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Well . . . the world didn't end on December 21st -- most likely to the consternation to the myriad of doomsday theorists, but much to the delight of football fans everywhere. The Readers edged the Staffers by a game in Week 15. The Staffers now only have two weeks left in which to to close the two game gap. The Readers have an overall record of 128-81-1 while the Staffers have a record of 126-83-1. This week, the Readers will be represented by Clutch!. Clutch! writes:
Hello MHR, Im Jasper, also know as Clutch! I live in Boise, Idaho and have been attending Boise State for the last two years. I recently decided to change my career plans and will be attending lineman college in January. I have been a Broncos fan ever since I watched the Broncos beat the Packers back in 1997 as a child. I probably check MHR twice a day just checking out some of the post from the Awesome staff and the other readers posting news and information. I’ve been a member since 2009 but haven't really written much. Im just glad I get to take it to Topher Doll this week.
Going against the Readers' Clutch! will be Staffer Topher Doll. Topher writes:
This is Topher Doll, that cocky, know-it-all, stat nerd formerly known as Maxwell's Demon. Well I grew up in southern Oregon pretty much hating life as a loyal Seahawks fan in the 1990's, but grew to love the Broncos by the mid-90's out of mutual respect since they were division rivals at that point. Now living in Idaho and married to a Chargers fan, I just had a son born who may have split allegiance, which breaks my heart. While I lost my one Staffer vs Reader challenge last season, I redeemed myself with a win earlier this season, hopefully I don't make a fool of myself.
And now, onto the picks.
Clutch!: After shutting out the Giants last week, Atlanta keeps it rolling by shutting down Calvin Johnson and the Lions passing attack.
Topher: Atlanta has too much going for it right now, and too much to prove to their fans, to slow down now. While they may take a week off next week with a win this week, but they've got to be looking at this game and thinking that if they can destroy the Lions before the final week, that's not a bad way to finish. Oh did I mention Matt Ryan is just on fire this season.
Clutch!: Oakland's defense is too awful to handle a recharged offense from Carolina. Even five field goals from Sabastian Janikowski wont lift the Faiders in this one.
Topher: Neither team is amazing but come on. Breaking this game down makes it clear who has the better team: Newton v. Palmer, Williams, Stewart, Tolbert v. McFadden, Carolina's D v. Oakland's D. Not even close. Newton has had struggles this season but people seem to have overlooked his current five game streak with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Clutch!: This one is hard because this is always the time of the year the cowboys choke. But maybe just once the cowboys play a good late in the year game and pull one out against a horrific defense. If the cowboys can pressure Drew Brees and keep him on his heels they still have a chance at winning their division.
Topher: While I think Dallas is the better team, sometimes Drew Brees just comes on fire and I think that happens this week. Dallas is on fire and will need a win to get into the playoffs, and while that is powerful motivation, I'm picking against my gut here. New Orleans wins.
Clutch!: The Titans make a trip up to the frozen tundra to get blown out by the Packers. Aaron Rogers and their prolific offense will prove to be too much for the Titans.
Topher: Tennessee is a talented team, but are young and poorly coaches. The Packers are the opposite, a veteran team that is well coached and motivated to finish strong. Green Bay is just better, better coach, better QB, better defense, only area the Titans are better is if Chris Johnson decides to show up, and he might, but that's only because he shows up when it's not important.
Clutch!: I think this one will be close but the Texans with J.J. Watt will shut Adrian Peterson down and come away with a close win. I don’t think AD will have a chance at breaking the all time rushing record after this game.
Topher: Minnesota is picking up steam after a slump in the middle of the season, but the beast that is Adrian Peterson is going to run into a defense coached by an angry Wade Phillips, who is looking for redemption after a handful of poor defensive performances. With Ponder struggling, the Texans actually have the coaching and talent to shut down Peterson, unlike teams in the past. Schaub and Foster control the clock and an easy win.
Clutch!: The Pats have been playing some really good football lately. They gave the 49ers quite the game last week but let it get away. I expect Tom Brady and the rest of the offense to go town on these guys.
Topher: I mean really? Is this a question. Oh and Chad Henne is starting.
Clutch!: The first pick in the 2013 NFL draft goes to the Kansas City Chiefs. Enough said
Topher: The Colts are not really blowing anyone out this season, but this may be their game. With the Chiefs leaning on Matt Cassel more due to Jamaal Charles limping, this should be a nice win for rookie Andrew Luck as he tries to take the Colts to the playoffs.
