So… Whachya up to this weekend? Been a bit of a long week? Just now getting over that second bottle of Korbel you decided to drink bedside at 5:15 a.m. on Wednesday? Yeah, me too.
You know what? You owe it to yourself to watch some football. Cuz 48 hours is just far too long to go without watching men in pads during this time of year. And because you can only hear creative knick-names like “V.Y.,” “L.T.,” and “Big Ben” so many times, here five names you assuredly won’t hear leading up to this weekend’s games. Oh yeah, and the reasons why they will ultimately dictate who will get to loose next week instead of this week.
Reed Doughty, FS, Washington Redskins
First game of the weekend is Redskins @ Seahawks, 4:30 on Saturday, and this has the makings to be the highest scoring game of the weekend. Seattle throws well and Washington runs well, and surprisingly, both teams have seen the other side of their offense improve at the tail end of the season despite Jason Campbell going down and Shaun Alexander recovering. But in offensive games the tide generally turns on either: a. A key defensive turnover, or b. One big knockout play on offense. And considering Seattle has the upper hand (home/experience), it’s going to be up to Washington’s defense to both deliver and prevent those two types of plays. With the passing of Sean Taylor, Reed Doughty is now the center fielder for Washington. A key catch at the wall can swing things in his team’s favor. Allowing the home run could be the ball game.
Trai Essex & Willie Colon, OTs, Pittsburgh Steelers
Game two on Saturday (8 p.m.) offers a rematch from a few weeks ago when Jacksonville rolled into the Steel City and ran all over the Pittsburgh defense. Count on Pitt’s D coming in more motivated, but still, Jacksonville is more than capable of setting the tone of this ball game. Considering the Steelers are without Willie Parker, don’t be surprised to see 40+ passes from Roethlisberger. A big reason for the black and gold’s recent struggles has been the injuries to their starting offensive tackles. Both are out again, meaning Essex and Colon have the task of preventing Big Ben from getting clocked all afternoon (apologies… I couldn’t help myself). If they struggle, the Jaguars’ lightning quick defense will smack people around, force turnovers, and their tandem backs will run this baby all the way home.
Lawrence Tynes, K, New York Giants
Sunday’s 1:00 game, while it should be close, should be about as exciting as a BCS bowl game. When Eli Manning enters a playoff game as the most significant offensive player, you know you’re going to have a low-scoring affair. Almost every year there is one divisional game where neither team reaches 20 points. This will be that game. And in games like that, a kicker going 5-5 vs. 4-5 can be all the difference. Fortunately for Tynes and Buc’s kicker Matt Bryant, the game is in Tampa and not windy, crappy, stinky New Jersey. Which means conditions should be alright for kicking, but that didn’t stop Tynes from sucking in Kansas City — earning him a swift kick in the stitches right outta town. Watch for one botched kick to be the difference in this game.
Justin Gage, WR, Tennessee Titans
Ah, the last game of the weekend. And much like the last games of recent NFL, NBA, NCAA seasons, it’s due to be the least exciting. Vince Young is iffy, Lendale White is iffy, and the San Diego Chargers have been looking spiffy. All of which adds up to a game that is out of reach by halftime. But think of it this way, at least you can start getting amped up for that surely-exciting National Championship game that much earlier. Or, at least you can hope that LSU doesn’t beat Ohio State by as much as San Diego beats Tennessee. Digressing back to the game, if the Titans want to have any chance they’re gonna have to whip it (whip it good) all over the field. And considering Roydell Williams broke his ankle in practice this week and Bo Scaife went on IR, Gage is going to need the game of his life just to keep the Titans close. Did I mention this game won’t be exciting?