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Phinsider Week 13 Game Previews and Predictions

Welcome to another edition of Justin Hier’s weekly game previews and predictions!

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 has plenty of juicy matchups for viewers to get excited about, starting with an NFC East classic on Thursday night between two teams still clinging to fading playoff hopes. This is Washington and Dallas’ last shot at playing meaningful football come January, so it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a true showdown so far tonight. Tempers are sure to flare, especially when you have commercial stars Dez Bryant and Josh Norman duking it out on the outside. Who will take this contest? Find out below!

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of every contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 12 prediction record: 12-4

2017 season prediction record: 110-66

Thursday

Washington Redskins (5-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-6) - 8:25 PM ET on NBC/NFLN

The Redskins and Cowboys both need this win badly. Given the competitiveness in the NFC, a loss here would effectively spell the end of either team’s season, meaning a scrappy game should be expected from both sides. Both teams also have talented offensive linemen playing through injuries. For Washington, it’s All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams. For Dallas, it’s young stud La’el Collins. Keep an eye on those two as the game progresses, as a setback for either could spell doom for each team’s respective backfields.

Score prediction: Washington 27 - Dallas 17

*Prediction made before the start of the game despite article’s delayed publishing.

Sunday

Minnesota Vikings (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (7-4) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

I really wanted to give the Falcons a win this week, as they’ve been on such a roll and truly seem to be putting it all together in time for the stretch run. Unfortunately, they are going up against one of the top 3 outfits in the entire league, and Minnesota’s suffocating defense has stopped virtually everyone in its path. With that in mind, I simply have to hand this one to the Vikes, although I do suggest everyone keep watch of the Xavier Rhodes v Julio Jones battle set to take place. Jones is coming off of a volcanic performance against Tampa Bay and will attempt to keep the momentum going against one of the league’s stingiest cover corners.

Score prediction: Minnesota 28 - Atlanta 20

Houston Texans (4-7) at Tennessee Titans (7-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Houston’s entire season has gone down the drain since the team lost Deshaun Watson, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus to season ending injuries. Now sitting at 4-7 without the talent to get much further, they’ll try to play spoiler against the division rival Titans. The Titans, on the other hand, have found ways to win games despite relatively mediocre play on both sides of the ball. Against the waning Texans, Tennessee will have the opportunity to correct some of their issues and find more punch on their offense.

Score prediction: Tennessee 24 - Houston 17

Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) at New York Jets (4-7) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Chiefs had the opportunity to correct course last week in a very winnable game out in Buffalo, but couldn’t capitalize on what had previously been an underperforming Sean McDermott-coached defense. Alex Smith and Kareem Hunt, two players who had previously provided the spark that led the Chiefs to a 5-0 start, have struggled as of late. Chiefs fans are very understandably beginning to doubt if their team has what it takes to make a late season push, even within a lackluster division. The Jets are coming off a loss of their own, although the team looked competitive against a strong Carolina squad. The Chiefs will need a quick bounce-back to save their season.

Score prediction: Kansas City 23 - New York 21

Denver Broncos (3-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-7) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Dolphins have been amongst the league’s worst teams in most statistical measurements during their five-game skid. However, one of the only teams that’s played worse over that span is coming to South Florida this weekend in the Denver Broncos. In short, the Broncos have been an absolute mess this season. The offense has been nothing short of a disaster, the defense has fallen off after a strong start to the season, and the coaching has been questionable at minimum.

All of this has been the culmination of a steady flow of injuries and subpar quarterback play. Sound familiar? These two eerily similar teams don’t seem to be going anywhere this season, and Sunday’s contest will likely be an ugly one.

Score prediction: Miami 20 - Denver 14

Indianapolis Colts (3-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

I’d bet very few had the Jaguars pegged to fall to Blaine Gabbert and the rest of the Arizona Cardinals last week, I certainly didn’t, but I still don’t see many faults with Jacksonville’s formula of winning games. A strong running game and top-notch defense has brought plenty of teams to the Super Bowl. What does make me nervous is the state of Leonard Fournette’s ankle. The dynamic rookie simply hasn’t been the same since suffering an injury earlier in the season, and he even admitted to the fact that the injury likely won’t fully heal over the course of the season while he’s playing through it.

If I were head coach Doug Marrone, I’d let Fournette heal so that he’s ready for the playoffs instead of continuing to play him on a bum ankle. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are capable rushers who can do damage against a soft Colts front.

Score prediction: Jacksonville 26 - Indianapolis 13

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Green Bay Packers (5-6) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Packers came this close to upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers last weekend, and what a win that’d have been. With Aaron Rodgers close to returning, seeing the all-time great quarterback swing back in and bring this team to the playoffs would be something special, but that’ll be tough with six losses already on hand and the NFC being ultra competitive this year.

Fortunately for the Packers, the Bucs are a very beatable team, and this could be a win that helps convince the Green Bay brass that Rodgers is worth pushing back into action. One thing’s for sure, the NFL is more fun to watch when Rodgers is playing.

