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2011 NFL Week 13 Primer

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees take the ball up the middle for 8 yards and a touchdown during second half action against the New York Giants at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome November 28, 2011. UPI/A.J. Sisco

Eagles @ Seahawks, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
Philadelphia is just the latest example of what usually happens to everyone’s preseason chic pick. Granted, there’s still time for the Eagles to turn things around and if they win out, there’s a chance they could sneak in the back door of the postseason. But I’m not so sure they’ll even win tonight against the Seahawks. Although they lost to Washington last Sunday, Seattle is usually tough to beat at home and the Eagles have been sleepwalking all year. That’s a very undisciplined, unfocused team that Andy Reid is running these days.

Raiders @ Dolphins, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Just when positive things start to happen in Miami, Brandon Marshall finds himself in handcuffs. Apparently police in Broward County, Florida briefly detained the receiver after he was accused of fleeing a $142 cab fee around 5:00AM on November 14. The rest of the details are fantastic. The cab driver said that Marshall “didn’t know where he wanted to go” and “When I woke him up and told him he had to pay, he said he wasn’t and started arguing for me to take him home.” Get this, Marshall blamed the “misunderstanding” on the cab driver’s “accent,” although it sounds as if he wouldn’t have understood anyone given the condition he was in. How good of shape are you when you’re falling asleep in the back of cabs at 5:00AM?

Broncos @ Vikings, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Von Miller underwent surgery on Tuesday to repair torn ligaments in his thumb and may not play on Sunday for the Broncos. That’s bad news for a Denver team that has had to rely on its defense and the one-quarter of magic from Tim Tebow every week. Miller is a runaway candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and if he can’t go, the Broncos defense will be down one of its biggest playmakers (if not the biggest playmaker). Of course, if Adrian Peterson doesn’t suit up for Minnesota then Denver only really has to worry about Percy Harvin.

Falcons @ Texans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Don’t be surprised if T.J. Yates surprises this Sunday. First and foremost, he played in a pro-style offense under John Shoop and Butch Davis at North Carolina and Atlanta will be down two of its top three corners (Brent Grimes and Kelvin Hayden). Christopher Owens, who will start for Grimes (knee), was the poor lad that was repeatedly torched by Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Divisional Round last January and Dominique Franks (who will start at nickel in place of Hayden), has received very little PT the past two years.

Titans @ Bills, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
While I think the Texans can survive thanks to their running game and defense, this is the time for the Titans to take the governor off and amp things up. Tennessee has a legitimate shot of catching Houston in the AFC South because of T.J. Yates’ inexperience. But the Titans need to win, including this weekend against a struggling Buffalo team. The Bills are without Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick is reeling right now. Tennessee has to take advantage.

Bengals @ Steelers, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s put up or shut up time for the Bengals this weekend in Pittsburgh. If they can’t prove that they can beat the Steelers, then nobody is going to consider them legit contenders. On the flip side, if Andy Dalton and Co. pull off the upset then Cincinnati will very much remain in the thick of things in the AFC North. This game could provide a very clear picture of how the rest of the season will play out for the Bengals.

Panthers @ Bucs, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
What a complete role reversal for Tampa Bay. While the Saints and on a smaller scale, the Falcons, improved their rosters this offseason, the Bucs rested on their laurels outside of signing a punter (Michael Koenen). The Tampa front office, which has always been cheap anyway, figured it didn’t need to make any upgrades after the team won 10 games last year and now the Bucs are paying for it. They’re clearly overmatched and lack playmakers to compete with New Orleans and Atlanta in the division. If they lose at home to the upstart Panthers this Sunday, it’ll officially be the lowest point of the season for the Bucs.

Colts @ Patriots, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
There’s really not any point in breaking this game down, right? I mean, not even a little bit. The Colts haven’t played well all season and while a quarterback change may bring a little optimism to Indy’s locker room, the switch is Curtis Painter for Dan Orlovsky. That’s only about a droplet of optimism right there.

