Feast week is here. It’s that time of the year where we eat and watch football all day long and don’t feel an ounce of guilt about it. Let’s look back at what we learned.
5 Things We Learned in Week 12
1. Tom Brady beats Peyton Manning again. And he did it in the most improbable way possible. Brady rallied the Patriots to a 34-31 overtime victory after trailing 24-0 at the half. The Patriots won despite turning the ball over 3 times on their first 3 possessions. They won despite Knowshon Moreno gaining 224 yards on the ground. What may be more telling is Peyton Manning’s play in the cold weather compared to Tom Brady. Since 2003, when the temperature is freezing or below, Tom Brady is 23-5 while Peyton Manning is 1-6. Manning does not have the comforts of the RCA dome or Lucas Oil Stadium (also a dome) in Indianapolis as his home field anymore either. This may be a bad sign for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
2. The Arizona Cardinals are quietly 7-4. They are tied with the 49ers for the final playoff spot in the NFC (49ers would win tiebreaker at the moment). They are the last team that the Carolina Panthers (who have a 7 game winning streak) lost to. They have been the beneficiaries of a career resurgence by Carson Palmer under the wing of head coach Bruce Arians. They also benefit from having the best run defense in the NFC (giving up 81.3 yards per game). 4 out of their last 5 games are against playoff contenders so it won’t be easy.
3. The NFC North stinks. No team in the NFC North division won in Week 12. The Lions had a chance to gain some ground over the last few weeks due to the injuries of Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers. Instead, they have lost 2 out of 3 since their bye week. The Bears, who once had a vaunted defense, gave up 42 points to the St. Louis Rams. And you would think that since two NFC North teams played each other head-to-head that there would be at least one win within the division. Instead, the Packers and Vikings played to a tie on Sunday. The Packers, who get Aaron Rodgers back after Thanksgiving, may still end up winning the division thanks to the inept play from all the other teams during his injury.
4. The NFC West is the best division in football right now. It was originally thought that the NFC West would be a two horse race between the Seahawks and the 49ers. As mentioned before, the Cardinals have made it a 3 horse race. The Seahawks may end up winning the NFC West going away but both the Cardinals and 49ers (both at 7-4) will be battling for a wild card spot down the stretch. And nobody wants to play the St. Louis Rams (winners of 2 in a row) right now thanks to rookie Tavon Austin. These NFC North divisional games will be fun to watch down the stretch.
5. There is a 6 way tie for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Currently, the Tennessee Titans win all the tiebreaker scenarios. The other 5 teams are the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens, the San Diego Chargers, the New York Jets, and the Miami Dolphins. All 6 teams sit at 5-6 yet are in contention for the final playoff spot, along with 3 other teams at 4-7. This is NFL parody at its very best. 4 of the 6 teams (Ravens, Steelers, Jets, Dolphins) play each other this week while the other 2 (Titans, Chargers) play division leaders. This will make for some very interesting football during Thanksgiving weekend.
Week 13 Meaningless Power Rankings
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. New Orleans Saints
3. Carolina Panthers
4. New England Patriots
5. Denver Broncos
6. Kansas City Chiefs
7. Cincinnati Bengals
8. Arizona Cardinals
9. Philadelphia Eagles
10. Indianapolis Colts
5 games to watch in Week 13
Last Week’s Record (3-2) Season Record (35-24)
Thursday, November 28th: Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-6)
Considered one of the best rivalries in sports, the Steelers and Ravens headline the nightcap on Thanksgiving. Between these two teams, there has been 9 appearances in the last 13 AFC title games. Thursday night will have a playoff atmosphere as these two teams vie for the final playoff spot in the AFC. The winner will be in good shape while the loser will have a tough time getting in. You can throw out all the stats when these two teams meet but here’s one important one to remember: In the last 10 games between these two teams, 8 of them have been decided by 3 points. The Steelers seemed to have figured things out since being humiliated by New England. I will go with the Steelers.
My pick: Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, December 1st: Arizona Cardinals (7-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
Who had this as being a meaningful game at the start of the season? The Eagles are tied with the Cowboys for the NFC East division lead (although the Cowboys have the tiebreaker). The Cardinals are trying to gain some ground in the NFC Wild Card race. Both teams have impressive winning streaks: The Cardinals with 4 games and the Eagles with 3. Both teams want to prove that they belong in the playoff discussion. The Eagles are playing at home where they’ve only won one game all year (their last game against the Redskins). Chip Kelly announced this week that Nick Foles is the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the remainder of the year. Philadelphia needs to score a lot of points on offense (ranked 4th overall in the NFL gaining 412.4 yards per game) to make up for their bad passing defense (32nd in the NFL giving up 300.1 yards per game). The Eagles should be able to double their win total at home with their offense.
My pick: Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, December 1st: Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
A few weeks ago the Colts looked like the best team in the AFC. After losing 2 out of their last 3 games, and being outscored 72-9 in the first halves of these games, the Colts have many glaring weaknesses. Despite acquiring Trent Richardson, who has been a huge disappointment, the Colts’ running game ranks 18th in the NFL (gaining 109.9 yards per game). Defensively, the Colts’ running defense has given up 125.5 yards per game (27th in the NFL). The Titans have stayed relevant because of their passing defense which gives up only 217.4 yards per game (8th in the NFL) and has forced 19 turnovers with a +5 turnover margin. The Colts only beat the Titans by 3 in their last outing but I think they will get back on track in this game at home.
My pick: Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, December 1st: Denver Broncos (9-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
Two weeks ago this was the marquee matchup of the week. Only two weeks later, both teams are searching for answers. The Broncos gave up a 24 point lead Sunday night in New England. After winning their first 9 games, the Chiefs have dropped their last 2. We addressed some of Peyton Manning and the Broncos’ problems above. The Chiefs gave up 41 at home against the Chargers including two touchdowns in the final 8 minutes. Part of that may be that the Chiefs have faced Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers, both having great years, in back to back weeks. As mentioned in weeks before, the Chiefs were relatively untested by their level of competition in their first 9 games. It’s also true that while the Chiefs have lost the last two games against better teams, they also haven’t been embarrassed. The Chiefs will look to make a big statement at home this week. If they lose their third straight, you have to wonder how the team will perform the rest of the season. The Denver offense will be looking for retribution after Sunday night and they will find it in Kansas City.
My pick: Denver Broncos
Monday, December 2nd: New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
If the Denver-New England matchup was the game of the year in the AFC, this may be the game of the year in the NFC. This matchup may determine who gets home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Drew Brees is having yet another great year already amassing 3,647 yards which contributes to the Saints’ 2nd rated passing offense. The Seahawks’ strength on offense is their running game ranked 3rd in the NFL (147.9 yards per game). As good as these teams are offensively, they are also impressive defensively. The Seahawks’ defense ranks 2nd overall in the NFL (293.3 yards per game) while the Saints’ defense ranks 5th (309.9 yards per game). Home field is very important for these two teams. The Saints and Seahawks have a combined 11-0 record at home this year. For this reason I am going with the home team to win in what will be an amped Qwest Field Monday night.
My pick: Seattle Seahawks
This Sunday will begin the stretch run of December football. Everyone have a blessed Thankgiving! And eat up!
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