NFL Picks Week 13: Predictions for Every Game
The NFL playoff picture could start to be determined this week, making this slate of 16 games one of the most important all season.
Division races in the NFC East, NFC South and AFC North will keep things interesting this week—and then some.
The Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals fight for positioning in the AFC, while the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers hope to clinch their divisions this week.
Who will win in Week 13?
We'll break down every game and tell you who will win and why.
Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks (Thursday)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
When Philadelphia Has the Ball
The Eagles will get back a healthy Michael Vick this week, and they'll need him against a tough Seattle defense. The Seahawks will load the box to shut down LeSean McCoy, asking safety Earl Thomas to step up this week in covering one of the NFL's best all-around running backs. Thomas vs. McCoy could be epic.
The Eagles will want to work in space against a stout defense such as this. Thomas has range, but the rest of the Seattle defenders will struggle to keep up with the speedy Philadelphia skill players.
Thomas could be the key this week, but keep an eye on one of my favorite players, Red Bryant, on the defensive line. Bryant can wreak havoc and could be the pressure the Seahawks need to rattle Vick.
When Seattle Has the Ball
Seattle's offense is hit and miss, with more misses than hits. The Seahawks will need a good game from Tarvaris Jackson and the passing game to keep up with the Eagles, but their preference would be to grind out an old-school game with Marshawn Lynch at running back.
Lynch is the type of big, strong runner who has given Philadelphia trouble in the past. He'll get his fair share of carries this week as Pete Carroll and the Seattle coaches try to take the game out of Jackson's hands. Trouble is, Seattle won't be able to shut down the Eagle offense entirely, and it'll be playing from behind plenty in this one.
Prediction: Philadelphia 23, Seattle 17
Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
When Oakland Has the Ball
Running back Darren McFadden is expected to be back this week, and it couldn't come at a better time.
People may not take the Miami Dolphins seriously because of their three wins, but their defense is capable of causing problems for even good offenses. This is a Miami team that held the Dallas Cowboys to 20 points and almost caused an upset. Oakland cannot afford to sleep on the Miami defense.
The defensive line in Miami is the weakness, which plays to the Raiders' strength in the run game. McFadden may not carry a heavy load in his first week back, but Michael Bush will certainly be a factor.
When Miami Has the Ball
Matt Moore and Reggie Bush may sound like scabs, but both are having good seasons in Miami. You can bet the Oakland Raiders are paying close attention to these two players in their film sessions this week. Brandon Marshall can be hit or miss, but he's a guy the Raider secondary has to be aware of, because he can make lazy defenses pay.
The Raider defense will get sacks and create pressure on the backfield, but it is also prone to giving up big chunks in the run game. If Miami dedicates itself to running the ball with Bush and Daniel Thomas, it'll find holes in the Raider defensive line.
I like what Oakland can do on the right side of the Miami offensive line, bringing pressure from its ends, tackles and outside linebackers against the weakness of the Dolphin offense.
Prediction: Oakland 20, Miami 15
Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
When Atlanta Has the Ball
The Atlanta Falcon offense is one of the more versatile in the NFL, with great consistency and chemistry. It will be interesting to watch left tackle Will Svitek in replacement of Sam Baker this week, but Svitek had been much better when given the chance this season and should be an upgrade.
Matt Ryan will spend his Sunday trying to move the ball against one of the NFL's best defenses. The Houston Texan secondary is talented, but it's their pass rush you have to watch out for. Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed are teaming up to combine for a pass rush that few lines can handle. Svitek and his linemates will have their hands full.
Atlanta is good enough to work a fast-paced pass game that could keep Houston guessing, and it has a stable of talented backs to throw off the pass rush, but don't expect a high-scoring game from Atlanta.
When Houston Has the Ball
Using their third quarterback of the season, the Houston Texans' season is starting to look bleak. This is still a playoff team, but they'll use the next five weeks to get rookie T.J. Yates ready to take on the postseason.
