As the calendar turns to December, the NFL playoff picture is starting to take shape. With five games remaining in the regular season, there are currently 21 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot.

“These next five games are very important,” Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson told the Arizona Republic. “We want to make sure our guys are ready for this run of the season.”

The Carolina Panthers own the NFL’s best record at 11-0. Carolina, who travels to New Orleans this week on FOX at 4:25 p.m. Eastern, has won 15 consecutive regular-season games and the team’s 11-0 start is the first in franchise history.

“There’s going to be a lot of talk and speculation about it,” says Panthers head coach Ron Rivera on the possibility of a 16-0 regular season. “But the truth of the matter is that it should only be geared to the next game. I know this much: the next possibility is 12. We’ll continue to take that one-game-at-a-time mentality. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We can’t look at what the possibilities are other than what’s in front of us. That’s what the mantra is going to continue to be.”

Carolina’s the last one standing. That means that the 72 Dolphins are breathing a little easier but not a whole lot easier. Weary rests the head that wears the crown.

EXCITING FINISH: Baltimore defeated Cleveland 33-27 on Monday Night Football after safety Will Hill returned a blocked field goal 64 yards for a touchdown as time expired. The Ravens became the second team in NFL history to win on the final play by blocking a field goal and returning it for a touchdown.

The DENVER BRONCOS defeated San Diego 30-24 on November 17, 1985 on defensive back Louis Wright’s 60-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown in overtime.

FAST STARTERS: Carolina defeated Dallas 33-14 on Thanksgiving Day to improve to 11-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Entering 2015, 11 teams started a season 11-0 during the Super Bowl era. Of those 11 clubs, all 11 made the playoffs, eight advanced to the Super Bowl and five of those teams won the Super Bowl.

TERRIFIC TOM: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passed for 280 yards and three touchdowns against Denver on Sunday Night Football.

Brady has 420 career touchdown passes and tied Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the third-most touchdown passes in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in NFL history:
PLAYER, YEARS (CAREER TD PASSES)
Peyton Manning, 1998-present (539)*
Brett Favre, 1991-2010 (508)
Tom Brady, 2000-present (420)*
Dan Marino, 1983-1999 (420)
Drew Brees, 2001-present (416)*
*Active

CRUISING CAM: Carolina quarterback Cam Newton ran for a touchdown in the Panthers’ 33-14 victory at Dallas.

Newton, who has 40 career rushing touchdowns, tied Jack Kemp for the second-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in NFL history. Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Young (43) is the only quarterback with more career rushing touchdowns.

The quarterbacks with the most rushing touchdowns in NFL history:
PLAYER, RUSHING TOUCHDOWNS
Steve Young, 43
Cam Newton, 40*
Jack Kemp, 40
*Active

RUSHING PETERSON: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings’ 20-10 win at Atlanta. Peterson (30) is the sixth player in NFL history to have 30 career games with at least 125 rushing yards.

The other five players with at least 30 125-yard rushing games are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Barry Sanders (46), Jim Brown (41), Walter Payton (38), Eric Dickerson (36) and Emmitt Smith (34).

The performance also marked Peterson’s 18th career game with at least 150 rushing yards, tied with Dickerson and Smith for the fourth-most in NFL history.

The players with the most career games with at least 150 rushing yards:

PLAYER, CAREER GAMES WITH 150+ RUSH YARDS
Barry Sanders, 25^
Jim Brown, 22^
Walter Payton, 20^
Adrian Peterson, 18*
Eric Dickerson, 18^
Emmitt Smith, 18^
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

WONDERFUL WATT: Houston defensive end J.J. Watt had two sacks in the Texans’ 24-6 win against New Orleans.

Watt now has 70.5 sacks in 75 career games and reached 70 sacks in the second-fewest games of any NFL player since the statistic became official in 1982, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White, who reached the milestone in 57 games.

SUPER CHARGERS: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 300 yards and four touchdowns in the Chargers’ 31-25 win at Jacksonville.

Rivers, who now has 40,166 career passing yards, reached 40,000 career yards in his 159th career game, the fourth-fastest in NFL history. Only Drew Brees (152 games), Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (153) and Peyton Manning (154) reached the milestone in fewer games.

The players to reach 40,000 career passing yards in the fewest games:
PLAYERS, GAMES TO REACH 40,000 CAREER PASSING YARDS
Drew Brees, 152
Dan Marino, 153
Peyton Manning, 154
Philip Rivers, 159

Chargers tight end Antonio Gates had two touchdown receptions against the Jaguars on Sunday. The performance marked Gates’ 21st career game with at least two touchdown catches, the most ever by a tight end. He also surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Maynard (20) for the eighth-most such games amongst all NFL players.

EFFECTIVE EIFERT: Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert had three receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown in the Bengals’ 31-7 win against St. Louis.

Eifert, who has 12 touchdown receptions this season, became the second tight end in the last 50 years to have at least 12 touchdowns through the first 12 weeks of a season (Julius Thomas, 12 in 2013).

FLYING FITZPATRICK: New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 277 yards and four touchdowns in the Jets’ 38-20 victory over Miami.

Fitzpatrick, who has had at least one game with four or more touchdown passes in each of the past six seasons, became the first player in NFL history to throw at least four touchdown passes in a game for four different franchises (Buffalo, Tennessee, Houston and the New York Jets).

DOMINANT DANSBY: Cleveland linebacker Karlos Dansby recorded four tackles and had a 52-yard interception-return touchdown in the Browns’ loss to Baltimore on Monday Night Football.

Dansby, who now has six career interception-return touchdowns, tied Pro Football Hall of Famers Bobby Bell and Derrick Brooks for the most all-time by an NFL linebacker.

Entering Week 13 of the 2015 NFL season, 21 teams are either in or within one game of a playoff spot, including 10 in the AFC.

The Oakland Raiders, who will face opponents with a combined 31-24 (.564) record in the final five games, have the toughest remaining schedule among AFC clubs within one game of a playoff berth.

“It’s all business,” Pittsburgh wide receiver Martavis Bryant told KDKA-TV. “The time is now. We know we need these last five games. Everyone has to bring it. I know we control what we do and we want to win out.”

The remaining strength of schedule for the 10 AFC teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot:

AFC EAST
NEW ENGLAND (10-1, opponent’s Record 22-33, .400)
Week 13 – Philadelphia (4-7)
Week 14 – at Houston (6-5)
Week 15 – Tennessee (2-9)
Week 16 – at New York Jets (6-5)
Week 17 – at Miami (4-7)

NEW YORK JETS (6-5, opponent’s recod 25-30, .455)
Week 13 – at New York Giants (5-6)
Week 14 – Tennessee (2-9)
Week 15 – at Dallas (3-8)
Week 16 – New England (10-1)
Week 17 – at Buffalo (5-6)

BUFFALO (5-6, opponent’s record 24-31, 436)
WEEK 13 – Houston (6-5)
WEEK 14 – at Philadelphia (4-7)
WEEK 15 – at Washington (5-6)
WEEK 16 – Dallas (3-8)
WEEK 17 – New York Jets (6-5)

AFC NORTH
CINCINNATI (9-2, opponent’s record 24-31, .436)
WEEK 13 – at Cleveland (2-9)
WEEK 14 – Pittsburgh (6-5)
WEEK 15 – at San Francisco (3-8)
WEEK 16 – at Denver (9-2)
WEEK 17 – Baltimore (4-7)

PITTSBURGH (6-5, opponent’s record 30-25, .545)
WEEK 13 – Indianapolis (6-5)
WEEK 14 – at Cincinnati (9-2)
WEEK 15 – Denver (9-2)
WEEK 16 – at Baltimore (4-7)
WEEK 17 – at Cleveland (2-9)

AFC SOUTH
INDIANAPOLIS (6-5, opponent’s record 22-23, 400)
WEEK 13 – at Pittsburgh (6-5)
WEEK 14 – at Jacksonville (4-7)
WEEK 15 – Houston (6-5)
WEEK 16 – at Miami (4-7)
WEEK 17 – Tennessee (2-9)

HOUSTON (6-5, opponent’s record 27-28, 491)
WEEK 13 – at Buffalo (5-6)
WEEK 14 – New England (10-1)
WEEK 15 – at Indianapolis (6-5)
WEEK 16 – at Tennessee (2-9)
WEEK 17 – Jacksonville (4-7)

AFC WEST
DENVER (9-2, opponent’s record 26-29, .473)
WEEK 13 – at San Diego (3-8)
WEEK 14 – Oakland (5-6)
WEEK 15 – at Pittsburgh (6-5)
WEEK 16 – Cincinnati (9-2)
WEEK 17 – San Diego (3-8)

KANSAS CITY (6-5, opponent’s record 19-36, .345)
WEEK 13 – at Oakland (5-6)
WEEK 14 – San Diego (3-8)
WEEK 15 – at Baltimore (4-7)
WEEK 16 – Cleveland (2-9)
WEEK 17 – Oakland (5-6)

OAKLAND (5-6, opponent’s record 31-24, .564)
WEEK 13 – Kansas City (6-5)
WEEK 14 – at Denver (9-2)
WEEK 15 – Green Bay (7-4)
WEEK 16 – San Diego (3-8)
WEEK 17 – at Kansas City (6-5)

The Atlanta Falcons have the toughest remaining schedule among those NFC clubs, facing opponents with a combined 35-20 (.636) mark.

“From here on in, the only statistic that matters is winning games,” says head coach Bruce Arians of the 9-2 Arizona Cardinals. He told the Arizona Republic, “Whatever we have to do as a football team to win a game, that’s all that matters.”

The remaining strength of schedule for the 11 NFC teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot:

NFC EAST
NEW YORK GIANTS (5-6, opponent’s record 33-22, .600)
WEEK 13 – New York Jets (6-5)
WEEK 14 – at Miami (4-7)
WEEK 15 – Carolina (11-0)
WEEK 16 – at Minnesota (8-3)
WEEK 17 – Philadelphia (4-7)

WASHINGTON (5-6, opponent’s record 20-35, .363)
WEEK 13 – Dallas (3-8)
WEEK 14 – at Chicago (5-6)
WEEK 15 – Buffalo (5-6)
WEEK 16 – at Philadelphia (4-7)
WEEK 17 – at Dallas (3-8)

PHILADELPHIA (4-7, opponent’s record 34-21, .618)
WEEK 13 – at New England (10-1)
WEEK 14 – Buffalo (5-6)
WEEK 15 – Arizona (9-2)
WEEK 16 – Washington (5-6)
WEEK 17 – at New York Giants (5-6)

NFC NORTH
MINNESOTA (8-3, opponent’s record 32-23, .582)
WEEK 13 – Seattle (6-5)
WEEK 14 – at Arizona (9-2)
WEEK 15 – Chicago (5-6)
WEEK 16 – New York Giants (5-6)
WEEK 17 – at Green Bay (7-4)

GREEN BAY (7-4, opponent’s record 29-26, .527)
WEEK 13 – at Detroit (4-7)
WEEK 14 – Dallas (3-8)
WEEK 15 – at Oakland (5-6)
WEEK 16 – at Arizona (9-2)
WEEK 17 – Minnesota (8-3)

CHICAGO (5-6, opponent’s record 25-30, .455)
WEEK 13 – San Francisco (3-8)
WEEK 14 – Washington (5-6)
WEEK 15 – at Minnesota (8-3)
WEEK 16 – at Tampa Bay (5-6)
WEEK 17 – Detroit (4-7)

NFC SOUTH
CAROLINA (11-0, opponent’s record 26-29, .473)
WEEK 13 – at New Orleans (4-7)
WEEK 14 – Atlanta (6-5)
WEEK 15 – at New York Giants (5-6)
WEEK 16 – at Atlanta (6-5)
WEEK 17 – Tampa Bay (5-6)

ATLANTA (6-5, opponent’s record 35-20, .636)
WEEK 13 – at Tampa Bay (5-6)
WEEK 14 – at Carolina (11-0)
WEEK 15 – at Jacksonville (4-7)
WEEK 16 – Carolina (11-0)
WEEK 17 – New Orleans (4-7)

TAMPA BAY (5-6, opponent’s record 30-25, .545)
WEEK 13 – Atlanta (6-5)
WEEK 14 – New Orleans (4-7)
WEEK 15 – at St. Louis (4-7)
WEEK 16 – Chicago (5-6)
WEEK 17 – at Carolina (11-0)

NFC WEST
ARIZONA (9-2, opponent’s record 29-26, .527)
WEEK 13 – at St. Louis (4-7)
WEEK 14 – Minnesota (8-3)
WEEK 15 – at Philadelphia (4-7)
WEEK 16 – Green Bay (7-4)
WEEK 17 – Seattle (6-5)

SEATTLE (6-5, opponent’s record 27-28, .491)
WEEK 13 – at Minnesota (8-3)
WEEK 14 – at Baltimore (4-7)
WEEK 15 – Cleveland (2-9)
WEEK 16 – St. Louis (4-7)
WEEK 17 – at Arizona (9-2)

2015 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 13

AFC

Cincinnati at Cleveland on Sunday

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1. Cincinnati win + Houston loss or tie + Indianapolis loss or tie + New York Jets loss as long as Indianapolis and Houston both don’t tie

OR

2. Cincinnati win + Houston loss or tie + Indianapolis loss or tie + Denver win or tie + Kansas City loss as long as Indianapolis and Houston both don’t tie

New England vs. Philadelphia on Sunday

New England clinches AFC East division with:
1. New England win + New York Jets loss or tie

OR

2. New England tie + New York Jets loss

New England clinches a playoff spot with:

1. New England win + Pittsburgh loss or tie

OR

2. New England win + Kansas City loss or tie

OR

3. New England tie + Kansas City loss

OR

4. New England tie + Pittsburgh loss + Houston loss or tie

NFC

Carolina at New Orleans on Sunday

Carolina clinches NFC South division with:

1. Carolina win or tie

OR

2. Atlanta loss or tie

Carolina clinches a playoff spot with:

1. Seattle loss or tie

OR

2. Arizona loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie as long as both teams don’t tie

TOM TERRIFIC: New England quarterback Tom Brady has thrown 420 touchdown passes in his 16-year NFL career.

With a touchdown pass on Sunday against Philadelphia, Brady would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420) for the third-most touchdown passes in NFL history. Only Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Farve (508) have thrown more touchdown passes.

The quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in NFL history:
PLAYER, YEARS (CAREER TD PASSES)
Peyton Manning, 1998-present (539)*
Brett Favre, 1991-2010 (508)
Tom Brady, 2000-present (420)*
Dan Marino, 1983-1999 (420)
Drew Brees, 2001-present (416)*
*Active

STREAKING SMITH: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith completed 19 of 30 passes (63.3 percent) for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 112.5 passer rating in the Chiefs’ 30-22 win over Buffalo in Week 12.

Smith now has an active streak of 283 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. With 26 consecutive pass attempts and no interceptions on Sunday at Oakland, Smith would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr (294) and Bernie Kosar (308) for the second-longest streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history.

The most consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history:
PLAYER, TEAM(S); YEAR(S) (CONSECUTIVE PASS ATTEMPTS WITHOUT AN INTERCEPTION)
Tom Brady, New England; 2010-11 (358)
Bernie Kosar, Cleveland; 1990-91 (308)
Bart Starr, Green Bay; 1964-65 (294)
Alex Smith, Kansas City; 2015 (283)*
Jeff George, Indianapolis and Atlanta; 1993-94 (279)
*Active streak

CATCHING ON: Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had 10 receptions for 66 yards in the Cardinals’ 19-13 win at San Francisco in Week 12. In 12 seasons, Fitzgerald has 992 career receptions.

With eight receptions in Week 13 at St. Louis, Fitzgerald (32 years, 97 days old on Sunday) would surpass Andre Johnson (33 years, 163 days) as the youngest player to reach 1,000 career receptions in NFL history.

With two receptions on Monday Night Football at Washington, Dallas tight end Jason Witten, who has 998 career receptions, would join Tony Gonzalez as the only tight ends in NFL history to have 1,000 career catches. Witten (33 years, 215 days old on Monday) would be the youngest tight end in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions (Gonzalez, 34 years, 197 days).

The youngest players to reach 1,000 career receptions in NFL history:
PLAYER (AGE AT TIME OF 1000TH RECEPTION; CAREER RECEPTIONS)
Andre Johnson (33 years, 163 days; 1,038)^
Jerry Rice (34 years, 21 days; 1,594)
Marvin Harrison (34 years, 107 days; 1,102)
Tony Gonzalez (34 years, 197 days; 1,325)
Reggie Wayne (34 years, 331 days; 1,070)
Larry Fitzgerald (32 years, 97 days; 992)^*
Jason Witten (33 years, 215 days; 998)^**

PETERSON TO PAYDIRT: Minnesota running back Adrian Petson rushed for two touchdowns last week, his second multi-touchdown performance this season. Through Week 12, Peterson is second in the league with eight rushing touchdowns

With two rushing touchdowns on Sunday against Seattle, Peterson would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith (eight) and La Dainian Tomlinson (nine) as the only players in NFL history to rush for 10 touchdowns in at least eight different seasons.

RIVETING RAVENS: Baltimore defeated Cleveland 33-27 on Monday Night Football in Week 12 after safety Will Hill returned a blocked field goal 64 yards for a touchdown as time expired.

All 11 of the Ravens’ games this season have been decided by eight or fewer points, becoming the fourth team in NFL history to play 11 consecutive one-possession games within a season. They are the first to do so in each of their first 11 contests.

?With a one-score differential on Sunday at Miami, Baltimore would join the 1989 San Diego Chargers as the only teams in NFL history to play in 12 consecutive one-possession games within a season.

The teams to play the most consecutive one-possession games within a season:
TEAM – YEAR (CONSECUTIVE ONE-POSSESSION GAMES WITHIN A SEASON)
San Diego – 1989 (12)
Baltimore – 2015 (11)*
Cincinnati – 2003 (11)
Washington – 1967 (11)
*Active

DECEMBER TO REMEMBER: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees has thrown 107 career touchdown passes in the month of December, trailing only Peyton Manning (134), Brett Farve (116) and Dan Marino (110) for the most touchdown passes during the month in NFL history.

