NFL Picks Week 12: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Predictions
If anything could top the excitement that was Week 11, Week 12 has a chance.
While last week gave us three solid prime-time games and excitement on Sunday afternoon, Week 12 features a handful of great matchups that are always fun to watch.
The main event, of course, is Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady, as the New England Patriots are set to host the Denver Broncos on Sunday night. The two best quarterbacks of our era will certainly be must-see TV.
Also, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are set to battle his former employer, the Baltimore Ravens.
The Atlanta Falcons look to steal one from their divisional foe and current division leader, the New Orleans Saints.
The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings will look to make each other black and blue (just like the old days).
The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants will face off for what feels like the bazillionth time.
Whew, what a week! Let's get to the picks.
Name: Last Week; Overall
Consensus: 9-6; 89-50 (64%)
Andrea Hangst: 9-6; 108-54
Ty Schalter: 11-4; 106-56
Matt Bowen: 8-7; 104-58
Chris Hansen: 11-4; 104-58
Brad Gagnon: 9-6; 103-59
Zach Kruse: 9-6; 103-59
Tyson Langland: 9-6; 101-61
Matt Miller: 6-9; 101-61
Erik Frenz: 9-6; 96-66
Michael Schottey: 6-9; 96-66
Knox Bardeen: 8-7; 93-69
Mike Freeman: 9-6; 93-69
To see how Bleacher Report's experts are faring against the best at other media outlets, check out Pickwatch.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
B/R Consensus Pick: Saints (12-0)
Schottey: Saints, 38-17
The Saints are looking to make a statement that they're the best team in football, and the Falcons are in a free fall. There is no way the Falcons offense keeps up with Drew Brees and Co.
Bowen: Saints, 30-17
The Falcons looked ready for the offseason during their blowout loss to the Bucs in Week 11. That's a problem with the Saints coming to town.
Schalter: Saints, 33-10
The Falcons are officially on "I'll believe they win again when I see it" probation, and that certainly won't end against the Saints.
Freeman: Saints, 28-20
Only a post-49ers hangover keeps this game close.
Miller: Saints, 28-14
The Falcons won't have an answer for a very good front seven from the Saints. With safety Kenny Vaccaro back, they're a threat to pick off Matt Ryan a few times in this one.
Frenz: Saints, 31-13
New Orleans squeaked past the 49ers last week, but a decisive win here will remind fans that the Saints are a team to beat in the NFC. Drew Brees should get a lot of help from the play-action game against a Falcons defense that struggles against the run.
Hangst: Saints, 30-13
Weird things can happen on Thursday night games, but it would be an upset of the highest magnitude if the Falcons defeat the Saints this week. It seems so long ago that the Falcons were the class of the division, but injuries, losses and shaken confidence have added up.
Hansen: Saints, 30-10
The Falcons had their wings clipped this season, and you can't hold the Saints down. Thursday night games can be tricky, but this one shouldn't be.
Bardeen: Saints, 34-17
This is usually a great rivalry game where either team could win, but Atlanta is too busted up and not playing well enough to hang with the Saints.
Gagnon: Saints, 37-17
The Falcons aren't competing anymore. They've been dominated in each of the last four weeks, while the Saints are picking up steam behind the red-hot Drew Brees. The Falcons defense stands little chance Thursday night.
Langland: Saints, 31-20
Whether it’s a road game or a home game for head coach Sean Payton and the Saints, they are on an absolute roll right now at 8-2. Look for quarterback Drew Brees to make quick work of one of the worst defenses in the NFL. A once bitter rivalry will turn out to be nothing more than an onslaught come Thursday.
Kruse: Saints, 27-20
The Falcons are a hot mess at 2-8, but if there's a game left on the schedule they can get up for, it's one at home against the Saints. However, it still will not be enough for Atlanta to pull off the upset.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
B/R Consensus Pick: Ravens (8-4)
Schottey: Jets, 24-17
The Jets lost last week, so they'll win this week, right? Isn't that how this works? I'm looking for their offense to have a bounce-back week and for the defense to harass Joe Flacco all day long.
Bowen: Ravens, 19-16
The Ravens found the running game in their loss to the Bears, but I can't see them wearing down the Jets defensive line. This game will come down to Geno Smith versus Joe Flacco, and I'm taking the veteran quarterback.
Schalter: Jets, 20-17
I'm going to regret this pick, but I can't shake the idea that Ed Reed is going to intercept Joe Flacco seven or eight times.
Freeman: Ravens, 24-17
Can that Jets offense ever be trusted? Hell no.
