Alright, it’s Week 13 and that is a good thing. I have a chance to redeem myself after the train-wreck that was my prediction column from last week. A 6-7-1 record is pretty ugly, but it might not be as ugly as some of the games that will take place this weekend. There are (as usual) a couple of stinkers here in the thirteenth round of the NFL, but there are also a couple of gems on tap for this weekend. First of all there is a trifecta of (somewhat) meaningful games to be played on Turkey Day. The Lions and Cowboys will each be favored to win their traditional Thanksgiving games, and each could really use a win to maintain a lead in their respective divisions. Also, in the night game the Steelers and Ravens renew their great rivalry in a contest that is very relevant with playoff hopes hanging in the balance. On Sunday, we have three intriguing games between six teams that we can officially call “tweeners”. You know, the teams that might or might not be playoff material. Said games include the Cardinals-Eagles, Titans-Colts, and Bengals-Chargers. The Rams-49ers contest should be intriguing as well, just as long as it doesn’t end in a tie again. When the Broncos and Chiefs square off for their Week 11 rematch, things should break down a bit differently than they did the first time. It will be some good stuff. Week 13 will reach the crescendo when Monday Night Football rolls around. The Saints and Seahawks will be battling in the Emerald City for NFC supremacy in what should be a good game. Okay, I can’t wait for this week to roll past. Let’s get into the predictions.
Thursday, November 28th, 12:30 e.t.
Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) @ Detroit Lions (6-5)
Both of these teams are coming off of rather disappointing performances from a week ago. Obviously, the Packers would have liked to have done better than tie the Vikings at home, but that was the hand they were dealt. Meanwhile, the Lions actually dropped one at home to Tampa Bay and have to be madder than Tom Coughlin after a special teams error. I look for Detroit to play some inspired football in front of their home crowd on Thanksgiving as the team looks for their first home win on the holiday since 2003 when they played… yup, you guessed it: these Packers. Green Bay is not expecting to have Aaron Rodgers at the helm for this game, and so it looks like Matt Flynn will be the guy. We all remember what happened the last time Matt Flynn played the Lions. Will he be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat and go all beast mode on Detroit again? I’m not a believer. And if this helps any, I think Calvin Johnson is a boss. There’s nothing keeping me from believing that he won’t rip apart that Green Bay secondary, one that has been susceptible to giving up the big plays in the passing game all year long. Also, I don’t see Matthew Stafford throwing four picks again. Simply put, I don’t think that the Pack has the horses necessary to run with the Lions on the road without Aaron Rodgers. I’ll Detroit at home.
Detroit 28, Green Bay 21
Thursday, November 28th, 4:30 e.t.
Oakland Raiders (4-7) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
It’s Matt McGloin’s Raiders versus Tony Romo’s Cowboys. Who shall emerge victorious from this game, one that promises to provide a lot of yardage? I’m not feeling very froggy at the moment, so I am taking Dallas here. Sure, the Cowboys are primed for another letdown here seeing as how they always fall into such a funk following an impressive win. However, people still forget that this is November and Tony Romo tends to play well in this month. I like the ‘Boys to stash away a seventh win before hitting rolling into December, a month that plagues this team every year. Generally speaking, the Cowboys have played very well at home. They can throw a lot of points on the board and overwhelm their opponents with a fairly efficient offense. Defensively, they may not be as good but in a game against the Raiders I don’t think it will matter. Oakland is a team that is still trying to find its identity on offense and has really struggled on defense since Week 9. I’m just not so sure these guys can engage in a Texas shootout with the ‘Boys in Dallas this week. Give me the Cowboys at home.
Dallas 33, Oakland 23
Thursday, November 28th, 8:30 e.t.
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) @ Baltimore Ravens (5-6)
Boy, is this game ever huge for these teams. It is especially big for the Ravens, having already lost to the Steelers this season. Both teams could really use a “W” in this situation as it will set them up for a chance to make a run at the #6 seed in the AFC. The loser will likely be watching the playoffs from their couches like the rest of us as well, so knowing what is at stake I expect both teams to throw their best stuff at one another. This should be an entertaining defensive slug-fest because each squad has finally hit its stride on that side of the ball. The Ravens have played some good defense at home this year and are coming off of a dominant 19-3 win over the Jets. The Steelers roll into town after having disposed of the Browns 27-11 last week as well. I’d be shocked if we saw more than 50 points on the board after this game concludes. Therefore, I am predicting a low-scoring game. This being the case, I gotta put my faith in the Ravens at home. Neither team has been able to run the ball very well this year, but I could see Ray Rice doing a little more on the ground than Le’Veon Bell. Also, say what you want about Joe Flacco but he plays well at home normally. I think he will play well enough to win at home this week as well as the Ravens edge the Steelers with a late defensive stand in the fourth quarter. It should be a good game though, I’m looking forward to it.
Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 16
Sunday, December 1st, 1:00 e.t.
New England Patriots (8-3) @ Houston Texans (2-9)
The Texans offense was completely shut down last week when the Jaguars came to town and took control of third place in the AFC South. I can’t see them faring so much better against a Patriots “D” that really did some nice work against Denver last Sunday night. They effectively made the Bronco offense one-dimensional by jamming the wide receivers and forcing Peyton Manning to hand the ball off to his backs over 40 times. I don’t see why that same strategy wouldn’t work in Houston this weekend. The only offensive weapon that the Pats really need to fear is Andre Johnson, and I’m sure Aquib Talib will be attached to his hip all afternoon long. Let’s see how well Case Keenum fares when his number one wide-out is locked up. Last week he looked lost against the Jaguars’ soft zone coverage and let’s face it, New England has a better defense than does Jacksonville. To be frank, I can’t see the Texans doing much better on offense this week against the Pats. I’m sorry, Houston just isn’t a good team and the Patriots are. This pick is relatively easy.
New England 31, Houston 16
Arizona Cardinals (7-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
This should be a good one. Chip Kelly will get to test his offense out against a rock solid defensive unit boasted by the Cardinals. The redbirds have really gotten it going on offense as well, so should this game turn into a shootout, I would not discount them. Philly needs to be ready to be attacked through the air. This defense has done well enough to hold teams off the scoreboard as of late, but they have still shown vulnerability to the big play. Carson Palmer will be taking his shots down the field in this one, I can guarantee you this. Larry Fitzgerald has also been cooking the Eagles’ secondary ever since he emerged on the scene back in 2004. He could be primed for a big day in this game. I love what Philly presents on offense, especially when they aren’t turning the ball over, so if they can keep the Cardinals from stealing possessions away from them they should come out on top. However, that is much easier said than done. Historically, Arizona has been a bad match-up for the Eagles as they have won the last three head-to-head games. Simply put, I like the way the Cards match up on paper against Philadelphia. For that reason, I am taking them to extend their winning streak from four games to five on Sunday. By the way, if you are watching this game be sure to pay attention to the war that will take place on the outside between DeSean Jackson and Patrick Peterson. That should be some pretty good stuff.
Arizona 27, Philadelphia 23
Tennessee Titans (5-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Indianapolis was flat embarrassed by Arizona in the desert last week. Their offense has been ugly in the first half of games ever since Week 7 when Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL. The Colts did beat these Titans two weeks back, but it took a nice second half comeback to do so. If they get off to another slow start in this game, I’m not so sure they will be able to dig their way out of it. Offensive weapons are really lacking outside of Andrew Luck for Indy. This means that they absolutely have to get their ground game going. If only the Colts could run the ball better… For this Sunday, I’m not predicting an absolute breakout game for Trent Richardson, but something tells me that he will be able to make some headway in between the tackles this week. If he can’t get’r’done on the ground, the team could always turn to the explosive Donald Brown for a spark. In either case, I see Pep Hamilton staying committed to the running game here and if they can get it going this game could be a walk in the park. Also, I’m still not sold on the Ryan Fitzpatrick product. His description includes a section pointing out his turnover issues. We have not seen these from him over the last two weeks, but this analyst thinks he is due. I like the Colts to get back on the horse at home over the Titans, a team that they have handled pretty well since Andrew Luck came to town (he is 3-0 in his career against Tennessee).
