In the interests of journalistic research (and after doing two all-night games back to back) I decided I would investigate Adderall, the drug of suspension choice in the NFL but something that is available via prescription in the US mostly to treat attention deficit disorder so I could see whether or not those suspensions were valid and maybe if they are I could contact ex-commish Tagliabue who ruled this week that Roger Goodell was right about everything in the bounty hearings but the players were right too and should not have been suspended although that doesn't mean the current Comish was wrong anyway and then Richard Sherman had a huge game with two picks for the Seahawks as they beat the Crads 58-0 while Sherman is appealing his four-game suspension on the grounds that the testing was wrong and he never took Adderall, and if the testing was accurate he only took it because he drank someone else's water that had Addreral crushed into it or something like that and even though he's still playing Brandon Browner is serving his four-game suspension for the same thing so at least Pete Carroll who knew nothing, I mean nothing, about this and didn't offer either guy a scholarship anyway, gets to have one of his starting corners on the field and if Sherman were to drop his appeal this week or next I might wonder if the Seahawks were trying to manoeuvre to keep one corner with them as long as possible anyway it was an interesting couple of nights because both games although they looked good on paper turned out to be sort of one sided as the Lions imploded on the Packers and never really took advantage of that makeshift Packer line and the Texans got a couple of bad breaks early and proved the same thing we saw on Sunday night against Green Bay, that they aren't really designed to play catch-up not that a lot of teams are and speaking of bad breaks how about Dante Stallworth who caught a 63 yard TD pass and then injured his ankle and is out for the season and Deion Branch is back and Visanthe Shiancoe got cut after letting a bullet from Ryan Mallet go through his hands for a garbage-time pick which must mean Gronk is near a return and if Aqib Talib isn't hurt seriously and Gronk comes back and Mankins and Vollmer can stay healthy and imagine if it came down to a third Super Bowl against Elite and the Giants boy only in America! as Peter King would say and I don't really know as that Adderall stuff would really help a football player do much except maybe stay awake during film meetings maybe heal broken fingers which both Randy Moss and Dez Bryant are suffering from this week and they could be poster boys for NFL ADD if you think about it, which I was just doing but maybe to watch Monday Night Football or something like that cause it certainly didn't make any difference to this week's column even though I finished it before I started.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL:
Cincinnati (7-6) at Philadelphia (4-9): Evan Mathis Bowl! The illusion of momentum is a dangerous factor in this game, as the Eagles are coming off a remarkable comeback win over Tampa, while the Bengals suffered a similar loss to the rallying Cowboys. Either this means the NFC is reasserting itself, or it means that the Bengals literally dropped the ball, with numerous drops by receivers (including a sure TD and a crucial third-down catch) by AJ Green and a number of potential picks by their Dbs. Similarly, Tampa appeared to be in control of the Eagles until that late meltdown. The Bengals have a better record on the road (4-2) than they do at home, and the Eagles have their palindromic equivalent (2-4) at home. I'm thinking Cinn realise they let an opportunity pass through their fingers last week, and are solid enough defensively not to let it happen again. Pick (made Thursday): Bengals
Friday Morning Reality Check: This Bryce Brown fumble stuff could be a problem, especially against a team like the Bengals who held him to 34 yards on 16 carries. But the Eagles actually sacked Andy Dalton six times, allowed him only 127 passing yards, and led the game 13-10 at the half. The Bengals win puts added pressure on the Steelers, and indeed the Ravens, on Sunday.
