NFL Week 13 game picks: Steelers top Giants; Falcons nip Chiefs

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Week 13 ... Heck, I am already gearing up for playoff time.

And boy, this week offers so many matchups with playoff implications. I can't wait to see Lions at Saints, for example. If you check out Detroit's remaining schedule, you'll notice that Jim Caldwell's bunch had better win this Week 13 matchup in the Big not Easy in order to avoid potentially facing a rejuvenated (and healthier) Pack in Week 17 for all the NFC North marbles. Of course, Green Bay has to beat the first-place Texans to keep the pressure on Detroit. A Packers win also would put the sputtering Texans in a lurch, with both the Colts and Titans hot on their heels. With the Cowboys on the road (against the struggling Vikings) and the Giants facing a tough matchup in Pittsburgh, count this week as more than relevant when it comes to home-field advantage in the NFC. We could go on and on. On to your thoughts ...

Dude, when did you send this, like 4:23 AM? I was watching "Two Towers." Sorry.

Same chances as Philly WRs not dropping a ball the rest of the season.

Speaking of the Eagles, they travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals. That's the only game this weekend where I don't see any playoff implications. OK, Niners at Bears, too. But we spun some yarn on those matchups below, as well. Feel free to spin your own: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 11-5 on his predictions for Week 12, giving him a record of 116-59-2 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 13? His picks are below:

Want to pick the Chiefs this weekend in Atlanta, but can't get past what Trevor Siemian was able to do to K.C. in the second half of last Sunday night's game. The Falcons did a nice job in protecting Matt Ryan against both Khalil Mack and Von Miller earlier this season. The rejuvenated Justin Houston (three sacks last week) will present a new challenge. If he, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford are all healthy, Matty Ice might get defrosted. Ryan has been mostly hot this year, posting a 114.3 passer rating. Would you be shocked to hear that he's never finished a season with a passer rating over 100 before? Don't be. The guy has been a bit overrated for most of his career. Just slightly. Sorry, not sorry. Ryan's been a stud this year, though, and deserves much praise. He's not giving the ball away, especially in the red zone (like last year). Kansas City does lead the league in takeaways, though. #KCvsATL

This should be an exciting affair down in New Orleans, holding huge implications for both teams. With the second-place Vikings hosting the 10-1 Cowboys on Thursday night, the Lions could have an excellent chance to widen their lead in the NFC North. Meanwhile, the Saints might have an opportunity to close the gap on the division-leading Falcons, who are playing no gimme in the Chiefs. Will Matt Stafford receive any help from a mostly-absent ground game? Doubtful. Ever since Sheldon Rankins entered the lineup, this New Orleans run D has tightened considerably. I've gone back and forth on who should win this game, but am having trouble getting past a Lions secondary that's allowed opposing quarterbacks a 106.4 passer rating this season (that's really, REALLY bad -- muy mal) facing Drew Brees. #DETvsNO

The Patriots' offense was far from lights-out in MetLife Stadium against the Jets, but that doesn't necessarily mean New England will fall flat at home vs. Los Angeles. OK, this contest will probably go one of two ways: Either the Rams will be so ticked off by their performance in NOLA that they will play with their hair on fire at Gillette OR Tom Brady will be so motivated from last week's slow start that he will torch the Rams' secondary. Jeff Fisher's group has drawn two of the best offenses in the league, on the road, in back-to-back weeks. As far as Jared Goff is concerned ... well ... he should be. Since 2001, the Patriots are 7-0 against rookie quarterbacks. Those freshmen QBs sported a shiny 4:14 TD-to-INT ratio in those games. In the last two meetings between these two coaches, Belichick's Patriots have outscored Fisher's team 104-7. The Greatest Slow on Turf. #LAvsNE

The Malik Jackson revenge game. Or something like that. Has anyone outside of Jacksonville heard about Jackson this year? The former Bronco is actually enjoying a much better season than another, more-ballyhooed former Bronco, Julius Thomas. Jackson has 4.5 sacks, 24 tackles and two pass deflections to his name. His work up front has helped a much-improved secondary in Jacksonville this year, although it's been lost in the swamp of a 2-9 record. Meanwhile, the Broncos are 6-1 versus non-AFC West teams, with the only loss coming at the hands of the Falcons in Week 5. The Jags are less biased about who they give in to -- and who they give the ball to! Their turnover differential is minus-11 during this six-game losing streak. #DENvsJAX

EDITOR'S NOTE: This pick was made before Broncos QB Trevor Siemian was ruled out for the game with a left foot sprain.

