Division of power: Why Week 13 is make or break for teams

12/20/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak

Week 13 game in the NFL have a lot on the line. Division title's still hang in the balance, as well as playoff positioning and the league's only undefeated team trying to stay unbeaten. Let's take a look at the top matchups for this week.
Houston at Indianapolis Sunday at 1pm
First place in the AFC South is on the line in this matchup as both teams come in with records of 6 and 7. Both teams will also be relying on backup quarterbacks to try and lead them into sole possession of first place in the division. T. J. Yates will be under center for the Texans, as Brian Hoyer will be out after sustaining a concussion in last week's loss to New England. Matt Hasselbeck is expected to start for the Colts in place of Andrew Luck, but Hasselbeck is banged up too. Third string QB Charlie Whitehurst may be forced into action for Indianapolis as Hasselbeck is dealing with a rib injury. The Colts won the first meeting of the season 27 to 20 in Week 5 with Hasselbeck throwing 2 touchdowns. The Texans De'Andre Hopkins had a big game as well, catching 11 passes for 169 yards. Indianapolis has been outscored 96 to 26 in back to back losses to Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. Houston has also dropped their past two games after winning their previous four to get them back into the division title hunt. The Colts have won the past 6 meetings between these teams and Houston has never won in Indianapolis since joining the NFL in 2002.

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Carolina at NY Giants Sunday at 1pm
The Panthers are looking at improving to 14 and 0 while the Giants, at 6 and 7, are trying to win the NFC East. The Giants snapped a three game losing streak last week with a win over Miami, while the Panthers have scored 30 or more points in each of their past four games. With a win Carolina can clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs with a win and an Arizona loss to Philadelphia. The Panthers will be without RB Jonathan Stewart, who suffered a foot injury in last week's win over Atlanta. Both defenses are strong when it comes to forcing turnovers, Carolina leads the league with 33 while the Giants are second with 25. But New York's defense ranks 2nd worst in the NFL, giving up an average of 425 yards per game. The Giants have twice beaten teams that were 13 and 0 in their history, knocking off Denver in 1998 and New England in the Super Bowl following the 2007 season. Carolina won the last meeting between these teams two seasons ago by the score of 38 to 0.
Denver at Pittsburgh Sunday at 4:25pm
The AFC West leading Broncos come in at 10 and 3 and are trying to stay near the top of the AFC. Denver is tied for 2nd in the conference with Cincinnati right now, one game behind New England for the top mark in the conference. The 8 and 5 Steelers, who still have an outside shot at the AFC North, are trying to keep themselves in the AFC playoff mix where they are tied with Kansas City and the New York Jets. The Broncos are 6 and 1 on the road so far in 2015, while the Steelers are 5 and 2 at home. Both teams bring in strong run defenses, as Denver is allowing just 84.3 yards per game. Pittsburgh is right behind them, giving up an average of 88.3 yards per game, but the Steelers rank 31st in the NFL against the pass. The Broncos defense is allowing a league best 17.3 points per game, while the Steelers have scored 30 or more points in each of their past 5 games. Denver also ranks tops in the league in sacks and total defense. Peyton Manning will miss his 5th consecutive game, so Brock Osweiler will try to win for the 4th time in five starts and rebound from last week's loss to Oakland. Two 1,000 yard receivers will meet in this game as well. Denver's Demaryius Thomas has caught 88 passes for 1,067 yards and 3 TD's, while Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown has 100 catches for 1,397 yards and 7 scores. Denver has had the edge in this series, winning 12 of the past 17 meetings.
Arizona at Philadelphia Sunday at 8:30pm
At 11 and 2, the Cardinals hold a three game lead over Seattle in the NFC West. At 6 and 7, the Eagles remain tied with New York and Washington for first place in the NFC East. Arizona has won 7 games in a row and can clinch the NFC West and a 1st round bye with a win and a Green Bay loss. They can clinch the division title with a Seahawks loss to Cleveland as well. Philadelphia still controls their own destiny, if the Eagles win out they'll win the East title. The Cardinals are 6 and 1 on the road this season, while Philadelphia is 3 and 3 at home. Carson Palmer is in the MVP race for Arizona, having passed for 4,003 yards and 31 TD's, both of which are 2nd in the NFL. His top target has been Larry Fitzgerald, who's caught 96 passes for 1,088 yards and 7 touchdowns. Palmer and Fitzgerald lead a Cardinals offense that's averaging 427.5 yards per game. They'll face an Eagles defense that's allowing 401.8 yards per game. Arizona won the last meeting between these teams 24 to 20 last season. The Cardinals are looking to win the NFC West for the first time since 2009.

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