NFL WEEK THIRTEEN PREVIEW

The chase to light up the Superdome in February is on as the NFL enters the most intense portion of the regular season

  by Ryan Meehan and Coach Ryan Spickler
 
Coach: Thanksgiving weekend is over and there is a little over a month left in the NFL season, playoff and Super Bowl hopes are either coming to head or heading straight for the dumpster. There are surprise teams and the best part of this time of year is all the teams who appear to be playing for nothing but are playing the spoiler role. This is the time of year when you start seeing who is a contender and who is a pretender. This week actually gives us a good game on Thursday Night along with a huge matchup in the AFC North when the injury stricken Steelers head to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. Is this a must win for Pittsburgh? Which teams playoff hopes may be done? Will Meehan pick the Browns to win for the first time all year? All this and more in Coach and Meehan’s Week 13 NFL Preview!
 
Thursday Night Football:  New Orleans Saints (5-6) at Atlanta Falcons (10-1)

Probably not, but still a fair question

Coach Ryan:  The Falcons are welcoming the Saints to the Georgia Dome to try to avenge their lone loss of the season. Last week I made the argument that the Falcons were an overrated team and may have trouble making a lot of noise in the playoffs against top tier teams. Unfortunately for the Saints, they are falling into the too little too late bracket when it comes to making the postseason. If the Saints wanted to keep their postseason hopes alive they almost had to beat the Niners last week in New Orleans and unfortunately for the Who Dat Nation, that didn’t happen. As it stands the Saints are sitting in 11th place in the NFC playoff picture and another loss should just about eliminate them all together.  To make matters worse they are heading in to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that is more than likely hungry for revenge. Just because Atlanta has had an easy schedule doesn’t take away from having their record and being as how the Saints have struggled I really don’t know how much Drew Brees and company have left in the tank. The Saints defense has continued to give up lots of points, the least they have given up was 13 to a bad Philadelphia Eagles team. I wouldn’t bet the farm on this game but I really don’t see much reason why Atlanta shouldn’t be able to come out on top. The spread on this game is 4 and in front of their home fans on national television I think the Falcons will be able to cover.

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Falcons 33, Saints 24
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cleveland Browns (3-8) at Oakland Raiders (3-8) 

You heard the man…fresh plate of action over here… Chop chop!

Coach Ryan:  The Browns are coming off perhaps their biggest win during the Pat Shurmur era by beating their arch rival Steelers last week in Cleveland. You can make the argument about Charlie Batch being the quarterback and yes Big Ben being out didn’t hurt the Browns chances but Batch didn’t cause the five fumbles, that was the Browns defense. Their defense stepped up and if it wasn’t for their dominant play that helped a mostly anemic performance on offense the Browns wouldn’t have had a chance. Regardless anytime the Browns beat their rivals from Pittsburgh it not just lifts the player’s confidence but also revives the fan base and does nothing but motivate everyone involved in the organization with maybe the exception of Mike Holmgren who resigned immediately after the game. I guess he decided that it wasn’t going to get any better than last week so that must have been his “going out on top.”  If the Browns have hit their high point of the season than the Raiders have hit their low point losing four in a row. You can definitely say that last week was their lowest point, at least for Carson Palmer. You know he wanted nothing else but to go back to Cincinnati to show that they made a mistake in not signing him to the deal he wanted but instead he threw for a whopping 146 yards and ended with a quarterback rating of 64.1. Neither of these teams are going to be making the playoffs this year but if you compare schedules and what they have done the Browns seem to be much further along to becoming a relevant team. Out of Oakland’s eleven games they have let up 34 or more points in six of their losses. Sure I would put Carson Palmer ahead of Brandon Weeden but Oakland has had trouble stopping anything this season and in the battle between the Black Hole and the Dawg Pound I think that’ll be the difference. The spread on the game is even but I think the Browns will take their confidence from beating the Steelers into Oakland and for the first time all season have what other teams refer to as a winning streak.

Coach Ryan’s Prediction:  Browns 20, Raiders 16

Meehan’s Pick:  Browns 31, Raiders 23

San Francisco 49ers (8-2-1) at St. Louis Rams (4-6-1)

Colin Kaepernick is America’s newest star

Coach Ryan:  After the compelling 24-24 tie the last time these teams played in San Fran it’s hard to tell exactly which way this game will go. By far the biggest story leading up to this game is who Jim Harbaugh will name as his starting quarterback. Generally speaking quarterback controversy is something you usually hear with a team that isn’t very good (i.e. the Chiefs). In this instance you are talking about a team that many people (myself included) have tagged as one of the better teams in the NFC. The bottom line is Alex Smith is either a terrible quarterback or he is ok. Last year was the first year that I would count him as good which you can compare to Colin Kaepernick who has, to his credit played equally as well if not better in some cases. At this point of the season you have think it’s about do or die time for Harbaugh to pick someone and stick with him. The spread on this game is 7 and I am going to take the Niners in either case but if by chance the Niners lose this game it will be very intersting to see who goes on the rest of the year. Stay tuned as this could continue to become to must watch story the rest of the regular season.

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Niners 31, Rams 23

Meehan’s Pick:  49ers 26, Rams 20
 
Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Chicago Bears (8-3)
 
Coach Ryan:  The Vikings technically are still in the playoff picture, technically. They’d be in a lot better shape if they would have taken care of Washington and Tampa this year but things as they are they are in must win territory to keep their playoff dreams going. What isn’t good for the Vikings is the remainder of their schedule. Minnesota has two games left with the Packers, one game with the Bears, and they have to travel to Houston to take on the Texans. Whoever made the Vikings schedule could be accused of cruel and unusual punishment.  The Packers on the other hand are just about where they should be. Yes most football people picked the Pack to run away with the division but Chicago is a good team and we’ve all seen what Aaron Rodgers and company can do when they need to. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Packers season came last week as they took their worst loss of the season to the Giants. Let’s face it the Giants are a team that steps it up as the season goes on but the Pack just came out flat in that game and were never able to get any real momentum going. Still the Packers had won five straight before last week’s letdown so I really don’t think there is any real need for panic around the Green Bay area. The spread on this game is -9 which is big spread but I will take that before I bet on the Packers losing two in a row, especially to the Vikings.
 
Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Bears 23, Seahawks 14
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Seahawks 24, Bears 22
 
Houston Texans (10-1) at Tennessee Titans (4-7)
 
Coach Ryan:  If there is a team that you can make the argument for that has been underperforming lately it’s the Texans. They got some Thanksgiving luck last week with the challenge flag on the play already being reviewed that went a long way to win their game with the Lions. The biggest shock to me though was the week before when they allowed the Jaguars to take them into overtime in Houston. A lot of pundits could pin this on them playing with the pressure of the best record in the AFC or looking ahead to the playoffs. Only time will tell if there is deeper trouble in Houston.  Tennessee on the other has really been bad for most the year but don’t forget they do have some surprise wins this season such as Week 6 against the Steelers. The last time these two teams played was in Houston and the Texans took care of business without much trouble. Due to this being a division matchup the spread is closer than it probably should be at -5.5 for the Texans. I think the Titans will hold in there for a little while but in the end I think this will be the game that gets them back on track and if they really want to make a run late into the playoffs they need to step it up.
 
Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Texans 31, Titans 24
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Texans 40, Titans 21
 
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
 
Coach Ryan:  All season long I have been harping on the Jaguars as being one of the absolutely worst teams in the NFL but the more you look at their overall body of work isn’t quite as horrible as you would think, especially as of late. After taking the Texans to the brink and coming up short a lot of teams in their predicament would have just folded but Jacksonville actually surprised me by taking care of the Titans without too much trouble last week. Yes I understand Tennessee isn’t exactly like taking out the 10-1 Texans but being able to bounce back from that loss does need to count for something.  I do think in this situation Buffalo is the better team and definitely has the more talent, especially on defense. Although both of these teams are not going to be vying for a playoff spot I am expecting this to be a pretty tight game. Even though Jacksonville had that showing against the Texans on the road I am giving the edge here to the cold weather team playing a home game due to the fact that surprise quarterback Chad Henne usually seems to struggle in the cooler weather. The spread on this game is -6 for the Bills and I think they will win but won’t cover the spread.
 
Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Bills 24, Jaguars 21
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Jaguars 17, Bills 9
 
Indianapolis Colts (7-4) at Detroit Lions (4-7)
 
Coach Ryan:  Some seasons there are teams that just can’t catch a break and that is definitely the case here with the Lions. Unless you were a fan of the Texans than how could help but feel for the Lions on Thanksgiving when Justin Forsett was clearly down. I know Jim Schwartz should have known the rule but come on? On the flip side of the coin you have the Colts who with the exception of one or two losses have done everything that a young team needs to do to make the playoffs. Considering that the Colts still have a home and home with division rival Houston this is a game that could be extremely important they win if they want to “almost” guarantee play post week 17. Oustide of the Bears in week 1 the Colts have taken care of the Packers and the Vikings. This is going to be a really tight game either way and the Colts will have to be firing on all cylinders if they want to walk out with a win. The spread on the game is -4.5 for the Lions and I am going to ride the Andrew Luck train and pick Indy to pull out the upset.

Coach Ryan’s Predictions: Colts 23, Lions 20

Meehan’s Pick:  Colts 25, Lions 16
 
Minnesota Vikings (6-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-4)
 
Coach Ryan:  The Vikings technically are still in the playoff picture, technically. They’d be in a lot better shape if they would have taken care of Washington and Tampa this year but things as they are they are in must win territory to keep their playoff dreams going. What isn’t good for the Vikings is the remainder of their schedule. Minnesota has two games left with the Packers, one game with the Bears, and they have to travel to Houston to take on the Texans. Whoever made the Vikings schedule could be accused of cruel and unusual punishment.  The Packers on the other hand are just about where they should be. Yes most football people picked the Pack to run away with the division but Chicago is a good team and we’ve all seen what Aaron Rodgers and company can do when they need to. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the Packers season came last week as they took their worst loss of the season to the Giants. Let’s face it the Giants are a team that steps it up as the season goes on but the Pack just came out flat in that game and were never able to get any real momentum going. Still the Packers had won five straight before last week’s letdown so I really don’t think there is any real need for panic around the Green Bay area. The spread on this game is -9 which is big spread but I will take that before I bet on the Packers losing two in a row, especially to the Vikings.  

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Packers 33, Vikings 16

Meehan’s Pick:  Packers 27, Vikings 6

Carolina Panthers (3-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-10)
 
Meehan:  I switched Cal this game so that he could write about how the Browns will likely tear the Raiders apart, leaving me with what I believe to be this week’s sorriest matchup.  Believe it or not, I think Kansas City will win here.  I’m not sure if that’s necessarily an upset – if the best team in this game is still 5 games under .500 this late in the season, technically there are no winners.  The Chiefs have lost a lot of games by very few points, and they are probably better than their sub .100 winning percentage would indicate.  There’s something about the Panthers that I really, really don’t like.  Cam Newton has this very snobbish drop that he does on some plays.  Although I’m not sure if it’s something tactical or there is something I don’t fully understand there, it makes him look like a lazy player.  What he essentially does is he backs off the line standing up slowly and does it with this sort of nonchalant style of what almost amounts to walking.  Its very weird, usually that type of thing will get ANYBODY benched because it’s so “I’m going to show you that I really don’t care anymore”.  The Panthers can be beaten by a team like KC, so I have to go against Spickler on this one. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Chiefs 22, Panthers 15 1/2

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Carolina 27, Chiefs 23

Arizona Cardinals (4-7) at New York Jets (4-7)
 
Meehan:  So the Jets are coming off of a ten day break following getting smashed by the New England Patriots, where it became clear in front of a national television audience that nobody on that team agrees with each other.  I’d hate to listen to guys from the New York Jets try and argue where to go for breakfast.  Rex will soon be gone –  he knows it, the players know it, and there are more than a few guys who have quit already.  The Jets are still technically in it but they would need to run the table and get a lot of help from a very cruel, spiteful, angry God that just so happens to really hate the AFC North.  The Cardinals are an interesting one – they have lost 7 in a row and nobody seems to mention how they blew an incredible start to the season.  If Beanie Wells is your go-to guy in 2012 something is drastically jacked up in your world.  But right now, I think even they can beat the Jets because things within that franchise are so poorly executed at the moment.   
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Cardinals 26, Jets 18

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Jets 17, Cardinals 13

New England Patriots (8-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-6)
 
Meehan:  First things first, if the sprinklers go off two weeks in a row everyone within that organization should be fired.  The fact that it happened even once is so far beyond my understanding that I can’t even really write a joke out of it.  Moving on to the game, there is always the possibility that this could be a trap game for the Pats.  It’s against a team that’s very familiar and New England is without Gronkowski.  But the logic isn’t all there – the Patriots played without Gronkowski last week and it didn’t exactly hinder production did it?  So I can’t really say that this will be a trap game.  New England will win, but not by a grandiose amount of points.  They certainly won’t be scoring 40 or 50 like they have been doing.  Miami has holes everywhere, but the defense is still halfway decent and I don’t think that they will let even Tom Brady come in to town and show them up. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Patriots 31, Dolphins 20

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Patriots 38, Dolphins 16

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5) at Denver Broncos (8-3)
 
