This is now crunch time in the NFL season. Every loss for contending teams alters the playoff picture and opens the door for others. That is exactly what happened in Week 13. Here are some of the big takeaways:
It’s time to scrap any remaining Vikings skepticism
The Minnesota Vikings have won eight straight games behind a stellar defense and solid quarterback play from Case Keenum. Sunday’s 14-9 win in Atlanta was right up there with their most meaningful victories of the season. They shut down Julio Jones, contained the Falcons’ run game and made just enough plays down the stretch. Minnesota have to be considered legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl, which just happens to be in their own stadium this season.
Russell Wilson makes his MVP case
No quarterback has carried a heavier burden this season than Wilson, who accounts for a staggering percentage of Seattle’s offense. The Seahawks needed a big performance on Sunday night against the high-flying Philadelphia Eagles. And Wilson (along with his defense) responded. He threw for three touchdowns and delivered the full array of scampering improvisations. Seattle moved to 8-4 and if Wilson guides his team into the playoffs, he deserves MVP consideration.
Alvin Kamara has wrapped up Rookie of the Year honours
This trophy seemed to be heading to Kareem Hunt after the first few weeks of the season. Then Deshaun Watson took over as a clear favourite. But Hunt’s slump and Watson’s injury flipped the script. Kamara has been phenomenal in his first season in New Orleans. He routinely breaks tackles and is always a threat for long touchdown runs, like the one he had against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 12. Assuming he continues his strong play (he has scored at least one touchdown in each of his last six games), he has to be named Rookie of the Year.
The Chiefs are running out of time to fix things
Even as the Kansas City Chiefs’ fast start faded away, it seemed likely that they would rediscover their edge. But after another loss (this time blowing a 14-0 lead against the New York Jets), it is time to really worry about their postseason hopes. They are now tied with the Los Angeles Chargers and Oakland Raiders in the AFC West at 6-6. Only one of those teams is making the playoffs, and the momentum is very much against the Chiefs at this point.
And there’s lots more to come…
When Week 14 rolls around, the stakes will be even higher. The Saints and Falcons square off, as do the Chiefs and Raiders. The Rams host the Eagles in a key game at the top of the NFC while the Baltimore Ravens battle old enemy the Pittsburgh Steelers. Week 15 looks equally mouth-watering. Things are about to heat up.