Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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The "Legion of Boom" might be destined for doom Monday night. Seattle's secondary, with its well-earned moniker, is shorthanded as it heads into a showdown with New Orleans. CB Walter Thurmond has been suspended four games and CB Brandon Browner faces a yearlong ban for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The Seahawks still boast S Earl Thomas and CB Richard Sherman, but they'll need all the help they can get against the Drew Brees-led Saints, especially with the NFC's top seed on the line. This mega-matchup is like the unstoppable force against the immovable object. New Orleans boasts the second-ranked passing offense, and the Seahawks — thanks to the "Legion of Boom" — the second-best passing defense. Seattle QB Russell Wilson is undefeated (13-0) at his home, Century Link Field, one of the toughest venues to play in, and has WR Percy Harvin as an added weapon (though the former Florida Gator might miss the game). But if any team can come in and upset Seattle, it might be the Saints, especially with Brees having another spectacular season. New Orleans also has an opportunistic defense, led by first-year coordinator Rob Ryan, with 37 sacks, tied for most in the league. Wouldn't be surprised if this one is as exciting as the teams' last game in Seattle. In the 2011 wild-card game, the then-defending champion Saints were upset by the 7-9 Seahawks 41-36. And with both teams nearly unbeatable at home, this one could go a long way in determining who will be in the Super Bowl for the NFC.

Upset of the week

Vikings over Bears

The Bears' run defense has been porous, allowing a season-high 258 yards last week against the Rams. Just wait until Adrian Peterson runs through them.

Nick of time

Last week, Eagles coach Chip Kelly (right) said QB Nick Foles will start for the remainder of the season. What took him so long? Foles has 16 touchdowns to no interceptions, and Michael Vick can't stay healthy due to a nagging hamstring injury. Vick saw it coming and took the demotion in stride. "I didn't want to make this a hard decision for Coach (Kelly)," Vick said. "I didn't want to make it a hard decision on anybody, including myself. I can't be frustrated. I just want it to be a smooth transition."

Who's hot?

Cardinals: They've won four straight and at 7-4 are in the thick of the NFC playoff race. Sure, three of those wins came against the Falcons, Texans and Jaguars. But Arizona was impressive in thumping Indianapolis 40-11 last week. Carson Palmer, who has averaged 325 passing yards over the past three games, makes the Cardinals a legitimate threat.

Who's not?

Colts: Not quite sure what to make of them. Are they the Super Bowl contenders that beat up the 49ers and outscored the Broncos? Or are they the pretenders that got blown out by the Rams and Cardinals in two of the past three weeks? They once had a stranglehold on the AFC South but now are just two games ahead of the Titans. Tell you what: QB Andrew Luck sure misses WR Reggie Wayne.

Power rankings

1. Seahawks (10-1)

2. Broncos (9-2)

3. Saints (9-2)

4. Chiefs (9-2)

5. Panthers (8-3)

6. Patriots (8-3) Quote of the week

"He's, obviously, a man, and he makes his own decisions. But I, personally, don't feel he should be playing right now. You can see it. Everybody can see it."

49ers LB Ahmad Brooks on struggling Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and his surgically repaired knee to csnwashington.com

Quick reads

• Just a couple of weeks ago, the Chiefs were perfect. Now after back-to-back losses, Kansas City could be in trouble in today's home rematch with the Broncos. Of their top pass rushers, LB Tamba Hali is hobbled by a sprained right ankle but will play while LB Justin Houston is out with a slightly dislocated right elbow.

• As much as CB Aqib Talib was a headache in Tampa Bay, he could be a real weapon for the Patriots down the stretch. Talib held the Broncos' matchup nightmare, Demaryius Thomas, to a season-low 41 yards on four catches in last week's overtime win.

• Houston, we have a problem. The hottest seat might belong to coach Gary Kubiak, whose team has lost nine straight after a 2-0 start — including getting beat by the Jaguars last week. It has been a tough enough season for Kubiak, who suffered a mini-stroke last month.

Times wires contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow him at @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
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