Clutch!: The Dolphins are a hard team to figure out. One week the team looks stellar then the next week they their horrible. They need to find out what consistency is.
Topher: Miami has the better defense and Reggie Bush is having a solid season but behind all that good is a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who despite decent stats, is having a pretty bad season. The Bills defensive line has improved in recent weeks, getting close to their potential from the pre-season, and if they can shut down Bush they should be able to abuse Tannehill all game.
Clutch!: Washington is fighting the Giants and Cowboys for the NFC East title and keep their hopes alive. The Eagles have pretty much mailed it in for the rest of the year.
Topher: I really want to go with Philly here, and it's just a strange matchup when you break it down, and I trust Andy Reid over most coaches in the NFL, I don't trust the Eagles defense to stop anyone on the Redskins, even if Robert Griffin doesn't play.
Clutch!: This is going to be a great game because both teams are buying for a playoff spot. With the home field advantage going to the steelers they pull off a close win.
Topher: Pittsburgh has the big names, something Cincy doesn't, but people need to remember this is a struggling Steelers team that was overrated coming into the season. Two teams really on opposing tracks, Cincy's young and on the up-and-up while the Steelers are aging and losing relevance. The Bengals win and ruin the Steeler's playoff hopes for the season.
Clutch!: The Rams have been steadily improving while the Bucs entire team has been in free fall mode. The Bucs wont be able to stop Bradford and a bunch of no name receivers.
Topher: I like both of these teams, both are young and well coached and could be future powerhouses in the NFC in 2-3 seasons. But right now the Bucs are just more talented, especially on offense. Jeff Fischer is getting the most out of limited talent to help Sam Bradford and that's going to hurt him against a more talented team in the Bucs. Should be exciting but the Bucs will get ahead and just keep running.
Clutch!: With Norv Turner two weeks away from being fired and the whole Chargers organization about to be remodeled, they beat a Jets team that needs to do the same thing.
Topher: Okay I'm not a Mark Sanchez fan, at all, way overdrafted, and I do think there are bigger issues on the Jets, but that performance against the Titans was unwatchable, just horrendous. Back to the game, the Jets have little talent on either side of the ball while the Chargers players are trying to save their jobs for when the big changes come at the end of the season.
Clutch!: This contest between two disappointing teams as of late goes to the G men. Baltimore has too many key injuries and a coaching staff that cant decide what to do with its offense.Expect the Giants to win this and stay in the playoff race.
Topher: Baltimore is a solid team but they are in free fall and they face a Giants team that is pissed and fighting for their playoff lives. Nothing scares me (or Bill Belicheck) than an angry Tom Coughlin.
Clutch!: Last week for the Cardinals game was a fluke against the Lions. Cardinals will prove like wise.
Topher: Chicago is a good team that has been struggling but they are no where near as bad as Arizona, a team that that has no QB, no run game and a defense that can't play consistently. Cutler, Marshall and Forte tear apart the Cards defense while the Bears defense gets back to their form from the first half of the season.
Clutch!: I really wanted to choose the Seahawks because of their 6-0 home record but the 49ers are just to good. This defense doesn't have a weakness and wont be contained. I can see John Harbaugh punishing Pete Carroll for running the score up the last two weeks.
Topher: This game is in Seattle? Yea, no one wins there. San Fran is riding a QB who would have cost them more games if their defense hadn't save them and this will be another game where Caepernick's weaknesses are manifested. Seattle's defense is going to attack him all day while Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawk's offense just go for the throat. While I doubt Seattle puts up 50 like the past two weeks, they should win this handily.
What Denver Must Do to Win
Clutch!: For the Broncos to win this week they must stop Trent Richardson. If the broncos can come out and get an early lead it will prevent them from running the ball all game. The offense needs to get back to scoring TDs in the red zone instead of settling for field goals and we need to stay away from turning the ball over. I don't know if I’m the only one but every time I see Knowshon carry the ball I hold my breath. Don't fumble bro or you’ll be in the dog house again.
Topher: When I look at this game for the Broncos I see a game where passing the ball 35-45 times a game might not work out. The Browns aren't a good team by any means, especially on offense (their offense is just terrible). But they have a defense that creates a lot of turnovers, which leads to good field positions. Even a terrible offense can score occasionally if they have good field position. If Manning can play clock-control football and hand it off against a bad run defense, the Broncos should come out with a win. It may not be a blowout but limit turnovers and the Broncos can continue their win streak.
Good Luck to both of our Contestants.