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2013 NFL Week 14 Preview — 5 Intriguing Storylines to Watch

Cam Newton
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NFL teams must make their playoff push or risk being shoved out of contention. Here are five storylines we’ll be watching this week:

NFC East vs. NFC North

Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia — Sun. Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. (ET)

Eagles Lions
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The Philadelphia Eagles (7-5) bring a four-game winning streak into their contest against the Detroit Lions (7-5) on Sunday. As co-leaders of the NFC East, the Eagles must keep pace with the Dallas Cowboys to force a showdown on the regular season’s final Sunday. The team’s biggest challenge this week will be stopping Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush and Calvin Johnson. Philly’s Nick Foles must avoid the Lions’ pass rush that attacked Green Bay’s Matt Flynn like he was a turkey in the Thanksgiving Day game, resulting in seven sacks and a blowout win for Detroit.

Eli Manning Comes To San Diego

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego — Sun. Dec. 8 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)

Minnesota Vikings v New York Giants
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Eli Manning never wanted to go to San Diego; this week, he’ll have no choice. The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback will lead his New York Giants (5-7) against the Chargers (5-7), the team that chose Manning with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft and traded him to New York when he stated he didn’t want to play in San Diego. It’s not Manning’s first trip to the city he jilted, but it’s the first time he’ll play there with two Super Bowl rings. Just a hunch, but the Chargers’ fans may not welcome him. Though the teams have the same record, the Chargers are just a game out of the AFC’s final playoff spot. Philip Rivers, whom Manning was traded for in that decade-plus old deal, is having one of his best seasons ever.

The Carroll vs. Harbaugh War Continues

Candlestick Park, San Francisco — Sun. Dec. 8 at 4:25 p.m. (ET)

Carroll Harbaugh
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The Seattle Seahawks (11-1) became the first team to clinch a playoff berth this season with their rout of New Orleans on Monday night. Their next test comes on the road this week as coach Pete Carroll’s team faces the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers (8-4). Niners head coach Jim Harbaugh steered his squad through a rough patch earlier this season, including a 29-3 loss to Seattle in Week 2. The Seahawks can wrap up the NFC West title with a win. Carroll would like nothing better than to celebrate in front of long-time nemesis Harbaugh.

Cam Newton Is Back in the National Spotlight

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans — Sun. Dec. 8 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)

Cam Newton
Getty Images

Last time Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers (9-3) played in primetime, they edged the Patriots (on a controversial non-call). Newton has become an emerging star, but the Panthers’ not-so-secret weapon is their defense, which leads the NFC in sacks with 39. Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees undoubtedly knows that number, though he’s probably more concerned with how New Orleans (9-3) stumbled through their loss to Seattle on Monday night. If Brees can keep from running for his life long enough to find Saints’ all-world tight end Jimmy Graham, this should be a classic battle for the NFC South lead.

The Bears Try to Wake Up From Hibernation

Soldier Field, Chicago — Mon. Dec. 9 at 8:30 p.m. (ET)

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings
Getty Images

It wasn’t that long ago that the Bears were on top of the NFC North. After a few weeks, Chicago (6-6) finds itself trailing rival Detroit, and trying to recover from sluggish outings against the Rams and Vikings. It’s unclear if starting quarterback Jay Cutler’s groin injury will have healed enough for him to start instead of Josh McCown. Dallas (7-5) is the co-leader of the NFC East, despite a historically bad defense and inconsistent offensive production from Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant. Perhaps a microcosm of the 2013 NFL season, this game features a matchup of teams that are a mess and probably shouldn’t be contending for their respective divisions. The mediocrity has produced exciting games, though.

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