Week 13 picks are in, but before we let you dive into what's going down, keep in mind that we're in the homestretch. Every team has five games left. No more byes. No more trying to figure out who's a half game back (well, unless you're the Packers). No more trying to figure out what Josh Sitton thinks about Jim Schwartz. Thanksgiving, a time made for family and friends.
I miss Fred Taylor, too.
Drew Breesus (@drewbreess) November 27, 2013
I love you, man. Does anyone miss those commercials?
You're right, Kai. Here's more analysis: San Diego played well.
So, on to the rest of the league ... just kidding. I'm on the record as saying the Chargers would be the AFC's No. 6 playoff seed. I'm really curious to see how they'll fare in Denver. All three of their games versus Peyton Manning's Broncos have been fun and competitive. That said, San Diego must, and will, take care of business at home against the Bengals. That's only one of the many solid games this week.
Of course, we know the contest everyone is looking forward to. We went head-to-head style on that preview. Feel free to provide your take on the Saints at Seahawks showdown at the usual place: @Harrison_NFL.Now, let's get to the rest of the schedule.
Elliot Harrison went 7-7 on his predictions for Week 12, giving him a record of 108-68 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 13? His picks are below, with home teams listed second. To make your own predictions on this week's games, click here.
Don't sleep on this contest. Tampa Bay's defense has been outstanding the last three weeks, forcing nine turnovers with only Ryan Tannehill surpassing an 80 passer rating. Cam Newton won't be a doormat in the same vein as the two Matts have against the Bucs. Ryan and Stafford were forced into mistakes by Tampa's secondary, but neither has Newton's playmaking ability when all hell breaks lose. Not to mention, but we'll mention, this game is in Carolina. Offensively, the Bucs will need to keep the Panthers honest by running the football, something they could not do in Detroit. They won by forcing turnovers, and as much as Carolina runs the football (48.4 percent of the time), we don't see Tampa getting the necessary takeaways to win. #TBvsCAR
This game should challenge Broncos- Colts for the most-watched game of the season. Or not. Here's the only way the Jaguars win in Cleveland: Run the football and don't let Josh Gordon go wild. Jacksonville's secondary played well in Houston but has had a poor season overall -- the unit's numbers would be worse if teams weren't running out the clock late in the fourth quarter so often. The Browns are tough to throw the football on: Opposing passers are completing less than 60 percent of their throws and averaging 5.92 yards per attempt. That is LOW. About the only thing Joe Haden and Co. isn't doing is forcing interceptions. They'll need to pick off Chad Henne at least once to provide their offense with a shortened field; the running game is such that Browns quarterbacks are being forced to throw. Close your eyes and hope for the best when that happens. #JACvsCLE
Rebound game for Andrew Luck and the Colts. Now, let's be careful about deifying Luck, who is somewhat of a media darling. Yes, he is without Reggie Wayne, but that doesn't mean the passing game should slide into the toilet bowl like it did at University of Phoenix Stadium, when Luck was clearly offline (wait for it ... ). For Ryan Fitzpatrick, getting the ball out quickly will be a necessity. The Colts are sure to lean on the home crowd much like they did during the Sunday nighter versus the Broncos, and the pass rush could give Fitzmagic some trouble. Now, Tennessee was able to make hay on crossing routes against Indy's secondary last time out. Look for Kendall Wright to catch eight to 10 balls this weekend. The key will be which Chris Johnson we see. Can the Titans lean on him early, like they did two weeks ago? Or will he be a non-factor, like he was during the remainder of their loss to the Colts? Or mediocre, like he was in Oakland? #TENvsIND
For all their injuries, for all the Josh McCown football you thought you'd never see and, for the love of God, allowing the Rams 41 points, the Bears sit with the Lions atop the NFC North. Granted, Detroit has the tiebreakers, but this deal is far from over. Call this a must-win for Chicago versus a weak Minnesota squad. Problem is, the Bears can't stop the run, and Adrian Peterson is coming off a big game. A.D. rattled off 210, 154, 212, 86 and 199 yards, respectively, in his final five games of last season. He'll finish. If Chicago is to finish the season strong, it will be by forcing takeaways. Christian Ponder didn't turn it over last week. Something has to give here. #CHIvsMIN
