Week 13 of the NFL season is upon us and the playoff picture isn't much clearer than it was six weeks ago. Several teams continue to battle for their playoff lives while others are reduced to playing spoiler. As the holidays fast approach, here are a few teams that would be thankful for a big performance from some struggling players.
1. Matt Flynn
There is only one Aaron Rodgers, and the Packers are realizing that over the last few weeks. Matt Flynn has some big shoes to fill, and with each loss, the pressure builds.
Flynn has been given the start for this Thanksgiving day matchup. I hate to call this a must-win for Green Bay, but it really is. At 5-5-1, the Packers cannot afford to fall behind the 6-5 Lions anymore.
Since leaving Green Bay in 2012, Flynn has lost starting jobs to Russell Wilson and Terrell Pryor. The Bills even thought Thad Lewis was a better option, yikes.
The last time Flynn faced the Lions, he completed 70.6 percent of his passes for 480 yards and six touchdowns. This is not the same Packers team or the same Lions team. Don't expect a repeat performance.
Lions finally deliver payback to the Packers for all the Thanksgiving losses.
2. Ray Rice
The AFC North brings us a Thanksgiving day rivalry game. The Steelers seem to be finding their groove as of late with three straight wins. The Ravens have under performed this season after their incredible Super Bowl run last year.
Ray Rice needs to step it up for the Ravens and he needs to start now. After four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons, Rice has managed just 450 yards this season and the Ravens are 27th in the league in rushing yards. Rice has four touchdowns on the season and just one in the last six games. He is averaging less than three yards per carry.
The losing team from this contest is going to find itself in a situation where winning out is the only possible path to the postseason. If Rice does not find himself on Turkey Day, that team will be the Ravens.
3. Lamar Miller
The Dolphins' run game has been atrocious this season averaging just 85.4 yards per game. With Daniel Thomas done for the season after an ankle injury, and the offensive line continuing to struggle, things aren't looking good for the 'Fins.
Miami let Reggie Bush walk in the offseason because they believe Lamar Miller can be the guy, and he'll get his chance to prove it over the final month of the season.
Miller has started 10 games for Miami this season and has recorded just two touchdowns and 475 yards. Miami faces rival New York this Sunday in a matchup that has huge playoff implications. The Jets are the best run defense in the league and will pose a big challenge for the Dolphins rushing attack.
Miller doesn't need to become Barry Sanders, but he needs to step up and run well enough to keep the Jets defense honest. A quarterback's best friend can be a solid running game and Ryan Tannehill could certainly use a friend in Miami.
The Jets late season collapse happens right on schedule.
4. Andy Dalton
On Halloween night, the Bengals had a three and a half game lead on the AFC North. Now it's Thanksgiving, and that lead is down to two with the Steelers heating up. The Bengals rank 10th in the league when it comes to passing the ball, but Andy Dalton has been prone to interceptions this season.
Dalton needs to return to his early season form for Cincinnati to hold onto this division and make a serious push into the playoffs. Dalton has 21 touchdowns and nearly 3,000 yards this season but has also thrown 15 interceptions after throwing just 16 all last season. He has thrown eight picks the last three games.
The Bengals are still in first but need Dalton's decision making to improve. A loss Sunday to the Chargers would shrink the Bengals division lead down to one game. Luckily for them, the Chargers have been a model of inconsistency this year.
Nothing like the league's 29th-ranked defense to improve a quarterback's stat line.
This week as we spend time with our families and give thanks for everything we have. Let's all remember to be thankful that after this weekend, the playoff picture will become a bit more clearer.
Dallas over Oakland
Carolina over Tampa
Cleveland over Jacksonville
New England over Houston
Tennessee over Indianapolis
Chicago over Minnesota
Arizona over Philly
Atlanta over Buffalo
San Francisco over St. Louis
Denver over Kansas City
New York over Washington
Seattle over New Orleans
All stats courtesy of NFL.com