Mike Rutsey's NFL Gameday

The playoff hungry Houston Texans are putting a lot of faith in rookie QB T. J. Yates. (GETTY...

The playoff hungry Houston Texans are putting a lot of faith in rookie QB T. J. Yates. (GETTY IMAGES)

Mike Rutsey, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:51 PM ET

Mike Rutsey’s Week 13 NFL Gameday report:

THREE GAMES YOU’LL WANNA WATCH

Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans

This one features two teams with playoff aspirations. The Texans, at 8-3, are in the driver’s seat in the AFC South as they hold a two-game edge over the Tennessee Titans. However, they are without the services of their top two quarterbacks, Matt Schaub and backup Matt Leinart, and have decided to go the rest of the way with third-string rookie T.J. Yates, a fifth-round pick out of North Carolina. For most of the game, Yates figures to be handing off to RB Arian Foster. The Falcons, meanwhile, are a game back of New Orleans in the NFC South and don’t want to lose any more ground. RB Michael Turner is beat up so they will have to rely on Matt Ryan’s arm.

Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers.

This is Round 2 in the season series with the first game won by the Steelers three weeks ago in Pittsburgh, 24-17. The Steelers jumped into a 14-0 lead in that game only to have Andy Dalton and the Bengals rally to tie it 17-17 in the third quarter. The Steelers, though, went back on top 24-17 and then relied on their defence which came up with two fourth-quarter interceptions to hold the Bengals at bay. The Bengals are looking to make a breakthrough in the hotly contested AFC North while the Steelers are desperate to keep pace with the Baltimore Ravens.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants

The New York Giants are on the playoff ropes having lost three in a row to drop to 6-5, Now they have to beat the unbeaten Packers or fall completely out of the post-season picture. A loss here and a win by the Dallas Cowboys, who are in Arizona would put them two games back in the NFC East and also put them two games back in the wild-card race. The Packers, meanwhile, have gone 17 consecutive games including last year’s playoffs without a loss and have shown no signs of letting up. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing on another level and has already locked up MVP honours.

MUST WIN

New York Jets

There are lots of teams feeling the pressure this week, none moreso than the Rex Ryan led Jets. If the season were to end today the Jets would be out of the playoffs and that’s not quite where they were projected to be. The runners-up in each of the past two AFC championship games, the Jets pretty much have to win out and hope the Cincinnati Bengals drop a game or two. At 6-5 the Jets simply can’t afford another loss, especially if the Bengals upset the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets’ problem this week is that they are on the road and facing a tough opponent in the Washington Redskins, a team that historically dominated them. This season the Jets have not looked quite right, even when they win. Look to last week’s victory over the Buffalo Bills as Exhibit A. A bigger factor is that the Jets have been brutal on the road where they have gone 1-4, their lone victory a decisive victory in Buffalo. In Washington they face a team that is playing better now that it is back under the direction of quarterback Rex Grossman. This is not going to be an easy game for the Jets and a loss would cripple their playoff hopes.

SURVIVOR WEEK 13

Okay, I’ve had a few weeks off and am back at the controls. In lucky Week 13 we’ll take a walk on the wild side with a couple of our picks. The Buffalo Bills have lost four in a row including the last three on the road. They finally return home with their dreams of a post-season berth up in smoke. The Bills, though, still play with heart and should have won last week’s game against the Jets. They are especially tough at home, especially at this time of the season, and even though they no longer have the services of running back Fred Jackson they could be up to the task of downing the Tennessee Titans. Another home team up against it are the Miami Dolphins, who entertain the Oakland Raiders. The Dolphins have been playing tough and I look for them to down the Raiders. If you really want to go out on a limb, the Packers can’t win them all can they? Can the Giants beat both the Patriots and Green Bay and miss the playoffs?

SUNDAY’S HEAD TO HEAD MATCHUPS

Denver Broncos RB Willis McGahee vs. Vikings MLB E.J. Henderson

The Denver Broncos have a pretty simple offensive game plan — pound the ball on the ground for the first three quarters and then look to QB Tim Tebow to launch a comeback late. The Broncos have won four in a row and five of their past six by grinding it out on the ground and McGahee leads the troops in that department. Last week against the Chargers he rushed for 117 yards on 23 carries and should get a similar workload against the Vikings. The Vikings are ranked ninth against the run and E.J. Henderson, the elder Henderson brother on the team, is part of the reason as his 67 tackles suggest.

