Welcome to NFL Week 14

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:10 AM ET

Bill Lankhof, Dan Bilicki and Randall the Handle report on the week coming up and look back at Week 13.

TOP STORYLINES

1. Packers are on easy street

When Aaron Rodgers orchestrated that last-minute win over the Giants chances are he also put all but the finishing touches on a 16-0 season. This week Green Bay faces Oakland. It’s difficult to see the Raiders emerging from Lambeau Field with a win, particularly after getting beat up by Miami. What initially looked as if it might be a tough run to close out the season, now looks relatively easy. After the Raiders, the Packers finish against the Chiefs, who haven’t been able to get pressure defensively against anyone other than the Bears, before meeting the reeling Bears and the suicidal Detroit Lions.

2. Reggie Bush: The second debut

A lot of people had Reggie Bush written off as the latest Heisman Trophy bust. He became an after thought in a nondescript career in New Orleans, primarily as a kick returner. Nobody expected a lot when he went to Miami and that’s just what happened. Not a lot. But Bush churned out 100 yards in a surprising win Sunday over Oakland, the Dolphins’ fourth win in five games. It was his second 100-yard game in a season in which he has 667 yards, a pace that should give him close to 900 yards on the season. His previous best was 581 in 2007. At this rate, he might yet become the every-down tailback he once yearned of becoming in the NFL.

3. Tebow no shtick in the mud

The Bears go into Denver this weekend to play the former gimmick now known as Tim Tebow. It’s time to give the guy credit. Maybe he can be a real NFL quarterback. Maybe even a pretty good one. It’s hard to argue with a 6-1 record, and against the Vikings he had a passer rating of 149.3, including two TD passes and 201 yards while he only ran the ball four times. He takes what defences give him and rarely beats himself, which is what being a pro QB is all about. His passing numbers equate with predecessor Kyle Orton, including more yards, more TDs (10 for Tebow, eight for Orton), fewer interceptions (one for Tebow, seven for Orton), and a passer rating more than 12 points higher.

4. What’s their forte now?

Matt Forte turned down a $13 million contract and the Bears declined to make a better offer this season. Now the team will find out how much Forte means to the club. And, it likely isn’t going to be a pretty sight. Forte suffered a knee sprain likely to keep him out two to six weeks in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. With apologies to Caleb Hanie, this team might’ve stayed in the wild card hunt without a legitimate quarterback. But they play three of their final four games (Denver, Green Bay and Minnesota) on the road and it’ll be interesting to see if the Bears’ defence can find enough ways to score to make up for an offence that has now lost its biggest weapon.

5. Spiller time? Who knows

For the first time since being the Bills’ first-round draft pick, C.J. Spiller looked like an every-down back. Or, at least he did until coach Chan Gailey stopped giving him the ball. Spiller had 80 yards on 11 carries in the first half against Tennessee. With Fred Jackson out, this is a splendid opportunity to see if Spiller can live up to his draft status. But the Bills have not made great decisions in a losing streak that now stands at five. One of those decisions came with Gailey giving Spiller the ball just three times in the second half. ”I would like to have run the ball a little more,” said Gailey. He gets another chance this weekend against the disintegrating Chargers.

HYPE WE’RE BUYING

The Chiefs’ defence. It means Sunday’s game will be no walkover for the Jets. It could give Mark Sanchez headaches. In the past two weeks it has held Pittsburgh to 13 points and proved the key in this week’s 10-3 dismantling of the Bears’ offence. Brandon Flowers may be the most under-rated cornerback in the NFL. Rookie linebacker Justin Houston had three of the team’s seven sacks Sunday and makes a formidable obstacle alongside Tamba Hali. This is still a young team that makes too many mistakes but the defence is improving each week. And, it will need to be good against the Jets, considering the offence has scored a mere 22 points in three games since Matt Cassel was injured.

HYPE WE’RE NOT

Donovan McNabb riding to the rescue in Chicago is going to work about as well as George Custer yelling: “Charge!” That the Bears are even thinking in this direction shows how desperate they have become with Caleb Hanie proving ineffective. McNabb is too old, too out of shape and stepping into a Mike Martz offence in mid-season is too complicated. Hanie doesn’t have the greatest arm but he can run, so maybe with Matt Forte out, the only solution for the Bears is a Tebow-like option offence. Martz appears on the firing line anyway, so it’s not like he’d have anything to lose. As for McNabb, he is yesterday’s hero.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND

“They just flat out whupped us up front. They embarrassed us. It was a slap in the face. It’s the worst performance since I’ve been here.” — Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, after Cleveland gave up 290 yards rushing in a 24-10 loss to Baltimore.

