Whatever you thought you knew about the NFL, Week 12 wants you to just throw it out and start over again. After Week 11 (and numerous other weeks this year), it's almost like pushing the reset button on storylines fans have been telling since August.
Who thought that the Cleveland Browns would take the Dallas Cowboys to overtime, or that the Buffalo Bills' rushing defense would hold Reggie Bush (who lit them up for 200 yards last season)? Who could have guessed that Matt Ryan would drop interception after interception and allow the Arizona Cardinals to stay in the game? Who had Week 11 as the week we saw Byron Leftwich, Jason Campbell and Chad Henne? What year is this?
Week 12 promises to have all of the drama and even more as the bye weeks are over and all 32 teams are in action over the holiday weekend.
The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers face off in what should be the game of the week, if Eli Manning and company decide to try at any point during November this year. The New England Patriots and New York Jets always make for a good game; hopefully the Jets' win against St. Louis puts some pep in their step against their divisional opponent. San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints game promises to be great, if only for the decision on who will be under center for a Niners team that just received something to be very thankful for in Colin Kaepernick.
So, who wins these matchups and more? On to the picks...
Our B/R Panel of Experts
Note: All betting odds are for informational purposes only and courtesy of Statfox.com. Although spreads are provided, all picks are straight up.
Last week's consensus picks were 12-2, missing only the wins of the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets. Interestingly enough, those were two of our three most split games, with four people picking the Jets to win and five taking the Bills.
Only Chicago Bears-San Francisco 49ers was as evenly split, picking the 49ers to win with a 7-4 margin. Although, we can assume that none of us thought it was going to be such a trouncing, nor did we pencil in Kaepernick for such a tremendous game.
The best mark of the week goes to Knox Bardeen, who only missed one game (Buffalo) and received a mark of 13-1. Since Bardeen's early-season missteps, he's been the best around these parts. Eight other experts received a 12-2 mark, so most of us weren't far behind. In fact, the "worst" mark of 10-4 goes to Brad Gagnon, who still managed a pretty great week.
B/R Consensus: Texans (10-1)
Vegas: Texans (-3)
On paper, the Texans are better than the Lions, but not by as much as their records might indicate. The biggest issue between these two teams is the fact that the Texans execute at a much higher level than the Lions have for much of 2012. The Lions have been underachieving, and it will catch up to them on Thanksgiving.
The Texans nearly lost in Week 11, but that won't be the case this week. With Andre Johnson hitting his stride and Arian Foster setting the tempo on offense, look for Houston to roll.
The Texans head to Motor City to face a fading Lions team. Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson can only do so much. Look for the Texans to control the time of possession as well as the game.
The Texans will be surly on defense after an embarrassing performance against Jacksonville. Look for them to set things right with a dominating win on the road.
The Lions had another crushing blow dealt to their playoff hopes. The Texans need only to contain Calvin Johnson defensively—and let's be honest, they don't even need to do that to win this game as badly as Matt Stafford plays for the first half of any game.
I expect the Texans to come in hot under the collar after their rough game against the Jaguars. Do the Lions have a shot? Yes. Do I expect them to pull it off? Unfortunately for Lions fans, I do not.
**AGAINST THE GRAIN**
I simply believe the Texans are due for a letdown, and it makes sense to me that it'll take place on the road against a desperate Detroit team, right after it barely survived at home against a much weaker Jacksonville squad.
B/R Consensus: Cowboys (8-3)
Vegas: Cowboys (-3)
Tony Romo and the Cowboys may not be the team Jerry Jones wanted them to be in 2012, and they may not be a team that has much of a chance at contending. Still, they're able to pass the ball, and they're able to stop the pass. RGIII will get his, but Romo is going to tear apart that Redskins secondary.
The Thanksgiving Day game is in Dallas, but the Cowboys will be disappointed. DeMarcus Ware will meet his match in Trent Williams, while Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris carve up the Dallas defense.
RGIII quietly had a great game against the Eagles. While I don't quite see a repeat in Dallas, the rookie will have another good game. That said, Tony Romo and company squeak out another close game.
