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- Week 13 Predictions: Colts Ready to Clinch

Chris Pokorny December 1, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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Thank goodness that it appears as though quarterback Brett Favre won't have to miss any action as a result of the two injuries he suffered Thursday against the Dallas Cowboys. I incorrectly picked the game, as I had projected that the Packers would be on the winning side of a shootout. It'd be easy to blame the Packers losing on Favre not plying, but that would be hypocritical considering backup Aaron Rodgers did a fine job in relief, keeping the Packers in the game until the end. Ultimately, Tony Romo was able to take advantage of the Packers' injury woes on defense, particularly the absent Charles Woodson in the secondary.

There are 15 more games to be played in Week 13 though, and before I get to my picks, let's take another look at the current playoff seedings, including the results from Thursday's game (parenthetical number represents ranking from last week):

1. New England Patriots (1)
2. Indianapolis Colts (2)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3)
4. San Diego Chargers (4)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (5)
6. Cleveland Browns (7)
7. Tennessee Titans (6)
8. Denver Broncos (8)
9. Buffalo Bills (9)
10. Houston Texans (10)
11. Kansas City Chiefs (11)
12. Cincinnati Bengals (13)
13. Baltimore Ravens (12)
14. Oakland Raiders (14)
15. New York Jets (15)

The significant change in the AFC is that the Cleveland Browns moved past the Tennessee Titans for a wildcard spot. Not only that, but the Browns' victory all but crushed the postseason hopes of the Houston Texans, and a collapse by the Denver Broncos against the Chicago Bears brought the San Diego Chargers closer to a division crown.

-The Jets will be eliminated with a loss or a Cleveland win.
-The Ravens will be eliminated with a loss, a Bengals loss, and a Cleveland win.
-The Raiders will be eliminated with a loss and a Cleveland win.

1. Dallas Cowboys (1)
2. Green Bay Packers (2)
3. Seattle Seahawks (3)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
5. New York Giants (5)
6. Detroit Lions (6)
7. New Orleans Saints (11)
8. Washington Redskins (9)
9. Arizona Cardinals (7)
10. Minnesota Vikings (12)
11. Philadelphia Eagles (8)
12. Chicago Bears (13)
13. Carolina Panthers (10)
14. Atlanta Falcons (14)
15. San Francisco 49ers (15)
16. St. Louis Rams (16)

It's a mess in the NFC right now; so much that the seventh through twelfth seedings may not be 100% accurate as listed above. It was a miracle that the Lions held onto their sixth seed last week, because after they lost on Turkey Day, they needed Philadelphia, Washington, and Arizona to lose in order to hang onto that spot. All three of them lost. With the Giants looking pretty poor all of a sudden, another loss is going to make people wonder if another collapse is on the horizon.

-The Rams will be eliminated with a loss, a Lions win, or a Cardinals win.

Let's get to the remaining three games of the week predictions (Packers vs. Cowboys was the fourth)...



Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts. Little did the Colts know, an unusual scheduling situation earlier this season was the best thing that could've happened to them. When the Colts were healthy earlier in the season, they had to defeat each of their divisional rivals on the road. Although the injury situation is getting better for the Colts, it's still playing somewhat of a factor. Instead of being stuck on the road though, the Colts are able to utilize what is a true home-field advantage in the RCA Dome. Peyton Manning was able to get back into rhythm last week against the Atlanta Falcons with the return of Anthony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark to the lineup. Manning doesn't like having to play without Marvin Harrison, but the last time these two teams met was when Harrison had to again leave with an injury. The Colts have already beaten Jacksonville once handedly without Harrison, and they believe they can do it again.

