Damn I got so close to predicting the Vikings taking a win over the Packers last week, but hey, we saw the first and probably the last tie of the season as neither side could get the winning score in overtime. To be honest, the Packers should count themselves lucky that Matt Flynn managed to get them into overtime in the first place after Tolzien went out with an injury. I really can’t believe there’s been this many Quarterback injuries this season when all the league seems to do these days is protect the passer, protect the passer some more and then protect the passer even more than that. Just take a look at Drew Brees, you can’t hit that man anywhere without a personal foul being called. It’s a nightmare for defensive players across the board. Anyway, week 12 saw some other interesting matches and a couple of upsets too. The San Diego Chargers beat AFC West rivals Kansas City in a game that was really neck and neck all day. The Chargers got back into the game far too easily after Justin Houston AND Tamba Hali went out with injuries, those are two very big blows for the Chiefs indeed. What I found to be another somewhat surprising victory was the Jags over the Houston Texans; it was a low-scoring affair that left much to be desired by this ever-slipping Houston side. Now, I’m just gonna throw this out there, but the Carolina Panthers are lucky to be continuing their winning streak. They beat the Dolphins last Sunday with seconds to spare. I think every Miami fan will be ruing that missed field goal earlier in the match. Saying that, I had almost predicted the Titans – Raiders match-up wrong until the last seconds too so that makes two games going right down to the wire with the away side coming out victorious. Go figure. I was very surprised at the Colts’ performance, or lack thereof, it seems even Andrew Luck couldn’t bring them back from the brink this time and ended with the Colts being torn apart by the Cardinals with ease really. Quite the opposite can be said for Tom Brady and company who stormed back in the second half after being 24 points down to take the Broncos to overtime and actually secure a win, that just shows you, never count the Patriots out – I made a mistake on that one. But we move forward and head into week 13 and its Thanksgiving week! That means extra Football! Now let’s take a look at those match-ups.
Bye Weeks: No team on bye
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
Now, I know I said that Green Bay were going to lose last week and they sure did come close to it but that was because Scott Tolzien was the Quarterback. Matt Flynn will take over with Tolzien out and I honestly believe that it could start to turn the tide for them. We all saw how Flynn got the Packers back into the game last Sunday, he threw 218 yards and a TD to help them come back from a 16 point deficit. This stands to reason that if he starts this week which I presume he will then the Packers will be able to play a whole lot better offensively from the beginning of the game against a Detroit defence which is porous to say the least. The Lions have been allowing just over 25 points and 364 yards per game on average. The only way they’ve been winning is by simply out-scoring their opponents with their ridiculous passing game combos. However, the passing game went all kinds of wrong for Matthew Stafford last week as he threw 4 interceptions against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He also managed 297 yards and 3 TDs though, he can take some solace in that. I don’t see him playing that badly again all year let alone against Green Bay but I still don’t think that Detroit will be winning here.
Prediction: Packers 27 – 23 Lions
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
Much to the Raiders’ dismay they lost last week against Tennessee, but I’ve got to say overall they played well in what started off as a very close game and once again Matt McGloin shone at Quarterback. McGloin had 260 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception on the day. For a man that has only made two starts in the NFL I will happily take those statistics. His match-up this week could prove tougher though as he faces Monte Kiffin’s defence of spontaneity. In all fairness to the Cowboys they did shut down Victor Cruz last week, holding him to a measly 27 yards. Orlando Scandrick did a very good job in man-to-man coverage and I would expect to see more of that to come, most likely against Rod Streater this week. Another thing to take away from the Cowboys-Giants game was that Tony Romo didn’t choke; he led his offence to the opposing half and as the seconds ticked down Dan Bailey put the winning field goal through the uprights. I really can’t imagine him choking here either, the Raiders have a low-middle defence at best as they allow 24.5 points and 357.2 yards per game. Compare that to the Dallas offence, which scores 27.1 points per game and gains 326.3 yards, I believe we’ve found our winner.
Prediction: Raiders 20 – 24 Cowboys
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
This should be the most exciting game this Thanksgiving Thursday, an AFC North rivalry with both teams eager to get back to .500 on the season (they both currently sit at a 5-6 record) Not only that they both have good defences, ranked 13th and 10th respectively so I would expect this to be a classic bruiser brawl and a not particularly high scorer. Justin Tucker might just be needed to make some more field goals which he’s been absolutely on fire with lately, kicking four against the New York Jets last week. As for the offence, the Ravens are getting better. You can see it. There’s a little bit more belief in them now after notching a couple more wins and nothing is going to help Flacco’s confidence like throwing a 66-yard pass to Jacoby Jones for a touchdown. Though the Ravens did have to rely on their defence still, who only allowed the Jets to complete once on 3rd down from 12 attempts. Now that’s a damn impressive stat. As for the Steelers they beat the Browns last week so why not do an AFC North divisional double right? If Big Ben and Antonio Brown can link-up like they did last Sunday they might just be able to pull it off.
Prediction: Steelers 13 – 17 Ravens
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
I must admit that Ryan Fitzpatrick had a great game against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday as he threw for 320 yards, 2 touchdowns(one of which being the late winner of course) and didn’t record a single interception. Perhaps I’ve been too harsh on the Tennessee back-up in recent weeks, flagging his inconsistencies as the weakness of the Titans. However, it is obviously going to take more than one game to completely overhaul my opinion of him. I’ll tell you what, if he leads the Titans to victory against the Colts this week I promise I won’t berate him unless it is really necessary. Deal? Good. I’m not really sure what’s happened to the Colts by the way, yes they’re still divisional leaders but are they really in that strong a position? They’ve won one of their last three games, admittedly that win came against the Titans but in those two losses they have been well and truly destroyed. Maybe it’s the run game. I mean, where the hell is it? Moreover, where’s Trent Richardson? It’s like the Colts have somehow broken him. I’m not sure about this one, I want to favour the Colts especially as they’re at home but you know what, I’m going to take a stab and say Tennessee finish what they started a couple of weeks ago.
Prediction: Titans 27 – 24 Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
I’m aware that I’ve basically been counting Jacksonville out of their games most weeks but can you really blame me? They secured their second win of the 2013 season against a shell of what the Houston Texans were coming into this year. And this Sunday they face the Cleveland Browns who may or may not have Jason Campbell fit in time. Of course if he can’t play then up Brandon Weeden will step and the Jags may just grab a 3rd win out of 4 games in Ohio. Or it’s possible that even Weeden can pick holes in this Jaguar defence that is allowing nearly 30 points per game. Honestly, I would love to see the Jaguars notch another win, you’ve gotta root for the underdog haven’t you? I do think this will be a game of which Quarterback makes the least mistakes mind you. Having said that, if Maurice Jones-Drew can replicate his running performance against this Browns defence the Jags might be able to take it anyway. He gained 84 yards and a touchdown against the Texans, not bad for a running back that hasn’t made the headlines too often of late.
Prediction: Jaguars 14 – 20 Browns
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Is this the point where I start eating my hat? The Carolina Panthers are on a 7 winning streak and despite any amount of odds seem near enough unstoppable. Even when they play badly they continue to win. Cam Newton had 174 yards, a TD and an interception on the day. However, he was also the leading rusher for the Panthers, which says something about the performance of their actual running backs. Those stats don’t seem horrific right? They are when you remember that Newton had 3 TDs against the Pats and no interceptions. But a win is a win and the Panthers keep pouncing. They may even be top of the NFC South come the end of this week. But first, the Buccaneers stand in their way. 3 wins on the trot after having not a one, not bad going for rookie QB Mike Glennon and the Tampa offence. Despite injuries to key players they are stepping up and taking it to their opposition. Even the defence is shaping up, it recorded 4 picks against the Lions last week as well as holding them to 0 points in the entire 4th quarter. Things are getting better up in Tampa Bay and I wouldn’t put this one out of their reach.
