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Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPNIs it too early to say, “Here come the Eagles”? Clearly not, since they could tie for the NFC East lead with a win and a Cowboys loss Thursday night. Again, though, trusting the Eagles still might be premature considering how close a call it was against the Giants last week. Theoretically, Colt McCoy will be better than he was against Dallas because he’ll have more time to prepare with the starters. Theoretically, if the Eagles’ pass rush plays to its capacity, it won’t matter.Prediction: Eagles, 24-19 It’s also Ben Roethlisberger vs. Philip Rivers, in the spotlight a matchup like that deserves. It’s only the sixth time the two 2004 first-round quarterbacks have faced each other. That’s what the NFL’s flex policy saved, instead of, well, Nick Mullens (who already has been on prime-time TV twice). Thanksgiving is over, but be thankful for that.MORE NFL PREDICTIONS:Week 13 picks against the spreadWeek 13 NFL picks, predictions(All times Eastern)New Orleans Saints (10-1) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)Thursday, 8:20 p.m., Fox/NFLN/Amazon PrimeDak Prescott, feeling flush from beating a team quarterbacked by Colt McCoy on Thanksgiving, is giving the Saints bulletin-board material, talking about how the unquestioned best team in the NFL still “put on their pants the same way we do.” Chances are Drew Brees can pick up Michael Thomas and throw him into his pants from 50 yards away, but that’s beside the point. The point is … uh … hmmm … the Saints haven’t lost since opening day, and they ain’t losing now.Prediction: Saints, 38-17Baltimore Ravens (6-5) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)Sunday, 1 p.m., CBSRavens fans are now arguing with each other over Joe Flacco vs. Lamar Jackson, mainly by trashing the quarterback they don’t support. It’s really not necessary, since putting either of them back in the driver’s seat down the stretch of their playoff run has extreme pluses and minuses. Starting Jackson for the third straight time (he’s 2-0) is the safe play, because the Falcons’ defense is still vulnerable, and if there’s a defense that can keep Matt Ryan in reasonable check, it’s this one.Prediction: Ravens, 27-24Carolina Panthers (6-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)Sunday, 1 p.m., FoxThe Panthers, with three straight losses, are entering mirage territory, especially when one recalls what all had to go right for them to have survived at home against the Giants. Their last win, coincidentally, was against the Bucs in Charlotte, and following that blueprint would help this time: Roll out to a huge lead behind Cam Newton and hang on against a furious comeback. Playing defense from start to finish and forcing a turnover (none in that three-game stretch) wouldn’t hurt, either.Prediction: Panthers, 30-28Chicago Bears (8-3) at New York Giants (3-8)Sunday, 1 p.m., FoxThe Bears got through the Sunday night-Thursday afternoon short turnaround on pure adrenaline, winning both divisional games, one without their starting quarterback. They might not have Mitchell Trubisky this week, either. They do have a defense that loves taking the ball away, and they’re playing Eli Manning. The Bears are solidifying their chances to win the division.Prediction: Bears, 29-16Buffalo Bills (4-7) at Miami Dolphins (5-6)Sunday, 1 p.m., CBSThe rest of the Bills’ season should be devoted to protecting and developing Josh Allen, and figuring out what they need to give him to succeed. The Dolphins, meanwhile, have decisions to make about their quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, who has five games left to get fully healthy and prove he is their man. They also have to ask themselves how they ended up in position to fall into a late-season tie in the standings with the Bills after starting 3-0.Prediction: Dolphins, 23-17MORE: Updated NFL playoff pictureIndianapolis Colts (6-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-8)Sunday, 1 p.m., CBSThe Cody Kessler era begins in Duval. So does the play-calling career of Scott Milanovich. At some point, the era of figuring out what on earth happened to that world-beating defense since last season will start, too. There should be no confidence that the Jags will find their groove against Andrew Luck, who is playing like a medical miracle. Also: It’s time to apologize to Leonard Fournette (suspended this week) for downplaying his value and fawning over Blake Bortles so much since last season.Prediction: Colts, 40-14Cleveland Browns (4-6-1) at Houston Texans (8-3)Sunday, 1 p.m., CBSBaker Mayfield, quarterback and apparently de facto assistant GM, gets one of his stiffest tests, the Texans’ defense. The duel between