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T.G.I. Friday’s NFL Weekend Preview – Week 13

“This series is brought to you by T.G.I. Friday’s, where every Sunday means Food, Fun & Football! Hut, hut, hut!”

The Scores Report has teamed up with T.G.I Friday’s to promote the action in Week 13 of the NFL. Here’s a look at Sunday’s top games.

The Top-5 Games of Week 13:

1. Jets (9-2) @ Patriots (9-2), 8:30PM ET, Monday
Besides Panthers-Seahawks on a Sunday evening, does it get any better than Jets-Patriots on Monday Night Football? Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick. Tom Brady vs. Darrelle Revis. Mark Sanchez vs. Mark Sanchez. It’s outstanding football! The winner of this game will own sole possession of first place in the AFC East and if the Jets win, they’ll essentially have a two-game lead over New England by virtue of a tiebreaker (they would have won both games in the series this year). If last year is any indication, the Patriots could roll on Monday night. They lost to the Jets earlier in the season (Week 2 in fact, the same week they lost to gang green this year) and then stomped them 31-14 in Foxboro later in the year. Can Ryan figure out a way to beat Belichick on his home turf?

2. Steelers (8-3) @ Ravens (8-3), 8:20PM ET, Sunday
The two primetime games are outstanding this week. Just like in the Jets-Pats matchup, the winner of this game will have sole possession of first place in the division. And just like the Jets, if the Ravens win they’ll have a two-game lead over the Steelers because they would have beaten Pittsburgh twice this season. Of course, that win came during Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension and even though he suffered an ankle injury last Sunday in a win over the Bills, Baltimore has had issues with Big Ben in the past. Roethlisberger has missed four games against the Ravens due to injury or suspension since entering the league, and the Steelers have lost all four games. But when he starts, they’re 7-2 against Baltimore. Can the Ravens get the best of Big Ben this year?

3. Falcons (9-2) @ Bucs (7-4), 4:15PM ET, Sunday
The Bucs have earned respect around the league for hanging with teams like the Falcons and Ravens over the past month. But if they truly consider themselves a playoff contender, then they need to do more than just gain teams’ respect. They’re lacking that signature win this year – one in which they beat a playoff contender (or at least beat a team with a winning record). Their seven wins have come against the Bengals, Rams, Cardinals, Panthers and 49ers. Not exactly a murderous row of opponents. But they have an opportunity this Sunday to beat a team that has struggled against them in the past. The Falcons own the top record in the NFC but Tampa Bay has always proven to be a difficult place for them to win, which dates back to the Michael Vick era. Win, and the Bucs will keep their playoff hopes very much alive. Lose, and maybe reality will start to set in for this team that they’re still a year away from competing for the postseason.

4. Redskins (5-6) @ Giants (7-4), 1:00PM ET, Sunday
The pressure is on the Giants after the Eagles beat the Texans on Thursday night. If New York loses this weekend, then it’ll be a full game behind Philadelphia in the NFC East and the Eagles already own the tiebreaker between the two teams (although they do play again in three weeks). This is a game that the Giants should win, but they’ve had issues with Donovan McNabb-led teams in the past. When McNabb was with the Eagles, he beat the Giants 11 out of 18 times, including once in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean his success will carry over now that he’s with the Redskins, but the Giants are well aware of what he’s done to them in the past. New York has been a careless team for most of the season and now would be a great time to start protecting the football more. They’re averaging –0.6 turnovers per game, which ranks them 26th in the league. If Tom Coughlin’s team can’t figure out a way to stop turning the ball over, then they may cough up an opportunity to go to the playoffs.

5. Cowboys (3-8) @ Colts (6-5), 4:15PM ET, Sunday
Everyone wants to know what’s wrong with Peyton Manning. Is his poor play of late a direct result of the injuries that the Colts have or are his skills as a passer declining? He still owns a 90.8 QB rating this season, but he’s thrown seven interceptions the past two games. Granted, those numbers are a little misleading. In the Colts’ loss to the Chargers last Sunday night, Eric Weddle should have been flagged for pass interference on one interception and another pick came at the tail end of the game when Manning was just trying to make a play by heaving one to the end zone. Still, even if you subtract those two interceptions he would still have five INTs in two games. That’s a very Brett Favre-like ratio. On the other side, the Cowboys are playing remarkably better under Jason Garrett than Wade Phillips. This isn’t the same team that was blown out by the Packers on Sunday Night Football a couple weeks back, even though Tony Romo is still nursing a shoulder injury. This is a game Manning and the Colts need to win so they can avoid dropping to 6-6 on the year. (Can you imagine the Colts at .500 this late in the season? Yeesh.)

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NFL Week 13 Primer

Jason CampbellSunday’s Best: Giants (10-1) at Redskins (7-4), 1:00 PM ET FOX
The game of the week is a toss up between this matchup and Steelers at Patriots. But I’ll go with a divisional rivalry any day of the week, although Pittsburgh-New England should be just as good. The Cowboys’ victory over the Seahawks on Thanksgiving put a lot of pressure on the Skins to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card race. A win over the G-Men would keep Washington in the thick of things with Dallas, Carolina, Tampa and Atlanta for the Wild Card, while a loss wouldn’t push them out of things, but it certainly would be detrimental. One thing about the Redskins is that they play to the level of their competition. One week they’re losing to the Rams and allowing the Browns to hang with them, the next they’re crushing the Cowboys and Eagles on the road. But the Giants have been one of the best road teams over the last couple years and soundly beat the first place Cardinals last week in Arizona. The G-Men have proven that they’re the best team in the league, but they’re going to have their hands full against a physical Washington team in desperate need of a victory.

Upset Watch: Panthers (8-3) at Packers (5-6), 1:00 PM ET FOX
My pick of the Lions over the Buccaneers last week proved to be a disaster despite Detroit jumping out to a 17-0 lead. Considering the Packers are 3-point favorites, this technically doesn’t count as an upset and less you factor in the records. The Pack were embarrassed last Monday night by New Orleans, but the Panthers haven’t played well in weeks. Jake Delhomme has struggled in the first half of Carolina’s past three games and the once stout Panther defense is coming off a game in which they surrendered 45 points to the Falcons. This is a nice matchup for a struggling Green Bay defense, but they must stop the run. Carolina loves to pound the ball on the ground and if they’re successful, the play action pass opens up with Delhomme and Steve Smith. But if the Packers can sell out to stop the run, their secondary is good enough to at least contain Smith and limit him from making big plays. Aaron Rodgers should have relative success working the ball up the field against an average Carolina secondary, although Ryan Grant must keep them balanced offensively for Green Bay to notch a win and keep their playoff hopes alive.

Matt CasselIntriguing Matchup: Steelers (8-3) at Patriots (7-4), 4:15 PM ET CBS
Could this be a potential playoff preview? Matt Cassel has the Patriots’ offense back on track, but they’ll be tested Sunday against one of the best defenses in the league. It’s doubtful Cassel will be able to throw for over 400 yards for the third connective game, which means Bill Belichick must get his running game going or else Dick Lambeau can dial up plenty of blitzes to get the young signal caller out of rhythm. A win is so important for both teams. A victory for Pittsburgh would keep the Steelers at least one-game above Baltimore in the division, while the Pats need a win to keep pace with the Jets in the AFC East. This should be one of the most physical matchups of the week and I’m willing to bet it will be a low scoring affair.

Other Notable Games:
Broncos (6-5) at Jets (8-3), 4:15 PM ET CBS
The Jets are now the talk of the league after they upset the Titans last week, while Denver looks to put its embarrassing loss to the Raiders behind them.

Bears (6-5) at Vikings (6-5), 8:15 PM ET
First place in the NFC North is on the line Sunday night. Since they beat the Vikes earlier this season, Chicago would capture the tiebreaker between these two teams if they can come away with a victory.

Saints (6-5) at Buccaneers (8-3), 1:00 PM ET
A win for New Orleans and we can officially welcome them back to the NFC playoff party. But a loss would essentially put the Saints out of their misery.

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