Ranking the Most Watchable NFL Games of Week 13

Dan Van Wie@@DanVanWieContributor IIINovember 27, 2012

Ranking the Most Watchable NFL Games of Week 13

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    To properly rank the most watchable games of Week 13 in the 2012 NFL season, you have to know what is at stake and which teams are the most watchable right now.

    Some games in the Week 13 schedule look like real clunkers, and they will be ranked accordingly. But there are a total of eight games in Week 13 featuring two divisional rivals squaring off. Since most of these rivalries are well established, most of them will turn out to be intense games for the viewers.

    This far in the season all bye weeks have been eliminated, so we have a full slate of 16 games to rank. Looking at the early lines that were published by ESPN.com, the week offers five home underdogs (Tennessee, St. Louis, Miami, San Diego and Washington). There are also two even or pick 'em games, featuring Carolina at Kansas City and Pittsburgh at Baltimore.

    Some teams still have injuries to quarterbacks that will be awaiting medical clearance, so we can only rank each game according to the updates that have been released by every team prior to publication.

    We begin with our least watchable game and work our way up to the best matchup to see in Week 13.

16) Carolina Panthers (3-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-10) Even

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    The game between the Carolina Panthers (3-8) at the Kansas City Chiefs (1-10) will probably prove to be a ratings disaster for FOX. With a combined record of 4-18, one of the few reasons to watch would be to see which team really wants the No. 1 overall draft pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

    The Panthers are coming off a win in Monday Night Football over Philadelphia, so they will have a short week to prepare for this game.

    The FOX cameras will take turns showing a few plays and then panning the crowd for signs screaming for Kansas City head coach Romeo Crennel to be fired. Then there will be shots of Kansas City fans wearing nicely decorated shopping bags over their heads, reminiscent of the New Orleans 'Aints.

    The Chiefs can't win at home or on the road. They have some talent with players like Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, but they can't seem to agree on who should be the right person to coach the team.

    The pressure will be off Cam Newton in this game, so he should be relaxed and can let it loose. Wouldn't be surprised if FOX cut out from this game shortly after the second-half kickoff to go to a "more competitive" game. Better to say that than "more watchable."

15) Cleveland Browns (3-8) +2 at Oakland Raiders (3-8)

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    The Cleveland Browns (3-8) are traveling to the West Coast to face the Oakland Raiders (3-8). The Browns are coming off an upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, thanks to the defense generating eight turnovers. The Raiders have lost four straight games.

    Besides the identical records, these teams have much in common. Oakland has a new owner in Mark Davis, and the Browns have a new owner in Jimmy Haslam. Both teams have struggled in 2012 as each franchise is undergoing various stages of redevelopment. In addition, each team has been absent from the postseason for the past 10 years.

    Looking at the Raiders, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that there is a reasonable chance that Oakland RB Darren McFadden is finally healthy enough to return to the lineup. If he plays, that would make the game a little more interesting to watch. Hard to say right now how effective he will be coming out of his layoff, but his presence gives the Raiders offense more balance.

    Cleveland Browns rookie QB Brandon Weeden suffered a concussion against Pittsburgh in Week 12. If he can't play this week, then backup Colt McCoy will get a chance to get some action.

    Both teams have a long way to go in their development. Since we are ranking every game for Week 13, this contest has little appeal except for the fans of both teams.

14) Arizona Cardinals (4-7) +5 at New York Jets (4-7)

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    This game could have featured an outstanding battle of All-Pro players in Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald against New York Jets CB Darrelle Revis. But with Revis on I.R., the buildup is just not the same.

    This game features two teams with 4-7 records that have been fading fast. Arizona has lost seven straight games, and the Jets have lost four out of their last five games.

    Both offenses are ranked in the bottom six of the NFL for 2012. The Jets offense has only been able to score 20 points or more in one of the their past four games. The Cardinals haven't reached the 20-point mark in any of their seven straight losses.

