Fact or Fiction: Week 13
Will an 8-8 NFC team make the playoffs? That's just one issue our experts debate heading into Week 13.
Everyone has opinions about what will happen during the NFL season. And the predictions will either prove to be true or false.
So we've made four bold statements and asked our ESPN experts -- former NFL players Eric Allen and Mike Golic -- whether or not they believe the statements will eventually become fact or fiction.
On which side of the fence do they sit? Click on the links below for their answers.The Chargers will win the AFC West
Peyton Manning will throw at least 55 TDs this season
An 8-8 team will earn a playoff berth in the NFC
Jeff George gives the Bears a better shot than their current QBs
The Chargers will win the AFC West Eric Allen
Fact: The Chargers are taking care of business and gaining confidence week in and week out. It's surprising that such a young team is meeting the mental and physical challenges of leading their division late in the season. It's especially surprising when you take a closer inspection of their division rival, the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are a veteran team, but they haven't shown the consistency that the Chargers have this year. It's normally very telling how a team responds against lower competition at home and while the Chargers are burying teams, the Broncos are dropping games. That's the sign of a struggling team. I think the Chargers will be able to sew up the division this week against the Broncos.
Fact: They should defeat the Broncos this week, which will give them pretty close to an insurmountable two-game lead over Denver. The Chargers' consistency has been extremely impressive this season. They aren't suffering from the little disruptions that doom younger teams and are just calmly going out and winning whether at home or on the road. Quarterback Drew Brees has played extremely well this season and though LaDainian Tomlinson's numbers aren't excellent, they are good enough to keep pressure off Brees. Also the Chargers are playing outstanding defense. Meanwhile, a quarterback who's famously inconsistent and a defense that isn't nearly as good as the Chargers' are leading the Broncos. That adds up to a Chargers division title.
Peyton Manning will throw at least 55 TDs this season Eric Allen
Fiction: There's no doubt in my mind that Peyton Manning will continue his high level play and I'm sure he'll finish with about 51 touchdowns, but I doubt he'll hit 55 or better. Teams are going to start taking the pass away from him and will try to slow down the Colts offense by forcing them to run the ball. Teams may start to rush just three guys and start to drop everyone back in coverage to force Manning to have to check down to a run. It's going to be important for teams to turn first and second down into running downs for the Colts or Manning will keep shredding teams. I expect running back Edgerrin James to have a tremendous last quarter of the season because of this change in philosophy from opposing defenses. The Colts will still win the majority of their remaining games, but they won't have many more six-touchdown games.
Fact: He should get this record because the Colts keep throwing the ball in the red zone while other teams switch to running the ball. It doesn't matter that some may cast a leery eye towards that and say that he's padding his stats because the Colts are still scoring. He only needs to average about three passing touchdowns per game and that won't be a problem down the stretch for him to break the record. But as sure as I am that he'll get the touchdown record, I'm that sure he won't get Dan Marino's yardage record. He just doesn't put the yards up, but he does throw touchdowns in bunches.
An 8-8 team will earn a playoff berth in the NFC Eric Allen
Fact: When looking at the NFC, it's obvious that there's a clear drop off after the top two or three teams. For some reason this seems to be a season where every team in the NFC is particularly vulnerable to the AFC. The last two weeks the Buffalo Bills -- a bad AFC team -- has whopped the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. Both those teams had visions of contending for the Super Bowl before the season and they lost by a combined 49 points. That's embarrassing for the conference, but also very fitting considering the way the NFC has played this season. I expect the Rams, Saints or Panthers to possibly sneak into the playoffs at 8-8.
Fiction: It might just be me hoping that a team doesn't get into the playoffs with just a .500 record, but I think 9-7 will be the benchmark this season. I expect the Rams or one of these teams to turn it around and make a run for the playoffs and play some inspired football. It would be almost embarrassing for a team to make the playoffs at 8-8, while an AFC team could possibly miss the playoffs at 10-6. Stranger things have happened, but hopefully it won't come down to that this season.
Jeff George gives the Bears a better shot than their current QBs Eric Allen
Fact: Jeff George is an experienced quarterback whose years out of the game should've given him a different perspective on how to play the game. He definitely has the physical ability and no one has ever doubted that, but he's lacked the mental part of the game to be a consistent quarterback. In the past he's missed the leadership part of the job and it has hurt him and his teams. It's not enough for a quarterback to lead by example as George tried to do with the Oakland Raiders and the Minnesota Vikings; he has to vocalize his demands in a positive way. Hopefully for him, he's learned that aspect of the position.
Fact: He may give the Bears a better shot to win right now, but I question the decision if the Bears aren't serious about giving him a shot to backup Rex Grossman next season. If that's not the plan then I don't understand why they wouldn't let one of the other quarterbacks on the roster get a chance to prove themselves unless the organization is tired of the way Craig Krenzel and Jonathan Quinn have been playing. Simply put, they have to give George a shot to be the backup next season if they are going to go through with this.
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