Meehan:  Due to the fact that the Broncos own the tie breaker against the Chargers, if they win this game and the Chargers lose against Tampa (both very real possibilities) they would clinch the AFC West.  Very quietly, Peyton Manning finds himself at the forefront of the race for MVP and with good reason.  This isn’t a rivalry game by any means, Manning hasn’t had to play the Bucs a lot in his career.  Although Tampa played Atlanta well last week and without question has the talent to pull this off, but I don’t like their chances as far as the matchup when they are on offense.  This could be a very painful day for Josh Freeman, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil are going to be in his grille all afternoon long.  Have to take Denver here.  I do want to say to Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans that I have been very happy with the way that their season has turned out for them.  They are going to be the best team that doesn’t make the postseason this year, and no one gave them credit to finish anything but last in that division because everyone was so high on Cam Newton.  I think it’s hilarious that Tampa is even in the playoff hunt and that Carolina isn’t even close.  I really believe that (excluding the beginning of this year of course) the Saints have brought up the level of play in that division so that it toughens up the other team.  However, in this one they will come up short. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Broncos 27, Bucs 10 
 
Coach Ryan’s Pick:  Broncos 24, Bucs 16
 
Cincinnati Bengals (6-5) at San Diego Chargers (4-7)
 
Meehan:  The Cincinnati Bengals broke through a few weeks back with a big win against the Giants who at the time hadn’t lost in a month.  Since then, they’ve played just as smart and powerful football as anybody else in the league.  They look focused, they look poised, and they look a lot like the team they put in the AFC playoffs last year.  Something seems to be really working with them and they are getting solid play out of everyone at the same time, very rare in a sport that can boast 53 man rosters.  As far San Diego, I am actually going to go ahead and say that the Chargers will come out looking decent than expected in this one.  All of the newspapers and websites have been bagging on them all week because of the 4th and 29 thing, so they can’t really show up flat because then those newspapers and websites were right.  Taking the Bengals to improve to 7-5 but not expecting a shootout at all here.  And I do want to reiterate that the Chargers are still horrible, they will at least try to save some face here and by next week they will be back to giving up conversions in 4th and a mile-like situations. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Bengals 20, Chargers 17

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Bengals 14, Chargers 9

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (9-2)
 
Meehan:  The Steelers have to be very embarrassed about what happened to them Sunday against the Browns.  It takes a special kind of “special” to turn the ball over eight times against anybody, but that’s exactly what they did.  Unfortunately for Mike Tomlin and his merry men, it gets worse because this is the one time of the year where they have to go to Maryland and play Baltimore.  The Ravens are the two loss team that you don’t hear about whenever anybody mentions elite NFL teams.  They have substance but not as much overall likeability to them, and compared to other markets out East the city’s not as big.  Don’t forget, the Ravens are still really, really good.  They’ve stood up to some good teams this year and handed their asses to them, and Pittsburgh is ripe for the picking.  The Ravens love playing anybody who has players that are hurt, and they know the Steelers well.  Add that to the fact that this is a home game, and within a week Charlie Batch will have to cancel his Netflix account.  Roethlisberger?  On Wednesday night he said it’s about 50/50 that he’ll play, which means he’s not ready to come back so even if they start him they will lose. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Ravens 28, Steelers 19

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Ravens 20, Steelers 13

Sunday Night Football:  Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at Dallas Cowboys (3-8)
 
Meehan:  In the Movie “Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters”, Master Shake purchases an exercise machine called the “Insanoflex”.  What does that have to do with this?  Because it’s insane that NBC won’t flex this game out of the Sunday Night slot.  PIT/BAL, CHI/SEA, TB/DEN, and MIN/GB would all be better games than this.  Yes, I do understand that SNF just ran BAL/PIT two weeks ago, and I also understand that this is make or break game for the Cowboys but seriously…the Eagles have lost seven and a row and this game will clearly remain in prime time so that America will feel good about winning again.  Maybe I’m just not nearly excited for the blockbuster matchup of Tony Romo and Nick Foles, or I am underestimating the number of different ways that the Eagles can turn the ball over.  I’m certainly not underestimating the number of ways that they can force turnovers, as I saw a disturbing stat at the end of last week MNF snoozer.  The Eagles only have seven takeaways through eleven games, and they had four against Cleveland in the opener.  That means that in the past ten games, Philadelphia has only forced 3 turnovers.  Combine that with the fact that just about any D line in the NFL can sneak through and bring down whoever they are starting this week and you’ve got a recipe for the failure that they’ve become.  The Cowboys will win (probably by at least two possessions) but if they really want to make a statement that they can give the Giants a run for their money, they have to get all of the wins they should in their remaining games and not slip up at all.  Their schedule is kind of easy from here on out and they are only two games behind New York, but from here on out there is almost no margin for error. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Cowboys 31, Eagles 16
 