I do believe the 'Skins will make this very close, especially when you consider that Washington is decent on the road and the Cowboys have struggled at home. But I'm also not reading too much into what happened last week against a joke of an Eagles team. Dallas wins a close one.
Also Picking the Redskins: Frenz, Garda
B/R Consensus: Patriots (10-1)
Vegas: Patriots (-6)
It's strength on strength as Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack matches up with a Jets passing defense that is still awfully good even without Darrelle Revis. The difference here has to be the Pats' improving defense against the Jets' shaky offensive front. I can't believe the Rams game is going to be indicative of success against the Pats, and I think New England could roll here.
Stopping the New England Patriots is nearly impossible right now—even without Rob Gronkowski. Aaron Hernandez will be back this week as the Patriots roll the Jets on Thursday night.
The Jets gave the Patriots all they could handle when these teams met earlier in the year. Brady will lean on Hernandez and Welker. Mark Sanchez and the Jets, however, shock the football-watching world.
Gronkowski has had his way with the Jets defense over the past three years, so the Patriots will have to get their production some other way. This is a situation where New England's running game will really be put to the test: Can they run it when opponents know they're going to run it, and without one of the best run-blocking tight ends in the league? If so, they get the win.
B/R Consensus: Bears (10-1)
Christian Ponder is clearly the Vikings QB of the future, but right now, against the Bears? It's going to be rough. The Vikings can try to get Adrian Peterson rolling all day, but the Bears have a great front and are going to make life tough on whomever has the ball in their hands. Offensively, it won't be an easy day for the Bears, but they have enough firepower to put this one out of reach.
Hopefully Jay Cutler is back for this one, as the Chicago offense needs a lift over Jason Campbell's play. Either way, the Bears are good enough to control the Vikings offense and win this one.
The Bears look to bounce back from a beatdown against the 49ers. The Vikings won't be able to take advantage of the Bears defense the way Harbaugh and company did. Bears win a defensive battle.
I've felt really great about the Vikings a lot of the time this season, especially with the outstanding play of Adrian Peterson. As much as I happen to think he's the MVP of the league right now, the defense of the Bears is outstanding. At some point the Vikings will have to throw, and the way the Bears secondary feeds off the front seven, I don't feel great about that. Especially not in Chicago.
This is the first of three super-tough division games in a row for the Vikings, so we'll know a lot about them soon. To steal a win in Soldier Field is not something I expect from them, though if the Bears don't have Cutler, their chances go up.
**AGAINST THE GRAIN**
There's no reason to expect that even if Jay Cutler plays that he'll be effective. I'm betting he won't look good even if he's in the lineup.
B/R Consensus: Bengals (Unanimous)
Vegas: Bengals (-7.5)
Put the line at whatever you'd like, and I'd still put money on the Bengals. The Raiders are underplaying their talent level, which is somewhere just above "dumpster behind a White Castle." Honestly, I love where Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie are going to take this team, but they're in the first year of a massive rebuild, and the Bengals should cruise here.
The Raiders have been outscored like crazy the last three weeks, and while that won't be the case this week, Carson Palmer won't find revenge against his old team. The Bengals win this one as A.J. Green dominates the NFL's worst cornerbacks.
The Bengals have found a complement to A.J. Green in Mohamed Sanu, and Andy Dalton is a better quarterback because of it. The Raiders continue to search for answers.
The Raiders haven't played a good game of football in weeks, and their biggest problem has been pass defense. All the Bengals do is pass. A.J. Green is capable of beating good secondaries, and the Raiders have probably the worst secondary in the entire league. The Bengals also have an underrated defense, much better than the New Orleans defense that picked off Carson Palmer twice and held the Raiders to 20 points. The Bengals aren't a great team, but the Raiders haven't demonstrated the ability to beat an above-average team since Week 3.
The Bengals have proven the past two weeks that they can both pull off the upset win as well as the expected one. This game against the Raiders falls into the latter category. There's a formula to defeating the Raiders this season—pull ahead early and never look back—and I don't anticipate the Bengals having trouble doing so on Sunday. The AFC North is up for grabs, and the Bengals are trending upward.
B/R Consensus: Steelers (7-4)
Obviously this changes if Big Ben and Byron Leftwich are both out, but Charlie Batch still knows how to run the offense, and it's the defense against the Browns offense that should make the difference in this one. The Browns won't be able to move the ball, and any points the Steelers score should be gravy.
Ben Roethlisberger's status will matter in this one, but the Steelers defense is good enough to keep things interesting no matter who is in at quarterback. As long as Pittsburgh doesn't suffer a Week 11 hangover, it should win this one.
Charlie Batch gets the start for the Steelers. I guess Tommy Maddox wasn't available. Not to worry, Steelers fans, while the Browns have the talent to keep it close, they also have the coach to screw it up.
Also Picking the Browns: Hansen, Dunlevy, Gagnon
B/R Consensus: Colts (Unanimous)
Vegas: Colts (-3)
Andrew Luck, at home, against a team that can't stop opponents from scoring? This game has shootout written all over it, and I like the rookie to outgun Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Andrew Luck got a wake-up call against the Patriots. He gets back to business against the Bills. C.J. Spiller is a dynamic playmaker, but Fitzpatrick and company will run into a Colts team on the rebound.
It looked like the Bills turned a corner at home against the Dolphins. The only problem: These are not the Dolphins, and this game is not at home. On the contrary, this is at Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Colts are 4-1 this season. Andrew Luck and one of the best third-down offenses in the league should have no problem moving the sticks against a Bills defense that is the league's worst on third downs.
The Colts are not a good football team, but neither are the Bills. Both teams are going to score, but Indy scores last, and that will be enough for them to take a key victory at home.
B/R Consensus: Broncos (Unanimous)
Vegas: Broncos (-10)
Kansas City is broken. They're potentially looking at a new GM and a new head coach in the offseason, and Peyton Manning is going to hammer another nail into that coffin. Perhaps more importantly, Von Miller is going to have a field day against whomever is under center for the Chiefs.
I'm not sure I'll bet against Peyton Manning again this season. The Denver offense is too dynamic, and their defense is too violent to see them picking up a loss this week—or again this season.
Yes, it's the NFL, any given Sunday, etc. And yes, the Chiefs have the talent on defense to keep this interesting. But no way do the Chiefs beat the Broncos. No. Way.
B/R Consensus: Seahawks (Unanimous)
Vegas: Seahawks (-3)
It is tempting, really tempting, to pick against the Seahawks on the road here. However, in the battle of the rookie QBs, it's probably safer to pick the one who has the better defense and is trending upward. Tannehill has some promise, but he seems to be hitting the rookie wall pretty quickly. Seattle's defensive line should manhandle the Dolphins' offensive front that has underachieved in recent weeks.
The Seahawks are 1-4 on the road this season, but a cross-country trip to Miami won't be a real test for the Seattle defense. Expect Pete Carroll's team to steamroll the Dolphins in an easy victory.
The Dolphins suddenly look like a team with a rookie quarterback again, as offensive coordinator Mike Sherman spent the week pushing back on the accusation that his offense is too predictable. Memo to Mike: It is.
Even though the Seahawks have only won one game on the road this season, Week 12 will be the week where they start to make an even harder push toward the postseason. Currently they are the sixth seed in the NFC and will be looking to move up even higher after they get their second win of the season on the road. It will come down to Gus Bradley's defense overwhelming rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
The only advantage for Miami is that this game isn't being played in Seattle, but the Dolphins still have to face a stingy Seahawks defense that holds quarterbacks to a 73.8 passer rating on average (third best in the league). The Dolphins' best bet is to run the ball at the Seahawks, who give up an average of 4.3 yards per carry (22nd in the NFL), but Miami's rushing attack leaves a lot to be desired.
B/R Consensus: Buccaneers (8-4)
Vegas: Buccaneers (-1)
The Falcons have taken a bit of a hit on the chin in recent weeks, but I fully expect them to come out focused and angry against this divisional foe. Doug Martin should give them trouble, but the Falcons should be able to contain the Bucs' passing attack, and Matt Ryan isn't going to throw five interceptions this week.
How do the Falcons rebound from Matt Ryan's five-interception game? By playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa? Not a good sign for the Dirty Birds. The Tampa run game is stout, as is its defense. This is a bad look for Atlanta.
