Philadelphia, PA – Jack and Jackie Harbaugh are about to have a Thanksgiving to remember. The holiday could be one the hardcore NFL fan never forgets as well.
Though their loyalties will be no doubt torn, the parents of Jim and John Harbaugh will be looking on with an immeasurable pride when their two sons take sibling rivalry to new heights during Thursday's incredibly captivating battle between Jim's first-place San Francisco 49ers and John's AFC North co-leading Baltimore Ravens. And this year's schedule-makers may want to give themselves a pat on the back as well after putting together probably the greatest slate of Turkey Day games the league has ever seen.
Of course, good fortune has certainly played a part in the attractive triple- header that will unfold while most of us are gorging ourselves on all sorts of delectable entrees. While the 49ers-Ravens clash that will close out Thursday's trio already had built-in appeal due to the unprecedented brother-on-brother factor, it's now become an absolute must-see blockbuster thanks to San Francisco's instant and unforeseen turnaround in Jim Harbaugh's debut season.
Now you've got two division leaders, both with a legitimate shot at finishing as the No. 1 seed in their respective conferences, with a combined 16-4 record.
And it may not even be the best game of the day.
That's because for the first time in what seems like a generation, the Detroit Lions will be hosting a Thanksgiving contest that actually carries relevance for both teams. Sure, Niners-Ravens is going to be hard to top, but one could make a strong case that the finally-contending Lions' Week 12 showdown with the juggernaut Green Bay Packers matches the nightcap in terms of both intrigue and significance.
The opener features two storied rivals -- one of which will be the first undefeated entry to be competing on Thanksgiving in nearly 50 years, the other fielding by far its best assemblage of players in at least a decade. The Lions haven't entered their traditional holiday home game with seven victories since 2000, and Thursday's grudge match with the reigning world champions will be the first time that Green Bay and Detroit have squared off in November with winning percentages of at least .700 since a classic 1962 encounter between the two that was also held on Thanksgiving.
Even the interlude between Thursday's co-headliners, the mid-afternoon matchup pitting Dallas and Miami, now holds some interest due to recent circumstances. With the Cowboys right in the thick of the NFC playoff race and the resurgent Dolphins having won three straight following an 0-7 start, those who had planned to take their tryptophan-induced nap prior to the Harbaugh Bowl now have a reason to stay awake.
There's even a few gripping sidebars to this one, with embattled Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano having cut his teeth as a Dallas assistant for five years and the Miami roster sprinkled with several ex-Cowboys from the Bill Parcells regime, including improving quarterback Matt Moore.
Which brings about some food for thought on a day built around a feast: What if the Cowboys end up missing the playoffs because of a loss to a supposed also- ran that's full of guys who used to be on Jerry Jones' payroll? With the way the Dolphins have performed the last three weeks, it's not out of the question.
Now, there is a drawback to the bonanza that awaits on Thursday, as there really won't be a truly compelling game on the remainder of the Week 12 schedule until Monday's critical contest between the Giants and Saints. But life can't be all sunshine and roses every day, unfortunately.
In the meantime, have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the games that should have every NFL fan feeling gratified.
The start of the holiday season also coincides with an increase in playoff attention, so here's a quick glimpse on how both conferences currently stack up in terms of postseason positioning:
AFC: 1) New England (7-3); 2) Houston (7-3); 3) Baltimore (7-3); 4) Oakland (6-4); 5) Pittsburgh (7-3); 6) Cincinnati (6-4)
NFC: 1) Green Bay (10-0); 2) San Francisco (9-1); 3) New Orleans (7-3); 4) Dallas (6-4); 5) Detroit (7-3); 6) Chicago (7-3)
NFL POWER POLL
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SUICIDE POOL PIX
2. Pittsburgh (at Kansas City) -- Injury-riddled Chiefs couldn't score on New England's questionable defense on Monday, and will run into similar problems against the well-rested Steelers.
3. N.Y. Jets (vs. Buffalo) -- Jets in desperate need of a win after being Tebowed last week, and should get one against a tattered Buffalo team it easily handled just three weeks ago.
