What to watch for in NFL Week 13
Week 13 is a pinnacle week in the NFL. Dreams will be dashed, both in fantasyland and in the reality of the locker room. James Harrison will likely be fined, one of the Mannings may not play like a Manning, and the season's most controversial call will be revisited again and again and again. Here are the Week 13 goodies you, the sophisticated football fan, should keep an eye on.
Let's start with the clear Game of the Week/Year: The St. Louis Rams take on the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC West showdown. Just kidding. Of course, the Jets make their way to the frozen confines of Foxboro for a Monday night matchup with the Patriots that couldn't be more of a 180 from last week's 49ers/Cardinals MNF doozie. Expect ridiculous intensity from the Monday Night Football booth as these AFC titans not only battle for the AFC East crown, but possibly home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Both teams are 9-2, with the Jets up one game in the division (3-0 to 2-1). There are, of course, plenty of sub-stories: Mark Sanchez vs. the worst pass defense in the NFL, Tom Brady trying to beat Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie without the luxury of Randy Moss; and the brutal weather, which meteorologist Jon Gruden was already harping on a week in advance. What I always find interesting about these two teams are their perplexing coaching styles. The loud, boisterous Rex Ryan is the one who plays it safe, often opting for field goal attempts on 4th and inches at the opponent's 30, while the silent and stoic Bill Belichick so often plays with fire (you may remember a certain 4th and 2 call last year?). This is a must watch.
Moving on to Detroit and the aforementioned controversial call, where Bears/Lions Part Deux is about to go down. How much of the conversation will revolve around the "Calvin Johnson Catch" of Week 1, the very call that set the Lions on a terrible streak of bad luck and the Bears on a path of lucky charms? Actually, that notion ended last week when us in the peanut gallery realized the Bears are legit and bad teams like the Lions just find ways to lose. Back to the call itself, the ruling of an incompletion after Johnson failed to hold onto to the ball for an apparently requisite five hours, postgame press conference, and flight back home, after he clearly scored the game-winning touchdown, was wrong from an NFL rulebook and pure fairness perspective. The masses agree this rule will be altered for 2011. So why wait? Clearly the NFL is capable of changing its rulebook mid-season. See: helmet-to-helmet penalties.
A sub-story in this game is mid-level Lions receiver, Nate Burleson's prediction of a Lions triumph. The Bears fired back and, according to Lance Briggs, have Burleson's statement "pinned up everywhere in their meeting rooms," a strong reaction to an innocent statement. Is it really so odd that a player would predict victory, even publicly? Why even play the game and expect fans to spend good chunks of their salaries to cheer you on if you don't think you're going to win?
Kansas City, here we come, where the fantasy team name Double Dwayne Bowe is back in style. As is the often more apt, Triple Dwayne Bowe, and for Muppets lovers, The Dwayne Bowe Connection. That's because Bowe, maligned for dropping passes just a mere six weeks ago, is leading the NFL with fourteen touchdowns! There's nothing flashy about Bowe; he's not a speedster; he doesn't make crazy cuts, he doesn't even tweet -- he's simply a beast. In case you were wondering, the Chiefs do have an opponent, the Broncos. Last time these two hooked up, both Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton threw for four touchdowns a piece.
Marino Watch: Orton leads the league in passing yards with 3,370 yards, and another shootout with the Chiefs could help as he needs to average 343 yards a game at this point to eclipse Marino's single season passing record. It's crazy to think this is the same Orton that the Bears would not allow to throw a pass deeper than 10 yards circa 2005.
Where's Randy? He won't be in Foxboro for Moss vs. Revis Part Ten. He will instead be in Nashville where newish team, Tennessee, hosts the Jags this weekend, and it will be interesting to see if Moss becomes a valuable member of NFL society again. In his three-game Titans career, Moss has been nothing more than a decoy, with a mere four catches for 49 yards.
A Peytonless Postseason? What would January be like without Peyton Manning? You probably don't remember because you've seen him and the Colts in the postseason for eight straight years! The Colts are 2-3 in their last five games and face a rejuvenated Cowboys team that's pretty much only playing for pride at this point (the most dangerous of foes). Blame the injuries, blame the Manning face, but these Colts do not look like playoff material.
Speaking of the playoffs, here are the teams that will officially not be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy: Bengals, Bills, Panthers.
And the teams on the brink of elimination: Lions and Cowboys
Overdue? Will this be the third straight week where networks inundate us with Due Date commercials. Strange ad buy considering the film came out Nov. 5 and is so hilarious it gets a 39 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. (For those that aren't Rotten Tomatoes users, that's very bad.)
Enjoy the Week 13 duels, watch Monday Night Football, and don't forget to submit your fantasy starting lineups.