    If you like low scoring games that feature two inept offenses, this game is for you. You know that the game is nearly unwatchable when Jets mascot Fireman Ed decided to quit rooting for the team this year. That is all you need to know about how painful it is to watch the Jets.

13) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) +6 at Buffalo Bills (4-7)

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    The Buffalo Bills (4-7) couldn't build off of their momentum they created when they beat Miami on Thursday Night Football. With 10 days to prepare for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, the Bills fell flat and saw their playoff hopes all but vanish.

    The Jaguars meanwhile were busy ending their losing streak against the Tennessee Titans. Chad Henne is playing like he wants to be the Jaguars' starting quarterback in 2013.

    The Bills have been moving the ball between the 20's with C.J. Spiller and Stevie Johnson, but they are having a host of problems in the red zone.Their latest frustration led Johnson to comment to the media that he would like to see Ryan Fitzpatrick afforded more freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage.

    This game should have been a contest featuring two top running backs in C.J. Spiller against Maurice Jones-Drew.  But Jones-Drew is still expected to miss at least one more game and possibly two more due to his foot injury.

    Expect this game to feature the Bills handing the ball off to Spiller and ex-Bills LB Paul Posluszny trying to chase him down from sideline to sideline. The Bills secondary will need to slow down the Jaguars' passing game of Henne to rookie Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts.

    Mario Williams looks like he is finally healthy, as he recorded three sacks on Andrew Luck in Week 12, so expect heavy pressure on Henne throughout the game.

12) Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (4-7) +1

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    You know the San Diego Chargers are in trouble when they are a one-point home underdog to the Cincinnati Bengals. No offense intended to the Bengals or their fans, but this is how badly things are going right now in San Diego.

    After allowing the Baltimore Ravens to convert on 4th-and-29 to go with less than two minutes left in the game, the Chargers playoff hopes have all but vanished. As such, the Chargers will be sleep walking through the final five games on their schedule. Nobody expects Norv Turner to be brought back for 2013, so that gives the Chargers little motivation to play all out for the soon-to-be-fired Turner.

    The Bengals, on the other hand, are fighting for their playoff lives. Andy Dalton should be looking at A.J. Green early and often. If the Bengals can continue to put up wins, they have a chance to catch the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are dealing with a bunch of injuries.

    There is plenty of motivation for the Bengals to play hard, but we can't be sure of what San Diego is playing for. It sure hasn't been for pride, as the Chargers have now lost six out of their last seven games. Despite all of the talent in San Diego, they just look like a defeated team right now.

11) New England Patriots (8-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-6) + 9

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    In an AFC East contest between division rivals, the New England Patriots (8-3) look to extend their winning streak when they visit the Miami Dolphins (5-6) in Week 13. Miami is a nine-point home underdog in this contest.

    Remember when all four AFC East teams were in a log jam at 3-3 after Week 6? Since then the Patriots have won five straight games, and they will look to make it six in a row by beating Miami. 

    The Dolphins snapped a three-game losing streak by defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12 at home. Another home win would bring the Dolphins back to .500 and would trim the Patriots lead over Miami to just two games.

    These teams have yet to face each other this year, as they will close out their division series in Week 17. Since this is the first time that Tannehill has faced the Patriots, Bill Belichick will have something special designed for his defense that Tannehill hasn't seen on tape yet.

    Since the Patriots played on Thanksgiving, they will have 10 days to prepare for this game. That also gives them plenty of time to devise how they are going to attack Miami's defense without the services of Rob Gronkowski.

10) Houston Texans (10-1) at Tennessee Titans (4-7) +5

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    The Houston Texans (10-1) are coming off their second consecutive overtime win in a five-day span. They had 10 days to rest up and prepare for this game at the Tennessee Titans (4-7). This is a AFC South division rivalry game, but with the six game lead that Houston holds, it hardly seems like very much of a close game on the surface.

    The Texans continue to find a way to win, even if they aren't blowing other teams away. Their last three games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Since one of those teams was Jacksonville, that gives the Titans fans hope that the Texans can be upset.