Prediction: Buccaneers 17 – 21 Panthers
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Well, it seems now that Minnesota are just playing for their draft pick. It’ll be nigh on impossible for them to come back to any sort of decent position especially after a tie against Green Bay last Sunday. But the tie might give them some inspiration against the Bears this week. After all, Adrian Peterson ran rampant, gaining 146 yards and a touchdown. That is always a good sign and is something they can take into the next game with a bit of hope. As well as hope that Peterson doesn’t fumble too, of course. I think that at this stage of the season the Bears will be too good for the Vikings, even without Jay Cutler at Quarterback their offence is still stringing together nicely. Josh McCown had 352 yards and 2 touchdowns last week, he had an interception also, but if you take that away and he puts in a similar performance then that should put any worry of a Vikings win to bed.
Prediction: Bears 27 – 17 Vikings
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
I’m not really sure I need to clarify anything about this game. The Texans have lost 9 games in a row and are rapidly becoming one of the worst teams if not the worst team in the NFL. They have lost all sense of direction and now have players such as Andre Johnson coming out and saying that they “suck”. Which, let’s be honest here, is true. They do suck right now. I’m not going to make excuses for them as every team has to deal with injuries and there have been plenty of other teams this season that have had to use a replacement Quarterback. Do you see them losing 9 in a row? No. The Patriots stormed back last Sunday to beat the Denver Broncos, that is a true mark of the quality of Tom Brady and everyone at that organisation. Brady had 344 yards off of 34 completions as well as 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Expect another great performance here.
Prediction: Patriots 31 – 13 Texans
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
This game should be quite an entertaining one, actually. I think it’ll show the flaws in Chip Kelly’s offence because the Cardinals are strong on defence and they really shouldn’t be messed with. I mean, they’re up to a 7-4 record now. I’m sure plenty of people doubted the capability of Carson Palmer and the Cardinals but through tough defence and persevering offensive work they’ve done quite well so far this season. Palmer had 314 yards and 2 TDs while Mendenhall and Ellington combined for 104 yards and a TD to blitz the Colts last Sunday. They amassed 434 yards of total offence. See what I mean about perseverance eh? I think they could pull off more of the same against the Eagles because Philadelphia have been allowing nearly 420 yards per game, though only 23.6 points. The Eagles will be fresh off the bye and raring to go, no doubt Nick Foles will be wanting to show off more of his sudden apparent quality. Let’s see him throw 7 TDs again this week. I do see this possibly becoming a shootout which will be perfect for him to throw more of those great deep passes mind you.
Prediction: Cardinals: 27 – 23 Eagles
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Two AFC East rivals match up here to try and attain some ground against a divisional opponent this Sunday. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from defeats, especially the New York Jets who have been no less than awful in the past couple of weeks. Maybe a divisional game will inspire them to greater things. I doubt it, but it could happen. Geno Smith had 127 yards, 2 interceptions and a fumble against the Ravens. If he plays like that again, then you know this is going to be a straight-up win for the Miami Dolphins. It’s a shame because Smith has shown moments of greatness in his first season but he has made far, far too many mistakes in his short career. The Dolphins defence will take advantage of this as Cameron Wake and company will be out of divisional blood and I think they might just get it. Geno is going to be seeing a lot of the floor this Sunday.
Prediction: Dolphins 24 – 10 Jets
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills
The Atlanta Falcons can at least take some positives from last week’s loss against the Saints. Although they are now bottom of the NFC South, Matt Ryan played better by not throwing any picks and Steven Jackson did relatively well in the running game – scoring a TD as well as gaining 63 yards. These little things will help the transition into week 13 practice and will make an impact against the Bills. Buffalo comes out of a bye week with a 4-7 record and in general an average performance on either side of the ball. They rank 15th on defence which might cause some problems for Matt Ryan, especially if MLB Kiko Alonso has any say in the matter. Alonso has been absolutely outstanding so far during his rookie tenure, recording 112 tackles so far. I get the feeling there is plenty more to come from him, quite possibly in this game too. He’ll be hoping that E.J. Manuel can string something together offensively and put less pressure on the defence. I think a lot of Buffalo fans will be hoping that too.
