I’ll be the first to admit that last week’s picks bombed. The Patriots, Chargers and Saints all won in blowout fashion, leaving football fans wondering where all the good and competitive games were. Apparently, they were all being reserved for this week, which is loaded with big time match-ups. The schedule was so stacked that I had to add an additional game to the list and make it the Top 4 NFL Match-Ups of the Week.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants
Both teams sitting at 9-4, the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants are battling it out for the NFC East. The winner of this game will control their destiny for a division crown. Last month, the Eagles used defense and big plays late in the game to hold the Giants off at home. Now they travel to New York, where a Giants team who has won their last 3 games is waiting for revenge.
If the Eagles win Sunday, they’ll just need to win one of their remaining two games (at home against Minnesota and Dallas) to wrap up the NFC East. A Giants win would put them in the drivers seat and even up division record and head-to-head advantages that the Eagles currently hold. Unfortunately for New York, they’re coming off a shortened week due to the Metrodoom roof incident. The Eagles have also won 12 of their last 13 December games. Will the missing day of rest and recovery hurt the Giants chances to win the East?
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
How about this for a storyline? Peyton Manning will be playing to save his season on Sunday. If the Jacksonville Jaguars win, they’ll be AFC South Champions for the first time in franchise history. Since the South was established in 2002, Indianapolis has taken home division honors 6 out 8 seasons. Not only would Jacksonville wrap up the division with a win, the Colts would have little to no chance at making the playoffs.
The Colts have struggled to find consistency this season, mainly due to several key guys missing time with injury. However, Peyton Manning hasn’t really helped his cause, playing poorly in both November in December. He’s struggled in big games this season, and has thrown more combined interceptions than touchdown passes in his last 4 outings. Meanwhile, Jags QB David Garrard has been playing some of the best football of his career, teaming up with Maurice Jones-Drew for big wins during the same stretch. Now in a position to get over the proverbial hump, the Jaguars will need to maintain the poise they’ve displayed all season long to claim victory in a rowdy Lucas Oil Stadium.
New Orleans Saints vs. Baltimore Ravens
Here’s one of those famous “Super Bowl Previews” we see happen a few times each season. The defending champion New Orleans Saints will travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens in what may a look at the match-up that will headline the NFL season in February. However, it’s still December and there’s a lot on the line for both teams.
The Saints and Ravens can clinch playoff spots with a win on Sunday and some additional help. The Saints are started to find the offensive balance they missed earlier in the season, and the Ravens are always tough at home. Electric offense vs. hard-hitting defense – take your pick.
New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
They’re going to need to double up on the stretchers at Heinz Field on Sunday. I’m not trying to send bad vibes to Pittsburgh, but this game is a lock for hard hits, trash talking and a couple fines from Commissioner Goodell later in the week. On top of that, huge playoff implications on the line in this game between the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh not only clinches a playoff spot with a win, but will take a big step toward locking up the number 2 seed in the AFC. New York, on the other hand, is riding a 2 game losing streak and needs this win to get their season back on the right track. Suffering a loss would make their remaining games a lot more interesting than they had hoped.
Ben Roethlisberger is injured and the Jets love to get at the quarterback. That alone may tell you the key to this game. In Sunday’s game and the Bengals, the Steelers did an awful job of protecting Roethlisberger, and he paid the price despite guiding the team to a win. New York’s defense is on a whole other level, and if they can find Ben often, it may spell trouble for the remainder of Pittsburgh’s season. Remember, Rex Ryan is very familiar with Pittsburgh due to his time in Baltimore. Nobody knows how to make quarterbacks squirm like LeBeau, and he’ll have Pittsburgh’s defense ready to put pressure on a young and struggling Mark Sanchez. We haven’t even touched on the fact that Jets receiver Santonio Holmes will be out to make a statement in the city he briefly became a Super Bowl hero.
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