By Week 13, you’d expect things to be a bit clearer, as the wheat separates itself from the chaff. However, in this campaign, which at times has seemed to be more about surviving than winning, we have the following:
- Several teams in the AFC with 5-6 records vying for the final playoff spot, with teams at 4-7 (and one at 5-7) still hanging on.
- Preseason favourite Houston on a 9-game losing streak (with the 8-3 Pats coming to town), and tied for last place in the conference with Jacksonville.
- Brandon “Him Again?” Weeden making his third appearance at the top of the Browns’ QB depth chart, after injuries felled the last two guys who replaced him for sucking.
- The Panthers on a 7-game winning streak, and challenging for a division crown and a top-two seed in the NFC.
- Aaron Rodgers watching from the sidelines while his Packers haven’t won in a month.
- The 49ers fighting for their playoff lives instead of for first place.
- The Lions leading their division.
- The Falcons, losers of 5 straight, with the worst record in the NFC.
Patriots at Texans
Last week, I explained why the Texans playing at home is bad, and picked the Jags to beat them. Don’t expect the Pats to show them any mercy. Winner: Patriots
Bears at Vikings
The Bears’ run defence is so terrible it would make any RB look like an all-star, so it stands to reason that if they commit the necessary personnel to try and stop Adrian Peterson, it won’t take an all-star QB to shred them. Winner: Vikings
Jaguars at Browns
The Browns’ defence should be good enough for the team to survive the visiting Jags, provided, of course, that they can survive their own starting QB, Brandon Weeden. Winner: Browns
Buccaneers at Panthers
The Panthers must be salivating about their game against the Saints next week, but they’d better not get caught looking ahead when they face a game Tampa squad this week, or next week’s game won’t mean nearly as much. Winner: Panthers
Dolphins at Jets
Though I’m iffy about picking the Dolphins on the road, I see their pass rush as the deciding factor, especially against turnover-prone Jets’ QB Geno Smith. Winner: Dolphins
Titans at Colts
Doesn’t it seem like forever ago that the Colts looked like a Super Bowl favourite after kicking the crap out of teams like the 49ers, Seahawks, and Broncos? They’ve been outscored 108-49 in their past three games, going 1-2 in process. They had better find a way to turn things around again, or they will have a very short playoff run, assuming they make it there. Winner: Colts
Cardinals at Eagles
The Cards have put themselves in the thick of the playoff race by reeling off four straight wins, but I’m not convinced that they can keep that streak going on the road against the Eagles with Nick Foles behind centre. Winner: Eagles
Falcons at (Toronto) Bills
I’ll take a Bills’ team that does a few things right at “home” against a Falcons’ team that can’t do anything right. Winner: Bills
Rams at 49ers
The Rams ran roughshod over the Bears last week, but the ‘niners’ defence is a significant upgrade in opposition. The difference should be a harsh dose of reality. Winner: 49ers
Bengals at Chargers
With their injury-depleted defence and Jekyll and Hyde offence, I have a bad feeling that the Bengals are in for a long day against the mercurial Chargers offence. Winner: Chargers
Broncos at Chiefs
After their game at Mile High two weeks ago, I was eagerly anticipating this quick rematch. However, last week against the Chargers, we discovered that the loss of its two dominant pass rushers, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, makes the Chiefs defence very ordinary. Houston won’t play this week, and Hali is listed as “Questionable” after practising minimally this week. Ordinary defence won’t cut it against the Broncos. Winner: Broncos
Giants at Washington
Last week, I picked against the Giants and I actually got it right for a change. They should bounce back nicely this week against Washington. Winner: Giants
Saints at Seahawks
This is a huge matchup in terms of playoff ramifications The Saints currently are the number two seed in the NFC at 9-2; the only team ahead of them are these same Seahawks at 10-1. Both teams enjoy a marked home field advantage, making the number one seed of vital importance. So, do I go with the Seahawks at home, or do I envision Drew Brees capitalizing on Seattle’s depleted secondary? I think that the Seahawks will follow the blueprint laid out for them by Bill Belichick and neutralize Saints’ TE Jimmy Graham, perhaps with a heavy dose of CB Richard Sherman. That, plus the Saints playing on the road in a really tough environment should be enough. Winner: Seahawks