THE GAMES — Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The "Legion of Boom" is used to laying the wood to the opposition but the Seahawks' talented group of defensive backs has now turned its attention to derailing Seattle's potential run toward Super Bowl XLVIII.
A day after news surfaced that Walter Thurmond was going to drop his appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, the guy he replaced in the starting lineup, the injured Brandon Browner, is about to get popped again, according to the NFL Network.
Browner's suspension was originally reported as a PED-related penalty, what would have been his second in two seasons after sitting out the final four games of the 2012 campaign.
Browner, who is currently sidelined while nursing a groin injury, quickly refuted Mike Silver's reporting by Tweeting: "I'm not facing suspension for PEDs, it's sad that the NFL is reporting this."
The wording of that denial was key and factually correct, Browner is not facing suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. He is, however, on the wrong end of the league's substance-abuse policy.
Semantics aside, abusing Adderall instead of marijuana would have actually helped Browner is this instance. He was facing eight games for his second violation of the PED policy but will be on the hook for a one-year suspension for repeated violations under the substance-abuse charges.
According to the NFL's substance abuse policy, a one-year penalty is only leveled once an offender has advanced to the third (and final) stage of the program. A player advances that far only after multiple prior violations, which could be anything from a positive test to a missed test.
Suspensions, of course, have been a significant problem for the Seattle secondary dating back to 2012.
Browner dropped his appeal of the four-game suspension at the same time his running mate, All-Pro Richard Sherman, was facing a four-game knock for using Adderall, a penalty eventually overturned due to errors in the chain of custody of his urine sample and mistakes made by the tester.
NFL executive Bob Wallace made the decision to overturn Sherman's suspension when it was revealed his urine sample was "not ordinary" because the cup began leaking and the tester grabbed another cup and transferred the sample.
Few, however, doubt Sherman was doing what he was accused of.
When asked about the star corner prior to the wild card game between the Seahawks and Washington last year, 'Skins linebacker Kedric Golston succinctly said: "He's a cheater."
More than a few who see Seattle's 10-1 record and the dominance in its defensive backfield are saying the same thing right now.
Before releasing his players during the bye week, Seattle coach Pete Carroll pleaded for some maturity.
"That includes being conscious that they're Seahawks," Carroll said when asked what he told his players. "Take advantage of that and have great awareness that they represent wherever they go in what they're doing. It was a pretty strong message.
"We don't want any issues coming off of this week."
Well the Seahawks already had major issues and they started long before this news broke. Silver reported Monday that the suspensions were brought up in a recent team meeting with both center Max Unger and Sherman relaying this thought:
"We're going to the Super Bowl. If any of you want to do this stuff, go ahead. You won't be coming with us."
Seems pretty hypocritical on Sherman's part at least.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider understand Thurmond is gone for a month and this isn't ending well for Browner, who is set to become a free agent after the season. In fact, this likely foreshadows the end of Browner's time in the Pacific Northwest because the reported suspension would stretch deep into the 2014 campaign.
The Seahawks were down to Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane as the only corners on the roster until signing ex-49er Perrish Cox on Tuesday.
The team has also reached out to veteran slot cornerback Antoine Winfield, who was with Seattle over the summer before being released, along with former Seahawk Marcus Trufant.
None of those options, of course, are equal to having a healthy Browner starting opposite Sherman in the postseason with Thurmond manning the nickel.
This time, though, Browner and Thurmond didn't get an edge on the opposition or beat the NFL's drug police. They "cheated" a Seahawks team with a legitimate chance to be in East Rutherford, NJ in early February.
"Everyone should realize where this team is," wide receiver Golden Tate told n KIRO Radio in Seattle on Tuesday. "You are affecting way more than yourself. I feel like that was kind of a selfish move on both those guys' part. But it is what it is. The show must go on, and that's what we're gonna do."
NFL POWER POLL
The Sports Network's updated NFL Power Poll, which ranks all 32 league teams, can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2cjp9l8 WEEK 13
Green Bay (5-5-1) at Detroit (6-5), Thursday, 12:30 p.m.
LINE: Lions by 6
THE SKINNY: Aaron Rodgers isn't coming through that door to save the Green Bay Packers, at least not yet. Packers coach Mike McCarthy told reporters early in the week that the All-Pro might try, but it would be a "huge stretch" to think he would be recovered enough from a broken collarbone to play on Thanksgiving Day against the Detroit Lions.