Bounced back a bit from a rough Week 10 by correctly predicting 10 of 14 outright winners in last week's column, though I managed only a 5-7-2 mark against the spread to continue my season-long struggles in that area. I'm now 97-63 (.606) in straight-up selections for the entire season while still languishing near the bottom in our "TSN Pigskin Prognosticators" segment with a 72-82-6 (.469) overall mark versus the line.
Green Bay (10-0) at Detroit (7-3), Thursday, 12:30 (Green Bay -6.5)
Storylines: Defending champion Packers 10-0 for the first time since 1962 and attempt to win first 11 games in a season for first time in franchise history, and team carries club-record 16-game winning streak (including the postseason) into Ford Field...Lions to host 72nd Thanksgiving Day game in team annals and seeking to end string of seven straight losses on the holiday, five of which have been by 20 or more points...Green Bay had string of 10 consecutive victories over Detroit end with 7-3 loss in the Motor City last December, in which star quarterback Aaron Rodgers was knocked out with a concussion...Rodgers leads NFL in passer rating (128.8), completion percentage (72.3) and touchdown passes (31) and threw for three scores in 35-26 decision over Tampa Bay last Sunday...Lions rallied from early 24-7 deficit to outscore visiting Carolina by 49-35 count in Week 11, with quarterback Matthew Stafford tossing career-high five touchdown strikes to spark comeback...Running back Kevin Smith added personal-best 201 yards from scrimmage (140 rushing, 61 receiving) and three scores for Detroit and will start once again in place of still-injured Jahvid Best (concussion)...Packers leading rusher James Starks questionable after spraining knee against Bucs, while offensive tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) to miss sixth straight game...Wide receiver Greg Jennings (knee) probable for Green Bay, however...Packers averaging league-high 35.5 points per game, while Lions third in that category (30.1 ppg)...Longtime rivals to meet for 20th time on Thanksgiving, with Detroit owning 11-7-1 advantage.
Fast Fact: Green Bay is the first undefeated team to play on Thanksgiving since the Packers dropped a 26-14 decision to the Lions on Nov. 22, 1962.
Prediction: Charged-up Lions give the Packers all they can handle and then some, but ultimately make too many mistakes and not enough stops. Packers 34, Lions 31.
Miami (3-7) at Dallas (6-4), Thursday, 4:15 (Dallas -7)
Storylines: Cowboys enter 34th consecutive Thanksgiving home game having won three in a row to move into share of NFC East lead with New York Giants, while revitalized Dolphins also riding three-game win streak after 0-7 start...Miami head coach Tony Sparano was Dallas assistant for five seasons (2003-07) and faces former employers for first time since joining Dolphins, while five current Miami players (quarterback Matt Moore, tight end Anthony Fasano, offensive tackle Marc Colombo, linebacker Kevin Burnett, defensive end Igor Olshansky) all once played for Cowboys...Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has compiled 8-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio over team's current surge and threw for three scores in last Sunday's 27-24 overtime decision at Washington...Miami coming off 35-8 home rout of Buffalo in Week 10 and has yielded just 20 points over last three wins, with defense not allowing a touchdown during that stretch...Wide receiver Miles Austin and cornerback Mike Jenkins not expected to play for Cowboys due to hamstring injuries, while safety Gerald Sensabaugh (foot) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) questionable...Dallas owns 4-1 home record this year and has won four of last five Thanksgiving Day tilts, with each of those triumphs coming by 17 or more points...Cowboys own 27-15-1 overall record on Thanksgiving...Dolphins seeking first four-game win streak since closing out 2008 season with five consecutive victories.
Fast Fact: Dolphins are 5-1 all-time on Thanksgiving, which includes victories over the Cowboys in 1973, 1993 and 2003 as well as a 20-0 loss to Dallas at Texas Stadium in 1999.
Prediction: Dolphins' tough defense will keep them in it, but Cowboys always play well on Thanksgiving and have too many weapons. Cowboys 20, Dolphins 14.
San Francisco (9-1) at Baltimore (7-3), Sunday, 8:20 (Baltimore -3)
Storylines: Division leaders to square off in first-ever meeting between sibling head coaches in NFL history, with Jim Harbaugh's 49ers owning commanding advantage atop NFC West and brother John's Ravens tied with rival Pittsburgh for AFC North's top spot...San Francisco enters contest on eight- game win streak, team's longest since 11-game run in 1997, and can clinch first division title and playoff berth since 2002 with victory on Thursday combined with Seattle loss to Washington on Sunday...Baltimore bounced back from upset road loss to Seahawks in Week 10 with 31-24 decision over visiting Cincinnati last Sunday, club's seventh straight win at home...Ravens are 15-1 in last 16 outings at M&T Bank Stadium and own 7-0 home mark against NFC teams under John Harbaugh...49ers 4-0 on road this season, with all four verdicts taking place in Eastern Time Zone, and extended current run with 23-7 home verdict over Arizona in Week 11...Baltimore All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis sat out Cincinnati game with toe injury and status uncertain for Thursday's test, while offensive tackle Anthony Davis (ankle) and fullback Bruce Miller (concussion) both questionable for San Francisco...Matchup of two of NFL's top defenses, with Niners yielding league-lows in points (14.5 ypg) and rushing yards (73.9 ypg) and Ravens third in points allowed (17.6 ypg), fourth in total defense (304.5 ypg) and fifth against the run (93.2 ypg)...San Francisco sixth overall in rushing offense (134.2 ypg), with running back Frank Gore having eclipsed 100 yards in five of team's last seven outings...Baltimore rookie wideout Torrey Smith posted career bests for catches (6) and receiving yards (165) against Bengals and averaging 20.3 yards per grab.
Fast Fact: Ravens have never previously played on Thanksgiving, while 49ers will be making their first Turkey Day appearance since a 31-10 win at Dallas on Nov. 23, 1972.
Prediction: Jim Harbaugh was right when he said this would be his team's toughest test of the season. The 49ers will compete with their usual fervor, but ultimately big brother knows best. Ravens 23, 49ers 13.
Arizona (3-7) at St. Louis (2-8), Sunday, 1:00 (St. Louis -3)
Storylines: NFC West members face off for second time in four weeks, with Cardinals recording 19-13 home overtime victory over Rams on Nov. 6 on rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return touchdown and defensive end Calais Campbell blocking potential game-winning field goal attempt at end of regulation...John Skelton likely to make fourth straight start for Arizona in place of injured regular Kevin Kolb (toe) and threw for 222 yards and a touchdown in team's Week 9 win over St. Louis, but comes in off dreadful 6- of-13, 99-yard, three-interceptions performance in 23-7 loss at San Francisco last Sunday...Cardinals placed nose tackle Dan Williams (fractured arm) on injured reserve Tuesday, while offensive tackle Roger Saffold (pectoral) and cornerback Marquis Johnson (spleen) both out for season for Rams...St. Louis also to be without offensive tackles Jason Smith (concussion) and Mark LeVoir (pectoral) and wide receiver Danario Alexander (hamstring), while tight end Lance Kendricks (concussion) and wideout and fellow rookie Austin Pettis (knee) questionable for game...Rams running back Steven Jackson rushed for 130 yards in earlier meeting with Arizona and had string of three straight 100-yard efforts end in club's 24-7 home loss to Seattle last week...Cardinals have won nine of last 10 matchups with St. Louis, including 17-13 decision at Edward Jones Dome in 2010 season opener, but have dropped 12 of last 13 road tests.
Fast Fact: Cardinals blocked two field goal tries in last Sunday's loss, the first time the franchise has accomplished the feat in a game since Sept. 17, 1972 against the Baltimore Colts.
Prediction: Rams should have beaten the Cardinals the last time they met, and learn from their mistakes from the previous matchup. Rams 17, Cardinals 13.
