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# Gridiron
The Redzone: No Fairytale of New York for the Jets
It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. Unless, of course, your team is facing a must-win game this weekend. Steven O’Rourke reports on the festive American football season.

New York Giants (7-7) @ New York Jets (8-6)

YOU’RE AT YOUR Christmas party enjoying a few well-earned drinks. Nobody is too wasted yet and the room is filled with an overwhelming sense of relief at getting through another year.

Claire from accounts seems to be paying you a lot of attention. She even laughed at that stupid joke about there being ‘no rain dear’.

Then, just as you’re about to suggest meeting up over Christmas, the boss comes slobbering over, making wild – and, it must be noted, inaccurate – claims that Scrooge and Marley are the best financial institution in the whole of Dublin.

That’s Rex Ryan.

As usual, Ryan has been all mouth in the build up to a crunch game.

It’s a must-win for both teams if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive but, while Tom Coughlin has been focusing on, eh, coaching, Ryan has been busy providing the world’s media with plenty of copy.

Given the humiliating nature of their defeat to the previously woeful Philadelphia Eagles last weekend, you would imagine that Ryan would keep a low profile this week.

That’s not his style, however.

Instead, we’ve heard the usual bleating on about how great the Jets are and how they’re not just the best team in New York, despite having a losing record against the Giants, but probably the best team ever to play the game of football.

Okay, that last part might be a slight exaggeration but if you were to listen to the Jets players, fans and, worst of all, coach, you’d believe they were 14-0 this season.

Instead, they are 8-6 and hold the last wildcard spot in the AFC with Cincinnati, Tennessee, Oakland and even San Diego breathing down their neck.

Likewise, the Giants – currently a game back in the NFC East – have to win out to clinch a post-season spot.

It’s all to play for and will not be as one-sided as the Jets would have you believe.

While the Giants are coming off an unexpected lost to the Redskins (unless you’re me, of course), Eli Manning has emerged from the shadow of his older brother this year and could well be the ‘most improved’ player in the NFL.

Verdict: While the Giants have some injury concerns, I just can’t see past them. Ryan and the Jets can be great on their day but, not for the first time, I don’t expect the walk to match the talk. Giants by 6+

Philadelphia Eagles (6-8) @ Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

Between them, the Eagles and Cowboys have lost ten games this season while leading in the fourth quarter.

For Dallas, three of those losses came despite holding leads of 12 points or more in the fourth. In the previous 40 years of Cowboys’ history, the team had only lost two games when holding such a lead.

It’s not difficult to see whose fault it is either. Jason Garrett clearly doesn’t have faith in his quarterback late in the game and Tony Romo responds by crumbling under the pressure.

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The Eagles, dead and buried a month ago, still have an outside shot at the playoffs but their destiny is out of their own hands. However, they have probably done enough at the back end of the season to give head coach Andy Reid another year in the job.

Verdict: This is one game you probably won’t be able to take your eyes off until the very last snap. It’s a coin toss but, for me, the Eagles have the edge. Philadelphia by 3+

Atlanta Falcons (9-5) @ New Orleans Saints (11-3)

It’s a sign of how well Drew Brees has been playing this year that he needs just 305 yards in this game to break Dan Marino’s 27-year-old single season passing record (5,084).

The Saints have won six straight games and hope that a win against the Falcons will see them wrap up the NFC South as well as help them win a first round bye and home advantage in the playoffs.

The Falcons, who hold the first NFC playoff spot, should still progress to the post-season even if they lose and, with Matt Ryan playing arguably the best football of his career, could cause some shocks in January.

Verdict: You’d be a fool to bet against Brees in the form he is in at the moment. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if he throws for 400 yards in this game. Saints by 10+

All fixtures and predictions

  • Houston Texans 16 @ Indianapolis Colts 19
  • Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens – Ravens
  • Denver Broncos @ Buffalo Bills – Broncos
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers – Panthers
  • Arizona Cardinals @ Cincinnati Bengals – Cardinals
  • Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs – Chiefs
  • Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots – Patriots
  • New York Giants @ New York Jets – Giants
  • St. Louis Rams @ Pittsburgh Steelers – Steelers
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans – Titans
  • Minnesota Vikings @ Washington Redskins – Redskins
  • San Diego Chargers @ Detroit Lions – Lions
  • Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys – Eagles
  • San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks – Seahawks
  • Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers – Packers
  • Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints – Saints

Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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