All the turkey in the world won't cause NFL fans to snooze through Week 13's slate of pivotal matchups that will shape the playoff picture.
The fun begins when some playoff hopefuls in the league's middle card spar on Thanksgiving. Two of those matches pit division rivals against each other in essential bouts for both sides.
But don't fill up on those games, or you'll miss several more matches bearing playoff implications. Just two weeks after seizing control of the AFC West over the Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver Broncos will challenge them again in a battle for first place.
To top it off, the NFC's top two squads will compete for control of the conference on Monday Night Football. There's plenty for football fans to be thankful for this weekend.
|Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Oakland Raiders||Dallas Cowboys||Cowboys|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Cleveland Browns||Browns|
|Tennessee Titans||Indianapolis Colts||Colts|
|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|
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
This game will end in a three-point difference. The winner? Nobody knows, but I've seen enough of these Ravens-Steelers clashes to know the low-scoring contest will be decided by a three-point margin.
Their last four (and nine of the previous 11) meetings ended with a field goal separating the fierce AFC North foes. This year's earlier game proved to be no different, as the Steelers notched a 19-16 victory on a game-winning field goal as time expired.
Which AFC North squad will improve to 6-6?
With just one yard distinguishing their offensive outputs, it was as closely contested as a game could get. That's what viewers have come to expect whenever these squads punch it out.
Both teams are adept at stopping the pass, and neither has succeeded much on the ground. Ben Roethlisberger has revived Pittsburgh's passing offense in November, but Joe Flacco regained his long touch last Sunday against the New York Jets.
Through five home games, the Ravens have outscored their opponents by 46 points to go 4-1. Their home-field advantage earns them the tiebreaker.
Prediction: Ravens 16, Steelers 13
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Two weeks ago, this showdown was billed as a battle between the league's top offense and premier defense. Last Sunday, Peyton Manning compiled 150 passing yards on 36 attempts, while the Chiefs surrendered 41 points in a shootout loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Which team will gain control of the AFC West?
But let's not let one off week ruin this important rematch, which will again decide first place. The difference between hosting two playoff games and fighting on the road in the opening round is obviously immense, and neither squad wants to welcome a swarm of skeptics with two straight defeats.
Their first matchup boiled down to Kansas City's defensive line failing to get a hand on Manning. Leading the league in sacks before that game, they could not record a sack on the future Hall of Famer, and they did not fare much better with just one against Philip Rivers last weekend.
The Chiefs have the home crowd to fuel them this time, and at least the offense shouldered the burden for once by almost winning them the game. But until someone says Justin Houston and Tamba Hali—who both left Sunday's game with injuries—are 100 percent for this Sunday, it's hard to see their regressing defense slowing down the Broncos.
Prediction: Broncos 28, Chiefs 20
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Each side would sure love to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Seahawks and Saints haven't lost inside their boisterous home stadiums this season. New Orleans' uptempo offense works best inside a dome, and CenturyLink Field's deafening acoustics tend to play favorably for Seattle.
Which NFC powerhouse will seize control of first place in the conference?
This is every bit the battle of megapowers as Denver vs. Kansas City, if not more so. While Drew Brees' attack boasts the league's second-best offense, Richard Sherman's group trails the Houston Texans for the top defensive spot by 2.9 yards per game.
Against the San Francisco 49ers, who are built similarly but not as well as their division cohorts, the Saints edged out a three-point victory by limiting their opponents to just 81 rushing yards. They'll need similar success against Marshawn Lynch to win on the road, but Russell Wilson's passing game can keep them on their toes much more than Colin Kaepernick's league-worst passing offense could.
Now that Percy Harvin and Russell Okung are in the fold, look for the Seahawks to cement their position as the NFL's top squad with a victory Monday night.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, Saints 21