While I declared Week 11 the Sunday of “Any Given Sunday” for this season, this past week wasn’t far off from dethroning it. There were 2 overtime games — a tie and a Brady/Manning battle — while both trap game alerts in last week’s Honorable Mention came to pass. So apparently I’ve gone from “Paul Revere of the Pigskin” telling you what great games are coming to “Sunday soothsayer” telling teams to, “beware the Ides of November”. But with the playoffs on the horizon, here comes more of the same in Week 13′s heaping helping of The Student of the Game’s Match-Up Mania.
Broncos v. Chiefs
The rematch of the AFC West’s top teams takes place in Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium, the NFL’s loudest venue according to The Guinness Book of World Records. While this looked to be a game to get giddy for 2 weeks ago, as often happens in this league, the circumstances changed. Both teams suffered demoralizing loses in the previous week as well as losses to key personnel.
The Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno is day-to-day with a leg bone bruise. A solid offensive tool in the previous pairing with KC, he helped Denver keep a balanced attack against one of the league’s best defenses. Yet, I’d argue a bigger blow was dealt to the Chiefs roster now missing their top sack masters LBs Tamba Hali and Justin Houston to injuries. Hali may return quickly with a minor ankle sprain while Houston is said to be out more than 2 weeks nursing a dislocated elbow. If the Broncos O-line allowed 0 sacks in the first meeting, how can the Chiefs hope to pressure Mile High QB Peyton Manning into mistakes?
While Kansas City QB Alex Smith and his offense amassed 38 points last week, the most for them in 2013, with limited ability to scare Manning, I see it taking more than 38 points to bring down the Broncos. From 1st seed to 5th, the Arrowhead will remain.
Seahawks v. Saints
After last week’s win over the 49ers coming only with the officials’ assistance, there are those out there skeptical of what the Saints can do against a sound defense . . . and you don’t get much more sound than the Seattle Seahawks when it comes to NFL defenses. However, for every bit of awesome the Seahawks bring you slowing offenses, their movement of the football itself is slow by comparison.
With the return of WR Percy Harvin, Seattle has potential to bring scoring and production to levels we expected in the preseason from QB Russell Wilson and the passing offense supplementing the “Skittle Beast himself RB Marshawn Lynch. On the other hand, with San Francisco devouring QB Drew Brees as they did last Sunday, how can New Orleans hope to move the ball better against Seattle?
The game will be close, but I believe the Seahawks win as they are so unstoppable at CenturyLink Field.
Cards v. Eagles
These teams are competing for a post season appearance. No — I’m serious. . . while it may seem like I’ve been feeling the holiday spirit early (and the spirit in question being copious amounts of eggnog and rum), both these teams are fighting in different races for playoff presentation.
The Eagles with QB Nick Foles have surged into relevance by way of the disgusting NFC East. With a 6-5 record, they are inferior by a game to 7-4 Arizona in the Wild Card race, yet currently sit atop their division. The recent production of rookie Head Coach Chip Kelly’s scheme featuring Foles, WR DeSean Jackson, and RB LeSean “Shady” McCoy has begun to impress pigskin pundits as a balanced offense. However the defense can’t be claimed as prolific. In fact, it’s the failed Philly defense that gives QB Carson Palmer a chance to lead another team through adversity to compete for potential playoff placement as he has the Oakland Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals in seasons past.
Can the Cards move the ball without the support of a solid run attack? Can the Cards defense slow Philly’s fast moving offense? I feel like the answers to these questions are no — but if I’m wrong, Arizona is victorious.
Packers v. Lions
This one is on the list because of the divisional race. QB Aaron Rodgers’ injury is the first complication at the position they’ve had since Brett Favre threw his final INT as a Packer to break the hearts of Lambeau Lovers everywhere by propelling the New York Giants to an eventual Super Bowl Championship. The Lions, however, are unprecedented in a positive direction not only at the QB spot with Matt Stafford bringing stability to their air attack, but it might be argued that RB Reggie Bush has provided the strongest ground presence since Hall of Famer Barry Sanders retired prematurely. Between the balance of Detroit’s offense and QBs Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn representing a drop off in talent at the head of Green Bay’s offense, this game has a whole new dynamic to the previous standoff. Earlier in the year it was the “Playoff of the Paid Off” — now it’s just Rodgers and Stafford got new contracts, but only Stafford is playing.
However, considering recent history of these teams on Thanksgiving features DT Ndamukong Suh stepping on a dude’s head, when paired with the implications in the division standings, it beats shopping for pre-Black Friday deals.
I’ve made it pretty clear that I think the Lions will win, but in the yearly feast that is Thanksgiving NFL football, this makes for a tasty morsel.
Ravens v. Steelers
Sure, there’s some loose implications for the AFC North division and Wild Card races and it’s a requirement that I mention there’s a distant playoff hope in place for both teams here, but I’ll be honest . . . none of that is the reason why this match-up is mentioned. It’s because this is the pairing for football fans who like physical football. No matter how many rules are made to protect players or errant flags are flung to incorrectly enforce them, the Steelers and Ravens have made it a tradition to assure the black in their teams’ colors is accompanied by some blue in the bruises felt on Monday morning.
RB Ray Rice vs. LB Lawrence Timmons, WR Torrey Smith vs. CB Ike Taylor, QB “Big” Ben Roethlisberger v. LB Terrell Suggs, QB Joe Flacco v. SS Troy Polamalu . . . The listing of match ups here are stars that are tops in the NFL that will all have an impact on the game. The only reason why I can think both teams are this low in the standings are the O-line issues. I see the Steelers carrying their recent momentum into winning this game.
Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter
Founder and host of The Student of the Game show
VP of Operations and Editor for The National Gridiron Network
COO and NFL Contributor for The Sports Chronicles
Special Contributor for Pro Player Insiders
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