Oh, I was supposed to write about football? Who cares, the Eagles are on a bye, right?
WHAT? Green Bay Packers at St. Louis Rams
WHY? Some interesting forces at play here. The Packers are flying high after their offense came out of its funk, putting up 42 points (a season high) against the formerly-formidable Texans defense, with Aaron Rodgers throwing for 338 yards (also a season high) and 6 touchdowns (well yeah, a season high). Rodgers' yards-per-attempt goes up from 8.3 to 9.3 when he plays indoors, and his TD/INT ratio moves from 3.5:1 to 10:1. At the same time, the Pack are playing on the road for the third straight week after a disappointing loss and a big win, so there's a distinct chance that they have a bit of a letdown here against a Rams team that's actually 5th against the pass.
WHO? To me, whether or not this game will be close depends a great deal on how former first overall pick Sam Bradford plays against a middle-of-the-road Packers defense. Bradford had the second-best passing game of his season last week against the Dolphins (albeit without throwing a touchdown pass), and ESPN's Total QBR actually places that game as the second-best game of his career behind a Week 12 2010 game against the Broncos in which he threw for 308 yards, 3 TD, and no interceptions. He will have a tough time overcoming a terrible offensive line and Brandon Gibson and Chris Givens being his top two receivers, though.
HOW? As I was writing this section I couldn't come up with a good joke to put here. So I figured I'd write the rest of the post and maybe something would come to me. It didn't. Sometimes, you just have to know when to fold 'em.
WHAT? New York Jets at New England Patriots
WHY? Do you really need a new reason to watch this game? Big-market-teams? Check. Division rivalry? Check. All-time great quarterback? Check. Intriguing head coaches? Check. Tim Tebow? Check. Also, the Jets are coming off a blowout win against the (at the time) hot Colts, while the Patriots are coming of a tough road loss against the Seahawks. With the Pats at home and attempting to stave off their fifth pair of consecutive losses since 2003 (during which time they've never lost three in a row), I could easily see New England absolutely destroying the Jets here.
WHO? The big matchup in this game from my perspective is between Antonio Cromartie and whoever Rex Ryan deems appropriate to be shadowed all day. The Family Man has done his best Darrelle Revis impression since 24 went down, holding Michael Crabtree, Andre Johnson, and Reggie Wayne to a combined 8 receptions for 117 yards and no touchdowns in the last three weeks. My guess is that he sticks to Brandon Lloyd, who was an exceptional deep threat in Denver (9.3 yards gained per target with 11 touchdowns in 20 games) but hasn't really been since (6.4 yards per target with 6 touchdowns in 17 games). Wes Welker is too quick in small spaces for the long-striding Cromartie to effectively cover, and Aaron Hernandez plays in too diverse of offensive formations.
HOW? Whip out that old camcorder and sneak a peek at the Jets' coaching staff during the game so you can get a heads up on their strategies and verbiage. It's not like you'll get caught.
WHAT? Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears
WHY? Well, last year these teams met in Detroit on Monday night, and they combined for 26 penalties for 198 yards. It was ugly. Somehow, the Lions managed to win by two scores despite having almost 20 fewer minutes of possession time. Well this time around, the Bears are at home, coming off a bye, and the Lions are fresh off a game in which Matthew Stafford's heroic comeback masked the 7-for-21-for-91-yards first three quarters.
WHO? These two quarterbacks are very similar in the sense that they can go really hot or really cold from game to game, or even over the course of a single game. Well, we've already discussed Stafford from an in-game perspective, but after a bit of digging, I found out that since he came into the league (which equates to about 2.5 years), he has had 7 games with a Total QBR of less than 20, and 6 games with a Total QBR of more than 80. By comparison, since he joined the Bears in 2009 (about 3 years), Cutler has had 9 games with a Total QBR of less than 20 (5 of which less than 10), to go with 10 games of a Total QBR of at least 80. Just to give a comparison, Matt Ryan, who has been good but not elite for a few years prior to this one, has had 21 >80 QBR games, compared to one single <20 game, since 2009.
HOW? Go colorblind, have your house swept up by a tornado, regain your color vision, meet up with some witches, hang out with some embodied metaphors, and then go through the ordeal of a lifetime to try and find this old guy who grants wishes. Ask for a television.
Lions, and Tigers, and Bears. Oh my.