Some things are predictable. For instance, if you try to build a website for women drivers it will keep crashing. It is also a fair bet that Satan gets a lot of letters from dyslexic children at Christmas.
But those who predicted Indianapolis would beat Tennessee and Houston would lose at home to Carolina by 15 points, plus prognosticating correctly that the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers would lose to Kansas City last week, are probably the same people who think that that divorce is not the most powerful anti-depressant available (incidentally, the wife and I once got arrested for fighting over a Calendar. We got six months each).
A sense of normalcy should return this weekend.
That could be interesting, since the Bears boast a strong defensive front.
And if Chicago are going to trouble the Packers, their defence will be key, since they will struggle to put points on the board without quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte and receiver Johnny Knox, who are all injured.
The Bears have averaged just 10 points in four games since Cutler’s thumb injury and they will start Josh McCown at quarterback, who was signed last week. He has not started a game since 2008 and since entering the NFL in 2002 he’s thrown 35 touchdowns and 41 interceptions.
While possibly an upgrade on Caleb Hanie, it is a bit like dumping girlfriend Ena Sharples in favour of Hilda Ogden.
While the Bears and Packers know each other well and rarely will either team blow out the other, there’s plenty to suggest that the Packers will roll to a comfortable win on the arm of Aaron Rodgers.
Talking of The King, this week’s Festival musical interlude comes from the one and only…
What’s the difference between Minnesota head coach Leslie Fazier and Father Christmas? Some people still believe in Father Christmas.
The Vikings rolled over against New Orleans last week, prompting tight end Visanthe Shancoe to say of his teammates: “You could see some guys hung it up.”
Running back Adrian Peterson was bemoaning what he perceived the be the dirty play of cornerback Jabari Greer for targeting his injured ankle, while All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen was left fuming that he was sidelined during the Saints’ final possession because of a coaching decision.
This year’s 2-12 bickering, bumbling Vikings could be the worst team in franchise history.
While it seems Fraser is a lame-duck head coach – although rumour has it he will remain at the helm next season – at least the Vikings have entered the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. The Stanford quarterback is certain to be the first pick in April’s NFL draft and only the Colts and the 2-12 St Louis Rams stand in Minnesota’s way of nabbing the top pick.
What that means for current rookie passer Christian Ponder – taken with the 12th overall pick in last year’s draft – is open to debate, but you can bet he will be keen to hold onto his job.
Minnesota could not have been much worse than they were against a largely disinterested-looking Saints team last weekend. They have glaring holes at the receiver, offensive tackle and cornerback positions, but there is a possibility of trading out of their high draft spot for a slew of picks to address their needs.
In any case, expect a better effort from the defence – that allows a league-worst 29 points per game – when they travel to Washington on Saturday.
The Vikings have a good record in DC, winning on three of their last four visits. In their six losses in Washington since 1968, only once have they been beaten by more than a touchdown (a 21-7 reverse in January 1983). They have also won there on six occasions.
A win for 5-11 Washington would give Mike Shanahan’s team their third victory in five games.
While their record suggests they have not progressed from last season – as poor as they were in 2010 (with a 6-10 record), the Redskins beat Super Bowl winners Green Bay and NFC runner-up Chicago, and lost six games by four points or less – they are still a very solid outfit. They have lost five games by a one-score margin this term and are a solid draft away from being one of the elite in the NFC.
Injuries have hampered them, compounded by the average play of their quarterback. Rex Grossman has more interceptions (18) than touchdowns (13), is completing 58.3 percent of his passes and has a 71.4 passer rating. How much that inefficiency has to do with the game-planning of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan (the head coach’s son) is open to argument.
While they are patently better – and certainly in better form than Minnesota – the hosts could suffer a psychological let-down after playing spoiler to NFC East rival New York Giants last weekend, and this might be closer than anticipated.
Oakland are still in the hunt for the AFC West title and they will want to avenge a 28-0 home loss by the Kansas City Chiefs (October 23) when they visit Arrowhead Stadium on Saturday.
The Raiders and San Diego Chargers are locked at 7-7, a game behind Denver in the race for the AFC West. The Broncos host the Chiefs next week in the regular-season finale but have a tricky trip to Buffalo first on Christmas Eve.
The Raiders, who are also a game behind the Jets and Bengals in the race for the final conference wild card spot, have lost their last three games but host the Chargers next weekend.
A loss for either would seriously damage their playoff hopes.
Despite their stunning upset of the 13-point road favourite Packers last week, the Chiefs are still only scoring an average of 13.7 points per game and are allowing 130.4 rushing yards per game (ranking them a lowly 24th in the NFL). They are inconsistent at best and the Raiders can make it five consecutive wins at Arrowhead.
We’ll be glad to see the back of that Pessimistic Advent Calendar (when one door opens, another one closes) and optimists will hope that Arizona can win their seventh game in eight when they travel to Cincinnati.
The Cards have trailed at the half in every one of those seven games, so there are obvious trading opportunities in running. But the Bengals’ defensive line should have their way with the Cardinals’ offensive hogs and Andy Dalton will make enough plays to keep the hosts’ playoff hopes alive.
Green Bay -13
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