NFL Picks Week 13: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 2, 2015

NFL Picks Week 13: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Picks

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    David Seelig/Associated Press

    The calendar has turned to December, and that can mean only one thing.

    OK, two things. The first is that if you watch TV for more than 11 seconds you will be reminded over and over again that it's almost Christmas and if you love your family you will go spend all your money RIGHT NOW!

    The second thing—the thing of interest to football fansis this...

    The playoff push is underway.

    For teams such as the unbeaten Carolina Panthers and one-loss New England Patriots, it isn't a matter of if they will make the postseason. That's a foregone conclusion. It's about seeding. Home-field advantage. Playoff byes.

    However, a gaggle of teams are floating around the .500 mark and jockeying for the last wild-card spots in each conference. It's musical chairs with a whole lot of players and not many seats.

    And that means in some respects the playoffs have already begun for those teams.

    So, with raised stakes and holiday commercials bombing away during every break in the action, here's how the National Lead Writers and NFL Analysts at Bleacher Report expect Week 13 to play out.

Roll Call/Standings

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    There's a new sheriff in town.

    All in all, it was a good week for the gang. All but one of the writers at least hit the .500 mark, and half our panel hit double digits in prescient prognostications.

    The sheriff really isn't new. NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller has been locked in a tug-of-war with NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman for the overall top spot for much of the season.

    By virtue of a 12-4 Week 12 (best among our scribes), Miller has retaken the top spot.

    We have a playoff push all our own it seems.

    Gary Davenport: NFL Analyst 10-6 (106-70)

    Mike Freeman: NFL National Lead Writer 9-7 (109-67)

    Brad Gagnon: NFL Analyst 6-10 (103-73)

    Matt Miller: NFL National Lead Writer 12-4 (110-66)

    Ty Schalter: NFL National Lead Writer 11-5 (95-81)

    Brent Sobleski: NFL Analyst 10-6 (105-71)

    Mike Tanier: NFL National Lead Writer 9-7 (100-76)

    Sean Tomlinson: NFL Analyst 8-8 (103-73)


    Consensus: 10-6 (109-67)

Green Bay Packers (7-4) at Detroit Lions (4-7)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Pick: Green Bay Packers (6-2)

    It's a Thursday double-dip this week for the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, each of whom played on Turkey Day.

    It was a much different holiday for the two teams. The surging Lions won their third straight with a blowout win over the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Packers dropped their fourth of five, spoiling Brett Favre's Lambeau Field homecoming with a turkey of a performance against the Chicago Bears.

    The Packers offense has been all sorts of out of sync during the skid, a problem that quarterback Aaron Rodgers told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky is due to a lack of preparation:

    It goes back to what you're doing in your spare time and what you're doing with your time in the facility. Being a pro is all about making sure you're as ready as possible by the time the game hits. I think that's the important thing for guys to remember here, especially young guys.

    We're 15 games into the season, counting preseason. That's a long grind for those guys, especially the rookies. This is the time where they really got to get through that wall, and the vets -- the vets have had some [missed assignments] as well. So we've got to buckle down our preparation and make sure we're ready to play.

    Given the opposite direction these teams have been barreling in the past month, it may be a bit surprising that the Packers are such an overwhelming pick at Ford Field—especially after the Lions defeated the Packers at Lambeau a few weeks ago.

    But this is a gut-check game for the Packers, and the guess is they show up.

    Packers: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Lions: Schalter, Sobleski

New York Jets (6-5) at New York Giants (5-6)

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The Pick: New York Jets (6-2)

    The Jets are about to embark on the shortest road trip ever.

    Sunday afternoon the Jets players will be forced to endure the foreign and hostile environment of the visitors' locker rooms in their own stadium, as they battle the Giants for MetLife Stadium supremacy.

    It's also a fight between two teams that are clinging to playoff hopes. The Giants took a blow a week ago when they lost to Washington, while the Jets leveled off (at least temporarily) with a win over the Miami Dolphins.

    As Gary Myers of the New York Daily News reported, in the opinion of Giants great Lawrence Taylor this battle is over before it starts:

    “The Giants pretty much own New York. We’ve done more. We’ve got better fans and more fans than the Jets do. We’ve got four Super Bowls behind us. Until they win some Super Bowls, the conversation is over with. Like I said, the conversation is over with.”

    You either line up blue or green with no in between and the best football player who has ever played in New York is obviously true blue. “The Jets are playing the Giants," LT said. "Is there really any doubt who is the better team?"

    Not for nothing, LT, but given the state of the two teams' respective defenses, there's plenty of debate as to who has the better team in 2015.

    And in Week 13 at least, our panel thinks it's the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!

    Jets: Davenport, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Giants: Freeman, Gagnon

Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at St. Louis Rams (4-7)

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    Associated Press

    The Pick: Arizona Cardinals (8-0)

    Last year at this point in the season, the Arizona Cardinals sported the NFL's best record. Then injuries under center tore the team to pieces, resulting in a quick playoff exit.

    Well, the Redbirds don't have the league's best record in 2015, but they are atop the NFC West.

    And once again the injury bug has hit...hard.

    However, Vince Marotta of ArizonaSports.com believes the Cardinals are much better equipped to handle the loss of running back Chris Johnson than last year's quarterback carnage:

    It’s a blow for the Cardinals, no doubt. Johnson has been a key cog in a much-improved running game that ranks 12th in the NFL, averaging 112.5 yards per game. He’s the league’s fourth-leading rusher with 814 yards. Not bad for a guy who was picked up on an incentive-laden deal midway through training camp in August.

    According to reports, Johnson is expected to miss six to eight weeks with the injury.

    It hurts, no doubt. But the Cardinals will be alright.

    Johnson’s absence will mean a bigger workload for rookie David Johnson, who outside of a few fumbles, has been outstanding this season. Andre Ellington, who suffered a turf toe injury Sunday against San Francisco, may be able to play soon. The roster also features third-year back Stepfan Taylor and the Cardinals could summon Kerwynn Williams from the practice squad. Williams saw action late last season and had Arizona’s only 100-yard rushing game of 2014 when he rumbled for 100 yards on 19 carries in an early-December win over Kansas City.

    The fact that backup Andre Ellington is battling turf toe certainly doesn't help, but against a reeling Rams team in Week 13, our experts don't seem to think it's going to matter.

    Cardinals: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Rams: The Rams did beat Arizona in Phoenix earlier this season. But still, this team is in free-fall.

Atlanta Falcons (6-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)

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    David Goldman/Associated Press

    The Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4) *Coin Flip

    The Atlanta Falcons, once upon a time, were 5-0.

    Really. They were. You can look it up and everything.

    The Falcons were the talk of the NFC South. It was Atlanta, and not the still-undefeated Panthers, who pundits were gushing over as a team that could be poised to lock up home-field advantage in the NFC.

    Of course, that all seems silly now. Since that hot start the Falcons have dropped five of six, including a home loss in Week 12 to the Minnesota Vikings.

    Turnovers have killed the Falcons during that faceplant, with quarterback Matt Ryan responsible for the majority of them—including more than one back-breaking red-zone interception.

    Ryan admitted to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure that his play has to improve:

    I understand, obviously from a fan's perspective, we need to give them something to cheer about, and that comes from playing well. It comes from the fact that we haven't been scoring points the way that we're capable of. [We're] trying to manufacture something to make us score points, to get the spark going.

    I've said it a number of times: I think that playing quarterback, it's not always what you do, sometimes it's what you don't do. ... You don't take a forced shot that you shouldn't take. Those kinds of things have hurt us. I've got to eliminate that and give us a better chance.

    I know that I'm capable of doing it, and I believe that I'm going to do it every time we step onto the field. ... You have to believe in your ability. You have to believe in the guys around you. And I do. And I expect every time I go onto the field to play at a really high level and give us a winning performance. I haven't done that the last couple weeks, but it's in there. I'm hell-bent on doing everything that I can to ensure that happens this week.

    Unfortunately for Ryan, half our writers aren't buying that the Falcons will right the ship this week against a Tampa team that had won three of four before falling to the Colts a week ago—including a Week 8 win over the Falcons in overtime.

    Neither is the infallible wisdom of the Quarter of Knowledge.

    Approximate retail value: 25 cents.

    Falcons: Freeman, Miller, Schalter, Tanier

    Buccaneers: Davenport, Gagnon, Sobleski, Tomlinson

Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (8-3)

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    The Pick: Minnesota Vikings (6-2)

    Heading into the 2015 season, the Minnesota Vikings were a trendy pick in many circles as a team ready to take the "next step" and vie for a playoff spot in 2015.

    Well, the Vikings haven't disappointed, but Elliot Harrison of NFL.com feels they still aren't getting the respect they deserve after defeating the reeling Atlanta Falcons in Week 12:

    People can talk all they want about Carolina not getting respect, but here are the Vikings at 8-3. Why not talk about these guys? Adrian Peterson made Hamburger Helper out of the Falcons' meaty run defense, while the Vikings' D made Matt Ryan appear to be, well, Matt Ryan. The inconsistent quarterback was ineffective throughout, including on an all-important pick by the ageless Terence Newman in the end zone. Love T-New.

    I'll stick to calling him Terence Newman. I don't know him well enough to roll out "T-New."

    The Vikings will have a chance to earn some of that respect Sunday. Not only do they host the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks, but said Seahawks are flying high. After a 2-4 start, the Seahawks have reeled off four wins in five games.

    Of course, only one of those games was against a team that's had the success the Vikings have enjoyed in 2015. And in that game the Seahawks fell to the NFC West-leading Cardinals.

    The Vikings had a similar chance to earn a statement win at home two weeks ago, only to be manhandled by the Green Bay Packers.

    This time our experts believe the Vikings will make a statement. 

    Seahawks: Freeman, Tanier

    Vikings: Davenport, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tomlinson

Houston Texans (6-5) at Buffalo Bills (5-6)

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    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    The Pick: Houston Texans (4-4) *Coin Flip

    Not too long ago, the Houston Texans were dead. Flowers were sent. A eulogy given. 2015 was over. Done.

    The problem is, someone forgot to tell the Texans.

    Over the past month, the Texans have reeled off four wins in a row to climb into a first-place tie in the AFC South.

    Tania Ganguli of ESPN.com wrote recently that she thinks that winning streak may last a fair bit longer. Like the rest of the regular season. And it all begins Sunday in Buffalo:

    Looking at the Bills' roster and coaching staff, one would assume this is a team with an elite pass rush. In fact, Buffalo's pass rush has been surprisingly lacking. Its defense ranks 30th in sacks per pass attempt and Buffalo has allowed 255 passing yards per game, which ranks 22nd in the league. The weather can be a factor playing up there. But according to AccuWeather, Buffalo is expected to be nine degrees warmer than its Dec. 6 average this year -- the forecast calls for a high of 48 on Sunday. I can see the Texans' offense having success here.

    A nine-game winning streak to close the year might be pushing it.

    But half our scribes and one mystical quarter agree that this week, the Texans will ride their recent defensive dominance to another win.

    Texans: Davenport, Miller, Sobleski, Tomlinson

    Bills: Freeman, Gagnon, Schalter, Tanier

Baltimore Ravens (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Pick: Miami Dolphins (5-3)

    For the Miami Dolphins and Baltimore Ravens, 2015 has not been kind.

    Actually, that's an understatement. The Ravens have fallen short in more close games in one season than some teams do in five. The offense has been decimated by injuries. Top wide receiver. Top running back. Starting quarterback. Toast, toast and toast.

    Things haven't gone one bit better for the Dolphins, even if they've been healthier. Head coach Joe Philbin was fired earlier this year after a Week 4 loss to the Jets. So was defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

    And after the Dolphins once again came up short against the Jets in Week 12, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was also shown the door.

    According to Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel, part of the reason Miami let Lazor go was a lack of balance on offense:

    Their running backs have 19 carries over the past two games. The Dolphins have passed 67.6 of their plays this year — the highest rate in the league. That imbalance is one shortcut to why Bill Lazor was fired Monday as offensive coordinator.

    There are others. Like the shrinking point total. Like the fact Ryan Tannehill doesn't have full authority to audible — a point of behind-the-scenes contention for two seasons. There's also Campbell referring to his offense as "fragile" and "anemic" in the past two days, which is right and true and not exactly backing the leader of it.

    The irony of this? The Dolphins fired an offensive coordinator for throwing too much just before facing a Baltimore team that possesses one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

    Miami wins a game that both teams would be better served losing.

    Ravens: Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier

    Dolphins: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Tomlinson

Cincinnati Bengals (9-2) at Cleveland Browns (2-9)

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Pick: Cincinnati Bengals (8-0)

    Last season, three of the AFC North's four teams advanced to the postseason. The race for the division title came down to the final Sunday of the regular season.