Indianapolis 24, Tennessee 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) @ Carolina Panthers (8-3)
The Buccaneers have been playing well as of late, they have won their last three in a row including a shocker on the road against Detroit. The Panthers have been playing REALLY well as of late, they have won their last seven in a row including a come from behind victory against the Dolphins in Miami. So, what we have here are two teams that have not lost a game in a while heading for a collision in Carolina. A small part of me wanted to take Tampa Bay in an upset here. Mike Glennon has been playing some very smart football and that Buccaneer defense has shut it down over the last three weeks (outside of a couple of big plays they surrendered). While the thought of a Buc win did cross my mind here, another thought also ran through my head. That being the fact that these teams have swept each other in every year since 2009. Last season it was Tampa Bay that won twice against Carolina and the year before that the Panthers handled their business twice against the Buccaneers. That said, I like home team in this situation. I want to see how Mike Glennon performs on the road against a great defense before I can put my money behind him and his team. So, in rather lazy fashion, I am leaning towards Carolina at home here.
Carolina 21, Tampa Bay 17
Chicago Bears (6-5) @ Minnesota Vikings (2-7-1)
Much like the Panthers and Buccaneers game, I can see an upset coming in this game. The only difference here is that I am actually going to ride with that gut feeling. The Vikings have actually been playing quite well since they got stomped by the Packers a few weeks back (outside of the egg they laid in Seattle). Christian Ponder had a nice game last week and the team really moved the ball well through the first three quarters. The fourth quarter collapse did cost Leslie Fraiser and company a win, but the crew was able to salvage a tie in Green Bay for their troubles. While that five quarter game was taking place the Bears were getting rocked in St. Louis by the Rams and their tandem of Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham. Teams have been able to run the ball on Chicago this season and the Vikings have the best running back in the game dotting the “I” in their backfield. So how much do you wanna bet that A.P. is going to get the ball in his belly at least 25 times in this game? 25 is my personal over/under for this beast. I like the Vikings to grind one out at home by force-feeding Peterson to a soft Bears’ defense. Plus, it is still hard to go on the road and win in Minnesota. Josh McCown may have trouble calling out signals at the line of scrimmage, and that could be the difference.
Minnesota 23, Chicago 22
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) @ Cleveland Browns (4-7)
All aboard the Jag Wagon, or should I say the “Jagon”? After picking up a tough win on the road in Houston, Gus Bradley’s team looks to keep the momentum rolling against the Browns. Cleveland had its struggles moving the ball against the Steelers for a majority of the game last week. In the fourth quarter they were able to breath a little bit, but Pittsburgh was really conceding much of that yardage. Luckily for them, the Jaguars don’t sport the same type of defense that the Steelers did, so they should not be completely stagnant in this game. Also, the weather for this game calls for some form of precipitation (be it snow or rain). I’m not sure that Jacksonville will be able to adjust to these inclement conditions. If they can’t run the ball (which has been a problem for them all season long), they don’t stand much of a chance. I like the Browns to shut the Jaguars down at home with their defense. This game probably won’t be very pretty, but it is one that will be hard-fought. Cleveland will impose their will and overwhelm the Jaguars in front of the “Dawg Pound”. Remember, they are averaging just over 13 points per game this year. I think the Browns will find a way to squeeze out more than that en route to their fifth win of the year.
Cleveland 17, Jacksonville 12
Miami Dolphins (5-6) @ New York Jets (5-6)
Much like the Steelers-Ravens contest on Thursday night, this will be a game where playoff hopes hang in the balance and will go to the winner of this divisional game. The Jets have looked awful over the past two weeks on offense. Geno Smith has tossed five interceptions and no touchdowns since their BYE week and has been benched because of his mistakes. However, Rex Ryan (as per his personality) is showing faith in the team’s second round pick and starting him this week against the Dolphins. To win, he will have to avoid turning the football over. Meanwhile, Miami has some problems of its own heading into this game, the main one being the fact that they cannot protect Ryan Tannehill. To be honest, I’m surprised Tannehill hasn’t been snapped in half during the course of this season. In this game, the easiest way to cut down on some of the pressure that their quarterback will be facing will be to get their running game going. Lamar Miller has been hit-or-miss in many of his games this year and this will be a tough match-up for him. New York currently rocks the #1 defense in the league against the run, so the ground game does not figure to be any help. When the Jets shut down Miller and company, it will be easy for their front-four to pin their ears back and get after Ryan Tannehill. Now I don’t know if the Jets are a playoff-calibur team, but I can say that they are better than their last two weeks would lead you to believe. These guys are much better when Geno Smith plays turnover-free football, and I can see him doing that this weekend. Therefore, I will give this win to the Jets.
New York 26, Miami 20
Sunday, December 1st, 4:05 e.t.
