NFL Picks Week 13: Each Game's Best Player Matchup
Within every game during the NFL season there are specific matchups that should be highlighted.
It could be a wide receiver matched up against a shut-down corner or an explosive pass-rusher lined up against a franchise left tackle. Regardless of the position, these battles within the game always make for some great action.
As we wrap up Week 12, we are already looking ahead to the next weekend of NFL football. These matchups can be found in every single game.
Lets take a look at the big player matchups for Week 13.
LeSean McCoy vs. David Hawthorne
The Philadelphia Eagles head to Seattle on December 1st to take on the Seahawks in a game with little relevance.
What is relevant is how the Seahawks are going to stop LeSean McCoy. With Michael Vick injured, the passing game is clearly weakened. This was evident in the poor performance by Vince Young against the New England Patriots.
The Eagles should realize by now that they need to put the ball in the hands of their best offensive weapon, which is currently LeSean McCoy.
On the Seahawks side, they will need someone to be on McCoy at all times. This will most likely fall on the shoulders of David Hawthorne, Seattle's best linebacker. Hawthorne is second on the team in tackles behind safety Earl Thomas.
The Seahawks will need not only a run stopper, but someone who can follow McCoy out into the flats and on screens. McCoy is known for being one of the toughest backs to tackle in the NFL, so Seattle will need their best linebacker on him all day long.
Cam Newton vs. Adrian Clayborn
The Carolina Panthers, who may be the best bad team in football, take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Week 13.
Rookie sensation Cam Newton has shown that he is the real deal since he took the reigns as quarterback Week 1. Even though Carolina's record doesn't show it, the Panthers are already much improved.
Newton has become one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league to stop due to his strong arm and athleticism.
His tough test will be against fellow rookie Adrian Clayborn. Clayborn currently leads the Buccaneers in sacks and will be responsible for putting the pressure on Newton.
The best way to rattle any quarterback is to get in their face and put them on their back; it is awfully tough to complete passes from there. If Clayborn can't do that, it could be a long day for that Tampa Bay defense.
AJ Green vs. Troy Polamalu
The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 NFL season.
They are in one of the toughest divisions in football, but they are currently in position to make the playoffs as a wild-card team. They travel to take on their division rival Pittsburgh Steelers this upcoming week.
They already lost once to the Steelers this year, so this game could be viewed as a must-win.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie wide receiver AJ Green have proven to be key pieces in the Bengals success this year. Green in particular has proven that he is already a game-changer for the Bengals on offense.
The big playmaker for the Steelers on defense is Troy Polamalu. Even though he suffered what many believe to be a concussion Week 12 against the Chiefs, reports are saying he will be ready to go against the Bengals.
If he is, you can be sure that he will be hovering over AJ Green the entire game.
Curtis Lofton vs. Arian Foster
Could things go any worse for the Houston Texans?
In the first year that they don't have to deal with Peyton Manning twice a year, they get off to a fantastic start and look to be one of the best teams in the AFC.
Then, just like that, they are down to their third-string quarterback.
They take on the Atlanta Falcons in Week 13 and I'm sure they will prove to be a much tougher test than last week's opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Texans will look to put the load on their star running back Adrian Foster and hope that he can carry them to victory. Atlanta's leading tackler, Curtis Lofton, will be hovering over the middle and plugging up any holes Foster plans to run through.
Houston's passing game won't be much of a threat this week or any week without Matt Schaub. If Lofton can do what he does best and shut down Foster, it'll be a sign of things to come for the Texans.
Darrelle Revis vs. Jabar Gaffney
The New York Jets are going to be looking to keep the wins coming as they take on the Washington Redskins this upcoming week.
It is a favorable matchup for the Jets, as the Redskins really don't have much offense to challenge the tough New York defense. We know that the Redskins will be looking to let Rex Grossman sling the ball as they do every week, so he will be looking for one of his favorite targets, Jabar Gaffney.
Gaffney is a journeyman wide receiver and wouldn't be a number one receiver on most teams. However, he has put up some solid numbers this year despite Washington's troubles at quarterback.
Regardless of who your best wideout is, you can be sure that they will be on "Revis Island" when playing the Jets.
Darrelle Revis is still one of the best shut-down corners in the league. Whoever Rex Ryan feels he needs to shut down in the Redskins' passing game, you can be sure that he will be on them.
This week it appears Jabar Gaffney is that target.
Matt Light vs. Dwight Freeney
It has been a long time since a Colts vs. Patriots game wouldn't be one of the biggest games of the week.
However, with the loss of Peyton Manning, the Colts are flat out awful. This game will be pretty simple. If the Patriots can protect Tom Brady, they will win.
Two of the Colts' best players, even though that isn't saying much, are their defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Both men are known for their pass-rushing ability, but Freeney in particular has always been a thorn in the Patriots' side.
It'll be up to Patriots left tackle Matt Light to contain him.
If he can, Brady should have plenty of time to pick apart that defense. Chances are the Colts offense won't be able to keep up and Indy will fall to 0-12.
Michael Bush vs. Karlos Dansby
If Darren McFadden was healthy for the Raiders, it is likely that would be his name instead of Michael Bush.
The Raiders have turned in to a ground-and pound-offense. Even with the addition of Carson Palmer, Oakland's run game is their bread and butter on offense. I expect this week against the Miami Dolphins to be no different.
The Dolphins' best run-stopper is Karlos Dansby. Dansby is going to have the incredibly difficult job of tackling the monster that is Michael Bush.
The Raiders have shown struggles in the red zone. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski had a field day, going 6-for-6 on field goals against the Bears in Week 12.
Dansby and the Dolphins defense will need a similar performance if they plan to be in this game for very long.
Tim Tebow vs. Minnesota's Defense
After being told for the past few weeks that Tim Tebow is bound to fail and that the offense the Broncos are running won't last, here we are.
Another week of questioning how Tim Tebow manages to be everything an NFL quarterback is not supposed to be and yet still finds success. He is one of the most versatile and athletic quarterbacks in the league. Denver's play-calling is so unique that it is incredibly tough to prepare for.
There is no one player on the Vikings defense that will be able to stop Tebow.
To stop what the Broncos are running will be a team effort. It will take discipline and excellent tackling to take the wheels off of the Tebow train.
If the Vikings can limit Tebow or even force him in to some mistakes, we could finally get a chance to hear the experts tell us how right they were.
Steve Johnson vs. Cortland Finnegan
Steve Johnson has established himself as the number one target in the Buffalo Bills passing game.
He is incredibly talented, but at the same time has shown some very poor judgement with his choice of celebration. We saw his impersonation of Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg cost the Bills valuable field position against the Jets last week.
Johnson also had a huge drop that could have given the Bills the field position they needed to come back and win the game.
He will be looking to redeem himself this week, but will be up against Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan is one of the toughest defensive backs in the league and will be blanketing Johnson all day.
Finnegan is not afraid to get physical, so I'm sure we will see some small dust-ups between the two big personalities.
Johnson should keep his focus on beating Finnegan this upcoming week or he may not get a chance to celebrate much at all.
Tyler Palko vs. Caleb Hanie
Two backup quarterbacks that just aren't very good.
The key to this game could simply come down to which of these quarterbacks hurts his team the least. Both of these teams' game plans should include heavy doses of running the ball and short passes.
It certainly won't be the most exciting matchup of the week, but it is the sad truth of this game.
Joe Haden vs. Anquan Boldin
Let's face it: The Cleveland Browns just aren't very good.
They have a limited number of playmakers; finding one that could create an exciting matchup is difficult.
Their best playmaker is their young defensive back Joe Haden. He is a bright spot on a very dull defense. Haden has the potential to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league for years to come, but he will need some help around him if the Browns plan on being a serious contender.
He will be matched up against Anquan Boldin for most of the day. Boldin is past his prime days in Arizona, but he is still a threat to most teams.
He is a big, physical receiver that will give Haden a tough time if quarterback Joe Flacco's passes are on target that day.
Baltimore shouldn't have many problems with the Browns, but Haden could create some interesting ones for Boldin.
Tony Romo vs. December
Tony Romo had a fantastic month of November.
He was one of the top quarterbacks in the league statistically and led the Cowboys to the top of the NFC East. Romo has a history of great play in the month of November, but the question now is whether or not he can keep it up into the months that matter the most.
Romo has struggled mightily in December and January. Once playoff time rolls around and the spotlight gets a little brighter, he has been known to disappear.
Romo is crucial to the success of the Cowboys this year. If he is not playing at an elite level, they will not be able to beat the top teams in the NFC.
Aaron Rodgers vs. the Giants Secondary
This is really the crucial matchup for any team against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers is clearly the runaway MVP winner right now. He is on pace to break several single-season quarterback records and lead his team to a potentially undefeated season. If he accomplishes it all, it would go down as the greatest quarterback season of all time.
The Giants will need their secondary, which has some excellent depth, to shut down the Packers' many receiving threats.
Rodgers has shown that he will throw to anyone that is open. The Giants can't focus on just one receiver because No. 12 will be happy to burn you somewhere else.
If the Giants can slow the passing attack down and give Eli Manning a chance to put some points up, they may just have a chance to give the Packers their first loss of the season.
Steven Jackson vs. Patrick Willis
Not many people will be giving the St. Louis Rams a chance against the San Francisco 49ers this weekend, and rightfully so.
The 49ers have become one of the best teams in football while the Rams have done nothing but disappoint. If St. Louis has any hopes of beating the 49ers, they will need running back Steven Jackson to have a big day.
Jackson is a threat both on the ground and in the passing game. He is a big, physical back that will look for contact. The 49ers answer to that is the same answer they give to any team's running back.
Willis has become a premier linebacker in the NFL. He is incredibly athletic and always has a knack for getting himself in the middle of the play regardless of whether it is a run or pass.
If the Rams turn to Jackson to carry them to victory, you can bet Willis will be right there to stop him.
Matthew Stafford vs. Drew Brees
Sunday night's prime time game will feature two of the top quarterbacks in the league.
Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees will meet in what will most likely be a high-scoring affair. Both teams have solid defenses, but neither is what I would call elite.
The offenses are a completely different story.
Both teams are jam-packed with weapons in the backfield and out wide. However, it is clear that all of the offense is driven through the arms of the starting quarterbacks. Without them, both offenses become a lot less intimidating.
I expect an aerial assault from both teams in what will be a fantasy football owner's dream game: tons of scoring and lots of big plays.
Whichever quarterback plays better will be the deciding factor in this one.
Philip Rivers vs. Philip Rivers
Monday Night Football will feature the San Diego Chargers vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In what would have been expected to be a blow out by San Diego at the beginning of the season now doesn't seem like such a sure thing. The Chargers have struggled, losing six straight games.
Most of the blame is being piled on the shoulders of quarterback Philip Rivers.
Rivers' play over the last few years had people mentioning his names with the Brady and Manning. He was an annual Pro Bowler that was always in the running to lead the league in passing yards.
His disappointing season this year is still a mystery.
This game is a chance for him to salvage whatever he can. The Chargers should still be favored to beat the Jaguars and Rivers should be the one leading the charge.
He still has Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson to throw to. He still has Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert in his backfield.
Rivers has the weapons to be successful.
The playoffs may be a lost cause for the Chargers, but Rivers needs to get over whatever it is that is holding him back and finish the season on a positive note.
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