Score prediction: Green Bay 23 - Tampa Bay 20

Detroit Lions (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Detroit Lions are a talented team that is arguably far better than their 6-5 record. In fact, four out of the Lions’ five losses have come within 1 possession. Matthew Stafford has had a great year so far and his defense is playing solid football. It’s that defense that is primed for a good week against a subpar Ravens attack. If the Lions put up points in this game, they are set up for success, as I don’t see the Ravens scoring too much as long as Joe Flacco continues to struggle.

Score prediction: Detroit 21 - Baltimore 16

New England Patriots (9-2) at Buffalo Bills (6-5) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The AFC East is once more looking to send two teams to the playoffs, though this time the Bills are trying to sneak in as that second team instead of Miami. Taking another step towards that path will be tough this week against the ever-dominating Patriots. New England continued to roll last week against the Dolphins. Just like everyone would expect Bill Belichick to do, the wizard-like head coach has magically fixed his defensive woes from earlier in the season, and is now fielding a unit that is on par with his high powered offense. The Bills tend to fight hard against the Pats in Buffalo, but New England should come out with the win.

Score prediction: New England 31 - Buffalo 21

San Francisco 49ers (1-10) - Chicago Bears (3-8) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Jimmy Garoppolo era in San Francisco has arrived. Kyle Shanahan and Co. are ready to trot out the former Patriot this week, and he’ll be taking on the Chicago Bears. Although this is one of the least exciting matchups of the weekend on paper, the Garoppolo storyline will keep this one interesting. All eyes will be on Tom Brady’s former understudy to see if the young gunslinger’s former success was a product of Belichick’s quarterback friendly system or Garoppolo’s own talent. Personally, I think any quarterback will have a tough time finding success surrounded by the 49ers’ current roster, so I don’t see Shanahan’s new project lighting it up any time soon.

Score prediction: Chicago 17 - San Francisco 16

Cleveland Browns (0-11) at Los Angeles Chargers (5-6) - 4:05 PM ET on CBS

The Browns had their chance to avoid going winless last week. Simply put, it’s just not going to happen against the surging Chargers. Philip Rivers and Los Angeles’ defense have put their 0-4 start behind them and are looking like a true playoff contender. Everything is coming together for Anthony Lynn’s crew. The passing game is on fire, the defense has been shutting down every opponent, and the running game is complementing both quite well. This is the easiest game of the week to call.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 30 - Cleveland 10

New York Giants (2-9) at Oakland Raiders (5-6) - 4:25 PM ET on FOX

Geno Smith... Really Ben McAdoo? Geno Smith? The Giants’ head coach benched a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback for Geno Smith. I, along with just about everyone else in the football world, don’t see the logic. If you’re going to Bench Eli Manning and admit to every player in the locker room that the team isn’t even trying to win anymore, at least give rookie Davis Webb the start to see what he can do. We all know Smith isn’t a franchise quarterback.

Moving on... The Raiders are trying to keep pace with the Chargers and Chiefs. This week, they’ll have to do so without their top two wideouts. Derek Carr will need to find some of last season’s magic to get the offense moving against the G-men.

Score prediction: Oakland 24 - New York 14

Carolina Panthers (8-3) - New Orleans Saints (8-3) - 4:25 PM ET on FOX

Here we go! This is a game folks. The NFC South has provided NFL fans with some of the most exciting football of the year, and this week should be no different. The Panthers and Saints are in a dog fight for the top spot in the division, and this contest could be the deciding factor in who takes that position going into the playoffs. New Orleans may be getting one of their best young defenders back in uber-talented rookie Marshon Lattimore, a key piece of their improved defense. For the Panthers to keep pace with the Saints’ unpredictable offense, Cam Newton will need to get rolling early. Tune into this matchup to see some quality football.

Score prediction: New Orleans 28 - Carolina 27

Los Angeles Rams (8-3) at Arizona Cardinals (5-6) - 4:25 PM ET on FOX

Blaine Gabbert looked much improved from his Jaguars days in last weeks win, and when the Cardinals have capable quarterback play, they can be a dangerous team. However, they simply don’t have the same fire power as the league’s leading offense. The Rams are looking like a reiteration of the Greatest Show on Turf this season, with Jared Goff and Todd Gurley playing some exceptional football regardless of their defensive opponent. Save for their game against the Vikings, no one has been able to slow Goff and Gurley down. That trend should continue this week.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 30 - Arizona 17

Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-4) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

The Eagles have been nothing short of outstanding all year long. There are very few faults with Doug Pederson’s team. From the defense, to the offense, to the special teams, every unit is clicking. Against Seattle’s beat up secondary, second year sensation Carson Wentz should find room to hit his favorite targets downfield, while sprinkling in a multi-faceted running game to keep the defense guessing. Phily’s scary defensive line will keep Russell Wilson running around the backfield throughout the entirety of this contest, while helping the Eagles soar to another win.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 33 - Seattle 24

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

Pittsburgh just barely squeaked out a win over Brett Hundley and the Packers last week and will head to Cincinnati for what is always an entertaining inter-divisional bout. The Steelers and Bengals play each other hard. When these two teams meet up, it’s almost a guarantee that we’ll see some extra curricular activities out on the field. Expect the referees to be on high alert for what should be a heated contest, one in which the Steelers will hope to keep pace with New England atop the AFC.

Score prediction: Pittsburgh 24 - Cincinnati 20