Miller: Jets, 21-17
The back-and-forth nature of the Jets' season thus far means they're due for a win in Week 12. Geno Smith will bounce back, and the New York defense will get the job done.
Frenz: Ravens, 28-17
The Ravens have multiple ways they can beat you, but the Jets only win if Geno Smith is playing efficiently. That'll be a tough proposition for Smith on the road against the Ravens.
Hangst: Ravens, 14-10
Though the Ravens have a plethora of offensive issues and likely won't run for 174 yards against the Jets' top-ranked run defense, their own defense should be enough to rattle Jets quarterback Geno Smith. It likely won't be a high-scoring affair, but the Ravens won't lose this contest at home with so much on the line.
Hansen: Ravens, 14-13
The Ravens play much better at home, and it's very hard to trust the Jets this season. The Ravens will get another close win in this contest.
Bardeen: Ravens, 17-13
This game could go either way, but the Ravens get the edge from me because they are at home. This will be a sluggish game, where Baltimore's defense does more to befuddle the Jets on offense than the Jets can do to produce points.
Gagnon: Ravens, 17-14
Eventually, the Jets have to stop alternating wins and losses. And since this has been a mediocre team in disguise, I'm guessing that finally happens when they lose to a desperate Ravens team.
Langland: Ravens, 19-13
There have been weeks where rookie quarterback Geno Smith flashes signs of greatness. However, it has been a long time since we have seen those flashes. Over the course of his last three games, Smith has thrown five interceptions and zero touchdowns. Baltimore, at home, has to be the clear favorite.
Kruse: Jets, 20-10
New York's front seven will make the Ravens one-dimensional on offense. Joe Flacco hasn't been good in 2013 due to a lack of weapons.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
B/R Consensus Pick: Steelers (8-4)
Schottey: Steelers, 16-10
I like the Browns defense to make this one a contest, but Ben Roethlisberger is the difference here.
Bowen: Steelers, 27-17
Josh Gordon can make some plays against this Steelers secondary, but I think Ben Roethlisberger continues to produce as Pittsburgh picks up the divisional win.
Schalter: Browns, 21-20
Jason Campbell is playing well, and the Steelers offense isn't as good as the Bengals offense. In Cleveland, I think the Browns pull it out.
Freeman: Steelers, 30-16
Pittsburgh is on a roll—and by Pittsburgh, I mean Ben Roethlisberger.
Miller: Steelers, 17-14
The Steelers are suddenly hot, and the Browns are not—they are quite the opposite, actually. A hard-nosed divisional game will come down to who makes bigger plays on offense. Pittsburgh has the playmakers to do that, and Cleveland doesn't.
Frenz: Steelers, 28-10
While the Steelers simply refuse to go away, the Browns have squandered several opportunities to rejoin the discussion in the AFC playoff race. Now that Ben Roethlisberger is finally playing efficient football, the Steelers defense can get back to playing aggressively without having it burn them time and again.
Hangst: Steelers, 14-13
The Steelers looked like their old, Super Bowl-caliber selves in the second half of their win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Even if that performance was a fleeting, one-week-only affair, they should get the better of the Browns in Cleveland this week. However, the Browns have a very good defense, so this will be close.
Hansen: Browns, 23-20
These two teams are surprisingly evenly matched. When that happens, I usually go with the home team. I like Cleveland's defense to force a few mistakes from Big Ben.
Bardeen: Browns, 13-10
In a traditional AFC North, defensive battle, I'm going to go with the better defensive team. It doesn't hurt that the Browns are also at home.
Gagnon: Browns, 16-13
I still don't believe in the Steelers, who have really struggled on the road this year. The Browns aren't much better, but they've already beaten Baltimore and Cincinnati at home. Here comes the trifecta.
Langland: Steelers, 14-10
As much as I like defensive coordinator Ray Horton, it’s hard to like what the Browns are doing on the offensive side of the ball. Not to mention, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers are currently sporting a two-game winning streak and only getting healthier by the week.
Kruse: Steelers, 27-20
Ben Roethlisberger has thrown for nine touchdowns and sports a 100.0 passer rating in November. He will stay hot against a Browns team that has lost four of five.
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
B/R Consensus Pick: Panthers (12-0)
Schottey: Panthers, 28-10
The Panthers and their fearsome front will make this one a laugher as Miami's offense struggles to gain traction. Also, the Dolphins defense doesn't have the athletes to keep up with Cam Newton.
