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Cardinals-Vikings showdown is one of several set for Week 13

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8 p.m. ET, NFL Network  |  TicketsPittsburgh at Cleveland (watch live online)
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Pittsburgh has a 60-55 overall series edge, thanks to its recent dominance over its chief rival (includes playoffs).
Streaks: The Steelers have beaten the Browns 12 straight times.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Billick: Steelers
» Mike Mayock: Steelers
» Solomon Wilcots: Steelers

» Vote: Who will win?
Pittsburgh is just 1-3 against the AFC North, and though they have to be heavy favorites in this game, the same could have been said against Oakland last week. There is a chance Troy Polamalu returns, which seems to make all the difference in the world. As much heat as Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense has faced recently, the real problem is the defense. They can't get teams off the field in the fourth quarter and overtime — Baltimore, Kansas City and Oakland all mounted recent game-winning drives against them — and the special teams is a mess. The Steelers are a middle of the pack team in terms of points allowed. Cleveland has few, if any, positives to take from this lost season, but the recent play of QB Brady Quinn has been one of them. The team has been fighting for 60 minutes lately despite a string of debilitating injuries. A win Thursday — thereby derailing Pittsburgh's playoff hopes — would do something to salvage the season for Browns fans. Given the Steelers' recent fourth-quarter woes, the longer the Browns hang around, the more likely it is Pittsburgh might wilt. I have a hard time believing I just wrote that sentence, but it has proven true. Pittsburgh is now finding ways to lose games. The Steelers and Browns met for the first time in 1950. ... Cleveland is just 1-10 in its last 11 divisional games. ... The Browns are eliminated from the playoffs. The Steelers still have a shot, but they would be on the outside looking in, if the playoffs started today. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.


Video: Game preview




1 p.m. ET, FOX  |  TicketsNew Orleans at Atlanta
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Atlanta, 46-35, including the playoffs.
Streaks: The Saints have won six of seven against the Falcons.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Saints
» Sterling Sharpe: Saints
» Joe Theismann: Saints

» Vote: Who will win?
When the schedule came out I figured this game would pretty much decide the NFC South, but the Saints have already locked it up with a 12-0 start. New Orleans has pulled off some crazy improbable wins (Miami, Washington and Carolina games leap to mind), and this would point toward being another potential pitfall just in terms of emotional highs and lows. Still, I like their chances in a dome against a beaten and bruised Falcons club. Atlanta just can't defend downfield, and the Saints will tear you up. The Falcons' small corners are an issue. Not having Matt Ryan and Michael Turner in good health foils their chances of keeping pace in a track meet, and with the way the defense has been giving up points, that's the only way the Falcons can win. It's a must-win game for Atlanta to stay in the playoff hunt, but I suspect the Saints will coax a few turnovers out of that depleted Atlanta offense and win again, perhaps going away. Saints safety Darren Sharper is tied for the NFL lead with eight interceptions. ... New Orleans can establish a franchise record for regular-season victories in one season with one more win. ... Falcons WR Roddy White has a career-high eight TD catches this year. ... If the playoffs started today, the Saints would have the NFC's top seed and the Falcons would be on the outside looking in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, FOX  |  TicketsDetroit at Baltimore
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Tied, 1-1.
Streaks: See above.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Ravens
» Sterling Sharpe: Ravens
» Joe Theismann: Ravens

» Vote: Who will win?
Detroit has lost 18 straight road games dating back to 2007, and this won't be any easier. Matthew Stafford is all kinds of beat up, Detroit's defense has yielded by far the most points in the NFL and the Ravens should be able to run the ball down the Lions' throats with their three-headed rushing monster. Baltimore is in the middle of an odd scheduling quirk, with three straight December games against NFC North clubs before finishing with Pittsburgh and Oakland. The Ravens know these are all must-win games. Baltimore's defense is back to being very stingy, and is among the NFL leaders in points allowed and stopping the run. The vulnerability comes in the secondary, but Detroit is likely too battered to capitalize there. Baltimore's Ray Rice leads all NFL running backs with 599 yards receiving. ... Detroit has lost 18 consecutive road games. ... Lions QB Matthew Stafford leads all rookies with 13 TD passes. ... If the playoffs started today, the Ravens would be on the outside looking in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, FOX  |  TicketsGreen Bay at Chicago
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: The Bears have an edge in the NFL's oldest rivalry, 91-81-6, including the playoffs.
Streaks: The teams have split their last six meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Packers
» Sterling Sharpe: Packers
» Joe Theismann: Packers

