What a Week 12 it was in the NFL. The Packers and Vikings played to the first tie of the year, the Cowboys gained a much-needed divisional road win, and how wild was that Sunday night game?
Despite the fact that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have never played one snap against each other, it was billed as such, but entertained (and tired) viewers nonetheless.
For any Denver fan, player or coach to blame the loss on Wes Welker or Tony Carter would be wrong, lazy and inaccurate. I remind you Denver blew a 24-point lead and got the ball first in overtime despite losing the coin toss.
Week 13 begins on Thanksgiving and will feature a triple-header consisting of one uncommon match-up (Oakland at Dallas) sandwiched between two fierce rivalry games (Green Bay at Detroit, Pittsburgh at Baltimore).
Week 13 ends with an enormous game in the NFC, when the Saints travel some 2,700 miles northwest to play the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.
Speaking of the Seahawks, they come in at No. 1 on my Top 5 list this week.
1. Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
Coming out of their bye week, the Seahawks have the opportunity to take a commanding lead in the race for home field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
It’s hard to find a hole in this team. They are physical, confident, athletic and young. They’ll let you know it, too.
It’s not impossible to win in Seattle, but it’s not a stretch to call CenturyLink Field the hardest place to play in the NFL.
2. New Orleans Saints (9-2)
The Saints are one of three teams (Seattle, Denver) to be undefeated at home and have winning records on the road and in their division.
What does that mean? It means they are a legitimate threat to go deep in the playoffs. They aren’t strangers to intense games with a lot on the line in front of unfriendly crowds.
Drew Brees is continuing his record-setting ways, Jimmy Graham is getting healthy and New Orleans has the third-best point differential in the league (+109).
3. Carolina Panthers (8-3)
Yes I had the Panthers above the Saints last week and last week both teams won on the road. We know about Carolina’s defense and New Orleans’ offense, but it’s becoming more apparent to me that Carolina’s offense is worse and less multiple than New Orleans’ defense.
These two teams will play twice in three weeks (Week 14 in New Orleans and Week 16 in Carolina), so that series will obviously tell a lot about the validity of the Panthers.
4. Denver Broncos (9-2)
I know they lost to New England. I stayed up into the early Monday morning hours to watch it. What I saw was a better Denver team over the course of the entire game.
The Broncos whipped the Patriots’ tail in the run game, over and over again, to the tune of 280 yards on 48 carries. Denver also forced and recovered three fumbles on their first three defensive drives.
The Patriots now have the head-to-head win against the Broncos, giving them (the Patriots) the leg up in the quest for home field advantage in the playoffs, which isn’t good because Denver’s two losses have both been on the road.
5. New England Patriots (8-3)
If you needed more proof that Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are legendary, review the second half of last Sunday night’s game against the Broncos. They never panicked but relentlessly went to work.
Who declines the first possession in overtime knowing you’re kicking off to a Peyton Manning-led offense? I know the wind was a big factor, but that took major guts.
The Patriots will need to give that same effort during the remainder of the regular season because three of their next four games are on the road.
Three of their next four games are also against Top 10 defenses (Week 13 at No. 1 Houston, Week 14 vs. No. 4 Cleveland and Week 16 at No. 10 Baltimore).
Game of the week: New Orleans at Seattle, 8:30 P.M. ET on ESPN. The winner will claim the top seed in the NFC playoff hunt with four games remaining in the regular season.
Ravens playoff position: Baltimore is currently the 8th seed in the AFC playoffs. They are two games behind the current No. 3 seed (Indianapolis) and have the same record as the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds (Tennessee, Pittsburgh).
Of Baltimore’s five remaining games, three of them are against AFC opponents (Pittsburgh, New England and Cincinnati), all of whom are currently in front of Baltimore in the AFC playoff race.