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Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 13 picks: Marquee NFC battles in chase for top seed

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Derrick Gunn's NFL Week 13 picks: Marquee NFC battles in chase for top seed

Derrick Gunn makes his picks for Week 13 of the NFL season.

Eagles at Seahawks, 8:30 p.m. on NBC
Now we get to a game that means something. After four weeks of watching the Birds blow out lesser competition, they step up in a challenge against a foe that knows how to prepare for big encounters. The Seahawks have been to the playoffs five years in a row, including two Super Bowl appearances. The 'Hawks are hurting on defense — Richard Sherman is out for the year, Kam Chancellor has a neck injury and Cliff Avril is out, as well. But Seattle still has that guy Russell Wilson, who has thrown for 23 touchdown passes this year — 15 of them have come in the last six games. Wilson is the master of the scramble drill and he has a versatile group of talented receivers. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles' secondary matches up with their personnel. 

Carson Wentz and his offense will be thoroughly tested by the Seahawks' defensive scheme. If the Birds can get their run game going, it will take a lot of pressure off Wentz in the passing game. A win for the Eagles in the loudest stadium in the NFL will go a long way in terms of preparing them for what's to come in the postseason. So many different ways this one could go, but I'm going with a hunch that Wentz learned some valuable lessons about how to play in that environment last year, and because this team is on a roll right now, I'll say ...

Pick: Eagles 23, Seahawks 20

Vikings at Falcons, 1 p.m. on FOX
You want offense and defense? This matchup has both. The Vikings have the No. 5 offense and No. 5 defense. The Falcons have the No. 6 offense and No. 10 defense. The Vikings are riding a seven-game win streak. The Falcons have amped up their scoring during their three-game win streak. Home field is huge in this clash, so I'll go with the home team.

Pick: Falcons

Patriots at Bills, 1 p.m. on CBS
Tom Brady vs. the Bills' defense is a great headline. Over his last five games, Brady, the ageless wonder, has 13 TD passes and just one interception. If the Bills can establish a run game and control the clock, they'll keep it close, but the Pats will notch their eighth straight win.

Pick: Patriots

49ers at Bears, 1 p.m. on CBS
Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first start with his new team. Bears rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky makes his eighth start, hoping his outing this time is much better than what happened to him in Philly. Based on the Bears' defense, SF will lose its 11th game.

Pick: Bears

Buccaneers at Packers, 1 p.m. on FOX
After getting blanked by Baltimore, the Pack went on the road and put a scare into the Steelers. Meanwhile, the Bucs are just playing out the season. The Pack will attack at Lambeau.

Pick: Packers

Texans at Titans, 1 p.m. on CBS
The Texans keep losing players weekly. The Titans are still thinking about winning the division. Marcus Mariota and his crew put it all together against the unraveling Texans.

Pick: Titans

Broncos at Dolphins, 1 p.m. on FOX
Trevor Siemian gave way to Paxton Lynch, who now has a high ankle sprain, so once again, it's back to Siemian. The Dolphins' defense has major flaws but maybe the return of Jay Cutler can jump-start the offense and take some pressure off the D. Dolphins get a slight nod.

Pick: Dolphins

Chiefs at Jets, 1 p.m. on CBS 
It's amazing that the Chiefs, losers of three straight and five of their last six, are still on top of the AFC West. K.C.'s big-play offense has been a big dud. Jets head coach Todd Bowles is fighting to keep his job. His guys haven't quit on him. Chiefs have no choice but to get their offense on track. It comes together for them this week.

Pick: Chiefs

Colts at Jaguars, 1 p.m. on CBS
Earlier this season, the Jags shut out the Colts in Indy. This time, on their home turf, the Jags' No. 1 defense and No. 1 run offense will overwhelm the hapless Colts.

Pick: Jaguars

Lions at Ravens, 1 p.m. on FOX
If the playoffs were to start today, the Ravens would be in and the Lions would be out. The strength of the Ravens is their defense: No. 1 in interceptions (18) and No. 2 in points allowed (17 points per game). When Matthew Stafford is on, the  Lions' offense can rack up points. Terrell Suggs and his defensive mates will be ready.

Pick: Ravens

Browns at Chargers, 4:05 p.m. on CBS
I never thought I'd be saying this, but keep an eye on the Chargers. Philip Rivers has five TDs and zero INTs in his last two games and the Chargers' defense is making plays. As for Cleveland? Well, they are still the Browns. The Chargers win their third straight.

Pick: Chargers

Giants at Raiders, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
Giants fans are in an uproar about the way Eli Manning was benched. The Giants aren't going anywhere but home at season's end and Geno Smith is not the future. The Raiders have issues at WR, but Derek Carr will find a way to get it done.

