New York Giants v Washington Redskins TV Time: Monday 6am EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) Two Redskins games in two weeks? What have we done to deserve this? In all honesty, the ‘Skins 34-27 loss to the Patriots last week was an entertaining contest, but I don’t see this week's match-up being as close a result. The porous Patriots defence the ‘Skins faced last week will be nothing like the unit the Giants will roll out. Jason Pierre-Paul had a career day last week against the Cowboys and he will be drooling at the prospect of chasing Rex Grossman around the backfield. Pierre-Paul might not much have much help as the Giants defence looks set to be plagued by injuries again this week. Safety Kenny Phillips (knee) and defensive ends Justin Tuck (toe) and Osi Umenyiora (knee) may be forced to sit out. Eli Manning confirmed his status as one of the league's premier Quarterbacks last week with his match-winning fourth quarter performance against the Cowboys. The offence again looked in superb touch, particularly on the last two scoring drives that sealed the win for the Giants. Expect another 300+ yard day from the Giants QB. A Rex Grossman-led Redskins defeated the Giants earlier this year 28-14 in the season opener and will be looking for a repeat performance at MetLife Stadium. Keeping Eli Manning and the Giants high-powered offence on the sidelines by making long sustained drives built on the run will be the main goal for the ‘Skins. For this to happen, Roy Helu will need to continue his excellent run of form that has seen him eclipse 100 yards rushing for three consecutive weeks. With the Giants rushing offence ranking last in the league, the Redskins will be focusing on pressuring Eli Manning and shutting down the New York passing game. Mike Shannahan will be looking for big games from the ‘Skins leading pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo to create the pressure needed to cause an upset. Despite the Redskins' success earlier this year, the Giants will be too strong for their division rivals this time around. My Tip: Giants by 7
Denver Broncos v New England Patriots TV Time: Monday 8:15am EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) The Broncos (8-5) sit atop the AFC West after a pair of Marion Barber errors allowed the Broncos a chance to notch up their sixth straight victory last week. The Patriots shape as the stiffest opposition faced by the Broncos since Tim Tebow took over the starting quarterback role. The biggest question mark over this contest will be whether Tim Tebow and the Broncos run-heavy offence can keep pace with the high scoring, pass orientated Patriots offence. Ball control and good defence will be the cornerstones of the Broncos play this week. I can’t see Tebow throwing the Broncos to victory if the Patriots force them into playing catch-up football, even against the awful New England secondary. The Broncos need to avoid this situation at all costs. The Broncos defence has been instrumental in their recent victories and will need to come up big if they are to win this one. Their current winning strak has only been made possible by the defence keeping games close and giving their offence a chance to win games by handing them the ball back with time on the clock. Rookie Von Miller in particular has been outstanding and will want to make an impression on the QB many regard as the best in the league. With a win and a Jets loss this week, the Patriots (10-3) can claim the AFC East title. This would be their eighth AFC East title in the past nine years. A fast start is vital considering the Patriots defence again proved to be a concern last week, this time allowing the 4-9 Redskins to rack up 27 points. This continuing poor defensive play is putting pressure on the Patriots offence to be lights out every week, which, fortunately for the Patriots, they have been. Tom Brady has looked in superb touch this year and will be looking forward to kick-off so he can put his slanging match with OCBill O’Brien last week in the rear view mirror. The Patriots will want to create a sizeable gap on the scoreboard to eliminate the chance of any of the last-minute heroics the Broncos have become synonymous with. Surely he can’t do it again? Can he? No. Look for the Tebow train to be derailed this week. My Tip: New England by 9
San Diego Chargers v Baltimore Ravens TV Time: Monday 12:20pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) The Chargers have played like the Chargers of old this season, just in reverse. Instead of starting terribly and coming home with a wet sail, the Bolts started off 4-1 and have faded badly to be 6-7. They desperately need a win this week to stay in striking distance of a rolling Denver Broncos (8-5). Running back Ryan Matthews has started to deliver on the promise he showed during his injury-plagued rookie season posting three consecutive 100 yard rushing games. Matthews and short yardage back Mike Tolbert will need to make an impact against the Ravens defence to take the pressure off QB Philip Rivers and allow the Bolts play action passing game to develop. Rivers cannot be forced to throw the football 40+ times against a defence the calibre of the Ravens. Rivers' play has markedly improved in the previous three weeks with his receiving corps back to full strength and better play from his offensive line. This will need to continue as they are in for a tough day at the office facing a Baltimore defence ranked third in the league. Turnovers have killed the Bolts (Chiefs game ring a bell?) with Rivers alone having 17 interceptions to his name, one short of the league-high of 18 by Josh Freeman. If turnovers can be kept to a minimum and the Bolts adopt a balanced attacking scheme, they could definitely produce an upset. If I were an offensive player for the Chargers this week, I’d seriously be considering faking an injury just so I didn’t have to be on the same field as Ray Lewis. The heart of the Ravens defence will have four weeks of pent up aggression on board as he makes a return this weekend after recovering from a toe injury. Look for Lewis and Terrell "Sizzle" Suggs to cause havoc with the Bolts offensive line. Ray Rice has been a beast for the Ravens (10-3) posting 307 yards rushing over the last two weeks and topping the 1,000 yard mark for the season. It’s beginning to look like Baltimore has realised that its offensive strength is running the ball, meaning Rice should be heavily involved again Sunday. Even with this new found reliance on the run, John Harbaugh will be hoping for a strong performance by QB Joe Flacco. 2011 has been a fairly ordinary season for the signal caller with his inconsistent play doing little to silence critics that claim the team is being propped up by the defence. But you can’t really knock a winner, can you? My Tip: Ravens by 3
That’s it for this week. Just wanted to give a quick thank-you to all those who read my first article last week and for the feedback. I look forward to seeing you all again next week. Cheers!