1. Prediction One: Plaxico Burress doesn't play another down for the Giants a) because he brings too much trouble into the locker room, and b) because they have Domenik Hixon. Burress' troubles you know about, but a lot of people in Denver wonder how Hixon, an ex-Bronco, became so good so quickly. I don't know, but I do know he excels in Burress' absence. Let us count the ways: Against Seattle, he had 102 yards and one touchdown in the first half; against Arizona he produced 201 yards in returns and a team-high six receptions; against Washington he tied for a team-high with five catches. Steve Smith and Hixon aren't the red-zone threats that Burress is, but they're not dangers to themselves or the rest of the team, either.
2. Prediction Two: Pittsburgh or Indianapolis represents the AFC in the Super Bowl. I give the Steelers the edge because of their defense. First things first, though: They must survive the next three weeks. First, it's Dallas. Then it's Baltimore ... in Baltimore. Then Tennessee ... in Nashville. I've already covered why I love the Colts: a) Because Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning, and b) because of the schedule. Their next three opponents are, in order, Cincinnati, Detroit and Jacksonville. At the very worst, they win two. So why not Tennessee? Because I trust Ben Roethlisberger and Manning in big games more than I do Kerry Collins.
3. With all the talk about Albert Haynesworth, Kris Jenkins, James Harrison and Joey Porter, one guy lost in Defensive-Player-of-the-Year speculation is the Giants' Justin Tuck. When the Giants needed a fourth-down stop Sunday it was Tuck who hauled down Clinton Portis from behind. It was also Tuck who had a team-high two sacks. The guy is a complete player who can defend the run and the pass and who is -- pardon the expression, Plaxico -- a loaded weapon.
4. Advantage, Carolina. The NFC South is decided next week when the Panthers meet Tampa Bay, and here's why Carolina has the edge: The Panthers are home, and NFC South teams are 22-2 there -- including Carolina, at 6-0.
5. Count me among those who can't consider Drew Brees for league MVP until or unless the Saints escape last place. I hear people say, "Yeah, but he's going to break Dan Marino's yardage record." Swell. Then make him the NFL's Offensive Player of the Year. Brees threw three interceptions in a critical loss to Tampa Bay, including two on the last two possessions. Not good. Look, the only numbers that matter are wins and losses, and if the Saints finish last he shouldn't get a sniff. So you ask, "But where would they be without him?" Last. Which is when I ask, "But where are they with him?" Uh-huh, last. Case closed.
6. Speaking of MVP candidates, adios, Brett Favre.
7. Nice win by Minnesota, but here's why the Vikes are no lock in the NFC North: The schedule. Their last three games are at Arizona and home against Atlanta and the New York Giants.
8. It's time for Washington to find another kicker. Shaun Suisham missed another field goal Sunday, the fifth time in his last six games he botched at least one. Worse, he's 1-for-4 on kicks of 40 or more yards the past three games.
9. Matt Ryan wins Offensive Rookie of the Year, but I'll tell you who should get some consideration: Denver tackle Ryan Clady. According to STATS, Inc., he's one of only three tackles who hasn't allowed a complete sack this season. The other two are Tennessee's Michael Roos and Denver right tackle Ryan Harris.
10. There's only one reason to watch Cincinnati on offense, and it's wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. So how can the Bengals possibly hesitate to re-sign the guy?
11. This is all you need to know about the Greatness of the Raiders: The Kansas City Chiefs won three of their last 22 games. Two of them were against the Raiders.
12. I'm sorry, but I just can't follow Dick Jauron's thinking at the end of Sunday's meltdown. He's down 10-3. There are 5 1/2 minutes left. And it's fourth-and-7 at the San Francisco 22. So he kicks a field goal. Huh? You still have to score a touchdown, Dick. Bad, bad idea.
13. Jim Mora should reconsider his future. The University of Washington is looking for a head coach, and, just my opinion, but Mora has a better chance to succeed there than with the Seahawks.
14. So Cleveland's Romeo Crennel announced Brady Quinn is his starter for 2009. Great. Pass that message on to the Browns' next coach.
15. Over/under on the attendance for Cincinnati's last home game: 25,000. It's against Kansas City.
Just asking but ...
• What is anyone doing with a loaded handgun at a nightclub?
|Week 13: Keeping up with Brett, Chad and Aaron|
• Any chance the Lions could beat the University of Michigan?
• Time to lay off Brad Childress?
• How much did that loss cost
Five things I like
1. The Giants without Burress. They're 2-0 ... 3-0 if you count last week's defeat of Arizona when he played three snaps.
2. That third-and-3 call by Chiefs' offensive coordinator Chan Gailey with two-and-a-half minutes left. He has Tyler Thigpen throw the ball, and it was a 13-yard gain. Gutsy, but, hey, when you're 1-10 what's to lose but another game?
3. Atlanta's Mike Smith for Coach of the Year. With a resounding defeat of San Diego he's 8-4 with a fragile franchise that was supposed to be D.O.A.
4. The Jets to lose one of their two West Coast games. They play at San Francisco next week and at Seattle on Dec. 21. They're 0-2 on the West Coast this year, with losses to San Diego and Oakland. Weak.
5. Peyton Hillis as a running back. Darren McFadden and Felix Jones were first-round draft picks, but the Arkansas back making the biggest noise is Denver's Hillis, a seventh-round pick with four touchdowns in his last three starts.
Five things I don't
1. The Jets' play-calling. It's fourth-and-1 at the Denver 46 early in the third quarter, and you have Brett Favre throw ... after he threw on third-and-1 at the 46. Somebody should have reminded the Jets that Thomas Jones ran for 138 yards and two TDs.
2. The San Diego Chargers. They were 35-13 in Marty Schottenheimer's last three seasons; they're 15-13 in Norv Turner's first two. I admire linebacker Shawne Merriman, but he's not the reason this club is a mess. I'm not sure what is, and I doubt Turner does, either, otherwise he would have fixed things. His challenge now is to keep this club from self-immolation the last month of the season.
3. Arizona in the Eastern Time Zone. The Cards are 0-4 there, with the Jets putting up 56 on them and the Eagles 48. They're doomed if/when they go east for the playoffs.
4. Guns and professional athletes. The worst combination since Britney and K-Fed.
5. Rian Lindell's aim. Once he couldn't miss. Now he costs the Bills a game against Cleveland with a missed field goal, then misses two more Sunday -- including a 20-yard gimme.
Numbers, numbers, numbers
4 -- Green Bay losses by four or fewer points
6 -- Cincinnati first downs
6 -- Straight Chiefs wins in Oakland
8 -- Dropped passes by New Orleans receivers
21 -- Straight games with a Chicago takeaway
24 -- LaDainian Tomlinson yards rushing, the second-lowest of his career
226 -- Yards passing by Eli Manning in the first half.
0-18 -- Saints' record under Sean Payton when trailing after three quarters
1-7 -- San Diego's record in games decided by a touchdown or less
Next weekend's three best games
Dallas at Pittsburgh ... At last, a litmus test for Cowboys.
Tampa Bay at Carolina (Monday)... Top of NFC South at stake.
Washington at Baltimore ... Beltway Brawl could ruin 'Skins' playoff hopes.
My top five
1. N.Y. Giants
4. Tampa Bay
My bottom five
30. St. Louis
28. Kansas City