In these weekly previews, I’ll highlight the results that I found shocking from the previous week, as well as preview the game I am most looking forward to from the weekend ahead. As we get later into the season, I may add some other sections to this, including playoff positioning and a look forward to the upcoming draft.
The Top Game From Week 12
Denver Broncos 24 – Pittsburgh Steelers 17
Last week’s Game of the Week failed to deliver on the hype (though I was only one point off on my score prediction), and the two of the more exciting teams were on bye, so the best game may have been in Denver where the Denver Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers. Denver has now won two games in a row, returning from what once looked like a lost season with a head coach on the hot seat. Instead, they knocked the Steelers from second in the conference to fourth. Undrafted running back Phillip Lindsay outperformed Le’Veon Bell-lite James Conner, rushing for over a hundred yards and a touchdown while averaging nearly eight yards a carry.
Pittsburgh struggled to hold onto the ball, with Ben Roethlisberger throwing 2 interceptions and the Steelers losing two fumbles. Nevertheless, the Steelers entered halftime in a 10-10 after a last second fake field goal touchdown pass from kicker Chris Boswell to offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva. After halftime, they opened the second half scoring with a 97-yard catch and run from JuJu Smith-Schuster after the Broncos had pinned the Steelers deep. But those would be the last points that the Steelers would score, and Denver scored two touchdowns to reach the final margin of victory, winning the game in such a fashion that it did not feel that they ever trailed.
Week 13 Game of the Week
We have a full slate of games every week from now on, and this week’s schedule has two matchups worth highlighting.
The New England Patriots play host to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon, and the Patriots will enter the game with a chance to clinch the AFC East should the Miami Dolphins lose earlier in the day. The Vikings are probably grateful that this game isn’t at night in New England, but rain is in the forecast nonetheless. The Vikings defense is among the best that the Patriots have faced this season, so it should be a compelling matchup.
The other game of the week will be from Pittsburgh, with the Steelers hosting the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. The Chargers won’t face any weather in this game, a rarity for Pittsburgh in December, and both teams will be looking for the victory to stay firmly in the playoff and divisional hunts. Pittsburgh has a 1 1/2 game lead over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North, while the Chargers trail the Kansas City Chiefs by a game in the AFC West, while also leading the wild card race. The winner of this game should increase their playoff chances – I’m expecting teams to need 10 wins to make the AFC playoffs – while a loss might make it much harder depending on what happened over the rest of the weekend.
Score predictions: Patriots 27 – Vikings 20; Chargers 30 – Steelers 21
With each team having played at least eight games on the season, we’ll use the space to update the playoff picture each week. Here’s how it currently stands:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (West) – 9-2
2. New England Patriots (East) – 8-3
3. Houston Texans (South) – 8-3
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (North) – 7-3-1
5. Los Angeles Chargers (WC #1) – 8-3
6. Baltimore Ravens (WC #2) – 6-5
Next team: Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
1. Los Angeles Rams (West) – 10-1
2. New Orleans Saints (South) – 10-1
3. Chicago Bears (North) – 8-3
4. Dallas Cowboys (East) – 6-5
5. Minnesota Vikings (WC #1) – 6-4-1
6. Washington (WC #2) – 6-5
Next two teams: Seattle Seahawks & Carolina Panthers (6-5)
Preliminary Draft Order
Since the NFL is all done with byes, this space will no cover the current draft order as it stands, or at least as close as I can figure based on SOS tiebreakers. We’ll go through the 20 teams that aren’t currently in playoff position.
Note: I have calculated strength of schedule for the team’s entire season’s worth of opponents (instead of just through the first 11 games), so my numbers will be slightly different from what might be elsewhere.
|1||San Francisco 49ers||2-9||0.511|
|4||New York Jets||3-8||0.503|
|5||New York Giants||3-8||0.511|
|10||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||4-7||0.528|
|11||Green Bay Packers||4-6-1||0.494|
Until next time…