Matter of Facts: Showdown Sunday Will Be Epic

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 13, 2012



By Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru)

Cold Hard Football Facts' Fact-Back

A lot of NFL history on the card for Week 15 as we get down to playoff crunch time.

There are the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears, who get ready to clash for the 186th overall time.

There will be plenty of reminiscing in Dallas for some as the Steelers and Cowboys, who have combined for 16 Super Bowl appearances (3 against each other) and 11 Lombardi Trophies renew acquaintances.

There’s a little more modern history in the form of the New England Patriots, who continue to score points at an amazing pace regardless of the opposition and are on the verge of the unprecedented.

And there are also some very important games which will affect the playoff picture. And if a few teams aren’t careful and continue to stub their toes, they will be…history.

Let us begin…

Week 15

Thursday Night, Dec. 13

Cincinnati (7-6) at Philadelphia (4-9): Last week, the Bengals saw their four-game winning streak end on the last play of the game at home vs. the Cowboys. About the same time in Tampa, Andy Reid’s Eagles put the brakes on their eight-game losing streak with quarterback Nick Foles touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the game vs. the Bucs. Last season, the Birds tied for the league lead in sacks but these days it is Cincinnati with an NFL-high 42 sacks. Lots of similarities, ironic since these teams played to a 13-13 tie in ’08 when last they met…

Sunday, Dec. 16

Carolina (4-9) at San Diego (5-8): The Panthers played their most complete game of 2012 last week in upending the Falcons as Cam Newton remains hot, throwing 8 touchdown passes (0 interceptions) and rushing for 286 yards and three scores in his last four games. Norv Turner’s team did the somewhat unthinkable by stunning the Steelers in Pittsburgh as Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes and committed zero turnovers. San Diego’s Ryan Mathews has rushed for 685 yards and a touchdown, while Newton has run for 640 yards and seven scores…

Denver (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4): The hottest team in the NFL head east to face a Ravens’ club that has suddenly gone cold, losers of two straight and both via a field goal on the final play of the game. And John Harbaugh made a big change on his coaching staff this week with the ouster of offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The Broncos have won eight straight games and are getting it done on all sides of the ball but veteran quarterback Peyton Manning, (who has defeated the Ravens eight straight times, including playoffs) continues his amazing comeback…

Detroit (4-9) at Arizona (4-9): It’s been a pair of long years here as the Lions, losers of five straight games, have already locked up last place in the NFC North and the Cardinals, riding a nine-game losing streak, appear headed the same way in the NFC West. We also won’t belabor the fact that Detroit hasn’t won an NFL title since 1957, the good news since the Cards’ last league championship came in 1947. Calvin Johnson (1,546) needs 302 receiving yards to tie Jerry Rice’s 1995 single-season record (1,848), which likely hasn’t been lost on Larry Fitzgerald…

Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5): Since opening the season at 7-1, which included six straight victories along the way, Lovie Smith’s team has dropped four of its last five games and now out of a first-place tie in the division with the Packers, who have now won 12 straight games vs. NFC North rivals (including the 2010 NFC title game at Chicago) and are 7-1 since opening the season 2-3. And Dom Capers has been Jay Cutler’s biggest nightmare (7 touchdown passes, 16 interceptions in 7 overall meetings) since both arrived at their current homes in ’09…

Indianapolis (9-4) at Houston (11-2): Those expecting Gary Kubiak’s team to have already put a nice bow on the AFC South title may be surprised to know that the incredible Colts have two cracks at the first-place Texans in the season’s final three weeks. With a victory, the Colts would reach double-digits in the win column, the 16th straight year dating back to 1997 that the franchise has won or lost 10 or more games in a season. Houston has suddenly allowed 120 points in their last four games after giving up just 143 points in their first nine outings this season…

Jacksonville (2-11) at Miami (5-8): The long year continues in Jacksonville as Mike Mularkey’s team is one defeat away from tying the franchise record for losses in a season, set back in 1995 during the team’s 4-12 debut campaign. Of course, NFL football in the state of Florida has taken quite the beating the last year or so as the Dolphins (11-19), Buccaneers (10-19) and Jaguars (7-22) are a combined 38-60 since 2011. By the way, did we mention that Cameron Wake and his 14.0 sacks gets a crack at old teammate Chad Henne this weekend?...

Kansas City (2-11) at Oakland (3-10): Not to be confused with the 49ers/Patriots clash later on Sunday, but it’s interesting to note that we have the team with the second-fewest points in the league in the Chiefs (195) against an Oakland club that’s allowed an NFL-high 402 points this season. But all signs point to a Kansas City victory this week as the road team in this series has won four straight and is 11-1 in last 12 meetings (6 wins by Raiders, 5 wins by Chiefs). And how about Jamaal Charles (1,220 yards rushing) in the mix for Comeback Player of the Year?...

Minnesota (7-6) at St. Louis (6-6-1): Who would have ever though that the two teams that finished with a combined five wins last season and who originally entered the 2012 NFL Draft with the third and second overall pick, respectively would both be in position to have winning seasons this fall? Of course, who would have ever guess that following knee surgery less than a year ago Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson would have rushed for 1,600 yards in 13 games? Jeff Fisher’s Rams have won three in a row and their defense could give AP fits…

N.Y. Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2): Just the kind of game the doctor ordered for the unpredictable Giants, who have vanquished the three other three defending division champions in the NFC--the 49ers (26-3), Packers (38-10) and Saints (52-27)--by a combined 116-40 score this season. The Falcons comes off their second loss of 2012 but the same concerns remain for Mike Smith’s team, which has struggled to run and failed to stop the opposition from doing the same. For what it’s worth, the Giants have won seven straight at Atlanta dating back to 1981…

Pittsburgh (7-6) at Dallas (7-6): Mike Tomlin’s team went from the memorable to the unexplainable as the Steelers followed up their last-second win at Baltimore with a clunker at home against the Chargers. In 2011, Jason Garrett’s team opened the season 7-4 and lost four of its last five games to finish 8-8. This season, a 3-5 start has been followed by four victories over the last five weeks. The over-under for flashbacks of Lynn Swann (X), Terry Bradshaw (XIII) and Larry Brown (XXX) on Sunday, the MVPs of the teams’ three Super Bowl clashes, is set at III…

Seattle (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8) at Toronto: Find it somewhat interesting that one-time Buffalo Bills’/turned Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch has totaled 261 carries for 1,266 yards (second in the NFL) and nine touchdowns, while Chan Gailey’s on-and-off combo of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have combined for 259 attempts, 1,381 yards and eight scores on the ground. It’s also interesting only the 49ers (184) have given up fewer points than the Seahawks (202), who are 4-1 in their last five games after opening the season at 4-4…

Tampa Bay (6-7) at New Orleans (5-8): Just when it looked like both the Buccaneers and Saints were each making a serious playoff run, each is now riding a three-game losing streak. Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees has also hit a dry spell as of late, throwing just four touchdown passes compared to nine interceptions (2 or more in each game) during the club’s current three-game skid. The Bucs have showed us far too often this season that no lead is safe; witness last week’s loss to the Eagles as well as the 14-point advantage they squandered vs. the Saints in Week 7…

Washington (7-6) at Cleveland (5-8): There was a collective hush at FedExField last Sunday when Washington’s Robert Griffin III went down and absolutely and positively didn’t get up right away. But from all indications, the dual-threat quarterback looks like he’ll be ready to go this week. But speaking of III’s, that’s how many games in a row the Browns have won in a row. And speaking of debuts, there’s an impressive 2,849 rookie rushing yards here from Griffin (748), Redskins’ running back Alfred Morris (1,232) and Cleveland’s Trent Richardson (869)…

Sunday Night

San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (10-3): Talk about a clash of styles? The Patriots have scored an NFL-high 472 points this season. The 49ers have allowed just 413 points in their last 29 regular-season games under head coach Jim Harbaugh. More importantly, San Francisco has not allowed at least 30 points in any of those contests. But back to the Pats, who need 28 points to become the first franchise in NFL history to score 500-plus points in 4 different seasons (2007, 2010 and 2011). But can the New England defense corral the Niners’ ground game?...

Monday Night, Dec. 17

N.Y. Jets (6-7) at Tennessee (4-9): Don’t look now but the Jets have won three of their last four games and despite being a game below .500 are still a factor in the AFC playoff race. The postseason is one place the Titans won’t be going as their disappointing season continued following a four-point loss at Indianapolis in which Mike Munchak’s club blew a double-digit lead. Rex Ryan’s team has gotten back to grounding and pounding, averaging 146.5 yards per game on the ground the last four weeks. Question here is if Tennessee’s shaky defense is able to stop it…


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