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November 30, 2012
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Week 13 in the NFL: 20 Answers

Scott Taylor
Senior Writer, Fantrax

I love to play the game 20 questions. Questions like: “Should Tim Tebow start instead of Mark Sanchez?” or “Is moving to Colin Kaepernick from Alex Smith the right decision?”

There are always questions. Especially when it comes to the National Football.

This week, however, I have 20 answers. It’s true. In fact, here are 20 things I can guarantee this Sunday when the NFL plays a full slate of 14 games:

1. Yes, the move to Colin Kaepernick will make the Niners a better football team. I know that because Jim Harbaugh knows it. He knows Kaepernick has more upside than Alex Smith and while Smith should not have lost his job because of an injury, Kaepernick has already shown Harbaugh, in just two weeks at the helm, that he’s a more dynamic quarterback who gives the 49ers more options in the long game and the running game.

2. How well has Peyton Manning played this season? Manning has completed 277 passes for 3,260 yards with 26 touchdowns for a 104.8 passer rating this season. His are 8-3 Broncos and first in the AFC West. Manning has 4,959 completions in his career, and with nine completions against the Bucs this Sunday he’ll surpass Hall of Famer Dan Marino (4,967) for the second-most completions all-time. Brett Favre holds the record, completing 6,300 passes in his career. That’s pretty much a given in what will be a great football game.

3. Speaking of Peyton and his Broncos, 8-3 Denver can clinch the AFC West on Sunday if they beat Tampa. Denver has won six consecutive games – the longest active streak in the NFL – and Tampa Bay has won four of its past five. Before the season started, I picked Green Bay and Denver to meet in the Super Bowl. I’m still not wavering. After all, Green Bay will go to 8-4 with a win over Minnesota this week while Denver has outscored their opponents, 183-107 during their six-game winning streak – that’s an average of 30.5 points per game.

4. This week the Indianapolis Colts head into Detroit and while I like the Lions this week, there is no reason to believe the Colts can’t win it, especially with Andrew Luck at quarterback. Luck has totaled 3,205 passing yards this season, the most by a rookie through 11 games in NFL history. With a victory this weekend against Detroit, Luck will surpass the Rams’ Sam Bradford and become the first rookie quarterback, who was selected with the No. 1 pick to record eight victories in a season since 1966.

5. Ben Roethlisberger says he is “still in pain,” after suffering a shoulder and rib injury. It’s unlikely he will play on Sunday. As a result, the Steelers will get kicked by Baltimore.

6. According to the NFL’s stats mavens, “Since the current 12-team playoff format was started back in 1990, 15 teams have reached the postseason despite having a losing record after 11 games. This includes a streak of seven consecutive seasons (2004-2010) in which a sub-.500 team after 11 games reached the playoffs. Six of those seven won at least one playoff game.” This year, I’m prepared to give one team with a losing record after 11 weeks a chance to make the playoffs – 5-6 Washington.

7. Washington and the Giants will be a dandy this Monday night. The Giants (7-4) lead the NFC East by two games over Dallas (5-6) and Washington (5-6), but the Redskins have a not-so-secret weapon – rookie of the year candidate (read: winner) Robert Griffin III. Now I love Andrew Luck, but RG3 has been amazing. When Mike and Kyle Shanahan don’t put the clamps down on him, Griffin has gone off. In the team’s past two games, RG3 has completed 34-of-43 passes (79.1 percent) for 511 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception for a 146.1 passer rating. If he goes off on Monday, the Redskins will close the gap on their archrival Giants. 

8. It really doesn’t matter if Nick Foles or Michael Vick or Johnny Unitas starts for the Eagles this week. As long as Andy Reid’s offensive line is as bad as it’s been this season, the Eagles will go nowhere... and quarterbacks will get hurt.

9. The New England Patriots are having a solid season – especially on offence. But now comes Tom Brady’s favorite time of the year. The Pats have won 11 consecutive regular-season December games, a streak that began with a win over the Carolina Panthers on Dec. 13, 2009. With a victory over Miami this Sunday – a victory that is almost guaranteed -- the Pats will become the fourth team in NFL history to win 12 consecutive regular-season games played in December. San Diego holds the record with 18 consecutive regular-season wins in December from 2006-2009.

10. I agree with Cowboys all-pro tight end Jason Whitten. He told the Dallas Morning News this week: “We know what to do and now it’s got to be time to go do it and have that one-game mentality and get it fixed.” The Cowboys are 5-6. The playoffs are a long shot, but they aren’t out of the question. However, as Whitten suggests it’s time to play with a sense of urgency or Dallas is dead.

11. Parity or mediocrity? There are 26 teams either in or within two games of a playoff spot heading into Week 13. Some of those teams are 5-6. And at 4-6-1, the Rams still have hope. 

12. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith leads the league with 16.5 sacks and last week became the fastest to reach 30 career (30.5) since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. With a sack this weekend against St. Louis (and he should get it), Smith would surpass Hall of Famer Reggie White (31) for the most sacks by a player in his first two seasons since 1982.

13. Obscure NFL Stat No. 167. From the brilliant statistics crazies in the NFL office in New York: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is the only player in the past 20 years to record an 80-yard touchdown reception in each of his first two seasons. Bet you needed to know that. I know I did. Those are the kinds of things you come up with when you have way too much time on your hands.

14. Jason Babin, who was supposed to be one of the answers in Philadelphia both last year and this year, turned out to be a dud and was released by head coach Andy Reid this week. He had a $28.9 million deal with the Eagles and almost before he could get in his car and drive away from the Eagles’ offices, he was picked up by the sad-sack Jacksonville Jaguars. The big pass rusher(?) told the Florida Times-Union, "It's been a tough year (in Philly). We've had a lot of issues. Things are kind of stagnant there. They could ultimately get worse before they better. So being part of something that is about to blossom is definitely an exciting feeling.” Jacksonville? 2-9? Blossom? Whatever.

15. Chicago Bears talented wideout Brandon Marshall said this week that be believed NFL players were using Viagra to increase blood flow and give players a performance edge. Marshall’s teammate, Lance Briggs, couldn’t contain himself when asked about Marshall’s assertion. Briggs simply broke out laughing. NFL VP Greg Aiello sent out a statement saying that Viagra is not a banned substance. That’s probably because, well, you know. Despite Marshall’s theories, he’s still a great receiver and will help the Bears beat Seattle this week.

16. Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne never seems to get old. This season, he has been sensational. In fact, Wayne has recorded a league-leading 84 receptions this season for 1,105 yards and three touchdowns. With 95 receiving yards on Sunday against Detroit – and if Luck is half-decent, Wayne should get 95 yards -- Wayne will chalk up his sixth season with at least 1,200 receiving yards and tie Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt for the third-most 1,200-yard seasons all-time. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice holds the record, recording 1,200-plus receiving yards 11 times in his career. Thanks to the NFL stats experts for that one.

17. Can’t wait for Cleveland-Oakland this week. Honestly. Can’t wait. Rather watch two bad teams go at it than one good and one bad. It will be a better game than Minnesota at Green Bay.

18. Athlon Sports took a shot at handicapping the NFL teams that have a legitimate at getting the No. 1 draft pick this spring. Obviously the 1-10 Kansas City Chiefs are in the lead, followed not-so-closely by the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars. Seems there is feeling out there that Chad Henne might have turned the Jags season. Really? Anyway, this year’s No. 1 pick will not be a fight between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, players who can revitalize failing franchises right away. Instead, it appears the two players penned in as No 1 contenders are West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith or USC quarterback Matt Barkley. It’s just not quite the same. K.C. doesn’t really need a big loss this week to get that coveted No. 1 pick. K.C. actually needs a miracle.

19. The Minnesota Vikings play in Green Bay this week and that might be ugly. Even though punter Chris Kluwe believes the 6-5 Vikings still have a shot at the playoffs and with Percy Harvin this week (maybe), they might even have a good shot at beating the Packers. Trouble is, Christian Ponder is the Vikings quarterback and as long as he’s under centre, the Vikings will never have a passing game good enough to compete with the NFL’s elite teams 

20. While Eagles linebacker touts Oregon’s Chip Kelly as a replacement for Andy Reid, there are six NFL coaches still on shaky employment ground – Romeo Crennel in Kansas City, Norv Turner in San Diego, Ron Rivera in Carolina, Jacksonville’s Mike Mularkey, the Jets Rex Ryan and Tennessee’s Mike Munchak. They all might be around next week but they all won’t be around next season. By the way, should Tim Tebow start in New York? If he's healthy, why not? It would keep poor Mark Sanchez from running head first into the butt of an offensive lineman.

Scott is an author, broadcaster and journalist who travels extensively for Fantrax.

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