NFL Week 13: Picking This Week's Winners
Week 12 revealed a few interesting things about the 2010 NFL season.
We now know that the Chicago Bears are for real, the San Diego Chargers are back in the race and the Indianapolis Colts are in a lot of danger.
What will Week 13 show us? There are several divisional races that are too close to call, including one between arguably the NFL's two best teams in the AFC East. There are also Wild Card spots up for grabs, and nobody knows who's going to come out of the NFC West.
So here's a look at the match-ups in store and who the winners should be.
Houston At Philadelphia
The Eagles lost a close game to the Chicago Bears last week, 31-28, and Michael Vick threw his first interception of the season. But there shouldn't be any panic in Philly as the loss highlighted just how good the Bears really are.
The Eagles still have a great team and they need to finish strong if they want to hold off the 7-4 NY Giants for the NFC East title. The 5-6 Texans will try to play spoiler in this one after shutting out the Tennessee Titans 20-0 last week. But they just don't have the firepower to do it.
Philadelphia should receive a big boost from the return of cornerback Asante Samuel, who will have to try to contain Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson without getting punched. His league-leading seven interceptions says he can do it.
Washington at NY Giants
The Redskins, believe it or not, still have a shot at the playoffs. Despite losing to the Vikings, 17-13, last week, the 5-6 Redskins have two games remaining against division rival New York. The first one is this Sunday.
The Giants are coming off a solid 24-20 win over the Jaguars and are tied with the 7-4 Eagles atop the NFC East. They need at least two more wins to clinch a playoff berth, and with games remaining against Philadelphia and Green Bay this match-up takes on extra importance.
Donovan McNabb's not young enough anymore to withstand the ferocious Giants pass rush led by Defensive POY candidate Osi Umenyiora. Look for the Giants to continue their winning ways by dispatching Washington on their home turf.
Denver at Kansas City
The Chiefs have won their last two games and the Broncos have lost their last two games. The Chiefs are first in the AFC West with a 7-4 record and the Broncos are dead last at 3-8.
Seems like an easy pick, doesn't it?
The one catch is that these two teams have met before, and the Broncos steamrolled all over the Chiefs in Week 10. Denver put 35 unanswered points on the board before halftime and won easily 49-29.
But that game was in Denver. This one is Kansas City. I'm betting home field advantage gives the Chiefs the edge this time.
Jacksonville at Tennessee
The Titans have lost four straight, including a 20-0 stinker last week at the hands of the Houston Texans. They look like a team in complete disarray and are starting Rusty Smith at quarterback.
That's never a recipe for success.
Look for the Jaguars to bounce back from a tough loss against the NY Giants by pounding the Titans, a team they somehow lost to 30-3 back in Week 6.
But Jacksonville QB David Garrard had a concussion early in that game and the Jaguars had to rely on journeyman Trent Edwards to save the day. Suffice to say, Edwards couldn't do it. Garrard is back this week and the Titans are in trouble. Jaguars all the way.
San Francisco at Green Bay
The 49ers offense was never all that good to begin with (21st in passing, 17th in rushing). Then they lost their starting running back, Frank Gore, to a hip injury. Brian Westbrook now becomes their feature back, but the former Eagle hasn't been relevant in almost two years.
The Packers, meanwhile, are coming off a disappointing 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and need a win to keep pace with the Chicago Bears in the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers should be able to have a big day against a San Francisco defense that needs to be perfect to give the 49ers a chance to win.
Cleveland at Miami
This is a must-win for the 6-5 Dolphins to keep their playoff hopes alive. They're going in the right direction after pounding the Raiders last week, 33-17, and they should continue that level of play against Cleveland.
The Browns, however, have played pretty much every team they've faced close, especially AFC East opponents. So this game should be a tight battle.
Miami has one of the best passing defenses (fourth) in the league and Cleveland has one of the worst passing offenses (28th), so expect this to turn into a ground game. Peyton Hillis is good, but he can't do it alone.
Buffalo at Minnesota
Since their bye week the Bills have won twice and lost four games, each by three points (three of them in overtime). The lesson is that Buffalo is still a legitimate football team.
The Vikings somewhat redeemed themselves with a 17-13 win over Washington last week, but they've done nothing else of significance this season and look mediocre at best.
Adrian Peterson also has a sprained ankle, which is good news for a Buffalo rush defense that is dead last in the NFL. If Peterson is out, or even limited, the Bills should have a great chance to steal this game.
Chicago at Detroit
Each of these teams proved something last week.
The Bears proved that they were one of the elite teams in the league after a 31-26 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles that vaulted them to first place in the NFC North. The Lions proved that they are still awful after being manhandled by the New England Patriots, 45-25.
The Lions have already lost to the Bears once this season, falling in the season opener 19-14. This re-match should be no different.
