NFL Week 13 game picks: Seahawks edge Vikings; Panthers roll

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December football. Playoff-push time, cold-weather time and time for defenses to rise up and take hold of the NFL.

Not predicting any barn burners in Week 13, with many a close contest to help sort out the wild-card swamp pit that exists in both conferences. Who the best team is outside of the Panthers also needs filing, with many fans placing votes on my Twitter timeline for their Broncos. Not all fan bases are as passionate ...

The END? It's THAT bad? So, like, where are we on the Mayan Calendar?

Oh, Canada. Yep, New Orleans is hosting the best team pro football has to offer. But will the Saints win (or prompt a move up in the Power Rankings) this week?

You can see the result of that game, along with the rest of the Week 13 slate, below. Feel free to share your take on any of the brilliant predictions. @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Elliot Harrison went 9-7 on his predictions for Week 12, giving him a record of 102-74 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 13? His picks are below.

This should be an outstanding game -- and we're taking what is, top to bottom, the better team. What makes this pick tough is the desperation the Giants might be feeling after dropping their last two games and watching the NFC East get Cousins'd away. The Jets should pound, pound, pound Chris Ivory on the Giants' front seven. Meanwhile, Rashad Jennings, Shane Vereen, Orleans Darkwa, Rodney Hampton and Rob Carpenter are going to have difficulty getting traction on this stout Jets front. The key for Big Blue will be if Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle or whichever receiver gets matched up with Antonio Cromartie can take advantage of the 31-year-old corner. Everybody else has. #NYJvsNYG

This game is no joke. No matter how bad the Rams have been, let us not forget that they walked into Arizona as underdogs and walked out victors in October. Todd Gurley ran wild in that game -- his first career start -- amassing 146 rushing yards. But after picking up 131 rushing yards per game over his first five starts, Gurley has been plodding along at 43.3 rushing yards per game in his last three. Stark contrast, huh?

The Cardinals will be without their feature back, Chris Johnson, thus David Johnson will have to get traction on that Rams front four Sunday. Bruce Arians has faith in DJ. Do you? Arizona wins on a long throw from Carson Palmer to Michael Floyd. #AZvsSTL

Tampa Bay's wild-card hopes are diminishing. The Falcons are flat reeling. Amazing that a 6-5 squad like Atlanta, in prime position for a wild-card berth of its own, is not even mentioned as a contender. That's the state of Dan Quinn's football team, which hasn't won a game in over a month -- and that last W came courtesy of the juggernaut Titans. The Falcons can ill-afford to keep making turnovers like the ones that plagued them in November. Jefe, would you say it was a plethora of turnovers? Si, er, yes. Meanwhile, the Bucs' goal this week will be to keep drives going. Once inside the opponent's 30-yard line, the Tampa offense grinds to a halt, averaging 3.15 yards per play, 30th in the league. This is where offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter must create opportunities despite the limitations of his rookie QB. #ATLvsTB

Seattle inches closer to a playoff berth with a win delivered by the special teams and struggling defense ... and maybe a dash of fourth-quarter scampers by Russell Wilson. I'm sure Vikings fans would like nothing more than to top the two-time defending NFC champs -- but they might also want to give them a big, fat thank-you card with Wade Wilson and Care Bear stickers on it. If Seattle hadn't dealt Minnesota the 32nd overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft (used to select a certain QB), the Vikings might be putting on the Matt Cassel Show on Sunday. Or maybe Minnesota fans would be spending more time on the Ponder-osa. This game features the top two rushing attacks in the NFL this season, with the Vikes edging Seattle by 2 yards per game. As for the QB edge? SEA > MIN. Defensively, we like Minnesota better, but not the way the offense matches up with Seattle's front seven. This should be a 1977-style slugfest. #SEAvsMIN

Chicago takes full advantage of a winnable game at home. Taking out the 49ers would put the Bears at 6-6, and with the Packers and Seahawks facing stiff road tests this week, .500 is solid ground for all the "in the hunt" teams in the NFC. Heading into Week 13, Green Bay is the fifth seed, Seattle the sixth. With the Redskins coming to Chicago next week, this two-week stretch presents a golden opportunity for the Bears to make their playoff push. Of course, speaking of pushing, the Niners are nobody's pushovers. Although postseason football is out of the question, the way Blaine Gabbert is getting the ball out on time, San Francisco's offense could make this matchup interesting. Also, Bears coordinator Vic Fangio's defensive unit has been playing a bit over its head, considering the personnel. #SFvsCHI

