Week 13 provided almost everything a football fan can ask for. Defensive battles, offensive onslaughts, an overtime victory and the continuation of Tebowmania provided many great matchups, and left a lot of questions to be asked regarding the playoff potential for a number of squads.
My picks were average, with one positive being found in a 10-6 over/under mark, a category which has been my main downfall this season. Matched with a respectable 11-5 straight up and a disappointing 6-10 against the spread, I went 56 percent overall, leaving my season totals at:
Straight Up: 132-60 (69 percent)
Against The Spread: 109-83 (57 percent)
Over/Under: 102-90 (53 percent)
This keeps me right below 60 percent overall on the season, and the one-time goal of 65 percent is slowly fading away. While that number still remains as a bit of a pipe dream, it appears I will need to get things together just to remain in the sixties.
Some close matchups will make things difficult in Week 14, but isn’t that the fun part?
Cleveland Browns (+14) at Pittsburgh Steelers (O/U = 39)
In a Week 13 win over the Bengals, the Steelers created a bit of separation between the top half and bottom half of the AFC North. Having swept the season series against Cinci, they look to start off on the same foot in their first of two matchups with another North foe in the Browns.
Colt McCoy’s team has failed to eclipse the 20 point mark once in the past 10 weeks, and it unlikely they will start here against one of the top defenses in the league.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (O/U = 37.5)
In the Stinker of the Week, the 3-9 Jags host the 4-8 Bucs in a matchup of teams still struggling to find their identity. Tampa’s defense has been one of the worst in the league, but a lackluster Jacksonville offensive group may find it hard to capitalize.
After missing Week 13 with injury, Bucs QB Josh Freeman will look to come back and make a statement. Working off a short week following a MNF loss to San Diego, the Jags may be looking at four straight losses.
Straight: Tampa Bay
Spread: Tampa Bay
Houston Texans (+3) at Cincinnati Bengals (O/U = 38)
The Texans D showed up big time against the Falcons in Week 13 and helped overcome an offensive group hampered by injury. Third-string QB T.J. Yates got his first professional victory and didn’t look as helpless as many expected. Another 100-plus yard performance by Arian Foster surely helped out.
The Bengals, however, need to bounce back strong after losing to the division rival Steelers. Their strong defensive unit will most definitely be looking to take advantage of the Houston QB’s lack of experience, and should pull this one out at home.
Minnesota Vikings (+7) at Detroit Lions (O/U = 48.5)
After starting 5-0, the Lions have fallen back to earth, going a meager 2-5 since. While they looked as though they could be competitive with a powerful New Orleans team on Sunday night, they were their own undoing through inexplicable penalties and poor decisions in every aspect of the game. Jim Schwartz needs to get his young team in check, or they run a high risk of missing out on a playoff spot that they find themselves in the midst of.
Hosting a division rival at Ford Field will have this team fired up heading into a much easier stretch the finish the season, and if they can keep their emotions under control, they should be able to take advantage of the Vikings and rookie QB Christian Ponder at home.
New England Patriots (-8) at Washington Redskins (O/U = 48)
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has exploded onto the scene in 2011 and currently leads the league in TD receptions with 13 after scoring at least one in the past five games. While the Patriots offense has continued to roll like normal their defense has struggled at times, even allowing a late surge by the pitiful Colts offense in a win in Week 13.
The Redskins have been up and down this year, but the emergence of Roy Helu as a solid option out of the backfield bodes well for their future as a key building block. Unfortunately for Mike Shanahan, the future is not now.
Straight: New England
Spread: New England
Kansas City Chiefs (+9) at New York Jets (O/U = 36.5)
The Jets are one of five teams in the AFC chasing a wild card spot and were able to remain in the tight race with an important victory over the Redskins in Week 13 behind a strong performance by RB Shonn Green. If Green is able to maintain any type of consistency, then it will only ease the large amount of pressure on quarterback Mark Sanchez’s young shoulders moving forward.
The Chiefs somehow escaped Soldier Field with a victory over the Bears last week, a win almost entirely accounted for by a Hail Mary touchdown at the close of the first half. They can’t get that lucky against a second good defense in a row and go down big here in a statement game for Rex Ryan and New York.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers (O/U = 48)
With three rushing touchdowns against the Bucs in Week 13, rookie quarterback Cam Newton now holds the all-time single season record for rushing TDs by a quarterback, and even more importantly, led the team to a fourth victory on the year. Newton continues to improve his decision making, and Panther faithful are surely not second guessing the early draft pick at this point in time.
The Falcons were unable to put anything together offensively against a stingy Texans D last week and desperately need a victory to remain in the NFC Playoff hunt. This game could surprise some folks and be competitive, but with something still to play for this season, the Falcons prevail.
Philadelphia Eagles (+3) at Miami Dolphins (O/U = 44)
It would have been hard to predict based on preseason hype, but believe it or not, these teams are actually dead even at this point, both sporting a 4-8 record. For the Dolphins, this is respectable, especially taking into account they started the year 0-7. For the Eagles, it is an unspeakable disappointment, and they will continue to have to answer difficult questions for the remainder of the season, one in which they will surely miss out on the playoffs.