Pick: Raiders

Panthers at Saints, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
A showdown in the NFC South. The Saints hold the division lead and the Panthers want it. Drew Brees is backed by a pair of talented RBs. The Panthers will go as far as Superman Cam Newton can take them. The Saints beat the Panthers earlier this season and they'll make it a season sweep.

Pick: Saints

Rams at Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. on FOX
The Rams are flying high after last week's win over the Saints. The Cardinals are tough on their home turf. The Cards still remember how the Rams embarrassed them earlier this season. Blaine Gabbert is the Cards' third starting QB of the season. Jared Goff and the Rams have something special going. They will tally their ninth win.

Pick: Rams

Steelers at Bengals, 8:30 p.m., Monday night on ESPN
Everyone keeps talking about the Steelers' matchup in two weeks with New England but the Steelers aren't biting. They are focused in on their division rivals, the Bengals. Anything can happen when these two get together, but the talent level this time is clearly on the Steelers' side. 

Pick: Steelers

Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

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Facing misconduct investigation, Panthers owner selling team

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing a growing investigation that accuses him of sexual misconduct and using racist language at work, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced Sunday that he will sell the NFL team after the season.

The team announced on Twitter that Richardson is selling the team, linking to a five-paragraph letter by the franchise's only owner.

"I believe it is time to turn the franchise over to new ownership," Richardson wrote, saying he wouldn't begin discussions until after the season. The Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl in 2016, are in playoff position again.

"I hope everyone in the organization, both on and off the field, will be firmly focused on one mission: to play and win the Super Bowl," said Richardson, 81.

The NFL awarded Richardson, a former player with the Baltimore Colts, an expansion franchise in 1993, and he has been the team's only owner.

Richardson's letter did not directly address the investigation.

"There has been no greater mission or purpose in my life than to have brought and NFL franchise to Charlotte," Richardson wrote. "The obstacles back then were significant and some even questioned whether or community could or would support professional football. But I always knew that if given the chance the Carolina would rise to the occasion. And you have. The team has become an integral part of the community. The stadium is in its best condition since the day it opened."

Richardson attended the game Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers at Bank of America Stadium and was photographed sitting beside his wife Rosalind in his luxury box.

He did not speak to reporters.

"While I will no longer be the team owner, I will always be the Panthers Number One fan," Richardson's letter said.

The Panthers are tied to Charlotte through June of 2019.

The city of Charlotte and the Panthers reached agreement on improvements for the team's stadium in 2013. The plan called for the city to contribute about $87 million for renovations to Bank of America Stadium in exchange for a six-year deal to keep the Panthers in Charlotte.

The money is less than what the team was seeking for improvements of the stadium, which opened in 1996. Forbes estimates the Panthers worth at $2.3 billion.

Richardson's announcement comes after a Sports Illustrated report that cited unnamed sources who said Richardson made sexually suggestive comments to women and on at least one occasion directed a racial slur at an African-American Panthers scout. The report states that the settlements came with non-disclosure requirements forbidding the parties from discussing the details.

The NFL on Sunday said it has taken over the investigation of allegations of workplace misconduct. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no comment on the report.

Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Sunday the team requested the league take over the investigation.

"We thought it would be best for transparency reasons," Drummond told The Associated Press.

The investigation was originally going to be led by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart and Sullivan, LLP, and overseen by Erskine Bowles, a minority owner with the Panthers.

Drummond said in a release that the Panthers take these allegations very seriously and are committed to a full investigation.

"The entire organization is fully committed to ensuring a safe, comfortable and diverse work environment where all individuals, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, gender, or sexual identity or orientation, are treated fairly and equally," Drummond said.

The Panthers began play in 1995 but have never delivered on Richardson's promise of winning a Super Bowl. They lost after the 2003 and 2015 seasons.

The Panthers are 10-4 entering the final two weeks of the regular season and well positioned for a playoff run.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, like most of the team's players, hadn't read the details of the report that came out just as the Panthers were preparing to play the Green Bay Packers.

Newton said Richardson has served in a "father-like role" for him since his arrival in Carolina seven years ago.

"For me I hope things don't alter my thinking of Mr. Richardson," Newton said. "But I do know that he has given me some things that I will forever be appreciative of."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after the game it is important to let the process play out, but vouched for Richardson's character.

"The only thing I can speak on is for what he has been to me as far as I'm concerned," Rivera said. "A lot of you know I had a house fire and he was there for (my wife) Stephanie and I. He was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed and Mr. Richardson was there and helped me get to the funeral and back. I can't speak to anything other than that."