The Jaguars have a different side of the story to tell, and it involves the unfortunate injury to starting quarterback David Garrard the last time these two teams met. Garrard went down with an injury early, and when Quinn Gray was inserted into the lineup, the Jaguars hardly stood a chance. Garrard knows how to run the Jaguars offense effectively. The team hasn't had a No. 1 receiver in years, but he has worked with what he's had and cut down the mistakes (he hasn't thrown a single interception this season). The Jaguars will need to pressure Manning to win, but the bad news for them is that offensive linemen Tony Ugoh and Charlie Johnson are expected to return for the Colts. The Jaguars are a very good team, but their identity on offense has involved Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Taylor on big run plays. The Colts don't give up the big play this season, which will hold Jacksonville back from either taking a lead or maintaining a lead. Colts 31, Jaguars 23


Cleveland Browns vs. Arizona Cardinals. The Browns have scored 27 or more points in each of their past six games. The Cardinals have scored 31 or more points in each of their past three games. If you're looking for an offensive showdown, then this is it. Defenses have quickly started to learn that against these two teams, you can't bank on shutting the likes of Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Larry Fitzgerald, and Anquan Boldin down. Instead, you have to force a critical turnover. Each team has experienced a critical turnover in their most recent losses; for the Browns, Jamal Lewis fumbled several weeks ago against the Pittsburgh Steelers. For the Cardinals, there were many reasons why they blew it, but the game ended when Kurt Warner fumbled in his own end zone in overtime.

Overall, turnovers have affected the Cardinals a lot more than they have the Browns, and that's not a good sign considering Arizona's injuries at the moment. It was learned that cornerback Eric Green and safety Adrian Wilson will be lost for the rest of the season, forcing the young Antrel Rolle into a starting position. Braylon Edwards, Joe Jurevicius, and Kellen Winslow haven't had a bad week since Anderson has taken over at quarterback, and they should be able to feast on Arizona's defense all day long. Jamal Lewis gaining steam, and Cleveland's offensive line should overmatch the Cardinals' defensive line. The Browns' defense still has plenty of holes, but they've begun to shore them up over the past few weeks: takeaways, sacks, and points allowed have gone down. The Cardinals are potent, but the Browns are further along at this point. Browns 41, Cardinals 24


Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints. I could go back to many instances earlier this season in which I never counted the Saints out. Even when they were 0-4, I pointed out the fact that they still had plenty of games remaining, including a key home game against the division-leading Buccaneers later in the season. That game is finally here, and a win for the Saints would pull them within one game of the division lead, and perhaps in position to hold the NFC's second wildcard spot. It will be far from a cake walk for the Saints though, because their offense has been up-and-down this season depending on the types of defenses they've had to face. The Saints were a little too overconfident in their abilities earlier this season against the Colts' and Buccaneers' cover-2 defensive sets, as Drew Brees was forced into turnovers beyond belief. Saints head coach Sean Peyton has had enough time to draw up a manageable gameplan since the first two weeks of the season to stay conservative and take shots at the appropriate times against Jon Gruden's defense.

It looks like Jeff Garcia will be ready to play this week, but I wouldn't expect the typical effort from him. He's trying to return early from a back injury, and we saw just how inefficient the Buccaneers' offense was last week under backup Bruce Gradkowski. That should further illustrate how much of a difference Garcia makes to the Buccaneers, although nobody will take away the talent they have defensively too. Over the past three weeks, the defense is only giving up an average of ten points per game. Part of the Saints' issue has been their inability to stay in a game if their offense can't score consistently. With the Buccaneers' offense tamed due to a shaky Garcia, the Saints will have the opportunity to put together a scoring drive late, and they'll capitalize on it. Saints 17, Buccaneers 13


San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers. Last week the Oakland Raiders ended their losing drought against the AFC West, and this week the Panthers will end a much more unusual drought: the inability to win at home. I've been saying it every week, but it's still improbable to believe the Panthers have four wins this season and are 0-5 at home. The Panthers have been forced into facing high-scoring offenses as of late, and without a quarterback to orchestrate the offense, their chances of competing have been negated. Vinny Testaverde is still the team's best option, and unless he wakes up with another stiff back on Sunday, he should be ready to start against the 49ers. The 49ers are coming off of their only game of the season in which they showed some offensive potential. Lighting doesn't strike twice, and that's what would have to occur for the 49ers to duplicate their effort against the Cardinals last week. Frank Gore will be held in check by the Panthers' defense, and Steve Smith will have one of his finest games of the season. Panthers 24, 49ers 10

San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs. I want to be quick to count the Chiefs out of this game, but before I do I have to make a legitimate case for them. The Chargers are 6-5 this year and a win away from starting to run away with their division. Four of their losses have come on the road though, and their only home loss came earlier this season in a collapse to the Chiefs. On top of that, Damon Huard, the quarterback who defeated the Chargers, will return to the lineup for the Chiefs as Brodie Croyle will be out with a back injury. Huard should give the Chiefs more consistency in the Chiefs' do-or-die game in terms of playoff hopes. Now, for the reality check: rookie running back Kolby Smith may have found success last week, but he'll find out what a good defense is capable of this week. The Chargers gained some confidence last week in their passing game, which will open up some more opportunities for Norv Turner to have faith in Philip Rivers if his team falls behind. Chargers 30, Chiefs 17

New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins. This is it. If you are one of the 53 players on the Dolphins' roster, or one of the many coaches in the locker room, or one of the thousands of fans that are still willing to watch this game, this is it. This will be the Dolphins' final chance to win a football game this year. They nearly took down the Jets earlier this season on the road, and their defense has played extremely well over their past four games. The Jets have shown some potential under quarterback Kellen Clemons, but not on a consistent basis. This game should be an ugly one, but the difference for the Dolphins will be an increased role for Ted Ginn Jr. on the offensive side of the ball. Dolphins 17, Jets 7

Detroit Lions vs. Minnesota Vikings. I didn't believe in the Vikings earlier this season. When Adrian Peterson went down with an injury, I doubted their ability to keep up their momentum. After Chester Taylor's two dynamic performances over the past two weeks, it's time to start seriously considering the Vikings as a playoff contender. The Lions are on the verge of collapsing, and a loss to the Vikings would jettison them out of their wildcard spot. Peterson may return this week for the Vikings as well, adding more so to the options that Tarvaris Jackson would have to throw to underneath in certain situations. Jon Kitna's offensive line hasn't been able to protect him enough this year to stay in the playoff race, and that will be the team's No. 1 priority next season. Vikings 27, Lions 24

Seattle Seahawks vs. Philadelphia Eagles. It's funny how things turn out sometimes. The Seahawks did not play very well on the road last week against the St. Louis Rams. Matt Hasselbeck deserves credit for leading his team to a comeback, but had Gus Frerotte not blown an exchange with the center at the end of the game, the Seahawks could very well have lost. On the other hand, the Eagles played their best football of the season against the New England Patriots. Everyone ruled them out of a competitive game with A.J. Feeley under center, but instead of made most of the correct decisions in defeat. The Seahawks are 7-4 and the Eagles are 5-6; had things gone differently, both teams would have a 6-6 record. The Seahawks expect Shaun Alexander back this week, and that worries me for the Seahawks. I don't think Mike Holmgren calls the plays well enough, and he'll stick with an ineffective Alexander way too long as Brian Westbrook has his way with the Seahawks. Eagles 23, Seahawks 17

Atlanta Falcons vs. St. Louis Rams. What a shame: Marc Bulger will miss this game with another injury. If he didn't go down last week against the Seahawks, I seriously believe the Rams would've been in position to have a 4-8 record following this game. Just because Bulger is out doesn't mean I'm ruling out a victory though. Steven Jackson's effectiveness will be more than what the Falcons' quarterback situation can offer. Rams 20, Falcons 10

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans. Albert Haynesworth makes the world of a difference for the Titans. His absence spoke volumes over the past three games when you look at the increased production of running backs against the Titans' defense. Even Rudi Johnson, who had only had one good rushing game all season, was able to have his way against the Titans without Haynesworth. The Texans' ground game hasn't been a strength at any point this year, and with Haynesworth in the mix Matt Schaub will be forced to go to the air often. With the secondary able to focus more on stopping the pass rather than the run, everything changes. Even the offensive side of the ball should see some changes too: the Titans can stick with the running game longer when the opposing team isn't scoring on every other possession. Titans 28, Texans 14