Atlanta Falcons (2-9) @ Buffalo Bills (4-7) (In Toronto)
Each of these teams shall be well rested for this game as the Falcons have not played since last Thursday and the Bills took Week 12 off due to their late BYE. So, I think it is fair to say that the best team will win this game. However, the tough part about this one is determining which team is the better team. The Falcons have looked pretty bad over the last month, although they didn’t look terrible against the Saints last week, so they have that going for them. Buffalo’s defense prevented a team from scoring at least 20 points against them for the first time all season in Week 11 when they dominated the Jets at home. Their run defense played very well until Chris Ivory ripped a 69 yarder against them in the fourth quarter. So, they will be sure to play more consistently when trying to brawl with Steven Jackson this week. For me, I would like to see the Falcons use Jackson, Jaquizz Rodgers, and Antone Smith. Trying to spawn a three-headed-monster in the backfield could bode well for these guys. I can see Atlanta moving the ball well enough in this game to get inside the Buffalo 20. What they do from that point forward will ultimately determine the outcome of this game. Scoring touchdowns in the red zone is something that the Falcons have struggled to do this year. Red zone defense is also something that the Bills have excelled in this season (they are eighth in the league, allowing opponents to score touchdowns in just 47.4% of the time). So, touchdowns may be hard to come by for the birds. That said, I still think Atlanta will do just enough to steal a win away from Buffalo up in Canada. I’m not sure why, this one is just a weird feeling I have.
Atlanta 19, Buffalo 16
St. Louis Rams (5-6) @ San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
This game gets my “old-fashioned football game” tag of the week. We should see each team try to run the ball at one another all afternoon long and the tougher team will come out the winner. After seeing how well the 49ers performed on the road against the Redskins, I would have to say that they have the edge in that department, however the Rams have been pretty rough in their own right as of late. Even without Sam Bradford under center, they have looked pretty good against some of the better teams in the NFL. So don’t count Jeff Fisher and friends out just yet. Zac Stacy has really been ripping it lately, but as of Wednesday he is listed as questionable for this game with a concussion. If he cannot go, the team will lean on Benny Cunningham and I can’t say I like his odds against this vicious San Francisco defense. The Rams have been winning their games lately with their strong running attack and the occasional big play from Tavon Austin. The Niners are really built to stop those kind of teams, so I have to take them in this situation. Frank Gore should be able to run the ball well in this game coming off of a relatively quite performance against the Redskins on Monday. Look for the game-plan to be pretty simple for San Fran (what with a short week and a cross-country travel). A simple plan for them is a good thing. Plus they will need to play well seeing as how the Cardinals are breathing down their necks in the standings. I like the 49ers to win a game that they almost have to win (at home).
San Francisco 20, St. Louis 14
Sunday, December 1st, 4:25 e.t.
Denver Broncos (9-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
And so they meet again. After handing the Chiefs their first loss of the season just two weeks ago, the Broncos have been unable to separate themselves in the standings (despite a KC loss last week) and thus this game looms largely for each team. One would think that the winner of this game is going to win the AFC West, that is how important it is. A week ago, I would have had no problem taking the Chiefs at Arrowhead, but with injuries to Justin Houston and Tamba Hali we all saw just how ineffective this defense is when they can’t pressure the quarterback. We know that Justin Houston will no be participating in this contest with an elbow injury. Hali is listed as questionable with an ankle injury for this game and if he can’t go, I would fear for the Kansas City secondary. Peyton Manning was really humbled at the hands of New England last week and I expect Adam Gase (the offensive coordinator) to call in more passing plays this week. Of course, Peyton really does run the show so ultimately it will be his decision to run the ball into a light box or throw it outside if the Chiefs decide to stack it. Either way, I like a healthy Denver team to sweep KC on the season. I’m not calling for a collapse from Kansas City, but it is possible that their remarkable run at the start of the season has come to a screeching halt. The Broncos are the better team overall, and they should prove it this Sunday.