    This year, the North may still place two teams in the playoffs. But as Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com wrote, the division title is all but a done deal before the first snowfall of the winter in the Queen City:

    With Pittsburgh losing to Seattle on Sunday night the Bengals now lead the AFC North race by three games with five to play.

    The Bengals can not clinch the division title this weekend, though. Even if Steelers lose at Indianapolis and Bengals win in Cleveland tiebreakers would still keep Pittsburgh’s faint hopes alive over the final four games.

    Regardless of the results this weekend, however, the Bengals can clinch the North and a fifth consecutive playoff berth with a victory against the Steelers on Dec. 13 at Paul Brown Stadium.

    In the bigger picture of a chase for a first-round bye the Bengals are tied with Denver (9-2), one game behind New England (10-1) after the Broncos overtime win late Sunday. All signs point toward the game at Invesco Field in Week 16 determining who ends up with a first-round bye between the two teams barring a Patriots collapse.

    Of course, the Cleveland Browns could gum things up quite nicely with a win over the Bengals Sunday.

    And Elvis could ride into the stadium on a unicorn to sing the national anthem.

    And Donald Trump could say something rational.

    Actually, a Cleveland win might be the least likely to happen of that trio.

    Bengals: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Browns: I wonder how high a draft pick the Browns will get to screw up in 2016?

Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (2-9)

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    The Pick: Jacksonville Jaguars (5-3)

    Some NFL games are must-see affairs. Last Sunday night's win by the Denver Broncos over the New England Patriots was a snowy thriller that riveted viewers from beginning to end.

    Then there's Sunday's tilt between the Jaguars and Titans, a duel between doormats that could be DVR'd and used to treat sleep disorders.

    Don't laugh. If you saw the first meeting between the two teams a few weeks ago, then you know that it isn't funny.

    These two squads rank among the four worst in the NFL, per the power rankings of Elliot Harrison of NFL.com.

    The Jags check in at No. 29 after falling to the San Diego Chargers last week:

    If the Jaguars are ever going to compete for a playoff spot, then they have to win games like Sunday's. The Chargers limped into Jacksonville with the worst record in pro football, against a team that is in its first division title race since 2007. With the way the Texans are playing -- and, somewhat surprisingly, the Colts -- Gus Bradley can kiss his postseason dreams goodbye now. The defense simply can't get stops. And while Blake Bortles puts up nice fantasy numbers, turnovers = costly.

    The Titans? Worse still at No. 31:

    The Titans' pass defense -- ranked third going into Week 12 -- couldn't hold the fort in soggy Nashville on Sunday, leaving this team in position to land the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Not that anyone is desirous of another cruddy record. The good news is the team found its quarterback of the future, particularly important considering the upcoming college marketplace is devoid of franchise QBs. #positiveenergey #PowerRankings

    There should be some sort of law against gambling on this game. Either that or an immediate intervention.

    Five writers picked the Jags. That's two more than the number of people who care even a little bit.

    Jaguars: Davenport, Freeman, Miller, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Titans: Gagnon, Schalter, Sobleski

San Francisco 49ers (3-8) at Chicago Bears (5-6)

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The Pick: Chicago Bears (8-0)

    This game would have been a real barnburner—in 1985.

    Joking aside, the Bears aren't that bad in 2015, either. They're certainly not as bad as they looked at the start of the year.

    And not only did Chicago get the rarest of rarities last week (a win at Lambeau Field), but in doing so they rained all over Favreapalooza.

    You know that felt sweet for the Bears.

    And as Bleacher Report NFL Analyst Brent Sobleski wrote, while head coach John Fox and quarterback Jay Cutler have gotten much of the credit for the team's turnaround, they aren't the biggest surprises this season:

    The Chicago Bears own the league's second-best pass defense. This may be a little shocking to some since the Bears' secondary features names like Tracy Porter, Bryce Callahan, Chris Prosinski and Adrian Amos. Outside of last year's first-round pick, Kyle Fuller, this isn't the type of secondary that strikes fear in opposing offenses. Yet, the group continues to play at a very high level. Against the hated Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving, the Bears held quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 202 passing yards. The secondary isn't simply playing strong fundamental football, the pass rush continues to improve as well. Rodgers was sacked twice, but he was also hit six more times. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young also deserve some credit for the team's vastly improved pass defense.

    In short, Da Bears might just be better than we gave them credit for in 2015.

    The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, are more or less exactly as bad as we expected them to be in 2015.

    Maybe worse.

    49ers: Two words. Blaine Gabbert.

    Bears: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

Denver Broncos (9-2) at San Diego Chargers (3-8)

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    The Pick: Denver Broncos (8-0)

    The Denver Broncos have an interesting problem on their hands.

    Of course, it's a problem most NFL teams would kill to have—especially given that it was borne of the Broncos becoming the first team to defeat the New England Patriots this year.

    And in downing the Pats, Brock Osweiler has created what was once unthinkable: a quarterback controversy—with Peyton Manning.

    And as Lindsay Jones of USA Today wrote, it's possible we may well have seen the end of the Manning era in the Mile High City:

    With the way the young quarterback, Brock Osweiler is playing, it may never be Manning’s team again.

    “He’s the biggest competitor, this has to be killing him,” cornerback Chris Harris told USA TODAY Sports.

    Of course, the Broncos – both players and coaches - won’t say that the Broncos now belong to Osweiler, not while Manning continues to rehab from the torn plantar fascia in his left foot, but what is indisputable now is that the Broncos are a better team with the 25-year-old Osweiler than they were with 39-year-old ailing Manning.

    Given Denver's stout defense and rediscovered run game, the Broncos could beat the Chargers this week with Archie Manning at quarterback.

    But with every game Osweiler wins, it becomes less and less likely we're going to see the last name "Manning" on the playing field at quarterback in Denver anytime soon.

    Broncos: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Chargers: The Chargers may have had a better shot in this game if Manning was playing. Seriously.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at Oakland Raiders (5-6)

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    The Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (6-2)

    The Kansas City Chiefs have been all about streaking in 2015.

    After a Week 1 win, they proceeded to drop five games in a row. Whammo. Season over. See you next year.

    That is, until the Chiefs proceeded to reel off five wins in a row, culminating in last week's victory over the Buffalo Bills.

    And as Kenneth Arthur of Rolling Stone wrote, this latest streak may not be ending anytime soon:

    Kansas City now enters the home stretch of the season with a real shot at finishing 11-5.

    Over the next five games, the Chiefs play the Oakland Raiders twice, the San Diego Chargers, the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns. None of them have a winning record. While it will be difficult for KC to catch the 9-2 Broncos, there isn't another team in the AFC wild card race that looks nearly as deadly. It could set them up with a first-round playoff game against the winner of the AFC South, which could very well be a team that is .500 or worse. At that point, there wouldn't be a team in the entire AFC – from New England to Cincinnati – that would want to face Kansas City.

    By then, how they started will have absolutely no meaning at all. Only how they finish. Let's not even bother to call it a comeback.

    The Raiders are a much-improved team, but the Chiefs are the hottest squad in the league not based in Charlotte.

    Long live the streak!

    Chiefs: Davenport, Freeman, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Raiders: Gagnon, Miller

Carolina Panthers (11-0) at New Orleans Saints (4-7)

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    The Pick: Carolina Panthers (8-0)

    And then there was one.

    Thanks to the Carolina Panthers' 33-14 pasting of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving and the Broncos' win over New England last Sunday night, only one NFL team still has a goose egg in the loss column.

    And as it often does with an undefeated team this late in the season, talk has shifted from the Panthers in the playoffs to a more historic pursuit.

    Can the Panthers become the third NFL team (and first NFC team) to run the table in the regular season?

    Much of the Panthers' success this year can be placed at the feet of quarterback Cam Newton, who is now the front-runner to be named the league's MVP. However, Newton told David Newton of ESPN.com he isn't interested in talk of 16-0:

    I could care less. I know it's only ink just for the media. We can't make it bigger than what it is. Nothing's changed as for our preparation. It's all about becoming 1-0 by the end of Sunday. ...

    We have a chance to extend our season and record to 12 games. That's important for us. And that's the only thing that's really on my mind, and I think I speak for the masses when I say we're not necessarily trying to get lured in by what others may think.

    We're always reminded by what coach says, [and that] is to become 12-0 first.

    The panel here at Bleacher Report is unanimous in its belief the Panthers will do just that against a Saints squad that was held out of the end zone for the first time since 2005 last week.

    Panthers: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

    Saints: Much like Peyton Manning in Denver, the clock may be ticking on Drew Brees' days in the Big Easy.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) at New England Patriots (10-1)

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Pick: New England Patriots (8-0)

    Tom Brady is mad.

