NFL Week 13 preview
Saints @ Falcons
The Saints are clearly in the driver's seat in the NFC South. They've been able to continue their flow on offense with Drew Brees out, and the defense has steadily improved as the season has gone on. The Falcons have been very good since Raheem Morris took over. The defense is still an issue though, so expect New Orleans to exploit that with its many weapons. These two met just two weeks ago, and that was the one game that Atlanta appeared to be outmatched in since Morris took over.
Browns @ Titans
Many people probably thought the Titans could be 8-3 at this point, but few thought the Browns would also be there. Cleveland has secured its first non-losing season since 2007. First year head coach Kevin Stefanski has done a good job unlocking some of the potential of the Browns' offense. The Titans are playing to keep their slim lead in the AFC South and seem to be peaking at the right time. This should be a great game that impacts the AFC playoff picture.
Lions @ Bears
The first game for Darrell Bevell as interim head coach in Detroit is against a struggling Bears team. Chicago hasn't had much offense this season to help its great defense. The Bears beat the Lions in Week 1 as Detroit blew a 23-6 lead in the fourth quarter. That game further amplified the frustrations with Matt Patricia. Bevell and his players have teased a change to a more fun style of football. We'll see what they've got against Chicago.
Bengals @ Dolphins
The Bengals have struggled without Joe Burrow. The Dolphins' defense is playing great, while the offense is waiting to hear who will play quarterback this week. The Bengals defense might keep this a little closer than you would think, but it appears to be a Dolphins win regardless of who gets the call under center.
Jaguars @ Vikings
This is the first game after firing GM Dave Caldwell for Jacksonville. The Jags have lost 10 straight after a win in Week 1. With Gardner Minshew out, Mike Glennon has taken over quarterback duties in Jacksonville. The offense has been okay but nothing to be excited about. Minnesota has started to look better as the season has progressed. The defense is still shaky, but the offense has found a good routine. This game comes around at the right time for the Vikings, as they try to stay alive in the NFC playoff hunt.
Raiders @ Jets
What better way for the Raiders to bounce back from a dismal showing in Atlanta than getting to play the Jets? New York players and coaches will say publicly that they're fine with head coach Adam Gase, but the team plays uninspired football every week and seems to have quit on him. You never really know who will be playing for the Jets, and they lack playmakers on the roster. The Raiders are essentially the opposite. They have bought in to Jon Gruden's philosophy and have had guys emerge as playmakers on offense. Their defense may still be a work in progress, but the Jets don't have an offense that should make them worry about anything.
Washington @ Steelers
The Steelers are coming off a short week in which they defeated the Ravens' B team. Frankly, while Washington has been better than expected, their overall roster is on a similar talent level as that B team, especially on offense. Add in the fact that they will be playing against an elite Pittsburgh defense, and this one doesn't look promising. I still expect Washington to play hard since it is still playing for the NFC East title.
Colts @ Texans
If the Texans pull off the upset, they will theoretically be back in the AFC South race. However, that likely wouldn't last long, and they have some other obstacles to overcome. WR Will Fuller and CB Bradley Robby are both suspended for six games. That means Houston will be without its top receiver and top corner. It remains to be seen if Randall Cobb will be back, and the release of Kenny Stills could mean a heavy dose of Brandin Cooks and Keke Coutee in the passing game. The Colts are trying to keep pace with the Titans after last week's blowout loss. The offense should have a better performance in this one against Houston's defense, and the Indy defense should be able to keep Houston from an offensive explosion. First one to 30 pulls this one out, if either team gets there.
Rams @ Cardinals
Key game in the NFC West. The Cardinals are trying to stay afloat in the division race after dropping two in a row. This will be their first game against the Rams this season and is one of three divisional games remaining on their schedule. They also play a couple NFC East teams. The Rams are looking to get their offense back on track after a down game against San Francisco. The Arizona defense is vastly improved from a year ago but still struggles some against good offenses. This should be a good opportunity for the Rams to rebound. The key will be how often the LA defense can stop Kyler Murray and the Cardinals offense. The LA secondary will obviously have to watch out for DeAndre Hopkins, but there are other Cardinals that can hurt the defense as well.
Giants @ Seahawks
The Giants are surging and have taken the lead in the NFC East. The defense has been a bright spot, while the offense has been able to manage just enough to pull out some close wins. QB Daniel Jones is listed as doubtful on the injury report, so we will probably be looking at Colt McCoy under center for the Giants. Seattle's defense has been suspect against the pass this season, and while New York doesn't have spectacular receivers, it is a group that can take advantage of mistakes. I think Seattle's offense is too good for it to lose this game, but the Giants seem to be steadily improving each week.
Eagles @ Packers
Two teams heading in different directions. The Packers are running away with the NFC North and may end up as the one-seed in the NFC. Matt Lafleur and Aaron Rodgers have the offense on a tear, and the defense has gotten a little better. The Eagles, meanwhile, seem to be heading toward a crossroads. There have been calls from fans to move on from QB Carson Wentz and head coach Doug Pederson. Unfortunately, the Wentz criticism is warranted. Since returning from a season-ending injury after the 2017-18 season, Wentz has not been the MVP-caliber player he was and turns the ball over way too much. The Packers take advantage of bad decisions better than most teams in the league, and that is what gives them the biggest edge in this one.
Patriots @ Chargers
The Patriots are having a down year by their standards, but are still just two games out of the final AFC playoff spot. I'm not saying they will make it just that this game is an important one to keep those chances alive. The question will be if the Patriots can score enough. It's no secret that New England doesn't have a great arsenal of weapons on offense. It probably has held back what has been a very good defense. The Chargers don't have a a great defense, and their offense has the ability to make big plays and score points, but I just don't see those happening as frequently against this New England defense. I see this as a tightly contested, lower scoring game.
Broncos @ Chiefs
The good news for Denver is it will have an actual quarterback to use this week. The bad news is the Broncos have to play Kansas City. Earlier this season, the Chiefs blew out the Broncos in Denver. That game saw Kansas City score defensive and special teams touchdowns to pad an early lead. With the Denver offense struggling, this could be another good week for the KC defense. We know the Chiefs are going to score a lot of points, but can Denver keep up? I would say no at this point.
Cowboys @ Ravens
The Ravens have dropped 5 of their last 6, so they have to be relieved to see a bad Dallas team coming to town. Baltimore has struggled in the passing game this season and uses a run-oriented offensive scheme. The Cowboys are dead last in the NFL against the run. Sure seems like the perfect recipe for Baltimore to get back on track. Of course, the short turnaround and the availability of some Ravens players will also be a factor. Dallas's offense isn't nearly as good without Dak Prescott. Their skill players are good, but the Ravens should be able to manhandle a lackluster offensive line, and their DBs should shut down the Cowboys' passing attack.
Bills @ 49ers
This is an intriguing game. The Bills currently have a one game lead in the AFC East, while the Niners are trying to stay in the hunt in the NFC. Buffalo has shown an ability to score points when it needs to, and Josh Allen has shown great improvement. Both will be challenged in this game, as San Francisco has the 6th best defense in football, despite several injuries. Buffalo may also be challenged in the run game. The Bills are near the bottom of the league in run defense, and Kyle Shanahan's offense has many creative ways to run the ball, no matter who is in the game. The 49ers should stick with the run and rely on that defense to keep this game close. With the challenges San Francisco has had on offense (hurt players, multiple QBs, etc.), they probably will not be able to win if this becomes a shootout.