We know. The Dolphins are playing much better. But they won't be able to run the ball on New York, making Ryan Tannehill the focal point of the game. The Jets have looked terrible as of late, but they're at home, where they've gone 4-1. That one loss came at the hands of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers. Big Ben can make plays out of the pocket and has incredible presence of mind when protection breaks down. Tannehill? Not so much. For the Jets, Geno Smith has to take what the defense gives him, including not forcing throws. Let the defense win the game. The matchup to watch is the New York ground game versus Miami's defensive line. #NYJvsMIA
Nick Foles' interception streak comes to an end. If there is one contest on the Week 13 slate that could go either way, it's Cardinals at Eagles at the Linc. Who wins likely will be determined by which quarterback makes the big turnover. Foles has been nearly flawless, at least when it comes to ball security. Facing an Arizona defense that has 15 interceptions (tied for third in the NFL) will pose a challenge to the second-year pro. Carson Palmer has been almost error-free over the last two games, and if you broaden that out to four games, his numbers read very well: eight touchdowns with two interceptions and a passer rating well north of 100. This is a game that Chip Kelly might want to go up-tempo, because LeSean McCoy will have trouble against a rested Arizona front that's allowed the fewest rushing yards in the NFC (81.3 yards per game). #ARIvsPHI
Talk about a letdown game. Back in the spring, this was a sexy matchup that figured to play a role in the AFC race for home-field advantage. The way the Texans are playing, they probably want to run away from home. First of all, they've dropped two straight IN HOUSTON to the Raiders and Jags. The freaking Raiders and Jags. Oakland started a rookie quarterback who wasn't even drafted, and Jacksonville is, well, Jacksonville. The Texans made both those teams look like Bill Parcells' ground-and-pound clubs. Now, New England comes to town, and, as if Tom Brady wasn't enough, the rushing attack is averaging 125.9 yards per game. We don't want to be Negative Nancies here, but with a nine-game losing streak in tow, it's hard to put any faith in the Texans pulling off an upset. #NEvsHOU
So how much of a home-field advantage do the BUFFALO Bills have in Toronto. That's what I thought. That's what makes this game more difficult to pick. Hey, maybe fans will be fired up from some Bryan Adams or Gordon Lightfoot pregame music. The reality is, it sure would help a Bills team that has a very winnable matchup and rabid fans behind it. The Falcons are struggling badly. Even when they play pretty well, as they did for most of last Thursday night's game against the Saints, they're overmatched. Matt Ryan is pressing, and his receivers aren't making big plays for him. Harry Douglas is having himself a fine season, but the fact is, his quarterback needs someone else to step up. Expecting the Bills' pass rush to have a field day (they enter with 37 sacks, tied for most in the league). #ATLvsBUF
No, not calling a safety. How about a tie? Nope, don't have the necessary cajones. A Rams win? Don't like these guys on the road, even though they have two road victories. They won in Indianapolis, where turnovers and special teams won the day. They did the same in Houston, where turnovers were the story again. The 49ers just don't give the ball away. Colin Kaepernick has thrown just seven interceptions all season long, in part because he doesn't throw the ball much. Actually, neither of these clubs give the ball away. So it comes down to talent and location. Kellen Clemens has yet to establish himself as a threat in this league, and while San Francisco's wideouts have struggled, St. Louis' receivers are worse. Expect a slugfest with 60 rushing attempts and a 49ers win. #STLvsSF
Be prepared for a lot of running. Denver gashed New England last week and ran into trouble when trying to force some pick plays, rubs and all those routes out of bunch formations. Kansas City will want to limit Peyton Manning's possessions and not expose a pass rush devoid of Tamba Hali and Justin Houston by pounding Jamaal Charles. Now, I know what you're thinking: Why should the Broncos run if those sack artists aren't in there? Because Hali and Houston don't suck against the ground game, either -- especially Houston. Denver can make hay with Knowshon Moreno running to his left. Otherwise, we don't anticipate Alex Smith keeping up with Manning in a shootout, but the Chiefs QB should run 10 times. Make the Broncos respect it. #DENvsKC