Yates is a good prospect with the mobility to move the pocket behind the talented Houston offensive line. Andre Johnson would love to be a factor this week, but with a rookie throwing the ball and Brent Grimes in coverage, it's unlikely Johnson will do much.
The keys for Houston are Arian Foster and Ben Tate. If they can break out against this Atlanta defense and jump out to a big lead, the Texans may have a chance in this one.
Prediction: Atlanta 17, Houston 9
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
When Carolina Has the Ball
There's no surprise to what Carolina wants to do with the football. The team plans to use Cam Newton in and out of the pocket, throw in a heavy dose of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, work in the talented tight ends and then hit Steve Smith deep.
Easy enough, right?
Tampa Bay has the talent on defense to match up well against Carolina, and there's no love lost between these division rivals, but the speed of the Panther offense will be a rude awakening for the plodding Tampa defense.
When Tampa Has the Ball
We can officially say that something is wrong with Josh Freeman at quarterback in Tampa. It could be the play-calling or the offensive line, but something's up with Freeman physically and mentally this year.
Carolina doesn't have the beef in the middle of its line to hold up for long against a big back like LeGarrette Blount, but it does have the speed on the outside to terrorize the backfield. All Carolina needs to do is turn this game into a shootout and force Freeman into a passing battle. If the Panthers can do that, Charles Johnson will tee off on Donald Penn.
Prediction: Carolina 31, Tampa Bay 20
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
When New England Has the Ball
Pick whatever you want the New England Patriots to do on offense this week—they'll be able to make it work against the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriot offense is clicking recently, and the Indianapolis defense is far from it.
Being completely honest and unbiased here, the Colts may not stop the Patriots all day. It's going to be bad, Colt fans.
Looking at the rosters and depth charts for this one, I really don't see one matchup that favors Indianapolis. It's going to be a long day.
When Indianapolis Has the Ball
The Colt defense may be hopeless this week, but the offense could actually do a little damage before this game gets out of control.
I like the Indianapolis skill players in this one, but they will need a "best ever" performance from the offensive line and quarterback Curtis Painter if they hope to break single digits this week.
Prediction: New England 42, Indianapolis 9
New York Jets at Washington Redskins
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
When New York Has the Ball
The New York Jets have found good production recently from Plaxico Burress, and as Burress improves, the rest of the offense opens up. The Jets need to win out for a shot at the playoffs, and if they can keep getting this level of play from the offense, that's possible.
The Washington Redskins' strength is in their pass rush, especially off the edge. Washington does a great job moving Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan around to get the best possible matchup, even if it means stacking them on the same side of the line. Washington will get to Mark Sanchez, and we've seen in the past that he's not at his best when pressured.
It might not sound like a great matchup, but the Redskins will pressure the Jets more than most think.
When Washington Has the Ball
As good as the Redskin defense can be, the offense is a polar opposite. Rex Grossman strikes fear in no one, and against a talented secondary, he'll fold like an old dollar bill.
Grossman aside, the Redskins should try to power-run the ball against the Jet defense. Moving the football against Sione Pouha is easier said than done, but Washington has to try to slow down the game and get points while controlling the clock.
Prediction: New York 20, Washington 13
Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
When Kansas City Has the Ball
The Kansas City Chiefs were expected to use Kyle Orton this weekend, but instead they are going again with Tyler Palko. Palko may have almost beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers, but with a full week to prepare the Chicago Bears will be all over the Kansas City quarterback.
Orton would have been a big improvement, and when he plays he'll find three wide receivers and two running backs who are very capable of making plays. Kansas City has nothing to lose here, so expect the Chiefs to air it out against a Chicago Bear defense that's tough against the run.
Chicago's defense isn't weak against the pass either, but Kansas City has a much better chance moving the football through the air than on the ground. Scheming around Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs will be the key.
When Chicago Has the Ball
At times last week, Caleb Hanie didn't look terrible; other times, he did. The Bears are relying on Hanie for better or worse.