him and fellow young prodigy Deshaun Watson will be intriguing, too. Actually, the matches to watch are both teams’ offensive lines, because ideally, as good as both are on the move, these two pass rushes routinely get quarterbacks running for their lives. A real stealth fascinating game.Prediction: Texans, 27-20Denver Broncos (5-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)Sunday, 1 p.m., CBSTom Savage and Jeff Driskel, the Bengals’ quarterbacks the rest of the way (presumably), should look to the Broncos’ starter as a role model: Two years ago, zero people envisioned Case Keenum as a franchise quarterback. Keenum has done everything right in helping the Broncos back into the playoff race with stunning wins over the Chargers and Steelers the last two weeks. His defense, of course, has done much more.Prediction: Broncos, 26-13Los Angeles Rams (10-1) at Detroit Lions (4-7)Sunday, 1 p.m., FoxYour weekly reminder that the Lions were 9-7 last year, fired Jim Caldwell, and 11 games into the next season are pleading for patience in their big rebuild/culture change. The Rams would have to come out of their bye in a fog and look past this game in order to lose it. Aqib Talib returns from his injured ankle this week, though, so not being emotionally ready for this is highly unlikely.Prediction: Rams, 34-20Arizona Cardinals (2-9) at Green Bay Packers (4-6-1)Sunday, 1 p.m., FoxThe Packers are crumbling, but not enough to let the Cardinals slip past them. Arizona cut two starters after their latest loss, one on each side of the ball. The Packers’ offense, though, looks way too inept for a team that has Aaron Rodgers running it. Whether Mike McCarthy is on the hot seat or not, he’s running out of time to fix it. If he can’t find a way this week, they may never do it.Prediction: Packers, 24-14Kansas City Chiefs (9-2) at Oakland Raiders (2-9)Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBSThe Chiefs should have caught their breath from the Rams shootout during their bye week, but if they haven’t, here’s another chance. They need to put the Raiders out of their misery early; not doing so, especially against an offense that can’t protect Derek Carr, would be a bad sign for later, when it really starts to count. This is a good chance for Patrick Mahomes to get back into an MVP race from which shouldn’t have been dropped in the first place.Prediction: Chiefs, 44-20New York Jets (3-8) at Tennessee Titans (5-6)Sunday, 4:05 p.m., CBSAfter Monday night, it’s time to give up trying to predict or figure out the Titans. This begins a run of three games that, on first glance, could propel the Titans back into the playoff race (Jets, Jaguars, at Giants), but who knows? A game that ended 34-17 doesn’t seem to fit the category, but the loss to the Texans was very winnable, and it’s one of many the Titans will regret letting get away. The Jets, meanwhile, are terrible no matter who quarterbacks them, and the countdown to the end for Todd Bowles has pretty much begun.Prediction: Titans, 20-13San Francisco 49ers (2-9) at Seattle Seahawks (6-5)Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FoxThis is the aforementioned game that was flexed out of Sunday night. Finding a way for the 49ers to beat the Seahawks relies on stopping Russell Wilson, and there really seems to be no way for them to do that. After a string of surprisingly effective rushing totals, the Seahawks beat the Panthers last week with just 75 yards on the ground, and with Wilson simply being unstoppable. Speaking of “winnable” games, down the stretch the Seahawks face the Vikings and Chiefs, but also the 49ers twice and the Cardinals once. The door is open.Prediction: Seahawks, 33-17MORE: Updated NFL power rankingsMinnesota Vikings (6-4-1) at New England Patriots (8-3)Sunday, 4:25 p.m., FoxLast week against the Jets, the Patriots did not look exactly like the team that usually has already had everything click into place for a postseason run. The Vikings could make things uncomfortable for them on offense and defense. On the other hand, Bill Belichick likely has plans for neutralizing that offense, because that’s what the Patriots do best this time of year.Prediction: Patriots, 30-19Los Angeles Chargers (8-3) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3-1)Sunday, 8:20 p.m., NBCIn the lifetime head-to-head matchups mentioned above between Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, the Steelers are 3-2, including a divisional playoff game after the 2008 season, the year the Steelers won Super Bowl 42. They haven’t met since 2012. (In two other games between the teams since the 2004 draft, Rivers and Roethlisberger each missed one). The Chargers still can catch the Chiefs in the AFC West; the Steelers can still be caught in the AFC