The return of QB Michael Vick in this matchup should be enough to bring them back to the winning side of things for this week, but victory against Miami is hardly consolation for a season which is already toast.
New Orleans Saints (-4) at Tennessee Titans (O/U = 48.5)
The New Orleans offense continues to fire on all cylinders, as they lead the NFC South by two games. The Titans, however, have been rejuvenated by the resurgence of RB Chris Johnson and will look to give the Saints a real run for their money in Tennessee.
The Black and Gold have put together four straight wins, the last three of which were against teams with a record above .500. A fourth straight matchup against a solid opponent may spell doom for some, but look for Drew to “Brees” right through with little difficulty.
Straight: New Orleans
Spread: New Orleans
Indianapolis Colts (+16.5) at Baltimore Ravens (O/U = 41)
At this point, it is hard to imagine a) how the Colts were ever good even with Peyton Manning, and b) how head coach Jim Caldwell still has a job. Having failed to win even one game through 12 weeks, Indy has undeniably hit rock bottom, and people are already looking forward to the NFL draft possibilities. The Ravens are not going to make things any easier.
Sixteen and a half is a lot of points, but it would be shocking if the Colts even put up double digits in this one.
Chicago Bears (+3.5) at Denver Broncos (O/U = 35.5)
Yet again some late game heroics, and a little help from Christian Ponder, helped the Broncos and Tim Tebow pull out their fifth straight win with the polarizing quarterback under center. Behind that impressive streak, Denver has tied themselves with the Raiders atop the AFC West, and current tiebreaker status actually has them in the playoffs as division champs.
It almost appears to be a season of destiny for the young gunslinger, and it is kind of hard to pick against him with the string of ugly wins he has helped manufacture. A stifling defense facing off against an injury-ridden Bears club should help too.
San Francisco 49ers (-3.5) at Arizona Cardinals (O/U = 39.5)
Following a shutout of St. Louis in Week 13, the Niners continue a ridiculous turnaround season in Arizona against the streaky Cardinals. The stat of the year remains intact following that victory, that being the fact that SF has yet to surrender a single rushing touchdown to any opponent at any point this season.
A defensive streak such as this is hard to come by, and even though they have already clinched a playoff spot, you can bet that they will be playing their hearts out to keep it alive as long as possible. Beanie Wells provides a true test to the mark, and San Fran will come out ready to stop him in this NFC West duel.
Straight: San Francisco
Spread: San Francisco
Buffalo Bills (+6.5) at San Diego Chargers (O/U = 47.5)
The Chargers finally got off the schneide against the Jags on Monday Night Football to put an end to a disastrous six-game losing streak. While it is probably not enough to help Norv Turner keep his job at the end of the year, it will at least provide a little relief for him and everyone else in the San Diego locker room.
The Bills find themselves on the other side of that coin, entering on a five-game skid, and have watched early season playoff hopes fade to dust. It will be hard for the downtrodden group to turn things around here against a newly re-awoken Charger squad at home, so look for the slide to continue.
Straight: San Diego
Spread: San Diego
Oakland Raiders (+11) at Green Bay Packers (O/U = 53)
In the closest call of the season to this point, the Packers took until the final second ticked off the clock to secure the victory in Week 13 against the Giants. Although they didn’t dominate this one as they have many others this year, it was still kind of expected that with only a minute left, Aaron Rodgers had more than enough time to drive his team to victory. Sure enough, the Packer signal caller didn’t disappoint, and GB enters this battle without a mark in the loss column.
The Raiders were embarrassed by the Dolphins in Week 13 and find themselves in a dead heat with the Broncos with just four games left to play. Unfortunately for Hue Jackson, they drew the short straw this week. Green Bay does not look beatable at this point in time.
Straight: Green Bay
Spread: Green Bay
New York Giants (+3.5) at Dallas Cowboys (O/U = 49)
The Cowboys blew a chance to create some separation in the NFC East in an overtime loss to Arizona, and rather than entering this one with a two-game lead over the second place Giants, they could actually end the week sharing the top spot with New York.
The G-men showed real heart against a superhuman Packers squad last week, and if they can continue to perform at that level, they will be hard to beat.
This one is likely the game of the week when you take into account the talent level and playoff implications, so make sure you are near a TV on Sunday night.
Straight: New York
Spread: New York
St. Louis Rams (+6.5) at Seattle Seahawks (O/U = 39.5)
Marshawn Lynch has without a doubt emerged as a top-tier running back this season and has found his way into the endzone in the Seahawks last eight consecutive games. The Rams will look to revive their offense after being shut out by the 49ers in Week 13, but CenturyLink Field in Seattle is known to be one of the most difficult places to run an offense in the entire league.
While this one probably doesn’t hold much value for the playoffs or end outcome of the season, it should still provide enough entertainment on Monday night to keep viewers interested.
Some playoff questions will start to find an answer this week, while others will only get more confusing. The NFC race isn’t too difficult to discern, but with the many teams tied in the AFC, it is impossible to tell what will happen coming down the stretch.
The only way to find out is to watch the magic unfold on Sunday, so enjoy an important week of football and come back next week for another walkthrough!