    This game will feature two of the top-six running backs this year in the NFL. Arian Foster is ranked No. 2 with 1,064 yards on the year (averaging 4.0 yards per rush). Chris Johnson will eclipse the 1,000-yard mark this week, as he just needs 58 yards. Johnson is averaging 4.9 yards per rush and is ranked No. 6 in the NFL.

    Watching both runners try to best each other will be part of the intrigue of this game. Tennessee needs to figure out how to contain Houston DE J.J. Watt, or at least how to slow him down.

9) Indianapolis Colts (7-4) +5 at Detroit Lions (4-7)

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    The contest between the Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at the Detroit Lions (4-7) promises to see lots of passes being thrown as Andrew Luck squares off against Matthew Stafford.

    While Stafford leads the NFL in passing yards with 3,429, rookie Luck is not that far behind at No. 7 in the league with 3,205 yards. Detroit's passing game is No. 1 in the NFL averaging 312 yards per game, while the Colts are No. 7 with 278 yards per game. Both secondaries will be tested early and often.

    If you like a high-scoring football game with lots of passes and deep throws, then this is the game for you. The Lions were at 4-4, but they have lost three straight games to put them on the verge of elimination from the playoffs.

    Indianapolis defeated Buffalo 20-13 despite giving up four sacks to the Bills. If the Lions pass rush can do the same thing, then Detroit has a good chance to win this game. The Colts have to be concerned that Luck will be able to survive the aggressive approach that Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley take when they attack opposing quarterbacks.

    Another interesting matchup from this game will be the NFL's top two wide receivers in action. Calvin Johnson leads the NFL with 1,257 receiving yards, and Reggie Wayne is right behind him with 1,105 yards. Both players are having All-Pro years, and it should be a treat to watch them go to war inside the dome.

8) San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) at St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) +7

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    Back in Week 10, these teams met in San Francisco and played to the first overtime tie of the 2012 season. Since then the 49ers (8-2-1) have lost their starting quarterback Alex Smith to a concussion. Colin Kaepernick has emerged to lead the team to two straight wins. The 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't decided yet who will be the starting quarterback for this week.

    The Rams (4-6-1) are a big seven-point home underdog in this game. Head coach Jeff Fisher has the team playing better this year, but it still has room for more improvement. Rookie CB Janoris Jenkins returned two interceptions for touchdowns last week against the Cardinals, so he is looking like he will make an impact for the Rams.

    In the overtime tie, the Rams actually picked up more first downs than did the 49ers (27-25). St. Louis gained 458 yards on offense, compared to just 341 yards for San Francisco. The fact that the Rams enjoyed so much success against the talented 49ers defense is quite a compliment. That game shows that there is some upside for the Rams offense.

    Because of the lack of offense that San Francisco generated in the first game, don't be surprised if Coach Harbaugh decides to continue starting Kaepernick over Smith.

    On the update front, USA Today is reporting that 49ers RB Kendall Hunter will be out for the year due to ankle injury he suffered in Week 12. That will force San Francisco to start playing Brandon Jacobs more to spell Frank Gore.

7) Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) at Dallas Cowboys (5-6) Even

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    Two NFC East rivals playing each other in prime time on Sunday Night Football would usually guarantee a higher ranking than No. 7 on the weekly lineup. But, this is the Philadelphia Eagles (3-8) and the Dallas Cowboys (5-6) that we talking about. Two teams with losing records trying to gain some measure of respectability.

    The Eagles have been through the wringer lately with key injuries. Due to concussions to quarterback Michael Vick and running back LeSean McCoy, both players were forced to miss the Monday Night Football game against the Carolina Panthers. Whether either one will be ready to play in the Week 13 game is very much up in the air.

    During the Monday night game, WR DeSean Jackson and DT Fletcher Cox were both injured, further depleting the Eagles. If Nick Foles gets another start, he will be handing the ball often to Bryce Brown.

    Philadelphia has lost seven straight games and the fans are calling for Andy Reid to be fired.

