Saturday, 3:30: Washington at Seattle
Gil Brandt Notes :
Redskins at Seahawks: When they met at Washington on Oct. 2, the Redskins won in overtime 20-17. Right before end of regulation, Seattle's Josh Brown hit the left upright on a potential game-winning field-goal attempt. Redskins QB Mark Brunell passed for 227 yards and two touchdowns. ... For Washington to win, Brunell and RB Clinton Portis are the keys. Portis needs to run the ball well (the question is whether his shoulder is OK). Brunell needs to make some plays in the passing game. Seattle most likely will double WR Santana Moss, as Tampa Bay did last week. Consequently, TE Chris Cooley could be a factor. ... On defense, Washington needs to stop RB Shaun Alexander and make QB Matt Hasselbeck beat them. The loss of DL Renaldo Wynn hurts its defense; he's been pretty good. ... For Seattle on offense, it has to run the ball and it needs a good but not great game from the receivers. On defense, the Seahawks need to force the Redskins into long-yardage situations, double Moss to prevent big plays, control the tempo and make the Redskins play from behind. ... Washington ranks ninth overall on defense, 13th against the run and 10th against the pass. ... Seattle ranks 16th overall, fifth vs. the run, 25th against the pass.
Common opponents: Washington 8-1, Seattle 9-0.
Points allowed: Washington 293, Seattle 271.
Sack differential: Washington plus-4, Seattle plus-23.
Turnover differential: Washington plus-1, Seattle plus-10.
Sturm Pick: Give me Seattle, 27-17. Seattle is going to the Super Bowl, I believe.
Saturday, 7:00: New England at Denver
Gil Brandt Notes :
Patriots at Broncos: On Oct. 16, Denver beat New England, 28-20 -- but they led 28-3 after three quarters. The Patriots were without DE Richard Seymour and LB Tedy Bruschi in that game, and QB Jake Plummer had a field day (262 yards and two TDs) -- mainly picking on CB Duane Starks, who is no longer with the team. New England allowed 125 rushing yards and 4.2 yards per run at that time, but they've since lowered that average to 98 yards per game and 3.6 per carry. A much improved run defense, to say the least. ... For New England to win, QB Tom Brady has to be great. He must make big plays against Denver's strong blitz tendencies, and make sure his team is in the right play. Brady, WR Deion Branch and TE Ben Watson are the keys. ... On defense, they need to stop the run and force third-and-long, and make Plummer make plays to beat them. ... For Denver on offense, they must overcome their problems running against 3-4 defenses, and they need a big game from RB Mike Anderson. Plummer needs to stay within himself. New England most likely will double WR Rod Smith, which means WR Ashley Lelie needs to make some plays. ... Denver's defense needs to pressure Brady, which will help if Denver can get an early lead. ... New England is 26th overall on defense, eighth against the run, 30th against the pass. Denver is 15th overall, second vs. the run, 29th vs. the pass. ... Note: a wet field would favor the Broncos in this game.
Common opponents: New England 6-3, Denver 7-2.
Points allowed: New England 338, Denver 258.
Sack differential: New England plus-5, Denver plus-5.
Turnover differential: New England minus-6, Denver plus-20.
Sturm Pick: This one troubles me greatly. I can talk myself into each team in this one. I am going to play the QB matchup here, and take Tom Brady over Jake Plummer. But, I am not convincing myself very well. Patriots 24, Broncos 21.
Sunday, 12:00: Pittsburgh at Indianapolis
Gil Brandt Notes :
Steelers at Colts: The defining play in their first meeting, a 26-7 Colts victory Nov. 28 on Monday Night Football, was the 80-yard TD pass to Marvin Harrison on the Colts' first offensive play of the game. Another key was a Mike Doss interception late in the first half that led to a field goal. ... After losing three consecutive road playoff games, Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher got his first road playoff victory last week in Cincinnati. ... Pittsburgh needs to run the ball, be physical up front and control time of possession. I think RB Willie Parker and WR Hines Ward will play well here. QB Ben Roethlisberger has been very good on the road this season. In seven road games, he has 10 TDs, 3 INTs and a 110.5 rating. ... One thing that should help Pittsburgh is that LT Marvel Smith, a very good player, did not play in that first game versus the Colts. On defense, they need to win the game up front, as the Chargers did, to disrupt Peyton Manning's timing. ... For Indianapolis, it must pass and protect to give Manning time. ... Harrison will be the go-to guy, but don't forget the Broncos-Colts playoff game last year, when Reggie Wayne had 10 catches for 221 yards and 2 TDs. ... On defense, the Colts have to get strong play from the front seven -- they can't let the Steelers control time of possession. Pittsburgh is fourth overall on defense, third vs. the run, 16th vs. the pass. Indianapolis is 11th overall, 16th vs. the run, 15th vs. the pass.