Bowen: Panthers, 26-10
The Panthers defensive line should beat up on the Miami offensive front. Look for Tannehill to get hit early in the Carolina win.
Schalter: Panthers, 20-10
I've been riding the Panthers' train for quite a while, and I'm not getting off now. Tannehill won't score on that defense.
Freeman: Panthers, 24-14
The Carolina defense will dominate against an error-prone Miami offense.
Miller: Panthers, 28-13
Break up the Panthers! The dynamic offense led by Cam Newton is tough to game-plan against, even for great defenses. The Dolphins will struggle to stop Newton, but they'll have even bigger problems with the Panthers' pass rush.
Frenz: Panthers, 27-17
Any team that runs as frequently and as efficiently as the Panthers will be a problem for the Dolphins. Also, Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy should feast on the infamous duo of Dolphins offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie and Tyson Clabo.
Hangst: Panthers, 28-13
It cannot be stated enough: The Panthers are having a stellar season. Their defensive front seven should feast on Miami's struggling offensive line, while Miami's defense won't be able to stop the Cam Newton-led Panthers offense. This game shouldn't be close.
Hansen: Panthers, 27-17
The Dolphins have all kinds of distractions, and the Panthers have been running over all of the teams in their path. The fish won't be able to score on this defense.
Bardeen: Panthers, 27-17
The Panthers are rolling after Monday night's game gave them six consecutive wins and two over quality teams (San Francisco and New England). Cam Newton will lead this Carolina team to victory, and the Dolphins don't have enough fire power on offense or defense to hang.
Gagnon: Panthers, 24-23
I really like this Carolina team, but this could be a trap game due to the short week after an emotional victory, and with the game being in Miami. The Dolphins are unpredictable right now, so this is dangerous.
Langland: Panthers, 21-20
Even after the team's victory over the 49ers, I still wasn’t sold on the Panthers. But their front seven is for real, and Cam Newton is putting together the best season of his young career. It won’t be easy, but Carolina will find a way to win its seventh game in a row.
Kruse: Panthers, 30-17
Carolina is a team that is gaining confidence down the stretch. Expect the Panthers pass rush to give Ryan Tannehill all kinds of problems.
Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams
B/R Consensus Pick: Bears (7-5)
Schottey: Rams, 23-20
Backup Josh McCown has played well for the Bears, but the Rams have had an extra week to prepare, and Kellen Clemens hasn't been a slouch either. Tavon Austin and the Rams special teams could be the difference.
Bowen: Bears, 24-20
Josh McCown hasn't thrown an interception yet in relief of Jay Cutler. If that continues, the Bears will pick up the road win.
Schalter: Rams, 28-24
I never know what to do with the Rams, but they're trending upward, while the Bears are in quarterback limbo. The Rams will take this one at home.
Freeman: Bears, 27-10
The Rams shellshocked the Colts in Week 10, but that won't happen against Chicago.
Miller: Bears, 24-13
Josh McCown is earning his keep as he fills in for Jay Cutler, and the Bears offense hasn't missed a beat with him under center. The Rams have a tough defense, but in a battle of backup quarterbacks, the Bears will come out on top.
Frenz: Rams, 20-12
It doesn't look good for Jay Cutler to return this week for the Bears. Coming off a bye, with home-field advantage, the Rams defensive line should be recharged and ready to attack.
Hangst: Bears, 20-17
As long as the Bears can keep backup quarterback Josh McCown protected from a prodigious Rams pass rush, they should handle the challenge in St. Louis well. McCown has five touchdowns and zero interceptions while filling in for Jay Cutler, and Matt Forte continues to run well. The only question is how well the Bears can hold up against the Rams rushing attack. If they can stop the run, they should exit St. Louis with a win.
Hansen: Bears, 24-17
The Bears were a good team last year, but they may have turned a corner this season with Marc Trestmen as the head coach. I won't trust the Rams until they have a different quarterback under center.
Bardeen: Bears, 21-16
Josh McCown has done an admirable job replacing Jay Cutler, and he should continue to play well. The Rams could flip the script if Robert Quinn and Co. get a ton of pressure on the backup quarterback, but I still think the Bears hang on.
Gagnon: Rams, 24-17
St. Louis hung with Tennessee in Week 9 and then plowed over the Colts in Week 10. Without Jay Cutler and with the defense still being suspect, why would I pick the Bears on the road here?
Langland: Rams, 27-24
Marc Trestman has arguably been one of the best coaches in the NFL this year, but that doesn’t mean I trust a depleted Bears team on the road. In front of their home crowd, the Rams will run the football and control the line of scrimmage, thanks in large part to rookie running back Zac Stacy.
