Week 13 of the National Football League season got underway Thursday night with the Dallas Cowboys continuing to roll through the regular season. Are the young Cowboys equipped for a deep run in the playoffs? No one knows for sure, but a deep run for a young team is significantly easier if that run is played out at home. With Thursday's 17-15 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas took a giant step toward cementing home-field advantage through the playoffs.
A quick glance at the NFC West schedule for this week shows us that only the Seahawks are favored. That sounds about right. The rest of the division hasn't provided much standings pressure on Seattle's favorite sports franchise. The Seahawks looked vulnerable in their Week 12 loss to Tampa Bay. But there isn't a team in the West that can take advantage.
What to watch? When to watch it? Which team provides a gentleman's bet opportunity for lunch at the yacht club? Let's see what the crystal ball says.
Rams @ Patriots 1 p.m Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific, FOX: This is about the time of year that the Patriots (9-2) go into playoff push overdrive. That isn't happy news for the Los Angeles Rams (4-7) as they fly across the country for an early afternoon game. They bring a defense to the party. But they bring an offense that is, to be kind, challenged. New England doesn't have starting tight end Rob Gronkowski. But they have the rest of the band. It will be enough to beat L.A. Will it be enough to cover a spread of nearly two touchdowns? We're closing one eye and squinting the other while taking L.A. +13.5.
49ers @ Bears 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m Pacific, FOX: The Bears and 49ers have piled up a combined three victories this year! That would be great news if it was Sept. 15. But those aren't joyous numbers when Santa is warming up the sleigh. At an aggregate 3-19, these two storied franchises are writing new stories. But only Seahawks' fans and Packer backers will want to read these stories. For the dozens of people who will tune in for this game there is a macabre sort of storyline. These may be the only teams these teams can beat! Who will prevail? Only the players' wives and degenerate gamblers care. San Francisco is favored by a point. Take Chicago.
Redskins @ Cardinals 4:25 p.m. Eastern/1:25 p.m. Pacific, FOX: The 6-4-1 Washington Redskins are pretty good. There is statistical basis to believe the 4-6-1 Arizona Cardinals ought to be pretty good. It's true! Arizona is fifth in the conference in offense. They're Number One in defense. In the words of the late Vince Lombardi, "What the Hell's going on around here?" The fifth-ranked offense and top-ranked defense ought to be, at minimum, 8-3 after 11 games. But the Cardinals can't put anyone away. As a result, their season is pretty much put away. The game is rated a pick. Take the 'Skins.
Panthers @ Seahawks 8:25 p.m. Eastern/5:25 p.m. Pacific, NBC: Last season's NFC representative in the Super Bowl has foundered on the rocks. In the NFC South's last place, the Carolina Panthers are learning what life is like as the hunted, rather than the hunter. Meanwhile, Seattle learned last week that the position of center is an important one. Starting snapper Justin Britt was hurt, and the Hawks' line suffered the consequences. Britt is back this week, and the Panthers will likely suffer the consequences. Seattle is a 7-point favorite. Take the Hawks and lay the lumber.