Week 13 is headlined out West by a meeting of once-major powers, the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers.
Now, for most of the season, both Frisco and the Hawks have been stuttered impressions of their very recently terrific selves – the Niners made the Super Bowl in 2013 and the NFC Championship last Winter, while the Seahawks are of course the defending NFL champions.
But right now, the Cardinals sit atop the NFC West, even if they did get pulled back to earth by gravity (or was it Seattle’s re-energized, healthier defence?) last week with a 19-3 loss in Washington.
That win shot the Seahawks to 7-4, into a tie for second in the West with the Niners, who have won three straight games and vaulted themselves into playoff conversation again despite scoring only +3 net points in 2014.
The two rivals face each other for the first time this season on Thursday night, 5:30 p.m. PST from San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium.
Also this week, in Thursday’s Thanksgiving slate, the Chicago Bears will take on the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles take on the Dallas Cowboys.
The Lions sit at 7-4, one game back of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North. Chicago has probably kissed the playoffs goodbye with their play through 11 games, and sit well back with a 5-6 record despite two straight wins.
Dallas and Philadelphia both carry 8-3 records into Week 12, tied for first atop the NFC’s East. They’re both flip-opposites ahead of the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins, who are 3-8 and struggling to tread water above equally disastrous seasons.
The Most Disappointing Team in the NFL?
Once again, the award for the NFL’s most disappointing team might just go to the Atlanta Falcons.
Probably not a lot of people expected the Falcons to be world-beaters. We knew they would be uneven and inconsistent – a lot of air time, not so much substance. But this is the second year that even their offence has been completely forgettable, and this time they don’t have the excuse of injuries to their high-flying wideouts.
Roddy White missed three games last year and put up 711 yards through 13 contests, drawing a lot of coverage as Julio Jones missed essentially the entire season. But this year, with Matt Ryan throwing the football and Jones lining up on the opposite wing, White has again stalled with 662 yards in 10 games – this after six straight yards over 1,000 yards and then some between 2007 and 2012.
This would be okay for an aging receiver like White (33 years old, now in his 10th year) if things were going well over Ryan’s other shoulder, but Julio Jones has put up disappointingly inconsistent numbers in his fourth NFL season – 980 yards after 11 games is obviously stellar, but Jones has just four TDs and four 100-yard games since the season began, and only one of each in his past six games.
(For nerdy, couch-stapled fans like myself, Jones has been a fantasy disappointment in 2014 – the kind of guy who can win you one week but will probably disappear for the next four. Again, he’ll still easily break the 1,000-yard mark this season, but what happens when a tree falls in the forest?)
He’s been targeted constantly, but a weak Atlanta offensive line, a hollow rushing attack, and a generally overrated 2012 season have plagued the Falcons in their quest to move forward. (That last one’s in my opinion, of course.)
All that said, the Falcons may just be able to survive and stay afloat because the NFC South’s pool is just that shallow.
With a 4-7 record, Atlanta is tied for first place in the league’s weakest four-team division with the New Orleans Saints. And just behind them is last year’s surprise riser, the Carolina Panthers, at 3-7.
That’s not the saddest thing, though.
Because with five games remaining, the 2-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are right in the thick of the South’s playoff race.
Hey, good for Mike Evans.