Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 4:00 PM
We've just turned the calendar page to read December- and yet here we are with a slew of NFL teams seeking to clinch their divisions right here in Week 13 play.
The Atlanta Falcons' 23-13 win this past Thursday Night against their long-time archrivals- the New Orleans Saints- put the Falcs in position to clinch the NFC South should Tampa Bay lose in Denver this weekend but just about every division leader in this league where they play for pay can clinch this weekend save for the guys in the NFC East and the NFC North and so this could become a big-time "hat-and-tee-shirt" Sunday... if you know what we mean!
We'll steer away from our usual Jim Sez weekly NFL Previews where we highlight just the key games and we'll get you a "readers digest" version of what's happening out there in NFL Week 13, so here goes as today we'll concentrate on the 1 p.m. ET or "early games" and in tomorrow's Jim Sez we'll get you the "late games"...
NFL WEEK 13
SEATTLE (6-5) at CHICAGO (8-3)- Get the feeling that the Bears truly are legit Super Bowl contenders providing QB Jay Cutler (2,002 yards passing this year) can stay in one piece? Still, last week's dominant 28-10 home win against Minnesota ravaged the Bears with a host of non-Cutler injuries and so we'll see now if a Seahawks club that is a mere 6-16 SU (straight-up) away in the Pete Carroll Era can get its act together here and note both Seahawks CBs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are expected to play while currently appealing the league's performance-enhancing drug policies.
Key Stat: Bears' WR Brandon Marshall last Sunday caught 12 passes for 92 yards and now he's talking about the on-field benefits of... viagra!
MINNESOTA (6-5) at GREEN BAY (7-4) - For those folks who believed the Packers "packed it in" early in last Sunday Night's 38-10 loss at the New York Giants, you won't get a disagreement from us here but consider the fact QB Aaron Rodgers was sacked five times in that blowout loss and you can see why head coach Mike McCarthy scaled back his play calls. If Rodgers gets ample time here- and look for Green Bay to play with two tight ends on many plays to bone up the pass blocking- than he could return to yesteryear as last season's league MVP has thrown for 13 TDs and just 2 INTs while Green Bay's won the last four games in a row in this black-and-blue rivalry game.
Key Stat: The Vikings rank a lowly 30th in the NFL in passing offense (186.2 yards per game).
SAN FRANCISCO (8-2-1) at ST. LOUIS (4-6-1) - Last time these clubs squared off back on 11-11-12 they were fit to be tied in 24-all wack-job game that included some missed FGs that should have shut the door on both sides but a whole lot's happened since with San Fran having installed new starting QB Colin Kaepernick who last week threw for 231 yards and rushed for 27 yards while accounting for a pair of touchdowns in that 31-21 win in New Orleans... and gotta believe the Nevada alum will feel even more confident and free-flowing here.
Key Stat: Shhh, don't tell anyone but Rams RB Stephen Jackson rushed for 139 yards on 24 carries in last week's pick-six-filled 31-17 win in Arizona.
INDIANAPOLIS (7-4) at DETROIT (4-7)- Now that Lions head coach Jim Schwartz has had plenty of time to digest the NFL rule book (gulp!) we'll see if his Motowners can make one last stand in terms of trying to stay alive for the playoffs but can somebody out there tell us if QB Matthew Stafford is gonna have to chuck it another 61 times (see wild 34-31 OT loss to Houston on Thanksgiving Day)? On the flip side, the Indy Colts already have won on the NFL road twice this year- at Tennessee and at Jacksonville- after having gone 0-8 SU away a year ago and sure seems that WR Reggie Wayne (8 catches for 102 yards in last Sunday's 20-13 hang-on-for-dear-life win against Buffalo) has found the proverbial fountain of youth.
Key Stat: Indianapolis is minus 14 in the all-important turnover margin category (that's third-worst in the league).
NEW ENGLAND (8-3) at MIAMI (5-6) - Guess the change in climate makes Patriots QB Tom Brady a happy camper as we heard 'em mention this will be his first warm-weather game in weeks (heck, since September if you really want to know the truth!) but don't necessarily think NE will score 35 points in a single quarter as was the case on Thanksgiving Night with that 49-19 romp over the New York Jets. The Pats blistered the J-E-T-S for five TDs in the second quarter alone as New England improved to 28-6 SU in divisional games the past six years... now that deserves a wow!