With four touchdown passes on Sunday against Carolina, Brees would surpass Marino for the third-most touchdown passes in the month of December in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in the month of December in NFL history:
PLAYER – TEAM(S) (TD PASSES IN DECEMBER)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (134)*
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota (116)
Dan Marino – Miami (110)^
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (107)*
Tom Brady – New England (93)*

* Active
^ Pro Football Hall of Famer

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – A LOOK BACK

NEVER SAY NEVER: Since the current 12-team playoff format was instituted in 1990, 18 teams have reached the postseason despite having a losing record after 11 games, including one team in 10 of the past 11 seasons.

This includes a current streak of three consecutive seasons (2012-2014) and seven consecutive seasons from 2004-2010 in which a team with a sub-.500 record after 11 games reached the playoffs. Nine of the past 12 teams have won at least one playoff game.

In Week 12, Chicago, Oakland and Washington all won to improve to 5-6 as Washington tied the New York Giants for the NFC East lead.

The teams with a losing record after 11 games to make the playoffs since 1990:

YEAR – TEAM (RECORD AFTER 11 GAMES; FINAL RECORD, ADVANCED TO)
1990 – New Orleans Saints (5-6; 8-8, Wild Card)
1993 – Minnesota Vikings (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
1994 – Detroit Lions (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
1994 – New England Patriots (5-6; 10-6, Wild Card)
1995 – Detroit Lions (5-6; 10-6, Wild Card)
1995 – San Diego Chargers (4-7; 9-7, Wild Card)
1996 – Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7; 9-7, Conference Championship)
1997 – Detroit Lions (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
2004 – St. Louis Rams (5-6; 8-8, Divisional)
2005 – Washington Redskins (5-6; 10-6, Divisional)
2006 – Philadelphia Eagles (5-6; 10-6; Divisional)*
2007 – Washington Redskins (5-6; 9-7, Wild Card)
2008 – San Diego Chargers (4-7; 8-8, Divisional)*
2009 – New York Jets (5-6; 9-7, Conference Championship
2010 – Seattle Seahawks (5-6; 7-9, Divisional)*
2012 – Washington Redskins (5-6; 10-6, Wild Card)*
2013 – San Diego Chargers (5-6; 9-7, Divisional)
2014 – Carolina Panthers (3-7-1; 7-8-1, Divisional)*
*Won Division

TURKEY DAY TRIO: Thanksgiving Day featured three NFL games for the 10th consecutive season. The Detroit Lions played in their 76th Thanksgiving Day game as they defeated Philadelphia 45-14. The Carolina Panthers won 33-14 against Dallas as the Cowboys played in their 48th Thanksgiving game. The nightcap showcased the Chicago Bears defeating Green Bay 17-13.

Carolina, who played on the holiday for the first time in franchise history, joined the 2011 Green Bay Packers (10-0) as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to play on Thanksgiving Day with a 10-0 record or better.

GAME – FINAL SCORE (Home team in CAPS)
DETROIT 45, Philadelphia 14
Carolina 33, DALLAS 14
Chicago 17, GREEN BAY 13

THANKSGIVING FEAST: Below is a sampling of the milestones that were reached on Thanksgiving Day.

Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a touchdown against Chicago and now has 250 career TD passes in 121 career games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (128 games) for the fewest games to reach the milestone.

The players to reach 250 career touchdown passes in the fewest games in NFL history:

PLAYER – FEWEST GAMES TO REACH 250 CAREER PASSING TOUCHDOWNS
Aaron Rodgers – 121
Dan Marino – 128
Peyton Manning – 132
Tom Brady – 141
Brett Favre – 141
Drew Brees – 145

Dallas tight end Jason Witten recorded four catches for 36 yards against Carolina, bringing his career receiving yard total to 11,010. Witten became the second tight end in NFL history to reach 11,000 career receiving yards (Tony Gonzalez, 15,127).

Week 13 got underway in the Motor City as the Packers needed and got a miracle against the Detroit Lions, winning in the final seconds 23-20 Thursday night and closes in Landover as a pair of old NFC East rivals meet in primetime when Washington hosts the Dallas Cowboys.

As for last week… 11-5 for the week, 106-56 for the year. There’s still a lot of football left to be played and while some teams have seen their playoff hopes all but vanish like the last Christmas cookie, others are fighting for that coveted playoff spot that would keep their fan bases happy.

Here are the Sunday and Monday picks for week 13…

ATLANTA (6-5) at Tampa Bay (5-6), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 713. They meet again and this time, it’s in the Sunshine State and this time, it’s Atlanta’s turn to make the 457-mile trip down I-75 to face the Buccaneers in an NFC South contest which could decide the fate of one team.

Both clubs lost last week and both lost their week 12 contests indoors. For the Falcons, they trailed Minnesota 7-3 at the half before the Vikings outscored them in the second half 13-7 to fall 20-10. Rookie RB Tevin Coleman, taking over for Devonta Freeman (concussion) ran for 110 yards (Atlanta tallied 116) but the Falcons were trampled on by Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson, who looked all of his former self, running for a pair of TD and 158 yards (the Vikings ran for 191). For Atlanta, it was turnovers (and not the ones you eat) that were their worst enemy, as Matt Ryan threw a pair of interceptions and Coleman had a fumble as he was heading for an appearant TD. Atlanta was 5 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 26:32, while the Vikings held the pigskin for 33:28, going 7 of 12 on third down.

In Indianapolis, the Buccaneers let a 12-6 halftime lead against the Colts get away from them as they fell to Indy 25-12. Although they did manage to outrush the Colts 132-27, Matt Hasselbeck, replacing Andrew Luck (kidney) threw for 315 yards and a pair of TDs, while rookie QB Jameis Winston was sacked five times and picked off once. Tampa Bay was 6 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 27:35, while the Colts went 7 of 16 on third down (they did not have a fourth down try), holding the ball for 32:25.

They met in week eight in the Big Peach and Tampa Bay needed overtime to take the Falcons 23-20. Atlanta trailed at halftime 13-3 before rallying in the second half to tie the contest up and send the game into overtime, thanks to a 8-yard TD pass from Ryan to WR Julio Jones with 17 seconds left in regulation. Tampa would get the ball first in the overtime and scored on their first chance when K Connor Barth connected on a 31-yard field goal with 7:52 left in the extra period. Atlanta would get the ball back and attemped a march downfield that would have either tied the contest or given the Falcons the win at home but Ryan threw two incompletions, stopping the drive and ending the contest. Atlanta was outrushed by Tampa Bay 117-101 but Ryan outpassed Winston 397-177, with Ryan throwing a pair of TD passes. Atlanta was 6 of 12 on third down, 2 of 3 on fourth down and held the ball for 39:05, while Tampa Bay was 6 of 13, 0 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 30:11.

In the week eight contest in the Big Peach, the Falcons were 7 1/2 point favorites, with Tampa Bay winning by 3. The 48 over/under was safe, as both clubs combined for 43 points. This time around, the Bucs are favored by one and the over/under’s 45. Both numbers make sense. The Bucs are trying to make the postseason party for the first time since 2002, when they won their only Super Bowl title, while Atlanta is lookng for revenge from their loss in Atlanta and keep pace with Carolina. Atlanta goes “Angry Bird” on Tampa Bay this time around and breaks their four-game losing streak in the Sunshine State, covering the 1.

New York Jets (6-5) at New York Giants (5-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 707. They share the same stadium and both teams are in the playoff hunt in their respective divisions. They meet for the 13th time at Met Life as the Giants host GangGreen.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! enter the Sunday affair in upstate New Jersey 38-14 winners over Miami last Sunday. Leading the Dolphins throughout the contest and taking a 14-0 lead with them to the intermission, GangGreen would go on to outscore Miami 24-20 in the final 30 minutes of play. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! held Miami to 12 yards rushing and sacked Ryan Tannehill three times, even though he did manage to toss three TDs in the contest, while Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for four TDs and RB Curtis Ivory ran for 87 yards and a rushing TD to complete the offensive day. The Jets were 10 of 17 on third down tries and failed in their only fourth down attempt, while keeping the ball for 31:16, while the ‘Fins kept the pigskin for 28:44, while going 4 of 15 on third down but had success on both fourth down conversions.

For the Giants, they made things interesting in Landover last Sunday against Washington but came up on the short end of a 20-14 contest at FedEx Field. the Giants trailed 14-0 at the half before rallying to make things closer than fans that were either watching live in Landover or on the tube would want. Giants QB Eli Manning threw for 321 yards, three TDs and three interceptions in the contest, including one to WR Odell Beckham, Jr., who almost duplicated his one-handed grab against Dallas last year, that pass going for 21 yards with 4:57 left in regulation. New York would have one last shot at tying the contest when Beckham caught a Manning pass with seven seconds left. In a moment of desperation, Beckham lateraled the ball to WR Rueben Randall, who in turn tried to lateral back to Manning. The third pass fell to the ground and the Redskins went on to take the win. New York was held to 33 yards rushing, while the Redskins, tied with the Giants for first place in the NFC East, rushed for 105 and Washington QB Kirk Cousins threw for 302 yards without an interception or sack. The G-Men were 3 of 15 on third down tries (2 of 2 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 24 minutes, while the Redskins kept the pigskin for 36, going 4 of 15 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

The Giants lead the series 8-4, have outscored GangGreen 265-216 and have won five in a row in the series, including a 29-14 win in the Meadowlands in 2011, while the Jets’ last win in the series came in 1993, by a final of 10-6.

