As the calendar turns to December, the NFL playoff picture is starting to take shape. With five weeks remaining in the regular season, there are currently 25 teams either in or within two games of a playoff spot. Four teams are racing towards the finish line with winning streaks of at least six games – Philadelphia (nine), Minnesota (seven), New England (seven) and Pittsburgh (six).
Week 13 begins on Thursday night when Dallas hosts Washington (8:25 PM ET, NBC/NFLN/Amazon Prime) in a key NFC East showdown. Both teams are 5-6 and fighting to stay in the mix for a playoff berth. The week concludes with a pair of primetime contests with playoff implications. On Sunday night (8:30 PM ET, NBC), the Seahawks (7-4) will host the Eagles (10-1) in a game featuring two of the NFC's top teams. On Monday night (8:30 PM ET, ESPN/WLWT), the Steelers (9-2) will visit Cincinnati (5-6) in an important AFC North matchup.
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-2) at CINCINNATI BENGALS (5-6) (Monday, ESPN/WLWT, 8:30 PM ET)
The Steelers have won six consecutive games and are tied with New England for the best record in the AFC (9-2). Last week, Pittsburgh defeated Green Bay 31-28 on Sunday night as wide receiver Antonio Brown had 10 catches for 169 yards with two touchdowns and running back Le'Veon Bell had 183 scrimmage yards (95 rushing, 88 receiving).
This season, Bell leads the league in both rushing yards (981) and scrimmage yards (1,377) while Brown ranks first in both receptions (80) and receiving yards (1,195). The Steelers are aiming to join the 1991 Dallas Cowboys (Pro Football Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin) and 1999 Indianapolis Colts (Edgerrin James and Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison) as the only teams in the Super Bowl era to have the league's leading rusher and receiver.
The Bengals have won two games in a row and are seeking to even their record at 6-6. In Week 12, Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 30-16 behind a pair of Andy Dalton touchdown passes.
Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown against the Browns, his first career 100-yard rushing game. He added three catches for 51 yards to finish with a career-high 165 scrimmage yards. Mixon, who has 484 rushing yards and 258 receiving yards, is one of three rookies this season (Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara) to amass at least 400 rushing yards and 200 receiving yards.
QB Andy Dalton passed for 2 TDs and 111.3 rating in Week 12. Has 7 TDs vs. 0 INTs for 108.8 rating in past 3. Aims for 6th in row with 0 INTs.
RB Joe Mixon had career-high 165 scrimmage yards (114 rush, 51 rec.) and rush TD last week. In past two at home, has 274 scrimmage yards (137 per game). Has rush TD in 3 of past 4. RB Giovani Bernard had 100 rec. yards and TD in 9/18/16 meeting. Has 5 TDs (3 rec., 2 rush) in 8 career meetings.
WR A.J. Green has TD in 2 of past 3. In past 2 home meetings, has 356 rec. yards (178 per game) with 2 TDs. Has 752 rec. yards and 4 TDs in past 7 at home vs. division. Aims for 3rd in row with TD catch on Monday night. WR Brandon LaFell had rec. TD in last meeting. Had 91 rec. yards in last home meeting. TE Tyler Kroft had TD in last game vs. Pit. Aims for 3rd in row with TD catch. Has 4 TDs in past 3 vs. division. WR Tyler Boyd had rec. TD in Week 12.
LB Vontaze Burfict has 44 tackles (11 per game) in 4 career home meetings. DE CARLOS DUNLAP has 1.5 sacks and INT-TD in past 2 at home. In past 5 on Monday night, has 4.5 sacks and 5 TFL. DT Geno Atkins has 7 sacks in past 7 at home. Has 4 sacks in past 6 home games vs. Pit. Rookie LB Carl Lawson had 1.5 sacks last week. Leads all rookies with 7 sacks. Aims for 4th in row at home with sack. DT Pat Sims had sack in Week 12.
QB BEN ROETHLISBERGER completed 33 of 45 (73.3 pct.) for 351 yards with 4 TDs for 106.8 rating last week. Aims for 3rd in row with 30 comp. & 4 TD passes. In past 3 at Cincinnati, has 918 pass yards (306 per game) with 4 TDs vs. 1 INT for 99.2 rating. Has 49,762 career pass yards and needs 238 to become 8th QB in NFL history with 50,000 pass yards. Has 110 rating in 2 of past 3 on Monday night.
RB Le'Veon Bell leads NFL with 981 rush yards and 1,377 scrimmage yards. Had 183 scrimmage yards (95 rush, 88 rec.) in Week 12. Since entering league in 2013, has 38 games with 100 scrimmage yards, 2nd most in NFL. In 6 career meetings, has 823 scrimmage yards (137.2 per game) with 4 TDs (3 rush, 1 rec.). Had 192 scrimmage yards (134 rush, 58 rec.) in last meeting.
WR Antonio Brown leads NFL with 80 catches & 1,195 rec. yards. Had 10 catches for 169 yards & 2 TDs last week. Has 20 catches for 313 yards (156.5 per game) & 5 TDs in past 2. Has 5 games with 10 catches & 100 rec. yards, tied for 4th most in season in NFL history. WR MARTAVIS BRYANT had TD catch last week.
DE Cameron Heyward had 2 sacks in Week 12. Aims for 3rd in row with 2 sacks. Had sack in last meeting. LB Ryan Shazier had sack in last road game vs. Cincinnati. Rookie LB T.J. Watt has 3 sacks in past 3 vs. division. Ties for 2nd among rookies with 5 sacks. CB William Gay has INT in 2 of past 4 meetings.