Key Stat: The Fish last week held Seattle to just 96 rushing yards in that last-second 24-21 Miami win after having yielded a per-game average of 132.2 yards the previous five games.
HOUSTON (10-1) at TENNESSEE (4-7)- It's Round II of this AFC South rivalry as remember the 13-point home favorite Texans "cashed" in that first meeting back in Week 4 play with a 38-14 win that featured a pair of INTs-for-TDs as Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson scored on 55- and 63-yard pick-six plays plus Houston QB Matt Schaub was super-sharp while completing 20-of-28 passes for 202 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs.
Key Stat: In this rather up-and-down year, Tennessee RB Chris Johnson did rush the ball 25 times for 141 yards in that first duel with the Texans.
MORE NFL WEEK 13 QUICK-HITTER SUNDAY PREVIEWS AS WE LOOK AT THE"LATE GAMES" PLUS SUNDAY NIGHT'S ACTION TOO
Let's roll on with a few more NFL Week 13 quick-hitters as we dig into the 4 p.m. ET-or-later games on this first Sunday in December:
TAMPA BAY (6-5) at DENVER (8-3) -4:05 p.m. ET
Hey, you have to go all the way back to October 7th to find the last time these Broncos lost a football game (see New England 31, Denver 21) and so now we'll se if the beat goes on here in mile high-land. No doubt Denver QB Peyton Manning (285 yards passing with two TD passes in last week's hard-fought 17-9 non-cover win at Kansas City) keeps getting verbal bouquets tossed in his general direction but what about the Broncos defense that currently ranks fifth in the NFL in pass defense (209.6 yards per game) and eight in rush defense (98.7 ypg)? If super-active LB Von Miller can shake off double-teams here and get to ever-improving QB Josh Freeman, than the Denver winning streak will be up to seven straight ... and counting!
PITTSBURGH (6-5) at BALTIMORE (9-2) -4:25 p.m. ET
It wasn't made official till Friday afternoon but Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder/rib) won't play this AFC North showdown game and we can't blame Pittsburgh fans for wincing when watching 37-year-old QB Charlie Batch take snaps these days. Counting the Kansas City game in which Roethlisberger suffered his injuries three weeks ago, the Steelers now have scored a grand total of 40 points the past three weeks and nobody's come to the rescue on offense where last Sunday afternoon in Cleveland the Steelers turned it over eight times in that hard-to-watch 20-14 loss to the lowly Browns. On the flip side, the Ravens -who needed that epic 4th-and-29 play by RB Ray Rice to save the day in San Diego last Sunday -have scored only 29 points in all the past two weeks but here it's hoped the home cooking helps QB Joe Flacco who has thrown 10 TDs and just 3 INTs while sporting a 108.3 QB rating in his own backyard this season.
CINCINNATI (6-5) at SAN DIEGO (4-7) -4:25 p.m. ET
Here's what you may not know about the sizzling Cincy Bengals: They've won/covered their last three consecutive games (okay, so they had a four-game SU/ATS winning streak a year ago) and QB Andy Dalton has 9 TDs and 0 INTs during this three-game streak -yes, that's the same Dalton who had thrown at least one INT in every one of Cincinnati's games this year prior to this mini-streak. If Dalton is salivating here, than please forgive him as the Chargers secondary is banged-up big-time with S Eric Weddle (concussion) likely to play but Bengals wide-out A.J. Green already has 1,022 yards receiving and 10 TDs and he seems to make a highlight reel catch every week -or haven't you noticed?
On Sunday Night, it's ...
PHILADELPHIA (3-8) at DALLAS (5-6) -8:30 p.m. ET
Nobody's gonna put this 2012 NFL season in a time capsule if you happen to be a fan of either the Eagles or the Cowboys but at least there's so more positives here for the team that wears the star: The 'Boys are going for the season sweep over Philly -see 38-23 win back in Week 10 play -and a"W" would catapult Jason Garrett's club back into playoff talk but take note there's some key injuries here including Dallas LB Bruce Carter now out for the year (dislocated left elbow) and CB Orlando Scandrick (broken right hand) and so maybe the QB Nick Foles-led Philly offense that did show some life in that 30-22 Monday Night Football home loss to Carolina last week can take advantage of the Dallas personnel shortage.
NOTE: Get our New York Giants at Washington Redskins preview plus the whole college football weekend wrap-up in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez!