This Week In: The NFL – Thanksgiving 2013 and Updated Power Poll

Brady consoles Manning after beating him for the 10th time in 14 meetings
Brady consoles Manning after beating him for the 10th time in 14 meetings

In the biggest matchup in the NFL for Week 12, Tom Brady led his New England Patriots team to victory over Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos, despite having been 24-0 behind at half-time.  On a cold windy night in Massachusetts, Manning was far from his best despite throwing two touchdown passes, as he completed only 19 of his 36 throws for 150 yards.  Nevertheless, even when he was far from perfect, the veteran quarterback did still lead the Broncos on a 80 yard, fourth-quarter touchdown drive to force overtime after New England had scored 31 consecutive points.  In the extra period, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick opted to give possession to Denver despite having won the coin toss, instead choosing to have the wind in their favor for overtime.  That proved to be a correct decision, as New England prevented their opponents from scoring on two separate possessions and then, with under two minutes to go Brady, moved them into field goal position and the 31 yard kick from Stephen Gostkowski inflicted just the second defeat of the year on the Broncos, while ensured the Patriots moved to 6-0 on the year at home.  Had he missed, it could have seen the first time in more than 40 years that there were two ties in the NFL on the same day, since Green Bay and Minnesota ended up even after Matt Flynn had led the Packers on a late comeback to help them recover a 23-7 deficit.  During the extra 15 minutes, both sides hit field goals to make the final score 26-26 and it marked the first time since the change in overtime rules that both teams had scored and the game had ended up tied.

Earlier in the day, the Cowboys looked like they were going to have yet another collapse in a crucial game, as they let a 21-6 third quarter advantage slip away against the Giants, but Tony Romo drove the team down the field in the final few minutes to set up the winning field goal as time expired, ending New York’s run of victories at four and moving Dallas into a tie for first in the NFC East with the Eagles, who were on their bye week.  Meanwhile Green Bay’s tie put them to within a half game of the top of the NFC North, as both Detroit and Chicago lost their fixtures, against Tampa Bay – who have now won three in a row after starting the season 0-8 –  and St. Louis respectively.  Last season, when Chuck Pagano was absent from getting treatment for leukemia, it was Bruce Arians who filled in and helped get the Colts to the playoff, but in his new role as head coach of Arizona, he masterminded a game plan that saw his new team beat his former charges, 40-11.  The so-called “Chuck Strong” movement of last year saw Indianapolis rally when their head coach was sick, but in Houston this year the opposite as happened, as the Texans slumped to a new low by losing at home to the Jaguars while Gary Kubiak is recovering from a mini-stroke he suffered during their game against the Colts three weeks ago.

Elsewhere in Week 12, the Saints had a narrow 17-13 Thursday night victory over the Falcons to move to 9-2; the Steelers kept their playoff hopes alive with a 27-11 victory in Cleveland; Kansas City lost for the second consecutive game, as the Chargers prevailed in a shootout, 41-38; Cam Newton led a late touchdown drive to give the Panthers their seventh consecutive victory, 20-16 over the Dolphins; Baltimore beat the Jets 19-3; San Francisco returned to winning ways following three straight losses, beating Washington 27-6 on Monday night; and the Titans came out on top in Oakland, 23-19 against the Raiders.

This week, there are three Thursday games as Detroit and Dallas play their traditional home fixtures on Thanksgiving, this year they face the Packers and Oakland respectively; then in the evening, Baltimore and Pittsburgh face off in a matchup that will probably end the postseason hopes of whichever team loses.  On Sunday, the marquee matchup is the second game in two weeks between the Chiefs and Broncos, who both have 9-2 records and will be playing for the lead in the division when they meet in Kansas City.  On Monday night, home field advantage is at stake for the Saints and Seahawks in their fixture in Seattle – though New Orleans will need to hold off a challenge in the South from the Panthers, who play Tampa Bay the day before, if they want to avoid ending up as a wild card.  It will be a somewhat tricky fixture for the Seahawks as well, despite their 10-1 record and having won their last 13 home games, they have also had yet another player – cornerback Water Thurmond – suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy; while Brandon Browner, who plays in the same position as Thurmond, is expected to be banned for a year for the same offense.  Even before the latter’s fate is known, it means that 6 Seahawks players in the last two years have been suspended for failing drug tests, perhaps suggesting that their success this season has been thanks to performance enhancers, rather than the yoga regime that was lauded before the season in ESPN The Magazine.

Power Poll

First update in two weeks and now, with everyone having played 11 games, there is no need to factor the standings and the straight numbers can be used (see here for the math behind his poll).  Couple of notes this week:

  • The Monday night matchup between Seattle and New Orleans pits together the two teams that are now joint top of my power poll, suggesting that they are the cream of the NFL right now.  Lower down the standings, the Thursday night fixture also sees a matchup of franchises that are level in the poll, the Ravens and Steelers.
  • There is a bunching together of four teams who could not be separated from my math workings in the middle, as the 6-5 Bears and Lions, plus the 5-6 Titans and Jets, all came out in joint 15th place.
  • The Chargers have had the most diverse set of results, beating highly ranked Kansas City (5th) and Indianapolis (6th), but also have lost to the Texans (31st); Raiders (27th) and Washington (30th)

Standings from two weeks ago in brackets:

1. (2) Seattle Seahawks

= (3) New Orleans Saints

3. (4) Denver Broncos

4. (5) New England Patriots

5. (1) Kansas City Chiefs

6. (8) Indianapolis Colts

7. (10) Carolina Panthers

8. (6) San Francisco 49ers

9. (11) Arizona Cardinals

10. (9) Cincinnati Bengals

11. (15) Dallas Cowboys

12. (=18) St. Louis Rams

13. (16) Miami Dolphins

14. (=18) Philadelphia Eagles

15. (7) Detroit Lions

= (14) Chicago Bears

= (=12) New York Jets

= (21) Tennessee Titans

19. (=18) Buffalo Bills

20. (23) San Diego Chargers

21. (=12) Green Bay Packers

22. (25) New York Giants

23. (22) Baltimore Ravens

= (27) Pittsburgh Steelers

25. (31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

26. (17) Cleveland Browns

27. (29) Oakland Raiders

28. (26) Atlanta Falcons

29. (30) Jacksonville Jaguars

30. (28) Washington

31. (24) Houston Texans

32. (32) Minnesota Vikings

Week 13 Predictions

Last week, 7-7; Season, 90-85

Home team in bold

Packers +5.5 over Lions

Cowboys -9.5 over Raiders

Ravens -2.5 over Steelers

Bears +0.5 over Vikings

Jaguars +7.5 over Browns

Colts -4.5 over Titans

Jets -1.5 over Dolphins

Texans +8.5 over Patriots

Cardinals +3.5 over Eagles

Buccaneers +8.5 over Panthers

Bills -3.5 over Falcons (in Toronto)

49ers -9.5 over Rams

Chargers -1.5 over Bengals

Broncos -4.5 over Chiefs

Giants -1.5 over Washington

Saints +5.5 over Seahawks

 

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