Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
Week 13 features one of the best rivalries in football. The Bengals and Steelers have had a few chippy match-ups over the past few years. The most memorable was their 2015 wildcard game. That game was all but over and it looked like Cincinnati was about to notch their first playoff win since 1991. Not so fast though. With the lead and the ball and under two minutes remaining after a Landry Jones interception, Cincy coughed it right back up thanks to a Jeremy Hill fumble. Then stupid penalties by Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones allowed Pittsburgh to move deep into Cincy territory and kick a game-winning 35-yard field goal. Yeah, we all remember that one.
Anyways, this game is an absolute must win for the Bengals. They are very quietly still in playoff contention after back to back wins to improve to 5-6. I think many people have forgotten about the Bengals due to their poor start, but they are the same team that has been rather consistent in recent history. Cincy has finished with at least ten wins four out of the last five seasons. If you take a look, their roster looks very similar to the team that went 12-4 just two years ago. They still have their core players on both sides of the ball such as Carlos Dunlap, Adam Jones, Vontaze Burfict, Andy Dalton and AJ Green as well as head coach Marvin Lewis. Their unlikely run at the playoffs will begin with a big win at home vs Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, I think Cincy will play a decent game, but come up short: 23-20 Pittsburgh.
Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons
You have to love this match up. Arguably the best defense in the league travels south to visit one of the league’s hottest offenses. Minnesota has allowed 19 points or less in eight of their eleven games this season. Atlanta’s offense is returning to 2016 form after a slow start, averaging about 32 points over their last three games. Something will have to give this week. Minnesota is likely in position to win the division, but a big road win in Atlanta would make it nearly impossible for Detroit to catch them. The stakes are much higher for Atlanta (7-4). The Falcons are a game back from New Orleans and Carolina, who play each other this week. If they do not pull off the win this week, winning the NFC South will become a very tall task. Not feeling overly confident in choosing a winner in this one but I think Matty Ice will do just enough to pull off a close win: 24-23 Atlanta.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Intriguing game here, divisional foes with identical 8-3 records are facing off. Tied at the top of what has been the best division in football this year. New Orleans and Carolina already played once this year in a game that Drew Brees and company embarrassed Carolina at home, handing them a 34-13 beat down. That was back when Alvin Kamara had a much smaller role and was not running haywire on every defense in his way. I think New Orleans will come out on top and sweep the season series: 27-17 Saints.
Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks
Absolute gem of a Sunday night game. Philly travels out west as they will try to snatch the NFC torch from Seattle. Seattle has reigned in the NFC over the past five years but it appears Wentzylvania has seen enough. Despite a plethora of injuries for Seattle this will still be a true test for the Eagles. If there is a team in the league that just will not quit, it is the Seahawks. Do not think a few key injuries are going to influence them to throw in the towel on the season. They will show up to play and try to prove to the rest of the league that the NFC is still ruled by the legion of boom, even if the legion of boom is currently in a body cast. Also, Seahawk pride aside, Seattle is right in the mix of the playoff race. They are currently in 7th in the NFC but with the two teams currently one game ahead of Seattle facing one another this weekend, Seattle knows a win could situate them into one of those two spots and also allow them to stay within striking distance of the Rams. Unfortunately for Seattle, I think their banged-up secondary will not be strong enough to contain Wentz and company: 27-20 Eagles.
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