It’s time for December football. While a lot of teams fell on their face after Thanksgiving, others rose to the occasion as we come to the final four weeks of action.
Playoffs spots are up for grabs and there’s a lot to be determined, so let’s get right into Week 13’s Top 10 matchups. Once again, the Monday night game didn’t make the cut. Sorry, Dallas and Washington:
Green Bay at Detroit: The Lions have actually won more over the last five weeks than the Packers have, which includes an 18-16 victory in Green Bay on Nov. 15. The offense got it going on Thanksgiving Day against Philadelphia, as Matthew Stafford threw a season-high five touchdown passes and hasn’t been picked off in consecutive games for the first time in 2015.
Aaron Rodgers said he lost feeling in his fingers on his left hand during the second half of Thursday night’s loss to the Bears, throwing a pick for only the fourth time this season.
Houston at Buffalo: The Bills blew a game they had dominated throughout most of the first half in Kansas City, so they’re looking at this one as a must-win at home. Rex Ryan’s defense is banged up considerably, as LB Nigel Bradham and DT Alex Harrington each left the Chiefs loss with injuries, further depleting a group already playing without key linemen Mario Williams and Kyle Williams.
The Texans have won four straight to climb into a first-place tie with Indianapolis in the AFC South, surrendering just 6 points in three of those victories.
Seattle at Minnesota: The Seahawks secondary may just have to lose that Legion of Boom moniker since teams are throwing on them at will. The defense surrendered their third 30-point game of the season in Sunday’s win over Pittsburgh, something that hadn’t happened since 2011, Pete Carroll’s second season at the controls.
Russell Wilson bailed the team out with a huge passing day, but no longer has top tight end Jimmy Graham as a target since he’s done with a patella tendon tear.
Arizona at St. Louis: The Cardinals struggled with San Francisco, but moved to 9-2 and maintained a healthy three-game lead over victorious Seattle. They’ll be looking to avenge their lone home loss, a 24-22 setback on Oct. 2 way back in Week 4. Running backs Chris Johnson (knee) and Andre Ellington (toe) were each injured on Sunday, so Arizona could be shorthanded against a typically stingy Rams defense that was conquered in a 31-7 defeat at Cincinnati.
Carson Palmer will definitely see that the Bengals attacked St. Louis’ corners with aggressive downfield passes, so he could be in for a big day.
N.Y. Jets at N.Y. Giants: After snapping a two-game losing streak in emphatic fashion against rival Miami, the Jets face their Met Life Stadium co-tenants in a game both need badly. The Giants put together an embarrassing effort in a 20-14 loss at Washington where they couldn’t overcome an early 17-0 deficit due to three Eli Manning interceptions.
Odell Beckham Jr. shined with nine catches for 142 yards and a score and will likely have to deal with Darrelle Revis, who missed the Dolphins win with concussion symptoms but should make it through protocol in order to play.
Denver at San Diego: It appears Brock Osweiler will make his third straight start in place of Peyton Manning, having delivered tight victories at Chicago and home against New England on Sunday night, snapping the Patriots perfect run. He’ll go in search of his first divisional win against the Chargers, who snapped a string of six consecutive losses with a 31-25 win at Jacksonville.
Philip Rivers continues to work behind a makeshift offensive line and without top target Keenan Allen, but managed to throw for 300 yards and four touchdowns on the Jaguars.
Kansas City at Oakland: Continuing the AFC West theme, the Chiefs and Raiders square off in one of the most meaningful games they’ve played in years since the Raiders were never in contention during Dennis Allen’s three-year run. Both are in the Wild Card hunt at this late stage and coming off comeback victories in Week 12.
Alex Smith threw for a pair of scores against Buffalo and hasn’t been intercepted in eight straight games, the last five of which have been K.C. wins. Oakland improved to 3-3 and on the road as Derek Carr hit Seth Roberts with 1:21 left to come up with a 24-21 win in Tennessee, part of a 330-yard, 3-touchdown performance.
Carolina at New Orleans: The NFL’s lone undefeated team will look to stay perfect at the Superdome, where they’ve had success over the years. Last season’s game there ended up 41-10, but Drew Brees has been formidable at home this season, throwing 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions. The Panthers have injury concerns since defensive linemen Star Lotulelei and Mario Addison were each hurt against the Cowboys and corner Peanut Tillman sat out with a nagging knee ailment.
Cam Newton gets another look at the league’s worst defense, who he torched for a season-high 315 yards in a 27-22 win back on Sept. 27. Despite not throwing for a touchdown on Thanksgiving, he ran for one and has now accounted for 27 on the season. Brees failed to throw a TD for the first time in 46 games against Houston and the Saints failed to find the end zone for the first time in 156 games, a decade-long span.
Philadelphia at New England: In spite of a woeful run that has seen them outscored 110-50 in losses to sub-.500 teams Miami, Tampa Bay and Detroit, the Eagles remain just one game behind the NFC East leaders. Head coach Chip Kelly has been rightfully getting crushed over as his Eagles appear to be quitting on the field. The offense has been missing QB Sam Bradford, RB Ryan Mathews and TE Zach Ertz due to concussions and added WR Josh Huff to that list of head injuries against the Lions.
The Patriots will be coming off their first loss of the season and may be without TE Rob Gronkowski, who escaped a significant knee injury on Sunday night but may not be ready to play here. WR Danny Amendola may return to aid the offense, but Julian Edelman remains out indefinitely.
Indianapolis at Pittsburgh: Andrew Luck won’t be ready to return yet, but 40-year-old Matt Hasselbeck moved to 4-0 as the Colts starter with another efficient performance in a home win over Tampa Bay. Indy has been better as a result of Hasselbeck’s quick decision-making, but he’ll likely have to bring his most productive game to the table to keep up with the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger self-reported concussion symptoms late in the loss to Seattle, so he’ll have to get through protocol to try and continue a run of three consecutive 300-yard passing games that raises his tally to five in his seven starts.
Big Ben threw for 456 yards on a season-high 36 completions against the Seahawks, so count on him doing whatever it takes to get back out there in a crucial Sunday night date for both of these 6-5 teams. The Steelers won last year’s meeting – also at Heinz Field – 51-34, as Roethlisberger shattered team records with completions (40), yards (522) and TD passes (6).
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].