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Necessary Roughness, Week 13: The Wild Card Races Get Serious

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Howdy folks!! It’s good to be back. I hope everyone had a good holiday, and had the opportunity to spend time surrounded by people and things you enjoy. Speaking for myself, we were on tour, so I was relegated to spending the day in Salt Lake City in an Extended Stay America cooking copious amounts of vegan vittles in an underperforming microwave. And watching football. All. Damn. Day. So obviously my day kicked all sorts of ass. Primarily on account of the Panthers thoroughly shellacking the stankin’ ass Cowboys. That’s right, the Panthers are 11-0. And Tony Romo is out for the year. Rough year for the Cowboys, but hey, that’s the NFL. You’re only as good as your most significant injury.

So now we are at Week 13, and this is no doubt “crunch time” for a lot of teams. The AFC is a total mess. While New England, Cincy, and Denver seem to be locks for the top three playoff spots, it gets really nasty after that. There are five teams with 6-5 records and two teams sitting at 5-6 going into this week. And since we are so deep into this season, there are some matchups that have big time playoff implications. In the AFC, here’s some games to keep an eye on.

Texans/Bills: After a horrifying start to the season, the Texans have found some momentum over the last few weeks and the Bills have been blowing it in that same time frame. But here we are at Week 13 and both teams are in the playoff hunt. Houston has a legitimate shot at winning their division while Buffalo is just hoping to sneak into the party with a wild card. Neither team boasts an elite QB, but they will each rely on their strong defenses to get them into the postseason.

Chiefs/Raiders: That’s right, the Raiders are playing an important game in Week 13. Hard to believe, I know. But let’s be honest, the Raiders NEED to win this game. And so do the Chiefs. The wild card race in the AFC is so tight, no teams can really afford to take an L at this point. Kansas City is rolling right now, winners of their last five games, and Andy Reid seems to have this team clicking at the right time. The Raiders on the other hand, have lost three of their last four and this young roster has to be feeling some pressure right now. The game is in Oakland, but it’s hard not to give a slight edge to KC in this one. They have momentum and more importantly, experience, on their side.

Steelers/Colts: Indy is trying to win a division with a 73-year-old back up QB under center. Pittsburgh is trying to remain in the wild card hunt. Big Ben has been cleared to play after going through the concussion protocol. It’s hard not to favor the Steelers at home in this one, but the Colts have been great with Hasselbeck and they clearly have a newfound confidence. Vegas likes the Steelers by a touchdown in this game. I’m not so sure. I’m taking the Colts in a close one.

The NFC playoff picture seems to be a little more predictable at this point. It looks like the North is going to have two teams in the playoffs. Minnesota and Green Bay are battling for that top spot, but one of them is most likely going to, at the very least, get that first wild card. But after that it gets kinda crazy, thanks in part to the East being an unmitigated disaster. As it stands now, the Washington Redskins are leading that division. I can’t even believe I just wrote that. But it’s true. Kirk Cousins is currently leading a professional football team to the playoffs. Aside from that, it’s really hard for me not the think Seattle is going to find a way to sneak into the playoffs. That team is just too good to be watching games from home in January. I don’t believe in Atlanta. After their strong start, it’s as though they have forgotten how to score points in the last month or so. Anyway, here are the key NFC matchups this week.

Packers/Lions: The Lions are balling right now, and the Packers kinda aren’t. This is a huge game for both teams. Detroit is trying to ride the wave of a successful last few weeks right into the postseason. But the Packers want that division. They SHOULD win that division. I think GB comes to play at Ford Field and they win this game.

Jets/Giants: Probably won’t be a good game in terms of overall quality of football, but hey, both teams are in the thick of the playoff hunt. Giants need to win the NFC East to get in, and the Jets desperately need to win this game so they can keep their heads above water in the AFC wild card race. I like the Jets in this one.

Falcons/Bucs: Nobody, including myself, is really talking much about it, but Tampa Bay might just be the second best team in the NFC South. And they might just make the playoffs in Jameis Winston’s rookie year. After all the talk about how much of a dipshit that dude was off the field in his college days, he actually has turned out to be a pretty terrific rookie quarterback. The Falcons, on the other hand, have seemingly imploded. It’s a must-win for both squads. I like the Bucs at home in a close one.

Seahawks/Vikings: Man, this is going to be a terrific game. With Minnesota trying to hang on to a division lead and Seattle trying to secure a wild card spot, both teams are going to be playing with a ton of intensity. If the game was in Seattle, I’d give the Seahawks a definitive edge. But this one is being played in Minneapolis. It’s going to be cold as balls and crazy ass Vikings fans will be going bananas. I like Minnesota in a slight — very slight — upset.

Finally, I have to mention Monday night’s game. I don’t want to. But I have to. I mean, it is an important game for one team. And it’s not the team we thought it would be. The Cowboys are done without Romo. But the Redskins, at 5-6, are actually playing for something. As it stands now, they lead the Giants in the NFC East by virtue of a tiebreaker, and they are actually playing some decent football. This matchup is perfect for them. They are facing a depleted Cowboys team that has all but thrown in the towel on the season, and they are playing at home. If the Skins lose this game, they are complete assholes.

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