Buffalo Bills vs. Washington Redskins. The biggest motivator for this game will be the memory of safety Sean Taylor. From a general aspect, it's difficult to say that the Redskins will automatically beat the Bills this week because they'll be playing for Taylor. From a football aspect though, I think the Redskins should be able to overmatch the Bills. Jason Campbell has played so well in recent weeks, only to not be able to execute a game-winning touchdown at the end of a game. The Bills are going back to Trent Edwards at quarterback, and on the depth chart at running back they are reaching deep in the bottom of the barrel with Marshawn Lynch and Anthony Thomas both out due to injury. Redskins 27, Bills 16

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders. The Raiders finally ended their long losing streak against their division last week, but I'd find it hard to believe that they could suddenly make it two in a row over the Broncos. As crushing as Denver's loss was last week, had they not been silly enough to persist on kicking the ball to Devin Hester, they probably would've come away with a multiple-possession victory. The Broncos are playing very well on offense, and they will probably be getting running back Travis Henry back from injury this week. Receiver Javon Walker is also in good shape to make his return as well. When you add two offensive threats like that, the Raiders are in for a very long day. Broncos 30, Raiders 10

New York Giants vs. Chicago Bears. The momentum is shifting in opposite directions for these teams. Eli Manning is back to being in a world of his own when throwing the football, although his receivers aren't helping much and the injuries at the running back position have set them back all around. The Bears lost Cedric Benson for the season, but I'm actually looking forward to Adrian Peterson getting a chance to start for them. Rex Grossman came through with a perfect pass to Bernard Berrian, who also made a perfect catch to save the team's postseason hopes. I've seen the Giants fall into this funk before, and believing they'll easily be able to fall out of it would be ignorant of me. Bears 24, Giants 20


Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. I'm glad that Chad Johnson and the Bengals were sharp offensively last week against the Titans, because I would've hated to have been forced to watch a down-and-out Bengals team in prime time. The Steelers have been horrible on offense in their past two games, losing to the Jets two weeks ago and then barely getting by the Dolphins in a 3-0 victory on Monday Night Football. In both of those games, the defense never let up though, and they'll be able to stop Carson Palmer from executing a quick strike offense. Roethlisberger will still be without Santonio Holmes, but he has overwhelmed the AFC North this year. Willie Parker has been upset at his inability to take over a game the past few weeks, and he'll get back on track with the Bengals chasing him up and down the field. Steelers 31, Bengals 26


New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens. There are Patriots fans, there are Patriots haters, and then there are fans who are simply in the middle. I consider myself in the middle; I wouldn't mind seeing them go undefeated, but at the same time an upset game would be quite the sight to see. With that said, one thing's for sure: I do NOT want to see the Baltimore Ravens be the team to upset the Patriots. I have no faith in Baltimore coming close to competing with the Patriots, but just the mere thought of them pulling off an upset would frustrate me beyond belief. Why? Maybe it's because the Ravens are horrible on offense, declining on defense, and just don't have the pre-game excitement to pull off such a feat. Patriots 40, Ravens 3


Last week, I took the Steelers as my survivor team. I'm not quite sure what I would've done if the game ended as a 0-0 tie, but a late field goal improved my winning streak to three games. This week, I'm taking a Monday Night team again: the New England Patriots. I might as well use them now, because I don't know if they'll rest their starters the last two weeks of the season.

This Week: 0-1
Predictions Record to Date: 114-63 (I'm seven games out of first in PFC Pick'em)
Last Week: 13-3 (That's more like it.)
Survivor Streak: Won 3 (Min over Atl, Den over Oak, Car over Atl, [NYJ over Buf], Ari over StL, Cle over Mia, Cin over NYJ, NYG over Mia, [SD over Min], Sea over SF, Ind over KC, and Pit over Mia.)
Survivor Record: 10-2

The playoff picture may be clearer in the AFC after this week, but it's bound to get more confusing over in the NFC.

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