The holiday season is upon us, which means the NFL pulls out all the stops in an attempt to give fans the best action possible.
Credit the NFL for this one—the Week 13 slate is littered with quality contests sure to entertain.
The festivities kick off on a special three-game Thursday slate featuring classic rivalries in one form or another. Regardless of playoff implications, the three are set to be highly entertaining given the teams involved.
Here's a look at the full slate of games followed by an in-depth look at the week's biggest matchups. Enjoy.
|Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions*||Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||Dallas Cowboys*||Raiders|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Baltimore Ravens*||Steelers|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Cleveland Browns||Jaguars|
|Tennessee Titans||Indianapolis Colts||Titans|
|Chicago Bears||Minnesota Vikings||Bears|
|Miami Dolphins||New York Jets||Dolphins|
|Arizona Cardinals||Philadelphia Eagles||Cardinals|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Carolina Panthers||Panthers|
|New England Patriots||Houston Texans||Patriots|
|Atlanta Falcons||Buffalo Bills||Bills|
|St. Louis Rams||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
|Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||Broncos|
|Cincinnati Bengals||San Diego Chargers||Bengals|
|New York Giants||Washington Redskins||Giants|
|New Orleans Saints||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks|
*Thursday games. Chris Roling's predictions.
Detroit Lions Silence Green Bay Packers
There's nothing better than a holiday feast with a side of NFL action lined with playoff implications.
Which team wins the NFC North?
The NFC North was a complete bust last week, so the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears share a spot in first place (Detroit owns the tiebreaker). Green Bay sits just behind at 5-5-1 after a tie with two-win Minnesota in Week 12.
Regardless of whether or not Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns, Green Bay will encounter major issues going to Ford Field.
The saving grace for Green Bay in Week 5's 22-9 victory over Detroit was rookie back Eddie Lacy and his 99 rushing yards, which helped open things up for Rodgers and his 274 yards and one touchdown.
One problem—Lacy has been erratic at best in his last three games:
That's a bad sign for Green Bay. The Lions have a top-five rush defense that allows just 88 yards per game. Whether it's a just-returning Rodgers or someone else under center, the Lions defense will be able to do enough to pull out a close win.
Prediction: Lions 27, Packers 23
Oakland Raiders Stun Dallas Cowboys
The Dallas Cowboys did much to improve their playoff hopes in Week 12 with a gritty win over the New York Giants to move to 6-5 and tied for first place in the NFC East.
The good vibes won't last long.
It's true the Cowboys are 4-1 at home this year. But a 4-7 Oakland team has nothing to lose, and new starting quarterback Matt McGloin has played well in recent weeks:
Well enough to keep his job for the game Thursday per Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times:
#Raiders coach Dennis Allen said rookie QB Matt McGloin played well enough Sunday to earn the start against Cowboys on Thursday.— Steve Corkran (@CorkOnTheNFL) November 25, 2013
That's a major problem for Dallas, a team that ranks near dead last defensively against both the run and pass. Oakland is a top-five rushing team that will easily find success as others have, which will open things up for the efficient McGloin.
This one has upset written all over it.
Prediction: Raiders 24, Cowboys 23
Pittsburgh Steelers Eliminate Baltimore Ravens
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens enter Thursday's contest fighting for both AFC North position and a playoff berth while tied for second in the division at 5-6.
The only difference between the two so far? Pittsburgh already defeated Baltimore once via a 19-16 victory in Week 7.
Expect more of the same in a physical battle.
Baltimore has lost four of its last six. Quarterback Joe Flacco has completed fewer than 60 percent of his passes this year and has thrown as many touchdowns as interceptions behind a horrible offensive line.
Running back Ray Rice has not been much better. Whether it's due to injury or bad line play, Rice has been ineffective and averages just three yards per carry—exactly what he managed with just 45 yards in the Week 7 loss.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is one of the hottest teams in the NFL and rides a three-game win streak. The Steelers seem to have figured things out and are backed by a top-20 passing offense and defense.
In a defensive battle, expect Ben Roethlisberger (four touchdowns in two of his last four games) and the Steelers to pull out a close one.
Prediction: Steelers 20, Ravens 17