    Meanwhile the Cowboys lost on Thanksgiving despite a guaranteed win from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Apparently Rob didn't learn any lessons about guarantees from his brother Rex.

    Dallas is two games behind the New York Giants and is holding out hope that it can still catch the Giants. The Cowboys do have a favorable schedule, but the team has been too inconsistent in 2012 to consider it to be a realistic factor in the postseason.

6) Minnesota Vikings (6-5) +10 at Green Bay Packers (7-4)

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    One of the more interesting games in Week 13 features the Minnesota Vikings (6-5) at the Green Bay Packers (7-4). You have NFC North division rivals meeting, which suggests a very hard fought, physical game. But the Vikings are only one game behind the Packers, and an upset win could elevate the Vikings to having a shot at the postseason.

    Impacting the Vikings ability to upset the Packers is that they may be playing without two key players on offense. WR Percy Harvin is doubtful due to his severe ankle sprain and TE Kyle Rudolph suffered a concussion in Week 12. Then we have RB Adrian Peterson missing the team bus last week and fumbling twice. Hopefully for viewers Peterson will be looking to make a statement with a big game.

    Green Bay has been dealing with more than its own fair share of injuries. At least the Packers might start getting some of their key injured players back as we continue to get closer to the postseason. For starters, here is a tweet from the Packers' official Twitter account.

    MM on Jennings: We expect him to be a full participant and ready to go for MN.

    The Packers have been hurting on their offensive line, so if there is a time for Aaron Rodgers to be vulnerable to a big pass rush, this week might be the time. The Vikings have a lot at stake, so this is a very big game for their franchise. For the Packers, they have to find a way to survive and let some of their injured guys heal up.

5) New York Giants (7-4) at Washington Redskins (5-6) + 3

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    As we stated in the opening slide, the entire NFC East is facing each other in Week 13, so this is the other key game in the division. The New York Giants (7-4) travel to face the Washington Redskins (5-6) on Monday Night Football. The Redskins are a three-point home underdog.

    Robert Griffin III has led the Redskins to consecutive wins over Philadelphia and Dallas. A win over the Giants would give them an impressive three-straight game sweep of the division. If Washington can pull that off, it would be something positive that head coach Mike Shanahan can build on in trying to teach his team that they can compete with anybody.

    The game is crucial for the Redskins to try to catch the Giants for the NFC East. Everybody recalls how the Giants were 7-7 after Week 15 in 2011, only to catch fire from there and go on to win the Super Bowl. The Redskins could even their record at 6-6 with a win, so anything is possible from there. An important development for Washington is that Pierre Garcon is now back and healthy. That was a key target that RG3 was missing for a large chunk of the season.

    For the Giants, they came up with a big win in Week 12 over the Green Bay Packers to stop their November swoon. The Giants are now in position to put some distance between them and the rest of the NFC East, but the only way they do that is to win this game. Another loss would open up the division and give their rivals hope. Instead of giving the rest of the division hope, the Giants prefer to squash their playoff aspirations. A lot is riding on this game, making it one to watch.

4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) +7 at Denver Broncos (8-3)

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) travel to face the Denver Broncos in a late Sunday afternoon game in Week 13. The Bucs have been one of the surprise teams in the 2012 season, and they proved it again in Week 12 when they lost to the Atlanta Falcons by one point, 24-23.

    The Bucs aren't a team that anyone can afford to take lightly. Josh Freeman is much improved in 2012, and the addition of rookie RB Doug Martin and WR Vincent Jackson has helped to transform Tampa Bay into having a dynamic offense.

    The Bucs defense will be a liability in this game. The game is being played in the higher elevations of Denver, and the Tampa Bay defense just isn't that good overall (defense is ranked No. 30 in the NFL).

    Denver QB Peyton Manning would love to see the Broncos use their distinct home-field advantage by trying to secure one of the two-best records in the AFC. They accomplish that by winning the rest of their games.

    With Tampa Bay trying to hold off all the challengers in the NFC for the final playoff spot, this game will have the feel of another playoff game, only five weeks early on the calendar.