If you feel the score above represents a lack of confidence in the Texans, you would be correct. Brock Osweiler will see a secondary that many quarterbacks have taken advantage of thus far this season. In a related -- and highly pertinent -- note: Many quarterbacks are playing better than Brock Osweiler this season. Osweiler's 72.2 passer rating is the lowest among 32 qualifying quarterbacks. If he is to not be characterized as a complete free-agent bust, Osweiler must take advantage of a Packers' secondary that is allowing opposing quarterbacks over a 100 passer rating. Green Bay's never finished a season with that happening. Never in franchise history. Oh, by the way: Green Bay boasts a very looong franchise history. Also worth mentioning is how dominant the Packers have been at Lambeau in December during the Mike McCarthy era. #19-3 #HOUvsGB

The Eagles' defense has been far less intimidating on the road than at home, so this might be a rebound game for a struggling Andy Dalton. Cincy needs the Red Rifle to take this one over, with no A.J. Green and a running game that's been more of a power-walking game of late. Picking Philadelphia to win here would take some guts, though, as Doug Pederson's group is 1-5 on the road and has lost six of the last eight. #PHIvsCIN

Guessing the winning streak stops here for the Dolphins, although this will be anybody's contest. Joe Flacco must be effective (no turnovers) for the Ravens to prevail. Meanwhile, Ryan Tannehill won't really have Jay Ajayi to lean on, with a banged-up offensive line facing the league's top-ranked run defense. Both of these ballclubs are gearing up for an important stretch run -- especially the Dolphins, given that they are behind the Patriots and already lost the first head-to-head matchup. An AFC wild-card slot is going to require at least 10 wins, considering the strength of the West. FYI: Miami hosts the Patriots in Week 17. #MIAvsBAL

If someone told you two months ago that this game would feature Colin Kaepernick vs. Matt Barkley, you might have expected, oh, uh, 300 yards passing and two touchdowns combined. Football will surprise you sumptimes, Sean. [Said in my best Jon Gruden voice.] Kaep just tossed three touchdown passes in Miami, while Barkley's 54 pass attempts vs. Tennessee fell one short of the record for throws by a quarterback making his first career start. Speaking of great quarterback play, Blaine Gabbert delivered a win for the 49ers last year in Chicago. Think the Bears' defense, a solid unit which unfortunately has been linked to the poor record, will have much to say about that. And there is no way the guys on offense can drop as many balls as they did last week. There is no way the guys on offense can drop half as many balls as they did last week. Let's be real here: Both of these teams have been mostly awful since the start of the 2015 season (49ers: 6-21, Bears: 8-19) and are playing for draft positioning. #SFvsCHI

Can Derek Carr pull off the win in the "Return of the Jedi" glove for a second straight week? Yep. Buffalo's pass defense has been viable ( eighth in the NFL), but that doesn't mean Carr won't be able to exploit the unit. His offensive line protects him better than any other quarterback in the league, save for maybe Dak Prescott in Dallas. Not to mention, the Bills have benefitted from facing Jacoby Brissett, Case Keenum, and Colin Kaepernick (in his first start in a year). If tight end Clive Walford shows up like he did versus the Panthers, Dennis Thurman's unit could find itself searching for answers. Spoke with #BillsMafia superfan @PECrawleyNFL. He thinks Buffalo wins this West Coast deal based on matchups (... before losing next week versus the Steelers). As you can see, I respectfully disagree. Who you got? ( @HarrisonNFL) #BUFvsOAK

The Giants' win streak stops here. Big Blue has been getting away with a much-hyped offense that's really not putting up points in bunches. Rather, it's been an in-game struggle almost every week, where Ben McAdoo's attack either explodes for short bursts or sleepwalks through 2.5 quarters. The fact remains that it's the defense that keeps New York winning. The front seven, in particular, consistently thwarts opposing running games. Lev Bell presents a completely different kind of monster than Isaiah Crowell, Jeremy Hill or any of the running backs New York has faced this season (save for maybe Ezekiel Elliott, though that was the rookie's first NFL game). One other interesting note on the G-Men: They've been escaping by the hair of their chinny chin chin, earning all but one of their wins by seven points or less. Do you give them credit for doing what it takes? Or are they a middling team canvased by an 8-3 record? #NYGvsPIT

