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NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 12

Whether it be for the Wild Card or the coveted first round bye, it seems like playoffs have begun leading up to The Playoffs in January where teams are jockeying for their position. But teams that feature horses don’t necessarily have an advantage as the Colts and Broncos have fallen behind the Patriots for tops in the AFC. Also, the Cards continue to fly in a competitive NFC with a back up quarterback taking over the starting role. This Week 12 edition of the Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania looks at the best contests that will decide December destiny.

Lions v. Pats

I give the Lions all the credit in the world. Under the new Jim Caldwell regime, I had no reason to believe that they would stray from the status quo. A sorry defense with an offense that was unable to stay consistent. But with Caldwell as Head Coach, the Lions are a top NFL defense and in playoff competition for the second time in the era of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson as a wide receiver/quarterback combo. It all started when they managed to beat the Green Bay Packers in Week 3, 19-7. A Packer offense that just went for 53 points last Sunday.

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×202$.jpg” alt=”Chicago Bears v New England Patriots” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-7959″ ]

Yet, due to a rough patch in the schedule with the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots back to back, Stafford may find himself in his Week 12 post game presser sounding like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers after losing to Detroit telling his fan base to, “relax”.

What makes me so sure? I can tell you for a fact that Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Motor City’s D-Line won’t let the Pats’ Jonas Grey for another 200-ish yard performance or score 4 touchdowns. But I’m also unable to see how the Lions will take command of tight end Rob Gronkowski. Outside of lining up Suh as a defensive end to bump Gronk off his route, there’s little that instills confidence that the Pats won’t move the ball at will through him.

Sure, Detroit has Johnson and Golden Tate as a duel threat in the air accompanied by Joique Bell and Theo Riddick on the ground. But I can point to Brandon Browner and Darelle Revis at the corners and defensive tackle and world’s fastest immovable object Vince Wilfork on place to slow all of those elements for New England’s defense. How can the Lions stop Gronk? I say they don’t.

Cards v. Seahawks

These teams’ division, the NFL West, is looking to turn out at least 2 playoff teams. Which combination of the Seahawks, Cardinals, or 49ers are in the tournament will be impacted by the outcome of this game.

After toppling the Lions by shutting down elite receiver Calvin Johnson, the Arizona defense will be tested by a running juggernaut in Seattle. The two-headed rampage of quarterback Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch has done plenty of damage to most teams who didn’t have the right defense to deal.

[airesizeimg src=”$-300×210$.jpg” alt=”Calais Campbell” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-7960″ ]

But the Cards need only to look at what happened in Kansas City last week to view the blueprint. Not only to stop Seattle’s offense, but also the secret to scoring on their elite defense.

While scoring on Seattle isn’t the specter it used to be, it’s no easy task. They’ve not giving up tons of points in their losses, nor have they been completely blown out in a game. But even with back up, Drew Stanton, at the helm, the wealth of weapons receiving in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, rookie John Brown and tight end John Carlson would be enough to spread the Seahawks thin and set up the run for Andre Ellington to balance the attack.

If the ‘Hawks can control the clock with the run and game management skills of Wilson to prevent perfection on defense, the Cards could lose their second game of 2014. But with Lynch less than 100% with a nagging leg injury, I see the defending World Champions one game above .500 going into Thanksgiving vs. San Francisco.

Honorable Mention

Bengals v. Texans

This is a match that gives the Bengals nightmares historically. Two of signal caller Andy Dalton’s 3 playoff losses came at the hands of JJ Watt and company. It seems that Dalton’s ability to be the Red Rifle or a hot mess is something modern science hasn’t quite figured out, but both teams need the mathematics of a ‘W’ to keep in their respective playoff chances intact.

[airesizeimg src=”$-255×300$.jpg” alt=”Ryan Mallett” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-7961″ ]

While using the pass featuring AJ Green and Muhammad Sanu to set up the run for rookie Jeremy Hill, Dalton’s ability to execute will decide the game.

Meanwhile, Ryan Mallett in his second quarterback start this season will need to hammer the Cincy secondary who will no doubt be focused on Arian Foster and Alfred Blue first on the ground.

Who is less likely to mess up — Dalton or Mallett? I say Mallett, but I wouldn’t be brave enough to take this one to Vegas.

Ravens v. Saints

[airesizeimg src=”$-177×300$.jpg” alt=”Justin_Forsett_ravens” class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-7962″ ]

2 recent former Super Bowl champions that badly need wins to remain relevant will be laying desperation out to stay alive. One has a good defense, but Joe Flacco as a passer. The other has Drew Brees, but horrid defense. At days end, I believe the running back success will directly correlate to a win. If Justin Forsett continues to thrive in his recent resurrection, the Ravens win, if Mark Ingram can carry the load, the Saints march out with a victory.

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Kyle NashThe Student of the Game

Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST

Writer for NGSC Sports

Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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