Buffalo (5-5) at N.Y. Jets (5-5), Sunday, 1:00 (N.Y. Jets -8.5)
Storylines: Clash of slumping AFC East inhabitants, with Jets having lost two straight following 27-11 road ousting of Bills on Nov. 6 to fall two games behind rival New England for first place in division and Buffalo suffering third consecutive lopsided defeat with 35-8 setback at Miami last Sunday...New York dealt 17-13 upset loss at surging Denver in Week 10 and expected to be without both running back LaDanian Tomlinson (knee) and rookie receiver Jeremy Kerley (knee), but top rusher Shonn Greene on track to play despite leaving Broncos game with injured ribs...Ailing Bills to be without running back Fred Jackson, who ranks third in NFL in rushing yards (934), due to strained calf, while club placed wide receiver Donald Jones (ankle) and cornerback Terrence McGee (knee) on injured reserve Tuesday while signing veteran wideout Derek Hagan...New York has bested Buffalo four straight times and won six of last seven bouts between teams, with Bills' lone win over that span a 16-13 overtime decision at the Meadowlands in 2009...Jets own 4-1 record at MetLife Stadium this season...Buffalo has minus-seven turnover ratio during three-game slide and had three giveaways in last matchup with Jets, with struggling quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing two interceptions in loss...Fitzpatrick has been picked off seven times and completed just 54.4 percent of attempts during losing skid, in which Bills have averaged just 8.7 points.
Fast Fact: Jets have outscored Buffalo by a 103-32 margin over the last three games in this series, and the Bills have been outscored 106-26 over the course of their present three-game slide.
Prediction: A matchup with a Buffalo team that's falling apart due to injuries and a lack of execution is exactly what the unpredictable Jets need right now. Jets 30, Bills 10.
Carolina (2-8) at Indianapolis (0-10), Sunday, 1:00 (Carolina -3.5)
Storylines: Hard-luck Colts attempt to avoid first 0-11 start since 1986 and leading candidates for No. 1 overall pick in 2012 draft, position the Panthers held a year ago...Indianapolis had Week 11 bye following 17-3 setback to AFC South cohort Jacksonville on Nov. 13, while Carolina has dropped three straight and six of last seven games following 49-35 defeat at Detroit last Sunday, in which team allowed 35 second-half points and squandered early 24-7 lead...Panthers now 0-4 on road this season and have lost 12 in a row away from home...Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark (leg) doubtful to return from break, while running back Joseph Addai questionable with lingering hamstring injury...Defensive end Charles Johnson (shoulder) and linebacker Dan Connor (shoulder) both probable for Panthers, but status of tight end Jeremy Shockey (ribs) uncertain...Colts giving up league-high 30.0 points per game and rank 31st in run defense (145.6 ypg), while Carolina next-to-last in scoring defense (28.6 ppg) and 30th overall versus the run (140.7 ypg), and surrendered 169 rushing yards and 495 total to Lions last week...Panthers fifth in NFL in total offense (400.9 ypg) and quarterback Cam Newton rushed for two touchdowns against Detroit, but also threw career-high four interceptions in loss...Indianapolis 31st in total offense (275.7 ypg) and 30th in both passing yards (177.3 ypg) and scoring, with team having mustered just 27 points over last four defeats.
Fast Fact: Panthers rookie receiver Keloha Pilares' 101-yard kickoff return touchdown in last week's loss was the longest in franchise history and first for a score since Rod Smart, best known for his "He Hate Me" moniker while in the short-lived XFL, had one against New Orleans on Oct. 5, 2003.
Prediction: If the Colts are going to win at all this season, this figures to be their best chance. Colts 26, Panthers 24.
Cleveland (4-6) at Cincinnati (6-4), Sunday, 1:00 (Cincinnati -7.5)
Storylines: AFC North rivals meet for first time since 2011 opener, a 27-17 Cincinnati victory in Cleveland in which Bengals running back Cedric Benson rushed for season-best 121 yards and a touchdown...Cincinnati has won five of last six bouts between in-state foes, and Browns are 1-6 in last seven stops at Paul Brown Stadium...Bengals one game back of co-AFC West leaders Baltimore and Pittsburgh and complete three-game stretch against division members this week, opening sequence with seven-point losses to both Steelers (24-17) and Ravens (31-24)...Cleveland halted string of three straight defeats with 14-10 home decision over Jacksonville last Sunday, but has lost three in a row on road...Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton threw for career-high 373 yards against Baltimore in Week 11, but was intercepted three times and faces Browns' top-ranked pass defense (166.5 ypg)...Cincinnati third in NFL in rushing defense (88.6 ypg) and takes on Cleveland squad to again be without top running back Peyton Hillis (hamstring), though backup Montario Hardesty (calf) could return from three-game absence...Safety T.J. Ward (foot) also ruled out for Browns, while rookie fullback Owen Marecic (concussion) questionable...Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green expected to play after sitting out Baltimore game with knee contusion, and had 41-yard touchdown catch from Dalton in Week 1 triumph over Cleveland.
Fast Fact: Browns have five wins since 2009 when scoring 14 or less points, the most of any NFL team over that span.
Prediction: Both teams have been involved in a lot of close games this year. The difference is the Bengals have been better at winning them. Bengals 20, Browns 13.
Houston (7-3) at Jacksonville (3-7), Sunday, 1:00 (Houston -3.5)
Storylines: Matt Leinart to make Texans' debut and first NFL start at quarterback since 2009 with Matt Schaub suffering season-ending foot sprain in team's 37-9 victory at Tampa Bay on Nov. 13, but star wide receiver Andre Johnson set to return from seven-game absence caused by hamstring injury as AFC South-leading Texans attempt to run win streak to franchise-record five straight contests...Houston coming off Week 11 bye and registered 24-14 home triumph over Jaguars on Oct. 30, but have lost in four straight trips to Jacksonville since 13-10 win at EverBank Field in 2006...Jaguars return home off tough 14-10 loss at Cleveland last Sunday and placed linebacker Clint Session on injured reserve Tuesday after sustaining concussion against Browns, with veteran and ex-Texan Kevin Bentley signed in corresponding move...Defensive linemen Terrance Knighton (ankle) and Matt Roth (concussion) both questionable for Jacksonville, while Houston safety Danieal Manning (broken leg) a possibility to play after returning to practice this week...Texans rank second in NFL in rushing offense (158.1 ypg), while 2010 rushing champion Arian Foster compiled 112 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries in Week 8 win over Jags...Jacksonville running back Maurice Jones-Drew second among individuals in rushing yards (941), but held to season-low 63 by Texans earlier in year...Houston permitting league-low 269.7 yards per game and stand second in scoring defense (16.6 ypg), while Jaguars third in total defense (300.2 ypg) and fifth in points allowed (18.0 ypg).
Fast Fact: Texans have lost their first game following a bye week in each of the last three years and are 1-4 in such situations under head coach Gary Kubiak, and the franchise has never won in five lifetime tests on the road while coming off a bye.
Prediction: Schaub's absence won't be felt this week thanks to Texans' shutdown defense and Jaguars' woeful offense. Texans 20, Jaguars 13.
Minnesota (2-8) at Atlanta (6-4), Sunday, 1:00 (Atlanta -9.5)
Storylines: Lowly Vikings try to halt two-game losing streak and likely to be without Adrian Peterson after All-Pro running back incurred high ankle sprain in last Sunday's 27-21 defeat to Oakland, while Falcons have won four of last five outings and bounced back from Week 10 overtime loss to NFC South-rival New Orleans with 23-17 home decision over Tennessee this past week...Atlanta rookie receiver Julio Jones questionable with hamstring injury that kept him out of game against Titans, with counterpart Roddy White amassing season-high 147 yards on seven catches to help offset his loss...Safety William Moore (quadriceps) also questionable for Falcons, but offensive tackle Sam Baker (back) may return from four-game absence...Linebacker Erin Henderson (hamstring) probable for Minnesota, while guard Anthony Herrera (knee) and safety Husain Abdullah (concussion) both question marks...Atlanta defensive end Ray Edwards spent first five NFL seasons with Vikings before joining Falcons in offseason, while Minnesota wide receiver Michael Jenkins played for Atlanta from 2004-10...Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has posted back-to-back 300-yard passing efforts and faces Vikings defense ranked 28th against the pass (259.4 ypg)...Atlanta has won seven of last eight games in November and is 11-3 in 14 most recent regular-season home tilts, while Vikings 1-4 on road this year and have dropped 13 of past 16 games as the visitor.
Fast Fact: Since the start of the 2008 season, Peterson (51) and Atlanta's Michael Turner (47) rank first and second, respectively, in the NFL in rushing touchdowns.
Prediction: Ryan should have a field day against a deplorable Minnesota defense regardless of if Jones plays, and struggling rookie Christian Ponder won't be able to keep up without his best offensive weapon around. Falcons 27, Vikings 13.
Tampa Bay (4-6) at Tennessee (5-5), Sunday, 1:00 (Tennessee -3)
Storylines: Reeling Buccaneers try to avoid fifth consecutive loss after coming up short in Week 11 upset bid at Green Bay, while Titans have dropped four of six following 3-1 start after 24-13 setback at NFC South member Atlanta last Sunday...Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck expected to start for Tennessee despite leaving last week's loss with elbow injury, but middle linebacker and former Buc Barrett Ruud questionable after re-injuring groin against Falcons and status of offensive tackle David Stewart (calf) and defensive end Derrick Morgan (ankle) also unclear...Defensive end Michael Bennett (undisclosed) doubtful for Tampa Bay, while offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood (knee) questionable to play...Titans have won 13 of last 15 bouts with NFC teams and are 6-0 all-time at home against Buccaneers...Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman has thrown NFC-high 15 interceptions on season, but accumulated career- best 342 passing yards and two touchdowns in 35-26 loss to Packers last week...Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount, cut by Tennessee in training camp prior to 2010 season, added 107 rushing yards against Green Bay...Tampa Bay 31st overall in total defense (398.9 ypg) and 29th against the pass (265.4 ypg), while Titans averaging league-low 77.3 rushing yards per game and mustered just 41 yards on the ground against Falcons last week.
Fast Fact: Buccaneers have allowed nine passing plays of 40 or more yards this season, tied for the most in the NFL, after giving up the same amount over the entire 2010 campaign.
Prediction: Bucs showed some heart in last week's loss, and the mediocre Titans represent a step down in competition to what they've been facing lately. Buccaneers 20, Titans 17.
Chicago (7-3) at Oakland (6-4), Sunday, 4:05 (Oakland -4.5)
Storylines: Red-hot Bears bring five-game winning streak into Oakland Coliseum after 31-20 ousting of regressing San Diego last Sunday, but lost quarterback Jay Cutler indefinitely after breaking his right thumb during game...Caleb Hanie to make first career start under center for Bears...Raiders own one-game edge on surprising Denver for AFC West lead and posted second straight win with 27-21 triumph at Minnesota in Week 11...Running back Darren McFadden slated to miss fourth straight game for Oakland with sprained foot, and wide receivers Jacoby Ford (foot) and Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion/neck) also doubtful...McFadden replacement Michael Bush has 60 carries, 266 rushing yards and two touchdowns last two weeks for Oakland offense that ranks third overall in rushing (156.8 ypg)...Chicago defense yielding just 66.8 rushing yards during current winning run, however, and has forced 15 turnovers over past four outings...Bears sixth in league in scoring (26.8 ppg) and have eclipsed 30 points in all but one of their seven victories this year...Chicago running back Matt Forte leads NFL in yards from scrimmage (1,391) and takes on Raiders defense allowing league-worst 5.2 yards per rush attempt...Oakland has lost last two home games and just 2-3 at the Coliseum this season...Bears placed longtime long snapper Patrick Mannelly (torn ACL) on injured reserve Monday.
Fast Fact: Mannelly has played in each of the Bears' last 147 games and owns a club-record 215 career appearances, having sat out only three contests since joining Chicago as a sixth-round draft choice in 1998.
Prediction: Hanie will get some help from Chicago's defense and special teams, but the Bears won't quite be able to overcome Cutler's loss. Raiders 23, Bears 20.
Washington (3-7) at Seattle (4-6), Sunday, 4:05 (Seattle -3.5)
Storylines: Seahawks shoot for first three-game win streak since 2007 and recorded 24-7 road drubbing of punchless St. Louis last Sunday, while spiraling Redskins mired in six-game slide -- team's longest since 1998 -- after being dealt tough 27-24 overtime loss by rival Dallas in Week 10...Veteran wide receiver Santana Moss may return for Washington after missing last four weeks with broken hand, while offensive tackle Trent Williams (knee) and safety LaRon Landry (Achilles) also questionable...Rookie offensive tackle James Carpenter (torn ACL) out for Seattle and wide receiver Ben Obomanu (ankle/knee) not expected to play...Seahawks rank just 28th in total offense (203.4 ypg) and 27th in rushing (95.1 ypg), but running back Marshawn Lynch averaging 110.7 yards over last three weeks and has a touchdown in six consecutive games...Seattle defense surrendered season lows of 42 rushing yards and 185 total against Rams, with end Chris Clemons leading way with three sacks and two forced fumbles...Redskins averaging just 12.8 points and have turned the ball over 16 times during current losing streak, while team's minus-10 turnover margin last in NFL...Washington has defeated Seattle five straight times in regular-season play, though the Seahawks topped the Redskins at home in playoff tilts in both the 2005 and '07 seasons.
Fast Fact: Redskins are 5-1 all-time as the visitor in this series during the regular season, with Seattle's lone victory a 24-14 decision at the Kingdome on Sept. 20, 1988.
Prediction: Seahawks have very quietly been playing pretty good football over the last few weeks, while Redskins have been a disaster for considerably longer. Seahawks 19, Redskins 14.
Denver (5-5) at San Diego (4-6), Sunday, 4:15 (San Diego -6.5)
Storylines: Crucial clash of AFC West teams that have gone in opposite directions since San Diego's 29-24 win at Denver in Week 5, with inspired Broncos 4-1 after replacing since-released Kyle Orton with Tim Tebow at quarterback and error-prone Chargers having lost five straight games following that victory...Denver posted third straight win by rallying for 17-13 triumph over New York Jets in Week 10, with Tebow engineering 95-yard touchdown drive in final minutes...San Diego handed 31-20 loss at scorching Chicago last Sunday and looks to avoid first in-season six-game skid since 2001...Chargers posted 35-14 rout of Broncos at Qualcomm Stadium last season and have prevailed in four straight and nine of last 11 encounters between rivals...Banged-up San Diego offensive line to be without tackle Marcus McNeill (neck) and guard Louis Vasquez (ankle) this week, while guards Tyronne Green (hand) and Scott Mruczkowski (concussion) both questionable along with wide receiver Malcom Floyd (hip) and outside linebacker Shaun Phillips (foot)...Denver fourth in NFL in rushing offense (154.9 ypg) and averaging 208 yards per game on the ground in Tebow's five starts, while running back Willis McGahee ran for 125 yards in last month's loss to Chargers...San Diego racked up 206 rushing yards in Week 5 meeting, with top back Ryan Mathews compiling 125 on 24 attempts...San Diego tied for last in NFL with minus-10 turnover margin, with slumping quarterback Philip Rivers having thrown league-high 17 interceptions...Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson had 165 yards and a touchdown on seven catches last week.
Fast Fact: Broncos defense has held opponents to a 25.4 percent (16-for-63) success rate on third downs over its last five games.
Prediction: Chargers' injury woes are a real concern against a Denver defense that's playing at a very high level, but Rivers finds a way to pull out a stressful and much-needed win. Chargers 24, Broncos 21.
New England (7-3) at Philadelphia (4-6), Sunday, 4:15 (New England -3)
Storylines: Interconference battle between 2010 playoff participants that both entered this season with high expectations, and each posted important wins a week ago...Eagles posted season-saving 17-10 road victory over NFC East-leading New York Giants behind backup quarterback Vince Young, who could make second straight start with incumbent Michael Vick still iffy due to fractured ribs...Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on track to play for Philadelphia, however, after sitting out last week with sprained shoulder, and fellow wideout DeSean Jackson (foot) also probable...Patriots delivered second consecutive triumph following two-game skid with 34-3 thrashing of Kansas City on Monday to open up two-game advantage in AFC East...Offensive tackle Matt Light (ankle) and safety Pat Chung (foot) both questionable for New England, while linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee) expected to remain sidelined...Matchup of two of NFL's top three offenses, with Patriots second in total yards (426.7 ypg) and passing (315.7 ypg) and Eagles third in total yards (415.5 ypg)...Philadelphia also leads league in rushing offense (168.0 ypg), while running back LeSean McCoy tops all individuals in that category (1,019) and owns 12 touchdowns in 2011...Patriots wideout Wes Welker leads NFL in receptions (74) and receiving yards (1,028), while tight end Rob Gronkowski second overall in touchdown catches (10) and has notched two in each of last two weeks...New England last in pass defense (299.5 ypg) but tied for AFC lead in interceptions (15), with cornerback Kyle Arrington having snared league-best seven picks.