New Orleans at Cincinnati
The Bengals haven't been within a field goal of winning a game since Week 5 against Tampa Bay, and they still lost. They've lost eight straight and may not be able to get to three wins this year with games left against New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, San Diego and Baltimore.
The Saints have won four straight and need to keep winning if they want to keep pace with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South. They should have no trouble dispatching the Bengals in this one.
Oakland at San Diego
The Chargers finally got the statement victory they've been waiting for with a 36-14 thrashing of the Indianapolis Colts. It's their fourth-straight win overall and second-straight by at least three touchdowns. In other words, it's finally that time of year when the Chargers turn it on and make their playoff push.
The Raiders are still a decent team but they've had their butts handed to them by the Steelers, 35-3, and then last week the Dolphins, 33-17. At 5-6 they still have a chance to make some noise in the playoff race, but things aren't looking in their favor.
Oakland did beat San Diego, 35-27, earlier in the season. But those Chargers were still figuring out how to run an offense without Vincent Jackson and the Raiders managed to recover three fumbles and block two punts, with two defensive touchdowns to boot. Can't see that happening again.
Carolina at Seattle
This game has the intrigue of a college football game between two Big East teams. In other words, neither team is particularly good but someone still has to win.
Since the Panthers are pretty much the worst team in football right now and the Seahawks at least have a couple of impressive wins (Week 3 over San Diego, Week 6 over Chicago). I'm going to give the edge to Seattle.
Neither team can defend the rush and neither team can pass, so this should be a game won on the ground. (Attention fantasy football owners!)
Atlanta at Tampa Bay
Here's the list of teams the Buccaneers have beaten this year: Cleveland, Carolina, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Arizona, Carolina and San Francisco.
Guess how many of those teams have winning records? That's right, zero.
The Bucs, at 7-4, are one of the NFL's most overrated teams. The Falcons, at 9-2, are simply one of the NFL's best teams.
Atlanta beat Tampa Bay 27-21 just four weeks ago and this game shouldn't be even that close. Matt Ryan and Michael Turner are in for a big day against a defense that is mediocre at best.
St. Louis At Arizona
The Cardinals are in such a state of disarray right now after losing six straight and enduring the Derek Anderson fiasco, that there shouldn't be any way they win this game.
The first time these two teams met this season (Week 1) the Cardinals won 17-13. But that was the first career start for Sam Bradford (253 yards passing, 3 INT's), and he's come a long way since then.
The Rams need a win to stay atop the NFC West and earn the right to be blown at home in the first round of the playoffs. Here's betting that they get it.
Dallas at Indianapolis
How the mighty have fallen.
Both the Cowboys and Colts entered this season as popular picks for the Super Bowl. But nothing went according to plan.
Dallas got off to a 1-7 start and only in the last three weeks have they shown signs of life, beating the Giants and Lions and then losing by three to the Saints. Indy, on the other hand, started 5-2 before dropping three of their last four, including two consecutive beatings at the hands of the Patriots and Chargers.
The Colts are still a good team and they need to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive. I don't think Peyton Manning has ever had three straight bad games, so chances are pretty good he bounces back against a passing defense that is 23rd in the NFL.
Pittsburgh at Baltimore
It may not be the game of the week, but it's definitely one of the more intriguing matchups we've had all season.
Both the Steelers and Ravens come in to this game tied atop the AFC North with an 8-3 record. Both have won their last two, three of their last four, and five of their last seven. When they met in Week 4 the Ravens got the upper hand, winning 17-14 on a last-minute touchdown to T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
But the Steelers were playing in that game without franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who was serving his four-game suspension. Big Ben is back, but will it make a difference?
Until proven otherwise, the Ravens are still the best team in the division. But you may as well toss a coin for this one.
NY Jets At New England
Ladies and gentlemen, your game of the week!
It's unfortunate that these two teams are in the same conference, because otherwise it could be a Super Bowl preview. Still, it's a match-up between two of the NFL's best teams and one that has more at stake than just a division title.
The Patriots and Jets first met in the second week of the season and the Jets walked away with a resounding 28-14 victory. But what's changed since then?
Randy Moss is gone. Darrelle Revis is back. The Patriots lost Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor to injuries for the year. The Jets now have Santonio Holmes, and he looks better than ever. All signs point to a Jets repeat, right?
The Patriots today are not the same team they were at the beginning of the season. Tom Brady's been reunited with his old friend Deion Branch and the two of them have again formed one of the best QB-WR duos in football. With Moss gone, Brady won't try to force throws against a great Jets secondary. The young defense has a few more games under its belt and won't fold under the pressure. Plus, this is a game the Patriots have to win if they want to secure home field advantage in the playoffs. When's the last time Brady, or Belichick, lost a game that mattered this much?
(Don't answer that).