NFL Game Picks: Week 12
Host Danny Murray and analyst Zac Kaye break down each Week 12 game in the NFL:
By the time Week 12 is over, every NFL team will have had its bye week. That’s good news for football fans, as that means a full slate of 16 games will be featured every week from Week 13 until the regular season finishes in late December. The race for the Lombardi is heating up as well. In fact, we’ve even had our first elimination already, as the 0-10 Cincinnati Bengals can mathematically no longer earn a spot in the postseason. No teams have clinched playoff spots yet, but look for that to change in the coming weeks. Without further ado, let’s examine the final week without a full 16 games in the Week 12 edition of the NFL game picks.
Indianapolis Colts (6-4) at Houston Texans (6-4)
The week kicks off with a good one, as the Colts and Texans battle for supremacy in a packed AFC South. Indianapolis got the upper hand last team, defeating Houston 30-23 in Week 7, but it may prove difficult for the Colts to repeat. Marlon Mack will miss the game with a right hand fracture, and T.Y. Hilton is questionable to start after missing the last three games with injury. This presents the perfect opportunity for Deshaun Watson and company to strike, as the Texans, in all likelihood, will need to win this game in order to secure the division title. In a hard-fought battle, Houston just barely edges out Indy to take the AFC South lead.
Prediction: Houston 31, Indianapolis 26
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
Atlanta chose an interesting time to get hot. Following a 1-7 start, the Falcons have won their last two over division rivals quite handily, despite the fact that pretty much the entire offense is banged up. The Buccaneers have been just the opposite, winning exactly one game since late September. The only thing on the line here is bragging rights, as both teams’ seasons are just about over. Factoring in the home atmosphere, Atlanta’s sudden momentum, and the always inconsistent play of Jameis Winston, it seems as if the Falcons are in for another win. The real winner here is head coach Dan Quinn, who might not be fired after all.
Prediction: Atlanta 25, Tampa Bay 17
Denver Broncos (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3)
This could be Buffalo’s final chance to cement their spot in the postseason race. Rough waters are ahead, as the Bills face the Cowboys, Steelers, Ravens and Patriots over the following four weeks. There’s no time to slack in a game like this. Denver, meanwhile, will be trying to pull off a fairly hefty upset with very little momentum. Last week’s 20-point comeback effort by Minnesota was backbreaking for a Broncos team that had fairly little hope for the rest of the season going in. The only motivation for the Broncos is to play spoiler. They’ll come close, but the Bills will ultimately pull this one out to remain the AFC’s top wild-card team.
Prediction: Buffalo 26, Denver 23
New York Giants (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6)
It’s time that the Bears start looking for another quarterback. It’s clear that Mitchell Trubisky is not the answer, and Chicago reaching for him at the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft over the likes of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will go down as an all-time blunder. Despite Trubisky’s struggles, the Bears are still alive in the playoff race, albeit by a thread. They desperately need a win in Week 12, and against the NFC punching bag that is the Giants, the Bears should get it. If they don’t, and Trubisky’s play is the reason for it, look for the third-year QB to find a permanent home on the bench sooner rather than later.
Prediction: Chicago 19, NY Giants 13
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-10)
Pittsburgh chose a good time to have pretty much every key offensive player hurt. Last Thursday’s wild matchup against Cleveland saw James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson leave with injuries. With their three biggest offensive playmakers questionable for Sunday, the Steelers will be playing with scraps. But that’s fine, because they’re playing the 0-10 Bengals. For as much as the Steelers have dominated the Browns in recent history, they’ve arguably dominated Cincinnati even more so. With the Bengals seemingly all in on the tank, expect the Steelers to pull out a much-needed win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 30, Cincinnati 19
Miami Dolphins (2-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-6)
Like many other middle-of-the-pack AFC teams, the Browns are just barely clinging to their slim playoff hopes, and the incoming indefinite suspension of Myles Garrett certainly doesn’t help matters. One would think that a home bout with the 2-8 Dolphins would brighten the situation, but that thought ignores the fact that Miami has been playing fairly decently in recent weeks. With the Bengals taking over the role of the NFL’s top tanking team, the Dolphins can shift their attention to wreaking a little havoc on the way down. Miami pulls off a stunner in Week 12 and leaves Cleveland with questions to answer about its coaching staff.
Prediction: Miami 24, Cleveland 20
Detroit Lions (3-6-1) at Washington Redskins (1-9)
Detroit deserves some sympathy. The Lions legitimately looked like playoff contenders early in the season, but defensive woes, injuries to key players and occasional questionable officiating has left them looking toward an early offseason. Washington deserves no sympathy. Sure, one has to feel bad for the players, but as long as Dan Snyder owns the team, the Redskins deserve everything they get, including a home blowout loss to the Jets last week. With everyone on the team seemingly ready to run the clock out on the season, expect the Lions to grab a somewhat remoralizing victory on the road: the first of that kind since Week 3.
