CBCSports.ca's weekly chatter, our guys weigh in on the surging Houston Texans, the future of Eagles coach Andy Reid, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, and offer their predictions for the looming AFC North battle between Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The Houston Texans earned a hard-fought victory over the Bears in rainy Chicago. Will the road in the AFC playoffs go through Houston?
Sure looks that way. Even if you don't think Houston is the best team in the AFC (I think it's a toss-up between them and Denver) the Texans have a pretty clear path
to the top seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Their three remaining home games (vs. Jacksonville, Minnesota and Indy) are against teams with a combined 4-8 road record. Houston's away games against Detroit, Tennessee and Indy all look winnable (the Colts' current hot streak notwithstanding), leaving a Dec. 10 Monday nighter at New England as the Texans' only obvious obstacle. Hard to see Houston (8-1) finishing worse than 13-3.
Tony Care: The game against the Bears was the big test and the Texans passed with flying colours. Whenever an indoor team comes to a cold-weather city, inevitable questions about that team's toughness arise. But Houston beat the Bears at their own game with a strong defence and the ability to create turnovers. They are the best team in the AFC should have no problem posting the best record in the conference.
Jason Davidson: Sure looks like it. They played a sound defensive game Sunday night, forcing four turnovers. Danieal Manning sets the tone for the night, giving his old team nightmares with his bone-crushing hit on Kellen Davis, forcing a fumble on the Bears' first offensive play of the game. Kudos to Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, especially when you consider that they are getting this done without LB Brian Cushing. Houston is a complete team, they can win games with their offence and they can get it done with their defence too. Sunday was proof of the latter.
The Eagles are one step closer to being eliminated from playoff contention and it would seem time is running on Andy Reid. Does the Eagles head coach last the season?
Jesse Campigotto: Firing Reid won't really help the Eagles this season unless the new coach brings a brand new set of offensive linemen with him. With the current group of sieves, this team is not making the playoffs. I say bottom out, "earn" a better draft pick, and save some money by letting Reid finish out the season. Then go and get Sean Payton (or another coach who understands how to manage the clock and use challenges), shore up the o-line (the return of injured left tackle Jason Peters alone would improve the unit for next year) and pick up a cost-effective veteran QB while developing a young one for the future. This is the end of the Reid/Michael Vick era.
Tony Care: It depends on how far their slide goes. If the Eagles are able to - on paper - stay in the playoff chase then it doesn't make sense for owner Jeffrey Lurie to fire Reid in mid-season. Should this five-game losing streak turn into seven or eight straight defeats, then Reid could be gone. For all he's done in Philly, these last two seasons have been a disaster for Reid, especially on the defence side. This unit can't tackle and we can officially call the free-agent signing of CB Nnamdi Asomugha a bust.
I see him making it until the end of the season. Then he'll get fired on New Year's Eve, one day removed from their final game of 2012. Things looked great in Philadelphia six weeks ago, when they came out of the gates with a 3-1 record. Since then, it's been a complete disaster. And now that Michael Vick is dealing with a 'pretty significant'
concussion, it's time for rookie QB Nick Foles to show everyone what he can do. If Foles can somehow turn this thing around with his performance under centre, that's probably the only way Reid doesn't walk the plank. Don't see Philly righting this ship though. Not with that offensive line.
San Francisco 49ers backup QB Colin Kaepernick came in for a concussed Alex Smith and, at least, rallied his team to a tie against division-rival St. Louis. Does Kaepernick have what it takes to lead the 49ers if Smith misses any games?
Jesse Campigotto: The great thing about being the QB of the 49ers is it doesn't take much. Coach Jim Harbaugh took his team to the very brink of the Super Bowl last year by designing an ultra-low-risk offensive system to minimize the potential damage that could be done by the limited Alex Smith. I'll bet you dollars to donuts (though a Long John probably costs about a buck these days, no?) that Harbaugh is already thinking up ways to maximize Kaepernick's skills (and hide his flaws) in the event Smith is injured and/or ineffective.
I'd be a little worried if I were a 49ers fan
. He did well to rally the team against the Rams, but Kaepernick is still a little green. Remember, he came from a pistol offence at Nevada, which means a lot of running plays. I still think he'll struggle with elite defences, a troublesome point when the 49ers play teams like Chicago this Monday night. Kaepernick has a lot of promise but this isn't the season for coach Jim Harbaugh to be playing him fulltime - if he can help it. Yes, the 49ers are a running team, but at some point the young pivot has to make plays with his arm.
Jason Davidson: This really adds some intrigue to next Monday night's game when the Bears pay a visit to the Bay area. Chicago may also be deprived of their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, due to a concussion. Kaepernick completed 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards, rushed for 66 yards including a 7-yard TD run on Sunday. Decent numbers. He can hold up the fort for a game or two if need be. However, if Smith is healthy, Jim Harbaugh has to go with his more experienced pivot.
This Sunday night sees a huge AFC North battle as the Baltimore Ravens take on the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Which team walks out of Heinz Field with the win?
Gotta give the edge to Pittsburgh just based on home-field advantage, which means a lot in this matchup given these teams' home-road splits (combined 9-0 record at home, 4-5 away) but after Ben Roethlisberger banged up his throwing shoulder
in that surprisingly narrow OT win over the Chiefs on Monday night, we'll have to see what his status is for the Baltimore game. I'm not backing Byron Leftwich, even against an injury- and age-diminished Ravens defence.
Tony Care: I was leaning towards the Steelers but with word that QB Ben Roethlisberger reportedly suffered a separated shoulder, I'm shifting back to Baltimore. Huge is the right word. The Ravens (7-2) will take control of the division with a win in Pittsburgh (6-3). It's not like backup Byron Leftwich can't do the job - far from it. Yet if it's a choice between Leftwich and Ravens QB Joe Flacco, then I'll take Big Joe. Still, the Ravens shouldn't get too excited. They have the 26th-ranked defence in the NFL and Leftwich is a pivot who can do damage against secondaries if given enough time.
Jason Davidson: If Ben Roethlisberger's shoulder injury causes him to miss some significant time, the Steelers are in trouble. They barely got by the Kansas City Chiefs in a sloppy Monday night game at Heinz Field. Byron Leftwich did little to impress me completing 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards. Roethlisberger was 9 of 18 but he still managed to find Mike Wallace for TD pass. The Ravens obviously have their injury concerns, too, but they did dismantle the Oakland Raiders 55-20. Baltimore will win a tight, defensive one and improve to 8-2 while establishing some additional breathing room atop the AFC North.
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