Common opponents: Pittsburgh 7-4, Indianapolis 10-1.
Points allowed: Pittsburgh 258, Indianapolis 247.
Sack differential: Pittsburgh plus-15, Indianapolis plus-27.
Turnover differential: Pittsburgh plus-7, Indianapolis plus-12.
Sturm Pick: Trust me here, I would love nothing more than a Steelers win. But, I can’t see it. Colts 34, Steelers 21.
Sunday, 3:30: Carolina at Chicago
Gil Brandt Notes :
Panthers at Bears: When these teams played in Chicago on Nov. 20, the Bears completely dominated the Panthers offensive line in a 13-3 victory. They had eight sacks, six in the second half. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme was 22-for-38, for 235 yards, but with 2 INTs and a 54.6 rating. ... This game will come down to who plays well in the red zone. Weather will be a factor, and it likely will be another low-scoring game. The kicking game is a factor. Carolina has a veteran kicker, the Bears have a rookie. ... For Carolina on offense, it needs to get something out of RB DeShaun Foster. Delhomme and WR Steve Smith need to make some plays, and it needs to avoid turnovers. On defense, the Panthers have to stop the run. ... For Chicago, Grossman and WR Muhsin Muhammad are the keys. WR Bernard Berrian also could be a factor. They need to make plays in the passing game. ... Remember what Carolina did last week, holding RB Tiki Barber to less than 50 yards. It's important for both teams to get seven in the red zone, as opposed to three. On defense, Chicago needs to force Delhomme into bad throws and turnovers, stop the run and create field position for Rex Grossman and the offense. ... Carolina ranks third overall on defense, fourth vs. the run and ninth against the pass. Chicago is second overall on defense, 11th against the run and fifth versus the pass.
Common opponents: Carolina 7-2, Chicago 8-1.
Points allowed: Carolina 259, Chicago 202.
Sack differential: Carolina plus-15, Chicago plus-15.
Turnover differential: Carolina plus-16, Chicago plus-6.
Sturm Pick: Despite having seen with my own eyes how good Chicago is just a few weeks ago, I still remained convinced that they will be one-and-done. Carolina 17, Chicago 13.
And, friends don’t let friends gamble on football.
Stars dominate the lowly Capitals …
Turco was tested early and often by Russian rookie phenom Alexander Ovechkin, who had six of Washington's first seven shots and scored the Capitals' only goal.
"What a good player," Turco said. "He's dynamic, obviously. He's got it all. I really commend him for putting that effort through consistently."
Ovechkin is the real deal. Dude has 52 points, while no one else on his team has more than 23. Think about that for a second. Alexander is 20 years old, and the best player on the ice in most games, and for now is forced to play by himself.
Avery wants leaders to step forward …Read: Avery wants players to yell at Dampier, too…
"Hopefully we'll have some leadership from within the ranks step up and challenge some of the guys so we get some more production and some consistency," Johnson said.
The players understand.
"It can't always be coach," second-year forward Josh Howard said. "It's got to be handed down to us. We know what we have to do.
"I did it in college, but I'm not really in the position to come off on people here."
Others with more league tenure are. Some egos might be bruised.
"Guys can't look at it as personal," said Jerry Stackhouse, a 10-year veteran. "It's just about trying to improve our team."
Carson Palmer = worse than we thought? …
Carson Palmer's knee injury was "devastating and potentially career-ending," involving numerous ligament tears, a shredded ligament, damaged cartilage and a dislocated kneecap, his surgeon said Thursday.
The team announced that he had torn the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. The damage was much more extensive and severe, but Dr. Lonnie Paulos said surgery went well and Palmer could be back for the start of the season.
Paulos, an orthopedic surgeon who has worked with the U.S. Ski Team since 1983, replaced the anterior cruciate ligament, which runs through the middle of the knee and provides stability. He said the medial collateral ligament, which runs along the side of the knee, was damaged "real bad."
"On a scale of one to three, it was a four," he said. "It was off the chart. It was pretty badly damaged -- shredded is the better term."
Don’t think they will be letting Kitna get away, do you?
Very sportsy today, eh? Well, it is Playoff Time...OK, here is one small attempt at humor. Below, which USC cheerleader might not be that smart?