So, the Pack will take another shot at earning their first win since their franchise player went down with the injury on Nov. 4. Veteran Matt Flynn will be the third different quarterback to start in the four games since A-Rod went down after rallying Green Bay from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit during a 26-26 tie with Minnesota last week.
Flynn passed for 480 yards and six touchdowns -- both franchise records since matched by Rodgers -- in his last start against the Lions on Jan. 1, 2012.
The Lions, meanwhile, have dropped two straight games and have been unable to take advantage of Rodgers' absence. They are currently tied with Chicago atop the NFC North and one-half game ahead of Green Bay.
This will mark the 74th-Annual Thanksgiving Day game for Detroit. Since its inception in 1934, the Lions have played 24 different teams on Turkey Day and carry a 33-38-2 record in the annual holiday classic. Detroit has played Green Bay more than any other opponent during the Thanksgiving Day series and holds an 11-8-1 over 20 matchups.
PREDICTION: Lions 30, Packers 23
Oakland (4-7) at Dallas (6-5), Thursday, 4:30 p.m.
LINE: Cowboys by 9 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Cowboys are 28-16-1 on Thanksgiving Day and quarterback Tony Romo has won five of his six starts on the holiday.
Last week, Romo threw two touchdown passes to tight end Jason Witten as Dallas defeated the New York Giants 24-21 and moved into a tie for first place in the NFC East with Philadelphia.
The Raiders dropped a 23-19 decision to Tennessee last week but are just one game behind a plethora of teams deadlocked for the final wild card berth in the AFC race.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 24, Raiders 17
Pittsburgh (5-6) at Baltimore (5-6), Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Ravens by 3
THE SKINNY: One of the NFL's best rivalries caps off Thanksgiving Day when Baltimore hosts Pittsburgh.
The Steelers and Ravens are deadlocked at 5-6 and are among six teams tied for the final playoff berth in the AFC. Pittsburgh has won three games in a row, including last week's 27-11 win at Cleveland. In his past two contests, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who is 10-4 as a starter versus Baltimore, has thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions.
Baltimore's defense is rounding into form, limiting the New York Jets to 220 total net yards while QB Joe Flacco tossed a 66-yard touchdown pass to wide Jacoby Jones in last week's 19-3 win. The Ravens are now 4-1 at home this season.
PREDICTION: Ravens 20, Steelers 17
Tampa Bay (3-8) at Carolina (8-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Panthers by 8 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Panthers have won seven in a row -- the NFL's longest active winning streak -- and enter the week just one game behind New Orleans for the top spot in the NFC South. The Carolina defense, led by MLB Luke Kuechly, who has an NFL-high 257 tackles since entering the leagues in 2012, has allowed an NFL-low 151 points.
Tampa Bay has rebounded from an 0-8 start to win three straight behind rookie QB Mike Glennon, who has completed 77.3 of his passes and compiled a 142.0 passer rating over his past two games. In his last six contests Glennon has 10 TD passes and just one interception.
PREDICTION: Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14
Jacksonville (2-9) at Cleveland (4-7), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Browns by 7
THE SKINNY: After an 0-8 start Jacksonville has rebounded to win two of three behind QB Chad Henne, who recorded a season-best 71.9 completion percentage in a win over Houston last week and compiled a solid 90.4 passer rating in his last game at Cleveland while he was a member of the Miami Dolphins.
The Browns have lost five of six overall and are in danger of falling out of contention for the final playoff slot in the AFC. With veteran QB Jason Campbell expected to be unavailable due to a concussion suffered against Pittsburgh in Week 12, Cleveland will shift back to second-year signal caller Brandon Weeden, who has already benched twice this season.
PREDICTION: Browns 17, Jaguars 14
Tennessee (5-6) at Indianapolis (7-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Colts by 4
THE SKINNY: This is Tennessee's last chance to push a slumping Indianapolis team in the AFC South. The Colts come in with a two-game edge in the division thanks in large part to a 30-27 comeback win over the Titans in Nashville back in Week 11. Indianapolis RB Donald Brown rushed for 80 yards and two TDs in that one while QB Andrew Luck threw for 232 yards and had a rushing TD.
The Colts, though, have been outscored 93-12 during the first half of their last four games and can't keep digging out of massive holes. Since 2003 Indianapolis is 17-4 against Tennessee and Luck has a solid 7-2 career record in AFC South games. For the Titans, veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick has performed well in place of the injured Jake Locker, completing 74-of-103 passes for 806 yards with 5 TDs and no picks in his last three games.