This has all the makings of a high-scoring affair—which means it will end up being a 13-10 type game. However it ends up, we'll see a lot of Doug Martin and a lot of Vincent Jackson.
The Falcons have been playing down to opponents for a good portion of the season and now have every reason to step up big against a Tampa Bay team that’s playing extremely well right now. But Atlanta is having issues right now with injures—Sean Weatherspoon, Julio Jones and Asante Samuel—and an inability to stop the run. Doug Martin should run free a lot on Sunday, and Josh Freeman will enjoy a battered Falcons secondary.
Also Picking the Falcons: Frenz, Hangst, Garda
B/R Consensus: Titans (7-4)
Vegas: Titans (-3)
I don't expect Chad Henne to duplicate his efforts against the Texans every week, but he's clearly a better option right now than Blaine Gabbert. The Titans are 26th against the pass in the NFL, and a balanced passing attack should be able to outscore their mostly ineffective offense.
Chad Henne looked sharp in nearly beating the Houston Texans, but that luck won't last against an aggressive Tennessee defense. On the flip side, there's no way the Jaguars defense slows down the Titans offense.
The Jaguars make the switch at quarterback, going with Chad Henne against a Titans team that has been abysmal on defense and slightly better on offense. The Jaguars finally play a complete game at home.
I'm not buying Chad Henne as the answer to anything, and the Jaguars have played poorly at home. Tennessee has had a bye week to prepare, and Jake Locker has a big game.
Also Picking the Jaguars: Hansen, Gagnon
B/R Consensus: Ravens (8-3)
Vegas: Ravens (-1)
Joe Flacco's up-tempo offense slowed way down against the Steelers, but luckily for him, the Chargers defense is nothing like the Steelers. Look for Philip Rivers' issues to keep on keeping this team down as his protection is not going to get any better against Terrell Suggs and company.
Injuries are holding this team's potential back, but they just keep winning. That won't change in Week 12. The Baltimore defense and run game will lead to another huge win.
Ed Reed could be out for this game. But who will be there to catch wayward boneheaded passes from Philip Rivers? Things get late real early for the Chargers in this one.
From record to talent, the Baltimore Ravens on paper seem likely to take down the San Diego Chargers on Sunday; however, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco still has yet to put everything together on the road, and the Chargers defense is strong against the run.
The potential is there for San Diego to hold down Baltimore's offense enough to keep it from catching up on points. San Diego has been a difficult place for the Ravens to win of late, and that trend should continue this week.
The Ravens probably aren't a very good 8-2 team, and the Chargers are probably better than a typical 4-6 team. The Chargers are playing for the the wild card now, and it will be interesting to see how the team responds to basically losing the AFC West in Week 10. Either Norv Turner's team will start its typical run or it will roll over. Even though the Ravens haven't been nearly as good on the road as they have been at home, you can't ignore the struggles of Philip Rivers.
Also Picking the Chargers: Dunlevy, Gagnon
B/R Consensus: Rams (9-2)
Vegas: Cardinals (-3)
The Cardinals have the worst QB situation in professional football (yes, even worse than the Jets). While St. Louis was unable to stop the Jets last weekend, it matches up favorably with the Cardinals and its offensive line ineptitude. As long as Sam Bradford keeps the mistakes under wraps, this should be an easy Rams divisional win.
The Rams should be embarrassed by their play against the New York Jets. Jeff Fisher's team can get off to a rebound this week against an Arizona team that has dropped six straight losses.
The Jets? You lost to the JETS? OK, St. Louis. I'm believing in you here only because the Cardinals' quarterback situation is beyond terrible. Don't make me regret this...
The Cardinals are an absolute mess right now. They are riding a six-game losing streak, their quarterback situation is a disaster, and right now, they can't even pull out a victory when their defense forces six turnovers. A return home to the desert won't be enough, as Jeff Fisher's squad appears to be the more complete team right now despite have a worse record.
**AGAINST THE GRAIN**
Neither the Arizona Cardinals nor St. Louis Rams have been all that consistent this season, and the Cardinals seem to be in worse shape overall considering the quarterback controversies they keep manufacturing for themselves. Still, it's hard to pick against Arizona at home when it's facing the Rams. If the Cards can control St. Louis' run game, it's a sure Arizona win.
