By Don Banks
November 27, 2013
Alex Smith threw for 230 yards, with two TDs and no interceptions in the Chiefs' Week 11 loss to the Broncos.
Robert Beck/SI
Last week: 6-7; Season 113-62 (Note: Week 12's tie did not count as a win or a loss.)
Thursday, Nov. 28
12:30 p.m. ET (FOX) Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)
It has been a November to remember for all the wrong reasons in Green Bay. Stunningly, the Packers will start their fourth different quarterback in a five-game span when Matt Flynn opens the game at Ford Field against the Lions. As ugly as life without Aaron Rodgers has been, the Packers can be thankful that the stumbling Lions and Bears kept Green Bay in the division race as it proceeded to go 0-3-1 this month. Detroit fans remember Flynn, of course. His six-touchdown, 480-yard passing performance in Week 17 of the 2011 season led Green Bay to a shootout win over the Lions at Lambeau, and essentially punched his ticket to Seattle in free agency. I foresee another high-scoring game, but this time Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford makes the difference. This is a must-win for the once 6-3 Lions, or all heck could break loose in Motown.
4:30 p.m. ET (CBS) Oakland Raiders (4-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
Don't get too giddy now, Cowboys, just because you can climb to two games above .500 for the first time this season. The big road win over the Giants was a solid step toward the playoffs, but it would be so Dallas to then cough one up at home to the 4-7 Raiders. The makings of a Cowboys win are all there in this one. Dallas is 4-1 at home this season and scoring an NFC-best 34.6 points per game at Jerry World. The Raiders are just 1-4 on the road, but they have already won in Texas this year, beating the reeling Texans in Houston in Week 11. I thought I remembered a recent Raiders-Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game, and sure enough, Oakland drew this same matchup just four years ago, losing 24-7. How does that happen? Blame it on CBS needing an AFC opponent going into Dallas in order to do the game, I suppose.
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC) Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-6)
Having handled most of the NFL's Great Lakes region, beating Buffalo, Detroit and Cleveland in a row, Pittsburgh heads into Baltimore with a good deal of momentum. The Steelers have gotten their act together in the past three weeks by creating turnovers on defense (eight takeaways) and taking care of the ball on offense (Ben Roethlisberger has seven touchdown passes and just one interception during the 3-0 run). Both clubs should rightfully view this as a virtual elimination game in the AFC wild-card chase, but I'm giving Pittsburgh a slight edge based on Roethlisberger's 7-2 record against Joe Flacco, including three wins in Baltimore from 2008 on.
Sunday, Dec. 1
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Cleveland Browns (4-7)
That Brandon Weeden, he's like a bad penny. Every time the Browns think they've gotten rid of him, he's back in their pocket. (See what I did there?)
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Things are getting tense and angst-ridden in Indianapolis, and that's just in Jimmy Irsay's suite. First the Colts were much better than we thought they were, and lately they've been much worse than we thought they were. But Andrew Luck and Co. will find a way to get this one in the win column and that will all but clinch the AFC South and a home playoff game, assuring 2013 is remembered as largely a success.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Chicago Bears (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)
Given how atrocious the Bears are on run defense, look for Minnesota to send Adrian Peterson into the line about 35 times on Sunday. The Vikings have a win and a tie in their past three games, and they're a pretty dangerous last-place opponent for a Chicago team that just got trounced by another dangerous last-place opponent in St. Louis. Maybe it's a dome thing.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) Miami Dolphins (5-6) at New York Jets (5-6)
Not sure why I like the Jets to win what amounts to a loser-goes-home affair in the AFC wild-card race, because rookie quarterback Geno Smith is grasping at straws and doesn't have a single part of his game working these days. But New York's defense is still legit, and it will lead the way back to .500 for Rex Ryan's team.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Arizona Cardinals (7-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
This is the toughest call of the weekend, because both teams are playing well on both sides of the ball and have hot quarterbacks. But it was nice of Eagles coach Chip Kelly to come out this week and name Nick Foles his starter for the rest of the season. Even Michael Vick had already stated the obvious before Kelly got around to it. Bold move by Kelly, declaring that he'll keep the NFC's offensive player of the month under center.
