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The Hudsucker Presents NFL Weekly: Week 13 – Super Bowl Contenders in the NFC?

This year our writers are teaming up to bring you weekly football coverage! Each week, a few of our writers will be sharing their thoughts and highlights from games they’ve watched. Who were the winners this week? Who remains undefeated? Which team will come out victorious at the end of the 2013-2014 season? 

Last week’s edition of Thursday Night Football landed on Thanksgiving and it was quite the game changer for the league. As each division is gearing up for the playoffs, one division in particular is creating quite the buzz. The NFC is shaping up to be one of the fiercest conferences this season as there are now three teams currently sitting within half a game of one another at the top of the division; and with the Seattle Seahawks leading the conference clinching the playoffs, 11-1 as leaders in the NFC West. This year’s Thanksgiving Day hosts–Detroit and Dallas–each scored wins Thursday night as well, and will stay remain in first place for at least another week. At this point we could very well see a Super Bowl team emerge from the National Football Conference.

As for the AFC, Denver currently leads the West but that could change as they are one game away from any difference to the New England Patriots, who are well at keeping pace with the Broncos. Baltimore has improved to 8-6 with the help of their win against the Steelers this past Thanksgiving, but are still behind the Cincinnati Bengals who sit at 8-4 in the AFC North. So how did this past week’s games fair? Our writers Chris HillTania Hussain and Andrew Rogers team up and share some highlights from their favorite games, what they thought of the plays and what’s ahead for the teams as the season boils down.

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions

Image Credit: Jim Biever/Green Bay Packers

Lions, 40-10

Tania:

The Lions played great this past Turkey Day and ended their nine-year Thanksgiving losing streak. QB Matthew Stafford was phenomenal and threw for 3 TD passes, helping the team take the lead early on in the game. They really pounced the Packers, who failed to ‘pack’ a punch. Too much? It was really embarrassing for Green Bay. Their sub-in QB isn’t that great and frankly, QB Scott Tolzien is just not good and kind of slow. The Packers are 0-4-1 since QB Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone on the first game of the season against the Chicago Bears last November, dropping the Packers to the outskirts of the NFC playoff picture at 5-6-1. As the Packers take on the Falcons and Cowboys in the next two weeks, and I don’t see them improving even with QB Matt Flynn coming in and taking the reigns.

Chris:

Aaron Rodgers can’t (and probably won’t) get healthy fast enough for Green Bay to make a playoff push. Matt Flynn just isn’t fast enough. His decision making ability is a few seconds off, and in QB terms, that’s a killer. Poor Eddie Lacy…absolutely no where to run. You could tell the Lions wanted this game, especially after what the Packers did to them the last time Flynn was the quarterback. That defense was fierce. Everyone calls him such a dirty player. I think it’s games like this that show how much of a game changer he is.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

Image Credit: NFL/Getty Images

Ravens, 22-20

Chris:

This was a good game. The perfect nightcap for Thanksgiving. One noticeable thing that I am sad to admit – the Steelers D may be the worst tackling defense in the AFC North. The age and yearly injuries may be catching up them – especially Polamalu. Speaking of…what did the Steelers end with? Their 3rd string right guard? Ben Roethlisberger is probably the best QB to ever consistently stay competitive with a makeshift O-Line year in and year out.

The Ravens did well when they had possession, but they can’t finish drives without a solid running game. Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce look sluggish in that backfield. Still, the sign of champions is when you can win without playing your best…that is their regular season motto.

Andrew:

This was a crazy game, topped off by Mike Tomlin (Coach of the Steelers) flub which is still being talked about. In case you don’t know, Tomlin was standing on the sidelines while Jacoby Jones, of the Ravens, was running for a pretty awesome punt return. Tomlin was in bounds however, and only just got out of the way when Jones started approaching him. Some say that this lead to Jones being tackled earlier than he otherwise would have. Tomlin says he was watching the play on the Jumbotron to get a better view and didn’t notice them coming up behind him. So the question is, should he and the team be punished for it, despite the fact that the Ravens won anyway? My thinking is no. I don’t think what he did was intentional by any means, but the league disagrees. Tomlin is being fined $100,000, which seems like a completely obscene amount, and Pittsburgh may lose one of their (very needed) draft picks next season. I think that response is a little over the top, but… there you have it.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Image Credit: NFL/Getty Images America

Vikings, 23-20

Tania:

Good game that went into overtime! It was nice to see the Vikings win after having a lousy season get another win under their belt. Their offense is built around the talents of RB Adrian Peterson which is a good thing and bad thing. Peterson is inarguably the NFL’s best running back and an essential asset to the team, and therein lies the issue. Without Peterson where would they be? It was wise to have him take the ball each time because it brought great victory for Minnesota. The Vikings used one wide receiver on a handful of plays and sometimes, none at all.

Chicago didn’t play bad either. They played alright, though it was just unfortunate that they couldn’t make the mark and create a larger margin between themselves and their opponents and avoid OT. Bears WR Alshon Jeffery made a breathtaking 46-yard touchdown catch over the head of Minnesota Vikings C Chris Cook, which was smooth. The Bears had plenty of chances to up their game though and will have to go back and see what errors they’ve made if they want to steal the division title from the Lions.

