It’s Thanksgiving in America today and that means two things, turkey and football. Let’s see whats in store today and this weekend.
Game of the week
New England Patriots @ Green Bay Packers
It does not get any bigger than this; the two hottest teams in the league going head-to-head in the most historic venue in football, Lambeau Field, on a cold November night. The Patriots and Packers have combined to win ten games in a row and this contest is being billed as a superbowl preview by many fans and experts alike.
Both teams are chasing the number one overall seed in their respective conferences, with the Patriots holding a one game lead, and a head-to-head tie-breaker, over the Denver Broncos in the AFC. The Packers are one game behind the Arizona Cardinals and are in a three way tie for second place in the NFC. This is a must win game for both teams.
Quite often clash of the titans matches do not live up to the billing as coaching tactics and defences win out over entertainment. Over the past four matches the Patriots have scored 170 total points, and the Packers have scored 155 total points. Both of these teams are in a great offensive rhythm right now, and it’s hard to see this game not meeting its high expectations.
Since starting the season 2-2, the Patriots have won seven matches in a row, beating five teams with serious playoff hopes along the way. In their past three matches the Patriots have beaten the number one ranked Broncos, Colts and Lions in devastating fashion.
Six of those wins have been by 15 points or more. To put it simply the New England Patriots look head and shoulders above everybody else they meet.
After starting the season 1-2 Aaron Rodgers told everybody in Green Bay who was worrying to relax. Since that time the Packers have won seven of their eight games. Following their disappointing week eight loss to New Orleans the Packers offence put up 50+ points in consecutive matches. This is a team very much on a roll.
When two powerhouses face off something has to give, one of the teams has to have the advantage. In terms of form, the New England Patriots are the most in-form team in any sport in the world right now. In terms of talent, this contest is too close to call. On one side there’s Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the coaching mastermind that is Bill Belichick.
On the opposing side; Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy and a host of other weapons. On top of that, both sides are playing very good on the defensive side of the ball. In terms of the venue, home field advantage always counts for something, but New England are a cold weather team used to playing outdoors so that minimizes the Packers’ advantage.
This is the first time Brady and Rodgers face each other as starters. It would surprise nobody if the two teams were taking a lot of notes, anticipating meeting each other in Arizona in February. Sometimes a match is too close to call and you have to just sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
- Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
Before any football was played it was widely believed that the Philadelphia Eagles would win the NFC East comfortably. Clearly nobody told the Dallas Cowboys that as entering week thirteen both teams are joint-top of the division with an 8-3 record. That makes this match as mouth-watering as all of those Thanksgiving Day turkeys being cooked all over the US.
The Eagles were expected to be the most explosive offence in football in 2014, having mastered Coach Chip Kelly’s up-tempo style offence. For much of the season the Eagles offence stumbled and stuttered to unconvincing victories, helped by a defence with an eye for turnovers.
Since QB Nick Foles picked up an injury and was replaced by Mark Sanchez, the offence has looked much sharper. RB LeSean McCoy has finally woken up from hibernation and is becoming a real weapon alongside veteran speedster Darren Sproles. The Eagles finally seem to have found a workable balance.
The Dallas Cowboys surprised everybody by being a consistent, error-free team who run hard and do not rely on the arm of QB Tony Romo. For his part, Romo has settled down from the erratic gun slinger who could win a match on his own one week and just as easily lose it spectacularly the following week.
Keeping RB DeMarco Murray has been a large part of the Cowboys’ success as he has allowed the ‘Boys to control the pace of many games.
This contest will go a long way to determining who finishes top of the NFC East and despite home field advantage, the nagging injuries to Tony Romo are enough of a concern to give the edge to the Philadelphia Eagles in this one.
- Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
The NFC west had been thrown wide open due to the re-emergence of the Seahawks and 49ers. For a long time it looked as though Arizona were going to win the NFC West easily, but last week’s win over the Cardinals for the Seahawks changes the outlook significantly. Both the Seahawks and 49ers are still two games back of the Cardinals, but they are now within striking distance at least.
For Seattle, the debate over whether RB Marshawn Lynch will be around in 2015 rumbles on. At the same time Lynch himself is rumbling on the field. Lynch and the entire Seattle run game has taken off over the past three weeks.
Following the trade of Percy Harvin to the Jets people questioned the depth at WR for the Seahawks. Seattle are showing that when a team has an unstoppable run game and a stingy defence they can overcome issues in the passing game. After all, this is the blueprint that brought them superbowl success nine months ago.
San Francisco appear to have put the constant questions about Coach Harbaughs future to one side to focus on football. And it is paying off. San Francisco have won three games in a row, and are tied at 7-4 with their Thanksgiving Day opponents Seattle.
The 49ers have also returned to the blueprint which has brought them much success in the past, Frank Gore. The veteran running back has lead the way for this team with help from his backfield mate Carlos Hyde.
The question remains which hard-nose running team will come out on top? Seattle welcomed back defensive anchor Bobby Wagner last week and the Legion of Boom seem to have their swagger back.
On the other side, San Francisco have managed to grind out seven wins without playing spectacular ball, and sooner or later they are going to explode. The team who loses on Thursday night are going to find it very difficult to make the playoffs, and it seems as though the 49ers have just enough momentum to see them through this week.
Predictions for week 13
- It is Thanksgiving in America and there is going to be at least one turkey on display in the shape of Jay Cutler. Facing Detroits strong defence, Cutler is going to get sacked multiple times and throw three interceptions.
- Brian Hoyer has been steadily getting worse and worse as the weeks have passed. Sunday in Buffalo will see this trend continue as Buffalo’s front four hit him time and again and deliver a win for the Bills.
- So Colt McCoy replaces RGIII as Washington QB. Regardless of who starts for the Redskins they are doomed to a 20+ point defeat at the hands of the Colts.
- Having lost five straight matches, a win on Sunday could see Carolina regain top spot of the awful NFC South. Carolina will squeak past Minnesota, and losses to New Orleans @ Pittsburgh and Atlanta home to Arizona will be enough for the Panthers.
- The Oakland Raiders winning streak of one will come to an abrupt halt as the St. Louis Rams run all over the Raiders in a lop sided victory.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena