Week 13 is upon us and it’s crunch time in the NFL. One team remains standing head and shoulders above the rest and the question on everybody’s lips in America is an abvious one.
Can the Pack remain perfect all season? I spent the last week across the pond and the hype surrounding this Green Bay side is building to fever pitch levels. Aaron Rodgers is being spoken of in the same breath as John Elway and Joe Montana and even the New York media and fans seem to talk about little else. They are attempting to become only the second team to go undefeated, the other being the legendary Miami Dolphins side of !972.
I had the opportunity to take in a New York Jets game while over there thanks to my cousin’s much appreciated persistence with the reps he does some business with and must admit I was taken aback by how different the whole set up is to sports events over here. The whole pantomine surrounding the event is absolutely hilarious. With the Jets cheerleaders “the flight crew” strutting their stuff every few mins (not an unwelcome distaction!), fireman Ed yelling and screaming at the fans together with the New York crowd who are quite simply brutal when it comes to letting the guys on the field know what they think of certain plays, the whole thing was an amazing experience. You feel more engaged with what’s going on on the pitch and the NFL is light years ahead of our governing bodies in how they prioritise the fans experience. The pitch is far smaller than it appears on TV and one thing I found very obvious was how misleading statistics can be when it comes to sports. Against Buffalo the Jets QB Mark Sanchez threw four passes for Touchdowns but he was quite simply awful. He should have been picked off at least three times more than he was and certainly did not instill any sort of leadership in either his own team mates or by extension his own fans. The boo boys were relentless and the guy is under serious pressure to retain his place and his credibility as a franchise QB in the NFL.
This weeks live line up is sees three fantastic match ups and given where we are in the season the pressure is now on all sides to deliver albeit for different reasons. The early game on Sky Sports sees AFC North divisional rivals Pittsburgh and Cincinatti square off in a huge match up that should go a long way to deciding this division. The Steelers have been cruising along nicely under the radar this year with the hype machine focusing exclusively on the unbeaten Green Bay. The Bengals have somehow gotten to 7-4 with a young side and a rookie QB calling the shots. Andy Dalton has looked composed and in control of both his emotions and his offence and he will need to be doubly so this evening. Pittsburgh have seen and done it all before and teams like Pittsburgh, The Ravens, The Patriots etc tend to step it up as we get later in the season and closer to the playoffs. I think the experience will tell in this one and fancy Roethlisberger, Polamalu and Company to set down a marker for the playoffs by taking care of The Bengals and in doing so putting serious pressure on their post season aspirations.
The second live game on Sky Sports is the one everybody in America is talking about. It is time for Big Blue to step up to the plate and test themselves against the best in the NFL as they try to put an end to the Packers perfect season. Confidence is at an all time low for the Giants who were taken apart in New Orleans on Monday night football. The Saints offence is one of the best in the league so there was no disgrace there but it was the lack of pressure on Arron Rodgers and the lack of any sort of running game that was most worrying for the Giants. This franchise is built on both a pass rush and a brutal running game and if they do not deliver on both fronts tonight they will be destroyed by Green Bay. Rodgers has been unplayable and the things he’s doing right now are leaving even the experts who have seen it all before dumbfounded. He is having what is on course to be the best ever season by any QB in any era and we are blessed to be around to witness it. The guy seems to have it all and right now is making not just unreal throws but the right decisions time after time. Interestingly he is known to be one of the most intelligent and classy QB’s in the league which when added to his rocket arm and his surprising mobility both in and out of the pocket ,make him a terror to defend against. The Giants do not really have a hope this week but we all remember what they did to the Patriots and their perfect season in the super bowl a few years back. Green Bay to win it but I would be surprised if the Giants didn’t show there’s some life in the old dogs yet. If they are to have any chance Manning must lead them to scores early and regulalry. Green Bay has a defence that can be gotten to and they do give up a surprising number of points to weak sides. However if you have an offence like theirs it’s a moot point really isn’t it? The only other offence capable of putting up numbers like theirs are The Saints and as last week proved, the Giants aint no Saints!!
The late game on Channel 4 is another cracker with New Orleans hosting the Detroit Lions at the Superdome. The Saints were stunning against the Giants on Monday night and aside from Green Bay have the most explosive offence in the NFL. What they appear to be developing in addition is a defence that is approaching what it was two years back when New Orleans went all the way to the Superbowl. They looked ferocious againt the Giants and were constantly a threat to pick off Eli Manning whenever he aired it out there. To beat the Saints, The Lions who are in free fall will simply not get away with allowing them a double digit head start. Detroit have a very explosive defence but they were given a lesson last week by Green Bay and I have little doubt that this New Orleans offence up there with the Pack. I am convinced that they have a far better defence than the Pack and am going to make the prediction that they will win it all this year. This side are not happy with just one Superbowl and the truly great teams always win another. Something seems to have clicked in New Orleans and in Sean Peyton they have one of the bravest and most innovative coaches in the League. They will find it tough against a Detroit side that needs to restore some of it’s confidence if they are to have any chance of making the post season after getting off to a hot 6-0 start. New Orleans to pull away early and put on another 40 points on a quality defence to firm up as second favourites to win it all.