December football is finally here. In a year full of parody, almost every game has playoff implications. Let’s look back at what we learned over Thanksgiving weekend.
5 Things We Learned in Week 13
1. The Kansas City Chiefs are pretenders. After starting out 9-0, the Chiefs were the biggest surprise of the NFL season. Through the first 9 games, the Chiefs only played 2 winning teams. But the way the defense was playing, forcing turnovers and pressuring quarterbacks, everyone wondered what the Chiefs would do against tougher competition. The result? 3 losses in a row. Fortunately for the Chiefs, the rest of the AFC is not very good so they should not have any problem getting into the playoffs. Hosting a playoff game however is nearly out of the question. This doesn’t necessarily take away from the job Andy Reid has done turning the Chiefs around. The Chiefs just need to take a few more steps before they are Super Bowl contenders.
2. CenturyLink Field is a scary place to play. We all have heard about the 12th man that Seattle is known for. Russell Wilson is undefeated at home as the Seattle Seahawks quarterback. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Monday night’s crowd set a record for the loudest outdoor sporting event at 137.6 decibels. According to the University of Washington, the crowd got so loud after Michael Bennett’s fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter that it registered a magnitude 1 or 2 earthquake on the local seismometer. That’s fairly intimidating. And after the Seahawks beat the Saints this past Monday, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC looks like it will run through Seattle.
3. The NFC East battle between the Eagles and Cowboys may come down to the wire. Both teams sit at 7-5. The Cowboys have won 5 out of their last 7 while the Eagles have won 6 out of their last 8. A lot has been written about Tony Romo’s historic bad play in the month of December and once again it will come down to the quality play of the Dallas quarterback. Philly’s quarterback Nick Foles has been the talk of the NFL since taking over the starting quarterback job. Foles has thrown for 19 touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception. An interesting thing to look at is these two teams square off against each other in the final week of the season. That matchup may be for all the marbles in the NFC East.
4. The Colts all but lock up the AFC South. The Colts completed the sweep against their conference rival Tennessee Titans on Sunday. The Titans had a chance to make the AFC South interesting against the recently struggling Colts but failed to do so. The Colts now have a 3 game lead over the Titans and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Titans best shot at the postseason is now to try to get the final wild card spot in the AFC. Speaking of that…
5. The race for the final AFC spot is dwindling down. Only two teams, Ravens and Dolphins, are tied for the final wild card spot (Ravens hold tiebreaker) compared to six teams last week. The other 4 teams (Titans, Steelers, Chargers, Jets) only sit a game out of the final wild card spot with 4 games to go. All these teams still being alive in the postseason race only means more games will have playoff implications than usual. The NFL likes that.
Week 14 Meaningless Power Rankings
1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Denver Broncos
3. Carolina Panthers
4. New England Patriots
5. New Orleans Saints
6. Cincinnati Bengals
7. Philadelphia Eagles
8. Detroit Lions
9. Indianapolis Colts
10. Kansas City Chiefs
5 games to watch in Week 14
Last week’s record (4-1) Season Record (39-25)
Sunday, December 8th: Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
This is an AFC battle between two division leaders and a potential playoff preview. This game has playoff implications regarding seeding, home field, and the postseason bye week. Both teams are coming off wins and hope to start the last quarter of the season off with a win. The Colts have struggled a good bit in the past month allowing teams to outscore them early in games. Indianapolis has had problems defensively particularly against the run where they have given up 128.6 yards per game (28th in the NFL). The Bengals are undefeated at home this season (5-0). Look for the Bengals to take advantage of the Colts’ weaknesses and clinch their 9th win of the season.
My pick: Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, December 8th: Detroit Lions (7-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
Much like the Colts-Bengals game, this is a matchup between two division leaders and a potential playoff preview. The only difference is the divisions these two teams are in are much tighter. The Lions are in first place outright of the NFC North but have the Bears and Packers in close vicinity. The Eagles are tied for first with the Cowboys. However, Dallas owns the tiebreaker and if the playoffs began today Philadelphia would be out of the playoffs. Vegas has this game as being the highest over/under of the weekend at 54 points so expect this to be an offensive shoot out. Detroit (1st) and Philadelphia (2nd) have the two top offenses in the NFC. Defensively, the Lions are much better (7th in NFC) than the Eagles (15th) but neither team is great. Both Matt Stafford and Nick Foles have been known to score a great amount of points in their systems. Even though they have struggled at doing so this year, the Lions have the best ability of pressuring the quarterback between these two teams and I think that will be why they win.
My pick: Detroit Lions
Sunday, December 8th: Seattle Seahawks (11-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
At the beginning of the season, many people believed the NFC West division crown would come down to this game. Instead, the Seahawks are playing to gain home field advantage for the postseason while San Francisco is fighting just to get into the playoffs. The first meeting between these two teams may have been a sign of things to come as the Seahawks dominated the 49ers 29-3. This game will take place at Candlestick Park where the 49ers historically under Coach Harbaugh play much better. The 49ers at home are 2.5 point favorites in Vegas despite Seattle clearly having the better season so far and dominating the first meeting. Offensively, San Francisco has never found their rhythm as they rank 15th in the NFC with 311 yards per game while Seattle is ranked 7th with 364.3 yards per game. Defensively, both teams are great as Seattle has the top defense in the NFC (giving up 284.5 yards per game) and San Francisco has the 3rd best (giving up 311.7 yards per game). Although the 49ers are favored at home, it’s hard for me to pick against the Seahawks after last Monday’s performance against the Saints.
My pick: Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, December 8th: Carolina Panthers (9-3) at New Orleans Saints (9-3)
The NFL did itself a favor unknowingly by scheduling these two teams 2 out of the next 3 weeks. As good as the Saints have been, the Panthers have kept their pace all season. The Panthers have now won 8 games in a row dating back to the first week of October since their last loss. Offensively we know that the Saints (4th in NFC) are better than the Panthers (12th in NFC) yet it seems like every week Cam Newton is leading a key drive late in the game. In fact, when Cam Newton rushes the ball on 3rd or 4th-and-1, he has succeeded 26 out of 29 times. That is crucial in this “game of inches”. Despite all that, this game will be played in the Superdome where the Saints have not lost this season. In fact, with Sean Payton as coach, the Saints haven’t lost at home since Week 17 of 2010. That’s enough for me.
My pick: New Orleans Saints
Monday, December 9th: Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears (6-6)
This is yet another NFC matchup with playoff implications. If the postseason ended right now, the Cowboys would be the 4 seed as the NFC East champion. The Bears would not be in the postseason but only sit a game away from the first place Detroit Lions in the NFC North. This game will come down to the matchup of the Bears offense against the Cowboys defense. The Bears’ offense is ranked 8th overall in the NFL with 381.4 yards per game. The Cowboys’ defense is dead last in the NFL giving up 421.6 yards per game. The Cowboys’ passing defense is ranked 31st in the NFL while the Bears’ running defense ranks dead last at 32nd. This game may come down to the turnover battle in which Dallas has been the best in the NFC forcing 25 turnovers with a +12 turnover rate. The Bears, even though at home, are reeling. Everything in me does not want to pick Tony Romo in December on the road but what the heck…
My pick: Dallas Cowboys
Since Week 13 began in November, Week 14 will be the first full week of December football this season. Each team has 4 games remaining. This stretch run will be fun to watch especially if the weather gets involved. Enjoy!
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