Tennessee pulls out the win in a tight contest. Every time we pick Jacksonville, they do Jags-type things -- like lose. However, it is worth noting that the one time we successfully prognosticated success for Jacksonville, it was when the team managed to eke out a W over these very same Titans. Marcus Mariota, who still seems to be garnering zero mention as a potential Offensive Rookie of the Year, competed without much help that night. Interestingly enough, Mariota, running back Todd Gurley and receiver Amari Cooper all appear to have hit the rookie wall, based on their last few weeks. Over his last three games, Tennessee's franchise hope is averaging a mere 211.7 passing yards per game, with a passer rating in the mid-70s. Thinking he rebounds against a secondary that failed to thwart a depleted Chargers receiver corps in Week 12. So much for that improved Jags D. #JAXvsTEN

The Texans are a smokin' hot football team right now, carried by a defense that has turned it on down the back half of the schedule. Buffalo, meanwhile, has yet to see its defense live up to the bar set by the 2014 version -- a surprising development, given Rex Ryan's football lineage. That said, as we ease into December, it is not just the defenses that rule the day. Who can run the rock should also make a huge difference. Dudes on defense enjoy tackling in cold, hard weather much less than they do in September. Thus, we give the advantage to the Bills. Behind Shady McCoy and Karlos Williams, Buffalo ranks fifth in the league in rushing, putting up 136.7 rushing yards per game at a staggering clip of 4.6 yards per carry. The Bills will stay in the wild-card hunt at home. #HOUvsBUF

Can the Matt Schaub-to- Kamar Aiken connection pull it off again after the Ravens' win in Cleveland on Monday? Schaub to Crockett Gillmore? The more Schaub plays in Marc Trestman's offense, the comfier he'll get moving about outside of the Owings Mills QB room. T-minus three days to another Schaubian pick-six. But he can't hand too many gifts like that to a Dolphins team having a hard enough time scoring points on its own. Essentially, he can't give Ryan Tannehill and company a crutch. Rishard Matthews is dealing with a rib injury and Jordan Cameron has underwhelmed, while the physical football Dan Campbell promised has been more Sheena Easton physical than Ditka physical. Wait, that was Olivia Newton-John. My bad. Thinking Miami's bad defense rebounds Sunday to force mistakes from all these young Ravens. #BALvsMIA

The Bengals and Browns have locked up in many a tight contest over the years -- I recently watched an ugly Thursday nighter from 1983 (straight from VHS, yo), an Anderson v. Sipe non-classic. On the subject of QBs, Cincinnati's defense got a long look at Johnny Manziel a few weeks back. With Josh McCown done for the year, the Bengals will now get to see Austin Davis under center, and with Cleveland operating on a short week, to boot. Davis is more mobile, and he does have a handful of starts under his belt from his Rams days. Still, whether we're talking Davis or Manziel, CLE QB < CIN QB.

Considering the Browns' run defense, Jeremy Hill will get 25 carries. In other news, Andy Dalton came on "NFL HQ" this week. Asked if the Bengals were the best team in the AFC, he said, "You have to think that way." Well, if that descriptor is accurate, they'll take care of lesser teams on the road. #CINvsCLE

This is one of the sweeter uni matchups the NFL has to offer. Just so you know. Alex Smith's effective -- and not just efficient -- play is at the heart of Kansas City's current five-game win streak, partially thanks to his running ability. Smith has now rushed for 303 yards at 5.5 yards per clip. That total is third to only Cam Newton and Russell Wilson among quarterbacks, while Smith's gas mileage is higher than both Newton's (4.4) and Wilson's (5.2). Derek Carr doesn't run much, but his passer rating (101.5) is sixth-highest in the league, and his 25 throws of 25 yards or more are tied for sixth. The kid rocks. #KCvsOAK

