A look ahead to Week 13 in the NFL:
1. The focus is on the NFC this weekend with Philadelphia at Seattle in the prime time game Sunday night and Fox has a good doubleheader with Minnesota at Atlanta in the early game and Carolina at New Orleans in the late game. The Monday night game is the Steelers-Bengals, which doesn’t seem to be a good matchup but the Steelers have been playing down to the level of their competition all year so it could be closer than expected. And Steelers usually get good ratings. If the NFL ratings are going to rebound, the NFL needs a good showing this weekend. It’s December and the chilly weather up north tends to keep fans indoors. But maybe the lower ratings are the new normal for the NFL. And CBS has a tough Sunday with only one game featuring two teams with winning records: Pats-Bills. And does anybody think the Bills have a chance in this game?
2. A few weeks ago, Carson Wentz and the Eagle offense vs. the Seahawk defense seemed like a good matchup. But with the Seahawks hit by a rash of injuries – notably to Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the secondary – the Eagles should have no problems going to 11-1. Russell Wilson is now a one-man gang for the Seahawk offense, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, the 7-4 Seahawks are in danger of missing the playoffs as their Super Bowl window continues to close.
3. The Saints started an eight-game winning streak with a 34-13 victory over the Panthers in the first meeting as Carolina quarterback Cam Newton threw three picks and didn’t have a touchdown pass. Since then, he’s thrown 12 touchdown passes and seven picks to set the stage for the rematch Sunday with the Saints. It figures to be much closer with both teams at 8-3 and vying for the NFC South division title. The Saints are coming off a loss to the Rams that snapped their winning streak. The Panthers have to stop Alvin Kamara and get a good game from Newton if they are to avenge the first loss. The Panthers can’t afford to lose this game because it would give the Saints what amounts to a two-game edge at 9-3 because they would own the tie-breaker.
4. Case Keenum all but wrapped up the NFC North Division title for the Vikings by leading them to a 30-23 victory over the Lions on Thanksgiving. They now lead the Lions by three games with five left. But the Vikings have more fish to fry when they meet the 7-4 Falcons. They’re still only one game back of the Eagles in the battle for the top seed and want to at least keep field position in the battle for the second seed. Atlanta is desperate for a victory at 7-4 because a loss would drop them two games behind the Saints-Panther winner and mean they might have to fight for a wild card spot to make the playoffs.
5. What a difference the loss of DeShaun Watson means to the Texans. He threw for four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth when the Texans routed Tennessee, 57-14 in the first game. It didn’t help that Marcus Mariota missed second half with a hamstring injury. But now Watson is out for the season and the Texans don’t figure to win the rematch against the Titans with Tom Savage at quarterback. The Titans are tied with Jacksonville for first place in the AFC South at 7-4 and have the tie-breaker because they won the first game with the Jaguars. The Titans figure to win to keep pace with the Jaguars, who are expected to beat the Colts. The Titans and Jaguars play in the final game and the division title could be at stake.