Also Picking the Cardinals: Dunlevy
B/R Consensus: Saints (6-5)
If this game were in San Francisco then my pick would be switched, but I love where the Saints are right now and I have to take them at home. The interim head coach and general manager are back, and so is Drew Brees' chemistry with his receivers.
This won't be easy on a short week, but Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have played exceptionally well on the road. The Saints haven't seen a defense like this all season, and while keeping up with the Drew Brees-led offense isn't easy, San Francisco can limit their output and make the Saints play in a hard-fought game.
Yes, the Niners punched the Bears in the mouth, but this is a whole different ballgame. Drew Brees and the Saints offense start fast and stay ahead of the Niners in this one.
Whether it's Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick under center, the 49ers are simply the better team right now. Sure, the Saints have been hot as of late, but Frank Gore and San Francisco's offensive line will prove to be the difference-maker come Sunday. This week's game will produce the same result as last year's playoff game. The only difference is the score won't even be close—49ers win big.
New Orleans has figured things out. The Saints aren’t clicking on all cylinders just yet, but their progression has been awesome over the last five weeks. Now that the Saints have a well-balanced offensive attack, they should be able to get over the 49ers. But this will be a huge test, as was two weeks ago in their upset win over Atlanta.
Also Picking the 49ers: Frenz, Hansen, Garda
B/R Consensus: Packers (10-1)
Vegas: Giants (-3)
This game is in November, and the Giants currently appear absolutely uninterested in winning any games in the month of November. I like both of these teams and think they have a good shot of meeting in the playoffs—I just don't think Eli and company are going to come in firing on all cylinders.
The Giants are 0-2 in November. Better make it 0-3. The Packers are doing too much on offense right now for the Giants to keep up, and unfortunately for New York fans, their own defense is in a funk. Advantage: Green Bay.
The Packers have won five in a row and are playing well. The Giants are coming off a bye week after looking terrible. Is a week enough to fix what's wrong with the G-Men? Nope.
I've seen the Packers play with a depleted defense. I've seen the Giants play with a depleted defense (mostly the secondary). I'm much more impressed with the Packers' effort. So I expect the Packers to make the one big play that turns the tide, which is not to say it won't be a tough game. We know the front seven of the Giants is fierce.
Still, I expect a steady effort from Aaron Rodgers, while Eli Manning has been pretty unreliable—and will remain so against the Packers.
Still one more November game for a team that has struggled historically in the 11th month of the year. And while I believe the Giants will benefit from the bye week, they're still playing poorly on both sides of the ball. Packers by a field goal.
**AGAINST THE GRAIN**
Many said arm fatigue was the root of Eli Manning's problems the last three weeks, so it only makes sense the bye week cured him of any ailment he may have had—not to mention Manning is 3-2 all-time against the Green Bay Packers. Moreover, the Giants are the reigning Super Bowl champs, and they took care of the Packers with ease in their last meeting. New York wins a close one with less than two minutes to go.
B/R Consensus: Panthers (7-4)
Yes, the Panthers have played disappointing ball this season, but the Eagles have been atrocious and have actually been worse since they fired the offensive line coach who was coordinating their defense. This game will make the Panthers defense look good with a number of takeaways, and Cam Newton might shrug off a few skeptics as well.
The Eagles are in full-out free-fall mode, but they'll survive this week against the Carolina Panthers, who are in a bit of a collapse of their own. Andy Reid's job won't be saved, but the Eagles will get a win.
Two teams that have pretty much nothing left to play for face off on national television to answer the burning question: Which one of these head coaches will screw up the end of the game worse? My money is on Andy Reid.
Carolina versus Philadelphia looks like a battle of two teams with the wheels falling off. You should tune in to watch all the mayhem. Carolina has played well of late until late in the fourth quarter, and I can’t think of a better team to fix things against than the Eagles.
I refuse to take the Eagles to beat anyone in the NFL right now. Carolina's in the NFL.
Also Picking the Eagles: Garda, Frenz, Langland
Michael Schottey is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."