Week 12 of the 2012 NFL season is full of big-time heavyweight fights between some of the best teams in the entire league.
You’ll be treated to Aaron Rodgers vs. Eli Manning, Drew Brees against the vaunted San Francisco defense and the rising NFC South Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons.
Does it get any better than this? There is playoff and divisional implications for every game remaining on the schedule and this week will be sure to bring the excitement.
Take a look at my predictions for the three-biggest games of Week 12.
Atlanta Falcons (9-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)
The football world looked on as they expected Matt Ryan’s five-interception performance to send the Falcons into a downward spiral. That’s what it would have been, too, after the team won its first eight games and identified themselves as the team to beat in the NFC.
Divisional opponent Tampa Bay has rode a different path to their 6-4 start, winning four-straight games and five of their last six. Atlanta is going to need to find a way to stuff Doug Martin. Whether that means bringing up their safeties to crowd the box or by run blitzing, they’ve got their work cut out for them.
The problem with that strategy is that Josh Freeman has been able to burn secondaries downfield with his new weapon: Vincent Jackson. If the Falcons hope to contain the potent and surging Buccaneers offense, they’re going to need to do it by pressuring Freeman and disrupting his timing with on his deep throws.
Atlanta hasn’t exactly been the most imposing team upfront this season, though. Stopping both Martin and Freeman is going to be problematic and something the Falcons will fail to do in Tampa this weekend.
Prediction: Buccaneers 34, Falcons 27
San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-5)
Last season’s playoff slugfest between these two teams ended in dramatic fashion. Can this year’s regular midseason game live up to that?
While we aren’t likely to see a heavyweight title fight with blows being exchanged back and forth, we will see an upset in the Bayou. Colin Kaepernick is making his second-career start after filling in for a concussed Alex Smith last week. His performance was good, but what can you really learn from one outing?
Does he have the ability to step up in a big road game and go blow for blow with Drew Brees? The Saints have proven they can put up points on the 49ers and against anyone in the NFL.
It’s going to be a high-scoring affair, one that the Saints will ultimately come out on top of due to their advantage at the quarterback position.
Prediction: Saints 28, 49ers 20
Green Bay Packers (7-3) at New York Giants (6-4)
The Giants are hosting the red-hot Packers following their bye week. They’ll attempt avoid losing their third-straight game after losing Week 9 and 10 to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. It wasn’t even close against the Bengals.
Manning has been stymied during their two-game losing streak and didn’t throw a touchdown pass during those losses. Luckily for him, he’ll likely be facing a Green Bay defense without cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Clay Matthews. Standout defensive back Charles Woodson has already been ruled out for the game.
The Packers have been aggressive with their pass rush by utilizing their front-four to apply pressure and letting their ball-hawking DBs sit back and prey on quarterbacks’ passes. They’re first in the NFL in sacks with 33 despite not having Matthews, their top pass rusher, for a good part of the season.
Manning and the Giants’ offensive woes will continue as Aaron Rodgers picks apart the team’s secondary to give the Packers a pivotal midseason win.
Prediction: Packers 31, Giants 17