Callie’s Picks from the Sideline – Week 12

It’s hard to believe that, while most teams are still mathematically in the playoff hunt, the road to the 2015 postseason could be ending quite soon for other franchises.

In fact, with a loss tonight to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oakland Raiders will be the first team eliminated from playoff contention this season. At 0-10, the Raiders have, somehow, underperformed to already low expectations and are in considerable danger of joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to go winless for an entire season.

It’s been over a calendar year since Oakland’s last victory. During this time of year when most attention is paid to the close divisional and wildcard races, we often forget about the perennially underachieving teams like the Raiders.

Something needs to happen soon for this seemingly hapless franchise. In an era of such parity throughout the league, a team starting 0-10 or going winless should not happen.

The Raiders on Thursday Night football might garner the most viewers’ excitement this week, so here are three games truly deserving of your attention in Week 12…

1. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) @ Houston Texans (5-5): 1:00 p.m. EST on CBS

Did the Texans wait too long to turn to Ryan Mallet at quarterback? After soundly defeating the upstart Browns, the Texans and their new quarterback will have another opportunity to prove their legitimacy against the AFC North-leading Bengals.

Mallet was a serviceable 20-30 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and one interception last Sunday, but the Texans’ real star was defensive end J.J. Watt. On defense alone, Watt was a force with five tackles (three for a loss), a strip sack and a fumble recovery, but the biggest highlight of the week, and maybe the season, was Watt’s fourth receiving touchdown of the season that came on a toe-tapping, diving catch in the corner of the end zone. The Bengals will undoubtedly be hard-pressed to contain Watt.

One week removed from posting the worst quarterback rating in the history of the NFL, Andy Dalton morphed back into the capable version of himself, tossing 16 of 22 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns against the Saints in New Orleans. Dalton has proven that he is a much different, and better, quarterback with the aid of wide receiver A.J. Green, who contributed 6 receptions for 127 yards and one touchdown in the team’s Week 11 victory.

Though their record may differ, both the Texans and Bengals appear pretty evenly matched heading into Sunday afternoon’s contest. With Houston’s starting running back, Arian Foster, returning to play at full strength, the Texans’ ground game, ranked third in the league, should chew through the Bengals’ 28th ranked rush defense to take pressure off Mallet.

Only time will tell if the Texans waited too long to turn to Mallet, but he should lead the Texans to victory against the Bengals and position the team for a late-season playoff push.

2. St. Louis Rams (4-6) @ San Diego Chargers (6-4): 4:05 p.m. EST on FOX

Has any team pulled off as many upsets as the Rams this season? They’ve beaten the defending champion Seattle Seahawks in St. Louis and traveled to San Francisco to beat their other division rival in the 49ers. Their most recent upset victory came by a 22-7 beating of the Broncos last Sunday.

Shaun Hill was under center for the Rams, again, and threw for 220 yards and one touchdown on 20 of 29 passing attempts. Rookie running back Tre Mason also contributed 113 yards on 29 carries to lead the offense.

St. Louis’ real dominance comes in the trenches on defense. Led by linemen Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, William Hayes and Michael Brockers, the Rams’ defense wreaked havoc on Peyton Manning throughout the afternoon. Though the unit’s production is not accurately represented in the team’s statistics, they have come on strong in recent week and should pose problems for the Chargers’ shaky offensive line.

San Diego quarterback Phillip Rivers had an efficient, yet not spectacular, day against the lowly Raiders. He completed 22 of 34 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown. As per usual, the Chargers had issues generating yardage on the ground, as they rank 29th in the NFL, averaging only 85.6 yards per game.

As is the case with the Rams, the Chargers’ defense has kept most games at reach when the offense has sputtered. The unit ranks in the top third of the league in all statistic categories, including sixth in passing yards and point allowed per game.

Both defenses should hold stout early on, but Rivers is more likely to make plays through the air than Hill, so the Chargers should eek out a victory that keeps them in the wildcard mix.

3. Washington Redskins (3-7) @ San Francisco 49ers (6-4): 4:25 p.m. EST on CBS

It’s been a bumpy season for both Washington and San Francisco.

The 49ers have battled rumors of discontent and conflict with head coach Jim Harbaugh. Whether or not those rumors have legs remains to be seen, but there is clearly a drop off among the front office, players and coaches.

RGIII drama is also back in full swing in Washington, as headlines speculating about who called out whom and which coaches like which players and whatnot have circulated.

In his second start back from an ankle dislocation, quarterback Robert Griffin III could not have been much worse at home against the hapless Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He completed 23 or 32 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions but consistently made poor decisions.

His offensive line also did him and the rest of the unit very few favors by allowing pressure on Griffin to lead to six sacks on the day.

In Week 11 for the 49ers, quarterback Colin Kaepernick continued his underwhelming season by going 15 of 29 for 193 yards and one touchdown in a win against the New York Giants. He also contributed 24 yards on eight rushes.

Aldon Smith’s return from suspension sparked the Niners’ defense that also features rookie linebacker Chris Borland, who has garnered serious Defensive Rookie of the Year candidacy in the past few weeks.

With an offense that is akin to turnovers and features weak secondary defense, Washington should be in store for another long day on the west coast. The 49ers will grab another solid victory as they fight to stay in the NFC West playoff picture.

Callie Caplan
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Callie Caplan

Senior Staff Writer at The Left Bench
Callie is a journalism major at the University of Maryland in the Class of 2017. She's a sports beat writer at The Diamondback for the Terps gymnastics and women's lacrosse teams and a former ESPN 980 Radio intern. She loves Baltimore sports, the NFL, Maryland and rainbow goldfish - in that order.
Callie Caplan
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About Callie Caplan 62 Articles
Callie is a journalism major at the University of Maryland in the Class of 2017. She's a sports beat writer at The Diamondback for the Terps gymnastics and women's lacrosse teams and a former ESPN 980 Radio intern. She loves Baltimore sports, the NFL, Maryland and rainbow goldfish - in that order.