Denver 35, Kansas City 19
Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) @ San Diego Chargers (5-6)
The Chargers managed to keep their season alive with an improbable win against the Chiefs last week and now head home to host the Bengals. Philip Rivers had himself a game a week ago and will look to keep the gravy train rolling this time out against another great defense. This game is tough to call because of the fact that the Bengals have been so inconsistent on offense this year. In some games they have looked great and others they have not. Andy Dalton is sort of a mixed bag at the moment. He provides his team with a lot of good plays and some not-so-good plays. Cincy fans have to learn to live with his mistakes though because it looks like the team is dedicated to him. So, on the road in sunny San Diego, it will lie on his shoulders to win a shootout with the Chargers. I think he can get it done. Yet again, I can’t really provide a great reason as to why I am taking the Bengals here. It is just another gut feeling. My head says go with San Diego but I’ll ignore that thought for the time being. Cincy should do a better job putting some pressure on Rivers than Kansas City did, even minus Geno Atkins in the middle. This should be a back and forth game, one which will see the final team with the ball winning it. I think that will be the Bengals.
Cincinnati 30, San Diego 27
Sunday, December 1st, 8:30 e.t.
New York Giants (4-7) @ Washington Redskins (3-8)
This is a game that lacks a bit of luster due to the records that each team sport coming into it, however it should be a good one as Giants-Redskins games usually are. Washington has been pretty bad in the first half of games this year, especially over the last two weeks. They will need to get out to an early lead on the Giants if they are to have a chance. Clearly, the Redskins are a run first team and when they are put in positions where they cannot run the ball we all see some problems. Making some room to run the ball against the Giants may be a problem though; New York has played well against the run as a whole this year (they are currently 7th in the league at stopping the run). In fact, Big Blue has looked like the team we have all gotten used to seeing lately. They are getting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks and hurrying a lot of their passes. Cullen Jenkins looked like a beast in the middle against the Cowboys, and interior pass-protection is something that Washington has struggled with all season long. If their offensive line can’t block the Giants’ pass rush up, it is going to be a long game for RGIII. Furthermore, the Redskins’ defense has been nothing special this year, and while the same can be said about the New York offense, I do like what they present more now that they have a competent running game. With that being said, I will take the Giants on the road here. The Redskins just aren’t that good of a team this year.
New York 22, Washington 11
Monday, December 2nd, 8:40 e.t.
New Orleans Saints (9-2) @ Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
Oh, how I am looking forward to watching this game. What we have here is a contest between the two best teams in the NFC, with the winner getting the inside track to the #1 seed in the conference. Also, depending on how things shake out down the road, this could be a potential NFC Championship game preview. It will have a big-game feel and we all remember the last time the Saints headed to Seattle under this stipulations. In case you forgot, here’s something to jog your memory. It was the official birth of “Beast Mode” est. 2012. I expect the atmosphere to be electric at Century Link Field on Monday, and normally I would take the Seahawks in front of their home crowd, but this time out I am going the other way. I really think that people are underrating the Saints this year; these guys have a great offense and a well coordinated defense. If any team in the NFC stands a chance at beating the ‘Hawks in Seattle this year, it is them. No team is perfect, and this will be proven on Monday night. The absence of Brandon Browner could have an impact in this one as well. I think Drew Brees will make it a point to go after Jeremy Lane (with Walter Thurmond III also out). Also, I want to see how the Seahawks plan on covering Jimmy Graham in this game. He has proven to be unstoppable this year and will completely rip Dan Quinn’s defense apart if he doesn’t have a specific plan to stop him. Overall, the Saints are built to win big games with the team they have and plus they are hard to beat on Monday Night Football. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Seahawks are a great team, easily one of the best in the NFL. I just think they may get caught by the Saints at home this week. The Titans and Buccaneers have come into Seattle and played well enough to scare these guys, so there is no reason for me to think that New Orleans can’t do the same thing. In short, I am betting that the Saints offense will do just enough to eek out a victory in a classic game between two of the NFC’s superpowers.
New Orleans 23, Seattle 17
Week 13 Bonus Predictions-
Upset of the Week: New Orleans over Seattle
Sure Bet of the Week: New England over Houston
Rookie of the Week: Sheldon Richardson (gonna feast on Ryan Tannehill this weekend)
Offensive Player of the Week: Calvin Johnson
Defensive Player of the Week: Patrick Peterson
Best Overall Offense: Dallas Cowboys
Best Overall Defense: Cleveland Browns
And these, folks, are my Week 13 picks. By now, you should know the drill. My thoughts and breakdowns of all sixteen games this weekend can be found here in this blog at their conclusion. Until then, enjoy your Thanksgiving and get psyched for weekend filled with great football!!!