Atlanta Safety William Moore intercepts Drew Brees for the second time in Week 13.
This week the National Football League will continue the trend that started with a Thursday night clash between division rivals.
New Orleans traveled to the A-T-L and suffered defeat, a loss that drops them to 5-7 and probably dashes their playoff hopes. Drew Brees tossed 5 interceptions to the Falcons while they tallied a dozen passes defended. Lance Moore hustled for over 100 yards receiving in a losing effort, as both teams protected home field to split the season series. Michael Turner plowed his way back into relevance to extend Atlanta’s record to 11-1, strengthening their hold on the top seed and a first round bye in the postseason.
In the first slate of games, Minnesota heads to Green Bay in a game with playoff implications for the division and/or a wildcard spot. Percy Harvin is sidelined for the Vikings as is Clay Matthews for the Cheese Heads. Adrian Peterson is in for a full workload, to both put points on the scoreboard and keep the ball away from Aaron Rodgers.
A couple weeks ago we witnessed a tie, this week the Rams get to host the 49ers in a rematch. This time around San Francisco has a different signal caller in rookie Colin Kaepernick. St. Louis is coming off a division win last week and has their sights on spoiling the playoff seedings, and will have to overcome the absence of Danny Amendola.
In the AFC, a battered Houston defense will have to contain a salivating receiving core in Tennessee. The Titans have had recent success against opposing ground games, but none like the challenge of Arian Foster and an excellent playaction attack. Chris Johnson needs to show up against the Texans to give his team a fighting chance, considering they are undefeated on the road.
New England is en fuego with Miami as the next destination. The Dolphins just ended a losing streak that slid them down the wildcard hunt, and they will need Reggie Bush to perform like he did early in the season. Aaron Hernandez hasn’t been himself health wise, but if he can integrate himself into this offense it will take the kitchen sink just to contain the Patriots.
Another game that highlights the playoff picture is Seattle at Chicago. The Bears are battling the injury while squeezing tightly to a division lead. The Seahawks play a similar style that can win in the playoffs, however they need rookie Russell Wilson to play better on the road. Not too fast, Marshawn Lynch isn’t necessarily beast mode every week and Jay Cutler has to find his groove at the helm.
To round up the early games:
The revived aerial attack of Chad Henne and the Jaguars play a strong Buffalo ground game.
Calvin Johnson chases the record book as the Lions go to Indy, and the Colts are in command of a wildcard berth.
Darrelle Revis wants his Jets teammates to shut up and play, while the Cardinals come to town trying to snap a 7-game losing streak.
The Panthers aim for back to back wins in Kansas City, where the Chiefs are filled with mixed emotions after the Jovan Belcher tragedy.
*Moment of silence and a prayer*
On a brighter note…
Peyton Manning and Josh Freeman square off at Mile High Stadium, this is a crucial game for Freeman’s resume. Doug Martin has had a great rookie season, his efforts have to keep Von Miller and company honest. Knowshon Moreno took advantage of his first start of the season, but he didn’t face the league’s best run defense.
Pittsburgh moves on from last week’s turnover debacle to take on a familiar foe with a familiar face. Troy Polomalu returns to the field in time to play the Ravens, who are undefeated at home. Ray Rice worked his magic on that stellar 4th and 29 play he converted, and they look to sweep the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger.
As for the rest of the afternoon games:
Cincinnati is firing on all cylinders at the right time, but San Diego wants to get back in the win column at home.
Cleveland is playing some gritty football coming off a big victory, and the Raiders hope the return of Darren McFadden snaps that 4-game losing streak.
The NFC East in prime time action:
Sunday Night Football features the injury-plagued Eagles and Cowboys will go at it in round two. Philadelphia is getting a chance to evaluate its youth on their way to a high draft pick while Dallas gets a boost by getting DeMarco Murray back for a playoff push. Nick Foles entered the first meeting when Michael Vick was knocked out of the game, and last week Bryce Brown piled up the yardage but couldn’t hang onto the football. The Cowboys are clinging on for dear life, to stay alive in the postseason discussion.
Monday Night Football consists of a streaky Redskins squad visiting the reigning champion Giants. Washington relies on the rookie duo of RG3 and Alfred Morris, holding hope that London Fletcher extends his streak of consecutive games so the defense isn’t pedestrian. New York will be without a couple defenders but they got the best of them in the first matchup.