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NFL Picks Week 13: Playoff Countdown

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NFL Picks Week 13: Playoff Countdown

NFL Picks

Heading into the month of December, the playoff push has officially begun for several teams on the fringe of the postseason while many other clubs are already planning how they will spend their offseasons.

Even still, the league proves to be unpredictable from week to week and any team on the schedule, no matter how benign they may look, can be a potential pitfall if taken lightly. That is why those teams at the top making playoff plans already need to be on alert when they come face to face with a divisional cellar dweller. Getting a win that could cost a division rival a playoff spot is in some ways even sweeter than hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

In this week of spoilers versus contenders, look for plenty of competitive games that could swing in one direction or the other on any given play. Sometimes a crushing blow of momentum can completely change the complexion of a game and even determine the eventual outcome.

There were plenty of examples of this last week with so many games coming down to the closing seconds or in some cases even taking extra time to decide a winner. This type of parity is what the NFL strives for and as if the sport needed any extra incentive to draw fans in, 2012 has been a year of strange occurrences.

For unlucky week 13, let’s hope that we can get lucky and back up a strong performance picking games last week with another good showing this time around.

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New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons

Saints at Falcons
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

What a way to kick off the week as the surging Saints face a must-win situation if they want to make the postseason against their arch rivals in the NFC South. Some feel like the Falcons are vulnerable because they aren’t blowing opponents out, but a 10-1 record speaks for itself. One area that the Saints have seen marked improvement in is the running game however and if they manage to stay balanced in this one, New Orleans could keep their hopes alive.

Saints 31 – Falcons 27

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Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills

Jags at Bills

While both of these teams are likely to be picking in the top half of the NFL Draft in April, don’t expect either side to give up on the season just yet. Jacksonville has shown plenty of fight recently despite their injury issues while Buffalo has been on the wrong end of some close calls. Chad Henne might be creating a quarterback controversy for the Jags heading into next season. Look out Blaine Gabbert.

Jaguars 27 – Bills 21

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Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears

Seahawks at Bears
Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

This game reeks of a defensive struggle especially given the Bears’ injury worries on offense. There’s no doubt that Chicago can score enough to win on defense and the Seahawks don’t really have much outside of Marshawn Lynch that they can count on. With Jay Cutler back on the field, the Bears look like a team that could be there in late January vying for a spot in the Super Bowl.

Bears 27 – Seahawks 14

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Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets

Cards at Jets
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

No one knows what the future holds for either of these two teams, but it’s quite likely that both will be looking for new head coaches when this season is over. The Cardinals have resorted to starting a rookie in Ryan Lindley who threw four picks in his debut while the Jets have stuck with Mark Sanchez who continues to prove his ineptitude. Something has to give in this one and at least the Cards play a little bit of defense.

Cardinals 24 – Jets 20

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Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions

Colts at Lions
Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

Andrew Luck continues to impress with his resurrection of the Colts’ franchise and the Lions were heartbroken in overtime on Thanksgiving. It really does look like the Colts have replaced Peyton Manning with the perfect player as Luck spreads the ball around to whoever is open in Manning fashion. Against the Lions’ secondary, plenty of receivers figure to be open this Sunday.

Colts 31 – Lions 24

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Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers

Vikes at Pack

The Packers basically took week 12 off in Sunday night loss to the Giants while the Vikings might as well have done the same given the beatdown they suffered at the hands of the Bears. This classic rivalry comes down to talent and there is a wide gap between the two clubs in that category. While Minnesota has shown improvement and still has Adrian Peterson, the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers will find a way to get a win in this one.

Packers 34 – Vikings 21

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Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Texans at Titans

Houston has ascended to the top of the AFC hierarchy and the Titans are reeling after a loss to the lowly Jags. This game has trap written all over it, but Houston just has too many offensive weapons for it to come to fruition. Arian Foster will have a field day while Andre Johnson will continue his tear in an easy Texans’ victory. They could be resting the starters in the fourth quarter of this one.

Texans 38 – Titans 17

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New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Pats at Fins
Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

It’s hard to put your finger on just what the Dolphins are at this point. One week they look like they don’t belong on an NFL field and the next they are winning tough games at home. This one will be in South Beach and the Patriots could use a trip to warmer climate this time of year. They anticipate taking one in early February for the Super Bowl. Tom Brady will pick the Fins’ secondary apart.

Patriots 41 – Dolphins 20

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Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs

Panthers at Chiefs

The Panthers are just a few plays from being contenders this season while it’s clear the Chiefs are at least a few years away. Cam Newton should have his way with KC and the three-headed running attack of Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and Mike Tolbert will grind this one out in the second half. Expect very little drama from this contest with the Chiefs rushing defense ranked 24th in the league.

Panthers 27 – Chiefs 13

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos

Bucs at Broncos

A loss last week did cool the Bucs off a bit, but they have no time to rest with a visit to the Broncos. Peyton Manning looks like the leader in the clubhouse for the MVP race and Josh Freeman will have to be turnover-free if Tampa has a chance in this one. It will be a tight contest with Doug Martin again running with success, but Manning finds a way to win late as the Broncos continue to add to their impressive résumé.

Broncos 27 – Bucs 24

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San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams

49ers at Rams
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

When these two met a few weeks ago, nothing was settled in a 24-24 stalemate. The Rams face the quarterback that they forced into action by concussing Alex Smith in week 10 and since that point, Colin Kaepernick has been setting the world on fire. Much debate has been waged about whether it should be Smith or Kaepernick for the Niners, but if he keeps winning, Kaepernick will get the nod. That should be the case in this one.

49ers 27 – Rams 17

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Cleveland Browns at Oakland Raiders

Browns at Raiders

These aren’t your average walkover Browns as they proved last week against Pittsburgh. Injuries have dragged the Raiders down and that will likely continue until Darren McFadden returns to the lineup. In this clash of two teams with notoriously angry fan bases, look for some hard hitting and real animosity. Without Brandon Weeden though, the Browns may have trouble in this one. Take the under and go with Oakland.

Raiders 20 – Browns 10

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Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

Steelers at Ravens

This bi-annual slugfest will be without some key components for its second installment of the year with the Steelers still missing Ben Roethlisberger. Fumbles doomed Pittsburgh last week while the Ravens were touched by some sort of divine intervention in their come from behind victory. This game will likely lock up the AFC North division for Baltimore and put the Steelers in a real dogfight for a wild card berth.

Ravens 27 – Steelers 13

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Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers

Bengals at Bolts
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

It was another week, another disappointing loss for the Chargers in week 12 who continue to play uninspired football. The Bengals on the other hand look more like the team most expected to see coming into the year. Andy Dalton is clicking and finding new targets as well with Mohamed Sanu emerging last week. This game will be close, but in the end, the Bolts find a way to lose, as usual.

Bengals 24 – Chargers 21

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Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys

Eagles at Cowboys
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

If there are reasons for optimism in Phlly, it’s really difficult to see them right now. Dallas isn’t too far away from that status themselves after being demolished by RG3 and the Skins on Turkey Day. At home with the offensive weapons that the Cowboys have, it would be tough to find a way for them to lose this one. It will be a typical tight NFC East fight, but turnovers ultimately cost the Eagles.

Cowboys 31 – Eagles 24

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New York Giants at Washington Redskins

G-Men at Skins

How about those Giants? A week off never made that much of a difference for a team in NFL history. Their showing against the Packers was impressive in week 12 and they can’t get too confident with Robert Griffin III on the schedule. RG3 was outstanding on Thanksgiving and that mini-bye week for the Redskins should have healed some of their wounds. This one feels like a prime candidate for an upset.

Redskins 31 – Giants 28