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Saints-Falcons, Giants-Redskins, Steelers-Ravens head Week 13

Here is your Week 13 primer, with games ranked in order of intrigue:


Why this game is No. 1:

So, New York Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck has nightmares about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III? Well, he's probably not alone in the NFC East. With the way RG3 nearly led his team back to an improbable win in the first meeting with Big Blue, who can blame Tuck? And then there were the back-to-back four-touchdown games from Griffin that yanked the 'Skins back into playoff relevance. These developments have forced the G-Men to take notice of their division rivals. Of course, the Giants themselves returned from their bye week refreshed. Suddenly, Eli Manning can throw again, and that beatdown New York put on the Green Bay Packers served notice to the rest of the league. The offensive fireworks should be loud and colorful. If only this one can pack an epic ending like the last meeting. #NYGvsWAS *

Why this game is No. 2:

Twice in three weeks? Oh yes. Thank you, schedule-makers. An encore to the first street fight. The original meeting, a Baltimore Ravens win, might have been decided without the ailing Ben Roethlisberger, but it wasn't without a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat ending. Alas, Roethlisberger's availability for Sunday afternoon is up in the air, too, even if he's pushing hard to play. It might not be up to him. That just increases the urgency of the playoff push. Thanks to last week's loss to the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers are desperate. At 6-5, three games behind the Ravens, the Steelers need a win, whether Charlie Batch is their quarterback or not, and regardless of the fact that this bout will be played in hostile territory. Meanwhile, all the Ravens need to do is win and clinch a playoff spot. Then they can walk out with as many Terrible Towels draped over their heads as they see fit. #PITvsBAL *

Why this game is No. 3:

Scanning the landscape of the schedule before the season, no one circled this matchup. By Week 13, the Green Bay Packers were supposed to be running away with the NFC North, while the Vikings should have been duking it out with the Jaguars and Chiefs for the first draft pick in 2013. Right? Turns out, not so much. The Vikings have ridden on the back of Adrian Peterson to unpredictably hang around (though the remaining schedule definitely doesn't lighten up). Minnesota can keep the impossible dream going by winning at Lambeau Field. But could the Vikes have caught the Packers at a worse time? Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who left MetLife Stadium on Sunday vowing to figure things out after an embarrassing defeat, will unleash what he's learned on Minnesota. This should be the Packers' bounce-back game, if they are the team we think they are. #MINvsGB *

Why this game is No. 4:

There is no traditional rivalry, no history, no stake in a divisional race that will play out on Sunday in Denver. Just two really good teams with contrasting styles attacking one another the way they do best. Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, with a playoff berth just one win away, can go after one of the NFL's most giving secondaries -- a unit that won't have Eric Wright, as he begins his four-game suspension. Meanwhile, the run-heavy Tampa Bay Buccaneers will go old-school against the new-fangled Broncos, pounding it right at them with the "Muscle Hamster," Doug Martin. If Denver can limit the big plays, all should be well. But Tampa Bay has plenty to play for, with the final NFC playoff spot bouncing around like a pinball. At the least, this is a battle between two of the NFL's hottest teams, with the Broncos on a six-game winning streak and the Bucs having won four of five. #TBvsDEN *

Why this game is No. 5:

You often hear quarterback battles described as one-on-one matchups, as in, "Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning." Can we call this the battle of the cornerbacks, despite all the negative vibes surrounding both units? On one side, you have the Seattle Seahawks' "Legion of Boom," led by ball-hawking, trash-talking Richard Sherman. He and partner Brandon Browner are playing while they appeal suspensions for violating the NFL's policy against performance-enhancing substances. On the other side, you have thieving cornerbacks Charles Tillman (nine total takeaways) and Tim Jennings, with Tillman reportedly battling a chipped bone in his foot. There are plenty of playoff implications, especially as Seattle tries to keep pace in the NFC, but the key X's-and-O's battle will be between these defenses and the quarterbacks they're facing: the Bears' Jay Cutler and the Seahawks' Russell Wilson. #SEAvsCHI *

Why this game is No. 6:

You'd never have predicted before the season that the high-powered, talent-filled Detroit Lions would be the team in this matchup grasping at faint playoff hopes, hoping to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter of the season (like they've done in so many games). But that's reality. The news around Detroit has been dominated by Ndamukong Suh's alleged kick to the private parts of Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, an incident that has overshadowed three straight losses and expectations unfulfilled for the league's best passing offense. As for the Indianapolis Colts, they've quietly motored on with an impossibly young team while head coach Chuck Pagano battles cancer. #INDvsDET *


Why this game is No. 7:

Maybe this time, one of them will win. The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers stage a rematch on Sunday of one of the season's stranger games, an intense contest that ended with players from both sides walking off the field confused as to why they were walking off the field. Last time, Alex Smith started against the Rams before leaving with a concussion; this time, they'll be staring down the athletic Colin Kaepernick, who replaced Smith that afternoon -- and demands a different and challenging type of preparation. #SFvsSTL *

Why this game is No. 8:

The Sunday night game everyone pretends they won't be watching. The prime-time experience that fans are quick to discount will be the same one that no doubt produces soaring ratings a few days later. Schadenfreude is a powerful thing. Few fans feel sorry for the formerly brash Philadelphia Eagles, who have tumbled into the abyss in a car crash of a season that has the franchise headed for a house cleaning. On Sunday night, they'll face Tony Romo's Dallas Cowboys, who are similarly busy wasting another prime season with their core talent base. Fans in Philadelphia and Dallas will watch because they can't resist. Others will take part in rubbernecking, no doubt relishing in the high-profile failures of others. #PHIvsDAL *

Why this game is No. 9:

Long regarded as the most well-rounded team in the NFL, the Houston Texans have cruised along, winning five in a row. While the defense has shown flashes of weakness during that span, receiver Andre Johnson has reminded the league that he is still one of its elite talents. But if the Tennessee Titans are looking for hope in this divisional game, there is some. Houston has allowed an average of 34 points over its last two games, thanks mostly to a leaky secondary. Tennessee debuts new offensive play-caller Dowell Loggains, who now has the task of taking over for fired coordinator Chris Palmer and harnessing talent that those in the Titans organization think is as good as they've had in years. Loggains' tryout begins now. #HOUvsTEN *

Why this game is No. 10:

Just like in previous years, the New England Patriots face the prospect of finishing out the AFC East race early, leaving them primed to knock off wannabes and coast to the playoffs. It seems to happen every November and December. Entering Week 13, Bill Belichick's team has won five in a row, scoring more than 29 points in each game and showing signs of coming into its own. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have crashed back to Earth after hinting at some promise and making a cameo in the playoff race. They lost three in a row before last week's win over Seattle. The Dolphins can completely right the ship against the Pats, whom they play again in Week 17. Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has impressed, specifically under pressure, but this won't be easy. #NEvsMIA *

Why this game is No. 11:

Two ships pass at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. The Cincinnati Bengals (still one of the league's youngest teams and a franchise on the rise) vs. the downtrodden, disappointing, down-turning San Diego Chargers. Maybe they will wave to one another as they go by. Marvin Lewis' Bengals have gotten back in the playoff mix with -- would you believe it? -- three straight wins by an average of more than 21 points. Apparently, all quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and the rest of the team's leadership core needed was some prodding from Lewis. The Chargers are just hoping to limp through the rest of the season before addressing what is a murky future for all parties involved. #CINvsSD *


Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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