If the Broncos are as stout as the fans who have filled my Twitter timeline the last several days say they are, then they must handle the Chargers. Divisional games like this and Cardinals at Rams -- in which one team seems obviously superior to the other -- often don't play out as expected. Brock Osweiler has fared well in his first two starts for Denver, mostly avoiding the costly turnovers that were deep-sixing the team in the latter stages of Peyton Manning's lead. The key in San Diego, other than not looking past a struggling Chargers group, will be the Broncos' ability to replicate their success running the football last Sunday night ( after Dont'a Hightower went down, anyway). San Diego's run defense is ranked 26th in the NFL. But at least they make up for it by allowing 4.9 yards per carry, the worst mark in the league. #Brocklobster #offhisBrocker #BrockodileDundee #DENvsSD

What once looked like it would be a blowout could become a defensive slugfest. Expect a relatively tight game, with a large dose of running from both teams. In a shocking development, New England will win due to mistakes made by the Eagles' quarterback(s), as this is the kind of matchup won by the team that allows the fewest giveaways. Philly's offense has zero starch in the collar, but the Eagles should utilize their running backs, given the state of Pats linebacker Dont'a Hightower, who suffered a knee injury Sunday. Danny Amendola should be back, while Rob Gronkowski's availability is apparently up in the air. In Bradford we trust -- Tommy Bradford, that is. #PHIvsNE

Can Carolina keep the 16-0 dream alive? Let's build up the drama ...




OK, so, yes. Anything can happen in a divisional game in New Orleans, and it would be soooo like the 2015 season -- filled with outcomes that have made zero logical sense -- for it to include a divisional rival handing the Panthers their first loss. But there just aren't many matchups for the Saints' offense to exploit. Carolina corner Josh Norman will have New Orleans receiver Brandin Cooks on lockdown. Most tight ends have accomplished diddly-poo against this Panthers D, so we don't see Benjamin Watson going for 140 yards, either. And given that this is the NFL's second-ranked run defense, well, good luck to Mark Ingram.

All that said, watch the Saints pull this off. #parity #2015 #CARvsNO

It's not often you see a matchup between two quarterbacks who faced each other in a Super Bowl 10 years prior. That's what we're looking at, with Indy's Matt Hasselbeck set to square off against Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger nearly a decade after Hasselbeck's Seahawks lost to Roethlisberger's Steelers in Super Bowl XL. In fact, this anomaly has happened once before, when Dan Marino and Joe Montana, who played each other in the Super Bowl following the 1984 season, met again in a 1994 wild-card game -- Montana's last as a pro.

As quarterbacks age, the game slows down -- but so do their bodies. Roethlisberger is not at that point yet, although he has been dealing with various injuries. He exploited the Seahawks' secondary last Sunday, and he should have a big day against the Colts this week. Hasselbeck has surprised many with his ability at this stage of his career, but can he keep up in a potential track meet? #INDvsPIT

Jerry Jones might have said this week he expects Tony Romo to play at a high level for the next four to five years -- but Romo's not walking through that door Monday. So get pumped up for White Cassel. (Figured with all the cool nicknames for the backup in Denver, we should do something for Dallas. You're welcome.) Cassel Rock Entertainment will probably find the going a bit rough, as road games late in the year in Washington have not been kind to the Cowboys. The Redskins denied playoff berths to this team in 2005 and 2012 with December wins at home. The '05 loss was one that had some doubting Drew Bledsoe as a long-term answer for Dallas (he would go on to be benched in 2006). His replacement? Romo. Kirk Cousins might be a backup in Brian Billick's eyes, but he isn't playing like one, particularly at home, as we illustrated in this week's Power Rankings.

Fun fact: This series is tied at 8-8 all time on "Monday Night Football." #DALvsWAS

ALREADY COMPLETED

Have a feeling about Green Bay this week, but I love the way the Lions spun their season on its axis. The Packers realize the NFC North is slipping away, and they know they've lost two of their last three against Detroit. Last year, the Lions dominated the Pack at Ford Field, then held them to 16 points in a win at Lambeau last month. A big reason for the success is Matthew Stafford's play, going back even before new coordinator Jim Bob Cooter fixed the offense with a hammer, some duct tape and the contents of a Folgers can he found in Jim Caldwell's garage labeled "nuts and bolts." (Anyone else's dad have those back in 1980? @HarrisonNFL.) Over his last six games, Stafford has averaged nearly 290 yards per game while posting a 104.0 passer rating.

Still, the thinking here is that Green Bay's wideouts can't drop nearly as many passes as they did last week. Right? #GBvsDET

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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