You want to know if the Bengals are for real? Then this is a game they need to win. On paper, Cincinnati is better than San Diego. The difference is quarterback play, and the fact the Bengals have to travel. You see, they've been solid at Paul Brown Stadium, winning every game they've played there this season. Marvin Lewis' club, however, is 2-4 on the road, with losses to the Bears, Browns, Dolphins and Ravens. Both of their road wins came in overtime, too. So we'll take the Chargers, who recently dropped some key road games in the waning moments but got back on track last week at Arrowhead, handing Kansas City its first home loss of the season. The Bengals will have to do a great job handling Antonio Gates and Danny Woodhead in coverage, who both have 59 catches. I think they'll struggle. #CINvsSD
We've heard enough about RGIII, so I won't waste your time with a bunch of Griffin-related stats, like typing a few lines on his passer rating that is down more than 20 points from last season, his 127 passing yards last week or the fact he's gotten off to terrible starts all year. He's averaging less than 37 passing yards per game in the first quarter this season. Don't worry. The Giants have been absolutely terrible on the road this season, going 1-4 with a couple absolute blowouts. Although the turnovers have slowed down, New York had another big one last week and have a league-leading 30 on the season. In fact, the Giants haven't gone a single game without giving up the ball. That streak continues in Landover. #WASvsNYG
All right, this is the Big Kahuna, the Triple Lindy. Everyone has circled this contest on their pocket United Way schedules, and who could blame them? Whoever wins this game will have the inside track on the NFC's top seed. Interestingly enough, neither club has a conference loss. The
Seahawks fell to the
Colts, and the
Saints' losses came to the
Patriots. With that said, let's go to the tale of the tape. ...
Running game: Seahawks
Special teams: Even (Editor's note: Dove into the numbers after seeing reader feedback. Seattle has some clear advantages, but I'm thinking the punting game will be the biggest factor. Thomas Morstead is one of the best in the business.)
Pass rush: Saints
Run defense: Seahawks
We're aware of the Seahawks' newly found secondary issues, yet the Saints aren't any better off, following Jabari Greer's injury in Week 11. Call it an upset, as no team has won in Seattle in two years, but we're taking New Orleans. The Seahawks have played very good football over their last two games, but the hit-or-miss offense will have a stiff challenge against the league's fifth-ranked defense. #NOvsSEA
With Aaron Rodgers still out, I don't see the Packers winning in Detroit. Yes, Matt Flynn threw for 480 yards the last time he played the Lions. And those passes were to Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones. (Hey Packers fans, was that an embarrassment of riches or what?) So three of those names won't suit up this go-around, nor will Flynn play in front of the Lambeau crowd. The familiar "same old Lions" refrain is ever present around Ford Field these days ... and a thousand miles from it, as other fans don't trust this club to win anything, either. But not to worry. Matthew Stafford will exploit the back end of the Packers' defense, and I'm expecting a big touchdown from Joique Bell in a complementary role. #GBvsDET
Dallas doesn't win by 30. I blame Tony Romo. He'll throw for just 300 yards and two touchdowns and win the game, another drab performance for the world's worst quarterback. Speaking of quarterbacks, has anyone taken notice of Matt McGloin? We keep bringing him up in the Power Rankings, but there is no getting around the quality of his play considering he was undrafted and thrust into the lineup. Hey, maybe he's not the future of the franchise, but if you're not going to make the playoffs, why not evaluate? The Cowboys' safeties can be had, be it Jeff Heath or Barry Church; thus, look for McGloin to link up with Rod Streeter for a vertical shot in this ballgame. Somewhere, Al Davis and Tex Schramm are smiling. #OAKvsDAL
Trusting Ben Roethlisberger in this game. Which is not an easy decision to come to. The Ravens' defense has played outstanding football, save one bad tip at the end of a Week 10 win over the Bengals. This AFC North contest might not decide the division, but a Ravens loss would be devastating to their postseason hopes. The Steelers really can't afford to lose, either. Yet, for the Ravens, falling at home would drop their conference record to 5-5 while also making them 0-2 to their division rivals. Expect Pittsburgh to keep feeding Le'Veon Bell the football, if only to slow Baltimore's pass rush (37 sacks). If Joe Flacco is going to continue completing a low percentage of his passes, he needs to make some of them count -- like the deep strike to Jacoby Jones last week. #PITvsBAL
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.