North. The Chargers have to figure out how to compensate for the injured Melvin Gordon. Against the Steelers’ defense, don’t count them out on doing it.Prediction: Chargers, 27-25Washington Redskins (6-5) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) Congratulations to the NFL for one it got right. The Sunday night flex policy was immensely necessary and pure genius. More proof comes this Sunday, in Week 13, with the Chargers’ trip to Pittsburgh replacing the 49ers-Seahawks game originally scheduled.It’s the Jimmy Garoppolo Effect again, and it’s a shame because when the schedule was made last spring, this looked like an attractive, meaningful game with serious playoff implications and a long-awaited revival of a briefly intense rivalry. Yes, this still means a lot for the Seahawks’ wild-card hopes, but Chargers-Steelers could decide who gets a bye in the AFC playoffs and where a potential postseason rematch will be played. read more
When Aston Villa and Sheffield take the field June 17 to restart the 2019-20 Premier League season, they will do so exactly one month after it was originally scheduled to end.Now they won’t finish the 2020 season until July 26, which means it will have taken just two weeks short of a year to establish a champion for the 28th edition of the Premier League. Well, that’s not entirely true. That’s how long it will take to complete the season and make it official.The champion will be decided much sooner. Liverpool FC own a 25-point advantage in the standings over Manchester City. Two more LFC victories, two more Man City defeats or some combination thereof will clinch the title for Liverpool. If Man City were to lose its game June 17 against Arsenal, Liverpool could claim the title with a victory on the road against neighborhood rival Everton.So if Liverpool’s victory is an inevitability, what’s compelling about the return of the league beyond the fact there aren’t many other live sports to watch?We’re happy to tell you:DeCOURCY: A lonely Premier League title for Liverpool will be ‘odd,’ but so much better than a ‘null and void’ seasonLFC being champion still is hugeThe Premier League was launched in place of England’s old First Division in 1992-93. At the time of that change, Liverpool had won 10 titles over 17 years.It has not won the Premier League, ever. That’s 27 years without a league title.The moment when Liverpool wins, whenever it arrives, will be extraordinary. Fans of the club have ached to win the league for years. The period during which the title has remained out of reach has not been fallow; there have been two Champions League titles, two more Champions League finals appearances, two FA Cups, four League Cups and a UEFA Cup victory. But never the Premier League.Until they win it, their games will be must-see. This is a chance to witness sporting history.It’s wall-to-wall soccer. Because fans will not be permitted in the stadiums, the Premier League is arranging things so that all games will be available to be seen by fans. The idea is for there to be no time conflicts; each game will have its own window. Of the first 12 games that will be played upon the league’s return, nine will be shown on NBCSN and two are expected to be shown on NBC’s main network. That’s 22 hours worth of soccer in the space of six days, starting June 17 with Aston Villa vs. Sheffield United at 1 p.m. and Manchester City vs. Arsenal at 3:15.We missed out on March Madness this year. Pending the announcement of the schedules for the NBA and NHL return, this might be as close as we come.This will be unlike any relegation battle, everIn every other season, teams that were playing for their Premier League lives were so consumed with the ongoing struggle they never had time to think about much more than the following week’s game. The half-dozen teams directly involved with this fight have been stuck pondering their “mortality” for three months.When the action froze back in March, Norwich City stood last with 21 points. It’ll be difficult for them to dig out of that hole, but they’re not far enough back to call it an impossibility.But the difference between 17th place (and remaining in the league) and 18th (and being knocked down to the Championship) was a single goal. Watford was on the right side of the line with 27 points and a goal-differential of minus-17; Bournemouth was on the wrong side with 27 points and a goal difference of minus-18. In 19th position and still very much alive is Aston Villa, with 25 points. In 16th position and not nearly as safe as that standing suggests is West Ham United, with 27 points and a goal differential of minus-15. Brighton and Hove Albion, with 29 points, certainly could fall from its current spot in 15th.Through nearly 100 days, every one of these