Prediction: Falcons 17 – Bills 21
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are facing their bogey team for the opposite fixture this year in week 13 and I’m not completely sure on who’s going to win. The Rams have been playing some good football of late behind QB Kellen Clemons and RB Zac Stacy. Clemons had 167 yards and a TD against the Bears last week while the Zac Stacy gained 87 yards and a TD on the ground before being taken out of the game due to injury. His replacement, Benny Cunningham went on to run for 109 yards and a touchdown. Talk about a good running display from the Rams last Sunday. I can’t imagine the 49ers allowing that sort of performance against them seeing as they only allow 311 yards of total offence and a mere 16.7 points on average. The 49ers will also be wanting to carry the momentum of their impressive MNF victory over the Washington Redskins. At home at Candlestick Park, I think they will most likely do so.
Prediction: Rams 21 – 28 49ers
Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers
This is a great match-up and certainly one to look out for this coming Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals come back after their bye week to face a Chargers side that just toppled arguably the best defence in the league and performed very well to do so. Of course the Bengals had been having offensive woes in the couple of weeks before the bye with Andy Dalton regressing into poor form. They will hope that the bye week has sorted those troubles out as even though they face the 29th ranked defence that gives up 389.5 yards per game and 23.6 points, the Bengals will still need to be able to strike at it. Something they haven’t done much of recently. Moreover, after a game like Philip Rivers had, throwing 392 yards and 3 TDs, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bengals defence has more worries than they thought they would. Rivers is actually one of the least sacked QBs in the league, I wonder if Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap will set out to change that.
Prediction: Bengals 27 – 24 Chargers
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
So the Broncos and Chiefs meet again in week 13, this time around both sides having to deal with injuries to their specific talents (Broncos on offence, Chiefs on defence). I don’t believe that the outcome will be any different though, even if the Chiefs are at home this time around – without Hali and Houston at the forefront of their defensive attack the Chiefs don’t stand much of a chance. Furthermore, despite losing in OT last week it’s not like the Denver offence played badly without Julius Thomas, they still scored 31 points against the New England Patriots. Though Peyton didn’t throw his best game yardage wise with 150 he still threw 2 TDs and Knowshon Moreno had a HUGE day running for 224 yards and a touchdown. I expect the Broncos to bounce back this week and take the win at Arrowhead Stadium.
Prediction: Broncos 23 – 14 Chiefs
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Well, well, after all that smack-talk during the week the Giants got what they deserved as they lost to the Cowboys last Sunday. After all, it is a cardinal sin of football to guarantee your side victory in a radio statement before you even step on the field. Anyway, they face NFC East rivals the Washington Redskins this week and might just be able to take the away game. The Redskins have been more or less poor all season, defensively at least and that is what makes me suggest the Giants will come away with the win. Purely because they have a stronger defence. For example, the Redskins allow over 30 points and 380 yards per game while the Giants allow 25.5 points and just over 330 yards. That’s a bigger margin than it might sound. It all depends if RGIII can light up the Giants or not, the Redskins do have the 7th ranked offence but after scoring 6 points against the 49ers in week 12 you can understand my doubts.
Prediction: Giants 17 – 10 Redskins
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
No doubt this is the game that everyone is looking out for this week, two big teams going head to head for the first time this season. Both teams have been playing some damn good football though Seattle will be rested after having a bye in week 12. This will actually be a test of the Saints’ defence, which has played far better this season. I believe if the Saint’s defence can hold fast like it has done on several other occasions thus far this season having been averaged giving up 18 points to their opposition. However, this is Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks we are talking about. An offence that has so many tricks and ways of making yardage, couple that with one of the meanest defences in the league and you have a major fight on your hands. This one is going to be tough for both sides, arguably, whoever cracks first might just lose it all.
Prediction: Saints 24 – 21 Seahawks