Week twelve of the NFL season seemed to drag on for an eternity.
It started with the Thanksgiving games on Thursday afternoon and concluded with the Steelers’ victory over the Ravens on a rare edition of Wednesday Night Football. Fluid schedules and the ever-present nature of the Coronavirus have meant that NFL fans have been treated to some unusual game weeks throughout the course of this season.
Week thirteen continues this trend as a direct consequence of last week’s rearrangements. The Ravens matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, originally scheduled for Thursday Night Football, has been shifted to Tuesday to allow the Ravens sufficient rest time from the conclusion of their last game. This has meant there was no Thursday Night Football in week thirteen and it will now consist of; seven early and four late games on Sunday, Sunday Night Football, two games on Monday Night Football and the aforementioned Tuesday game,
Five divisional games will take place this week, with playoff implications at stake in three of the five matches. The results of the Rams at Cardinals, Colts at Texans and Saints at Falcons will all carry ramifications for the playoffs on both sides of the Conference divide.
New Orleans will look to extend their lead atop the NFC South while the Colts will be aiming to keep within touching distance of the Titans, who took sole control of the division with a win over Indy last weekend. The result of the Rams and Cardinals matchup is crucial if either side have hopes of keeping the pressure on the Seattle Seahawks who currently lead the division.
One of the more interesting fixtures of the weekend is the matchup between the Cleveland Browns and the Tennessee Titans. Both teams currently hold an 8-3 but bolster very different public opinions. The Browns, despite being a historically poor team, have guaranteed themselves a .500 record at the end of the season – a feat not achieved since 2007 when they finished 10-6.
However, public perception is that the Browns are considered pretenders, not contenders and that they do not have the quality to reach the playoffs. On the other hand, the Titans were tipped as AFC favourites this season but have not lived up to their world-beating expectations. Yes, they may lead the AFC South at present but following a Covid breakout and a number of poor results since, many are asking the question; are the Titans able to reach the heights of last year’s impressive playoff run?
This game promises to be dominated by two high-quality rushing attacks and offenses that enjoy success off play-action. This is a game that promises to please the neutral eye where big runs, chunk plays and offensive success (if the weather stays player-friendly) will tell the story of this game.
Elsewhere, the Las Vegas Raiders will be keen to return to winning ways after falling flat on their face against the Atlanta Falcons last week. This week, the Silver and Black travel to the east coast to take on the winless New York Jets. The Raiders have shown flashes of brilliance at several points of this season to date but will want to erase last week’s outing from their memories as soon as possible.
As for the Jets… well, they’re the Jets and it’s unlikely they’ll come out of this game having achieved anything noteworthy – a typical tale for 2020.
Week thirteen certainly promises to bring plenty of drama and action to our screens once again, and with Thanksgiving in the rearview mirror, we are fast approaching the business end of the season. Jobs can be won or lost down this final stretch of games, likewise superstars born and thrust into the limelight. The time for winning is now, and the slate of NFL games for us to enjoy this weekend will provide excellent viewing and entertainment as we edge ever closer to the playoffs.
Michael Lavery writes on behalf of the Irish NFL Show who are in partnership with Pundit Arena. Tune into their Sunday, Monday and Thursday shows every week on Facebook.