New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2): This week we get teams with winning records playing each other again, and this is one of those games between playoff-bound teams that everyone will try to read a lot into: will the Giants lose in the regular season to save their juju for the playoffs, like such things are actually contrived, will the Falcons flounder on the fourth-down foibles of Mike Smith, or has the momentum of the season already swung behind the Giants after they kayoed the Saints in New York worse than Roger Goodell could've, while the Falcons were contrived to get Cam'd in Carolina? The problem for the Falcons is that they are becoming a one-dimensional offense (Michael Turner 7/24, Jacquizz 4/21 last week) and the Giants are very good at stopping the run. If Matt Ryan has to throw 49 times, Atlanta will lose. A real test for both Dirk Koetter and the Falcons' O line. Pick: Falcons
Washington (7-6) at Cleveland (5-8): Will Robert Griffin play or not? Cleveland is the sort of opponent who makes that decision tough: just good enough so you think they might need RG, but not so good that you might be tempted to let that ligament strain heal and let Kirk Cousins try to beat them. The Browns have lost to Dallas and beaten the Steelers, Raiders and Chiefs since their bye week, while since the same bye week the Skins have beaten all three teams in their division plus the Ravens. Of course that was with RG3. Weedon vs Cousins isn't quite the rookie QB battle we were expecting, is it? Pick: Skins
Minnesota (7-6) at St Louis (6-6-1): Both these teams are alive in the wild card race, which is surprising, and both feature premium running backs. While AP finds himself 400 yards short of 2,000 for the season, Steven Jackson is only 71 yards short of 10,000 for his career. He'll be the 27th runner to crack that mark, but only the 15th to do it with only one team. He's in his ninth year with the Rams and hasn't had a sniff of the playoffs since his rookie year. Peterson is already in his sixth season with the Vikes (which hardly seems possible) and at his pace is only one season away from 10,000 himself (8,352 so far, third among active players). POP QUIZ: Who is the second leading rusher among active players? Answer at column's end. Usually it's been SJax who's been the workhorse of a one-dimensional offense, but the Rams are showing signs of finding a passing game. Just signs, mind you, which is about all the Vikes could wish for, as they threw only 17 times against the Bears, with Ponderous completing 11 for 91 yards and a pick. Ugh. I hope the Rams cover Kyle Rudolph. Pick: Rams
Jacksonville (2-11) at Miami (5-8): Chad Henne Bowl! I made the mistake of picking the Jags to win over the Jest at home last week, and this week they have the awesome motivation of Henne going up against the team that let him go. I'm not convinced that's going to be enough, and this is a good chance for the Dolphins' D to have a big game. Pick: Dolphins
Tampa Bay (6-7) at New Orleans (5-8): Now that Paul Tagliabue has told the Saints they're free at last, and Gregg Williams has apparently hung Joe Vitt out to dry, I'm curious to see what sort of team shows up for this one. The Saints are starting to make excuses for being outplayed, whereas Tampa keep falling just short of teams they try hard to outplay. Pick: Saints
Denver (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4): Elway Bowl! The Denver GM returns to the city he spurned, and Ray Ray might be ready to greet his team on the field. Mike 'Cald' Caldwell is the new offensive coordinator for the Ravens, but when he was QB coach and then head coach in Indy, his (and OC Tom Moore's) coordinating was mostly, 'that sounds good Peyton'. One thing he might want to do is go back to the no-huddle concepts that seemed to work for the Ravens early in the season; I suspect they dropped them mostly because they felt their D, as it was hit with injuries, couldn't keep up the pace, so bringing it back might be easier said than done. Peyton's usually been able to win in Baltimore, even if it was with five field goals. Pick: Broncos
Indianapolis (9-4) at Houston (11-2): Remember the days when the Texans needed to beat Peyton and Indy to establish they were for real, but they just couldn't pull the trigger? Well now the question is can the Colts, who have to be the most surprising team in the league, find the resources on the road to take advantage of a Texans' team coming off a beat-down in New England? The Texans' problem in both their losses, to New England and Green Bay, was that once they fell behind to high-scoring teams, their offense was too one-dimensional to come back. I don't see that problem coming up this week. Pick: Texans
Detroit (4-9) at Arizona (4-9): Brian Hoyer went from the Steelers to the Steelers West this week and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get some minutes, even though Ken Whisenhunt appeared to indicate that a local reporter was just as good a bet as anyone the Crads have started this season. Detroit can hang four scores on almost anyone, and the Crads D is showing severe signs of overwork. Pick: Lions
Carolina (4-9) at San Diego (5-8): Ron Rivera Bowl! If anyone ought to be able to figure out ways to stop the Chargers' offense, besides Philip Rivers it should be their former defensive coordinator. It's hard to tell whether the Chargers were playing to keep Norv's job or to celebrate the supposed news he's going to be fired at season's end. Anyway, back at home, they face an interesting problem, as the Panthers suddenly seemed to discover to make Cam Newton and the option work, while their own offense somehow laid 27 points on the Steelers despite starting former Crad Reggie Wells and undrafted ex-Jag Kevin Haslam at the tackles. I have this awful image of a dune buggy on the beach in San Diego with the air let out of its tires, and Cam Newton dancing through a group of powder blue jerseys like Ray Rice a few weeks ago. Pick: Chargers
