Big wins and crushing defeats. The clutch plays and the ROMO-ments. Some stars are born while others are exposed. Toss in the Super Bowl Rings, the Fantasy Bling, the big pay outs, the ('Better luck next year!')'s and what do you have? The home stretch of the NFL season. It starts now. Week 13 in the NFL. Bye Weeks are no more - also gone are many teams playoff hopes, star players, and general optimism. This time of year can be an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved with football. Whether its players, coaches, fans, owners, fantasy footballers, or significant others of football lovers - December's highs and lows will scatter all of us across the emotional sprectrum at some point or another - it's inevitable. All you can do is prepare as best as you can and what better way than to stay tuned to 613u.com NFL's Weekly Previews.
FALCONS @ BILLS
- Fresh off their bye, and fresh off a huge win over a division rival the 4 - 7 Buffalo Bills are still in the AFC wildcard race believe it or not. Bills have a chance to keep their hopes alive this week as they host the Falcons in Mayor Rock Ford's city of Toronto. When the schedule was released most Canadians probably assumed this would be an easy win for Atlanta - however the Bills enter this weeks game as the favourite - and for good reason. Flaunting a dominant defense, a dangerous ground game, and a group of young play makers in the passing game, Buffalo should feel confident in their home away from home this week. Look for Mario Williams, Kiko Alonso, and company to continue to cause havoc and make Matt Ryan's visit to Canada less than memorable. Keep an eye on Bills rookie WR Marquis Goodwin not only when he comes into the passing game but also returning kicks - defenses must account for him or pay the price.
- The poor old Falcons. What happened this year? Sure losing Julio Jones hurts a little but did he really mean THIS much to the team? Falcons were a playoff team without Jones a few years ago so what's changed? The answer really has to be the lack of a ground game. It used to be Michael Turner grinding away with 20+ carries a week to keep defenses honest but now Stephen Jackson & Jacquizz Rodgers struggle to reach that number between the two of them. We can't really blame Atlanta for not giving them the ball more as they haven't been doing much when they do get it anyways. Perhaps it's a locker room thing and we will never really know what happened. Let's just call it a bad season and move on. Matt Ryan is surely looking to move on (probably onto next season) this week as he wants to earn some respect back for his franchise. The odds are stacked against them and the Falcons haven't given fans much to get excited about this season - you can't fool us Canadians - Atlanta is likely playing for a draft pick now.
- A team on the rise versus a team on the decline. A team fresh off their bye week, and a big win the week prior, versus a team coming off a loss to an inferior opponent that has no playoff hopes. Seems like a no brainer to go with the Bills this week in Toronto. A strong game from Matt Ryan is the only thing that will prevent the Bills from earning the win, moving to 5-7, and getting right back into the playoff race. Mario Williams should cause fits for Atlanta's O-Line while CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson are poised to have their biggest days of the season. Let's go Canada's Team make Bon Jovi proud!
- Players to watch: CJ Spiller, Mario Williams, Matt Ryan
TITANS @ COLTS
- Andrew Luck has never lost back to back games in his football career and he isn't ready to start this week as his Colts host the Titans in Indy. Despite putting up some very impressive wins against Denver, San Fran, and Seattle, the Colts have also dropped some games to teams they should have beat. This should be the weak Luck and the Colts offense starts to get going again thanks to Tennessee's poor rush defense. Donald Brown and Trent Richardson should be productive enough to open things up for Fleener, and T.Y. Hilton at home this week. Colts need to get back on track if they wanted to be taken seriously in the playoffs - what happened to the defense that was playing so well early in the season?
- It seems like the Titans are in this position every season. Inconsistent play all year yet they are right there in the wild card race as it nears its conclusion. Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of a select few, Josh McCown being another, backup QB's that can actually lead his team to wins. A very important game for Tennessee as they have a chance not only to take another step closer to the playoffs but could also gain a game on a division opponent. Look for Fitzpatrick to continue to come out slinging - however based on his time in Buffalo its safe to assume he will give the Colts defense at least a couple opportunities for some takeaways. Chris Johnson's performance likely will be a key indicator of who wins this game. If CJ steps up and creates some big plays for the Titans they should be in it right until the end.
- A divisional game with playoff implications as one team looks to prove they are contenders they the other tries to regain their form from earlier in the season. These teams are pretty evenly matched talent wise with Luck getting the edge over Fitzpatrick at the QB position - aside from that neither team holds a distinct advantage at any particular position. In an evenly matched game you go with the home team especially the home team with a better QB. Luck leads his men to victory at home thanks to a strong day on the ground from D.Brown/T.Rich.
- Players to watch: Trent Richardson, Chris Johnson, Ryan Fitzpatrick
SAINTS @ SEAHAWKS
- The team to beat in the NFC, Seahawks, finally have run into some adversity this season. Much like the Aldon Smith scenario in San Francisco - Seattle is going to be without some defensive play makers of their own for a while. Brandon Browner is out with a groin injury and could be suspended for a lengthy period of time after failing another of the leagues PED tests. Ouch! Looks like loudmouth Richard Sherman may need to save some his breathe to compensate for the loss moving forward. Luckily on offense things are still running smoothly for the Seahawks. Thanks in large part to the performance of dangeRUSS Wilson and Marshawn Lynch, Pete Carroll's offense is consistently moving the ball against all opponents. What's scary is that the return of Percy Harvin gives Seattle weapons all over the field making their offense potentially more intimidating than their renowned defense.
- Apparently "you just have to hit Drew Brees (to shut him down)". That's what one NFL defensive player said earlier this week. Well genius it can't be THAT easy as he has been lighting up defenses for nearly a decade. It's not like this is break through information or anything - usually the key to limiting a quarterbacks success is to pressure him to disrupt his timing. Same recipe for success goes when playing Manning or Brady. So chill out and watch Drew Brees carve up the Seahawks defense just like he does the rest of the NFL. Look for Marcus Colston to be targeted a lot (especially on 3rd downs) as well as Pierre Thomas coming out of the backfield. Pierre Thomas is doing his best Fred Jackson impersonation this year defying age and posting one of his best seasons to date. Big test for the Saints as they head into one of the harshest environments in the NFL. Paging Jimmy Graham...Paging Jimmy Graham...Please make your way to the End Zone.
- This should be the game of the week. One of the leagues best offenses squares off against one of the most ferocious defenses. This is what football is all about. Strength vs. Strength. Although the Seahawks may not be at full strength defensively the advantage of the 12th man, playing at home, should compensate for their loss. Drew Brees surely will face heavy pressure, especially early on, but if they can whether the storm - or take the lead early - they should be able to execute enough and pull off the huge victory on the road.
- Players to watch: Richard Sherman, Percy Harvin, Marcus Colston