NFL Week 13 preview: Playoff picture getting more clear

By Barry Wilner | Associated Press Published:

Associated Press

Houston (10-1) at Tennessee (4-7)

When the Texans won 10 times last year, making the playoffs for the first time, it was a franchise record. They are on pace to shatter that and are the league's only unbeaten team on the road at 5-0.

The Titans need not worry about such lofty things. After losing at Jacksonville, their playoff chances are just about gone. Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Seattle (6-5) at Chicago (8-3)

The Seahawks are the most schizophrenic team in the league, going 5-0 at home and 1-5 away. Their loss at Miami last Sunday, in which they faded down the stretch, means a victory at Soldier Field is even more important for them to stay in control of the final Wild Card spot.

Chicago won't be at full strength after a slew of injuries hit in last weekend's win over Minnesota, but still should be in good shape for a win if the team's offensive line can protect QB Jay Cutler. Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Minnesota (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4)

Green Bay leads the NFC Wild Card chase and is one game in back of Chicago in the NFC North, but it could be a rough go the last month for the Packers if they don't get healthy.

The Vikings figure to hand off to Adrian Peterson as much as possible, and if the Packers can't slow him down, then not having a fully healthy Percy Harvin at wideout won't be critical for Minnesota. Kickoff: 1 p.m. (FOX).

San Francisco (8-2-1) at St. Louis (4-6-1)

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh seemed amused when asked if this seemed like a continuation of the 24-24 tie of Nov. 11 -- the first NFL draw since 2008. He definitely was not amused by the lengthy line of questioning he's gotten about going with second-year QB Colin Kaepernick over incumbent Alex Smith, who sustained a concussion against the Rams but now is healthy.Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Indianapolis (7-4) at Detroit (4-7)

The Colts can reach eight wins one season after going 2-14 and earning the top selection in the draft. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been superb at home, but is 2-3 on the road.

Detroit has lost three straight to winning teams and has only one remaining opponent currently with a losing record. A second straight playoff berth appears beyond reach. Kickoff: 1 p.m. (CBS).

Carolina (3-8) at Kansas City (1-10)

Cam Newton feasted on the Eagles' inept defense on Monday night. Kansas City is much more of a challenge because at least the Chiefs seem to be trying, despite losing eight straight.

KC can run the ball with Jamaal Charles, which is critical considering how poorly Chiefs QBs have performed. Panthers rookie LB Luke Kuechly already has 128 tackles and figures to get a bunch more at Arrowhead Stadium. Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Arizona (4-7) at N.Y. Jets (4-7)

The Cardinals, despite having star receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the return of running back Beanie Wells from injury, are impotent. They rank 31st overall with the ball and have scored a measly 180 points, better then only Kansas City.

Mark Sanchez will try not to run into any of his offensive linemen this week as the Jets attempt to avoid the turnovers that have helped derail their season. Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Jacksonville (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7)

Chad Henne has provided some spark to a previously dormant offense, and that's gotten top draft pick Justin Blackmon more involved. Second-year receiver Cecil Shorts III also has emerged.

But the Jaguars still are a weak team, and the Bills can be productive with the ball at home, where they begin a three-game stand. Kickoff: 1 p.m.

New England (8-3) at Miami (5-6)

An unstoppable offense (407 points, 80 more than the next team), incredible turnover margin (plus-24, AFC-high 32 takeaways and conference-low eight giveaways) and a five-game winning streak have lifted the Patriots back to their accustomed role as a Super Bowl favorite.

The Dolphins rarely challenge the Patriots, who have won 12 in a row overall in December. In their last four wins at Miami, the Pats have averaged 44 points a game. Kickoff: 1 p.m.

Tampa Bay (6-5) at Denver (8-3)

Peyton Manning's first season in Denver has been a mile-high success by all measurements, and clinching the division seems a mere formality. If Manning gets nine completions, he will pass Dan Marino for second behind Brett Favre for his illustrious career.

The Bucs' offense has not scored fewer than 22 points since Week 3, with rookie running back Doug Martin and wideouts Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams particularly effective complementing QB Josh Freeman. Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

Cleveland (3-8) at Oakland (3-8)

Not much to pump up here, although the Browns could win a second straight game for the first time since Sept. 25 -- of last year. Trent Richardson is closing in on the rookie rushing mark for the Browns, held by Jim Brown (942 yards in 1957).

He could have a romp through the most porous defense in the league: Oakland has yielded 169 points in dropping its last four games. Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. (CBS).

Pittsburgh (6-5) at Baltimore (9-2)

The Ravens won in Pittsburgh two weeks ago and the Steelers are reeling with no passing offense as Ben Roethlisberger recovers from shoulder and rib injuries. This is one of the NFL's most intense rivalries, and the last thing the Steelers want is to put Baltimore in position to grab the AFC North championship. Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

Cincinnati (6-5) at San Diego (4-7)

If the Bengals don't stumble against weak competition, they will go into the final two weeks of the schedule with a great shot at a Wild Card.

San Diego seems to invent new ways to flop. If the Chargers get Cincinnati in a fourth-and-29, they are doomed. Kickoff: 4:25 p.m.

Philadelphia (3-8) at Dallas (5-6)

Dallas remains on the fringe of playoff contention, which is a lot more than anyone can say about Philly. As the Andy Reid era winds down, the Eagles have lost seven in a row, including to the Cowboys three weeks ago.

For the Cowboys to actually have a shot at making the postseason, they must do better in the turnover department. They are minus-11, which is awful, yet better than Philadelphia's minus-17. Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. (NBC).

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

N.Y. Giants (7-4) at Washington (5-6)

These teams staged one of the season's best games at the Meadowlands, a 27-23 Giants win on Oct. 21. Robert Griffin III has helped the Redskins climb back into wild-card contention, and a victory here would put them one game behind the defending Super Bowl champions in the NFC East. Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. (ESPN).

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