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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Must See Sports: Second Week of December 2011

Thursday, December 8


Cleveland Browns (4-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3)

Pittsburgh faces its archrival tonight, trying to keep pressure on the first place Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North division race. Cleveland has struggled to control the ball all year. Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis has yet to recapture the magic of his thousand yard season of a year ago. The Browns can’t move the ball and can’t stop their opponents from running the football. That is a recipe for a loss against the power-oriented Steelers.

Advantage: Steelers

Saturday, December 10

NCAA Basketball

#2 Ohio State Buckeyes at #13 Kansas Jayhawks

This just in: Ohio State is pretty good! The Buckeyes have been making statements all season long. The loudest statement was a complete dismantling and savage, 22-point beating of the (then) #4 Duke Blue Devils last month. The undefeated Buckeyes will face their third ranked opponent in the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday. OSU forward Jared Sullinger (19 PPG, 10 RPG) is continuing his candidacy for National Player of the Year.

Kansas is in a reloading mode. After losing the Morris twins to the NBA after last season, the Jayhawks have new leadership in the forms of junior forward Thomas Robinson (17 PPG, 12 RPG) and senior guard Tyshawn Taylor (17 PPG, 4 APG). Kansas has handily won all of the games that they are “supposed” to win, but has struggled with top-tier competition, with early season losses to Kentucky and Duke.

Ohio State is on fire while Kansas has yet to punch a big boy in the mouth. The Jayhawks are going to have to show me. I cannot pick against the Buckeyes in this matchup.

Advantage: Ohio State

Sunday, December 11


Houston Texans (9-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)

Rookie of the Year candidate Andy Dalton (2644 yds., 17 TD, 12 INT, 59% comp.) has the Cincinnati Bengals on a path to possibly return to the playoffs this season. The connection between the rookie quarterback and fellow rookie receiver A.J. Green (50 rec., 832 yds., 7 TD) in concert with a solid defense, ranked 6th in the NFL, has made the Bengals a challenge for every opponent they have faced all year.

They will face a Houston Texans team that has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at it and simply brushed the obstacles aside. Starting quarterback Matt Schaub out for the year? No problem; the Texans have Matt Leinart. Leinart fell off the bench and he’s out for the year? No problem; the Texans have rookie T.J. Yates. The Texans also have running back Arian Foster (916 yds., 8 TD, 4.1 avg.) and the #2 defense in the league.

The Texans’ QB issues, though Yates played competently last week, are a real problem. The frigid Cincinnati weather awaits the visiting team with an indoor stadium in a warm weather climate. That said, the Texans are simply a better team, especially on defense.

Advantage: Texans

New Orleans Saints (9-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-5)

The Tennessee Titans have continued to hang around. Chris Johnson’s holdout and subsequent slow start was an omen of doom, in the opinions of some reporters and writers. The Titans got out of the gate slowly at 3-3 under a rookie head coach, Mike Munchak. However, the Titans are just two games back of the division leading Texans and have a rematch with the Texans to come in the final week of the season.

The Saints have been the NFL’s hottest team of the past month. Quarterback Drew Brees (4031 yds., 30 TD, 11 INT) is on a record setting pace for passing yards, among other categories, this season. If the Saints have any Achilles heel, however, it is their play on the road. The Saints are unbeaten at home, but have split their six road games, with three away losses to teams of varying talent levels (Packers, Buccaneers, Rams).

Their last loss, however, was in October. Road team or not, this Saints team looks markedly improved over where they were in the first half of the season, which was still a “pretty good” place.

Advantage: Saints

New York Giants (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)

Both teams are in a position in which they cannot afford a loss, but the Giants are the team, of the two, in more dire straights. The G-men came off of a very hard fought game and a tough loss last week as time expired against the unbeaten Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys coaching staff snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as the 4th quarter ended against the sub .500 Arizona Cardinals, in an underachieving performance.

Both teams have problems in every area of the field except under center. Yet both quarterbacks are increasingly criticized with each loss in the media and among fans. This just in: neither Giants QB Eli Manning nor Cowboys signal caller Tony Romo play defense. Neither plays kicker and neither hands the ball of to themselves. After this Sunday, one player will be praised and the other will be thrown under the bus, again, no matter how well that losing QB plays.

The Giants appeared to turn a corner in a loss last week. The Cowboys still seem to be putting on the same old Jekyll and Hyde act. I think the Giants snap their four game losing streak on Sunday Night.

Advantage: Giants

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