ON THE HOT SEAT

It’s unlikely to be a firing offence but Jason Garrett is taking heat for icing his own kicker and poor clock management. Garrett should’ve called time out after a Dez Bryant catch with 26 seconds left took the ball to the Arizona 31. He should’ve run another play to get the ball closer for Dan Bailey. And, he definitely shouldn’t have called a time out as Bailey kicked a 49-yarder that should’ve been the winning field goal. When Bailey missed the makeup kick it set the stage for an overtime loss. Garrett said he was worried about time running out; Bailey said it wasn’t a problem. If Garrett has many more brain cramps like this time will run out — on his tenure as Cowboys’ head coach.

STOCK RISING

T.J. Yates is used to being an afterthought. He was only invited to the NFL scouting combine as somebody who could throw balls to the defensive stars trying out for scouts. “Just a hired arm ... annoying,” said Yates. He was only a fifth-round draft pick by the Texans and he wasn’t supposed to play in the NFL, especially not as soon as this year. But Sunday, subbing for Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, he averaged 7.5 yards a pass to help the Texans to a victory as the hometown crowd chanted “T.J., T.J.”

STOCK FALLING

Rarely does a star’s value diminish simply because he’s injured. Usually it just shows how much a team misses him. Not in the case of Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis. While Lewis is supposed to be the club’s inspirational leader he has been out for three games with a toe injury. The team has done just fine without him, beating Cincinnati, the 49ers and Cleveland. The Ravens may be a better team with Lewis but they aren’t half bad without him either.

DAN BILICKI’S FANTASY MATCHUPS

DREAM MATCHUP

Atlanta at Carolina

The Bucs may have had a tough time against the Panthers on Sunday, but we don’t expect the Falcons to be slowed by the Cats’ porous defence. Carolina is allowing the second most points in the league and the ninth most yards. Against the run, they have been particularly bad, allowing 137.5 yards per game and a league-high 15 touchdowns.

NIGHTMARE TIME

Indianapolis at Baltimore

Some of the Colts had some deceivingly good fantasy numbers on Sunday thanks to the Patriots’ large fourth quarter lead. Pierre Garcon scored his two TDs in the last three minutes of play and thanks to their late rally, Dan Orlovsky ended up with more passing yards than Tom Brady. Don’t expect that sort of thing in Baltimore. The Ravens never take their foot off the gas on defence, no matter what the score.

RANDALL THE HANDLE’S WEEK 13 RANTS

1. Dallas’ Jason Garrett was an NFL quarterback, an offensive co-ordinator and is currently head coach of the Cowboys. All three licenses should be revoked. We’re not sure which is worse? Garrett not calling time out with 31 seconds left in regulation of a tie game, at Arizona’s 31-yard line, in an attempt to get his kicker closer than a 49-yard attempt or listening to him defend that decision. The Cowboys had two time outs, allowing plenty of time to try a play or two. Instead, Dallas ran it down to :07 seconds and called a time out — just as Dan Bailey’s kick sailed through the uprights for what would have been the game-winner at the end of regulation. Of course, the re-kick was no good and the Cardinals won in overtime. Truly, you can’t make this stuff up.

2. Atlanta’s Mike Smith is appearing in this space far too often. We’re thinking he may be brain damaged. No coach is worse at important decisions, particularly in the latter part of a game. No one is more upset that those spotting a point or two with the Dirty Birds. Down seven, with 2:33 to play and facing a 3rd and 1 on Houston’s 20, the Falcons call for a relatively long pass play. It goes incomplete. Atlanta then takes a procedure penalty and now faces a 4th and 6, which they do not convert. And that was that. Firstly, why do you want the quick touchdown, thus allowing the Texans ample time to come back and score the game winner? Secondly, doesn’t it make more sense to try and run one yard and keep the sticks and clock moving?

3. It is easy to identify the cool, calm and collected coaches from those that panic. Detroit’s Jim Schwartz is the latter. Down seven points with most of fourth quarter remaining, he decides to attempt a 55-yard field goal rather than punt. Of course, it misses and New Orleans takes the ball at its own 45 instead of deep in its own zone. The Saints march it downfield for a touchdown and an insurmountable 14-point lead. The wheels are coming off in the Motor City.

4. It is difficult to understand the mentality of players that take taunting or excessive celebration penalties. Can’t coaches instruct their players that it won’t be tolerated? Is it mere coincidence that you don’t see it happening in New England?


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