There's no time like the present to get Hanie comfortable with the offense, but the Kansas City defense is tougher than many would think from looking at the Chiefs' record. Derrick Johnson is playing at an All-Pro level, Brandon Flowers is always dangerous at cornerback and Tamba Hali will have a field day against a horrible Chicago offensive line.
This one could be very close, and it will all boil down to which quarterback plays better.
Prediction: Kansas City 17, Chicago 13
Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
When Denver Has the Ball
Expect more of the triple option from Tim Tebow, but really focus on what Willis McGahee is doing in the Denver backfield.
Tebow gets most of the focus nationally, but McGahee has played a much bigger role in the Denver winning streak overall. Somewhere in the mountains of Colorado, McGahee found the Fountain of Youth. He's running like his old self, if not better.
The Minnesota Viking defense isn't known for its greatness. Jared Allen is having a great year (again), but he alone won't be able to stop Tebow and McGahee. Allen will be fun to watch on the edge against the option, but he'll have to get help from his teammates.
When Minnesota Has the Ball
As of Monday night, it's unknown if Adrian Peterson will be back by this week's game. The ability of Peterson to go will make a big impact on the outcome of this game. Without Peterson, the Vikings become more of a passing team, even if Toby Gerhart is proving his worth in Peterson's absence.
Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder is improving each week, and unlike a rookie quarterback in Jacksonville, he has the front office excited about the future, but he's not quite ready to take over a ballgame on his own accord just yet.
The Broncos will unleash their pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil on this weak Minnesota offensive line. Poor Ponder will have a long afternoon.
Prediction: Denver 20, Minnesota 13
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
Marc Serota/Getty Images
When Tennessee Has the Ball
The Tennessee Titans can hope for another 190-yard day from running back Chris Johnson, but it may be asking too much of a back who's not been as productive in 2011.
Johnson is capable of doing enough against a heavily injured Buffalo defense to make plays, even if it's not another huge day. He can do enough to make the offense versatile. The team would love to rely on Johnson this week and let Matt Hasselbeck be more of a game manager and third-down converter.
The Bills need to find a pass rush from their linebackers, something they've not had all season. I like the play of guys like Marcell Dareus and Nick Barnett, but they need help from their defensive partners.
When Buffalo Has the Ball
As long as Fred Jackson is out—so for the rest of the season—the Buffalo Bills will be a pass-first team. It actually fits them better.
Buffalo lacks talent at offensive tackle and is playing with a running back in C.J. Spiller who is less than impressive between the tackles. It works well for Buffalo that it would spread the field and work a quick passing attack that will get the ball of out Ryan Fitzpatrick's hand quickly.
Tennessee has a sound defense without having a marquee player. The Titans are young, talented and able to swarm to the football. The Bills won't have much room to operate in this one.
Prediction: Tennessee 26, Buffalo 20
Game of the Week: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
John Grieshop/Getty Images
When Cincinnati Has the Ball
Andy Dalton to A.J. Green has become of one those things you can bet on each week, almost like death and taxes. Dalton is making a strong case for Offensive Rookie of the Year, and his pal at wide receiver is a big help.
Dalton and Green will have room to move against the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary if Dalton can get time to make plays. The Bengal offensive line has been great at times this year, but the Baltimore Ravens beat them up (then again, who hasn't Baltimore beat up?). If Pittsburgh can get the same push from its front three as Baltimore did, Cincinnati will be limited in what it can do.
Pittsburgh doesn't have the talent on the defensive line that the Ravens have, but it is quick at linebacker and offers hard-hitting linebackers and safeties. If Troy Polamalu is out this week with "concussion-like symptoms," the Steeler defense and its ability to stop the deep pass will take a big hit.
When Pittsburgh Has the Ball
Without Leon Hall in the lineup, the Cincinnati Bengals have become weaker against the pass, but Nate Clements is holding up OK on his own. Clements isn't a player I like against Mike Wallace in zero coverage, but he'll get safety help and should be able to contain Wallace's production.