It has been a whirlwind year for the Panthers organization.

Team president Danny Morrison abruptly resigned in February. Richardson then fired general manager Dave Gettleman on the eve of training camp and replaced him with former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis. It was a surprising move considering Carolina made the playoffs three times in four seasons under Gettleman.

Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

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Vikings' win means Eagles must wait for homefield advantage

MINNEAPOLIS -- Eric Kendricks had an interception return for a touchdown, Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two scores, and the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North title with a 34-7 victory over the depleted and disinterested Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for 37 touches and 242 yards from scrimmage for the Vikings (11-3), who were given quite the reprieve on the schedule a week after their eight-game winning streak ended at Carolina in the last of three consecutive road trips. They were never challenged by a Bengals team missing more than half of its starting defense to injuries and met with a morning report by ESPN that head coach Marvin Lewis will not return next season.

The game went so smoothly that Teddy Bridgewater even made his grand entrance, his first live action in 16 months since a massive knee injury. Bridgewater's first pass was intercepted, a high throw that bounced off McKinnon's hands and into the arms of strong safety Shawn Williams deep in Vikings territory. That set up a short touchdown run by Giovani Bernard to keep the Bengals from being shut out for a second time this year.

Terence Newman also picked off former teammate Andy Dalton, who went just 11 for 22 for 113 yards and three first downs before the Bengals (5-9) turned to backup quarterback A.J. McCarron midway through the fourth quarter after the interception by Williams (see full recap).

Brady, Patriots do it again to Steelers
PITTSBURGH -- Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski did it to the Pittsburgh Steelers again.

One questionable decision by Ben Roethlisberger helped.

Brady fed Gronkowski repeatedly to set up Dion Lewis' go-ahead 8-yard touchdown with 56 seconds remaining and Roethlisberger was intercepted in the end zone with 5 seconds left as the New England Patriots rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 on Sunday.

The Patriots (11-3) gained the inside track for homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs by ending Pittsburgh's eight-game winning streak. Brady threw for 298 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Gronkowski, fresh off a one-game suspension, finished with nine receptions for 168 yards, including four on the game-winning drive.

It briefly looked like it wouldn't be enough.

The Steelers (11-3), who played most of the game without injured wide receiver Antonio Brown, appeared to take the lead when Roethlisberger connected with tight end Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown with 28 seconds to left. The play was overturned on review, with official Tony Corrente saying the ball did not "survive" the completion of the catch (see full recap).

Rams rout Seattle for control of division
SEATTLE -- Todd Gurley rushed for 152 yards and scored four total touchdowns in just 2 quarters, and the Los Angeles Rams moved to the cusp of their first division title since 2003 with a 42-7 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

The matchup to determine first place in the NFC West was completely one-sided.

Los Angeles (10-4) was dominant, embarrassing Seattle into the worst loss during Pete Carroll's eight seasons in charge.

Taking advantage of field position, the Rams scored on six of seven first-half drives, including a 21-point scoring blitz in the second quarter capped by a 57-yard TD run by Gurley on third-and-20 with less than a minute remaining in the first half to take a 34-0 lead at the break.

Gurley had 144 yards rushing in the first half, twice scoring from the 1. He added a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter for a 40-0 Rams lead and spent the rest of his day watching. The 152 yards rushing were the second-best of his career.

The Rams don't have the division wrapped up, but have a two-game lead with two weeks to play. A win against either Tennessee or San Francisco is enough for their first division title in 14 years (see full recap).

Saints beat Jets for 10th win
NEW ORLEANS -- Mark Ingram ran for two touchdowns and gained 151 yards from scrimmage, including a late 50-yard TD run, and the New Orleans Saints overcame three turnovers to defeat the struggling New York Jets, 31-19 on Sunday.

Michael Thomas became the second NFL player with at least 90 receptions in his first two seasons. He caught nine passes for 93 yards, including a pivotal fourth-quarter touchdown on a short slant for New Orleans (10-4), which retained its tenuous hold on first place in the NFC South heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.

Alvin Kamara turned a short catch into a 10-yard TD in his return from a concussion that knocked him out of the Saints' loss at Atlanta a week earlier.

Bryce Petty made his first start at quarterback this season for the Jets (5-9), who were eliminated from playoff contentions. Petty completed 19 of 39 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted twice -- once on a tipped pass and once on a long, inconsequential throw as the game ended.

His 2-yard touchdown pass to former Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire cut New Orleans' lead to 24-19 with 1:51 left. But the Jets' onside kick failed and Ingram broke loose for his long score while the Saints were really just trying to run down the clock (see full recap).