Week 13 of the 2012 NFL season is underway, and already, this week has brought with it something of a surprise: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees saw his streak of 54 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass come to an end in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
That won't be the only surprise of the week, but there's a reason they're called surprises.
You're not supposed to see them coming.
Still, I'm not about to let little things like semantics or logic get in the way. So once again, here's a look at a handful of bold predictions for this Sunday's games.
Sunday's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears features a pair of the NFL's top young running backs. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch and Chicago's Matt Forte have already combined for more than 1,700 yards and eight scores on the ground this year.
However, the matchup also features two of the league's better run defenses. And between the Bears' top-10 unit and Forte's balky ankle, real estate is going to be hard to come by on the ground, resulting in both backs falling short of the century mark combined.
Listen, I'll be the first to admit that the whole "trap game" thing is as much a media creation as a reality. Yes, teams occasionally get caught looking ahead, but if they happened with anywhere near the regularity with which they're predicted, you wouldn't be able to call them "trap games" anymore.
These are, after all, highly-trained and well-paid professionals who are well aware that on any given Sunday, any team can beat any other, so they have to give 110 percent for the full 60 minutes.
Sorry, I get paid by the cliche.
With that said it's also true that Bill Belichick has had a tendency to implement very vanilla game plans in winnable contests before stretches of tough games.
With home games against the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans on tap, the New England Patriots are entering just such a stretch. And playing it close to the vest will cost the Patriots this week against the desperate Miami Dolphins, who are trying to keep their fading postseason hopes alive.
The matchup between the Chicago Bears and Seattle Seahawks isn't the only game this week featuring a pair of the NFL's top running backs.
Arian Foster and the 10-1 Houston Texans travel to Music City in Week 13 to battle a Tennessee Titans team that the Texans beat handily back in Week 4.
That game did have a silver lining of sorts for the Titans, as, after a horrific start to the season, running back Chris Johnson finally got going in Houston, picking up 141 yards on 25 carries in the loss.
Johnson is now less that 100 yards away from his fifth straight 1,000 yard season. And after combining for 227 yards on the ground in their first meeting, Johnson and Foster will up the ante in the rematch, topping 250 yards and finding the end zone three times between them.
There's a fever sweeping across the NFL—a highly communicable disease that has jumped from person to person and from coast to coast with alarming speed.
After winning his first two NFL starts, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been the talk of the league, whether it's lauding his strong arm and nimble feet or bemoaning his inked-up arms.
They're tattoos. Get over it.
With that said, what seems to have been forgotten is that Kaepernick is a second-year pro about to make his third career start. But everyone will receive a reminder when Kaepernick throws three picks Sunday against a St. Louis Rams team that ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in interceptions this season.
Personally, I blame the tattoos.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the brink headed into a huge AFC North showdown with the Baltimore Ravens this week. And at 6-5, they desperately need a win to keep to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, they'll have to try to get that win with Charlie Batch at quarterback, as starter Ben Roethlisberger has been ruled out for the game due to a rib injury.
The 37-year-old was horrible in last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns, and not only is that not going to change in a tougher matchup, but Ravens running back Ray Rice will rub in salt in the wound by having a better game running the ball than Batch does throwing it.