Fast Fact: Gronkowski now has 20 career touchdown receptions in 26 lifetime appearances, surpassing Hall of Famer Mike Ditka (31 games) for the fewest games by a tight end in NFL history to reach that mark. Gronkowski also surpassed Jim Colclough (18) for the most scoring catches by a Patriots player over his first two professional seasons with Monday's performance.
Prediction: Last week's win didn't cure all the Eagles' problems, and the incredibly efficient Patriots should be able to take advantage of their opponent's sore spots. Patriots 31, Eagles 20.
Pittsburgh (7-3) at Kansas City (4-6), Sunday, 8:20 (Pittsburgh -10.5)
Storylines: Steelers return from Week 11 bye in first-place tie with Baltimore in AFC North and entered break having five of last six games, most recently a 24-17 decision over Cincinnati on Nov. 13, while battered Chiefs suffered third straight loss with 34-3 steamrolling by New England on Monday...Journeyman Tyler Palko to make second NFL start at quarterback for Kansas City in place of injured Matt Cassel (hand, IR) and threw three interceptions against Patriots, while Pittsburgh triggerman Ben Roethlisberger probable despite broken right thumb...Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee) also expected to play for Steelers, but outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley (hamstring) uncertain to return...Guard Ryan Lilja (head/neck) and safety Jon McGraw (shoulder) both questionable for Chiefs, who claimed quarterback Kyle Orton off waivers from Denver on Wednesday...Pittsburgh second in NFL in total defense (280.1 ypg), third against the pass (183.2 ypg) and fourth in points allowed (17.9 ppg), though unit has forced league-low six turnovers...Kansas City 28th in passing offense (185.5 ypg) and 29th in scoring (14.4 ppg), and team has mustered just one touchdown and 16 points during current losing skid...Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace fourth in NFL in receiving yards (922), but has been held to 70 yards or less in three straight games...Pittsburgh has lost in each of last two trips to Arrowhead Stadium since 20-17 win there on Oct. 14, 2001.
Fast Fact: Palko, a native of the Pittsburgh area and a former quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh, spent part of the 2009 season on the Steelers' practice squad and was promoted to the active roster for two games that year.
Prediction: Todd Haley's done some impressive things in short-handed situations this season, but the Chiefs may need a miracle worker unless Roethlisberger's injury is more problematic than initially believed. Steelers 24, Chiefs 10.
N.Y. Giants (6-4) at New Orleans (7-3), Monday, 8:30 (New Orleans -7)
Storylines: Important Monday night showdown between NFC contenders in heated division races, with Giants entering week tied with Dallas for NFC East's top spot and Saints holding one-game edge on Atlanta for first place in NFC South after delivering critical 26-23 overtime win over Falcons prior to Week 11 bye...New York mired in two-game slide after following up hard-fought road loss at NFC West leader San Francisco on Nov. 13 with 17-10 home setback to determined Philadelphia last Sunday...Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) hopeful to return from three-game absence, while linebacker Michael Boley (hamstring) also questionable for New York...Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma (knee surgery) a possibility to play for New Orleans after missing last two games, but team placed tight end David Thomas (undisclosed) on injured reserve Tuesday...Saints 4-0 at Superdome this season and have averaged 39.8 points in those games, and came through with 48-27 win over Giants in 2009 clash between teams in New Orleans...New York has lost three straight at Superdome and hasn't beaten the Saints in quarterback Eli Manning's home city since 1993...Saints lead NFL in total offense (436.9 ypg), passing yards (319.4 ypg) and third-down conversions (53.3 percent) while ranking second overall in scoring (31.3 ppg)...Giants tied for league lead with 31 sacks...New York wide receiver Victor Cruz amassed 128 yards and a touchdown on six catches against Eagles, but Giants offense held to season lows for total yards (278), rushing yards (29) and first downs (12) in loss.
Fast Fact: Last week's loss was the Giants' first defeat in which their defense recorded three interceptions since a 42-30 setback at Seattle in 2006, and first loss at home when doing so since a 20-8 ousting by Tampa Bay on Nov. 30, 1997.
Prediction: Saints are rested and incredibly explosive on their home turf, putting a Giants team that hasn't put putting up a whole lot of points as of late in a very tough spot. Saints 27, Giants 17.