» Vote: Who will win?
A must win for both teams for very different reasons. The Bears need a strong finish to avoid having wholesale changes take place, from head coach on down (you're likely looking at new coordinators coming in next season regardless at this point). The Packers are trying to continue a strong second-half push, and boast a 6-3 conference record (6-1 vs. the NFC, excluding Minnesota) that will aid their wild-card run. Finishing 4-2 against the NFC North would be big, also. The Bears have been good at home, but don't look right on either side of the ball. I would expect this to be a game where Jay Cutler supplements the run game, and not vice versa. Chicago still has a shot to finish around .500, which wouldn't meet expectations, but would be respectable. The Bears were known as the Staleys when these teams first met in 1921. ... Bears RB Matt Forte has the NFC's worst yard per carry average among rushers with at least 100 attempts (3.4). ... Green Bay is going for its first season sweep of Chicago since 2003. ... If the playoffs started today, the Packers would have an NFC wild card and the Bears would be on the outside looking in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsDenver at Indianapolis
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Denver, 11-8, including the playoffs.
Streaks: Indianapolis has won four of the past five.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Colts
» Sterling Sharpe: Colts
» Joe Theismann: Colts

» Vote: Who will win?
The Broncos have turned it around after a four-game losing streak, winning two in a row. But I get the feeling I'm not the only one still somewhat skeptical. A victory here would be huge, both for their divisional and wild-card hopes. Indianapolis has won 21 straight regular-season games, is dominant at home and the tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at defensive end could get off with that Indy crowd going nuts in the dome, and Kyle Orton not being the most mobile quarterback. A Colts win would be No. 13 on the season, assuring them of the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. It should be a highly entertaining matchup, but if the Broncos have to try to match the Colts big play for big play, things heavily slant in the home team's favor. Indianapolis would set the NFL record for consecutive regular-season wins if it beats Denver (22). ... The Colts have the league's top-rated passing offense. ... Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno leads all rookies with 774 rushing yards. ... If the playoffs started today, the Colts would have the AFC's top seed, and the Broncos would be a wild-card team. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsBuffalo at Kansas City
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Bills, 22-17-1, including the playoffs.
Streaks: The teams have split their last six meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Chiefs
» Sterling Sharpe: Chiefs
» Joe Theismann: Bills

» Vote: Who will win?
It's hard to fathom the Chiefs are 1-5 at Arrowhead (and that win came over a Pittsburgh club badly in need of a victory), but that is the case. Matt Cassel needs a rebound game, while the Bills are coming off an outing that was equally inept in terms of aerial production. I suppose there are some draft-pick tiebreaker permutations at play here, but I'm not going to delve into it. This game features two of the league's best punters in Kansas City's Dustin Colquitt and Buffalo's Brian Moorman. Each is ranked in the top 10 of most punting categories. ... Fred Jackson leads the Bills in rushing and kickoff returns, and is second in receptions. ... The Chiefs have taken a defensive lineman with one of their top two picks in seven of the last nine drafts.



1 p.m. ET, FOX  |  TicketsCarolina at New England
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: The series is tied at two, including the playoffs.
Streaks: See above.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Panthers
» Sterling Sharpe: Patriots
» Joe Theismann: Patriots

» Vote: Who will win?
What the heck is going on in Boston? Man, I figured the Pats would be passing out AFC East division winning t-shirts by now. Bill Belichick can't close games? Wow. Wes Welker is carrying the offense, but the running game isn't good enough to put people away and Fred Taylor is probably still a week away from returning. The defense can't make a late stop when it's needed (I might think about getting Shawn Springs back in the corner rotation). Carolina, meantime, could perhaps save John Fox's job with a late surge, and if it's me, I'm in no hurry to get Jake Delhomme back from the finger injury. Let Matt Moore and the running game carry things for a while. DeAngelo Williams could be back for this game, not that Jonathan Stewart looked like he needed him last week. This could turn into a scary trap game for New England, which ranks just 20th overall in terms of yards per rush allowed, while the Panthers average nearly 5 yards per carry as a team. It's a game where the Patriots need to get up early — and stay up — because if the Panthers are allowed to stick with the run attack, they just might grind this thing out. These teams met in one of the decade's most-memorable Super Bowls, a 32-29 victory for the Patriots on Feb. 2, 2004. ... The Patriots have the league's top two receivers in terms of yardage (Randy Moss and Wes Welker). ... The Panthers lead the NFC in rushing with 150.1 yards per game. ... If the playoffs started today, the Patriots would be in, but the Panthers would be out. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsN.Y. Jets at Tampa Bay
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Jets, 8-1.
Streaks: New York has won the last six meetings, but these teams have only met twice this decade.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Jets
» Sterling Sharpe: Jets
» Joe Theismann: Jets

» Vote: Who will win?
If Mark Sanchez is ever going to learn to slide, now's the time. The lush surface in Tampa provides a perfect training ground. Of course, Sanchez's status will be up in the air until we get deeper into the work week, but the Jets are hopeful he will be ready, especially after seeing how poorly Kellen Clemens played in Toronto. The resurgent Jets will get a nice long rest, and they have gotten better secondary play since demoting Kerry Rhodes briefly. The Jets also seem to have adjusted to the loss of DT Kris Jenkins a bit more over time and find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase. Ultimately, I don't see more than the AFC East winner reaching the playoffs from the division — and New England is still my strong favorite to hold on to the lead. The Bucs, meantime, could be looking at the first overall pick. Thomas Jones needs one more rushing TD to become the first Jet since Johnny Hector in 1987-88 to record consecutive seasons with 10-plus scores on the ground. ... New York CB Darrelle Revis has an interception in two straight games. ... Bucs CB Ronde Barber is the only player in league history with 25-plus sacks and 35-plus interceptions. ... If the playoffs started today, the Jets would be on the outside looking in (the Bucs have been eliminated). Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsCincinnati at Minnesota
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Tied, 5-5.
Streaks: Cincinnati has won two of the past three.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Bengals
» Sterling Sharpe: Vikings
» Joe Theismann: Vikings

» Vote: Who will win?
Minnesota has had some trouble with overtly physical teams this season, and the Bengals are street fighters in 2009 (ask Pittsburgh and Baltimore). The Vikings have slipped in terms of their rushing attack offensively and their run defense. Opponents are averaging 4 yards per carry against Minnesota, tied for eighth in the NFL, not quite as lofty as in years past. The Vikings have faced an average of just 21 rushing attempts per game (that's six carries fewer than the league average), but the Bengals run the ball an average of 34 times per game (second most in the NFL) and will stick with that game plan here. Cincinnati could still land the No. 2 seed in the AFC, while the Vikings remain in great shape to win the NFC North no matter what. I would not be surprised if Minnesota dips in form down the stretch, however, and we'll have to see how Brett Favre holds up as the games and hits mount. The Bengals are 3-0 against the NFC North this season. ... Cincinnati leads the league in scoring defense (15.6 points per game allowed). ... Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe has a TD catch in three consecutive games. ... If the playoffs started today, both the Bengals and Vikings would be in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



1 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsMiami at Jacksonville
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Jacksonville, 3-1, including the playoffs.
Streaks: See above.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Dolphins
» Sterling Sharpe: Jaguars
» Joe Theismann: Dolphins