Seattle (8-5) at Buffalo (5-8) in Toronto: Palindromic Bowl! At least Seattle won't be able to bring out Jon Kitna this week. Think of the Seahawks as a better version of the Rams, who beat Buffalo last week in Buffalo. On the artificial turf of Rogers Stadium you'd think the Bills' offense might do better, especially since Fred Jackson's injury might force them to give the ball more to CJ Spiller, who can be a game-breaker. But Seattle's pressure might make Fitz spritz with a pass or two, and that would likely be all McGahee and Turbin need to set up a Russell Wilson TD or two. Pick: Seahawks
Pittsburgh (7-6) at Dallas (7-6): Two teams fighting for their playoff lives, with similar O line and running back problems, though when DeMarco Murray plays, the Cowboys' passing game becomes more effective, and you might well say the same thing about the Steelers when Rashard Mendenhall is suspended. Dez Bryant was on a roll, which helped make up for the fact that Miles Austin is clearly limited, but who knows how serious his broken finger will be. It doesn't really mean anything, but in two of my three years in college, I played with a finger on my left hand broken at the first joint. The bookies actually have the Cowboys as home dogs, and they are only 3-3 in the intimidating (for themselves) confines of the Xanadome. Willie Colon is likely out for the season, but top draft choice David DeCastro is active, and might slide right into the starting line-up, with Ramon Foster moving to RT to replace Mike Adams. Dick LeBeau was keeping Pittsburgh in games with smoke and mirrors, and they did pull out a huge win in Baltimore with Charlie Batch, but now with the clock striking 11 on Big Ben, well...pick: Cowboys
Kansas City (2-11) at Oakland (3-10): Two teams fighting for, what? Jobs next season, draft position, pride, whatever? The Chiefs reverted back to form last week in Cleveland, and the Raiders continued their form in a loss to Denver. Pick: nobody. OK. 'shudder': Raiders
Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5): Last week Detroit led, outgained, out-possessed and lost to the Packers at Lambeau, while the Bears lost to two Adrian Peterson touchdowns and a pick-six by rookie Harrison Smith, his second of the season. The Packers are not going to put up 200 yards rushing against the Bears, in fact, they might not be able to do that even if Chicago played three O linemen at linebacker. And the match up of the Bears' front four and the Pack's makeshift ‘Famous Five’ favours Chicago, though once you get to the Bears' O line it doesn't matter whether the Pack go with their standard 3 man line or the 2 linemen, 2 linebackers standing front they showed against the Lions. They lack a premium pass rusher whichever way they line up, so their whole game plan revolves around Aaron Rodgers negating that rush advantage the Bears have. By the way, having drafted Randall Cobb in the Americarnage fantasy draft, and then released him because he wasn't getting enough playing time, I'd like to think it was less a case of my being impatient than Mike McCarthy not recognising what he had. Cobb gets an early score or two and the Bears are in trouble. Pick: Pack
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL LIVE ON CHANNEL FOUR:
San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England (10-3): New England's three losses this season, by a combined four points, all came against teams with solid defenses, whose linebackers and safeties were versatile enough to stay on the field against the Pats' hurry-up formation changes. Two of the teams had strong run games and big-play capability; the other was the Crads, who tried to hand the game back to New England, whose winning TD run was called back for a cheap holding call on Gronk, and who then missed the winning 42-yard field goal. The Niners, with Colin Kaepernick at QB, have more big-play capability than they did with Alex Smith—watch his 50 yard TD run or his TD pass that Randy Moss dropped—but he's also less experienced, and the Pats will offer him surprises. Look for the Niners to try and neutralise Vince Wilfork and run to the outside, as well as beat the Pats at their own game of throwing to tight end mismatches whenever possible. Tom Brady admitted he spent the extra rest days after Thanksgiving studying the Niners to compensate for their short week this week; the Niners of course have the travel to give them a relatively short prep week. This should be exciting. Pick: Pats
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL LIVE ON BBC RED BUTTON:
Newark Airport Jest (6-7) at Tennessee (4-9): Titans Derby! The Jest have added all-new extra-strength 100 per cent pure Braylon to their mix, which could signal the start of their inexorable march across the playoff Rubicon or could be the final act brought out to the centre ring in Circus Rexicus, given that Braylon spent last week calling the Jets' management 'idiots'. Having said all that, these teams are similar in lots of ways, but because the Jest are a media circus in the nation's media capital, you'd never know their record is two games better than the Titans, who play in a relative backwater and don't make many waves, despite having stolen the Jets old nickname. They win games when it's least expected, and in Jake Locker they have the anonymous version of the Sanchize. Wasn't there a movie about a circus populated by vampires who, as they are inclined to do, rose from the dead every time you thought/hoped they'd been killed off? Pick: Titans
QUIZ ANSWER: Frank Gore, with 8,660 yards. Gore was drafted in 2005, one season after Steve Jax for the Rams, and two before AP.
LAST WEEK: 9-7 SEASON: 133-69-1