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NFL Recap - Week 13 Surprises, And Looking Ahead

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With Week 13 behind us, every NFL team has now played 12 games, and the season is officially 75% over. We're officially in the stretch run, and many divisions are up for grabs. That being said, not every contest is created equal, and while there will be significant football played in December and January, some competitions are more competitive than others.

Here's a division-by-division look at what to watch out for as the 2016 season comes to a close.

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What Is Going To Happen

The AFC North - Which team will trip up first, the Ravens or the Steelers?

Both Baltimore and Pittsburgh find themselves tied for first place in the division at 7-5 with four games to play, and though the Bengals still have a chance, it's very much a "Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber" chance, considering they sit at 4-7-1, putting them two and a half games behind with only four to play. Both the Steelers and the Ravens struggled during the midseason, but the teams appear to be rounding back into form down the stretch. The Ravens have a tougher slate of games to play (New England and Philadelphia are better teams than Cincinnati and Cleveland), but a Week 16 contest between the two bitter rivals looms large. It's possible that game decides the division.


The AFC South - Who wants to win this division?  Failing that, who wants to lose it less?

The Texans have no quarterback. The Colts ONLY have a quarterback and he's in the concussion protocol. The Titans can't beat the Colts at all. Should the Colts beat the 3-8 Jets on Monday night, all three teams will be tied at 6-6. The Titans still have games left to play against the Broncos and Chiefs, but the Colts have a tilt against the red-hot Raiders. Ultimately, you just know the Texans and Titans will figure out a way to tie in Week 17 and bring both teams' records to 7-8-1, leading us to the least interesting tiebreaker of all time. I feel like we should just mash these three teams together and make one competent NFL squad out of them.


The AFC West - How brutal can this division get?

The Raiders play the Chiefs on Thursday night, and the prize is first place in the AFC's best division. The Raiders, led by MVP candidate Derek Carr on offense and being sent from beyond the stars to subjugate us Khalil Mack on defense, have secured the franchise's first winning season since 2002 and also appear to be unbeatable no matter how many goddamn points you hang on them before the fourth quarter. The Chiefs, led by Checkdown King Alex Smith on offense and cancer surviving All-Pro safety/reminder you could've done so much more with your life if you had half his drive Eric Berry on defense, sport a 9-3 record despite the rumor that there are no wide receivers on the roster. The Chiefs are like a really good slasher movie villain - Raiders fans and Broncos fans can just feel them lurking about in contention but no one's actually seen them until all of a sudden it's Week 17 and the Chiefs are taking a machete to their division championship banners.


The AFC East - Will there ever be an interesting storyline coming out of this division again?

So for like the millionth year in a row, the Patriots are comfortably winning the AFC East, the Dolphins are hanging around, the Bills aren't gonna make the playoffs, and the Jets are off eating paste in the corner. The Dolphins remain in wild-card contention, except the third place team in the AFC West would decimate them anyway, so the AFC East is still Punxatawney, PA, and we're all still Bill Murray.


The NFC North - The Lions?  Wait, really?

The Detroit Lions have a two-game lead on the Packers and Vikings. The Vikings aren't falling apart so much as they are disintegrating, and since Aaron Rodgers has regressed to being merely really good, the Packers haven't fared much better. The Lions have taken advantage of the division's down year, and may actually win the whole thing for the first time since 1993, when the division was the NFC Central. To put that in perspective, the Lions' division title drought is now comfortably old enough to drink. And now Lions fans are going to start doing exactly that.


The NFC South - Why in God's name would you impose a dress code on football players, Ron Rivera?

When Derek Anderson started for the Panthers in their 40-7 beatdown at the Seahawks' hands (talons?), we were all pretty confused. Especially when he threw an interception on the Panthers' first play. Fortunately, though, reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton was able to clear everything up when he explained that he violated the team's dress code by not wearing a tie. Which makes perfect sense if you forget the fact that Newton dresses like he's going to a 1920s themed club literally every week, wide-brim hat and all. Kinda hard not to say you deserved this one, Riverboat Ron.


The NFC West - Remember when there was more than one good team in this division?

The Seahawks are doing just fine, but the Cardinals have collapsed, the 49ers are a hollowed out, shambling corpse of a team and the Rams have just had to fire their coach after he lost seven of his last eight games.

Wait, I'm getting word that instead of firing Jeff Fisher, the Rams instead decided to extend his contract for two more years. It's times like these I really resent that iOS update that turned the revolver emoji into a squirtgun.


The NFC East - Can a rookie actually win MVP?

The division has been dominated by Dallas nearly all season. Many, many pages have been written about the Cowboys' frightening offensive attack and the two rookie phenoms spearheading it. But with the retirement of Peyton Manning, the downturn of Aaron Rodgers, and the suspension served by Tom Brady, there hasn't been an established quarterback who's truly impressed for 12 games so far. Brady could end up pulling away from the pack here, and there's always a chance that Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott end up stealing votes from each other, but if it were ever to happen, this year seems like the best shot. With a stretch run that includes games against the Giants, Eagles and 7-5 Buccaneers, the Cowboys have a lot of meaningful football yet to play, which just means there's four more opportunities for one of the two budding superstars to have an MVP-caliber performance. Also, if you live in Cleveland, San Francisco, or Chicago, this is way more fun than actually watching football.