clubs has had to stew in this potential for calamity. Their obsession led to a push to assure all games are played at home stadiums rather than neutral fields, figuring whatever advantage they could squeeze from that would be worthwhile.It may be false hope. ESPN reported home teams in the Bundesliga since the restart are winning only 22 percent of the time, down from 43 percent before the 2019-20 season shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Home-team scoring is down a half-goal per game. Road teams are winning 48 percent of the time, up from 35 percent.Competition for Europe will be furiousManchester City currently are ineligible for the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League because of a ban related to the organization’s “financial fair play” rules. The club is appealing, though.For now, though, it appears there are Champions League spots open as deep as fifth place in the standings, which puts six or seven teams into play for that spot, including Tottenham Hotspur (which played in the 2019 final) and Arsenal (whose streak of 19 consecutive UCL appearances ended in 2017-18).They currently stand eighth (Tottenham 41 points) and ninth (Arsenal, 40), which puts them within five points of the fifth-place position currently held by Manchester United (45) and seven points of fourth-place Chelsea (48).With everyone hurting financially because of revenue lost as a result of the pandemic, a ticket to the Champions League may be as valuable as it ever will be.Checking out who will play. It seems at this point most every healthy player in the Premier League will participate, now that Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante, a World Cup champion with France, returned to training after being granted compassionate leave because of concerns regarding the coronavirus.Watford forward Troy Deeney had said he would not return, but after speaking with the UK government’s chief medical officer, he decided to join his club in training. He has missed multiple days this week, though, reportedly due to an illness unrelated to the virus.Star Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero had been outspoken regarding his concerns about the safety of returning, but he joined the squad at the start of its preparations.There’s a dash of AmericanaThere are only two U.S. players in the Premier League, but both are important members of the U.S. men’s national team. At Newcastle, right back DeAndre Yedlin had made eight league starts before the halt to play, his season riddled with injuries that included a broken hand and groin strain. This may be an opportunity for him to regain some consistency.At Chelsea, established U.S. star Christian Pulisic was sidelined for two months because of an abductor injury of which now admits, “I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.” He tried to play through the discomfort, which was a factor as he went without a goal or assist from Nov. 9 to New Year’s Day. He expects to be fully fit as the season resumes.He has four goals and two assists in 16 league appearances, and it will be important for him to resume making an impact. Chelsea is expected to bring in RB Leipzig star Timo Werner for the 2020-21 season, creating more competition at the front of the club’s attack.The atmosphere will be intriguingAs we have seen with the restart of Germany’s Bundesliga, professional sports in our lifetime have never been quite like this. On occasion, misbehaving clubs or fan bases have been forced to close their stadiums to fans in competitions such as the UEFA Champions League, but every game without spectators is something we’re still getting used to. More to the point, there are the concerns about whether English soccer fans will adhere to the requests from their teams and local authorities not to congregate outside stadiums to celebrate — or agitate. This was such a concern for the Premier League that only Wednesday were Everton FC and Liverpool presented with confirmation that their June 21 game will be at the former’s Goodison Park home.Because of the potential consequence of that game – and the longstanding rivalry between the clubs, whose homes are separated merely by the width of a city park – authorities were concerned about the possibility of crowds gathering outside while the match is contested.Rob Carden, assistant chief constable of the Merseyside police, pointed out the infection rate for the northwest region is higher than in the rest of England. “For that reason,” Carden said, “we would urge supporters to do the right thing: Stay at home, enjoy the opportunity to watch every second of the derby game free of charge on your own TV, in your own living room and keep yourself, your family, friends and neighbors safe.” read more