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Most interesting storylines for NFL Week 13

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

A ton of big games this week.

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

December’s slate of NFL action kicks off with a ton of big games this week. It starts with the red-hot New Orleans Saints traveling to Dallas in a game against a Cowboys team that’s won three consecutive games.

Meanwhile, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles will look to save their season against the first-place Washington Redskins.

Out in New England, the Patriots will host the Minnesota Vikings in what could be a Super Bowl preview. And speaking of two good teams taking on one another, the Chargers will head to Pittsburgh in a matchup with Big Ben and the Steelers.

These are among the most interesting storylines for NFL Week 13.

 

Saints winning streak on the line in Big D

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The best game of this week’s slate takes place on prime time television in Dallas on Thursday night. Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints put their 10-game winning streak on the line against a Cowboys team that’s won three consecutive games of its own. A pretty big statement game for Dallas, this game is also pretty darn big for the Saints. With a win here, New Orleans would maintain its standing as the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

We’re primarily interested to see if the Cowboys can keep up with a Saints offense that has averaged north of 37 points per game. The matchup between stud receiver Amari Cooper and reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshon Lattimore will loom large in this big game.

 

Browns look for statement win

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In the midst of a winning streak for the first time since 2014, Baker Mayfield and the Browns are in the news for dramatic reasons. Following the team’s win over Cincinnati last week, Mayfield called out former head coach Hue Jackson in a big way. He’s not backing down from said criticism — placing the microscope on himself in the process.


But that’s not the story here. Rather, it’s all about Cleveland looking for a statement win against a Houston Texans squad that’s come out victorious in eight consecutive games. Certainly, Cleveland’s playoff aspirations are pretty weak right now. But with a win over Houston, Mayfield and Co. would be making a major statement around the NFL. It’s a statement that would include the Browns announcing their presence on the broader league stage.

 

Bears look to continue NFC North domination

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Winners of five consecutive games, Matt Nagy and the Bears boast a 1.5-game lead over the Minnesota Vikings in the old black and blue division heading into Week 13. It’s been a combination of clutch play on offense and one of the league’s best defense that has Chicago thinking division title.

The Bears will next try their luck Sunday against a three-win New York Giants team. This is a game Chicago should win handily. Though, this upstart team remains an unknown commodity. Only two of their victories have come against teams with a winning record. Of their eight wins, four have come by a single score. Chicago can’t overlook Saquon Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr. and Co. in this one. That’s for sure.

 

Eagles’ final chance at relevance

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The defending champs staved off irrelevance last week in a comeback win over the hapless New York Giants. In no way does this mean all is right in the City of Brotherly Love. Now 5-6 on the season, Philadelphia is just one game behind Dallas and Washington in the pedestrian NFC East. Even then, the team needs to start a winning streak if it hopes to remain alive in the division race.

Set to take on the Washington Redskins at home Monday night, this is pretty much a must win for Doug Pederson’s squad. Washington is coming off a loss to Dallas on Thanksgiving and has backup Colt McCoy under center. There’s no reason for the Eagles not to win this game. And if they come up short, irrelevance will be the name of the game in Philly over the final month of the season.

 

End of an era in Baltimore?

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Now that we know Jackson will make his third consecutive start, there’s absolutely no reason to believe the rookie quarterback will be giving up the starting job any time soon. Baltimore has won two consecutive games with Jackson under center and seemed dead in the water when Joe Flacco was leading the offense.

Having seen Baltimore’s offense put up north of 500 rushing yards over the past two games, we’re looking at a completely different unit with Jackson on the field. It has Baltimore at 6-5 on the season and right in the thick of the AFC Playoff race. Sunday’s game against a reeling Falcons team could further this. If so, we could very well have seen Flacco’s last appearance in a Ravens uniform.

 

Mike McCarthy’s job on the line in Green Bay

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McCarthy knows full well that his hold on the Packers’ job is tenuous at best right now. At 4-6-1 on the season, Green Bay must win out in order to have any chance of playing playoff football. Should that not happen, first-year general manager Brian Gutekunst will almost certainly be looking for a new head coach this winter.


Should Aaron Rodgers and Co. somehow fall at home to a 2-9 Cardinals team, said coaching search might begin as early as this coming Monday. A loss here would pretty much signal the end of McCarthy’s long tenure in Green Bay. That’s for sure.

 

It’s going to get ugly in Oakland

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In the first of two matchups between the division rivals over the final five weeks of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs head to Northern California to take on the Oakland Raiders Sunday. More than two touchdown favorites, there’s absolutely no reason to believe Kansas City won’t dominate a Raiders team that has lost nine of its first 11 games this season.

Kansas City heads into this one winning by an average of 10 points per game. Meanwhile, the Jon Gruden-led Raiders have lost by an average of 12.7 points per outing. The question here isn’t whether Kansas City will win, but how much the team is going to win by. In the process, we’re highly intrigued to see the reactions of fans in Oakland.

 

Fading Jags take on red-hot Colts

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Everything is a cluster mess in Jacksonville right now. The team fired its offensive coordinator after last week’s loss to the Bills. It also benched starting quarterback Blake Bortles for Cody Kessler. And now, front office head honcho Tom Coughlin is calling the team out after Leonard Fournette was suspended a game for fighting.

That’s not exactly what the Jaguars had in mind for the 2018 season after earning a trip to the AFC Championship Game last year. Oh, and did we mention that they are in the midst of a seven-game losing streak? Set to take on a Colts team that’s won five consecutive, we could witness a near-mutiny when these two AFC South rivals clash on Sunday.

 

Figuring out the Patriots

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The objective observer in us can conclude that these Patriots are not as good as past teams. Last week was a prime example of this. Going up against the Jets and backup quarterback Josh McCown, it took a late-game push for the Patriots to pull away from their less-talented counterparts in the AFC East. The only thing really saving this team is just how bad the rest of the division is. New England is 3-0 within the division — winning by a combined 64 points. It’s just 5-3 outside of the division with a minus-six point differential.


It goes without saying that this week’s game against a Super Bowl-contending Minnesota Vikings team will tell us a lot about the Patriots. Has Tom Brady regressed? If so, is there anyone else on this offense that can pick him up? We’ll find out Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

 

Huge battle in Steel Town

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Following their first loss since back in Week 4, the Pittsburgh Steelers are set to host another AFC title contender in that of the Los Angeles Chargers this week. How Pittsburgh performs will tell us a lot about the team’s championship aspirations and whether they are legit. Pittsburgh is just 2-2 against teams that are currently over .500.

The Chargers themselves absolutely routed a lesser Arizona Cardinals team last week and are 7-1 since losing two of their first three games this season. Philip Rivers is playing at an MVP level and the team remains alive in the AFC West race. Yeah, this is a huge conference game to kick off December.

 

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