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Madden Ratings: Week 12 analysis, Week 13 predictions

You've all heard of the butterfly effect (and, no, I don't mean the Ashton Kutcher movie).

The theory states that one small change or deviation can lead to larger ramifications down the line. I've had personal experience with this myself. In fact, I'm personally responsible for the Patriots dynasty and Tom Brady's career because of the butterfly effect.

Back in the summer of 2001, when I was in high school, I was offered the chance to drive the New England Patriots' team shuttle at training camp, taking players to and from the practice field. I had to pass on the opportunity, but a few months later, in Week 2 of that season, Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was hit by New York Jets linebacker Mo Lewis while running out of bounds. The hit injured Bledsoe, and in came an unknown quarterback named Tom Brady. The rest, as they say, is history. So, you see, if I had been five minutes early picking up Bledsoe, or five minutes late dropping off Brady, that hit by Mo Lewis may never have happened. So, you're welcome, New England.

Why am I telling you this? Because the butterfly effect got the worst of the Patriots last week in Denver when undrafted rookie Chris Harper muffed a punt in the fourth quarter with the Pats leading 21-7. Denver recovered the ball and eventually went on to win the game. So, if not for Harper's mishap, the Patriots may have walked away victorious and with a still healthy Rob Gronkowski. Harper got cut the day after that game, but was re-signed on Wednesday to the team's practice squad.

I hope you've learned a valuable lesson about the butterfly effect, Chris. From here on out, just signal for a fair catch.

Now, on to the ratings.

Moving On Up

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins is up two points this week to 89 OVR. Watkins had six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Chiefs, all in the first half. He was targeted just once in the second half as the Bills went on to lose the game. Nice play calling, Rex.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton is up two points to 78 OVR after going off for 201 receiving yards and a touchdown in Week 12 against Seattle. It was the first 100-yard game of Wheaton's career (39 games), and he became just the fourth Steelers receiver with 200-plus receiving yards in a single game since 1960. Fellow teammate Antonio Brown also had a 200-yard game this season.

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson had the game-winning touchdown run in overtime last week that put an end to the New England Patriots' perfect season. Anderson finished the game with 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns, his first multi-touchdown game of the year. That was good enough for a one-point bump up to 83 OVR.

Moving On Down

Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich is down five points this week to 80 OVR. With injuries plaguing the Patriots on both sides of the ball, a drop in the Madden ratings is the least of his worries.

Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is down a point to 94 OVR after his Legion of Boom gave up over 450 passing yards to the Steelers. If not for Russell Wilson's five-touchdown game, Pittsburgh might've walked away with the victory.

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Mike Wallace is down a point this week to 81 OVR. I thought it was important to include him in this week's ratings just to remind everyone that he's still in the league ... and getting paid a ton of money.

Great Caesar's Ghost

How great was that new "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" trailer? Fantasy gurus Marcas Grant and Alex Gelhar were less than impressed by it, but Adam Rank and I are geeking out after seeing the trio of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman on the same screen. I don't care what anyone says, it's going to be epic!

Six bold predictions for Week 13


EA Sports

6. The Atlanta Falcons are so bad they are virtually unwatchable. They haven't reached "Episode 1: Phantom Menace" unwatchable status yet, but they're getting close. The Falcons have lost five of their last six games, including four-straight. Their current losing streak started with an embarrassing home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 8. This Sunday, the Falcons head to Tampa Bay where I predict they'll return the favor and beat the Buccaneers on their own turf.

5. While the Falcons continue to fall, the Chiefs continue to rise. Kansas City has won five-straight games after starting the season 1-5, and they've put themselves back in the hunt for a playoff spot. Alex Smith has thrown 283 consecutive passes since his last interception, the longest streak in Chiefs history and the fourth longest streak in NFL history. But Smith's streak and the Chiefs' winning-streak will both come to an end this weekend in Oakland. Smith throws multiple picks and the Raiders comes away victorious.

4. I'm actually starting to believe in Jay Cutler. Wait, why are you laughing? Sure, Cutler has been the subject of ridicule for years; labeled as the talented, yet inconsistent, quarterback with the rifle arm who just can't seem to put it together when it counts the most. But thanks to new offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Cutler is putting together one of his best seasons, and at 5-6 the Bears are still in postseason contention. The good times are rolling for Cutler, and this Sunday against the visiting San Francisco 49ers he'll throw five touchdowns for the first time in his career.

3. The New England Patriots are in desperate need of playmakers after the rash of injuries they've had over the course of the last month. They've lost Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and now, Rob Gronkowski. All the tantrums and hissy fits in the world can't bring those guys back for Tom Brady right now. Instead, he'll have to make due with what he's got. But remember, Brady spent the early part of his career winning games (and Super Bowls) without big name playmakers. I think Brady and tight end Scott Chandler find a rhythm and Chandler goes for over 100 yards receiving against the Eagles.

2. The Brock Osweiler honeymoon period is in full swing. With his big comeback win against the Patriots last Sunday (a win that all but ended Peyton Manning's tenure in Mile High), Osweiler is now being anointed as the next great NFL quarterback. Even Cris Collinsworth said in Sunday's broadcast that John Elway saw a bit of himself in Osweiler when he drafted him. (Sure, Cris, just like Michael Jordan saw a bit of himself in Kwame Brown). Don't get me wrong, Osweiler is a good quarterback and definitely has a bright future ahead of him, but let's pump the brakes a bit on all the accolades. This weekend, he travels to San Diego to take on the Chargers, who broke their six-game losing streak last week in Jacksonville. I'll take the Chargers to give young Osweiler his first loss.

1. The Carolina Panthers are the best team in the NFL right now, at least from a record standpoint. At 11-0, the Panthers have exceeded expectations and put themselves in the driver's seat in the NFC. This Sunday, they travel to New Orleans to take on one of the worst defensive teams in the league. A hostile environment will greet them in the Superdome, and the Saints would love nothing more than to be the first ones to bring down their divisional foe. I'll take the Saints to upset the Panthers and get redemption for that 41-10 home loss last season.

Colin J. Liotta is a Digital Features Editor and Writer for You can follow him on Twitter @TheSportsHero.

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