GangGreen is favored by 2 1/2 and the over/under’s 46. This one could be quite interesting, considering that both teams share the same ballpark and both are in the playoff hunt. GangGreen’s trying to catch Brady and the Pats in the AFC East, while Big Blue is trying to keep pace with the Redskins in the NFC East. Giants take this one, even though it could be closer than the 2 1/2.

Houston (6-5) at Buffalo (5-6), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 705. It’s Buffalo wings vs. Brisket as Buffalo and Houston meet in upstate New York in a key matchup that could put one team closer to the playoffs.

Houston kept New Orleans out of the end zone at NRG Stadium last Sunday, coming away 24-6 winners at Houston. J.J. Watt and the Texans held New Orleans to a pair of Keith Fortbath field goals in the second quarter, taking a 14-6 lead at the break and shuting out the Saints for the rest of the contest. The Saints were held to 50 yards rushing, while the Texans ran for 167, while Brees was sacked twice and picked off once in the 18-point loss. The Saints were 3 of 12 on third down (0 for 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 23:37, while the Texans were 6 of 13 on third down (they did not have a fourth down try) and held on to the pigskin in the Lone Star State for 36:23.

The Bills let a 16-14 halftime lead at Kansas City get away from them as the Chiefs went on to take a 30-22 win at Arrowhead last Sunday. Kansas City outrushed Buffalo 158-129, with Chiefs FB Spencer Ware leading all rushers with 114 and a rushing TD, while QB Alex Smith threw a pair of TDs for the come-from-behind win. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor outpaced Smith in passing yardage in the contest (291 to 255) and threw three TDs to Smith’s two without an interception and was sacked once. Buffalo had a chance to win the contest late but Taylor fumbled after he rushed for what appeared to be a first down for the Bills but came up short. Buffalo challenged the call on the field inside the last two minutes and lost the challenge and the Chiefs took the ball and ran out the clock for the win. Buffalo on third down conversions went 5 of 12 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 30:32, while Kansas City kept the pigskin for 29:28, going 6 of 13 on third down tries.

Houston holds a 4-3 lead in the series, have outscored the Bills 139-123 and have won the last three meetings in the brief series, including taking a 23-17 in the Lone Star State last year (Buffalo’s last win over the Texans came in 2006, also in the Lone Star State, as the Bills were 24-21 winners).

They met in week four in Houston and Buffalo let a 10-7 halftime lead get away from them as the Texans would outscore Buffalo 16-10 in the final 30 minutes of action, with Watt scoring on an 80 yard interception return and K Randy Bullock kicked three field goals, the third one from 50 yards to seal the win. Although they were outrushed by the Bills 96-37, Ryan Fitzpatrick did manage to outpace E.J. Manuel 268-225 and Houston managed to force a pair of turnovers in the contest. Buffalo was 5 of 16 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 29:04, while the Texans were 5 of 14, holding the pigskin for 30:56 (neither club had a fourth down try).

Houston won the week four contest by 6, covering the 3 point spread but both clubs barely missed the over/under by 1 (Buffalo and Houston combined for 40 points; the over/under was 41).  Buffalo’s favored by 3 and the over/under in upstate New York is 42 1/2. This could be an interesting contest, given that the Bills are trying to catch Brady and the Pats, while the Texans are locked in a battle for first in an AFC South that has actually played better collectively. Bills need to circle the wagons Sunday. Houston covers the 3 in upstate New York and wins this one.

Baltimore (4-7) at Miami (4-7), 1 p.m. on CBS. Baltimore makes the 1,109 mile trip down I-95 to face the struggling Miami Dolphins in the Sunshine State.

For the Ravens, in third place in the AFC North behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, it was a lucky break for them last Monday night in Cleveland as they first blocked a 51-yard field goal try by Browns K Travis Coons and then reserve safety Will Hill scooped the ball up and ran it back 64 yards for the game-winning TD as time ran out to take a 33-27 win along the shores of Lake Erie. Ravens K Justin Tucker had connected on a 35-yard field goal with 9:05 left to play, giving Baltimore a 27-20 lead before Cleveland came back to tie the contest with 1:47 left when WR Travis Benjamin and backup QB Aaron Davis connected on a 42-yard TD pass play with 1:47 left in regulation. After the Browns interecpted backup QB Matt Schaub, taking over for Joe Flacco, they marched down the field to kick was they though would be the game-winning field goal. It was at that point that the hand of luck would be on the Ravens’ side as the kick was blocked and Hill ran down the sideline with ball in hand, crossing the goal line as the clock struck :00. Baltimore outrushed Cleveland 104-63 and Schaub threw for a pair of TDs and 232 yards in the air for the win. Both teams had problems on third down tries Monday night, with the Ravens going 2 of 11, while Cleveland was 4 of 15. However, both teams were successful on fourth down, each going 2 of 2 and the clock was in favor of the Browns at 30:30 to Baltimore’s 29:30

Miami’s woes continued in the 2015 season as they fell to the New York Jets 38-14 Sunday. Miami trailed throughout the contest and fell behind 14-0, before the Jets outscored them 24-20 in the final 30 minutes of play. Miami’s rushing game went on a milk carton of sorts, as they were held to a season-low 12 yards, while the Jets ran for 137, with Curtis Ivory doing the majority of the damage with 87 yards and a rushing TD. Even though he was sacked three times, QB Ryan Tannehill did manage to toss three TDs in the AFC East contest, while Jets signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four TDs. Third down tries for Miami was somewhat of an adventure, as they would go 4 of 15 on third down but was successful on fourth down, going 2 of 2. The Jets were 10 of 17 on third down tries and failed in their only fourth down attempt, while keeping the ball for 31:16, while the ‘Fins kept the pigskin for 28:44, while going 4 of 15 on third down but had success on both fourth down conversions.

The series is even at 5-5, Baltimore has outscored Miami 185-182 and the Ravens have taken wins in the last four regular season contests, including a 28-13 win in the Sunshine State last year, while Miami’s last win in the series came in 2007, also in the Sunshine State, as they needed overtime to take a 22-16 win.

They met in Miami Gardens in week 14 and Baltimore erased a 10-7 deficit at the half to outscore 21-3 in the second half. Baltimore outrushed Miami 183-63 in the turnover-free contest, with Flacco throwing for 269 yards and a pair of TDs, while Tannehill was sacked six times in the contest. Baltimore on third down tries was 5 of 12 (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 30:18, while the Dolphins were 4 of 12 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 29:42.

Miami in the week 14 contest in the Sunshine State was favored by 3 and Baltimore covered the spread, winning by 15. The bad news was that both teams scored only 41 points, barely missing the 45 over/under. Miami’s favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under is 43 1/2. You might want to take a pass on this one (unless you’re a fan of either team) and either beg the significant other/wife/girlfriend to take you Christmas shopping at Victoria’s Secret or watch that “Law & Order: SVU” marathon on USA (the very idea of Benson slapping the cuffs on a perp is downright sexy!). Baltimore makes it close but Miami bounces back and wins at home.

Jacksonville (4-7) at Tennessee (2-9), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 708. It’s a week 11 rematch in Music City as a pair of struggling teams meet in Nashville in hopes of a playoff spot and avoiding the AFC South’s cellar.

Jacksonville, after their huge win over Tennessee two weeks ago at EverBank Field, fell back to Earth, losing to Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers 31-25 in north Florida. The Bolts led 21-9 at the half in north Florida before Jacksonville rallied and outscored San Diego 16-10 in the second half. Jacksonville outrushed San Diego 102-79 and Rivers threw for 300 yards in the contest, while Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles threw for two TDs himself. San Diego in the win went 6 of 14 on third down tries, 1 of 1 on fourth down and held the ball for 31:24, while the Jaguars kept the pigskin for 28:36, going 5 of 15 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth down tries.

Tennessee lost their third game out of their last four contests, falling to Oakland 24-21 in Nashville. Trailing 10-6 at halftime, the Titans managed to outscore the Silver and Black 15-14 in the final 30 minutes of play but still came up short. Oakland outrushed the Titans 84-44 in a contest that was played in the rain in the second half and Marcus Mariota threw for 218 yards and three TDs but was sacked twice and picked off twice. For the Raiders, David Carr threw three TDs and 330 yards without turning the ball over while being sacked only once. Both teams failed in their only fourth down try and Tennessee was 3 of 12 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 25:05, while the Raiders were rulers of time, holding the ball for 34:55, while going 8 of 15 on third down conversions.

They met in week 11 in the Sunshine State and Jacksonville rallied from a 13-9 deficit in the third quarter to win 19-13 at EverBank Field. TE Julius Thomas and Bortles connected on a 5 yard TD pass with 3:30 left to play in regulation and K Jason Myers connected on a 36 yard field goal with 2:19 after the Jaguars recovered a Tennessee fumble deep in Titans territory to seal the deal. Even though they were outrushed by the Titans 104-90, Bortles did manage to outpace Mariota 242-231 (each man was sacked four times) and Jacksonville had a pair of turnovers, while the Titans tallied one. Neither team had a fourth down conversion and Tennessee was 5 of 13, while the Jaguars went 4 of 13 and the clock was the ally of the Titans, who held the ball for 31:35 to Jacksonville’s 28:25.

In the week 11 contest in the Sunshine State, the Jaguars won by 6 and were favored by 3. The over/under in the first meeting was 44 but neither team reached that number, as they combined for only 32 points. This time, it’s Tennessee’s turn to be favored and the oddsmakers like them as 2 point favorites in the Music City with the over/under is 43. Tennessee is trying to keep its head above water and at least look respectable in the AFC South, while Jacksonville is looking to catch Houston and Indy for the top spot. Titans fans are hoping for some revenge in the Music City, while the Jaguars look for the sweep and puts the Titans out of their misery. Jacksonville wins this one in the Volunteer State and covers the 2.

Cincinnati (9-2) at Cleveland (2-9), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. They meet again and this time around, it’s along the shores of Lake Erie as it’s now Cincinnati’s turn to travel the 249 miles up I-71 for a week nine rematch.

The Bengals got back on track last Sunday at home, taking St. Louis to the woodshed and coming away 31-7 winners. Leading 17-7 at the half, Cincinnati shutout the Rams in the second half 14-0 to break a two-game losing streak in the process. Cincy outrushed St. Louis 140-94, while Andy Dalton threw for 233 yards and three TDs, while the Bengals defense made life miserable for Rams QB Nick Foles, who took over for Case Keenum (concussion), sacking him once and picking him off three times. The Bengals ruled the clock in the contest, keeping the ball for 30:07 and went 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, while the Rams were 6 of 15 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:53.

The Browns… if it weren’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck at all, as the song on “Hee Haw” once said. They had a chance to win at home last Monday night against Baltimore but got a bad break on special teams as Travis Coons’ 52-yard field goal try that would have given them the win over the Ravens turned into defeat along the shores of Lake Erie, with reserve safety Will Hill scooping the ball up and running it back 64 yards for the game-winning TD as time ran out to fall 33-27, breaking the hearts of Browns fans that were watching live and on TV.

Cleveland trailed 27-20 late in the contest and rallied to come back, tying the contest with 1:47 left when WR Travis Benjamin and backup QB Aaron Davis connected on a 42-yard TD pass play with 1:47 left in regulation. After the Browns interecpted backup QB Matt Schaub, taking over for Joe Flacco, they marched down the field to kick was they though would be the game-winning field goal. It was at that point that the hand of luck would be on the Ravens’ side as the kick was blocked and Hill ran down the sideline with ball in hand, crossing the goal line as the clock struck :00. Baltimore outrushed Cleveland 104-63 and Schaub threw for a pair of TDs and 232 yards in the air for the win. Both teams had problems on third down tries Monday night, with the Ravens going 2 of 11, while Cleveland, with Johnny Manziel benched and Josh McCown out with a broken arm in the loss, was 4 of 15. However, both teams were successful on fourth down, each going 2 of 2 and the clock was in favor of the Browns at 30:30 to Baltimore’s 29:30

They met in week nine along the banks of the Ohio River and the Bengals manhandled Cleveland 31-10 at Paul Brown Stadium. Cincinnati led 14-10 at the break and then floored the gas, shutting out Cleveland in the second half 14-0. The Bengals outrushed Cleveland 152-69 and sacked Manziel three times, while Dalton threw three TDs without being picked off. The Bengals were 8 of 14 on third down conversions, 1 of 1 on fourth down and ruled the clock, holding the ball for 36:03, while Cleveland kept the ball for 23:57, while going 4 of 13 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions.

In the week nine contest, the Bengals were favored by 10 1/2 and won by 21, covering the spread. As for the 47 1/2 over/under? It was safe, as both clubs scored only 41 points. The oddsmakers like the Bengals, this time as 7 1/2 point favorites and the over/under this time around is 43 1/2. Cleveland needs to run the table to have any shot of a post-season bid, while the Bengals are looking to remain kings of the AFC North mountain. Long live the king. Cincy covers the 7 1/2 and wins in upstate Ohio.

Arizona (9-2) at St. Louis (4-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 712. They met in the desert in week four. This time, they’re in the Midwest as the Rams host Arizona in St. Louis.

Arizona, trying to pull a little further away from Seattle in the NFC West, squeaked by San Francisco 19-13 at Levis’ Stadium in Santa Clara. The Desert Angry Birds led 6-3 at half, outscoring San Francisco 13-10 in the second half and held off a late 49ers rally to end the contest. The contest in northern California was somewhat of a defensive struggle, as neither team breached the 100-yard rushing barrier but Arizona did manage to outrush San Francisco 70-67, while the Cardinal defense sacked Blaine Gabbert twice and picked him off once. Arizona was 50 percent on third down conversions at 7 of 14 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 37:27, while the 49ers were 0 of 9 on third down, 1 of 2 on fourth down, keeping the ball for 22:33.

St. Louis was throttled by Cincinnati 31-7 at Paul Brown Stadium. The Rams trailed 17-7 at the half and Cincinnati shutout the Rams in the second half 14-0 to break a two-game losing streak in the process. The Rams were outrushed by Cincy 140-94, while Andy Dalton threw for 233 yards and three TDs, while the Bengals defense made life miserable for Rams QB Nick Foles, who took over for Case Keenum (concussion), sacking him once and picking him off three times. The Bengals ruled the clock in the contest, keeping the ball for 30:07 and went 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, while the Rams were 6 of 15 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:53.

They met in the desert in week four at Glendale and St. Louis managed to escape with a 24-22 win over the Desert Angry Birds. St. Louis led the contest from start to finish and took a 10-9 lead with them to the intermission, outscoring Arizona in the second half 14-13. Rookie RB Todd Gurley ran for 146 yards, as his team tallied 164 (Arizona had 113) and Foles threw three TDs with one sack but did not have an interception, while Carson Palmer had a TD pass, an interception and was sacked four times. St. Louis in the win was 5 of 13 on third down conversions and did not have a fourth down try, keeping the ball for 26:47, while Arizona ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 33:13 and going 2 of 11 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

The Desert Angry Birds in the week four meeting in Glendale were favored by 6 1/2 but St. Louis won by 2. The good news was that Arizona and St. Louis did manage to cover the 44 over/under by scoring 46 points. The Cards are favored by 6 this time around and the over/under’s 44 1/2. St. Louis is looking to sweep Arizona for the first time since 2012, while the Cardinals are looking for revenge and keep the top spot in the NFC West in the process. If revenge is a dish best served cold, then the Desert Angry Birds will go back for seconds. St. Louis could make this one closer than 6 but the Cardinals bounce back and win in the Gateway City.

Seattle (6-5) at Minnesota (8-3), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 711. A pair of teams that are looking for playoff bids meet in the Land of 10,000 Lakes as Seattle travels east to face the Minnesota Vikings.

The defending NFC champs rallied to take a 39-30 win over Pittsburgh last Sunday in the Pacific Northwest. Seattle erased and 18-14 halftime defict in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks, outscoring the Steelers in the second half 25-12 and  quarterback Russell Wilson threw a career-high five touchdown passes – three to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and two to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Wilson, who turned 27 years old on Sunday, is only the second player since 1950 to throw at least five touchdown passes on his birthday (Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon, 1990). Seattle outrushed Pittsburgh 100-58 and knocked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (concussion) late in the contest, while picking him off twice. Seattle went 7 of 13 on third down conversions, holding on to the ball for 28 minutes, while the Steelers, keeping the ball for 32 minutes, went 5 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

Minnesota led Atlanta 7-3 at the half before putting the foot on the gas and outscoring the Falcons in the final 30 minutes of play 13-7 to win 20-10. It was the AP Show in the Big Peach (as in Adrian Peterson), who ran for 158 yards and a pair of TDs for the Purple Gang. Minnesota took advantage of three Atlanta turnovers (a pair of Matt Ryan interceptions and a Tevin Coleman fumble). Coleman was not exactly a slouch, taking over for Devonta Freeman (concussion), rushing for 110 yards in the contest but fumbled as he was heading for an appearant TD. Atlanta, who rushed for 116 yards, was 5 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 26:32, while the Vikings, who ran through Atlanta like Sherman, tallying 191 yards rushing, held the pigskin for 33:28, going 7 of 12 on third down.

Peterson’s performance marked Peterson’s 18th career game with at least 150 rushing yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Emmitt Smith for the fourth-most all-time. Only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders (25), Jim Brown (22) and Walter Payton (20) have more 150-yard rushing games.

“We have a big couple of weeks ahead of us,” Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Barr, who had eight tackles, a sack and two forced fumbles last week, said. “Hopefully we can continue to play well and keep it going.”

Seattle leads the series with Minnesota 8-5, have outscored the Vikings 336-317 and are winners in two of their last three meetings, including taking a 41-20 win in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks in 2013, while Minnesota’s last victory in the series came in 2009 in the Land of 10,000 Lakes by a final of 35-9 at the Metrodome. Seattle’s favored by 1 in the Twin Cities and the over/under is 41. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Seattle’s trying to keep the six seed away from Atlanta, while the Vikings are hoping to keep the Packers at bay in the NFC North. Minnesota makes this one close but Seattle takes this one in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and covers the 1.

San Francisco (3-8) at Chicago (5-6), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 710. The struggling 49ers travel to the Windy City for an afternoon contest at Soldier Field against Da Bears.

San Francisco struggled against Arizona last Sunday in Santa Clara and came out on the short end of a 19-13 loss to the Cardinals at Levis’ Stadium in Santa Clara. Although they trailed 6-3 at the intermission, the 49ers made a contest of it and had a final drive in the contest that would have given them the win but the drive fell short of its intended mark. ARizona outrushed San Francisco 70-67 and Blaine Gabbert was sacked twice and picked off once in the six-point loss. The 49ers also struggled on third down, going a dismal 0 of 9, while the Cardinals were 7 of 14 on third down tries. As far as fourth down? Arizona was 0 of 1, while San Francisco was 1 of 2, with Arizona ruling the clock, keeping the ball  for 37:27, while the 49ers held on to the ball for 22:33.

Da Bears return to the Windy City with a 17-13 win over Green Bay at Lambeau Thanksgiving evening. Green Bay trailed 14-13 at the half before Chicago pulled a little further away when Bears K Robbie Gould connected on a 21-yard field with 12:15 left to play. Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy ran for 105 of the Packers’ 177 yards, outpacing Da Bears, who had 101 and had the game’s first TD when he and Aaron Rodgers connected on a 25-yard TD pass late in the first quarter. Green Bay, who lost their second game at home in a row, turned the ball over twice (once on a Rodgers interception) had one last chance to take the lead back and win at home but three Rodgers passes in the red zone went incomplete, allowing Chicago to take the ball over on downs and win the game. The Packers were 3 of 11 and 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries and kept the ball for 28:48, while Chicago was 5 of 14 on third down tries and ruled the clock, holding the ball for 31:12.

Da Bears lead the series 30-29-1, which includes contests that were played at Wrigley Field, Keezar Stadium, Candlestick Park and Soldier Field and the 49ers have outscored Chicago 1,339-1,229. Chicago won the last meeting between the clubs last year at Levis’ Stadium by a final of 28-20, while San Francisco’s last win in the series also came on the Left Coast at old Candlestick in 2012 by a final of 32-7.

They met in week two at Levis’ Stadium and it was Chicago that erased a 17-7 deficit at the half and outscored the 49ers in the second half 21-3, hold San Francisco to a Phil Dawson field goal in the second half. Jay Cutler threw four TD passes, three of them to WR Brandon Marshall for the win. San Francisco did manage to outrush Chicago 129-46 and Colin Kaepernick managed to outpass Cutler 248-176, although he would be picked off three times and sacked four times. San Francisco was 7 of 13 on third down tries but 1 of 2 on fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 33:51, while Da Bears kept the pigskin for 26:09, going 3 of 9 on third down.

San Francisco was favored by 7 and Chicago covered the spread, winning by 8 but the two clubs barely missed the 48 1/2 over/under, scoring 48 points in the contest. Chicago’s favored by 7 and the over/under’s 42. Chicago’s riding the high from their win over their hated NFC North rivals last Thursday, while the 49ers are trying to keep their heads above water in the NFC West. San Francisco makes this one intersting but Da Bears win two in a row in the Windy City and cover the 7.

Denver (9-2) at San Diego (3-8), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 715. A pair of old AFC West rivals meet in southern California as Denver, still without Peyton Manning (foot) meets the San Diego Chargers in a late afternoon (Eastern time) contest.

Denver sits atop the AFC West with a 9-2 record after handing New England its first loss last week with a 30-24 overtime victory on Sunday night. The Broncos have won two in a row, the first two starts of quarterback Brock Osweiler’s career. Osweiler threw a go-ahead touchdown to Andre Caldwell with 1:09 remaining in the fourth quarter last week. In the win over the Patriots, running back C.J. Anderson rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 48-yard touchdown in overtime, the longest overtime touchdown run in team history. The Manning-less Broncos trailed Brady and the Pats 14-7 at the half before Denver got off the deck and outscored the defending Super Bowl champs 23-10, including the overtime. After Stephen Gostkowski tied the contest at 24 all with :00 seconds left on a 47 yard field goal, the Pats won the toss to start overtime but they would go three and out, punting the ball back to Denver. The Broncos needed only three plays. 57 yards and 79 seconds to send their fans home happy, taking the overtime win at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver was 4 of 16 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 36:31, while the defending Super Bowl champs went 2 of 13, 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 25:57.

“Brock has done a great job,” Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told the Rocky Mountain News about his young quarterback. “But he’d be the first one to tell you it’s always about the team.” Denver outrushed New England 179-39 in the overtime victory, played in a light snowstorm and Brady outpassed Osweiler 280-270 (Brady had three TDs) and each team had a turnover in the prime time contest.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 300 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 31-25 win at Jacksonville. Rivers, who has 40,166 career passing yards, reached 40,000 yards in his 159th game, the fourth-fastest in NFL history. Tight end Antonio Gates had two touchdown receptions against the Jaguars and now has 21 career games with multiple touchdown catches, the most ever by a tight end. The Bolts led 21-9 at the half in north Florida before Jacksonville rallied and outscored San Diego 16-10 in the second half. Jacksonville outrushed San Diego 102-79 and Rivers threw for 300 yards in the contest, while Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles threw for two TDs himself. San Diego in the win went 6 of 14 on third down tries, 1 of 1 on fourth down and held the ball for 31:24, while the Jaguars kept the pigskin for 28:36, going 5 of 15 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth down tries.

Including contests that were played in Los Angeles when the Chargers were based there, Denver leads the series 60-49-1 but the Bolts have outscored the Broncos 2,390-2,363. Denver swept the series last year with San Diego (San Diego’s last win over Denver came in 2013, when they took a 27-20 win in Denver) and both contests were closer than the final scores.

In week eight, they met in Denver and Peyton and the Broncos would win up 35-21 winners. Manning threw three TD passes to WR Emmanuel Sanders in the 14-point win, while RB Ronnie Hillman ran for 109 yards to pace Denver (Denver ran for 139, while holding San Diego to 61). Both Manning and Rivers threw three TDs in the AFC West contest, with Rivers throwing a pair of interceptions and a pair of sacks, while Manning had no sacks or interceptions. Denver went 8 of 13 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 30:46; as for the Chargers? They were 4 of 10 on third down, 1 of 1 on fourth down tries and kept the pigskin for 29:14.

Week 15… Southern California… Qualcomm. For Denver fans, second verse same as the first. The Broncos completed the sweep and came away 22-10 winners. Denver led 9-3 at the half and outscored the Bolts 13-7 in the last 30 minutes of action. This time, it was the Connor Barth show, as he kicked five field goals (the longest coming from 49 yards) to seal the Chargers’ fate. Leading 9-3 with 31 seconds left in the third quarter, Manning and WR Demaryius Thomas connected on a 28-yard TD pass that all but iced the game away. As in the first contest, Denver outrushed San Diego 111-56 and Manning barely outpassed Rivers 233-233, with Rivers throwing a pair of interceptions. Both Denver and San Diego did not have a fourth down try in the second meeting and struggled on third down, with the Broncos going 3 of 12 and San Diego going 6 of 13. Time was on the side of Denver, who held the ball for 32:44, while San Diego had it for 27:16.

Denver in the week eight contest was favored by 7 1/2 and they would win by 14, covering the spread. As for the 51 1/2 over/under in the Thursday night affair? Covered as well, as both teams combined for 56 points. In the week 15 contest at Qualcomm, Denver was a 4 point favorite and won by 12. That was the good news. The bad news was that neither club came anywhere near the 51 over/under, tallying only 32 points. Denver in this meeting at Qualcomm is favored by 4 1/2 and the over/under is 43 1/2. The Chargers have been struggling and sit in the AFC West basement, while the Broncos come off another win against a team that was unbeaten at the time (they beat Green Bay in Denver to knock the Packers out of the ranks of the unbeatens in week eight). Even without Peyton, Denver wins this one in Cali and covers the 4 1/2.
Kansas City (6-5) at Oakland (5-6), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. They meet again. They still don’t like each other.

Don’t expect anything to change here.

The Chiefs and Raiders are both in the AFC playoff mix with five games remaining in the regular season.

Kansas City has won five in a row, including last week’s 30-22 win over Buffalo. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith completed 19 of 30 passes (63.3 percent) for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 112.5 passer rating against the Bills. He now has an active streak of 283 consecutive passes without an interception, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history. The Chiefs trailed 16-14 halftime lead at Kansas City before they went on to outscore Buffalo 16-6 in the final 30 minutes of play to take a 30-22 win at Arrowhead last Sunday. Kansas City outrushed Buffalo 158-129, with Chiefs FB Spencer Ware leading all rushers with 114 and a rushing TD, while QB Alex Smith threw a pair of TDs for the come-from-behind win. Bills QB Tyrod Taylor outpaced Smith in passing yardage in the contest (291 to 255) and threw three TDs to Smith’s two without an interception and was sacked once. Buffalo had a chance to win the contest late but Taylor fumbled after he rushed for what appeared to be a first down for the Bills but came up short. Buffalo challenged the call on the field inside the last two minutes and lost the challenge and the Chiefs took the ball and ran out the clock for the win. Buffalo on third down conversions went 5 of 12 (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 30:32, while Kansas City kept the pigskin for 29:28, going 6 of 13 on third down tries.

“We fight together, we’re a family,” says Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali, who had a sack and a forced fumble against Buffalo. “We pride ourselves on calling each other family. When our guys go down, the next guys have to be ready to step up and those guys did a tremendous job.”

Oakland quarterback Derek Carr passed for 330 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 120.3 passer rating in the Raiders’ 24-21 win at Tennessee in Week 12. First-year wide receiver Seth Roberts had six catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns while rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper had seven catches for 115 yards, becoming the first Raiders rookie with four 100-yard receiving games. Oakland led 10-6 at halftime, before the Titans managed to outscore the Silver and Black 15-14 in the final 30 minutes of play but still came up short. Oakland outrushed the Titans 84-44 in a contest that was played in the rain in the second half and Marcus Mariota threw for 218 yards and three TDs but was sacked twice and picked off twice. For the Raiders, David Carr threw three TDs and 330 yards without turning the ball over while being sacked only once. Both teams failed in their only fourth down try and Tennessee was 3 of 12 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 25:05, while the Raiders were rulers of time, holding the ball for 34:55, while going 8 of 15 on third down conversions.

The Chiefs lead the series 56-51-2 (which includes contests that were played when the Chiefs were in Dallas and known as the Texans and the Raiders played in Los Angeles) and have outscored the Silver and Black 2,261-2,111. The two old AFC rivals met twice last year and split the two contests in the 2014 campaign, with each taking wins in their home stadiums.

Round one… week 12… Oakland… Thursday night Football in front of a national audience. It was the Raiders came away 24-20 winners in the Bay area. RB Taiwan Jones and Carr connected on a 9-yard TD pass with 1:42 left to play to take the lead from the Chiefs, who led 20-17 at that time. Oakland almost lost the contest when after the Raiders sacked Smith, they celebrated a bit too long to the liking of their fan base, which forced them to use a time out. With order restored, the Raiders stopped the Chiefs’ drive and took the win. Oakland outrushed Kansas City 179-96, with Raiders RB Latavius Murray running for 112 of his team’s yards and a pair of TDs, while Smith (two TDs) outpaced Carr in passing yardage 234-174 in the contest that was played in an almost monsoon at O.co Coliseum. Oakland was 50 percent on third down tries at 8 of 16 but found perfection on their only fourth down try, keeping the ball for 30:05, while Kansas City was 2 of 14 on third down, 0 for 1 on fourth down and they would hold on to the ball for 29:55.

Game one was in the books.

Game two… week 15… Arrowhead. The Chiefs sought revenge against their hated AFC foes and they got it in the form of a 31-13 win. Kansas City led 13-3 at the half and outscored Oakland 21-10 in the second half, sacking Carr four times and holding the Silver and Black to 78 yards rushing (Kansas City did not do much better, rushing for 93). Smith was much better in the second meeting, throwing for 297 yards and a pair of TDs without turning the ball over, while Carr found himself being sacked four times. Third down conversions in the second meeting were nothing to write, tweet or text home about, as Kansas City was 3 of 13 and the Raiders were 5 of 18 (0 of 1 on fourth down), with each club keeping the ball for 30 minutes.

Kansas City was favored by 7 in the week 12 contest in Oakland with the Raiders winning by four. That was the bad news. The good news? Both teams covered the over/under of 42 by scoring 44 points. In the week 15 affair in the Show-Me State, Kansas City covered the 10 point spread, winning by 18 and the 41 1/2 over/under was covered as the two combined for 44 points. The Chiefs are favored by 3 in northern Cali and the over/under’s 44.

Both have one goal in common and that’s catch Denver, who currently leads the AFC West, even without Peyton under center. The Raiders have actually played some decent football of late, while the Chiefs may finally have their ducks in a row. Oakland will make this one close but Kansas City prevails on the West Coast and covers the 3.

Carolina (11-0) at New Orleans (4-7), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. Carolina BBQ vs. Gumbo. A pair of NFC South foes meet in the Big Easy in a week three rematch as Cam Newton and the unbeaten Panthers travel south to face off against Drew Brees and the Saints.

New Orleans could not find the end zone in their 24-6 loss at Houston last Sunday. Held to a pair of Keith Fortbath field goals in the second quarter, New Orleans trailed 14-6 at the break and were shutout the rest of the contest. The Saints were held to 50 yards rushing, while the Texans ran for 167, while Brees was sacked twice and picked off once in the 18-point loss. The Saints were 3 of 12 on third down (0 for 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 23:37, while the Texans were 6 of 13 on third down (they did not have a fourth down try) and held on to the pigskin in the Lone Star State for 36:23.

Newton and the Panthers led Dallas 23-3 at halftime in Arlington and took the Cowboys to the woodshed, beating Dallas 33-14. Carolina led from start to finish in the Lone Star State and knocked Tony Romo out of the contest, as he broke the same clavical he broke against Philadelphia in week two. Carolina picked Romo off three times, two of those interceptions going for TDs, including one to LB Luke Kuechly, who returned one 32 yards, while teammate Kurt Coleman also had a pick-six, taking that one back for 36 yards. Carolina outrushed Dallas 129-31, while Newton also tallied a rushing TD in the contest to add insult to injury. Dallas was 6 of 13 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 24:46, while the Panthers in holding the ball for 35:14, went 8 of 16 on third down.

They met in week three in the Tar Heel State and Carolina broke a 10-10 halftime tie against the Saints and came out on top by a 27-22 count. Carolina outrushed the Saints 119-70, Newton outpassed Brees 315-310 and Newton threw a pair of TDs and rushed for a TD of his own. There were two bright spots for the Saints in the contest in Charlotte. First, they were 7 of 12 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down tries, while Carolina went 5 of 11 and 1 of 1 and New Orleans also ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 32:44 to Carolina’s 27:16.

Carolina won by 5, covering the 3 1/2 point spread and both teams scored 49 points, covering the 44 over/under. The boys and girls in Vegas like the Panthers in this second meeting as 6 point favorites and the over/under is 49 1/2. The Saints are trying to keep up with Carolina, while the Panthers are trying to make history and win the NFC South for the second year in a row. History repeats here in the Big Easy. Carolina may not cover the 6 but they take the win in the Big Easy.

Philadelphia (4-7) at New England (10-1), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 717. A pair of teams, one getting taken to the woodshed on Thanksgiving afternoon, the other knocked out of the ranks of the unbeatens, meet in Foxboro as the defending Super Bowl champs host the Philadelphia Eagles in a late afternoon affair.

Chowda meets Cheesesteak.

Life was somewhat less than pleasant for the Eagles at Ford Field last Thursday after their 45-14 loss to the Lions against Philadelphia. After a 7-7 tie, Detroit would take the lead for keeps when Golden Tate III and QB Matthew Stafford connected on a 2-yard TD pass with 7:53 left before halftime. Stafford was far from finished as far as throwing TD passes was concerned, as he and WR Calvin Johnson connected three times, with the longest pass coming from 25 yards away with 12 seconds left before intermission to give the Lions a 24-7 lead at the break. Detroit went on to score their final 21 points of the second half unchallenged before the Eagles scored on a 24-yard TD pass by Jordan Matthews from QB Mark Sanchez.
Detroit outrushed the Eagles 108-68 and Johnson led all recievers with 93 yards on eight catches. Stafford threw for 337 yards and five TDs without an interception, while Sanchez was sacked six times, despite throwing a pair of TDs. Detroit went 5 of 10 on third down tries and kept the ball for 37:11, while the Eagles kept it for 22:49 and went 6 of 14 on third down tries.

For the defending World Champs, they come back home to Foxboro in somewhat of a foul mood after they lost 30-24 in overtime at Sports Authortity Field at Mile High. New England led 14-7 at the break before Denver rallied to take a short-lived 24-21 lead with 69 seconds left when backup QB Brock Osweiler and Andre Caldwell connected on a 4-yard TD pass. That lead would last about as long as a plate full of Christmas cookies as K Stephen Gostkowski tied the contest at 24 all with :00 seconds left on a 47 yard field goal, the Pats won the toss to start overtime but they would go three and out, punting the ball back to Denver. The Broncos needed only three plays. 57 yards and 79 seconds to send their fans home happy, taking the overtime win at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver was 4 of 16 on third down tries (1 of 1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 36:31, while the defending Super Bowl champs went 2 of 13, 0 of 1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 25:57.

The Eagles may lead the series 6-5 and they may have outscored the Pats 248-241 but New England in the last three regular season meetings have come away with wins, including a 38-20 win in the City of Brotherly Love in 2011, while Philly’s last win over the Pats came in 1999, also in the City of Brotherly Love by a final of 24-9.

They met in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville at EverBank Field (which was Alltell Stadium then and before that, the Gator Bowl) and the Pats took a 24-21 win over the Eagles to win the Lombardi Trophy. WR Deion Branch caught 11 Brady passes for 133 yards and the Patriots’ defense forced four turnovers en route to becoming the eighth team to post consecutive Super Bowl titles in a 24-21 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots also matched the Dallas Cowboys (XXVII, XXVIII and XXX) as the only teams with three Super Bowl victories in a span of four seasons. At the time, Branch’s 11 catches tied the Super Bowl single-game record for receptions (Dan Ross, Cincinnati, XVI; Jerry Rice, San Francisco, XXIII).

New England is favored by 9 1/2 and the over/under’s 44. Both teams are coming off losses, the Eagles blown out of the water in Detroit on Thanksgiving day, while the Pats saw their dream of an unbeaten season die in overtime in the Rocky Mountains last Sunday night. New England gets back on track at home and takes the win in Foxboro, even though they might not cover the 9 1/2.

