As the NFL season goes on, the importance of each game continues to grow.
Plenty of playoff spots are still up for grabs, and the difference between making the postseason and being on the outside looking in remains just a game or two for most teams. It's just what you'd hope for as a fan.
However, even for the teams that look like locks for the playoffs, Week 13 is an opportunity to solidify oneself as a genuine contender. You can silence some critics and begin building momentum for the postseason.
|Home Team||Away Team||Pick|
|Sun., Dec. 1|
|Indianapolis Colts||Tennessee Titans||IND|
|Cleveland Browns||Jacksonville Jaguars||CLE|
|Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||CAR|
|Minnesota Vikings||Chicago Bears||CHI|
|Houston Texans||New England Patriots||NE|
|Philadelphia Eagles||Arizona Cardinals||ARI|
|New York Jets||Miami Dolphins||MIA|
|Buffalo Bills||Atlanta Falcons||BUF|
|San Francisco 49ers||St. Louis Rams||SF|
|San Diego Chargers||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Denver Broncos||DEN|
|Washington Redskins||New York Giants||NYG|
|Mon., Dec. 2|
|Seattle Seahawks||New Orleans Saints||SEA|
Schedule via NFL.com
These three games have the most intrigue this weekend.
San Diego Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals defense will be tested in a big way this Sunday, as the San Diego Chargers have one of the best offenses in the league. Philip Rivers has thrown 22 touchdowns to just eight interceptions, and Ryan Mathews has been able to stay on the field and add that different dimension offensively.
This game will likely come down to the performance of Andy Dalton, though. He's thrown eight interceptions to five touchdowns in his last three games. He's beginning to reach Matt Schaub-like levels of stink.
The bye week could've been just what the doctor ordered. He had some time to think about what he's done wrong and hit the reset button a bit.
In addition, the Chargers have intercepted only six passes as a team and are the worst defensive team in the league, according to Football Outsiders. As long as Dalton can avoid any costly turnovers, the Bengals will be in business.
Cincinnati 28, San Diego 21
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos
Maybe the Kansas City Chiefs were in fact one of the worst 9-0 teams in history. Their defense has been found out in a big way against the Chargers and Broncos, who scored a combined 68 points against KC the last two weeks.
Denver is also coming off its second loss of the season, after watching a 24-point lead evaporate against the New England Patriots.
Motivation shouldn't be a problem for the Broncos.
The weather in Kansas City should be much warmer than it was in New England last weekend. That's good news for Manning and the Broncos offense.
In addition, Manning, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Knowshon Moreno were all at practice Thursday, according to Denver's Twitter account.
With those guys on the field, you'd back the Broncos to make it 2-for-2 against the Chiefs this season.
Denver 24, Kansas City 17
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Wait? Have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers become somewhat good again?
Mike Glennon has been productive under center since taking over for Josh Freeman. The Bucs haven't tasked him with too much, as he's been able to count on a steady running game featuring Bobby Rainey, Brian Leonard and Mike James.
Against the Carolina Panthers, Glennon won't be so lucky.
Quite possibly the biggest reason for the Panthers' turnaround this season has been their defense. It's one of the best in the league, holding opposing teams to just 297.5 yards and 13.7 points a game.
In a Week 8 loss to the Panthers, Glennon had 275 yards passing, but he had to throw the ball 51 times. Tampa rushed for just 48 yards.
If Carolina can put the onus on Glennon again, it will be victorious Sunday. The rookie QB isn't good enough yet to overcome as strong a unit as the Panthers defense is all by himself.