Prediction: Detroit 31, Washington 16
Oakland Raiders (6-4) at New York Jets (3-7)
Football fans owe Jon Gruden an apology. After trading away star pass rusher Khalil Mack for draft capital and finishing 4-12 in 2018, critics were all over Gruden. But he and new GM Mike Mayock have flipped those picks into one of the best draft classes in recent memory, with Josh Jacobs, Clelin Ferrell, Hunter Renfrow and Maxx Crosby all contributing at a high level. Despite all the offseason controversy, the Raiders are legitimately one of the better teams in the AFC. The Jets, meanwhile, have been somewhat hot, winning their last two, but those wins came against the Giants and Redskins. They hardly count. Oakland gets it done again.
Prediction: Oakland 33, NY Jets 17
Carolina Panthers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (8-2)
It’s panic time for Carolina. One might think that it’s a bit early to hit the panic button following just two straight losses with one of those coming to the Packers, but the NFC’s top wild-cards (Minnesota 8-3, Seattle 8-2) show no signs of slowing down. The Panthers need every inch they can get it. They may not get anything in Week 12, as they face the division rival Saints in the Superdome: an always tough place to play. New Orleans appears to be back to form after a slight hitch against Atlanta, and it’ll need to be if its wants to recapture the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff picture. The Panthers give them a fight, but the Saints get the W.
Prediction: New Orleans 28, Carolina 22
Seattle Seahawks (8-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
Both Seahawks and Eagles fans are disappointed that this game got flexed out of the Sunday night primetime slot, but with 8-2 Green Bay and 9-1 San Francisco taking the field against each other, you can’t really blame the NFL for making the switch. Still, this should be a fine game in its own right, as the Seahawks have rolled week after week under the play of Russell Wilson, while the Eagles have played well enough to hang around in the NFC playoff race. They came just a few points shy of knocking off New England last week. Doing so to Seattle will be an equally difficult challenge. Bet on Wilson to lead Seattle to victory again.
Prediction: Seattle 25, Philadelphia 20
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (5-5)
No matter the actors, no matter the location, no matter the circumstances, this game is always a coin flip. These two teams have become notorious for playing downright awful games on Thursday night, but this one is taking place on Sunday afternoon, so perhaps we’re in for something better. Regardless, predicting the winner of this matchup is similar to throwing a dart at a wall while blindfolded. That’ll happen when you’re dealing with Tennessee, the most unpredictable team in the NFL (the game picks are 3-7 in picking Titans games this year). Today, the dart lands on Jacksonville. So, congrats on the win, Titans fans.
Prediction: Jacksonville 17, Tennessee 13
Dallas Cowboys (6-4) at New England Patriots (9-1)
The NFL’s two most hated teams go head-to-head on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough. The Patriots, hated for winning 10-plus games every year for the last two decades, and the Cowboys, hated for being the Cowboys, are both right in the heart of the playoff race. Of course, the Patriots are a whole lot safer at 9-1. Dallas needs to keep winning to fend off the Eagles, which are just a game behind the Cowboys at 5-5. With the 8-2 Seahawks and 8-3 Vikings clogging the wild-card spots, it’s win the NFC East or be left out of the playoffs altogether for the Cowboys. Despite their best efforts, they won’t be able to topple New England.
Prediction: New England 27, Dallas 21
Green Bay Packers (8-2) at San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
Looking ahead to the rest of the regular season, there aren’t going to be many remaining games better than this one. In what very well could be a preview of the NFC championship, the Packers and 49ers take the field on Sunday night in a heavyweight bout that will send shockwaves through the NFC playoff picture. Alongside the 8-2 Seahawks, 8-2 Saints and 8-3 Vikings, the Niners and Packers have made for a top-heavy NFC. It’s games like these that will split the hairs that decide which teams get home-field advantage in the postseason. As for picking the winner? It’s never a good idea to bet against Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay wins in a close one.
Prediction: Green Bay 33, San Francisco 29
Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (6-4)
The week doesn’t end with quite the same flair as Sunday night’s showdown, as it seems like the Ravens are hugely overmatched against the middling Rams. But that doesn’t mean this one isn’t worth watching. If anything, all eyes should be on this one for one player alone: Lamar Jackson. The second-year stud has wowed week after week, and his four-touchdown performance against Houston last Sunday is just the latest statistic on Jackson’s MVP résumé. How will the young star fare against a pass rush that features Aaron Donald? Considering he’s picked apart nearly every defense he’s faced, probably quite well. Baltimore gets the final win of the week.
Prediction: Baltimore 35, LA Rams 20
Byes: Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1), Kansas City Chiefs (7-4), Los Angeles Chargers (4-7), Minnesota Vikings (8-3)
DJ Bauer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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