It’s the first week of December and that means it’s time for the stretch run in the NFL season. Many teams are fighting for playoff spots or trying to keep themselves in meaningful games for as long as possible. With that being said, what games can you not afford to miss this week? Let’s take a look.
Minnesota At Green Bay
The Packers are going to be looking for revenge after falling to the Giants 38-10 last week. Aaron Rodgers is going to have Greg Jennings back in the lineup after he has missed several weeks with a abdominal tear. The good news is that he should allow the other receivers to settle into their traditional roles in the offense.
Green Bay needs to win this game to keep their hopes alive for a NFC North championship. Currently, the Packers are 7-4 and sit a game behind the Chicago Bears for the division lead. If Green Bay wins, they could reclaim the top spot with a Chicago loss due to the Packers having a tiebreaker over the Bears.
Minnesota could also keep faint hopes alive for a divisional championship if they were to win this game. At 6-5, the Vikings are only two games back of the Bears. However, they are coming off a thrashing at the hands of Chicago. Minnesota is more realistically hoping to lay claim to a wildcard berth this season. A win at Green Bay would go a long way toward doing that.
Tampa Bay At Denver
Denver can clinch the AFC West with a win against the Buccaneers on Sunday. With a victory, the Broncos would go to 9-3 on the season. Even if San Diego were to win on Sunday, they would be four games behind Denver and would lose a head-to-head tiebreaker. Therefore, it is a huge game for the Broncos who are hoping to be able to clinch at least the number four seed in the AFC.
However, Tampa Bay is not going to go quietly. The Buccaneers have played solid football over the past few weeks and have been competitive in every game that they have played. They took the 10-1 Falcons to the wire in their narrow loss to Atlanta last week. At 6-5, the Bucs are fighting for a playoff spot as well. They need this game to keep their hopes alive of playing in January.
Pittsburgh At Baltimore
Ben Roethlisberger will not be playing on Sunday when the Steelers travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens. This means that Charlie Batch may be making another start for the Steelers. If he is not ready or able to go, Brian Hoyer would be the starter this Sunday. Either way, it is not looking good for the Steelers this week.
Pittsburgh must win this game if they want to stay alive in the AFC playoff race. With the Bengals sitting at 6-5 and the Dolphins at 5-6, Pittsburgh cannot afford to fall to 6-6 on the season. If they lose, they will open the door for a slew of teams that could be 5-7 after this week. The only good news is that Big Ben should be ready for next week.
The Ravens have been on a bit of a roll recently. Defeating the Steelers would put an exclamation point on their regular season while also allowing them to keep at least a three game lead in the division. Even though their defense hasn’t been as good as it has been in recent seasons, they still have enough to go deep into the playoffs.
New York Giants At Washington
The Redskins have won their last two games to improve to 5-6 and revive their playoff hopes. They will take on a Giants team that looks ready to close the season on a high note. A victory for the Redskins would put them at 6-6 and within a game of the Giants in the NFC East. A victory also puts them on more solid footing if they hope to sneak in as a wild card.
Eli Manning is going to need to have a big game to keep up with RGIII. Robert Griffin has thrown eight touchdowns in his last two games. The Giants defense may not be able to contain him all on their own. It will be up to Manning to keep the offense on the field and score some points to keep the game close.
Week 13 has a lot of great games in store. These games will go a long way toward determining who will make the playoffs and who should be planning for April. With only four weeks left after this Sunday, there isn’t a lot of time left for teams to make their moves.
This is a guest post submitted by Don Phan. Don currently writes sports content for blogs part-time and is with Fanatics Inc. full-time as a marketing associate. Fanatics is a leading retailer of licensed NFL merchandise and is a premier source for officially licensed RG3 jerseys and NY Giants apparel.