Danny O’Neil’s Week 13 NFL picks: The redemption stories

Dec 3, 2015, 10:46 AM | Updated: 10:52 am
The Seahawks’ attempted turnaround to make the playoffs may not even be the NFL’s most ...
The Seahawks' attempted turnaround to make the playoffs may not even be the NFL's most dramatic. (AP)

The Seahawks play this week’s most important game when it comes to the NFC playoff picture, playing a Minnesota team that is constructed similarly to how Seattle built a championship team.

A victory would put a Seattle team that was 2-4 in strong position to make the playoffs. The Seahawks, however, aren’t the biggest redemption story in the NFL. Not even close.

The Chiefs, who started 1-5, are now pushing for a wild-card berth. The Texans were 1-4 and they now lead the division. And don’t even get us started on the NFC East, which will produce the worst playoff team in the league this year.

In fact, that squalid division is providing the Monday night chaser for the week that will be in the NFL:

Green Bay at Detroit

No one was worse than the Lions through the first month and a half. They were 0-5, but now they’ve won four of their last six. Conversely, no one was better than Green Bay through the first month and a half. The Packers started 6-0. Now they’ve lost four of their last five games. A loss here would trigger a full-fledged panic for the Packers. It probably doesn’t help Green Bay knowing that the Lions have won three of the past four meetings.

Pick: Packers 24, Lions 20

New York Jets at New York Giants

The Giants have won the past five meetings between these two teams that share both a stadium and the same geographic misnomer of representing New York while playing in New Jersey. The Jets have allowed the fewest rushing yards in the league while the Giants allow the most passing yards in the league. The Giants have 12 sacks, tied for fewest in the league, while the Jets have given up 14 sacks, tied for fewest in the league. Score one for little brother this week. J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets.

Pick: Jets 20, Giants 17

Arizona at St. Louis

The Rams are what the Cardinals used to be 10 years ago, meaning that St. Louis has become the team that everybody forecasts as a potential sleeper only to watch St. Louis sleep walk its way through a quarterback change to a 4-7 record. And when your team is being accused of keeping Case Keenum in the game in spite of an obvious head injury, well, you know things have hit bottom. I mean, who’s desperate to keep Keenum in the game? The Rams haven’t scored more than 20 points in any of their past four games while the Cardinals have scored fewer than 20 points only twice all season.

Pick: Cardinals 27, Rams 17

Atlanta at Tampa Bay

No team demonstrates the thin line between success and failure better than the Falcons. They’ve played six games this season that have been decided by four points or fewer. They won the first three of those nailbiters during their 6-1 start. They’ve lost the last three nailbiters in the midst of a four-game losing skid. After this game against the Bucs, the Falcons will play the Panthers twice in two weeks. It’s make or break time.

Pick: Falcons 24, Bucs 16

Seattle at Minnesota

The most important game in the NFC playoff picture this week might also be the most evenly matched. These are the top two rushing teams in the league, the Vikings No. 1 at 146.4 while the Seahawks are No. 2 at 144.2. The Vikings have allowed the second-fewest points in the league this season, the Seahawks the eighth-fewest. Sounds like one of those games where the first one to 20 wins.

Pick: Seahawks 23, Vikings 20

Houston at Buffalo

For everyone who always wondered what would happen if Rex Ryan got a quarterback, this season might provide a frightening picture. Tyrod Taylor has been better than anyone in Buffalo had any right to expect and yet the Bills are 5-6 because a defense that was among the league’s best last season has given up 30 or more points four times this year. Maybe Rob isn’t the only Ryan whose defensive chops are vastly overrated. Meanwhile, Houston has won four in a row because that Texans defense has kept three of the last four opponents from scoring a single touchdown.