» Vote: Who will win?
If you like bare-knuckle power running football, this is the game for you. No frills ball-control offense here. Neither team has much margin for error in its playoff pursuit, and both have suffered recent letdown losses, then euphoric wins. I'm still not sold on the Jags, despite their record, and this could be the start of a plummet. The Jaguars have been difficult to beat at home (5-1 despite the small crowds), and Miami hasn't traveled well. The loser of this game is in real trouble, while the winner stands a better shot at holding off Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the other wild-card contenders. Miami is still alive in the AFC East race, while the Jags' only hope is as a wild card. Dolphins coach Tony Sparano is 5-0 in the month of December. ... With one more sack, Jason Taylor will pass Derrick Thomas for 11th all-time. ... The Jaguars have won five consecutive games at home. ... If the playoffs started today, the Dolphins would be out and the Jaguars would be in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



4:15 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsSeattle at Houston
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Seattle, 1-0.
Streaks: See above.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Texans
» Sterling Sharpe: Seahawks
» Joe Theismann: Seahawks

» Vote: Who will win?
Don't look now, but the Seahawks still have a shot to finish second in the NFC West and end up somewhere right around .500. Problem for Seattle is, the team has been awful on the road. Matt Hasselbeck is keeping them in games, however, and Olindo Mare is still a clutch kicker. The defense seems to have stabilized a bit lately. The Texans come in reeling like no other club in the league, having lost four straight divisional games, some in heartbreaking fashion, to fall deep in the pack in the AFC wild-card race. A loss here and Gary Kubiak is pretty much doomed. Quarterback Matt Schaub's injured shoulder doesn't bode well, nor does RB Steve Slaton's neck injury or the fact that TE Owen Daniels is out for the season. Injuries are not an excuse, however, and this team just cannot finish games sufficiently to be a playoff threat. I'm sorry, but a 1-5 division record and a 4-6 conference mark dooms them. Seattle's Justin Forsett has a touchdown in four consecutive games. ... Seahawks WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh has the second-most receptions in the NFL since 2006 (355). ... Houston's Mario Williams has 13 sacks in 16 career December games. ... If the playoffs started today, the Texans and Seahawks would both be on the outside looking in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



4:05 p.m. ET, FOX  |  TicketsSt. Louis at Tennessee
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Rams, 7-3, including the playoffs.
Streaks: The Rams have won four of the past five meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Titans
» Sterling Sharpe: Titans
» Joe Theismann: Titans

» Vote: Who will win?
Two of the game's truly elite running backs meet here: Steven Jackson and Chris Johnson. Johnson's pursuit of the all-time single-season rushing title is very real. Tennessee is coming off a tough loss to Indianapolis (a holding penalty near the goal line was ultimately the decisive play in the game), but could still finish out at .500 or better. Each game is important for Vince Young to continue his development. The Titans seek their eighth consecutive win vs. the NFC. ... The Rams' Jackson has rushed for at least 100 yards in five of the last six games. ... The Titans' Johnson (1,509) needs one rushing yard to surpass Eddie George for third-most rushing yards in a single season in franchise history. ... Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



4:05 p.m. ET, FOX  |  TicketsWashington at Oakland
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Raiders, 8-3, including the playoffs.
Streaks: The Raiders have won four of the last five meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Redskins
» Sterling Sharpe: Raiders
» Joe Theismann: Redskins

» Vote: Who will win?
The records would point to this being a bad game, but both of these teams have fought the good fight more weeks than not lately and are capable of biting an elite club in the backside. It remains to be seen whether they can get up for a contest against another last-place team, but you have to love the resiliency shown by their quarterbacks lately. Both clubs could be looking at coaching changes no matter what, and it's a long way for the Redskins to travel coming off a game they handed to the Saints with turnovers and a missed chip shot field goal. Regardless, I'd expect the fighting spirit to prevail. The Redskins' defense is truly special. Pride is all that's at stake here, but that's been more than enough to carry these clubs through the second half of the season. Washington's Andre Carter has eight sacks in his last eight games. ... Redskins QB Jason Campbell has a career-high 15 TD passes this year. ... The Raiders have won four straight in the month of December. ... Oakland rookie Louis Murphy averages 17.9 yards per catch.