Indianapolis (6-5) at Pittsburgh (6-5), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. A pair of 6-5 teams, one leading their division, the other trying to catch a division leader, meet in the Steel City in prime time as the Colts travel to Heinz Field to face off against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Colts erased a 12-6 halftime against Tampa Bay and rallied in the second half to beat the Buccaneers at Lucas Oil Stadium 25-12. Tampa Bay’s one bright spot in the contest was that they managed to outrush the Colts 132-27, Matt Hasselbeck, replacing Andrew Luck (kidney) threw for 315 yards and a pair of TDs, while rookie QB Jameis Winston was sacked five times and picked off once. Tampa Bay was 6 of 13 on third down, 0 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 27:35, while the Colts went 7 of 16 on third down (they did not have a fourth down try), holding the ball for 32:25.

The Steelers let an 18-14 lead against Seattle get away from them as the Seahawks went to outscore Pittsburgh 25-12 in the second half to fall 39-30. In the contest in the Pacific Northwest, the contest with the Seahawks had eight lead changes before Seattle sealed Pittsburgh’s fate when QB Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin connected on an 80-yard TD pass with 2:01 left to play. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a career-high five touchdown passes – three to wide receiver Doug Baldwin and two to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. Wilson, who turned 27 years old on Sunday, is only the second player since 1950 to throw at least five touchdown passes on his birthday (Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon, 1990). Seattle outrushed Pittsburgh 100-58 and knocked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (concussion) late in the contest, while picking him off twice. Seattle went 7 of 13 on third down conversions, holding on to the ball for 28 minutes, while the Steelers, keeping the ball for 32 minutes, went 5 of 11 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Colts have won three in a row and are tied with Houston for first place in the AFC South. At 6-5, Indianapolis is right in the middle of the playoff picture. Veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 25-12 win over Tampa Bay and is now 4-0 as the team’s starter this season. He is one of only three quarterbacks to win four consecutive starts after turning 40 years old, joining Brett Farve and Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon.

“It’s basically one game at a time,” says Colts head coach Chuck Pagano about the team’s mentality. “We’re just going to prepare and work extremely hard day-in and day-out and then play as well as we can to try and keep this thing going.”

Pittsburgh is 6-5 in the AFC North, chasing the Cincinnati Bengals and battling for an AFC playoff spot. In the team’s Week 12 loss at Seattle, wide receiver Markus Wheaton had nine catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. Wheaton, Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant have each had a 175-yard receiving day this season and the Steelers are the first team in NFL history to have three different players record a 175-yard receiving game in the same season.

They’ll meet for the 22nd time and the Steelers lead the series 15-6 and have outscored the Colts 511-376. Pittsburgh’s last win in the series (which includes contests that were played when the Colts were in Baltimore) came last year in the Steel City by a final of 51-34, while the Colts’ last win over the Steelers would come in 2008 (also in the Steel City) by a final of 24-20.

In the 2014 matchup, they met in week eight and the Steelers led Indy at the half 35-20. The Colts were outrushed 117-63 by the Steelers and Roethlisberger (522 yards) threw five TDs without being intercepted or sacked, while Luck (400 yards) threw for three TDs but was picked off twice and sacked twice. The Colts were 3 point favorites at Heinz Field and the over/under was 49 1/2. Pittsburgh covered the spread with ease, winning by 17 and both teams easily covered the over/under, combining for 84 points.

Pittsburgh is favored by 7 in the Steel City and the over/under is 40. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Even though the Colts don’t have the services of Andrew Luck at the moment and Roethlisberger’s been somewhat hobbled of late, this one proves to be “Drill Worthy” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 56 last June and dates a 41-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Indy is trying to keep Houston at bay in the AFC South, while the Steelers are trying to keep pace with the Bengals in the AFC North. The Colts may make this one close but Pittsburgh gets back on track at home in the Steel City and covers the 7.

Dallas (3-8) at Washington (5-6), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. Forget the records.

Even though one team is struggling in the NFC East, while the other one sits atop the divison, these two teams STILL don’t like each other.

Don’t expect any warm Christmas greetings Monday night.

Get the body bags ready.

The Cowboys and Redskins will meet on Monday night in a key NFC East matchup. All four NFC East teams are separated by just two games. Washington and the New York Giants enter Week 13 tied for first place but Philadelphia (one game behind) and Dallas (two games behind) remain in the hunt.

Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant has four touchdowns in the past three meetings between the two teams. Bryant, who aims for his third consecutive Monday Night Football game with a touchdown, leads the NFL with 43 touchdown receptions since 2012.

The Redskins have won five in a row at home and quarterback Kirk Cousins has completed 127 of 167 passes (76 percent) for 1,436 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions for a 121.2 passer rating in those five. Cousins has also rushed for three touchdowns during that span. Last week, he threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver De Sean Jackson, who recorded his 19th career touchdown of at least 60 yards, tied with Pro Football Hall of Famer Lance Alworth for the fourth-most in NFL history.

Dallas trailed Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers 23-3 at halftime in Arlington and fell to the Panthers 33-14. The Cowboys trailed from start to finish in the Lone Star State and lost the services of Tony Romo, as he broke the same clavical he broke against Philadelphia in week two. Before he left the contest, Romo threw three interceptions, including one to LB Luke  Kuechly, who returned the pass 32 yards for a TD, while teammate Kurt Coleman also had a pick-six, taking that one back for 36 yards. Carolina outrushed Dallas 129-31, while Newton also tallied a rushing TD in the contest to add insult to injury. Dallas was 6 of 13 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 24:46, while the Panthers in holding the ball for 35:14, went 8 of 16 on third down.

Washington fans held their collective breath last week against the Giants last Sunday afternoon in Landover, surving a late New York Giants rally and came away 20-14 winners at FedEx Field. Washington, atop the NFC East, lead the Giants 14-0 at the half before they would rally to make things closer than fans that were either watching live in Landover or on the tube would want. Giants QB Eli Manning threw for 321 yards, three TDs and three interceptions in the contest, including one to WR Odell Beckham, Jr., who almost duplicated his one-handed grab against Dallas last year, that pass going for 21 yards with 4:57 left in regulation. New York would have one last shot at tying the contest when Beckham caught a Manning pass with seven seconds left. In a moment of desperation, Beckham lateraled the ball to WR Rueben Randall, who in turn tried to lateral back to Manning. The third pass fell to the ground and the Redskins went on to take the win. New York was held to 33 yards rushing, while the Redskins, tied with the Giants for first place in the NFC East, rushed for 105 and Washington QB Kirk Cousins threw for 302 yards without an interception or sack. The G-Men were 3 of 15 on third down tries (2 of 2 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 24 minutes, while the Redskins kept the pigskin for 36, going 4 of 15 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.
“We’re just trying to catch this wave,” says Jackson. “If we catch a wave and keep our fire, playoffs here we come.”

Including contests that were played at the old Cotton Bowl in Dallas and RFK Stadium in Washington, the Cowboys lead the series 65-41-2 and have outscored Washington 2,490-2,063. The two clubs split last year’s contests, with each team winning in the other team’s stadiums.

Round one… Arlington… week eight. Washington trailed Dallas 7-3 at the break, before they would rally and eventually come away 20-17 overtime winners. Dallas would eventaully tie the contest with 9:27 left in regulation when TE Jason Witten and QB Brad Weeden connected on a 25-yard TD pass after they trailed 17-10 in the early part of the fourth quarter. Washington would come away the winner in the overtime when K Kai Forbath connected on a 40-yard field goal with 9:43 left in overtime. DeMarco Murray (who was in a Dallas uniform before he left for Philadelphia), ran for 141 of his team’s 166 yards, while the Redskins ran for 123. Romo threw for 209 yards a TD but was sacked five times and picked off once before he was knocked out of the contest with a shoulder injury, while his favorite target Bryant was held to 30 yards on three catches. Washington went 6 of 14 on third down tries, 1 of 1 on fourth down and kept the ball for 38:12, while Dallas kept the ball for 28:37 and went 5 of 12 and 0 for 1 on third and fourth down.

Round two… Landover… week 17. Romo returns to action and takes it out on Washington, coming away 44-17 winners. In the second meeting, Bryant managed to catch a pair of Romo TD passes, while Murray rushed for 100 yards again (tallying 100) as his team ran for 174, while Washington ran for 104. Romo on the day threw for 299 yards, while Robert Griffin III threw for 336 yards but was picked off twice and sacked three times. In the second contest at FedEx Field, both clubs went 4 of 12 on third down tries, while Washington was 0 of 2 on fourth down and Dallas ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:24 to Washington’s 29:36.

Dallas in the week eight contest on a Monday night was favored by 9 but Washington came away 3-point winners and neither club came close to the 50 1/2 over/under, combining for only 37 points. Dallas in the second meeting covered the 6 1/2, winning by 27 points and both clubs covered the 49 1/2 over/under, scoring 58 points. This time around, Washington’s favored by 5 and the over/under is 42. Both numbers sound reasonable and given that both teams are bitter rivals in the NFC East and both are trying to knock the other out of the playoff race. For Dallas, they have to run the table to have any shot of a post-season and perhaps save Jason Garrett’s job; For Washington, it’s keep the Giants at bay and stay on top of the NFC East mountain. There have been some pretty good Monday night games in the 2015 season (Dallas is 43-33 on MNF, while Washington is 28-37 under the lights of prime time). You might want to tape “Supergirl,” “Scorpion,” “Castle” or “NCIS: Los Angeles” this week. Dallas makes this one close but Washington fans will be singing “HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!” Monday night. Washington takes this one to close out play in week 13.

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