When the NFL set the schedules for the 2011 season, the New England Patriots Week 13 matchup at home against the Indianapolis Colts looked like one of the biggest games of the entire season.
Since then, the Colts have played without Peyton Manning, have lost every contest on the season and their matchup in New England looks like the easiest contest to predict in Week 13.
For the rest of the league, the games this week are a bit harder to predict. Let's check out the Week 13 matchups, ranking the games from easiest to predict to most difficult.
Note: All spreads are courtesy of footballlocks.com.
If Peyton Manning was healthy, this would be much further up the list.
As it is, Tom Brady and the explosive Patriots offense face a home game against the second-worst offense and the fourth-worst defense in the NFL.
New England is riding high off a 38-20 victory in Philadelphia, while Indianapolis is coming off one of their closest games of the season in a 27-19 loss to Carolina.
You will not find a more lopsided matchup in Week 13. The spread for the matchup is set at -20.5 in favor of the Patriots.
Prediction: New England 44, Indianapolis 10
Baltimore is coming off their most impressive win of the season and get to remain at home against a Cleveland Browns squad with a 4-7 record.
If Cleveland manages to score more than 10 points on Sunday, it'll be a stunner. Baltimore's defense is one of the best in the league, and even if Peyton Hillis is playing, Cleveland's offense is dismal.
The Ravens are favored by just -6.5, which seems exceptionally low considering how well they've played in the past two weeks against the Bengals and the 49ers.
Prediction: Baltimore 24, Cleveland 6
The Rams picked the wrong week to visit San Francisco. They'll be facing a 49ers team who, for the first time in nine weeks, coming off a loss with their 16-6 beatdown in Baltimore a fresh motivational tool for Jim Harbaugh.
Frank Gore didn't see many carries against the Ravens tough defense, but against St. Louis, he should dominate.
Meanwhile, on the other side, Steven Jackson has been the Rams most consistent offense player, and he's facing the best rush defense in the league.
The 49ers can take out their aggression against this hapless Rams squad.
Prediction: San Francisco 27, St. Louis 9
The Dallas Cowboys have won four straight games, and suddenly, they're hailed as contenders again.
But if you look at Dallas' last four wins, it's hard to get that impressed. Yes, they blasted a hapless Buffalo team 44-7 in Week 10, but they looked medicore when they bested Seattle in Week 9, they barely squeaked by Washington in a Week 11 overtime and they needed a field goal to beat Miami in Week 12.
None of that points to a contender. But it'll do in a game against the 3-8 Cardinals.
As long as Tony Romo doesn't throw any pick-sixes, the Cowboys are too talented to lose to Arizona even on the road. Kevin Kolb may return for the Cardinals this week, but it really shouldn't matter considering how poorly he played before his injury.
Prediction: Dallas 28, Arizona 13
Remember when Kansas City sat at the top of the AFC West just a few weeks back? They've lost four straight games and have resumed their place in the bottom of the NFL standings.
And remember when Jay Cutler's injury doomed the Bears? Sure didn't look like it in Week 12 when they almost defeated the AFC West-leading Raiders in Oakland.
Both teams have question marks, mainly at quarterback. The Bears will put out Caleb Hanie, and the Chiefs will start Tyler Palko (or perhaps the newly acquired Kyle Orton)—quite the matchup for the ages.
Chicago will win thanks to their dominant defense and the strength of Matt Forte's legs.
Prediction: Chicago 17, Kansas City 9
Houston survived their first contest without Matt Shaub, only to lose backup Matt Leinart to a season ending injury as well. Now rookie T.J. Yates will start in Week 13 until Houston figures out what they want to do at quarterback.
Atlanta, meanwhile, is surging ahead, winners of five of their last six contests and moving in on securing a spot in the playoffs.
Houston still has an excellent defense and a great running game with Arian Foster, but with Yates starting, Atlanta is simply the better team. Expect the Falcons to come up with the road victory and continue their push for the second season.
Prediction: Atlanta 23, Houston 17
Tampa Bay has the better record and home field advantage, and they're favored to win by -3.5. So the easy selection here has to be the Bucs, right?
Wrong. I'm going with Carolina winning with a dominating offensive performance.
Whatever happened to Josh Freeman from last year, it's left a different player who makes far more mistakes and isn't close to as efficient as he was last year. Meanwhile, Carolina rides high despite their 3-8 record thanks to the play of rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
Tampa Bay is as inconsistent a team as you'll find, while Carolina continues to be one of the more motivated matchups every week. Take the Panthers on the road.