Pick: Texans 17, Bills 12

Baltimore at Miami

The Ravens have a penchant for the dramatic, having scored the game-winning points on the final play in four games this season. Unfortunately for Baltimore, those are the only four games the Ravens have won. The Dolphins are allowing a league-high 138.5 yards rushing, but the concerns over that are tempered because you probably can’t name one player on the Ravens who will either be catching the ball or running it since Steve Smith Sr. and Justin Forsett are both injured not to mention Matt Schaub is the quarterback.

Pick: Dolphins 23, Ravens 13

Cincinnati at Cleveland

So let’s see, the Browns lost Monday’s game when Baltimore returned a blocked field-goal attempt for a touchdown on the final play. The Browns also lost whichever McCown they have to a broken collarbone, and Johnny Manziel remains tethered to the coach’s doghouse because he was filmed drinking champagne with some doofus DJs in Texas during the bye week. Seriously. That happened. That means that in a shortened week Cleveland will be starting Austin Davis against a Bengals defense that’s allowing a league-low 17.5 points. Meanwhile, the Browns are allowing 28.2 points, which is second-most in the league.

Pick: Bengals 28.2, Browns 17.5

Jacksonville at Tennessee

The Jaguars have one rushing touchdown this season, which is bad. The Titans have only two wins, which is worse. You know who this game matters most to? College players who are going to be among the first five drafted.

Pick: Jags 33, Titans 27

San Francisco at Chicago

The Bears are the most surprisingly mediocre team in the league this year while the 49ers have been as awful as expected and maybe moreso. San Francisco is averaging a league-low 13.8 points, and the offense has scored just 14 touchdowns this season. Cincinnati’s tight end Tyler Eifert has scored 12 all by himself this year. Meanwhile, Jay Cutler has went and grown up into a surprisingly responsible quarterback who doesn’t just throw the ball up for grabs anymore. At least he has been. Time for Cutler to be Cutler, though, and the 49ers to pull out a surprise.

Pick: 49ers 27, Bears 16

Denver at San Diego

On the list of things I never expected to say in 2015, “I don’t think the Broncos win that game against New England with Peyton Manning instead of Brock Osweiler,” is No. 1 on the list. Osweiler is a more suitable bus driver for the Broncos, whose season is going to be guided by their defense. The Broncos lead the league with 37 sacks. You know what that means? Philip Rivers better duck.

Pick: Broncos 24, Chargers 18

Kansas City at Oakland

Hard to imagine this game having playoff implications. The Raiders have gone 13 years without a winning season while the Chiefs started off 1-5. The Chiefs have won five in a row, the longest winning streak in the AFC now that the Patriots have been knocked off, and the Raiders have been very competitive all year.

Pick: Chiefs 21, Raiders 20

Philadelphia at New England

Quitting time in Philadelphia? The Eagles have given up 45 points in each of the past two games, and now they face the team that leads the AFC in scoring.

Pick: Patriots 45, Eagles 27

Carolina at New Orleans

Boy, the Saints have sure hit the skids, losing three in a row and being held to six points in a loss to Houston last week. It was the first time in 10 years that New Orleans had failed to score a touchdown, and now they get to watch as Carolina comes to town to do celebratory doughnuts in the Saints’ front yard. Not so fast. The Panthers are going to coast to a division win, but they’re not good enough to go unscathed.

Pick: Saints 28, Panthers 27

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh

The NFL’s fireman of the year has a shiny head and 10 letters in his last name. Matt Hasselbeck has been great this season, but outdueling a Pittsburgh offense as aggressive as any in the game is going to be s tall task even for him. The Colts simply don’t have the offensive horsepower (or the Luck) necessary to win this game.

Pick: Steelers 34, Colts 27

Dallas at Washington

Quick. Plug your nose. It’s the NFC East where the team that has yet to win a game without Tony Romo still believes it’s got a shot in the division. And you know what, the Cowboys might be right, and that tells you just how much is wrong with the worst division in football. The NFC East: Don’t step in it.

Pick: Epithets 34, Cowboys 23

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Danny O’Neil’s Week 13 NFL picks: The redemption stories