PREDICTION: Colts 23, Titans 17
Chicago (6-5) at Minnesota (2-8-1), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Vikings by 1
THE SKINNY: The Vikings latest fourth-quarter collapse resulted in a 26-26 tie with Green Bay a week ago. Trailing 23-7 early in the final frame, the Packers scored 16 unanswered with Matt Flynn under center to send the game into overtime. It was the first tie in the NFL since Nov. 11, 2012, when the 49ers and Rams played to a 24-24 deadlock. For the Vikings, it was their first time kissing their sister since 1978, also against the Packers.
The Bears remain tied atop the NFC North with Detroit despite a lackluster performance in St. Louis a week ago. Things should be different against the dismal Minnesota D which is the worst in the NFL, allowing 346 points. Backup QB Josh McCown, who has a 110.8 passer rating in five games this season, will remain under center for Chicago in place of the injured Jay Cutler.
PREDICTION: Bears 34, Vikings 23
Miami (5-6) at NY Jets (5-6), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Jets by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: The bye week screwed up the Jets' win, lose, win, lose, rinse and repeat habit and the fallout means New York is on the outside, looking in at the AFC's last playoff spot with a struggling rookie QB in Geno Smith. When Smith is competent the Jets usually win (New York is 3-0 when Geno has a passer rating of 80-or-more). Problem is, he hasn't been all that competent recently.
Miami is also in desperate straights after coming up short against Carolina last week despite Ryan Tannehill's fourth career 300-yard passing game.
PREDICTION: Jets 17, Dolphins 14
Arizona (7-4) at Philadelphia (6-5), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Eagles by 3
THE SKINNY: The Cardinals and Eagles have combined to post a perfect 6-0 record in November. Arizona has won four in a row -- 3-0 in November -- and Philadelphia has been victorious in each of its past three contests. The 7-4 Cardinals are tied for the final wild card berth in the NFC while the 6-5 Eagles are deadlocked with Dallas atop the NFC East.
Arizona routed Indianapolis 40-11 last week as quarterback Carson Palmer, who has a 110.8 passer rating over his past four games, threw for 314 yards and two touchdowns, both to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 11,000 receiving yards (30 years, 85 days), besting the previous mark held by Randy Moss (30 years, 222 days).
"It feels great to be 7-4," said Fitzgerald. "We still have five games. We have a lot of football to go against some good teams. We have a great opportunity ahead of us. We control our own destiny and that's the best you can hope for."
The Eagles high-powered offense has averaged 33.3 points per game in November and quarterback Nick Foles has a 152.8 passer rating in the month, the highest by a player in any calendar month in NFL history. Foles leads the NFL in 2013 with a 128.0 passer rating and is joined by running back LeSean McCoy, who leads the league in rushing with 1,009 yards.
"You always want to play meaningful games," said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. "Fortunately, we've put ourselves in a position to do so. What's most important is that we take it as a one-game season and this week is the most important one. And now that's the Arizona Cardinals because that's the next game."
PREDICTION: Cardinals 27, Eagles 23
New England (8-3) at Houston (2-9), Sunday, 1 p.m.
LINE: Patriots by 7 1/2
THE SKINNY: When Houston arrived to play the Patriots in Foxborough late last season the Texans were 11-1. They are 4-12 since and are currently in the midst of a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak.
New England, meanwhile, has won 15 of its past 16 in December and in case you didn't notice, the calendar turns on Sunday. Pats QB Tom Brady is 41-6 all- time in the last month of the year and is 4-1 against the Texans.
PREDICTION: Patriots 30, Texans 13
Atlanta (2-9) at Buffalo (4-7), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: Bills by 3
THE SKINNY: The Bills will take on the fading Falcons in their home away from home, Toronto's Rogers Centre. This mark's Buffalo's sixth game in Toronto, a traditional trip which was recently renewed and extended through the 2017 season.
On the field Bills rookie QB EJ Manuel is looking to keep Buffalo's slim postseason hopes alive and needs three TD passes to pass Dennis Shaw (10 in 1970) for the most by a freshman in franchise history. Atlanta is looking to stop a free-fall which has resulted in five straight setbacks.
PREDICTION: Bills 21, Falcons 18
St. Louis (5-6) at San Francisco (7-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
LINE: 49ers by 9
THE SKINNY: St. Louis is continuing to build on Tavon Austin's coming out party over the past few games. The dynamic rookie has had four TDs of over 50 yards in his last two games, including a 65-yard TD run in a win over Chicago last week. Austin is the first player in NFL history with 95-yard punt return TD, an 80-plus-yard receiving score and a 65-plus-running TD in one season.
