A higher power can only watch over one player in Denver. The others are left exposed to the hardships of this cruel world, which includes thumb injuries that require surgery. Sorry, Von Miller.
Miller is the most notable note in our usual platter of Sunday notes, but there are plenty more. You should read them, and you should start now.
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
Chris Johnson is suddenly kind of, sort of looking like Chris Johnson again, and he’s torched poor run defenses in two of Tennessee’s last three games (Carolina and Tampa Bay). He’ll face another weak front seven on the ground today, with Buffalo giving up 123.8 yards per game.
But for Johnson, the focus remains on getting the Titans back to the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears
Earlier this week Todd Haley said that Kyle Orton would be slowly eased into a first-team role, and Tyler Palko will still be the Chiefs’ starting quarterback for Week 13. I guess we just have to believe Haley, because a coach has never told a tiny, innocent lie in an attempt to head fake his opponent.
Haley isn’t lying, though, and Palko will likely start, despite his six interceptions over Kansas City’s last two games. He’ll also therefore likely struggle, which increases the likelihood of Orton making his Chiefs debut today.
There are a lot of likely outcomes in this game, especially bad quarterback play between two teams starting backups for the remainder of the season.
Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans
T.J. Yates makes his first career start, and nothing prepares a young NFL mind for such a daunting task like being pelted with coins after a particularly rough outing in college.
Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
No matter how long you look at Matt Moore’s stats for November, they still look like a bad joke. The Carolina castaway finished last month as the third most efficient quarterback with a passer rating of 112.7, putting him behind only two guys named Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo.
Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings
We’re not sure what he ate for breakfast, what brand of coffee he prefers in the morning, or what the name of his cab driver was en route to the field in Minnesota. But we know that Von Miller was the first Bronco out onto the practice field today to test his surgically repaired thumb after practicing for the first time this week on Friday.
Those on-field tests evidently didn’t go well, and Miller has been declared inactive, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. That’s clearly a massive blow to Denver’s defense, as the brilliance of Miller has been overshadowed by Tebowmania. It’s been Miller and his 10.5 sacks and 23 knockdowns during his rookie season that have continually allowed the Broncos to stick with the tedious read option offense, putting Tim Tebow in a better position for success.
The Vikings are ranked ninth against the run and are giving up less than 100 yards per game, meaning Tebow may have to actually throw a football.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
If a certain quarterback didn’t have a certain neck injury, this would be more than just the game of the day. At minimum it could be the game of the month, depending on the team’s records, and it always had game of the year potential.
Now this once captivating matchup is just another 1 p.m. game, and it’s only the second early afternoon game the Patriots have played all year. That’s a true sign of this game’s irrelevance without Peyton Manning, and the Brady vs. Manning slugfest. It’s a game that has a prominent Boston sportswriter comparing the Colts sans Manning to the Red Sox in September, and has Chad Ochocinco searching for the secret ingredients to the IHOP pancakes hours before kickoff.
Yeah, this could get really bad, really fast.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
Two weeks ago against Baltimore, Andy Dalton threw for 373 yards, but he also tossed three interceptions. The week prior to that was Cincy’s first game this year against Pittsburgh, and it ended in a 24-17 loss in which Dalton again struggled, finishing with only 170 passing yards.
The Bengals are just one game back of Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the loss column, and they’re still the surprise of the AFC North. But if they’d like to be taken seriously they need to beat a top tier team and win a tough divisional matchup, and some consistency from a receiver not named A.J. Green will help.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman’s playing status remains uncertain, with ESPN’s John Clayton reporting yesterday that although he’ll be questionable, the Bucs still expect Freeman to be available to play even if he’s not today’s starter.
And of course moments after I wrote the above sentence, Freeman was declared inactive.
New York Jets at Washington Redskins
Heading into a critical game as the Jets chase a playoff spot, Mark Sanchez remains one of the most inconsistent and confusing quarterbacks on a team in playoff contention.
He’s already thrown a career-high 18 touchdown passes, and he’s also on pace for career highs in passer rating and passing yards. But the Jets are still barely above .500, prompting the smiling and fun Sanchez to be replaced by a far more serious and solemn quarterback. We’ll soon find out if that’s a good thing.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
Somehow the schedule has sheltered the Browns from two of their toughest divisional opponents, and now four of their last five games will be against the Steelers and Ravens. Browns Stadium will continue to ruin the majestic Cleveland waterfront and be a factory of sadness.
But feat not, Browns fans, because there’s hope, and his name is Colt McCoy. Yesterday Dawgpound Daily reflected on the Twitter activity from those dedicated Browns supporters during a 23-20 loss to Cincy last Sunday, and a depressing reason for optimism was found.
This past Sunday’s Twitter timeline, which by the way is the best sports-watching companion to ever exist, was full of mixed feelings about McCoy. Some believed that it was nice to not have a quarterback who was the biggest problem, while others ranted about how “We’ll never win with him under center.”
That’s progress, you guys!
The fact that Browns fans are not 100% in agreement about whether or not the team’s quarterback is a complete and utter waste of time is a brand new thing for us, you realize that, right?
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
On paper, the Cowboys are facing their third straight weak opponent, although they’ve beaten the Redskins and Dolphins by only a combined four points over the last two weeks.
The win column doesn’t care about point differential, though, and Blogging the Boys observed that when compared with the NFC East standings last year when Wade Philips was fired, the Cowboys’ jump to the top of the division one year later is an ideal illustration of the NFL’s parity.
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
Three straight losses have now put the Giants in the unfavorable position of having to battle not only Aaron Rodgers, but also their own poor December history to stay alive in their division.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Sam Bradford didn’t practice until Friday due to a high ankle sprain, and even then he was very limited. Although Bradford is officially listed as questionable, it’s looking very likely that we’ll get an A.J. Feeley sighting for the third time this season. The Rams’ move to promote Tom Brandstater from the practice squad is a pretty strong hint.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
With both of these teams in the top five in average points per game (Detroit is fourth with 28.7, while New Orleans is second with 32.9), this game has the potential to become a shootout quickly.