Week 12 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every NFL Game
The Thanksgiving Day slate gave us three NFL games to feast on to start Week 12, but there are still 13 NFL matchups left for Sunday and Monday.
A number of those 13 have important postseason implications.
The NFC playoff race heats up with Packers-Giants, Saints-49ers and Falcons-Buccaneers, while AFC contenders such as the Steelers, Ravens and Broncos need wins over teams under .500 to keep rolling toward the postseason.
In the following slides, we'll break down and pick each game left on the Week 12 schedule.
Minnesota Vikings (6-4) at Chicago Bears (7-3)
Colin Kaepernick, the 36th overall pick and sixth quarterback selected in the 2011 NFL draft, thoroughly defeated the Bears' well-respected defense Monday night.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, Christian Ponder—the 12th overall pick and fourth quarterback taken in that same draft—doesn't have the same arm or physical talent as his fellow 2011 draftee.
Pick: Bears 27, Vikings 13
Oakland Raiders (3-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-5)
Irony will be the name of the game in Cincinnati Sunday.
Remember, former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer actually retired to pave his way out of the franchise. But now Palmer returns in 2012 with a club that is headed for another forgettable season. The Bengals, meanwhile, are a playoff-contending team with an arrow pointing up.
Cincinnati gets above .500 by showing Palmer he's not missed in orange and black.
Pick: Bengals 27, Raiders 17
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) at Cleveland Browns (2-8)
Starting 37-year-old Charlie Batch will likely mean the Steelers have to win on the road with defense.
If Brandon Weeden and the Browns can take care of the ball and make Batch have to traverse long fields, Cleveland has a real chance.
Still, you have to think that Weeden (14 turnovers in 2012) will give a couple away Sunday, giving Pittsburgh the slight edge it needs to escape a challenging week with a win.
Pick: Steelers 21, Browns 17
Buffalo Bills (4-6) at Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
If the Colts are serious about making the playoffs in 2012, this one is a must-win.
Following up a crushing defeat in New England with an upset loss in Indy could really shake the confidence of a young football team.
At home, Andrew Luck should be able to rebound after arguably the worst game of his young NFL career. His passer rating is over 23 points higher in Indianapolis than on the road (88.6 at home, 65.4 away).
Pick: Colts 24, Bills 20
Tennessee Titans (4-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
The Jaguars' overtime loss to the Texans in Week 11 will either light a spark for this team Sunday or send it to the wrong end of another uninspiring romp.
Chad Henne's emergence is intriguing, but who really feels comfortable picking the Jaguars in any week?
Running back Chris Johnson is averaging 5.3 yards per carry in eight career games against Jacksonville. That should be enough for the Titans to win comfortably.
Pick: Titans 27, Jaguars 10
Denver Broncos (7-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-9)
The Broncos can see the finish line in the AFC West, while the Chiefs have their eyes on a different prize (No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft).
Both teams get closer to their respective goals Sunday.
Pick: Broncos 30, Chiefs 14
Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at Miami Dolphins (4-6)
The Seahawks couldn't ask for a longer road trip, and Seattle hasn't been anywhere near the same team away from the Pacific Northwest in 2012.
The Dolphins have cooled off considerably (0-3 last three games) after an encouraging start, and the Seahawks can win with defense and a strong running game.
Pick: Seahawks 20, Dolphins 16
Atlanta Falcons (9-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)
The Buccaneers' strengths—running the football, stopping the run on defense—actually match up well with the Falcons' weaknesses. But the running game isn't going to decide this game; the quarterbacks will.
Believe it or not, there's reason to think Josh Freeman (seven touchdowns, two interceptions in November) will shine brighter than Matt Ryan (78.3 passer rating over his last three games) in Tampa Bay Sunday.
Pick: Buccaneers 27, Falcons 24
Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at San Diego Chargers (4-6)
History would suggest that the Chargers are ready to make their annual run, but this season feels different. San Diego is no longer a talented but underachieving bunch.
This roster has serious holes, and Norv Turner is a dead man walking in San Diego. The Ravens can smell another AFC North title too.
Pick: Ravens 24, Chargers 20
St. Louis Rams (3-6-1) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6)
First team to 14 points wins?
These two offenses are struggling, and both defenses can get after the passer. A defensive score could be the difference, and I see more playmakers capable of such a swing on the Cardinals defense.
Pick: Cardinals 16, Rams 10
San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-5)
Could a short week, revenge and the necessity of a win equal a New Orleans upset?
The 49ers are traveling after the Monday night game, while the Saints can feel confident offensively after last January's shootout.
This is also a team that really can't afford to lose more than one game over the last six. In another classic, New Orleans gets a taste of revenge and stays alive in the NFC.
Pick: Saints 31, 49ers 27
Green Bay Packers (7-3) at New York Giants (6-4)
There's a lot working against the Packers in this one.
Not only have the Giants had two weeks to get their issues (especially offensively) figured out, but Green Bay is coming off an emotional win inside the division and are beat up across the board.
These Packers are a resilient bunch, but eventually all the injuries are going to catch up.
Pick: Giants 31, Packers 17
Carolina Panthers (2-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-7)
ESPN certainly did not expect these two teams to have a combined five wins at this point. The result now is an ugly end to an otherwise fine slate of games.
The Eagles look dead in the water under Andy Reid, and things could get real ugly if the Panthers jump on them early.
Cam Newton should be able to outplay a rookie quarterback playing without his best offensive weapon (LeSean McCoy, concussion).
Pick: Panthers 24, Eagles 13