Kruse: Bears, 24-21
Josh McCown is probably due for a down performance after four straight mistake-free showings. Matt Forte will help salvage the road win, though.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
B/R Consensus Pick: Lions (12-0)
Schottey: Lions, 28-13
You have to believe the Lions will not lose this one at home, but they let a less talented Steelers team thump them last weekend and have a long history of playing down to their competition. In the end, though, Calvin Johnson will find ways to get open, and Reggie Bush should have a good day in the passing game.
Bowen: Lions, 30-22
Calvin Johnson versus Darrelle Revis is one of the top matchups of the season. But the story here is Matthew Stafford, as the Lions quarterback will play big in the fourth quarter to get the win.
Schalter: Lions, 28-13
The Bucs' winning streak ends here. Detroit is balanced on offense and can pressure Mike Glennon.
Freeman: Lions, 35-20
The Lions will rebound after a horrible loss.
Miller: Lions, 30-24
The Buccaneers have the talent on paper to shut down the Lions passing game, but with safety Dashon Goldson suspended and the team failing to meet expectations on defense, it looks like another big day for the Detroit offense.
Frenz: Lions, 38-14
Calvin Johnson is on an unprecedented run right now, with 35 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns in the past four games. He's bound to cool off at some point, but at home against the Buccaneers is not that point. If the Lions can continue to shut down the run, as they have for much of the season, they'll come out with the win.
Hangst: Lions, 34-13
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be on a two-game winning streak, and the Lions may have given away what should have been an easy win in Pittsburgh last week, but don't be fooled. The Lions lead the NFC North for a reason.
Hansen: Lions, 28-20
The Lions need to bounce back from a terrible performance last week. This game is in Detroit, and I'm not buying the Bucs' recent play as a sign they are turning things around...yet.
Bardeen: Lions, 30-20
The Bucs have a nice two-game winning streak going, but wins over Miami and Atlanta don’t equate to heading into the Motor City and beating the Lions. I am, however, looking forward to Revis versus Megatron.
Gagnon: Lions, 27-24
I can't see Detroit winning convincingly. The Lions have Calvin Johnson, but that's what Darrelle Revis is for. Tampa Bay is finally playing to its talent level, and the Lions aren't exactly trustworthy after what happened in Pittsburgh. I'll give them a home win, but it'll be tight.
Langland: Lions, 28-21
Despite the fact that the Buccaneers are playing their best football of the season, Matthew Stafford and the Lions always raise their level of play at Ford Field. In a shootout, I have a hard time thinking Mike Glennon will be able to keep pace with Stafford.
Kruse: Lions, 31-20
The Bucs have won two straight, but the Lions should be expected to beat a two-win team at home. Megatron versus Revis will be a fun individual matchup to focus on.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
B/R Consensus Pick: Packers (11-1)
Schottey: Packers, 16-13
This will look a lot like an old-school NFC Central matchup, featuring running and defense. I am picking the Packers because it's at Lambeau, and their defense is playing better than Minnesota's D right now.
Bowen: Packers, 23-20
Can the Packers defense get this team a win without Aaron Rodgers? This would be the week to do it against the Vikings.
Schalter: Packers, 24-17
I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I think Scott Tolzien wins the quarterback battle in this professional football game.
Freeman: Packers, 21-13
Green Bay has the least sucky quarterback in this matchup.
Miller: Packers, 28-21
Scott Tolzien hasn't been Aaron Rodgers, but he has not been bad either. He's good enough to get the job done against the terrible Minnesota defense.
Frenz: Vikings, 21-17
This is anyone's game with Aaron Rodgers out for the third straight week. The Vikings are still a one-man show on offense, and only recently has Adrian Peterson found his legs. The Packers defense has yielded 27 points or more in four straight weeks. That trend will continue in a loss to Minnesota.
Hangst: Packers, 21-14
This game hinges on which offense can run the ball the best, compared to which defense can stop it. Right now, the edge goes to the Packers. Home-field advantage doesn't hurt matters either.
Hansen: Packers, 24-17
The Packers are in trouble if they can't beat the Vikings. Neither quarterback is going to take control of the game, so the game will be won on defense and special teams.
Bardeen: Packers, 21-13
The Packers haven’t won a game—heck, they haven’t scored more than 20 points in a game—since quarterback Aaron Rodgers went down with a collarbone injury. But Minnesota’s defense is soft, and both of those trends should change in Week 12.
