2012-13 Foxtel ESPN Previews: Week 15
There are a nice mix of games featuring on ESPN this week including playoff stalwarts fighting for top seeds, on-the-cusp contenders looking for a wildcard spot and completely irrelevant franchises beginning to re-evaluate their teams. I love December.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Philadelphia Eagles
When and where: 17th December, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA USA.
Coverage: LIVE ESPN 12pm
While the Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) are in evaluation mode, the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) are set to play hard to earn a playoff spot in a very competitive AFC North.
The Bengals are coming off a last-second loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14. The loss is certainly a setback to their playoff hopes, but with the Steelers and Ravens also losing Cincinnati is still in the hunt. With a new-found emphasis on the run BenJarvus Green-Ellis has become hot over the last four weeks, giving the offence some much-needed balance.
The Philadelphia Eagles saw a great performance from rookie QB Nick Foles against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week. Announcing their plans to keep Foles as the starting QB for the rest of the season the Eagles organisation will be very interested to see what he can do against the far more challenging Bengals defence. Bryce Brown, who was completely shut down by the Tampa Bay run defence, will also be looking to make a splash and earn his consideration moving into 2013. The young Eagles players are now playing for their future.
Watch out for: A.J. Green making a splash. The second year wideout will be looking to bounce back from recent disappointing performances - he only had three catches last week and hasn’t had a touchdown reception since Week 11 — who better to do it against than the Philadelphia Eagles?
Keep an eye on the Eagles pass rush. The days of the Eagles’ defensive scheme, the Wide-9, are over. After a dominant performance in 2011 the Eagles’ pass rush has struggled to generate anywhere near the success they once had. As a result teams could run and pass all over them. With a new defensive line coach, Tommy Brasher, the Eagles may return to their QB-pressuring days.
Final word and prediction: The Bengals have a solid defence and are genuine playoff contenders. They won’t allow themselves to be left behind in the AFC North. I pick the Bengals to win it 34-24.
San Francisco 49ers @ New England Patriots
When and where: Monday 17th December, Gillette Stadium Foxborough, MA USA
Coverage: LIVE ESPN 12:15pm
A Super Bowl preview? Could be. Both the New England Patriots (10-3) and San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) are predicted to go deep into the playoffs. This matchup will be marked by their wildly different offensive schemes.
After beating another AFC East team, the Miami Dolphins in Week 14, the 49ers will be looking to earn that second seed and a bye in the playoffs. A win here against the red-hot Patriots would ensure the 49ers’ place as one of the elite teams in the NFL.
The New England Patriots made a statement in their beatdown of the Houston Texans in Week 14, reminding everybody they are still the best team in the AFC. They’re also playing for a top seed in the playoffs and will likely throw everything they have at the 49ers.
Watch out for: Brandon Llyod actually being effective? After a disappointing year wideout Brandon Lloyd finally broke out against the Houston Texans, catching seven balls for 89 yards and a touchdown. If he should continue to produce the Patriots suddenly have an amazing deep threat going into the playoffs. As if they didn’t already have enough talent catching the ball.
Colin Kaepernick continues to develop into an exciting, big-play QB. If he can keep the 49ers on pace with the Patriots it’ll go a long way towards giving them Super Bowl legitimacy. Keep an eye on how he plays in the spotlight.
Final word and prediction: The Patriots defence has played much better recently and the offence is just on fire. I pick New England to win it 38-28.
New York Jets @ Tennessee Titans
When and where: Tuesday 18th of December, LP Field Nashville, TN USA
Coverage: LIVE ESPN at 12:30pm
The QB conundrum that is the New York Jets (6-7) take on the equally baffling Tennessee Titans (4-9) on Monday Night Football.
The New York Jets continue to earn hard victories despite the poor play at the QB position with a Week 14 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. While they have won three of their last four games – beating the Rams, Cardinals and Jaguars – they’re a bad team and changes are coming in January.
The Titans have also been underwhelming this season, teasing us with occasional big performances from Jake Locker, Chris Johnson and most recently Kenny Britt. While stacked with offensive talent the Titans’ pass defence is undeniably poor.
Watch out for: Kenny Britt finally in form? Britt had a great game against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14 and looked like his old self. Should he put up good numbers against a stronger Jets defence we could finally consider him back.
How long will it take for Mark Sanchez to turn over the ball? So far this season Sanchez has thrown 13 interceptions and fumbled the ball 11 times. If he can’t protect the ball against the Titans changes will be swift and sure. Keep an eye out for Braylon Edwards who was just re-signed after being dropped by the Seahawks.
Final word and prediction: The Jets have been able to beat bad teams recently, but this has the markings of a trap game for them. I pick the Titans to win it at home 21-14.