Thursday December 1st, 2011

LeSean McCoy has been the better back all season, but don't be surprised if the surging Marshawn Lynch outperforms him tonight. (George Holland/Cal Sport Media)

Last Week: 3-5; Season: 40-53-3

You know how some people get seasonal depression in the winter? The weather gets cold, the day gets shorter and they just mope around inside, waiting for spring?

I trend in the other direction. I'm not a big fan of the dog days of summer -- I can't stand those blazing hot, high humidity days. But once the calendar changes to December and the wind smacks you in the face when you walk out the door, I can't get enough. Maybe it's the native Michigander in me.

Whatever the reason, I'm at my best when the winter months roll around. And that means the "Bet On It" debacles of the first 12 weeks are behind me. It's time to get hot for the playoff run.

So here's what you can expect to happen in Week 13:

Marshawn Lynch will outrush LeSean McCoy

McCoy has Lynch beat by a good 344 yards rushing this season (1,050 for McCoy to 706 for Lynch), but the Seahawks’ back is starting to roll. After failing to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark for the first eight weeks of 2011, Lynch has hit triple digits in three of Seattle’s past four games.

McCoy is no stranger to 100-yard rushing games – he’s got five of his own so far. But both the Eagles and Seahawks will try to take away the run Thursday night, Philadelphia to force Tarvaris Jackson to win the game and Seattle to make Vince Young go to the air. For whatever reason, the Eagles forget about McCoy at times.

Seattle's run defense comes into this one with better stats than Philly's, too, allowing about 10 less yards per game.

Kyle Orton will throw for at least 150 yards

I know, I know: Tyler Palko is still the starter in Kansas City. But how long can Todd Haley carry on that charade? The Chiefs claimed Orton in the hope that they could make a run in the AFC West. If that's going to happen, it has to happen immediately. And unless Palko has made huge strides this week after his second consecutive dud of a start, Kansas City cannot keep him in the lineup if it hopes to win.

Let's not pretend that the Chiefs claimed Johnny Unitas off waivers or anything, but Orton's the best QB on the active roster right now. If he isn't in at the start Sunday against Chicago, he should be taking snaps by the third quarter.

Julian Edelman will make at least five tackles

Bill Belichick hinted this week that Edelman's cameo on defense could become a more permanent solution to New England's lack of depth in the secondary -- Edelman has more tackles this season (5) than he does receptions (3). He saw more time on the defensive side of the ball last week against Philadelphia, even showing some prowess as a blitzer, nailing Vince Young as he let go of a pass.

This week looks like a good time for New England to do some experimenting -- the Pats are gigantic favorites against the winless Colts and could have the win sewn up by the second quarter.

Houston will run the ball at least 40 times

The Falcons head into Sunday's matchup with the Texans No. 2 in the league in yards rushing allowed per game at 83.5. And Atlanta has been susceptible to the pass -- a problem that could be exacerbated by the loss of Brent Grimes to injury.

But Week 13 will be a show of strength vs. strength. The Texans will have to let rookie T.J. Yates go to the air some in his debut start, but their bread and butter is the ground game. Even if Atlanta holds firm against Arian Foster and Ben Tate early, Houston will have no choice but to keep going to the well.

Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning will combine for at least six touchdown passes

Last week, I predicted that Rodgers and Matthew Stafford would throw seven TDs. They didn't even come close, combining for three in a surprisingly defensive-minded Thanksgiving Day showdown. I also guessed in Week 12 that Drew Brees and Manning would put up 750 or more yards through the air. They sailed past the number, with the Giants secondary unable to contain the Saints and Manning having to throw to try to rally his team back.

I'm going to bank on the latter scenario playing out again this week. Green Bay will do many of the same things New Orleans did to New York's defense, while Manning should find some room against the Packers as well.

Cleveland will have a second half lead on Baltimore

Maybe the Ravens finally have turned the corner, and will stomp on the Browns Sunday as they take another step toward an AFC North title. But Baltimore has played its worst games this season on the road following big wins -- they lost in Tennessee in Week 2 after crushing Pittsburgh; they lost at Jacksonville in Week 7 after dominating Houston; and they collapsed in Seattle after win No. 2 over the Steelers.

Cleveland had Cincinnati on the ropes last week and would love nothing more than to screw up Baltimore's season. The Browns may not win, but they'll hang around for a long while.

Four or more Saints will score touchdowns Sunday night

Like the Giants, the Lions are finding out what an absolute terror it is to play the Packers and Saints back to back. Green Bay, despite a valiant effort from Detroit's defense (Ndamukong Suh stomp aside), rolled to a holiday win over the Lions last week. Now, Detroit heads to the Big Easy without Ndamukong Suh, Louis Delmas and possibly Chris Houston. Good luck with that.

Brees is locked in right now and does as good a job as any QB in the league at spreading the ball around. Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston ... you name him, and he has a good shot at finding the end zone Sunday night.

Maurice Jones-Drew will put up at least 150 total yards

Quite frankly, what MJD is doing in Jacksonville this season -- on a terrible team with a struggling rookie quarterback -- is nothing short of remarkable. He's already topped 1,000 yards rushing and has a shot at 2,000 total yards if he gets real hot down the stretch. With the national spotlight on him Monday night, he'll get the ball rolling on that pursuit.

Bonus prediction: The Chargers-Jags game is the least-watched Monday night game of the season.

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