As the calendar flips to December playoff races across the NFL are starting to heat up. In some divisions division leaders are starting to pull away, and there’s a very crowded Wild Card picture forming in both conferences.
This week’s slate features a number of those division leaders against Wild Card hopefuls, as well as games where both teams fit into one of the two categories. Let’s take a look at the biggest and best games on the Week 13 slate.
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5. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-3)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET on ABC/ESPN
Both of these AFC Super Bowl hopefuls started the season on a down note, and it’s been the Jaguars that have recovered the best. They’re 7-1 in their last eight games, with the lone loss coming to a very strong San Francisco 49ers team.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are reeling after the loss of Joe Burrow. They still mathematically have a shot at the Wild Card and do have talent around the quarterback position, but the sun is quickly setting on their playoff hopes.
On paper, Jacksonville should take this game easily. But is desperation enough to put the Bengals over the top?
4. Seattle Seahawks (6-5) at Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET on Prime Video
Both of these teams played on Thanksgiving, but with opposite results. The Cowboys blew out the Commanders 45-10, while the Seahawks got cut down by the 49ers 31-13.
With their win the Cowboys extended their lead for the top Wild Card spot in the NFC, while Seattle fell to back of the pack with its loss.
A big question going into this game will be the status for Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith. He played on Thursday despite hurting his throwing elbow the week before and seemed to still be impacted by the injury. If the Seahawks are going to pull off the upset on the road, they’ll need Smith to be 100 percent.
3. Kansas City Chiefs (8-3) at Green Bay Packers (5-6)
Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC
Last week the Chiefs seemed to exercise some of their offensive demons as of late, erasing an early 14-0 deficit against the Las Vegas Raiders on their way to a 31-17 victory. Now they turn their attention to a Packers team that is firing on all cylinders. Green Bay has won three of its last four, including last week’s 22-17 Thanksgiving upset win in Detroit.
At 5-6 Green Bay is still in the hunt for the final Wild Card spot in the NFC. This Chiefs game is the final game on their schedule against a team over .500, so an upset win on Sunday night would set them up very well. Can they make that happen? To do so they’ll need an improved effort from their defense – which allowed 464 yards last week to the Lions.
2. Denver Broncos (6-5) at Houston Texans (6-5)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET on CBS
There are currently eight AFC teams that have between five and seven wins heading into Week 13. All eight of those teams are currently in Wild Card spots, so head-to-head tiebreakers between any of them are key.
One team will have a chance to get a major leg up on Sunday when the Broncos visit the Texans.
The Broncos come in as the hotter team, having won five games in a row after a 1-5 start. Houston had a three-game winning streak snapped last week at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, despite a bounce-back performance from Rookie of the Year favorite, quarterback C.J. Stroud.
This Denver defense is as tough a test as Stroud will face this season. Coordinated by Vance Joseph, this unit has created problems for first-year starters (not just rookies) all season and will likely do the same against Stroud this week.
1. San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET on FOX
The Eagles are in the middle of what some have called the toughest stretch of a schedule in NFL history – and are handling it well. They’ve won five in a row with wins over the Dolphins, Cowboys, Chiefs, and last week against the Bills in overtime. Now it’s time for an NFC Championship rematch against the 49ers.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Niners were teetering, losing three games in a row heading into their bye. Yet they’ve become healthier and back on track with consecutive wins over the Jaguars, Buccaneers and Seahawks heading into this game.
When these teams last met in January 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy was knocked out of the game early, which significantly handcuffed San Francisco’s offense. With Purdy playing the Niners should have a better shot. But the 49ers are a West Coast team heading east, and the Eagles are making important plays when needed. Philly should continue this dominant stretch, even if its with a close win.
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