3) Seattle Seahawks (6-5) +5 at Chicago Bears (8-3)

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    The Seattle Seahawks (6-5) travel to face the Chicago Bears (8-3) in a key NFC game between two potential playoff teams.

    The Seahawks are coming off a tough Week 12 loss to the Miami Dolphins 24-21 and can't afford to drop another game with the current bunched up standings in the NFC.

    Chicago got Jay Cutler back from his concussion to start against the Minnesota Vikings, and Cutler led the Bears to a big win. The win was costly for the Bears, however, as they wound up with six starters getting injured in the game. The six players in question are: CB Charles Tillman (ankle), LB Lance Briggs (ankle), RB Matt Forte (ankle), WR Devin Hester (concussion), G Lance Louis (knee) and C Chris Spencer (knee).

    Out of the six players, the most serious is Louis, who the Bears have already placed on I.R. How many of the other five injured players can dress against Seattle won't be known until later in the week. If Tillman, Briggs and Forte can't play, that would place extra stress on the other Bears starters to step up and make some big plays in their absence.

    Rookie QB Russell Wilson plays much better at home than he does on the road. The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this year, with their only road win coming at Carolina. Wilson started out with two touchdowns to six interceptions in road games. But he is starting to make progress. In the last two road games, Wilson has four touchdowns compared to just one interception. 

    Both teams have playoff implications at stake, which makes this a good game to watch. 

2) Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (9-2) Even

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) are reeling after committing eight turnovers in their Week 12 loss to the Cleveland Browns. Backup quarterback Charlie Batch threw three interceptions to go along with five fumbles. Pittsburgh continued to shoot themselves in the foot by killing off one drive after another.

    Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens (9-2) were faced with a fourth down and 29 yards to go in the final two minutes of regulation to stay alive at San Diego. If they failed to convert, they would have lost the game.

    But Joe Flacco hit Ray Rice with a short swing pass, and Rice's determination, combined with some very shaky tackling by San Diego, allowed them to convert. Baltimore tied it up in regulation and then won the game in overtime.

    The Ravens defeated the Steelers in Week 11 by a field goal 13-10. Baltimore swept Pittsburgh in the 2011 regular season, so this could represent the fourth straight win over their hated rivals.

    Pittsburgh needs starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (rib and shoulder injury) back in the worst way. If Roethlisberger can't play, then it would be fair to bump this game several notches down in the ranking order. But if he can play and somehow can lead the Steelers to a win in whatever his physical condition is, it would make for a must watch game.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that it is unlikely that Roethlisberger will be physically able to play due to his limitations with the injuries. The likely starter given that news will be Charlie Batch.

    No matter who starts at quarterback for Pittsburgh, every Steelers versus Ravens game is a must-watch game. But this time, the Ravens are fighting for home-field advantage and a chance to sew up the AFC North. The Steelers are in a dog fight for the final AFC playoff slot. 

1) New Orleans Saints (5-6) +4 at Atlanta Falcons (10-1)

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    The New Orleans Saints (5-6) are the only team that has been able to defeat the Atlanta Falcons (10-1)  in the 2012 regular season. The Falcons have a chance for some revenge in this week's Thursday Night Football contest.

    The Saints (5-6) have been battling back from a terrible 0-4 start to win five of their last seven games. They beat Atlanta 31-27 in Week 10 by jumping out to a 28-17 lead at the end of three quarters, and then held on to win. Both teams were able to move the ball easily on the other team's defensive unit, and this game should be more of the same.

    The Falcons are trying to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, while the Saints desperately need to keep winning to have any kind of a shot at the final spot in the NFC.

    This game comes in as our No.1 most watchable game in Week 13 for a number of reasons. A growing rivalry between the two NFC South teams. The revenge factor for the Falcons' only loss of the year. The Saints interesting plight during the entire 2012 season. The air show that will surely be engineered by Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Finally, it is in prime time and the first game of the week on Thursday night.

    Thanks for checking out the presentation.