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SPF's Week Thirteen Pre-Pregame Show

Posted: Dec 02, 2007

While Tribal Fever nation witnessed their conference championships this weekend, SPF has found a few of their own.  There are four key head to head matchups in the SPF footprint this week - two of which will probably decide the winner of the AFC and NFC South.

Our other teams have critical "must win" games for their current coaches future employment. 

One way or another, much of what will play out before next season may be decided today.


Jacksonville (8-3, 4-1 away)
Indianapolis (9-2, 4-1 home)

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This is the game of the week.  Defending SB champ Indy will be trying to wrap up the AFC South for the fifth straight time while the upstart Jags are trying to move their franchise to a new level of success.  The Colts have been vulnerable thanks to injuries while the Jags have been on a mini roll.

SPF has been hard on the Del Rio-led Jags and for good reason.  This team has tons of talent yet it can't seem to distance itself from the pack.

The Colts handle adversity well, and Bob Kravitz points out that they have a much better defense than people know.

It's interesting that the Colts, not the Jags see this as a "must win" game.  Maybe that's why the Colts keep winning division titles, and the Jags seem happy just to be playing for the wild card.

This is also why SPF is so hard on the Jags.  Jacksonville, it is time to prove us wrong.

Houston (5-6, 2-4 away)
Tennessee (6-5, 3-2 home)

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SPF is obsessed with identity, and this game is all about identity.  Houston's current team must go on the road and play its former team.  The Titans kept the powder blue color scheme that defined pro football in Houston for decades.  They last coach of the former Houston Oilers is still the coach of the Titans today, Jeff Fisher.  The Titans have also completely dominated the Texans, losing only twice in ten meetings.

Today, it is the Titans on tough times.  The Texans seem relatively happy with year two of the Kubiak regime (although SPF thinks the franchise sets its sights too low).  The Titans have lost three in row crushing any chance at a division title.

The Titans need to find their swagger again.  The Texans are just the team to do that against based on history.

Just like the Colts-Jags, the road team has a chance to change the dynamic of their present and future with a road win today.  While a Jags win means a likely AFC South title and entry into the SB discussion, the Texans can crawl out of AFC South basement and position themselves as equals with the Titans as the "up and comer" in this tough division.

Few games mean more to a franchise than this one.  Jeff Fisher will want to make a statement.  SPF wonders whether the Texans and Kubiak will respond in kind.

Atlanta (3-8, 1-4 away)
St. Louis (2-9, 0-5 home)

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The coachs facing each other this week in St Louis have had a long history together.  Bobby Petrino and Scott Linehan coached under John L Smith at Idaho and Louisville.  Both left that program to coach at the NFL level, but only Petrino came back to college to get head coaching experience.

That may be the difference in their respective success as head coaches.  Scott Linehan has more years in the NFL as a coordinator, but Petrino has the head coaching experience.  

Despite all their trials and tribulations this season, the Falcons are together as a team.  There is little about that Scott Linehan lost his offensive veterans early in the season and has only recently recovered that relationship.  Unfortunately, the team was already 0-8 at the time.

On paper, the Rams should win this one going away.  Linehan had better hope they do.

Buffalo (5-6, 2-3 away)
Washington (5-6, 3-2 home)

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The media can't help itself.  Sean Taylor's tragic death has made the Washington Post into "Taylor Central" barely even covering today's game against Buffalo.  All the analysis is about the psyche of the team, rather than their ability to win football games.

SPF does not diminish the tragedy of Sean Taylor's murder, but even his father and girlfriend are imploring the Redskins to honor Taylor by winning games.  The fact is that the Redskins haven't had Taylor on the field for a few weeks since a knee injury.  They already know how to play without him.

This situation will be a huge test of Joe Gibbs II.  Gibbs is a very religious man, and this was one of the secrets to his earlier success in Washington.  Many of the team leaders were very religious as well.

Gibbs and Taylor had a fairly contentious relationship during Taylor's career with the Skins.  Taylor openly ignored Gibbs' requests in the off season.  Many thought he undermined the coach who defined the Redskins success.

If this team is so broken up about Taylor death that it can't win today, maybe this team was never Gibbs' team.  Perhaps that has been the problem with Gibbs II all along.

New York Jets (2-9, 0-5 away)
Miami (0-11, 0-5 home)

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Dan, Dan.  We love Dan LeBetard, but he has joined the chorus of mediocrity that surrounds the Dolphins.  Today, the Fins are favored against the Jets.  They had better deliver.  Keeping it close in the NFL is truly meaningless.  Winning is that elusive thing that the best teams understand how to do, and the rest fall short.

Cam Cameron should not only win, but win convincingly today.  Just like the Rams who started 0-8 and came up off the matt to go 2-1 since their bye week, the Dolphins need to quickly show both ownership and the fans that there is a core of talent that can compete next year and beyond.

Good luck, Cam.  You're going to need it.

San Francisco (3-8, 2-4 away)
Carolina (4-7, 0-5 home)

NFL Films Video Preview

If there was any doubt about John Fox's future as the Panthers HC, then one should read this story from the Charlotte Observer.  The fans like the team, but they don't like this year's team.  Teams cannot lose as many home games as the Panthers do and expect the fans to stand behind them.

These two teams are mirror images of one another.  Both are led by defensive coaches who think they can win with defense and ball control offenses.  SPF has chronicled how that theory has been left in the dust.

If Fox has any hope to return in 2008, he must win today.


Tampa Bay (7-4, 2-3 away)
New Orleans (5-6, 2-3 home)

NFL Films Video Preview

Joe Henderson makes it perfectly clear - the Bucs can essentially seal the NFC South with a win today.  If they lose, the Saints are only one game back. 

Jeff Garcia, the Bucs most important player by a country mile, will likely not play today.  Can Gruden still eke out a win without his leader?

This is a season-defining game for both franchises.  Gruden has been in Tampa long enough and should not be in this position.  Garcia is not Peyton Manning or Tom Brady.  He and Gruden haven't been together before this season. 

Gruden has treated the QB position in Tampa like a revolving door giving up on veterans (Brad Johnson) and youngsters (Chris Simms) alike.  Successful WCO teams (Philly, Green Bay, and the previous 49er regimes come to mind) always made sure to have 3 solid QBs who could execute the offense in a starter's absence.  Gruden's failure to do this hangs over his head like an ominous shadow.

On the other sideline, Sean Payton has been unable to keep his talented Saints playing at a high level for any sustained period of time.  That is inexusable as well.  Was last week's throttling of Carolina the sign of another streak?  Payton had better hope so.


Cincinnati (4-7, 1-4 away)
Pittsburgh (8-3, 6-0 home)

NFL Films Video Preview

Cincy has been a pretty big disappointment this season.  Last week, they showed what they can do.  The Steelers are fresh off of a boring win against Miami.  They have injury issues and could be vulnerable.

Can the Bengals ever beat the Steelers?  Pittsburgh is their nemesis.  Cincy can start building toward next season with a surprise win here.  It seems unlikely, but unlikey wins are the nature of football.  The Steeler lost to the Jets after all.

related tags

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