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Sunday, 6 November 2011

Week 9 Picks + Games of the Weeks

We're half way done. Teams are starting to gear up for play-off pushes or booking a January trip to somewhere sunny. It's a depressing feeling. But fortunately for us our own seasons are starting up again. Phil (playing) and Gur (coaching) have their first game of the year for the Nottingham Outlaws on sunday while Toby (coaching) has one more week to wait to watch his Oxford Brookes Panthers take the field. So here are the games we (or at least Toby) are focused on this weekend.


Phil Gaskin's Game of the Week: New York Jets (4-3) @ Buffalo Bills (5-2)

This could be the Jets' last chance to make a push for the playoffs. It's a strange thing to be saying in week 9, but if the Bills win they'll be 6-2, with a clear lead over a 4-3 Jets team, who will also be trailing the Patriots in the division.

At the beginning of the year, no-one had the Bills ahead of the Jets at this point. But they've quite simply been inspired, and coach Chan Gailey has the offence utilising the skills they have perfectly. When you look at Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Steve Johnson, you don't see All-NFL talent (yet). What you do see, is players who are performing at the absolute pinnacle of their abilities, getting everything out of themselves that they can, and at the moment it's enough to be beating a lot of other, arguably more talented, teams.

One of those more talented teams is the Jets. When you can boast Revis, Santonio, Bart Scott, Mangold et al on your roster, you expect greatness. For the past few years, the Jets have lived up to that - finishing with a winning record from '08 onwards, and making AFC Championship games in '09 and '10. This year, however, it's becoming more apparent that the vaunted defence has taken a step backwards, including suffering numerous injuries on the front 7, and with the D able to dominate games less, more pressure is being put on Mark Sanchez. Some say he's being limited due to play-calling, and if they open the playbook up to him he'll emerge as a great QB. Personally, I think the playbook is closed because he's not good enough to execute a lot of it yet, and by keeping it simple the Jets can try to hide his deficiencies.

Coming in to this game, I would much rather have the Amish Rifle under centre than the GQ-QB. Coming off a shutout of the Redskins, the Bills D is rolling too, and I can see them putting the shackles on Sanchez and the Jets. These two things together point straight to a Bills victory.

Toby Durant's Game Of the Week: Chicago Bears (4-3) @ Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)


This might be the first good Monday Night Football game of the season. What we have here are 2 teams with a lot of ground to make up. Chicago are 2 wins back of 2nd place Detroit in the NFC North, and with the Packers out of reach (barring a collapse of epic proportions) the Bears simply can not afford to lose to another potential wildcard team.

In Philly there are shoots of recovery. Once again Andy Reid came off the bye week with a win, and a vital one, that brings them back towards contention. With the way the schedule is lining up for the Giants (5-2) the NFC East isn't out of sight just yet.

I picked this game because it features two of the best running backs in the league and two of the most wildly erratic quarterbacks.

Matt Forte is playing for a new contract, but the Bears seem unwilling to lock up the man who has become their offense in 2011 and will apparently slap the franchise tag on him once his rookie contract expires after this season. Forte has been playing out of his mind recently. He's already gone over 1000 yards from scrimmage, is the Bears leading receiver with almost DOUBLE the catches #2 has and is running at 5.4 yards a carry despite playing behind an offensive line that's as much use as a sieve on a sinking ship.

As for LeSean McCoy, no one makes a 3 yard gain as exciting as him. He might run 30 yards to get it, break 2 tackles and make several defenders look foolish in the process. He is undoubtedly the most exciting player in the NFL right now and the cog that makes everything work for the Eagles. He's second in rushing yards behind only Adrian Peterson and is going at 5.6 yards a carry as well as consistently producing in the much used Philly screen game.

And as if that wasn't enough to make you want to stay up Mike Martz's continued attempts to make Jay Cutler have a mental break down continue. Recently the Bears have revamped their offense. Moving away from the Martzian (definitely a word) deep routes and 7 step drops that were getting Cutler killed last year and to a more humane shorter system, leaning on Forte and keeping tight ends in to block. They're even using the Lesser Spotted Fullback (now an endangered species) to help out the offensive line and keep Cutler alive. However i'm sure it's a ruse from Martz to lull Cutler into a false sense of security, and then BAM! Back come 15 yard digs and empty backfields! Poor Jay.

Michael Vick's own line has really gelled together since its rough start and hasn't gotten him concussed for an entire month! They give him time to throw, and McCoy just enough room to slither through (except on sunday, when they gave him enough room to drag a trailer through. WOW.).

Personally, i can see the Bears winning this one. They've been running an offense (recently) that is tailored to beat the Eagles defense. They run off tackle and they love to pass on the linebackers (usually to Forte). These are the holes that Dallas were exploiting on sunday too until the game got out of hand. The Bears defense is starting to get back to it's usual "Monsters of the Midway", if they can keep DeSean Jackson under wraps on the outside they have the talent at linebacker to slow down McCoy (maybe) and the wit to outdo Vick.

But as much as I think the Bears can win there's not a chance in hell i'm making so much as a slap-bet on this. Trust Mike Martz? Are you kidding me???

Gur Samuel's Game of the Week: Baltimore Ravens (5-2) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)


It's probably a bit of an obvious pick for Game of the Week, but there's no denying that this game has all the ingredients for a great one. Between 2008 and 2010, five of the six Ravens/Steelers matchups ended up being decided by 3 points; the six with decided by 4 points. In week one of this season, however, the Steelers were thoroughly embarrassed by Baltimore, losing the game 35-7. Everyone jumped on this score as proof that this season, the Ravens would be the team to beat in the AFC North, that the Steelers were too old, that finally one team had clearly become the more dominant of the two.

Flashforward to today; the Ravens are coming off two very poor games, in which they lost on MNF to the Jaguars, and only barely beat the Arizona Cardinals, that game coming down to a single field goal. The Steelers, on the other hand, seem to have found some source of rejuvenation, and after struggling through the first few weeks of the season, are now playing at the level one would expect from Pittsburgh. The two are neck and neck in the race to win their division - and the Steelers have a chance to head into their Week 11 bye in control of the lead if they pick up wins today against the Ravens, and next week against the 5-2 Bengals. The Ravens, on the other hand, need to stop the offensive skid they've been on the past few weeks if they want to continue playing throughout January - and there is no better week to do so than an opportunity to sweep your biggest division rivalry.

Obviously, this game is always considered a must-see, due to the lights-out defences both sides normally boast, and the well-established hatred between the two. Throw in the importance of this game to the eventual play off race, and you've got one hell of an exciting game.



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




Last Week:
 8-5
11-2 
8-5 
Overall:
 67-36
74-29 
64-39 


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