Rashard Mendenhall hasn't been a big factor this season as Pittsburgh moves to a spread offense, but this could be his week if Cincinnati fears the Ben Roethlisberger passing game enough to back off the linebackers. If that's the case, a strong back could open up holes in the Bengal front seven.
I like the matchup of the Bengal defensive line against the Pittsburgh offensive line, especially Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Cincinnati may not be able to completely stop Pittsburgh, but it'll put up a fight.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 23
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
Larry French/Getty Images
When Cleveland Has the Ball
The Cleveland offense showed signs of life last week with a solid game from Peyton Hillis at running back and some creativity in the play-calling, but it'll come back down to Earth this week against a defense that played one of the most dominant games I've seen in the last five years last Thursday.
Baltimore slapped the San Francisco 49ers around with no regard for their talent. In case you've been sleeping for four months, the Browns aren't in the same class as the 49ers—at all.
Baltimore will terrorize Colt McCoy, who may not actually finish this game if he gets hit the way Alex Smith did.
When Baltimore Has the Ball
I would do nothing but hand the ball to Ray Rice early this week and build the momentum toward big shots downfield to Torrey Smith. Believe me, the deep ball will be there if the Ravens hit the Browns' line early and often.
Cleveland will cheat T.J. Ward up to stop the run, and with D'Qwell Jackson and Phil Taylor in the mix, they may be able to control Rice, but to gamble in stopping the run, the Browns will open up the middle of the field for Joe Flacco and his wide receivers.
Cleveland can't win this week; the Browns aren't talented enough to match up man-to-man against the Ravens, and I don't have the faith in their coaches to out-scheme them either.
Prediction: Baltimore 30, Cleveland 13
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
When Dallas Has the Ball
DeMarco Murray continues to look like the franchise running back the Dallas Cowboys have needed since ole No. 22 left for Arizona. He's providing the power running game Tony Romo needs to take the pressure and focus off his passing.
Murray isn't the only one getting things done in Dallas—Jason Witten, Romo and Dez Bryant are all enjoying a nice finish to the season. Even Laurent Robinson is getting in on the action.
Six weeks ago, I would have guessed Laurent Robinson was the villain in one of those vampire movies my wife drags me to, but now, he's emerging as a legitimate threat at wide receiver in Dallas.
Arizona has an improving defense, but all Dallas needs to do is avoid kicking the ball to Patrick Peterson and it should be good.
When Arizona Has the Ball
We should see a return of Kevin Kolb at quarterback this week, but I'm not so sure it matters.
Kolb will have the benefit of getting the ball to a much-improved Chris Wells in the backfield and Larry Fitzgerald on the edge, but the rest of this Arizona offense is far from being seen as a threat against a Dallas defense that's starting to buy into Rob Ryan's defense.
DeMarcus Ware could have a monster game against the Arizona offensive line. Like, Defensive MVP kind of day.
Prediction: Dallas 35, Arizona 17
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
When Green Bay Has the Ball
After watching Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints carve up the New York Giant defense on Monday night, you can bet that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers will air it out this week—well, they would anyway.
Rodgers is having a brilliant season, and with his five receivers and Pro Bowl-level tight end, the Packers will simply spread the field and go to work against a New York secondary that looked lost and confused by the New Orleans offense.
The Giants have the talent to remain competitive this week, but their execution has been terrible. If they play like they did Monday, this won't be close.
When New York Has the Ball
It's odd that a guy like Kevin Gilbride has a job calling plays after some of the duds he's produced this season for the Giants. Eli Manning is a very capable quarterback, and he's having a great year, but the inability of the New York offense to open things up and attack is frustrating.
The Giants should spread the field and attack, much like Green Bay does, but instead they'll be content to slam Brandon Jacobs into the Green Bay defense until it's too late and the game is out of control.