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

Image Credit: Getty Images/NFL

Colts, 22-14

Tania:

This past Sunday’s game at the Lucas Oil Stadium between the Colts and Titans proved that Indy is the top of the class in the AFC South. Sure for most of the game, it appeared like nothing would change much for the Colts, who still struggled to move the ball on the ground but under Coach Pagano’s rule, the team hasn’t lost games consecutively. However that being said, they do have some flaws that they need to work on. First of all, the start of their games have come off a little shaky and that can make anyone (even the players) anxious. That shaky running game masks what is their bigger issue: pass protection. It was unfortunate seeing QB Andrew Luck take five sacks and hit three other times by the Titans. Offense is great, but defense needs to work on protecting the ball and their QB, otherwise they could fall behind. Right now, the Colts may not look like Super Bowl contenders as many believed at the start of the season, but nonetheless, they are resilient and it’ll be interesting to see them take on the Bengals this Sunday (who are at the top of the AFC North), and finish off the season with the Texans, Chiefs, and Jaguars. With the current standings, I can say right now, there are two games I know they will definitely win against.

The Titans are right behind the Colts in the AFC South and have suffered due to their record this season. Tennessee has officially kicked themselves right out of the playoff picture with another embarrassing divisional loss. They were so close, yet so far from making the mark.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Image Credit: Getty Images/NFL

Broncos, 35-28

Tania:

I really didn’t expect anything different from the Broncos in their second match up against the Chiefs this season. They played great and anyone who thinks otherwise, well, go ahead and think otherwise. The Chiefs came up quick but the Broncos are a tough team and sure they have some pockets of weakness but every team this season is showcasing that. The only exception is that the Broncos consistently thrive and work under pressure with their tight defense and improving each week. That being said, they certainly aren’t perfect and had some fluke games showcasing their weakness with teams like the Colts or the Patriots. QB Peyton Manning threw for five touchdowns on Sunday and now has 41 on the whole season. Manning threw completions of 20 yards and 37 yards on the first drive after halftime, with WR Eric Decker blowing past the Chiefs defense with his hot hands, catching eight passes for 174 yards, ultimately scoring four touchdowns–impressive. The team really shined in the third quarter and made all the difference.

The Chiefs haven’t fared so well since their consecutive streak broke. They’ve been a little under the weather so it seems with their plays and are now second to the Broncos in the AFC West. Considering how the next three games go, there could very well be a power shift in progress.

Andrew:

So, I didn’t expect the second match up between these divisional rivals to be any different than the first, especially considering that the Chiefs have gone downhill some since their win streak was snapped by Denver the first time around. That said, they held their own up until the half but Denver, like they always do, just made that final surge and stole the game right out from under them. Honorable mentions go to Eric Decker and Monte Ball for some standout performances and, as always, to Peyton Manning who, despite is not-so-great throwing arm, always knows exactly what to do and who to throw to. He really is a class act.

New York Giants at Washington Redskins

Image Credit: AP Photo/NFL

Giants, 24-17

Andrew:

Well, the NFC East race has kind of all but sorted itself out. Dallas and Philly are still battling for the playoff spot, but these two teams are all but out of the running. Still, rivalry games like this are always fun to watch and the Giants learned from their mistakes of weeks past. They ran the football more instead of relying on Eli’s sometimes-not-so-lucky throwing arm and the defense actually made some key stops. They’ve both got big games this week against the Chargers and the Chiefs respectively, so it will be interesting to see if the Giants can stop Rivers, Antonio Gates & Co. and the ‘Skins can snuff out Andy Reid, Jamaal Charles and Alex Smith.

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks

Image Credit: NFL/Getty Images America

Seahawks, 34-7

Chris:

The “Legion of Boom” is the best defense (PEDs or not) in the league…period. They have a defensive front that you can’t run on (Zac Stacy aside) and a secondary you shouldn’t throw on. The NFC Championship game in Seattle should be gruesome to watch. The Saints, for all of their great offense and solid defense, could not move the ball. Save Jimmy Graham’s obligatory TD, it was a bad night for Drew Brees and Co, who now have to play a similar defense on Sunday…

Andrew:

I had a good two day slump after this game but now I’m at the point where I can look at it objectively and talk about why my Saints went down in flames. There’s a lot of things we need to work on, and any team who hopes to face and beat Seattle on the way to the Superbowl should take note of. #1. Russell Wilson has to be contained. We did a great job at minimizing Marshawn Lynch’s running game, but when Wilson can get it to him or his other receivers, he’ll run it himself and he did that a lot of this game and got a lot of a yardage. That’s something not a lot of QBs do, but it’s still a chink in our armor… and a scary one given that we’re about to face Cam Newton twice in three weeks, who does the same thing. Our playoff spot depends on finding ways to control this. If we can, we might face a better chance against Seattle in the playoffs, should we face them. #2. The noise and the cold got to us. Even with those special earplugs and hand-warmers, my team doesn’t play well in an outdoor stadium with a crowd that noisy. We need to figure out how to do that because the Superbowl just so happens to be in New Jersey this year which isn’t exactly the warmest place in the world come the first Sunday in February. The noise was especially troubling because the Saints offence relies on so many different receivers and part of making sure that everyone is where they need to be is communication. With people coming off and on the field and Drew unable to communicate with them because of the noise, we saw a lot of potentially good plays fall apart, which is quite uncommon for that group. Hopefully we can fix that, and use the noise factor to our advantage come Sunday against Carolina. The last thing I’ll say about this game is that a terrible loss (or string of losses) in December does not ruin a teams chances at the Superbowl. The Ravens and the Giants, our two most recent winners, both had pretty crappy final months in the regular season and went on to win the Super Bowl, including overcoming teams that they had previously lost pretty badly to. I still have faith in my Saints, but some changes definitely need to be made. That said, the 12th man really made a stand and Russell Wilson was on fire. The ‘Hawks are definitely a Superbowl contender at this point and their most likely opponent is either the Broncos or the Pats. That would be a thriller of a Super Bowl, for sure. But I’m still hoping it’s my Saints instead.

Who are you rooting for? What games did you watch? Let us know what you thought of this thirteenth week of NFL by sounding off in the comments below.

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