Houston Texans QB T.J. Yates vs. Atlanta Falcons defence

The past three weeks the Texans have been forced to go with three different starting quarterbacks and this Sunday the assignment falls on the shoulders of untested rookie T.J. Yates, Houston’s fifth-round pick from North Carolina. Following a season-ending foot injury to Matt Schaub, Matt Leinart took over last week against Jacksonville and suffered a broken collarbone. Now it’s Yates’ turn and it’s anybody’s guess how it will turn out. The Falcons are tough against the run and want to force Yates to beat them through the air.

Green Bay Packers TE Jermichael Finley vs. NY Giants S Antrel Rolle

If the Giants don’t get a pass rush going it’s going to be a long afternoon for the secondary and that includes Rolle who will be asked to keep tabs on Finley. The Giants like to use Rolle on blitz packages but he is also one of their better man-to-man covers and that matchup should be against Finley. On the season, Finley has 36 receptions and five TDs and is one of the many weapons at Aaron Rodgers’ disposal.

NFL BY THE NUMBERS

311: The number of passing yards Saints QB Drew Brees needs to become first NFL quarterback to hit 4,000 through 12 games. Brees faces the Lions on Sunday.

11-4: The career record of Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in games he has started against the Cincinnati Bengals.

5: The number of consecutive victories Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan has engineered vs. AFC opposition. The Falcons play Houston on Sunday.

8-1: The career record of the Washington Redskins in games played against the New York Jets.

2: The number of receptions Baltimore receiver Anquan Boldin needs to reach 700 in his career.

ENCORE

* Last week the New York Giants applied no pressure whatsoever against the Saints’ Drew Brees and he made them pay — big time. Brees went on to complete 24 of 38 passes (63.2%) for 363 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 129.6 passer rating in the Saints’ 49-24 victory. Brees now has 27 career games with at least 350 passing yards, tying hall of famer Dan Marino (Miami) for the most in league history. On Sunday he goes against the Lions.

*  Patrick Peterson, the dynamic rookie punt returner for the Arizona Cardinals has gone where even the Bears Devin Hester has yet to tread as last week he returned a punt 80 yards to help propel the Cardinals to a 23-20 victory over St. Louis. He is the first player in NFL history with four punt-return touchdowns of at least 80 yards in a single season.

* The Buffalo Bills are on the skids having lost four games in a row and now must attempt to stop Tennessee running back Chris Johnson who last week rushed for a season-high 190 yards in the Titans’ victory over Tampa Bay. Johnson has been under-performing for much of the season but now appears to be finally reaching his stride.

NOTES

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh crashed his car into a tree at 1:15 a.m. Saturday in Portland, Ore., but he was not hurt and was not impaired, police say. Suh, who grew up in Portland, was driving a 1970 Chevrolet Coupe, lost control, hit a curb, a light pole and a drinking fountain before striking the tree, but he and his two passengers walked away without injuries. Suh is on a two-game suspension following his stomp on Green Bay’s prone Evan Dietrich-Smith on U.S. Thanksgiving, a week ago Thursday ... It appears QB Sam Bradford will not be playing Sunday against the 49ers. On Saturday, the Rams activated quarterback Tom Brandstater from the practice squad. Bradford, who missed time with a high ankle sprain earlier in the season, re-injured the ankle in last week’s loss to Arizona. If Bradford can’t play, A.J. Feeley will get the start and Brandstater will serve as his backup ... All signs point to the fact that San Diego Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner will get the boot following what can only be described as a disastrous season. According to a report in San Diego, Chargers president Dean Spanos feels he has “no choice” but to fire Turner and Smith when the season ends. The Chargers who were heavily favoured to win the AFC West have lost six in a row and are 4-7 ... Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will miss Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos with a high ankle sprain, perhaps a sign that Tebow-mania is about to strike in Minneapolis. Peterson is seventh in the league with 872 yards rushing and his 12 touchdowns are tied for second. With Peterson out, it puts the offensive load on rookie quarterback Christian Ponder ... It will be interesting to see how the Arizona Cardinals fare with the return of their No. 1 quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb has missed the past four weeks with a foot injury but is expected to be back of centre on Sunday when the Cardinals play host to the surging Dallas Cowboys, a team that has won four in a row to take control of the NFC East. At the start of the season Kolb was thought to be the answer to the Cardinals’ problem at the position but now the jury is out. Prior to his injury he had led Arizona to a 1-6 record. Stat-wise Kolb was OK as he had completed 56.8% of his passes for 1,706 yards and had thrown eight touchdowns against eight interceptions. His trouble was being able to move the ball on a consistent basis and coming up big in crunch time. Kolb replaces backup John Skelton who has led the team to a 3-1 record in four games. Two of the wins were against the lowly Rams with the other over the Eagles. But then, who hasn’t beaten the Eagles this season?


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