Week 13 in the NFL doesn't feature a lot of head-to-head matchups between potential playoff teams, but games like Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants and Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints do carry real significance regarding the playoff picture. For many teams, the time to make a move is now or never to get into the AFC or NFC race.
As for the St. Louis Rams, it has all come crashing down in what is been a long and painful season. It's as if schedule makers have conspired to multiply the pain of Rams fans by setting up what seems like an impossible matchup on the road in San Francisco for Week 13. Things have deteriorated to the point that fans are forced to cheer for draft position and coaching change in St. Louis, but there is still high-quality NFL football being played around the league. Let's take a look at the matchups in Week 13.
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seattle Seahawks- The Eagles are without a day off this week as they prepare for quick turnaround for their matchup in Seattle. Quarterback Michael Vick and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin have not participated in practice early in the week, and there is a real possibility that Vince Young will be starting this game in the hostile confines of Qwest Field. Restless fans in the City of Brotherly Love have been chanting "Fire Andy Reid" at games, and there just aren't many reasons to like the Eagles this week. If I told you the Eagles are the second-worst tackling team in the NFL, would it really surprise you? Pick: Seahawks
Oakland Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins - The Raiders have been great on the road so far this season (4-1), and are coming off an important 25-20 home victory over the Chicago Bears in Week 12. They will likely be without running back Darren McFadden for yet another week, and after yo-yoing across the country in the past three weeks (@ Min, vs. Chi, @Mia), I expect travel to catch up with them. The Dolphins have won three of their last four games with Matt Moore at quarterback, and are well-suited to play the grind it out style the Raiders prefer. I see the Dolphins prevailing in another field-goal fest. Pick: Dolphins
Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills - I really want to like the hard luck Buffalo Bills, who have now lost five of their last six games and are definitively on the outside of the AFC playoff picture, but I just can't do it anymore. Ryan Fitzpatrick and the rest of the Bills' offense is been anemic since running back Fred Jackson landed on the IR with a broken fibula, while the defense has been a sieve. Meanwhile, the Titans have quietly worked their way to a respectable 6-5 record and might not be as bad as I thought there were early in the season. They still have a small shot at the wildcard, so I say Chris Johnson and company will be motivated and prepared on Sunday. Pick: Titans
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears - Tyler Palko is bad. Kyle Orton is not. There is talk out of Kansas City that Kyle Orton may start on Sunday against the Bears, and if so, this becomes a much closer game to pick. There is plenty of intrigue surrounding this matchup, and in case you missed the story lines here is a recap: Jay Cutler injured his thumb in Week 11, Kyle Orton instructed his agent to push for his release in Denver with an eye on getting to the Bears, then he tried to discourage the Chiefs from putting in a waiver claim by floating rumors he might not report to Kansas City, but the Chiefs put in a waiver claim that had priority over the Bears and Orton is now in a Chiefs uniform.
Wait, did I forget to mention Bears' backup Caleb Hanie was terrible in Week 12? There are two reasons I'm going with the Bears here: (1) Todd Haley is a crazy person and might still start Palko, and (2) the Bears are terrific at home this season (5-1) and under Lovie Smith in general. Pick: Bears
Denver Broncos vs. Minnesota Vikings - The national focus has been on Tim Tebow during this stretch where the Broncos have gone 5-1, but the secret to success in Denver has been the defense, led by rookie sensation Von Miller and his 10.5 sacks. The defense has kept the Broncos within striking distance for those fourth-quarter drives engineered by Tebow and the offense, and the defense will be a big factor on Sunday once again. Nobody wants to watch this game, but the Broncos will keep it rolling. Pick: Broncos
New York Jets vs. Washington Redskins - The Redskins are 4-7 on the season and finally stopped the bleeding of a six-game losing streak with a 23-16 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. The Skins have virtually no chance to make the playoffs and NFC, while Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets need a win to keep pace in the AFC wild-card race. The Washington offense has started to show signs of life with Rex Grossman reinserted at QB and Roy Helu getting more carries as starting RB, but the Jets have more talent and more motivation. I always feel uncomfortable trusting Mark Sanchez, but it's the right move here. Pick: Jets
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Bengals have beaten one team with a record currently over .500, the 6-5 Tennessee Titans, but have lost to all other playoff contenders they have played this season (Broncos, 49ers, Steelers and Ravens). I don't trust rookie QBs on the road, so even though Andy Dalton has been dependable, I side with the more talented Steelers. Bengals have been losing to better teams all season long. Pick: Steelers
Atlanta Falcons vs. Houston Texans - The Texans are a complete mess at the quarterback position, dealing with injuries to Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, and if there is one position in the NFL your team can't be down to its third-string option, it's quarterback. Pick: Falcons
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The Buccaneers are on a five-game losing streak, while the Panthers have quietly amassed a top-10 passing attack and a top-10 rushing attack in the NFL with Cam Newton at the helm. I have no reason to trust the Bucs (although this move by LeGarrette Blount is pretty cool to see again), so I will reluctantly side with the talented rookie QB in Carolina. Pick: Panthers
Baltimore Ravens vs. Cleveland Browns - Remember when this used to be a marqu....okay, just kidding. The Ravens are still better than the Browns, and there is nothing anyone can do about it to change my mind in Week 13. Pick: Ravens
Dallas Cowboys vs. Arizona Cardinals - I honestly wasn't sure if I would be able to refer to them as the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys much this season, but it appears Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray have really created a special unit heading into the playoffs stretch. There aren't enough Patrick Peterson punt return for touchdowns in the world for the Cardinals to keep pace with the Dallas offense. Pick: Cowboys
Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants - I'm picking Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers' offense to win shootouts until they prove me wrong. It's really as simple as that when I see a matchup featuring the Packers. Pick: Packers
St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers - The Rams are an unmitigated disaster, and the calls for firing head coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney are getting louder with each loss. In that case, expect the calls to get a bit louder once again, as the the 49ers are a really good football team with a terrific home record (5-1). Pick: 49ers
Sunday Night Game
Detroit Lions vs. New Orleans Saints - If you haven't seen Ndamukong Suh get in the spirit of Thanksgiving by stomping a Packers player, here's your chance. Suh will be suspended for two games, but should be able to play Sunday night because he plans to appeal the decision by the league. Honestly, I don't think it will matter. Think of the Suh stomp as a metaphor for Sunday night, except the Saints will be doing the stomping. I've said it before, and I will say it again: do not bet against Drew Brees and the Saints in that dome. Pick: Saints
Monday Night Game
San Diego Chargers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars - Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio has been fired, the team has been sold, and the players still aren't very good. Philip Rivers will probably turn the ball over for the umpteenth time this season, but for the first time in a while it won't be enough to matter. Pick: Chargers