Thanksgiving usually kicks off the home stretch of the NFL season. However, with one more week added to the schedule, we’ll have to push the kick down the straightaway back a week as well. That means that this is the week that NFL players and coaches have to take it up a notch and pull out all the stops if they want to play past Jan. 9, 2022. To start this final playoff push with a bang, check out these three most intriguing matchups of NFL Week 13.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals – Sunday, December 5, 1:00 p.m. EST, FOX
With the No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU.
In a league where roughly half of all first-round QB’s become busts, both the Bengals and the Chargers — two historically inept franchises — got it very, very, right.
Burrow and Herbert are undoubtedly franchise signal-callers and have proven that over the last year and a half. Herbert won the battle last year, throwing for 4,336 yards and 31 touchdowns and taking home Rookie of the Year honors.
“Joey B” lost the back half of his rookie season to a devastating ACL injury. However, he’s come back with a vengeance in 2021. As one-third of arguably the best young skill groups in the NFL (along with RB Joe Mixon and WR Ja’Marr Chase), Burrow has his Bengals at 7-4, in the No. 5 spot in the AFC, and in contention for the AFC North division crown.
The Chargers and Bengals are two teams going in the opposite direction right now. The Bengals have won back-to-back games coming off their bye, and the Chargers have lost four of their last six.
The game is a big deal and will have major 2021 playoff implications. The real reason this is one of the most intriguing matchups of the NFL Week 13 schedule, though, is the Burrow vs. Herbert matchup.
These two second-year QBs have the talent to become two of the best in the league and maybe even more. If this is the first-ever face-off in a Brady vs. Manning-type rivalry, you’ll want to say you saw it.
Washington Football Team vs. Las Vegas Raiders– Sunday, December 5, 4:05 p.m. EST, FOX
The WFT lost its 2020 No. 2 overall pick, Chase Young, for the season and is starting a QB who last played in the XFL and was taking advanced mathematics classes at Old Dominion before his Washington gig.
Despite all this, the WFT has won three straight over NFC foes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders just snapped a three-game skid with a solid Thanksgiving Day win over the Dallas Cowboys.
There is look-ahead letdown potential for these teams as they both face their division leaders (the Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs) next week, but the winner of this matchup will go into that showdown with confidence and a real chance to contend for their division.
This game might not be the prettiest football on the NFL Week 13 slate, but it should be a slugfest between two squads that refuse to go down without a fight, which should make it an exciting battle to watch.
New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills– Monday, December 6, 8:15 p.m. EST, ESPN
Nobody outside the greater New England area wants the New England Patriots to be good. Every fan base in the NFL (except maybe New York Giants fans) have spent two decades suffering loss after loss at the hands of this franchise.
The sad, sad truth, though, is that by drafting Tom Brady 2.0 in Mac Jones and spending roughly a gazillion dollars in the free-agent market, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are back after just one down season.
With two wins over Belichick in 2020 and the team’s first AFC East crown since 1995, the Bills looked poised to take the mantle from the Patriots as the best team in the division for the foreseeable future.
That’s not what happened in 2021.
The Patriots, with Jones, their running game, and a stellar defense, are in first place in the division and shockingly look like the best team in the AFC.
The Bills, with their lack of a running game, inconsistent quarterback play from Josh Allen, and head-scratching play-calling by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, are surprisingly struggling this season despite their equally excellent defense.
This NFL Week 13 matchup will go a long way to determining how the AFC East plays out, what happens in the conference as a whole, and possibly even the fate of the world if the Evil Empire rises from the ashes to ruin football like they have for 20…
OK, that might be overdramatic, but nobody wants to see the Patriots be this good again this quickly. The scary part is, Monday night, there’s a solid chance we find out they are.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference