NFL season 2013, Week 12: What to watch in Sunday's games

Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE

A Sunday night matchup between the Broncos and Patriots will be the game to watch in Week 12.

With six weeks left in the season, the race for the postseason is on, and the slate of Week 12 games is full of matchups that will have a big influence on the playoff picture.

In the last week of byes, there will be 12 games on Sunday:

Jets vs. Ravens (1 p.m. ET, CBS)

If the postseason began today, the New York Jets would be the last team to earn a wild card spot in the AFC, but with struggles from rookie quarterback Geno Smith, the team is on the verge of being bounced to the outside looking in.

One of seven four-win teams in the AFC chasing the tail of the Jets and the Dolphins, the Ravens hope to avoid missing the playoffs following their Super Bowl season in 2012. With a victory over the Jets, the Ravens would bounce back from a Week 11 loss to the Bears and put themselves directly in the wild card picture.

Steelers vs. Browns (1 p.m., CBS)

The Browns have won just five of the last 35 matchups between the two AFC North rivals, but they certainly have a shot to get a win on Sunday. While they are far removed from a three-game winning streak early in the season led by Brian Hoyer, the Browns and Steelers are listed as even in the sportsbooks, according to Odds Shark.

The Steelers are looking for their second road victory of the season, as three of their 2013 wins came at Heinz Field. With four wins in their last six games, though, the Steelers have bounced back from a slow start and can get back in the postseason hunt with a win.

Buccaneers vs. Lions (1 p.m., Fox)

Two weeks ago, the Buccaneers were a winless team that was in the hunt for the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. They're not exactly eliminated from that selection, but back-to-back wins have changed the outlook in Tampa Bay. While the Bucs are big underdogs in Detroit, a win would seemingly secure Greg Schiano's place as the team's head coach.

For the Lions, this is a game that is an absolute must-win if they hope to stay in the postseason hunt. Playoff teams win games that they should win and, make no mistake, there's no reason they shouldn't beat the 2-8 Buccaneers.

Vikings vs Packers (1 p.m., Fox)

The Packers are in trouble with the absence of Aaron Rodgers that has led to a three-game losing streak for the team. While Rodgers is set to return sometime before season's end, the team can't afford to fall under .500 in a competitive NFC postseason hunt.

Jaguars vs. Texans (1 p.m., CBS)

The Texans are bad, and the Jaguars are worse. While Houston statistically has one of the league's best defenses and a solid offense, too, the Texans are essentially out of the playoff race and in the middle of the race for a top selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney, Anthony Barr and Marcus Mariota are some of the people who might care the most about the outcome of this matchup.

Chargers vs. Chiefs (1 p.m., CBS)

The Chargers have lost three straight games, and if they hope to stay in the postseason hunt, they can't afford to make it four in a row. They'll have their hands full with the Chiefs, but the Kansas City defense hasn't had too many encounters with offenses as strong as San Diego's.

In a Week 11 game against the top-ranked Broncos offense, the Chiefs allowed a season-high 27 points and 323 yards passing.

Panthers vs. Dolphins (1 p.m., Fox)

The Panthers may be the hottest team in the NFL with six straight victories that have put the team in control of the top wild card spot in the NFC.

Miami is in the middle of the hunt for a postseason spot, as well, and earned victories in two of its last three games. However, the Dolphins will have their hands full dealing with the talented defensive line of the Panthers.

Bears vs. Rams (1 p.m., Fox)

The Bears have had an up-and-down season with quarterback Jay Cutler popping in and out of the lineup due to injuries. With away games in four of the next five weeks, the Bears will have their hands full clinging to the top spot in the NFC North with the Lions nipping at their heels.

The Rams have the luxury of preparing for the Rams after a bye in Week 11 that followed an impressive 38-8 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. In arguably the best division in the NFL, the Rams will have to pull off several impressive victories to get in the postseason hunt, beginning on Sunday.

Colts vs. Cardinals (4:05 p.m., CBS)

The Colts have alternated wins and losses since Week 5 and will look for their first pair of consecutive victories since Weeks 4 and 5.

That'll be easier said than done against an Arizona Cardinals team that has won three straight to climb into the wild card race. However, those wins came against the Falcons, Texans and Jaguars, who have a combined five wins in 2013. A win against the Colts would capture the league's attention, though.

Titans vs. Raiders (4:05 p.m., CBS)

Quarterback Jake Locker has dealt with a slew of injuries in 2013 and now finds himself on injured reserve. That isn't good news for the Titans, who are 0-3 without him. Now they'll have to make the trip to the West Coast, where the Raiders are 3-2.

Cowboys vs. Giants (4:25 p.m., Fox)

The NFC East was easily the worst division at the beginning of the season, but it's suddenly competitive after winning streaks for the Giants and Eagles have made it a tight race. After an 0-6 start to the season, the Giants have won four straight and can pull to even for second place with the Cowboys with a win on Sunday.

Broncos vs Patriots (8:30 p.m., NBC)

It seems as though every matchup between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady has been the game to watch in every given week for the past decade, and Week 12 of the 2013 season is no different. After a frustrating loss in Week 11 that featured plenty of controversy, the Patriots will host arguably the NFL's best team.

With two top-10 offenses led by future Hall of Fame quarterbacks, expect to see plenty of points on the scoreboard for both teams.

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