1:00 p.m. ET (FOX) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) at Carolina Panthers (8-3)
The Panthers' late-game comeback against Miami showed me something. Carolina now enters every game believing it's going to win, and then finds a way to get it done, even if it takes almost the whole game to take the lead. The Bucs have been anything but a pushover for a month now, but the Panthers mojo is flowing and will be too much for Tampa Bay to overcome.
1:00 p.m. ET (CBS) New England Patriots (8-3) at Houston Texans (2-9)
I wonder if the Texans will dare to wear those neato, whiz-bang varsity letterman jackets to the game against the Patriots, the ones they donned for last December's trip to New England? Probably not, since Houston lost that game 42-14, and then followed that up with a 41-28 loss in Foxboro in the AFC Divisional playoffs. Again, it bears pointing out that not much of anything good has happened to the Texans since those jackets were trotted out. Houston has lost 13 out of its past 17 games starting with that Week 14 game against the Pats. As for New England, the schedule is about to turn favorable, and 13-3 suddenly looks within reach. And did anyone in Pats-land notice I nailed the 34-31 final score of last week's OT thriller against the Broncos? It's a gift.
4:05 p.m. ET (FOX) Atlanta Falcons (2-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
The Bills play their annual game in Toronto and I'm guessing there's no chance they'd invite the city's clown-act mayor, Rob Ford, to do the coin toss. They could use one of those Canadian "loonies," but he'd probably pocket it and use it to fund one of his "drunken stupors."
4:05 p.m. ET (FOX) St. Louis Rams (5-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
The 49ers' passing game returned to health against Washington Monday night, and now receiver Michael Crabtree is at least back on the active roster for the first time all season. That's progress in San Francisco, and the positives will continue against a Rams team that has looked absolutely dominant in winning its past two games.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) Denver Broncos (9-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
Everything the Broncos hope to accomplish is still there for the taking, even after their historic Sunday-night collapse against New England. But Denver knows it needs to win the AFC West and secure the conference's top seed in order to avoid another trip to Foxboro in January. You get the feeling Kansas City, coming off a loss to San Diego, might already have played its best ball of the season, and the injuries to pass-rushers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are not well-timed with Peyton Manning and Co. heading to town.
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS) Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)
Philip Rivers and the Chargers are clicking on offense and that's going to make for a long day for a Bengals defense missing both Geno Atkins and Leon Hall. Cincinnati will score its share of points, but I don't see Andy Dalton being able to keep up with Rivers.
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC) New York Giants (4-7) at Washington Redskins (3-8)
NBC's Sunday Night Football kind of lost its gamble on this one, once the Giants fell at home to Dallas and the Redskins went down in flames at home against San Francisco. I know they're two big TV markets, but there's really not much reason to watch in terms of playoff implications, so flexing this game out of prime time would have been the fans' choice. Even with the theater of a struggling Robert Griffin III, this game will feel like a letdown after the past two or three Sunday-night glamor showdowns.
Monday, Dec. 2
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN) New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
The top seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is on the line in the Game of the Week, and there aren't two teams in the NFL that rely more on their home-field advantages than the Seahawks and Saints. Boil that down and you could make the case that with a win, Seattle will represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, while New Orleans with a win would go a long way toward reaching MetLife Stadium in February. In this battle of undersized quarterbacks, Russell Wilson will get a bigger assist from his defense than Drew Brees will from his.
BURKE: Chaos reigns in Week 12 Power Rankings
FARRAR: Secret behind Arizona's league-best defense
BURKE: Top-10 Mock Draft following Week 12
KING: Talking hot-button issues with Mike Florio
BELLER: Player-by-player fantasy projections for Week 13

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