    Stop giggling.

    Really. After the Patriots fell at Denver last week, Brady told WEEI Radio (h/t Dan Hanzus of NFL.com) that he was one angry golden boy:

    It was a very hard loss. I don't think I've ever been so visibly pissed off after a loss. And I think everyone felt the same way. Hopefully we can use it as motivation going forward. Like I said, there's things that we could have done better. And it's certainly not to leave it up to a call here or a call there or one player. There's things across the board that we need to do a better job of and we can do a better job of. And that's what the focus is going to be this week. ...

    I just think the circumstances of the game, the circumstances of the situation that we were in with winning by (14 points), having a good lead there in the fourth quarter, having a couple of third downs called back -- huge third downs that we made -- called back by penalty, losing a player like Gronk in the fourth quarter, fighting back like we did to get to overtime. Then I thought the first play of the overtime, the guy hooked (Brandon LaFell) and they didn't call that. And then they got the ball and scored the touchdown.

    How it all played out, I guess I was just pretty pissed off, at obviously the final outcome, just how the last 20 minutes of the game played out.

    Whether you think it's adorable to think about Mr. Bundchen with his undies in a bunch, or you're put off by the idea of the quarterback for a 10-1 team publicly whining about one loss, there's one thing that cannot be denied—something that every member of our panel agrees on.

    This is not a good week to be New England's opponent.

    Eagles: Chip Kelly gets personnel control. Eagles faceplant. Chip totally doesn't talk to USC about its coaching vacancy. Oh yeah, all is well in Philly.

    Patriots: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tanier, Tomlinson

Indianapolis Colts (6-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5)

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    The Pick: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-1)

    The Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts are among the many NFL teams that have little margin for error. The Colts are tied for first place in a bad AFC South. The Steelers are battling for a wild-card spot.

    The two squads share something else in common: Both have played much of the season without their starting quarterback.

    For the Colts it's actually been a blessing. While Andrew Luck has struggled in 2015, 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck is undefeated in four starts.

    The Steelers haven't fared as well without Ben Roethlisberger, who self-reported concussion symptoms late in last week's 39-30 loss at Seattle.

    However, as ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler wrote, the Steelers are now classifying the event as a migraine:

    Roethlisberger said he underwent concussion testing at the team's facility after suffering a traumatic ocular migraine late in Sunday's loss to the Seahawks. Roethlisberger, making his weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, said he believes he's concussion-free and expects to play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. ...

    "I have played through many injuries, but the brain is not an injury you want to play with," Roethlisberger said Tuesday. "When you're done, you want to be a husband or father. And if I have these brain injuries, it's not worth it."

    Roethlisberger said he felt like he was looking through water after coming off the field but the vision issues disappeared about 30 minutes after the game. Roethlisberger said he switched helmets about seven years ago and hasn't had a concussion since doing that.

    Frankly, the Colts would probably have a better shot in this game if Roethlisberger was 100 percent.

    It seems like every time Big Ben takes the field banged up, his opponent pays the price.

    And our panel apparently doesn't think this week will be any different.

    Colts: Tanier

    Steelers: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tomlinson

Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Washington Redskins (5-6)

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    The Pick: Washington Redskins (7-1)

    If you had said at the beginning of the season Week 13's Monday night tilt would feature the NFC East leader against a three-win dumpster fire, not too many people would have argued.

    They also would have flip-flopped the teams.

    However, it's Washington that sits atop the NFC Least with a sterling 5-6 record after beating the Giants last week.

    Quarterback Kirk Cousins wasn't exactly crowing about the win afterward, but he told Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post the team is heading toward where it wants to be:

    Big win, another step in the right direction. I never feel like one game or one performance does anything. It’s a constant accumulation of experiences, knowledge and performances that start to build your capabilities and your reputation as an NFL quarterback. Today was another step in the right direction, and there’s many, many steps left to go.

    Say what you will about the Redskins or the "division" they play in, but the team is 5-1 at FedEx Field this season.

    And that bodes well against a Cowboys team that will have to turn back to Matt Cassel at quarterback after Tony Romo broke his collarbone again on Thanksgiving.

    That sobbing sound you hear is coming from Dallas fans.

    Cowboys: Tanier

    Redskins: Davenport, Freeman, Gagnon, Miller, Schalter, Sobleski, Tomlinson