Game Of The Week:
Generally this spot is reserved for games with incredible back-and-forth action, or ones that end on a wild play, but we are going to go in a slightly different direction this week.
Just as I still remember the first time I beat my old man at 1-on-1 in the driveway basketball hoop, this week was a coming of age moment for the Detroit Lions that they definitely won’t forget. Sure, the Packers were without Aaron Rodgers, and their squad this season is hardly dominant, but the way that the Lions manhandled and embarrassed the Packers 40-10 is a sign that the times are changing in the division.
Ever since Brett Favre rolled into town, Green Bay has owned the NFC North. During this time frame the Lions were the doormat of the division, and so to finally be on top is extra sweet. After squandering the opportunity to stretch their 2013 division lead (two straight losses to teams with losing records in Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay), Detroit made a statement on Turkey Day USA.
Matthew Stafford played a sloppy game, throwing a pair of picks and losing a fumble, but the 22 passes he threw that did go to a player in a Lions jersey went for 330 yards and 2 TDs. Detroit added 2 rushing scores (1 each by Reggie Bush and Joique Bell), a David Akers FG, and a safety to boot, to round out their scoring at 40 points.
Matt Flynn, who just a few years ago was the subject of a high-profile free agent signing out of Green Bay to Seattle, was simply awful. Apart from giving up the safety, he was a paltry 10 for 20 through the air for no touchdowns and one interception. His butter fingers let two fumbles slip away in a game where neither QB seemed to be able to hold on to the football.
Both of Detroit’s playmakers eclipsed 100 yards, with Bush pounding out 117 on the ground and Calvin Johnson hauling in 6 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown.
The Packers will hope to get Rodgers back next week, although it is unlikely, and try to win out and squeak into the post-season. With the win, the Lions control their own destiny in the NFC North.
Performance Of The Week:
With the Broncos down 21-7 at Kansas City, someone needed to step up for Denver if they were going to mount a comeback. That man was Eric Decker.
Decker and Peyton Manning were locked in last Sunday as they connected on 8 catches for a whopping 174 yards and four touchdowns. Decker single-handedly put the team on his shoulders and marched them to a 35-28 come from behind win.
This was a huge game for Decker who generally plays a much smaller role in the Broncos’ offense. In the previous week’s loss at New England the wide receiver was held to just 5 yards on one reception.
With the playoffs approaching it will be interesting to see if Peyton to Decker becomes a more common call from the Broncos’ coaching staff’s playbook.
Biggest Upset Of The Week:
No real big upsets this week, although the hapless Vikings did beat a team with a winning record, topping the Chicago Bears 23-20 in overtime on a Blair Walsh field goal.
Minnesota has been downright boring to watch this season considering the fact that A.P. is probably the best football player in the entire league. Blame their putrid quarterback play. Christian Ponder is clearly not the answer, and the Josh Freeman experiment fizzled before it even had time to pick up any steam. Look for the Vikes to take a swing in the draft this off-season as they hope to nail down their first solid franchise QB since, well, since who knows when?
While the Bears (6-6) may not be playing their best football, they were still in the thick of the NFC North race, which makes the loss to the (3-8-1) Vikings both significant and a bit embarrassing.
Injuries From The Week:
Brandon Weeden was diagnosed with a concussion following the Browns win over the Jaguars. With back-up Jason Campbell out with a concussion as well, recent signee Alex Tanney could be the only healthy QB next week when Cleveland faces the Patriots. Poor Alex Tanney…whoever that is.
San Francisco will most likely be without their left tackle Joe Staley next week against the Seahawks. The lineman has a sprained MCL.
The Rob Gronkowski injury saga continues as he came up limping after being tackled against the Texans, but he looks to be fine and the Pats won’t have to go without their star tight end.
What To Look Forward To Next Week:
Throughout the pre-season the Seattle at San Francisco affair in week 14 looked to be one of the season’s best games and one that could possibly decide the division. At (11-1) the Hawks look to be a lock to take the NFC West, but this match-up in Candlestick will be a battle as the Niners seek to revenge the embarrassing butt whipping they took at CenturyLink Field earlier this season.
The Colts at the Bengals should be a good one as the rematch of this week’s tilt could very well come in the post-season. It will be a great test for both squads to get in a little practice in a game with playoff atmosphere.
The game of the week will easily be the Panthers at the Saints. Following the loss in Seattle, New Orleans and Carolina are tied atop the NFC South at (9-3). Cam Newton has led the Panthers to 8 straight wins; one more and the Panthers could be in the driver’s seat for a first-round bye.
Week 13 prediction results: (1-1), it seems to be my favorite record. I called the Hawks scoring 34 on the Saints, but I never would have guessed that Drew Brees and company would be held to a mere 7 points. Monday Night Football was a laugher, as the road to the Super Bowl appears to be running through Seattle. The Chargers were unable to pull off the upset against the Bengals, so I’ll really have to rub my crystal ball this week to try and predict a doozy of an upset for redemption.
Pick of the week: Panthers 20 – 17 Saints
The Panthers are red hot and the Saints are probably questioning their “elite” status after being humbled by the Seahawks. While Brees plays better at home than on the road, I see the Panthers’ defense getting to Drew, and getting to him often.
Upset of the week: Titans 31 – Broncos 28
Why not? Denver’s defense is vulnerable even with Von Miller back. If you can outscore Peyton Manning and Co., then anyone can beat them.
The Panthers have allowed just 157 points this entire season. That’s an average of just over 12 points per game. The next closest team (Seattle 186) has allowed nearly 30 points more, which makes Carolina by far and away the stingiest defense this season in the NFL.
It has been quite some time since a defensively minded team has won the Super Bowl, but 2013 could be the year that the old, “offense wins games, defense wins championships” mantra actually holds suit? And with the top three scoring defenses all in the NFC, it might come down to the final game of the season for the offense vs. defense showdown to take place (assuming that Denver doesn’t get Flacco-ized in the first round again.)
As NFL rules makers make it more and more difficult to lay down big hits and play solid D, it’s nice to see that a few teams around the league still conjure up game plans that focus on winning games from the other side of the line of scrimmage.
I’m not saying that I want to see a 9-7 score in the Super Bowl or anything, but there’s something to be said about a game where you’ve really got to work to get into the end zone.