The Niners are in a dogfight for a playoff spot in the NFC and got a big bounce back performance from QB Colin Kaepernick in a decisive win over Washington on Monday night. Kaepernick, who had passed for a total of 218 yards in his prior two contests, had a career-best 134.5 passer rating against the Redskins. San Francisco is a perfect 9-0 when Kaepernick starts and amasses a rating of 100-or-better.
PREDICTION: 49ers 20, Rams 14
Cincinnati (7-4) at San Diego (5-6), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Chargers by 1 1/2
THE SKINNY: Cincinnati enters Week 13 with a two-game lead in the AFC North over both Pittsburgh and Baltimore, while the Chargers are deadlocked with six teams for the final wild card spot in the conference.
The Bengals, who had a bye last week, recorded a 41-20 victory over Cleveland in Week 11. In that contest, quarterback Andy Dalton threw three touchdown passes and is currently third in the AFC with 21 TD throws this season.
"We're in a really good position right now," said Dalton. "For us as a team, we feel like we're in control of everything. And that's where we want to be at this point in the season."
The Chargers won 41-38 at Kansas City behind signal caller Philip Rivers, who threw the game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds remaining. Rivers finished the day with 392 yards and three touchdowns, his fourth game with at least 390 passing yards this season, matching Hall of Famers Dan Marino (1984) and Joe Montana (1990) for the most such games in a single season.
"This is one of those wins you'll never forget," said Rivers. "It was an unbelievable team effort. It's the kind of win that can save a season. Hopefully it can plunge us forward with four of our final five games at home."
PREDICTION: Chargers 23, Bengals 21
Denver (9-2) at Kansas City (9-2), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
LINE: Broncos by 4 1/2
THE SKINNY: The Broncos and Chiefs will meet for the second time in three weeks. Both teams enter Week 13 tied atop the division with the best record in the AFC at 9-2. In Week 11, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning passed for 323 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' 27-17 win over the Chiefs. The Broncos are 3-0 in division games this season.
The Chiefs opened the season with nine consecutive wins before the Week 11 loss to Denver, becoming the first team in the four major professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) to start a season 9-0 after finishing with the worst record in the previous year.
"There's a lot of season left and a lot can happen," said Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. "We have to get back to the mentality of 'Let's just go 1-0 this week.' We can't be looking beyond that."
PREDICTION: Broncos 33, Chiefs 17
NY Giants (4-7) at Washington (3-8), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
LINE: Giants by 1
THE SKINNY: The embattled Robert Griffin III is facing criticism from all directions as the architect of Washington's dismal 3-8 start. RG3 piloted an offense which didn't score a TD against San Francisco on Monday night, something that has never happened to Griffen before even on the college level at Baylor.
The Giants, meanwhile, are coming off a huge loss to Dallas and one which could have derailed the club's slim postseason hopes. New York QB Eli Manning, who has started 146 consecutive games, the longest active streak by a signal caller, is 5-2 in his last seven starts against the Redskins.
PREDICTION: Giants 17, Redskins 16
New Orleans (9-2) at Seattle (10-1), Monday, 8:40 p.m.
LINE: Seahawks by 5 1/2
THE SKINNY: The two teams with the best records in the NFC will face one another on Monday Night Football in a game which could determine the No. 1 seed in the conference. The Saints, who lead the NFC South, have won three games in a row. The NFC-West leading Seahawks have won six consecutive games.
"We feel really good about where we're at," said Seattle head coach Pete Carroll. "We've got a good feeling about where we're going. Now we're going to push to continue to improve to the end."
New Orleans signal caller Drew Brees has won nine starts in a row on Monday night with a 123.6 passer rating. Last week, in the Saints' 17-13 win at Atlanta, he surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon and moved into fifth place in NFL history with 49,566 career passing yards.
The Seahawks, who had a bye in Week 12, are 10-1 for the first time in franchise history. At home, the team has won 13 consecutive games and second- year QB Russell Wilson has never lost as a starter at home, recording a 117.0 passer rating at CenturyLink Field.
"This is one of those venues that separates itself from the others," said Saints head coach Sean Payton. "Their fans are passionate. They love their team. It presents challenges and it's something we're going to have to be good at and be able to handle. Add in that it's a Monday night game on top of it and I'm sure it will be a real loud environment up there."
PREDICTION: Seahawks 27, Saints 26