With bye weeks in the rear-view mirror, Week 13 will feature a full slate of matchups.
It all starts with a trio of intriguing games on Thanksgiving, beginning with the Green Bay Packers facing off against the Detroit Lions and concluding with a pivotal AFC showdown between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ravens in Baltimore.
The fun continues with a dozen games on Sunday, highlighted by the Denver Broncos taking on the Kansas City Chiefs in the late-afternoon window. The drama and excitement will reach a fever pitch on Monday night when the New Orleans Saints leave the comfort of the Superdome to battle the Seattle Seahawks in a potential NFC Championship Game preview.
With the stage set for an momentous weekend of football, here are my predictions for all 16 matchups.
|GREEN BAY PACKERS||27-24||Detroit Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||23-31||DALLAS COWBOYS|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||13-17||BALTIMORE RAVENS|
|JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS||20-14||Cleveland Browns|
|Tennessee Titans||24-29||INDIANAPOLIS COLTS|
|CHICAGO BEARS||26-23||Minnesota Vikings|
|Miami Dolphins||20-24||NEW YORK JETS|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||17-23||CAROLINA PANTHERS|
|ARIZONA CARDINALS||31-27||Philadelphia Eagles|
|NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS||34-13||Houston Texans|
|Atlanta Falcons||24-28||BUFFALO BILLS*|
|St. Louis Rams||16-20||SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS|
|DENVER BRONCOS||27-20||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Cincinnati Bengals||21-26||SAN DIEGO CHARGERS|
|NEW YORK GIANTS||30-27||Washington Redskins|
|New Orleans Saints||16-24||SEATTLE SEAHAWKS|
*Bills vs. Falcons played in Toronto
Carolina Panthers Over Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have won three in a row, the Carolina Panthers are in the midst of a seven-game winning streak that includes an 18-point win over the Bucs in Tampa in Week 8.
In the battle of NFC South streakers, watch for the Panthers to prevail on Sunday.
Mike Glennon and the Bucs' surging passing attack will be no match for Carolina's superb defense, which is holding opponents to under 300 total yards and 14 points per game.
During the Panthers 7 game win streak, they've only allowed 1 opposing player to rush for more than 65 yards (Gore-82 yards).— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 25, 2013
Tampa averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt its last time out against Carolina and was able to convert on just 4 of 14 third downs. With the Panthers boasting a top-10 rushing attack, expect Carolina to win the time of possession battle and thus limit the Bucs' opportunities on offense.
The Panthers rushed for 129 rushing yards in the first meeting and possessed the ball for over nine minutes more than the Bucs. Ron Rivera and the Panthers will have success with a similar game plan this weekend.
Arizona Cardinals Over Philadelphia Eagles
One of the most even matchups this weekend will pit the Arizona Cardinals against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cards have won four in a row to enter the NFC wild-card picture, while the Eagles have won three straight and five of seven to climb back into the NFC East race. While picking a winner is awfully tough, I give the Cardinals the slight edge.
The reason: defense.
Arizona sports one of the league's top run-stopping units, which gives it a great chance against the NFL's top rushing attack in Philadelphia. If the Cardinals can slow LeSean McCoy and force Nick Foles to throw against their opportunistic secondary, they'll have a phenomenal shot to keep their streak alive.
The Cardinals defense ranks third in the NFL with 15 interceptions through 11 games and fourth in total takeaways. Therefore, if Arizona can continue its current trend of avoiding turnovers offensively and forcing them on the defensive side, the Cards will become the fifth different team to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia this year.
San Francisco 49ers Over St. Louis Rams
With only one team below .500 and three teams boasting winning streaks of two games or more, the NFC West is without a doubt the best division in football.
Which team is more likely to earn an NFC wild-card berth in 2013?
Two of the division's surging clubs will square off in Week 13 when the Niners host the Rams in San Francisco. And while St. Louis has been dominant in back-to-back wins over the Colts and Bears, the Niners defense has been playing lights out this season, holding the Redskins to six points in Week 12 and only allowing 23 points to the high-powered Saints in the Superdome a week before that.
San Francisco's confident defensive unit will stifle the Rams' 23rd-ranked offense at Candlestick Park this weekend just as it did in Week 4's blowout win.
The Niners' stout run defense will able to limit Zac Stacy (if healthy) and other threats like Tavon Austin on the ground. After all, San Francisco is only allowing 3.9 yards per carry this season and is playing even better in the secondary, where it ranks fourth against the pass.
Given the current state of the Niners defense and what's at stake on Sunday, it's difficult to imagine a Kellen Clemens-led Rams team with few offensive threats coming into Candlestick and beating the reigning NFC champions.
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