Sunday NFL Preview: Week Thirteen

By Lloyd Vance
Updated: November 29, 2008

NFL PHILADELPHIA – Week 13 of the too quick 2008 NFL Season is upon us. This time of the year is my favorite as football and my favorite holiday Thanksgiving collide.

Football on Thanksgiving is an “Autumn Ritual” to me just like the phrase, “Can you please pass the gravy”.

The game has aligned itself beautifully with the greatest holiday ever and it provides an opportunity for fellowship by friends and family around America’s Game.

Whether attending a hometown rivalry game, playing in a “Turkey Bowl” touch football game with friends/family, or just watching the now three NFL games.

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning said about Turkey Ball, “I remember watching Thanksgiving games as a kid. Even in high school and college, and now in the NFL, you practice, you come home and you watch Thanksgiving football.”

The interesting question is, “Will Week 13 be lucky or unlucky for the many NFL teams still in the race for one of the twelve coveted playoff spots?” By reason of parity or design, almost every team still has a mathematical shot at the playoffs – only the Lions and Bengals have been totally eliminated.

There are currently 20 teams in the NFL with a .500 or better record, so teams are scratching to survive as almost every division is up for grabs except the AFC South (Titans) and NFC West (Cardinals).

The week started early with the aforementioned three NFL Thanksgiving games that were symbolic of the holiday as there were three turkey stuffings. The first game featured the Tennessee Titans (11-1) bouncing back from their first loss in week 12 with a 47-10 massacre of the Lions (worst beating ever on Thanksgiving).

The second game was not much better as the Cowboys (8-4) continued their climb back to respectability with a 34-9 drubbing of the Seahawks. The holiday’s nightcap featured another blowout, but this time in a surprise the supposedly finished Philadelphia Eagles and their disrespected quarterback Donovan McNabb rebounded with a resounding 48-20 reclamation win over the Cardinals (have not won a game on the East Coast since November 7, 2004 at Miami).

There are many interesting battles that are on the slate of games this week including:

– Five divisional games with most of them have extensive playoff implications (New Orleans at Tampa Bay, N.Y. Giants at Washington, Kansas City at Oakland, Chicago at Minnesota, and Jacksonville at Houston).

– A huge reunion battle as running back Michael Turner leads the Atlanta Falcons against his old team the San Diego Chargers. In his first season with the Falcons, Turner has rushed for a career-high 1,088 yards and an NFL-best 13 touchdowns. Last year, Turner only rushed for 316 yards and one touchdown in 16 games as LaDainian Tomlinson’s backup… did I mention that LT only has much less at 770 rushing yards and only 5 TDs.

– Two former AFC Title Game playoff rivalries taking center stage with the Broncos at the Jets and the Steelers against the Patriots. The Broncos knocked the Jets out of the 1998 playoffs and Patriots defeated the Steelers in the Super Bowl ticket game in 2001 and 2004.

– Playoff Seeding type games as teams with winning records battle for position (Carolina at Green Bay and Arizona at Philadelphia).

An interesting trend during this week that several NFL media types including myself will be monitoring is scoring. In more proof the NFL needs to work on their defenses, the National Football League had its first 800-point weekend in week 12 (total of 837 points).

The scoring record comes as no surprise to me as many coaches are subscribing to the Andy Reid school of Passing, Passing, and More Passing. A lot of fans like the pinball machine type games in the NFL, but this NFL writer is all about running the ball and playing good defense. I am sure in the playoffs we will see a higher level of defensive play around the NFL.

Featured Game

GIANTS (10-1) at REDSKINS (7-4) FOX, 1:00 PM

Broadcast Team: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, and Tony Siragusa (Field reporter).

I love NFC East type football — weather will be cold and expect a physical game — and this the marquee game of week 13. It is a match-up of two teams from the NFL’s best division (.670 winning percentage) where both teams pass efficiently, run the ball – will be tough as the two units are in top-10 rush defenses (Giants, No. 6; Redskins, No. 7) and play tough attacking defense.

The Redskins and 90,000 of their fans will welcome the New York Giants, who I consider to be the best team in football. The Redskins and their rookie head coach Jim Zorn will be looking for revenge from their week 1 loss where the G-Men dominated on their way to a 16-7 win. In first game of the ’08 season on Thursday Night Football, the Giants’ defense handled the Redskins, limiting them to only 209 total yards and three of 13 third-down conversions.

Even though the Giants cannot clinch the NFC East with a win (Dallas won), they can easily establish themselves as the odds on favorite to win the division and have the playoffs go through the Meadowlands. The Giants are a red-hot road team (have won 14 of past 15 on road including the playoffs), so the Redskins better have their “A” game.

The Giants will look to lean on quarterback Eli Manning (24-5 (.828) in past 29 starts), a fearsome running game of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, and Ahmad Bradshaw that always seems to run for 200 yards (Jacobs is among the NFC leaders with 879 yards and 11 TDs), and a defense that is ranked third in sacks (32).

The Redskins will need another big game from quarterback Jason Campbell (only 3 INTs in 340 attempts), running back Clinton Portis (leads NFL with 1,206 rush yards) and the NFC’s leading defense in terms of yardage (272 yards). The player that I am most interested to see for the Redskins is newly acquired defensive back DeAngelo Hall. The former Raiders malcontent has four interceptions for the season and I am sure he and fellow corner Shawn Springs will be hyped to face a multitude of Giants receiving weapons.

Injuries may play a part in this game and the injury list for both teams is lengthy.

Giants: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (neck), WR Plaxico Burress (hamstring – out), LB Jonathan Goff (hamstring), RB Brandon Jacobs (knee – doubtful), and DT Fred Robbins (shoulder)

Redskins: DE Andre Carter (foot), LB London Fletcher (foot), DT Kedric Golston (ankle), DT Cornelius Griffin (shoulder), G Pete Kendall (knee), RB Clinton Portis (knee, oblique), T Chris Samuels (knee), and LB Marcus Washington (ankle)

LV’s Pick: This is a tough game to pick, because these two teams are evenly matched and injuries will be a factor. I believe turnovers and who can establish the run thus controlling the clock will win this game. As good as Portis is at running the rock, he is no match for the Giants three-headed monster. I expect the G-Men to attack the Redskins underachieving defensive line to the tune of over 150 rushing yards, which allow Manning to avoid having to carry the team. Also watch for Giants DE Justin Tuck (9.5 sacks in ’08) against an aging Redskins offensive line. Giants 23, Redskins 17

NFL Week 13

Thursday’s results

Tennessee 47 at Detroit 10 (CBS)

Seattle 9 at Dallas 34 (FOX)

Arizona 20 at Philadelphia 48 (NFL Network)

Sunday’s Games

San Francisco at Buffalo, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Baltimore at Cincinnati, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Carolina at Green Bay, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Miami at St. Louis, 1 p.m. (CBS)

Indianapolis at Cleveland, 1 p.m. (CBS)

New Orleans at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (FOX)

N.Y. Giants at Washington, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Atlanta at San Diego, 4:05 p.m. (FOX)

Denver at N.Y. Jets, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

Kansas City at Oakland, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

Pittsburgh at New England, 4:15 p.m. (CBS)

Chicago at Minnesota, 8:15 p.m. ET (NBC)

Monday’s game

Jacksonville at Houston, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)