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

Doug Pederson left to explain Mike Groh's comments about Golden Tate

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Doug Pederson left to explain Mike Groh's comments about Golden Tate

A day after Mike Groh made his ridiculous statement about struggling to get Golden Tate involved, Doug Pederson was left to pick up the pieces and cover for his beleaguered offensive coordinator.

On Tuesday, Groh was asked about working the newly acquired Tate into the offense, and his unfortunate response was, “It’s been challenging to integrate him.”

A coach — especially one whose unit has underachieved as much as Groh’s — should never admit that he’s struggling to do his job. It’s just a bad look.

Pederson tried to take Groh off the hook Wednesday when asked about Groh’s comment:

Any time you bring a player in that adds value and adds talent to your roster, I don’t care what position it is, there’s going to be a learning curve. In Golden’s case, this guy's played a lot of football and he’s a sharp guy and he understands the scheme of a route or the actual route design, but how we call the play or how we call that route is where for his learning curve is and where he needs to learn that and obviously get caught up. He’s spent countless hours with Gunter (Brewer, wide receivers coach), with Mike, asking questions of myself in these last three weeks or so to try to get himself caught up.

Tate played 18 of 62 snaps against the Cowboys and 36 of 48 snaps Sunday against the Saints. He had 2 for 19 against Dallas and a team-high 5 for 48 in New Orleans.

For the sake of comparison, Amari Cooper was 5 for 58 with a touchdown in his first game with the Cowboys, then 6 for 75 against the Eagles and 3 for 36 vs. the Falcons on Sunday.

The Cowboys are 2-1 with Cooper, but the Eagles haven’t won a game since acquiring Tate, and his presence Sunday seemed to hurt Nelson Agholor, who was targetted 68 times in the Eagles’ first nine games but only twice against the Saints and was without a catch.

Pederson said Tate’s limited production, at least Sunday, was more due to the Eagles’ overall offense malaise than any issue “integrating” Tate into the offense.

The Eagles ran only 48 plays in their 48-7 loss to the Saints, their fewest since they ran 45 in a game against the Seahawks in 2014.

“We didn’t have enough touches in the game Sunday,” Pederson said. “There weren’t enough snaps. We didn’t stay on the field enough. We didn’t convert third downs.

“We have to do collectively a better job of making more plays obviously and … until we can do that and spread the ball out a little bit you can point the finger all you want.”

Tate is one of only seven players in NFL history with 90 or more catches in four straight seasons. He’s 51 for 584 this year, including seven games with the Lions.

Carson Wentz said Wednesday he thinks incorporating Tate into the offense has gone smoothly.

We feel comfortable with Golden. Nothing was clicking (Sunday). I feel really confident in getting Golden in there and how we’re using him and using him moving forward. I don’t think it’s necessarily been a challenge. We’re always trying to find ways to spread the ball around. We have a lot of playmakers and we have to use them well. Excited how we’re going to keep using him and all our weapons from Nelson to J. Matt (Jordan Matthews) to Alshon (Jeffery) to (Zach) Ertz.

The Eagles are 4-6 and two games behind a division leader that lost its quarterback that they still play twice. 

There are six games left. The Eagles need to start winning games, and the offense needs to be dramatically better.

If they’re going to dig their way out of this, the Eagles have to find some answers about Tate, Agholor and offensive balance very, very soon.

And it would probably be a good idea if Groh chooses his words more carefully.

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Doug Pederson responds to Malcolm Jenkins’ assertion Eagles lacked fight

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Doug Pederson responds to Malcolm Jenkins’ assertion Eagles lacked fight

A day after Malcolm Jenkins asserted that the Eagles didn’t have enough fight in their 48-7 loss to the Saints (see story), Doug Pederson on Wednesday was asked to respond to those comments. 

After all, just two days earlier, he praised his team’s effort and said they battled to the end.  

“I think, quite frankly, I talk about ownership quite a bit,” Pederson said. “I think some of his comments are directed towards him. He’ll own that. I think it kind of sends a message a little bit to everybody. We’re all held to a higher standard. It starts with me. 

“I leaned on our leadership of this football team quite a bit. Asked that if they see something, to respond. Listen, I don’t think he’s addressing it to one individual person. It’s a whole group and we all need to kind of step our game up.” 

Yeah … somehow I don’t think Jenkins was talking about himself here. Although, this is on the whole team. 

But Pederson said he didn’t view Jenkins’ comments as finger-pointing. In fact, Pederson said that’s one thing he loves about this team, that no one is quick to point fingers. 

But none of that changes the fact that shortly after the brutal loss, Pederson praised his players for battling and then two days later, Jenkins ripped his teammates for not having enough fight. 

So did the Eagles show enough fight? 

“Each man has to look at themselves in the mirror and they have to address that question individually,” Pederson said. “So it’s hard for me to stand up here and say, ‘Did you give your best effort on Sunday?’ You have to answer that for yourself. I think that’s where part of that comes from.” 

Yeah, we’re back to the mirrors. 

Just last week, Jason Kelce spoke up about the importance of accountability. And this week, Jenkins spoke up about the Eagles’ demeanor. 

So that’s two team leaders in two weeks making critical comments about the Eagles. 

“They’re disappointed. We’re all disappointed,” Pederson said. “The season has not gone the way we anticipated coming out of training camp.”

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