Seeing a high-scoring game in the desert. Well, maybe not by today's standards, but certainly not a defensive struggle. For Washington, the key will be not letting drives fail on the opponent's side of the field, something that happened too much in Dallas. Which is why the Redskins piled up over 500 yards of offense with no turnovers and lost. Arizona isn't much different in this regard: Bruce Arian's offense is ninth in yards per game, yet the Cardinals are 20th in points per game. As far as the Washington offense is concerned, Kirk Cousins has been hell on wheels recently on throws of 10-plus yards: 153.8 passer rating over the last two games. A perfect passer rating is 158.3. Put in laymen's terms, he's lit on those deep throws. Sorry, been on Instagram and Snapchat too much lately. Redskins win. #WASvsAZ

People are hot on the Bucs right now. The defense, which is allowing 24 points per game, is improving. Yet, this is one long road trip across the country for a team coming off of its most emotional win in years. While I don't see Jameis Winston losing focus, it wouldn't surprise me if Tampa came out flat in the first quarter. The key matchup will be Philip Rivers' pass protection versus a suddenly legit (we think) Tampa pass rush. Was last week's pummeling of Russell Wilson a product of the Bucs' front seven, or a talent-optional Seahawks offensive line? Considering Rivers has been sacked 26 times this year, the Bucs' pass rush might not need to be legit. Melvin Gordon, meanwhile, is a different beast entirely from the RB-by-committee Tampa saw last Sunday. Gordon will be the difference. #TBvsSD

The Panthers are a desperate football team. The Seahawks are an embarrassed football team. Well, at least the offense anyway. The Sunday night game should be every bit as physical as the Chiefs-Broncos classic last Sunday night, albeit with a hair less scoring. Carolina must make the tough catches for Cam Newton, who was under siege from a Mack truck late in Oakland. Ditto Russell Wilson, who, one week after getting sacked over and over again in Tampa, faces a defense that is tied with the Seahawks for most sacks in the NFC. That's why this feels like a Thomas Rawls contest, finally. Seattle definitely would be catching a break if Luke Kuechly were to miss another game, although A.J. Klein has fared well as Kuechly's replacement. Don't be surprised if Wilson takes advantage, as the fifth-year pro always picks it up during the winter months. His career 109.2 passer rating in the second half of the season is the highest in pro football since the merger. #CARvsSEA

One of Week 13's toughest games to call. It looks like Andrew Luck will suit up for the Colts on Monday -- and he should benefit from facing a weak Jets secondary. Ryan Fitzpatrick will get the nod from Todd Bowles, despite the disappointing ending in the loss to the Patriots. Matt Forte hit the skids in that game, but will find the Colts' front seven far more forgiving. Indy's run defense allows opposing running back's a robust 4.6 yards per carry. That should keep Fitzpatrick in favorable situations -- so, in theory, he could go a second straight week without an interception. Not fun note: Gang Green is 1-7 this season when they've lost the turnover battle. Don't think the lovable Jets lose either battle this week. #INDvsNYJ

THURSDAY'S GAME


The Cowboys win their 11th in a row, extending a franchise record while putting them further in the driver's seat for home-field advantage in the NFC. Ezekiel Elliott will find this Vikings front almost as challenging to run on as the Ravens' unit was, but the Minnesota defense needs help from a punchless offense that refuses to go downfield. If safety Barry Church is out for the Cowboys again, that should at least help Sam Bradford test the waters. The Vikings quarterback has impressed with a 134.2 passer rating on throws that travel at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage. Super cool, except he never attempts passes that travel at least 15 yards past the line of scrimmage any more.

One more thing ... I've followed Mike Zimmer's career since he was a defensive assistant on the early-'90s Cowboys teams. He's always been highly thought of in league circles -- thus, the respect he's receiving from the masses now is hardly a surprise. Just hope that he's back on the sideline fully healthy sooner than later.

Side note: You have my pick for Thursday night, but be sure to make yours, as well. Go to NFL.com/budlight to vote for "Which Team Will Win" or use #GoCowboysTNF or #GoVikingsTNF on Twitter.

#DALvsMIN

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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