Week 12 of the NFL schedule brings a new slate of divisional games sure to provide fireworks.
With the season winding down, each divisional game has playoff implications at this point. These games are going to be tough-fought battles between bitter rivals, and nothing could possibly make that better than adding in the potential impact on the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
No one would have thought that this game would have any meaning when we entered the season, but the Vikings have become one of the biggest surprises in the NFL, going 6-4 this season.
Adrian Peterson has returned from a torn ACL to be one of the top running backs, leading the league with 1,128 rushing yards this season—the next closest being Marshawn Lynch at 1,005.
The Vikings' defense also ranks in the top half in both passing and rushing defense, and the team has big wins over the San Francisco 49ers and two over the Detroit Lions.
The Vikes have an extra week to prepare for Chicago's stingy defense, while the Bears have lost back-to-back games, falling from 7-1 to 7-3 on the season.
The Vikings now have a chance to leapfrog the Bears in the AFC North, and this game should be close throughout.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
This game doesn't look like it will be close on paper, with the 6-4 Steelers heading to Cleveland to take on the 2-8 Browns.
With starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger listed as doubtful and the Steelers' rushing attack ranked in the bottom half of the league, we could see the Browns and Steelers play in a very low-scoring affair on Sunday.
I can't see Pittsburgh scoring more than 20 points in this game, and the Browns should do enough to keep this game within one score.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Buccaneers
The Falcons have the best record in the NFC, while the Bucs are the hottest team in the NFL.
What more do I have to say?
Josh Freeman has been on fire, throwing for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in his last five games. His passing attack is opening up the ground game for rookie running back Doug Martin, whose 1,000 yards rank third in the NFL this season.
Martin has rushed for an incredible 592 yards in the last four games, and the offense has been quite busy, scoring 34.8 points per game during the team's four-game winning streak.
With the Falcons struggling after losing their first game of the season to the Saints and turning the ball over six times, the Bucs have a real shot at winning this game, but it should be close until the very end.
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