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

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett knows why Eagles can repeat as Super Bowl champions

Michael Bennett was with the Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl in 2013, and he was with the Seahawks the next three years when they were supposed to but never did again.

He knows how hard it is to win it twice. If the Seahawks, with Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Marshawn Lynch and company, couldn’t do it, who can?

Bennett thinks his new team is on the right track.

“They’re not complacent,” he said. “You look at most organizations. They win, they think that’s it, that year. But this team is pushing and moving pieces and finding our weaknesses and making them better, and I think that’s how you prepare to win [again]. 

“I think they’ve done a great job of it and me being an addition is something that I think is a great move.”

The Eagles, who won Super Bowl LII six weeks ago, acquired the 32-year-old Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end in each of the last three years, and a seventh-round pick from the Seahawks last week in exchange for receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick.

Bennett was there in 2014, when the Seahawks went 12-4 and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket before losing, 28-24, to the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

The Seahawks were one yard from winning. But that final sequence shows just how hard it is to repeat. The last NFL team to win back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots in 2003 and 2004. The last NFC team was the Cowboys in 1992 and 1993.

“When you come to the NFL, you want to hold that Lombardi,” Bennett said. “A lot of people can get Pro Bowls, a lot of people can get a lot of different things in the NFL when it comes to contracts, but not a lot of people can hold that Lombardi, and when you hold it, it’s something that’s very dear. 

“It’s like you’re holding your child and being able to caress it and hold it and it’s yours and it’s something that you really value, and I think for me, that’s what it’s really about. 

“To come into an organization and you look around and everybody wants that. First thing I talked to Howie (Roseman) about was, the first thing he said is, 'I want to go back,' and when you hear somebody say something like that, you feel it, and I felt it through the phone and I felt the vibe, so for me, that’s what it’s really about.”

Bennett was asked what he learned from Seattle’s failure to repeat its 2013 success and how that might help the Eagles find their way to a second consecutive championship.

“I kind of go with the Nelson Mandela approach: ‘You never really lose, you either win or you grow from situations,’" Bennett said.

“And I think we were just growing as a team. We were a young team, we were having so much success, I was on a team full of superstars every single day. There were never enough cameras, every commercial was somebody on my team. So it was just us growing and I think we all just wanted to continue to grow. 

“As you know, in this league, it’s hard to get back to those moments and be able to win those games. Things happen, people get traded, new players come in, things change. I don’t think it took a toll on us, we just move on season to season and try to be the best players we could possibly be.”

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

Michael Bennett thinks Eagles' DL can be among 'greatest' ever

As Michael Bennett watched the Eagles face the Patriots in Super Bowl LII, he couldn’t help but think about how he would fit with the Birds’ defensive line.

And how he could make an already impressive unit even better.

“Then a month later, it happens,” Bennett said at his introductory press conference in Philly on Monday afternoon. “Things always happen for a reason. This is just another great opportunity.”

Bennett is 32 now, but is coming off his third consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl. He clearly thinks he has plenty left in the tank and the Eagles obviously agree. They traded with the Seahawks to get him and then released a more expensive Vinny Curry.

The Birds then brought in Haloti Ngata and let Beau Allen walk in free agency. So the Eagles’ defensive line now includes Bennett, Ngata, Fletcher Cox, Tim Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Chris Long and Derek Barnett. The group includes five former first-round picks and has a combined 11 Pro Bowls between them.

On Monday afternoon, Bennett put the quarterbacks of the NFC East on notice (see story) and then didn’t mince words about how great this defensive line can be in 2018.

“I think it can be one of the greatest,” he said. “I think we can have one of the greatest defensive lines to ever play the game if we approach the game every single way. Just go out there and just keep doing what they’re doing and just finding a way to add and just keep showing how many great players.

“I think a great defensive line is about the rotation. It’s kind of like Golden State. You want to be able to have those guys who can come in and shoot and shoot and score every time.”

This isn’t the first time an Eagles defensive lineman has compared the unit to the Golden State Warriors. In fact, it was Curry who said it last October after the Eagles tortured San Francisco's C.J. Beathard for an afternoon at the Linc (see story). Curry’s out and Bennett is in, but the rotation is still going strong.

Bennett played 934 defensive snaps for the Seahawks in 2017. That was the third most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. For comparison’s sake, Graham led the Eagles’ defensive linemen in snaps with 666 in the regular season; that ranked 43rd in the NFL among defensive linemen.

So maybe that means that the disruptive numbers Bennett put up in Seattle were because he played so much. Or, on the flip side, staying fresh might actually help increase his productivity and lead to more longevity. The Eagles are hoping for the latter.

“I’m comfortable with taking less plays, man,” Bennett said. “But, like I said, I came here to be an All-Star, just like I’ve been, to continuously play at a Pro Bowl level and I don’t think that’s no different. Just taking snaps off, being able to have a [longer] career, it’s something that every player wishes and dreams about. And this organization, when you think about play snaps and counts and keeping guys fresh for the moments that count.

“Because at the end of the day, it’s not about September or October or November; it’s about January and February. To be able to keep guys fresh and to have those opportunities where you have guys to be able to keep rushing the quarterback as savage as we can. You gotta go out there and play savage every single play and I think less snaps can give me the opportunity to do that.”