Gagnon: Packers, 26-20
A veteran Packers team will smarten up this week. This could go either way with Aaron Rodgers out, but it's not as though Minnesota has the quarterback(s) to take advantage.
Langland: Packers, 23-17
Scott Tolzien or Christian Ponder: Who are you taking? Only because the Packers are at home, I’m taking Tolzien.
Kruse: Packers, 20-17
Green Bay is struggling to score with Aaron Rodgers on the sidelines. To save a sinking season, the Packers defense needs to step up at home, especially against a team with such a volatile quarterback situation.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
B/R Consensus Pick: Texans (12-0)
Schottey: Texans, 28-13
I am not sure about the Texans offense, but I know their defense can still harass passers and that Jacksonville is still Jacksonville.
Bowen: Texans, 27-24
Back in August, I would have picked the Texans by 20. Now? A last-second field goal gives Houston the win.
Schalter: Texans, 24-14
There are signs of life from Jacksonville and big, big problems in Houston, but the talent disparity is just too huge.
Freeman: Texans, 21-14
A stinky Texans team barely beats a putrid Jacksonville bunch.
Miller: Texans, 21-13
Case Keenum gets the start in what should be a win at home against the one-win Jaguars. The key for the Texans will be getting the ball to Ben Tate and Andre Johnson as early as possible.
Frenz: Texans, 37-19
The Texans' season has been bad, but it's hard to imagine it being “lose at home to the Jaguars” bad. Chad Henne has struggled overall, but he has been downright awful against the blitz. Look for Wade Phillips to get aggressive early.
Hangst: Texans, 17-13
The Houston Texans are a mess, but this week head coach Gary Kubiak should stick with Case Keenum. The one-win Jaguars are the perfect opponent for the Texans this week, but it still won't be a pretty win.
Hansen: Texans, 17-14
The Texans are a disaster, but I still can't bring myself to pick the Jaguars on the road.
Bardeen: Texans, 24-17
Raise your hand if you predicted that Houston and Jacksonville would combine for three wins heading into Week 12. After eight weeks of losing, the Texans will finally break back into the win column.
Gagnon: Texans, 24-14
I don't trust the Texans, but I trust the Jags even less. On the road, I can't see Chad Henne and Co. doing much against that Houston defensive front.
Langland: Texans, 24-13
With Case Keenum back under center and J.J. Watt leading the charge on the opposite side of the ball, the Jaguars will have trouble garnering yards on the NFL’s stingiest pass defense. Odds are it won’t be pretty, but Jacksonville will do everything in its power to keep the game within arms reach.
Kruse: Texans, 23-17
Houston's nightmare season would hit a new low by losing at home to Jacksonville. I don't see it happening, though. Case Keenum will make enough plays to win.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
B/R Consensus Pick: Chiefs (12-0)
Schottey: Chiefs, 23-17
Both teams like to keep games close with a balanced offense, but the Chiefs defense is the far better unit. Kansas City will pull away in the end.
Bowen: Chiefs, 20-16
This is a game the Chiefs should win at Arrowhead if they are serious contenders.
Schalter: Chiefs, 17-14
The champagne has been popped in Miami, as the Chiefs are no longer undefeated. The Chargers' backs are against the wall, but I still see a Kansas City win.
Freeman: Chiefs, 20-17
This will be a close game because Philip Rivers will play better than expected.
Miller: Chiefs, 24-17
A bounce-back game is in order, and playing in Arrowhead will help the Chiefs get back on track. The San Diego offensive line won't be able to stop the Kansas City pass rush with the noise of the NFL's loudest stadium.
Frenz: Chiefs, 19-14
Rebounding from a tough loss is the hallmark of a well-coached team, which the Chiefs have been all season long. Look for the Chiefs to continue to open things up for Alex Smith, letting him test the Chargers secondary deep.
Hangst: Chiefs, 23-17
A divisional game at home is just what the doctor ordered for Kansas City. What the Chiefs may not have on offense, they can certainly make up for defensively. Expect a long, painful day for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers after the Chiefs failed to sack Peyton Manning even once last week.
Hansen: Chiefs, 19-17
The Chiefs will bounce back, but they could get a scare from the Chargers. If this game were in San Diego, I might have gone the other way in a key game for both teams.
Bardeen: Chiefs, 33-13
San Diego’s best weapon is its aerial attack, and that should be neutralized by Kansas City’s ninth-ranked passing defense. The Chiefs lost their perfect season last week and will take out their frustrations by thumping the Chargers.
Gagnon: Chiefs, 24-23
Kansas City is still the better team, especially at home. I don't think the Chiefs are mega-contenders, but they're good enough to avoid losing three straight. Why do I say three straight? Because the Broncos should take care of business again next week.
Langland: Chiefs, 31-26
Don’t expect the Chiefs to make the same mistakes against the Chargers that they made versus the Broncos on Sunday Night Football. Andy Reid’s club is still one of the most complete football teams in the league.
Kruse: Chiefs, 24-16
Mike McCoy and the Chargers will attempt to replicate some of the things Denver accomplished against the Kansas City defense. The difference is that San Diego doesn't have anywhere near the same tools to work with on offense.
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
B/R Consensus Pick: Pick'Em (6-6)
Schottey: Colts, 16-10
The Colts offense is floundering without Reggie Wayne, and the Cardinals defense is legit. Yet, in the end, I believe a whole lot more in Andrew Luck than in Carson Palmer.
Bowen: Cardinals, 26-20
The Colts and Andrew Luck won't be able to put together another comeback win against the Cardinals defense out in the desert.
Schalter: Cardinals, 20-17
Indianapolis is a better team overall, but the Colts' current receiving corps against the Cardinals secondary is not a good matchup. Donald Brown and Trent Richardson will have a tough time against the Cards front seven, too.
Freeman: Colts, 24-21
Andrew Luck will outplay Carson Palmer in this matchup.
Miller: Colts, 31-24
Traveling to Arizona isn't easy, but the Colts know Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and will be ready for his deep passing attack. Also, betting against Andrew Luck is a bad idea.
Frenz: Cardinals, 28-20
The way the Colts have played over the past few weeks, it's a small miracle that they have managed to get to 7-3. Luck will have to perform better against the blitz, and without Reggie Wayne as an outlet, it's hard to envision that happening. Look for Bruce Arians to test the Colts defense deep.
Hangst: Colts, 20-17
Miraculous fourth-quarter comebacks are not a good offensive strategy, and trying to do that on the road is even more difficult. However, the Cardinals are no more remarkable of a team than the Titans, who the Colts managed to beat in a come-from-behind victory last week. Better yet would be Andrew Luck working his magic earlier than the game's final 15 minutes.
Hansen: Colts, 24-21
The Colts are a little tough to figure out, but as long as Andrew Luck is under center, they will be fine. I don't trust Carson Palmer to win big games against tough opponents.
Bardeen: Colts, 24-21
Neither Donald Brown nor Trent Richardson are going to be able to get too much going on the ground against an Arizona defense that allows just 81.4 rushing yards per game. That’s OK, though, as Andrew Luck is ready to take over.
Gagnon: Cardinals, 24-17
The rest of the league has figured the young and wild Colts out. If you can barely get past Tennessee and get crushed by St. Louis, I'm not giving you a victory over a hot Cardinals team on the road.
Langland: Cardinals, 27-20
Ever since Reggie Wayne landed on injured reserve, Andrew Luck has had trouble finding consistent playmakers outside of T.Y. Hilton. I would have never imagined saying this prior to the season, but the Arizona Cardinals are a more talented football team than the Indianapolis Colts with six weeks left to play.
Kruse: Cardinals, 30-23
Indianapolis has lost its edge since the bye. Bruce Arians will make another slow start hurt, as the surging Cardinals will win their fourth straight.
Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders
B/R Consensus Pick: Raiders (9-3)
Schottey: Raiders, 17-10
The Oakland run defense can keep up with Chris Johnson, so this one will just be about how efficient the Raiders offense can be. At home, it should be just enough.
Bowen: Titans, 21-17
Can Matt McGloin rip up the Titans secondary like he did against the Texans in Week 11? I don't see it. There is too much talent in the defensive backfield for Tennessee.
Schalter: Raiders, 17-15
Last week, I went against my gut (and the Raiders) because I'd been burned by them too many times, but the Titans haven't looked strong in a long, long time.
Freeman: Titans, 14-12
The Titans have a slightly better defense in an offensive game that will hurt every retina watching.
Miller: Titans, 21-17
In what could be a defensive showdown, the Titans have the upper hand due to the play of their defense and the Chris Johnson-led run game.
Frenz: Raiders, 28-24
To me, this feels like it will be an old-school matchup of two teams that want to run the ball and play good defense. Couple the Raiders' strong running game with the emergence of Matt McGloin, and Oakland could be a force down the stretch.
