NFL Mid-Week: SEA at PHI, Bay Rivalry, Browns QBs

Game of the Week: Seahawks at Eagles

The favorites to win their divisions, these teams are bunched the the Packers to for one of the top two seeds in the NFC. The 9-3 Cardinals are destined to continue their unfortunate slide, with the Lions and Cowboys both with something to prove at 8-4. And yes, the 49ers are lingering around the pack at 7-5. These two, along with Green Bay, are the best teams in the NFC, it’s likely to see one of them in the big game.

The Legion of Boom defense appears to have gotten back to their dominant 2013 form. I caution you, although they still look as elite as any other defense, the last two wins came against the battered Cardinals and struggling 49ers. Granted, they flexed their way to consecutive 19-3 victories, both offenses are average or worse.

Philly hasn’t even played their best football, yet they have the same 9-3 record as the defending champions. Their best game probably came on Thanksgiving Day against the rival Cowboys. They imposed their will behind a healthy O-line, something that “suddenly” has LeSean McCoy looking like he did last season. Mark Sanchez has been nifty in the pocket and spreading the wealth.

The heavyweight collision between Chip Kelly’s offense and Pete Carroll’s defense will be exciting to watch. Their rivalry dates back to their days at Oregon and UCLA, so the familiarity will make the chess match even more intriguing. Carroll got the best college and pro rival, Coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers, more on him later. I also have an interest in watching how the Seahawks offense fairs against the Eagles defense. A defense that has a trio of their front-7 ranking in the top-20 for sacks. I know Cam Newton doesn’t look healthy, but I do recall Connor Barwin being the spy all game long, so I expect that to be his assignment for Russell Wilson.

The Hawks want to pound, I think the Eagles load the box to contain Beast Mode. Often times, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, has contained Marshawn Lynch with his play-calling. If the game rests on them passing the ball, I don’t see the receivers winning the battles against big corners, and the best slot corner in Brandon Boykin. That leaves Wilson to scramble more than desired, especially the L.O.B. gives up some points early to the fastest offense in the league. Sanchez will probably throw a pick or two and I’d definitely pick Seattle if they were playing in front of the 12 Man, but they’re not so Philly is my pick here.

Cleveland Browns Quarterback Controversy

So, Coach Mike Pettine has decided to keep Brian Hoyer under center after benching him in Sunday’s loss.The Cleveland Browns are in the thick of the AFC playoff hunt. They are 7-5, tied with the Ravens and Steelers, all behind the 8-3-1 Bengals in the AFC North. As far as the wildcard picture is concerned, they are one of six teams standing at 7-5, with the Chargers leading the pack at 8-5 and the Texans trailing at 6-6.

The conservative approach to stick with the veteran quarterback surprises me. Drawing from how he and offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, have treated the running back position, the guy fumbling or that has been least unproductive has been benched. Ben Tate went from starter, to backup, to the bench, then cut and signed by Minnesota. Rookie Terrence West was 2nd on the depth chart, demoted to 3rd, promoted to starter, relegated to backup, and last week’s fumbling woes might have dropped him to 3rd again. Rookie Isaiah Crowell began the year as the #3 back, worked his way up to backup, fumbled that role to the bench, all of a sudden he’s the starter but might miss time with a hip injury. Out of nowhere, we might see undrafted rookie, Glenn Winston, sneak into the starting lineup this week. Of course, quarterback is a different story and Pettine admitted that they needed a spark. That is exactly what Johnny Manziel provided, guiding the Browns to their lone touchdown drive, when he scrambled into the endzone in the 4th quarter.

Hoyer has been a wreck, turning over the ball six times in the last three games. His inaccuracy is one of the most obvious things in football, where he’s barely completing half his passes and not getting Josh Gordon involved, The only turnover in limited action with Manziel, came from the backup center snapping the ball too soon, and the Bills landed on it for a touchdown. Not to get overboard because Johnny Football will eventually get his chance, but he came out comfortable and firing, the team gained new life and even spoke of it after the game. One thing is for sure, the leash is even shorter for Hoyer with the playoff stakes so high, and Cleveland will pull the trigger if the Colts go up early this Sunday.

Bay Area Rivalry

People that have never been inside of a locker room will overreact to Justin Tuck’s “blood bath” statement. The veteran defensive end was sharing some real words used behind close doors, I love how candid he was and people should appreciate the transparency. Last week the Silver and Black got destroyed in St. Louis, perhaps it was the “Who gets to return to Los Angeles” Bowl. In this case, I’m not sure if it was the winner or the loser, so if it’s one of them or the Chargers, the relocated team should turn out to be the last one laughing.

Anyways, the Raiders return to the Black Hole to host the San Francisco 49ers. Before last week, the Raiders won their first game of the season at home against the rival Chiefs. It was a prime time game in which rookie running back, Latavius Murray, broke four carriers for triple digits before getting concussed. He missed last week, and the rookie backfield between he and Derek Carr, is something for Oakland fans to watch and root for. Carr has been a tough guy. His rookie year looks like his brother David’s, in the fact that his O-line is barely stopping anyone and he’s getting banged around.

The 49ers have been playing through turmoil, mainly with the coach and within the offense. You would think Colin Kaepernick would be playing his best football, as he has the best supporting cast of his young career. With Coach Jim Harbaugh heading toward the exit sign, and possibly to the Raiders next season, but as of right now this team has clawed to a 7-5 record in the wildcard hunt. They even have all of December to pass up to the Cardinals and Seahawks for the NFC West crown. They have everything to play for amidst the distractions.

Don’t expect the Raiders to lay down though. The rough outing came on the road last week, but before that they beat a tough Chiefs team at home. The Niners will cross the Bay to play a defense that was playing its best football of the season. Charles Woodson is like fine wine, Khalil Mack has been a monster, and Sio Moore has come on strong.Yes, San Fran should be the favorite to win, especially with Oakland’s offensive struggles. For the Raiders, if they can’t win the game, or L.A., can they win Harbaugh?