Prediction: Carolina 33, Tampa Bay 17
The Giants have lost three straight games, and it'll be four straight after this weekend.
They face an undefeated Packers squad that carved up the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. New York is a good team, but they lack the defensive punch of the past and really are without a consistent running game.
Certainly, New York can score against Green Bay—the Packers biggest weakness is their secondary, and if Eli Manning can keep finding Victor Cruz, the Giants can rack up some points. But Green Bay is just too good to be beaten at this point.
Prediction: Green Bay 41, New York 23
New Orleans is coming off a 49-point outing against the Giants, while the Lions have lost four of their last six games.
Factor in the Saints home field advantage and the recent struggles of Matthew Stafford, and Lions fans can't feel good about this one.
The Saint's offense has consistently proven they can score on anyone, and with Ndamukong Suh likely to be out, they'll have an even easier time.
If Detroit is going to have a chance in this one, they need Stafford to play mistake-free football and re-engage Calvin Johnson as much as possible. New Orleans can be beaten defensively, but this one doesn't look good for Detroit.
Prediction: New Orleans 37, Detroit 17
You have to give the Bengals credit. In two matchups against the Steelers and the Ravens so far this season, they played exceptionally well in both contests, but were simply outmatched against two more experienced and tougher teams.
Cincinnati may have a bright future, but against a current contender like Pittsburgh, they're outmatched at this point. The Steelers won 24-17 in Week 10 in Cincinnati and will most certainly repeat now that they have the home field advantage.
Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are favored by -6.5, and a touchdown advantage seems perfectly likely, especially since it already happened in Week 10.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 20
Darren McFadden's status for this week is still doubtful, and it's a shame, since Oakland could really use him. While Michael Bush has played exceptionally well in his absence, Miami's defense has proven over the past few weeks that they are actually pretty good, even if their offense is still inconsistent.
Matt Moore hasn't been the dismal failure that many expected when he was forced into the starting role, and if he and Brandon Jacobs are both on their A games come Sunday, they can pick apart a weak Oakland secondary.
But the Raiders are properly motivated, and they are a better complete team than Miami, so you can be fairly confident (never exceptionally so, not with the Raiders involved) that Oakland will pull of the road win.
Prediction: Oakland 23, Miami 17
The Seahawks have played some decent football of late, winning games against Baltimore and St. Louis before dropping a home game to Washington in Week 12.
Certainly, the Eagles are a more talented team even without Vick, but no team has been more inconsistent than Philadelphia this season. Throw in the fact that Seattle has improved, thanks in part to Marshawn Lynch's dominance over the past few games, and this one is a bit tricky to call.
The spread is set at -2.5 in favor of the Eagles. But with the Eagles' well documented difficulty of stopping the run, Lynch and the Seahawks have an excellent shot at home against Philadelphia.
Prediction: Seattle 23, Philadelphia 21
Chris Johnson finally broke out in Week 12 for 190 yards. If he could just get half of that every week, Tennessee would be a far better team.
Meanwhile, Buffalo has lost Fred Jackson for the remainder of the season and will have to rely on the ever-scary Ryan Fitzpatrick for most of their offense.
Tennessee's defense is one of the more underrated units in the league, and with the injury to Jackson, Buffalo is going to have a harder time scoring than they've been used to.
While it's scary to bet on Matt Hasselbeck and Chris Johnson, they should fare well in Buffalo.
Prediction: Tennessee 23, Buffalo 20
New York is favored by -3, and while they are undeniably more talented than Washington, it's hard to get a read on the Jets.
Washington won a hard fought 23-17 contest in Seattle in Week 12, while New York barely pulled off a 28-24 win against Buffalo in New York. Needless to say, neither team should have a ton of confidence in themselves right now.
But, if pressed, you have to bet on New York. Washington's offense is very mediocre, ranked 27th in the league, and the Jets defense is ranked eighth in total yards allowed.
The game also means more for New York, who could still fight for a wild-card spot if Mark Sanchez can find some consistency.
Prediction: New York 17, Washington 13
Tim Tebow sits at 5-1 as the Broncos starter, and if fan adoration could be converted into skill, maybe Tebow could consistently make 50 percent f his passes.
But eventually, the Broncos will falter and Tebow will lose—but will that loss come in Week 13, against the 2-9 Vikings?
If Adrian Peterson returns healthy, the Vikings would likely win this one, but his return for Week 13 is questionable. In a head-to-head matchup without Peterson, go with the Broncos. They're a better all-around team than the Vikings, and Tebow, despite being an utterly mediocre quarterback, just keeps winning.
Prediction: Denver 17, Minnesota 10