Hangst: Raiders, 17-13
The Matt McGloin-led Raiders have an offensive spark that has not been there with Terrelle Pryor under center. That, home-field advantage and Ryan Fitzpatrick is a formula for a close Raiders win.
Hansen: Raiders, 21-17
Matt McGloin? Is this guy the next big thing? I guess we'll find out. The Raiders are playing at home, and the Titans don't have the kind of offense to do what the Eagles did a few weeks ago.
Bardeen: Raiders, 27-17
The one thing Tennessee does fairly well is stop opponents from passing the football. That’s fine because Oakland doesn’t beat teams through the air; the Raiders win with a punishing ground attack, and Rashad Jennings is the real deal.
Gagnon: Raiders, 24-21
They had a couple of hiccups earlier this month, but the Raiders are a pretty solid team. Tennessee might be able to hang around on the road thanks to a favorable matchup in pass defense, but it won't be enough.
Langland: Raiders, 21-14
If Matt McGloin can toss three touchdown passes on the Houston Texans, there’s no question he can do the same versus the Tennessee Titans. In a low-scoring affair, the undrafted free agent out of Penn State will prove to be the difference-maker and lead the Raiders to their fifth victory of the season.
Kruse: Raiders, 20-13
Oakland can run the ball to protect Matt McGloin and stop the run on defense to force Ryan Fitzpatrick into tough third downs. That sounds like a winning recipe at home.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
B/R Consensus Pick: Giants (8-4)
Schottey: Giants, 28-20
Ugh, I hate the NFC East this year. It's just impossible to know which team is going to show up each week. I like the Giants to continue their run at home as the Cowboys defense continues to flounder.
Bowen: Giants, 31-27
Can the Cowboys get anything out of their defense without Sean Lee in the lineup? I'm taking Eli Manning and the Giants at home.
Schalter: Giants, 28-21
We knew the Giants weren't "really" an 0-6 team, and now they've won four straight. The Cowboys are 5-5, but none of those five wins look particularly impressive, not even the Week 1 win over the Giants. The Giants will take this one at home.
Freeman: Giants, 31-21
The Giants will pick off Tony Romo at least twice.
Miller: Cowboys, 31-28
This matchup is about Tony Romo and Dez Bryant versus the Giants secondary. I'll take Romo and Bryant in that one all day.
Frenz: Cowboys, 37-31
Health is so key when previewing these games, and the Cowboys have had a bye week to lick their wounds and get players like DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin and others healthier. If this turns into a shootout—and I think it will—the Cowboys simply have too much firepower for the Giants defense to handle.
Hangst: Giants, 28-21
The Giants are on a four-game winning streak after starting the season 0-6. The Dallas Cowboys have just one road win. The NFC East is still very much up for grabs. All signs point to more confusion in the division and a Giants win.
Hansen: Cowboys, 30-20
The Cowboys are always better and worse than we think. It's strange, right? The Giants aren't playing very well, despite winning four straight, and they've just managed to avoid the turnovers that have put them in huge holes against average opponents.
Bardeen: Giants, 24-20
Remember when the Giants were mired in a six-game losing streak? No? Neither do the Giants. Eli Manning hasn’t returned to Super Bowl form, but New York is in a much better place today and will handle the Cowboys, further mucking up the NFC East race.
Gagnon: Cowboys, 31-28
Dallas looks as though it got a fair bit healthier on its bye week, and the Giants have been beating up on bad opponents. This will be another wacky, tight NFC East game, but I think the Cowboys will pull it out.
Langland: Giants, 26-24
Tom Coughlin is up to his old tricks, as he is proving that no early-season deficit is too much to overcome. Eli Manning and the Giants' wide receiving corps will expose the Cowboys secondary en route to a 26-24 victory. Who would have thought New York would be playing well enough to be in a position to win its fifth game in a row?
Kruse: Giants, 30-24
New York is streaking, Eli Manning has a pulse and the defense has come on strong. The Giants look ready to avenge a Week 1 loss to Dallas.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
B/R Consensus Pick: Broncos (9-3)
Schottey: Broncos, 30-28
Don't be surprised if this one has at least a little flavor of "defensive struggle" as the teams feel each other out in the first half. That said, it's going to be difficult to hold Peyton Manning and Tom Brady down for long. The Broncos will get the tough road win and cement themselves as the best team in the AFC.
Bowen: Broncos, 34-24
The Patriots have too many guys down in the secondary to limit Manning and the Broncos on Sunday night.