Green Bay leads the NFL in forcing interceptions. Manning led the NFL in interceptions in 2010. There will be at least two turnovers produced by No. 10 in this one.
Prediction: Green Bay 45, New York 21
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
When St. Louis Has the Ball
The St. Louis Rams cannot feel good about this one.
St. Louis has struggled to move the ball all season, with its best option being running back Steven Jackson. The San Francisco defense is the best in the NFL and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 33 straight games. Jackson will be eliminated in this one.
The Rams do have a talented receiver in Brandon Lloyd, but he'll be neutralized by the sharp coverage of Carlos Rogers and safety help.
When San Francisco Has the Ball
Jim Harbaugh will learn his lesson after failing to get Frank Gore the touches he needed in last week's fistfight against the Baltimore Ravens. Gore should see plenty of action this week.
The 49ers have to be worried about Anthony Davis at right tackle. He looked like a matador against Terrell Suggs and will have to face off against a talented St. Louis defensive line. Chris Long won't hesitate to make Davis look bad this week.
The Rams aren't a good matchup. They lack the speed at cornerback to keep up with the 49ers and the toughness on the inside to stop Frank Gore—who I expect to have a big day.
Prediction: San Francisco 31, St. Louis 10
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
When Detroit Has the Ball
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions won't admit it, but there's something wrong with Stafford's hand, and it's messing with his accuracy. There's no other way to explain how the Stafford from the first half of the season looks so different than the guy we've seen lately.
Detroit needs to get back to throwing deep to Calvin Johnson and working the underneath with Titus Young and Brandon Pettigrew. Megatron hasn't gone over 100 yards receiving in three weeks—not coincidentally, Detroit is 1-2 during that time.
The Saints defense is great at attacking the ball, even if it doesn't get a huge pass rush on every down or dominate with big-name defenders. Roman Harper is having a great season, and role players like Jon Vilma and Cameron Jordan are worth watching.
When New Orleans Has the Ball
It's very likely that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be out this week after attempting to kick a Green Bay offensive lineman last week. Without him, the Lions will lack the explosion their defense needs in the middle, but they'll also have to worry about guards getting to middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch more.
The Detroit secondary has played well this year, but they won't have an answer for Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Darren Sproles. In fact, not many defenses in the NFL do have an answer for the talent New Orleans can roll out.
I would think we'll see a big dose of Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram in this one.
Prediction: New Orleans 38, Detroit 27
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
When San Diego Has the Ball
I will watch this game mostly out of morbid curiosity, as the San Diego Chargers have become the NFL's version of a car crash, but also I want to see what the hell is going on with Philip Rivers.
Rivers was starting to creep into the top-five quarterback conversation before this season; now he looks like a baseball player who lied about his age, and suddenly we learn he's not really 29, but 42 and playing with two bad knees and a smoker's lung.
Whatever the excuse, Rivers' game needs fixing, and Norv Turner isn't the guy to get it done.
Having said all that (sorry for the rant), San Diego has a great chance to win this week—if only because it is playing one of the worst teams in the league. Jacksonville's defense is improved, but not to the point where it can shut down San Diego (even on a bad day).
When Jacksonville Has the Ball
I'm starting to feel sorry for rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert—who shared a state with me for 21 years. Gabbert hasn't been good this year, at all, and he's getting worse each week. The Jaguars pulled him last week in favor of Luke McCown—which should tell you all you need to know about how badly Gabbert was playing.
Jacksonville has to feed the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew and then set up the play-action game. This is something I haven't seen the Jaguars do much of this year, which is confusing since they have a young quarterback who needs to settle into the game and one of the best all-around backs in the game to work with.
The Chargers need to bring the heat in this one and let their cornerbacks play on an island against the mediocre Jacksonville wideouts. If I'm calling the defense in San Diego, we're stacking the box to shut down MJD and begging Jacksonville to throw.
Prediction: San Diego 24, Jacksonville 10