philly weren’t all that great either. It won’t be long until Donovan is on the scrap heap I’m afraid. And the game planning doesn’t help his cause.

Minnesota have lead at halftime in all of their games so far by at least 10 points only to get turned over in the 2nd half. Last week they gave the best running back in football a grand total of 5 carries in the 2nd half. FIVE! Adrian Peterson is the biggest and best threat on that offense and they took the ball away from him and gave it to Zombie-McNabb. If that happens again then they’re going to be in real trouble both with their $100m running back and every Vikes fan in the world.

As for Kansas, they’ve not looked right since Charlie Weis accepted the head coaching job at Florida. They were struggling before the ACL-bug hit, and haven’t done well since. But the light at the end of the tunnel is that they played San Diego tough (they always seem to) last week and had a chance to win it at the end.
Dexter McCluster seems to have taken over as the explosive back now Jamaal Charles is done for the year. He’s their leading rusher and is going at 6.6 yards a carry, but that will be hard to do this week. Kevin Williams is back and has instantly improved the Minny run D. They were able to hold Jahvid Best to just 1.2 yards a go last week.

The key to getting the win here will be if either defense can force the game onto the opposition quarterback’s shoulders. Neither Matt Cassel or Zombie-McNabb have shown they can take a game by the scruff of the neck and win it for their team.

I see Minnesota being able to do that and taking this game while Todd Haley’s seat becomes even hotter.




Phil Gaskin's Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (2-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)

Although it goes against everything I believe in, I'm actually going to recommend people watch a 49ers game.

The Eagles are waking up from their dream pretty quickly, finding themselves bottom of the NFC East - their only win coming in week 1 against the disappointing Rams. This game represents opportunities for them, however, if they're just able to take them. The first opportunity is for the run D to actually do something positive. With Frank Gore banged up for the game (although still likely to be involved in some aspect), rookie Kendall Hunter will see a fair share of the workload, having only taken 11 snaps in the first 3 games. The second is to get their passing offence firing again. Although the 49ers have been very stout against the run so far in 2011, their pass D is very middle of the road; and with Vick's ongoing propensity to get injured, he'll need to do a lot more pocket passing to finish only his second game of the year.
Can Kendall Hunter keep the illusion
going?

The 9ers are flying high at the moment, they've risen to the top of the NFC West, and without any discernable offence to speak of. An NFL-worst 213.7YPG, and a scoring rate that is bloated by two return TDs by Ted Ginn in week 1 is all they have to boast about. But don't worry, they've got 2 wins, right? Beating Seattle thanks to two kick returns and scraping past Cincinatti 13-8 hardly counts as "winning". Ironically, the 9ers best performance came in their defeat to the Cowboys, but then they were beaten by some loser with a punctured lung...

Essentially, I'm recommending this as one to watch because it's where the 49ers are going to get really found out. It's the first game of their season against a team significantly better than themselves, and I fully expect the Eagles to systematically pick them apart for 4 quarters. The only way I can see San Fran staying in this one is to hit Vick early and hit Vick hard. But even then, I'd pick Kafka over them too...


Gur Samuel's Game of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) @ Houston Texans (2-1)


Things don't seem quite right with the Steelers this season. While the defence has allowed the 2nd least amount of yards to opposing teams, they've been unable to get much going on offence, with the league's 10th worst rushing attack while only scoring 5 touchdowns through the air and on the ground combined. On the other hand, the Texans have looked better already than last year, thoroughly dominating the Colts, beating the Dolphins convincingly, and narrowly losing to the Saints in a shoot-out.

Both teams come into this game looking to make statements. The Steelers narrowly avoided national humiliation at the hands of the Colts, which, combined with their drubbing at the hands of the Ravens, has led many to question the team - especially, the team's age on defence. The Pittsburgh D will have to bring their 'A' game to Houston. The Texans still boast the best receiver in the league in Andre Johnson (though his younger brother Calvin* is threatening to take that title away from him), and despite Arian Foster having barely played at all this season, the Houston running game is currently ranked 5th in the league. With Foster rumoured to play this weekend, and Ben Tate proving he can more than carry the load on his own, let alone sharing a backfield with Foster, the Steelers D will either silence the doubters this week - or justify the fears.

Phillips has made the Texans' D better
 - but is it still not yet good enough?
The Texans' defence has plenty of naysayers of its own, having long been the root of Houston's inability to make the playoffs so far. To remedy this, the team hired Wade Phillips as their defensive co-ordinator, and early returns show this is already paying dividends, the D improving from 30th at the end of last season to 14th. Free agent pickup Jonathan Joseph has had a definite impact in pass defence, with 2 interceptions and 5 passes broken up through the first five weeks. Despite these improvements, the question still remains as to whether the defence has improved enough, failing to step up in crunch time last week and allowing the Saints to score 10 points in the final minutes to steal the win. More worryingly for Houston, the team has allowed the fifth most yards-per-carry (4.8) to opposing running backs - which means that this could be the week that Mendenhall finally gets going.

All in all, this game pits two teams desperate to quite the critics against each other. The Texans defence needs to prove that they can do enough to give their offence the opportunity to win, or even prove they can win a game on their own strength; the Steelers need to prove, desperately, that their offence hasn't stagnated, and that their defence still has the vitality it has struggled to show this season. With both teams needing to make statements to the rest of the league, this should be a hugely entertaining match up.





Toby Durant
Phil Gaskin
Gur Samuel
Panthers @ Bears
Bears
Bears
Bears
Bills @ Bengals
Bills
Bills
Bills
Titans @ Browns
Browns
Browns
Titans
Lions @ Cowboys
Lions
Lions
Lions
Steelers @ Texans
Steelers
Texans
Texans
Saints @ Jaguars
Saints
Saints
Saints
Vikings @ Chiefs
Vikings
Vikings
Vikings
49ers @ Eagles
Eagles
Eagles
Eagles
Redskins @ Rams
Rams
Rams
Redskins
Giants @ Cardinals
Giants
Giants
Giants
Falcons @ Seahawks
Falcons
Falcons
Falcons
Broncos @ Packers
Packers
Packers
Packers
Patriots @ Raiders
Patriots
Patriots
Patriots
Dolphins @ Chargers
Chargers
Chargers
Chargers
Jets @ Ravens
Ravens
Ravens
Ravens
Colts @ Buccaneers
Buccaneers
Buccaneers
Buccaneers




Last Week:
9-7
11-5
8-8
Overall:
30-18
34-14
27-21

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