Schalter: Broncos, 35-24
Denver is turning every game into a track meet, and the Patriots offense just can't keep up.
Freeman: Broncos, 30-25
Denver's defense is playing well enough right now to slow any quarterback, including Tom Brady.
Miller: Patriots, 35-31
The Patriots at home are nearly unbeatable. As good as the Broncos are, they're due for a letdown.
Frenz: Patriots, 34-28
Tom Brady has been flat-out dominant against Jack Del Rio defenses in his career, so there's no reason why that shouldn't continue against one of the worst pass defenses Del Rio has coached in his career. The Patriots finally have a full complement of offensive weapons. With Julius Thomas and Wes Welker both banged up, it's fair to wonder if we can say the same for Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Hangst: Broncos, 35-28
The Patriots of years past could easily hang with the Peyton Manning-led Broncos of 2013, but not so much this year. Denver is stingy against the run, and the Patriots don't have a passing game to match Denver's.
Hansen: Broncos, 35-30
The Broncos are finally hitting their stride thanks to Von Miller's return. It took a perfect storm for the Colts to beat them, and I don't think the Patriots are strong enough on both sides of the ball to do the same right now.
Bardeen: Broncos, 38-35
Could the usually wonderful matchup between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning be reduced to Brady’s swollen throwing hand versus Manning’s banged-up ankle? I hope both quarterbacks are healthy because I love it when these two square off. I even hope they’re facing each other in Canton some day. The Broncos will be too much for the Pats this week, though.
Gagnon: Patriots, 30-28
Uh oh, Tom Brady and the Patriots are angry now. Brady's heating up, and the Patriots are at home this week, so I'll go with New England. But the Pats are also on short rest. Let's be real, this thing could go either way.
Langland: Broncos, 35-28
There isn’t a team in the NFL who wants to see Tom Brady following a loss. Unfortunately, the Patriots don’t have enough firepower on defense to slow Peyton Manning down.
Kruse: Broncos, 38-28
Does New England have enough healthy bodies in the secondary to hang with Manning and the Broncos passing game? I'm not sure Tom Brady can match Manning score for score.
San Francisco 49ers at Washington
B/R Consensus Pick: 49ers (12-0)
Schottey: 49ers, 28-10
The 49ers defense has the ability to keep up with Robert Griffin III, and their offense should get its groove back against a poor Washington defense.
Bowen: 49ers, 24-14
If San Francisco runs the ball, plays defense and creates some opportunities for Colin Kaepernick to test the Washington secondary, I see the 49ers coming home with the win.
Schalter: 49ers, 28-20
RGIII has proven he's physically fine, but he doesn't have the weapons to score on the 49ers defense the way San Francisco's offense will score on his.
Freeman: 49ers, 30-14
I think RGIII is on the verge of mutiny in Washington. He's getting battered.
Miller: 49ers, 31-10
This is the game the 49ers need to get back on track. Expect a dominant performance from both sides of the ball.
Frenz: 49ers, 24-21
The 49ers have lost two games in a row twice under Jim Harbaugh. After the last time—Weeks 2 and 3 this season—they went on to win their next five. Their defense has played well all season, and against one of the worst defenses in the league, look for Colin Kaepernick to get back in a groove.
Hangst: Niners, 27-17
The 49ers have their flaws, especially on offense, but there's no way they are going into Monday night's game in Washington without a lot of fire and a need for redemption. The key will be San Francisco's defense, which is much, much better than Washington's. What they don't accomplish through the air with Colin Kaepernick should come easier on the ground.
Hansen: 49ers, 27-23
Kaepernick has the ability to score against Washington, and RGIII will keep things close, but I trust the 49ers defense to get more stops and be the more physical team. This will be a statement game.
Bardeen: 49ers, 26-20
RGIII can keep it close, but he doesn’t have the tools around him to beat the 49ers. I also expect the 49ers to batter the second-year QB.
Gagnon: 49ers, 37-13
I don't like the vibe out of Washington right now, and I get the feeling they won't react in a positive way to what happened last week in Philly. San Francisco will rebound from last week's heartbreaker, rolling Washington on the road.
Langland: 49ers, 20-17
Colin Kaepernick needs a bounce-back game in the worst way to help boost his confidence. Fortunately for him, Washington is about as hapless as it gets right now. It won’t be easy, but the 49ers will find a way to keep their playoff hopes alive on Monday Night Football.
Kruse: 49ers, 24-13
Two struggling quarterbacks meet on Monday night. The difference for San Francisco will be the power run game and a defense that can create easy scoring opportunities.