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Cowboys 24, Eagles 10

Monday Night Football:  New York Giants (7-4) at Washington Redskins (5-6)
 
Meehan:  Okay, so my Giants tore the Green Bay Packers apart at home during a big game last week.  Everybody saw it because it was on at night, which meant there were no other games on.  In that game, the Giants defense looked stifling.  So how does Robert Griffin the Third plan to counter that?  Patience?  Nope, the Giants rush too fast for you to “just be patient”.  Scramble?  That’s probably not going to work either, but may be worth a shot.  The point here is that right now on paper it looks like the Giants will dominate this game.  That said, it’s an NFC East game so you never know when the Washington Redskins will show up big.  Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora could make it a long night for Griffin.  I am taking the Giants here because I honestly do believe (with all other bias set aside of course) that they are the better team…but will they be the better team come gametime?  The answer may be found in one Ahmad Bradshaw, who played extremely inspired football in the SNF game.  Hell, he’d be getting the ball 30 times a game in some of the more conservative play calling moments in Coughlin’s career.  I can see one very big play moment for Victor Cruz in the first half of the game.  And I did want to give some Giant fan love out to Bear Pascoe, who blocked almost everything thrown his way against the Packers.  Washington is looking good in some phases – Santana Moss is having a good year, and they look really poor in others – they are next to last against the pass.  Unfortunately for them I don’t really think that they can totally hang with a team like New York at the moment. 
 
Meehan’s Pick:  Giants 31, Redskins 20

Coach Ryan’s Prediction: Giants 27, Redskins 19

Summary:

Before week thirteen gets started, this is what the playoff race would look like if it started today. 

NFC:

In: 

1.  Altanta 10-1

2.  San Francisco 8-2-1

3.  Chicago 8-3

4.  New York 7-4

5.  Green Bay 7-4

6.  Seattle 6-5

Overview:  San Francisco tying the Rams a couple weeks back may be the best thing to happen to Atlanta all year, as of right now they are two wins ahead of the 49ers and that’s what counts.  However, the Niners appear to be on a bit of a roll at the moment while the Falcons keep barely sneaking games out.  But with San Francisco’s developing quarterback debacle, I would caution anyone that is using a Sharpie to marker either of these teams in for a guaranteed bye week Wild Card weekend to remember that five weeks is a long time for things to develop, and at this point I could see the Bears, Giants, or even the Packers (as hard as it is to believe at the moment) making a rush for the two seed. 

On the Bubble: 

7.  Tampa Bay 6-5

8.  Minnesota 6-5

9.  Washington 5-6

10. Dallas 5-6

11. New Orleans 5-6

Overview:  Due to the ease of their remaining schedule, Dallas might actually have the best shot at moving up in the rankings.  I think Tampa has a rough schedule this year so even though they’ve been playing like a team that deserves to get in, they probably won’t.  The Saints put themselves behind the eight ball too early this year, so they probably won’t go either.  I would say that as crazy as it sounds, Washington probably has the best shot at stealing the 6 spot from the Seahawks.  Crazier things could happen.  I watched “Yo Gabba Gabba” with my nephew tonight.  See?  And you thought I was lying…

AFC:

In:

1.  Houston 10-1

2.  Baltimore 9-2

3.  New England 8-3

4.  Denver 8-3

5.  Indianapolis 7-4

6.  Pittsburgh 6-5

Overview: 

We’ve known for a while that barring some major accident, Houston probably won’t be playing Wild Card weekend.  Baltimore is in the other bye week spot, but New England or the Broncos could nab it from them if the Ravens’ injury problems actually start costing them games.  The Pittsburgh Steelers are probably going to be on the outside looking in as soon as Sunday night, so although the meat of this won’t likely change much I don’t expect the guy who plays Steely McBeam to be putting on that ridiculous looking outfit in January.

On the Bubble: 

7.  Cincinnati 6-5

8.  Miami 5-6

Overview: 

San Diego, Tennessee, the Jets, and Buffalo are 9 through 12 stuck at 4-7 and they are basically done.  I had hope for the Titans but the other three are essentially useless and haven’t shown be that they are going to get anywhere near .500 by the time the season’s over.  At the moment the Bengals are much deeper than the Steelers.  I didn’t say that they are better than the Steelers, but right now a lot of teams are deeper than PIT. 

Stay tuned, this is the part where this show gets really good. 

Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.
 
Meehan and Coach Ryan

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