Before we dive into the Week Thirteen edition of the 2015 Match-Up Mania, I wish to soapbox a topic that may seem repetitive if you follow this or anything I do as the Student of the Game. But considering the Carolina Panthers are officially the last undefeated team of the year, can we please stop talking about anyone other than Cam Newton as the MVP of the NFL?
Tom Brady supporters will tell us about Patriots injuries and I’ll submit the list is long. Dion Lewis at running back, Julian Edleman and Danny Amendola at the wide receiver position and as of this past weekend, the best tight end in the league is out for a bit in the form of Rob Gronkowski. Congratulations, fans. With Scott Chandler and Brandon LaFell still in the lineup, Brady officially has the same number of feature weapons as Cam.
For others advocating for Carson Palmer or Adrian Peterson as other viable options, I have the unfair response of one single word as of today — UNDEFEATED. In my mind, I can only think of one option that might supplant Newton.
Falcons v. Bucs
The Bucs?! I haven’t had them in the MuM since the last time they played the Falcons. . . and it was Tampa that won. Leading up to this game, the Falcons have lost 5 of the last 6 games and are falling in a flurry of feathers. “The Dirty Bird” is no longer an expression of a hard working underdog, but a statement of how bad Atlanta looks trying to fly on the field — despite Julio Jones in the lineup.
Then on the other side, there’s the Bucs. Granted, they missed an opportunity against the Colts last week, but with a chance to sweep the Falcons in 2015, they improve their chances to sail like a ghost ship into the Wild Card spot.
Jameis Winston is playing himself into the Rookie of the Year discussion at quarterback and against ATL’s defense, introducing Doug Martin on the ground for a balanced offense could set up a deficit that Matt Ryan can’t be cool enough to overcome in a shoot out no matter how many fans keep calling him “Matty Ice”. If that happens, I think we have the evidence to release the following public service announcement for the Falcons:
Seahawks v. Vikings
On the whole, I’m not a moral victory advocate, but I can’t help but notice that the Green Bay Packers wavered against the Lions and Bears, but were focused to a different level of play when they beat the Vikings in Week Eleven. It implies a level of respect given to Minnesota by the Cheeseheads that the other two teams in the NFC North don’t command from the Pack. It also supplies the best explanation for the Vikings smashing their way not only past the fraudulent Falcons in Week Twelve via Adrian Peterson, but to the top of the NFC North.
Yet, the tests have only begun. Before the Week 17 trip to Lambeau which could decide the division, they have to slap away a resilient Seattle Seahawks team that has clawed their way back into postseason standing. This is a tougher challenge because it will directly test their weaknesses in a way that not even the Packers have yet. Not only must Teddy Bridgewater prove he can win games when a defense focuses on stopping the run game, Minnesota must prove themselves they can slow a ground attack in the trenches featuring Seattle’s Thomas Rawls as well as the scrambling ability of quarterback Russel Wilson.
A big help for the Vikings would be if Bridgewater passed the ball with the same precision as these great NBA start shoot basketballs below.
Texans v. Bills
The Texans have managed to string together a few wins. The defense has managed to play up to potential knocking out a few also-rans in a streak kicked-off by upsetting the then-undefeated Bengals.
This pairing with Buffalo represents their toughest since that Monday victory. A win against the Bills would not only significantly lessen their chances to make the Wild Card, but it would give Houston a leg up in the competitive AFC South with the Patriots around the corner in Week Fourteen. That’s not to say that Tyrod Taylor and the Bills are just an easy out. Rex Ryan taking over as Head Coach appears to have elevated the relevance of the squad despite injuries at all major skill positions on offense.
Whichever defense does more gets the win. A simple prognosis, perhaps the oldest in the book, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant. Sometimes the oldest in the book is among the more tried and true methods, kinda like this:
Steelers v. Colts
I find an element of humor that Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger is referred to as an aging quarterback, but is still younger than his upcoming opposing counterpart, the 40-year old Matt Hasselbeck. While the two quarterbacks faced each other in Super Bowl XL in Ben’s 2nd year and Hasselbeck’s 8th, I would argue a decade worth of bouts against the Baltimore Ravens makes these veterans about the same age in terms of wear and tear.
On top of the past of these field generals, this pairing has impact on the future as well. With games lost by both teams involving the health at the quarterback position, post season presence is now in jeopardy. A loss for the Colts puts them at risk to miss coming of out the AFC South while the Steelers find the Kansas City Chiefs, among others gaining ground on them in the background. With KC facing the Raiders, they are likely to win their 6th straight and force the Steelers to win to hold serve.
While Indianapolis is without Luck, Pittsburgh has been limited with Ben’s foot injury while Health Miller left Sunday’s Seattle contest with a rib injury in addition to backups stepping in at multiple other positions. This game could be the first domino in a future where it all begins to fall for playoff hopes. It might be dramatized like this.
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