By Dan Durkin-
(CBS) Entering Week 13, 24 teams remain in or within one game of a playoff bid. Only two teams – Denver and Seattle – can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, but a variety of factors are at play.
Here’s my take on how this weekend’s action plays out.
(Home team in all CAPS)
Game of the Week: SEAHAWKS 27, Saints 24 – Monday Night 7:40 PM
It’s a potential NFC Championship preview – venue and all – as the Saints go marching in to Seattle. The Seahawks are an entirely different beast at home, as are the Saints outside of New Orleans. Excellent matchup between the the Saints high-octane passing offense and the physical Seahawks secondary. The Saints passing attack is predicated on matchups and timing, but the Seahawks have personnel to match and will challenge their releases off the line. The key to this game will be ball security and controlling the clock, which makes me lean towards Seattle.
COLTS 27, Titans 24 – Noon
The Colts are a tough team to figure out. They’ve beaten three of the league’s best – San Francisco, Seattle, and Denver – yet over the past three weeks, they’ve been drubbed by the Rams and Cardinals, and two weeks ago needed a furious second-half comeback to beat this week’s opponent, Tennessee. The Colts have been plagued by slow starts, a pedestrian running game, and third down defense. Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been efficient and error free over his last three games, but the Colts will drop the Titans to 0-4 in the AFC South.
BROWNS 20, Jaguars 13 – Noon
It’s the 2011 first round didn’t fix our quarterback quandary bowl. Both of these teams have finally realized that Brandon Weeden and Blaine Gabbert aren’t NFL starters, but an injury has forced Weeden back under center for the Browns. Cleveland’s young defense is loaded with young talent and should have no problem bottling up the Jags.
PANTHERS 31, Bucs 20 – Noon
Winners of seven straight, the Panthers look to keep their hot streak alive against the resurgent Bucs. The turnaround in Tampa may be to the chagrin of Bucs fans, who are left to wonder if Greg Schiano has saved his job. Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon is the first rookie in NFL history to throw a touchdown in his first eight starts and has 10 over his last six games. Alas, the Panthers defense is the league’s best.
Bears 30, VIKINGS 27 – Noon
The Bears make their final trip to the infamous “roller dome” to face the Vikings. Over the past six games, the Bears have given up 1,108 rushing yards, which is a bad trend heading into a matchup against Adrian Peterson. Once the Vikings reach 31 rushing yards, the Bears defense will have given up more than they did during the 2012 season. Luckily for the Bears, Christian Ponder is the Vikings quarterback and their defense is even worse and will give way to the Bears offense.
EAGLES 34, Cardinals 31 – Noon
Two of the league’s hottest teams and quarterbacks face off in Philadelphia. Nick Foles is 4-1 since taking over as the Eagles starter and has yet to throw an interception this season. Carson Palmer became the first quarterback in Cardinals history to put up 300 yards while completing 70% of his passes and posting a 110+ passer efficiency rating. The Eagles probably wish this game was in Glendale, as they’ve been better on the road, but the Cardinals have road woes. Entertaining game with playoff implications, I like the Eagles in a barn burner.
Dolphins 20, JETS 17 – Noon
If bad NFL offense is your thing, this is must-see television. Still scratching my head at how the Jets beat the Saints. Rookie Geno Smith is carrying the mantle of Jets quarterbacking, completing a mere 25 passes in the month of November, while leading the league with 18 interceptions. The Dolphins can’t stop the run, but the Jets may be without Chris Ivory. Shockingly, this game has AFC Wild Card implications. I’m giving the edge to the Dolphins who should be able to move the ball through the air.
Patriots 31, TEXANS 20 – Noon
Prior to the season, this had the appearance of a matchup between two playoff teams. Twelve weeks into the season and the Patriots are vying for the AFC’s No.1 seed, while the Texans are vying for the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Texans are mired in a franchise record nine-game losing streak and it will be ten after this weekend. The Patriots on the other hand, are flying high after pulling off an improbable win last week against the Broncos in which they trailed 24-0. This game will be over after the first quarter.
Falcons 23, BILLS 20 – 3:05 PM
The Falcons are trending towards inverting their record from 2012. Injuries have played a part, but this team had – and has – glaring issues along the offensive line. Now, their run defense can’t stop anybody. They’ve given up 100+ in nine straight games, twice surrendering over 200+ during that stretch. The Bills average a league-high 33 rushing attempts per game, so they will creatively attack the Falcons. For no logical reason other than the NFL being an unpredictable league, I like the Falcons to pull off an upset on the road.
49ERS 27, Rams 17 – 3:05 PM
The last time these two teams met it was a one-sided affair, in which the 49ers held the rams to .9 yards per carry. No, that’s not a typo. Quite a bit has changed since then, the Rams lost quarterback Sam Bradford, but have found a running game and figured out how to properly use rookie Tavon Austin’s game-breaking speed in space. With Michael Crabtree set to make his season debut, Colin Kaepernick is getting one of his favorite targets back. I believe in the Rams pass rush and team speed, but not much beyond that.
Broncos 31, CHIEFS 23 – 3:25 PM
Two weeks ago, the Broncos exposed the Chiefs for what they are, a team with a talented defense that benefitted from a schedule as soft as a feather pillow. Losers of two straight, the Chiefs have given up 68 points and haven’t had a sack from their defensive line since Week 9. This week, the Chiefs will be playing without Justin Houston and a hobbled Tamba Hali. The Broncos will rebound from their disappointing loss against the Pats and wrap up the AFC West.
CHARGERS 34, Bengals 30- 3:25 PM
The Chargers may have salvaged their season last week, pulling off a last-minute win in Kansas City. Quarterback Philip Rivers remains red hot, but the defense? Not so much. The Chargers are giving up nearly 400 yards per game, and almost 30 points over their last four. For the Bengals, the song remains the same, Andy Dalton is a consistently inconsistent quarterback. Dalton has been careless with the ball and will give a few away in this shootout.
Giants 27, REDSKINS 24 – 7:30 PM
The end of the season can’t come soon enough for both of these teams. The Giants overcame their wretched start to the season, but remain a severely flawed team. Eli Manning is trending towards his worst season since his rookie year, and they’ve cycled through six different running backs and offensive line combinations. The Redskins defense can’t stop anyone, and Robert Griffin III’s season has been largely forgettable. I expect the Giants to be less bad and keep the Redskins winless in the division.
Follow Dan on Twitter: @djdurkin
Season Record: 114-64