4:15 p.m. ET, CBS  |  TicketsSan Diego at Dallas
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Dallas, 6-2.
Streaks: The Cowboys have won four of the last five meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Cowboys
» Sterling Sharpe: Chargers
» Joe Theismann: Chargers

» Vote: Who will win?
Let the annual Dallas December debacle begin. Well, actually, it might already be underway. The Cowboys followed a very fortuitous win against Washington, with a victory over Oakland and then last week's loss. They have the toughest schedule in the NFL down the stretch. Pass coverage breakdowns, a shaky kicking game and a predilection for boneheaded turnovers are all cropping up (sound familiar?). San Diego has won seven in a row, relying heavily on the arm of Philip Rivers, and the Cowboys are looking vulnerable in the secondary again. Darren Sproles is getting more active in the Chargers' offense. San Diego is kind of beat up on defense, but few teams can match it in a shootout. That should be what we get here in Big D. The San Diego Chargers, who can clinch a playoff spot this weekend, have won 15 consecutive December games dating back to 2006, the longest streak in NFL history. The previous mark was set by the 1968-1972 Dallas Cowboys, who won 13 games in a row during the month. ... Chargers LB Shaun Phillips has seven sacks in his last seven games. ... Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware leads the NFL with 43 sacks since 2007. ... If the playoffs started today, both the Chargers and Cowboys would be in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: Giants, 81-69-2, including the playoffs.
Streaks: The teams have split their last 12 meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Eagles
» Sterling Sharpe: Giants
» Joe Theismann: Eagles

» Vote: Who will win?
These two longtime foes meet at Giants Stadium for the last time ever — assuming they don't somehow hook up there in the postseason — with wild card and NFC East ramifications all over the place. Should the Giants turn in a three-game run within the division (they beat Dallas last week and travel to Washington in Week 15), they would still have a shot at the NFC East title. The Eagles hope to have Jason Peters and DeSean Jackson back for this one. The Giants, back to their power running ways last week, will no doubt look to challenge the Eagles' depleted linebacker group. Michael Vick could be in line for more work coming off his best outing in years. Both teams have just one loss within the division, and the Giants already swept Dallas, so the winner will be well positioned to host a playoff game. Giants QB Eli Manning needs 75 yards for his fifth consecutive 3,000-yard season. ... Eagles QB Donovan McNabb has won 10 of the past 14 starts vs. the Giants, including playoffs. ... Giants WR Steve Smith needs 21 yards for his first career 1,000-yard season. ... Eagles TE Brent Celek aims to score a TD against the Giants for the third meeting in a row, including playoffs. ... If the playoffs started today, the Eagles would be in and the Giants would be on the outside looking in. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN  |  TicketsArizona at San Francisco
Matchup Jason La Canfora's storyline Did you know?
Series leader: 49ers, 20-16.
Streaks: The Cardinals have won six of the last nine meetings.
Playbook picks:
» Brian Baldinger: Cardinals
» Sterling Sharpe: Cardinals
» Joe Theismann: Cardinals

» Vote: Who will win?
Arizona can clinch a second straight division title, and also continue its surprising road success (5-1). Kurt Warner has posted a 120 passer rating or better in each of his past four starts, and the Cardinals look ferocious on both sides of the ball right now. The 49ers are in deep trouble after a promising start. QB Alex Smith is making strides, but is just not winning the close games. Last Sunday's loss at Seattle was crippling. On the bright side, the 49ers are 3-1 within the division, and should they run the table, a wild-card spot isn't entirely out of the question, but the chances look pretty bleak right now. Cardinals QB Kurt Warner is only the second player in NFL history with a rating of at least 120 in four consecutive games (HOFer Johnny Unitas was the first). ... Rookie WR Michael Crabtree has at least three catches in each of his first seven starts. ... Cardinals RB Beanie Wells leads NFC rookies with four rushing TDs. ... If the playoffs started today, the Cardinals would be in and the Niners would be out. Get an updated look at the postseason picture.



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