If you can believe it we are just about three quarters through the NFL season already. Time flies in the NFL and the Falcons, Texans, Buccaneers, Redskins, Vikings, have all wasted what should have been promising campaigns this season. Surprise teams like the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, San Diego Chargers, and even the troubled Miami Dolphins have shots at making the playoffs. Oh and by the way its Brady vs. Manning Week! The NFL's two favourite children engage in what everyone expects(or hopes?) to be another legendary contest. The playoff picture will get a little more clear following this weeks contests as many hopeful teams face off. Check here as 613 breaks down three key match ups from this week's schedule. Find out who will win, who to watch, who will surprise, and more in our Week 12 Preview. Featured games this week include; Chargers @ Chiefs, Colts @ Cardinals, & Broncos @ Patriots
CHARGERS @ CHIEFS
- Those sneaky San Diego Chargers are still fighting and still in the mix for a wildcard spot. You have to hand it to 1st year HC Mike McCoy and his staff for getting this group to where it is right now. Anticipated to be among the AFC's worst McCoy, Phillip Rivers and the Chargers are capable of beating anybody right now. What a difference a season makes (and perhaps the addition of Danny Woodhead?) for Rivers - he and ol' pal Antonio Gates are up to their old tricks for the Super Chargers this year. Coming off a tough loss last week versus the Dolphins, San Diego is in need of a win badly to keep pace in the AFC and what a great opportunity headed to division rival Kansas City.
- All good things come to an end and this was the case for the Chiefs win streak and unblemished record this season as they fell to the powerhouse known as the Denver Broncos. Although the Chiefs still hold the lead in the division does anyone really think they will be able to beat Denver in their next meeting? Andy Reid is hoping that the loss motivates his team this week as they have their second of back to back division games hosting the Chargers in Arrowhead this week. Jamaal Charles had a quiet week and is sure to be a focus of Andy's game plan this Sunday. Look for Tamba Hali and the Chiefs defense to get back to causing havoc sooner rather than later.
- The AFC West? Really? With all four teams still in playoff consideration the AFC West has surprised many with the divisions overall performance. The Raiders, Chargers, and Chiefs, all could make a run for the playoffs while Denver is already sizing their Super Bowl Rings. I'm sure both squad will head into this battle with the "can't lose" mentality - unfortunatly for one of them their playoff hopes will take a major hit. The good fortunes may finally come to an end for San Diego this week as a humbled Chiefs group looks to flex their muscle and regain their swagger. Chiefs defense comes up huge as Rivers has his first (really) bad game of the season. Jamaal Charles could approach 200 multipurpose yards.
- Players to watch: Antonio Gates, Jamaal Charles, Tamba Hali
COLTS @ CARDINALS
- Let's just say they took a week off versus the Rams. An out of conference game against a team that shouldn't affect their playoff situation...you never know. Now if the Colts could figure out the first half of the game perhaps they would be taken more seriously. The trade for Trent Richardson hasn't helped this offense yet and losing Reggie Wayne is obviously taking it's toll already. What a blessing T.Y. Hilton and a fresh Donald Brown have been for a diminished Indy offense though. While T.Rich runs similar to Marshawn Lynch and has all the tools to be the same kind of player something is wrong. Whether it's his timing, his burst, his ankle, or his blocking it's bad - real bad. Good thing you don't need a running game when you have Andrew Luck under center. Is there a better leader at QB in the NFL right now? The drive, determination, will to win, plus the composure Luck displays week after week makes him among the leagues elite no question, and when you have an ELITE QB you are tough to beat no matter who you play.
- Bruce Arians has the Cardinals believing and playing like a playoff team. Now leading an under appreciated team to the playoffs shouldn't be too unfamiliar to Arians as he did that exact thing last year with none other than this weeks opponent - the Indianapolis Colts. Arians may know Luck's tendencies better than any other coach in the league (including Lucks own coach) combine that with one of the league toughest defenses and you have one big challenge for Indy's 2nd year QB. Karlos Dansby, Patrick Peterson, and Tyrann Mathieu are just a few of 'Zona's defensive play makers that can cause offenses fits. The Cardinals athleticism allows them to play more man to man coverage than any other team in the league - meaning if your receivers can't beat one on one coverage your QB is in deep trouble.
- Coach vs. Player, Teacher vs. Student, Bruce Arians vs. The Guy That Earned Him His Head Coaching Job: Andrew Luck. Although the Colts have beaten some of the leagues best this year the edge has to goto Arizona playing in front of their home crowd plus the advantage Arians' familiarity with the Colts offense gives the Cardinals. Perhaps the most crucial match up to watch will be between Indy's highly targeted tight end Coby Fleener and Arizona's superb pass defending linebacker Karlos Dansby.
- Players to watch: Andrew Luck, Donald Brown, Karlos Dansby
BRONCOS @ PATRIOTS
- Denver although dominant seems to be slowing down a little each week. Perhaps this may be when they are at their weakest after a hard fought win over division foe Kansas City. But wait - that added motivation it's time to head to Foxboro and face best buds Brady and Belichek. A concussed Welker faces his former squad and a never nimble Manning has a couple of bum wheels heading into a contest versus a coach who loves to pressure the QB, uh oh?! Now while the trendy pick may be the Patriots don't forget New England is coming off a short week of rest and their defense (or offense) hasn't really been scaring too many teams. What will the formula for success be for Denver this week: a strong dosage of Mr. Moreno. Look for Manning audibles to Knowshonn and play action the Pats D to death this week.
- Too be honest - what is all the hype about? Historically Belichek (& Brady) get the best of Manning the majority of the time. Manning's lonely SB ring could be what drives him harder to win this weeks contest but time has told us Belichek knows how to scheme well enough against Peyton to allow Brady to comfortably do his thing - win! Talk about motivation; playoffs around the corner, tough loss last week, home game, plus your greatest rival in the league who happens to have coerced your favourite target, Wes Welker, into joining his ranks. Even if Tom was cool with everything else you have to think losing Wes is probably the equivalent to him as losing your high school girlfriend to that older college guy. Yes I would say Tom Brady and company are plenty motivated for this Sunday's game. Look for RB Shane Vereen to continue to be more involved in his second week back from injury as the Patriots offense continues to gain momentum while the Broncos may be losing their steam.
- The NFL is so damn in love with this game it's becoming annoying. Seriously it's two of the games greats on one team (Brady and Belichek) versus one on the other (Manning) and in most books 2 on 1 isn't a fair fight. Although Broncos offense may be a little more loaded with weapons this time around Brady will always have an ace in his pocket as long as Bill is on the Patriots sideline. Broncos should find success on the ground while Pats still try to compensate for DT Vince Wilforks absence but New England always finds a way to stick around - add that to the home field advantage and the historical edge Brady & Bill have over Peyton and you've got an upset!
- Players to watch: #16 vs. #18, Knowshon Moreno vs. Shane Vereen, Pats Secondary vs. Broncos Secondary