Going into NFL Week Fifteen, while some teams may enhance their intensity in the battle for the playoffs, there are an unfortunate set of teams that have waved farewell to hope for the 2015 postseason. It is with that in mind that we give them the Match-Up Mania parting gift of one of the most famous NFL press conference soundbites in the history of the sport.
Ta-ta for now, Titans. The future is bright with Marcus Mariota.
Bye-Bye, Bears. Hopefully your contract conundrums can begin to work themselves out.
Have a good draft, Lions. With some defense, you might be a threat next year.
Dang it, Dallas. You are definitely the team most worthy of the term “injury bug” in 2015.
Fly on, Falcons. Hopefully you expectations will be more realistic next year.
Happy fire sale, 49ers. Here’s to battling for 8-8 in 2016.
We’ll miss you, Miami. Maybe you’ll have fewer front office problems next year.
Stay classy, San Deigo. Peyton Manning is retiring soon. Hope will return.
Sorry, Saints. You but your defense is in another stadium.
Carry on, Cleveland. You’ll still be in the headlines plenty thank to Johnny Manziel.
Rally forward, Ravens. Ozzie Newsome is talented enough as a GM to rebuild you in 2016
See ya, St.Louis. You are a quarterback away from success.
And now, your parting gift:
On to the Student of the Game’s MuM.
Texans v. Colts
At first glance, this is a game with rosters decimated by injuries and mired in mediocrity. A battle of backup quarterbacks with TJ Yates toting passes for the Texans and Charlie Whitehurst winging throws for the Colts. What pushes this thing to representation in the MuM? The AFC South Division crown is in the balance between these 6-7 squads.
As downtrodden as I was being former O-Lineman watching the complete ineptness of the Texan group play softer in the middle than a warm cheese danish against the Patriots, one could think Yates and anyone else in the Houston backfield is doomed. But then the Colts defense isn’t exactly an intimidating force.
While Indainapolis’ offense weapons can be dangerous, with Whitehurst as acting field general, I see a particularly productive day. If you like defense, this is the game to watch. If you’re a JJ Watt fan, even with a broken hand, Watt is a force that requires a double team. If Watt get hot, Whitehurt will not.
Panthers v. Giants
For my money, this is the Panthers’ best chance to lose remaining on their regular season schedule. The Giants, with all their inconsistent, dysfunctional, and unpredictable glory have tended to play up (or down) to the level of talent they face. For all intents and purposes, they should have defeated the Patriots back when they were still undefeated.
But looking at the pairings in this game, how does Eli Manning get the ball to Odell Beckham Jr vs. the Carolina secondary? How do the Giants run against the Panthers defense? In order to win this game, New York has to be 100% mistake free.
Big Blue does have one of the top run defenses in the league and with Greg Olson banged up and the mediocre wide receivers on the roster, one might need a MVP caliber passer to compete. Oh wait. . . Cam Newton. Cam must be forced into mistakes in order to for Panthers to become caged.
Steelers v. Broncos
Here’s your game of the week. Rumors of their demise dramatically overstated. The high-powered Pittsburgh offense combined with a solid defense keeps them a threat to penetrate the postseason party. Ben Roethlisberger is among the most overlooked players of 2015. It’s a fair assessment that the Jets would probably be on the outside looking into the playoff picture sometime before the end of the season if the Steelers win this game.
Sparking the intrigue is their Week Fifteen foe, the Broncos boast a defense that among the league’s elite. But the offense hasn’t been a high point all season long. With their future franchise passer on the field now, Brock Osweiler, cracking twenty points on the scoreboard has been a chore. In order for Denver to win, Brock has to have the kind of game he did against New England in his first start. Or at the very least, do as well as Daniel did against the Cobra Kai dojo. Also convenient that the Cobra Kai happen to be wearing Steeler colors:
Bears v. Vikings
The Vikings must keep pace with the Packers in order to lock up the division. If they are just a single game behind come Week Seventeen, all is lost for Minnesota. Enter the Chicago Bears. If there was ever an opportunity to win a game just to spite a rival, this is one.
Sure, the Bears are two weeks removed from their loss to the Niners in what may be the single worst professional football game in 2015. The reason why it went into overtime is because it should have been a tie — neither team deserved a to call that a win.
I digress . . . There’s plenty of positive with the Bears having toppled a few teams in upsets as well. If the Bears control the run, that puts them on the fast track to victory. Not that locking up Adrian Peterson is simple, him being the focal point of the Vikings is more obvious than anything this guy has every come up with:
Stopping the Bears is a different question. Playing them into mistakes means putting their quarterback, Jay Cutler, into position to turn the ball over. That means forcing Chicago into 3rd and long situations.
I am hard pressed to think that the Bears will stop the Vikings from running the football. Cutler will be kept off the field and the Vikings will keep pace one more week with the Packers leading up to their final week showdown.
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