"Watch your step" should be the theme of Week 12 in the NFL. The schedule is sprinkled with games pitting top-tier teams against squads that are either scuffling to keep playoff hopes alive, or are already eyeing the likes of Jadeveon Clowney in the 2014 NFL draft.
This is the NFL. We all know about the "any given Sunday" adage. For that reason, the New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers in particular would all be wise to take their Week 12 opponents seriously. Here's a look at the complete schedule and TV listings for each game.
After the table, there is a breakdown of the trap games on the schedule for the Saints, Chiefs and Panthers.
|Thursday, Nov. 21||Time (ET)||TV||Location|
|New Orleans at Atlanta||8:25 p.m.||NFL||Georgia Dome|
|Sunday, Nov. 24||Time (ET)||TV||Location|
|Pittsburgh at Cleveland||1 p.m.||CBS||FirstEnergy Stadium|
|Tampa Bay at Detroit||1 p.m.||Fox||Ford Field|
|Minnesota at Green Bay||1 p.m.||Fox||Lambeau Field|
|San Diego at Kansas City||1 p.m.||CBS||Arrowhead Stadium|
|Chicago at St. Louis||1 p.m.||Fox||Edward Jones Dome|
|Carolina at Miami||1 p.m.||Fox||Sun Life Stadium|
|NY Jets at Baltimore||1 p.m.||CBS||M&T Bank Stadium|
|Jacksonville at Houston||1 p.m.||CBS||Reliant Stadium|
|Tennessee at Oakland||4:05 p.m.||CBS||O.co Coliseum|
|Indianapolis at Arizona||4:05 p.m.||CBS||U of Phoenix Stadium|
|Dallas at NY Giants||4:25 p.m.||Fox||MetLife Stadium|
|Denver at New England||8:30 p.m.||NBC||Gillette Stadium|
|Monday, Nov. 25||Time (ET)||TV||Location|
|San Francisco at Washington||8:30 p.m.||ESPN||FedEx Field|
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
Why the Panthers Might Be Riding Too High
Coming off a huge win over the New England Patriots on Monday night, some are calling the Carolina Panthers Super Bowl contenders. They are 7-3 and have won six games in a row; it seems logical to place them in high regard.
For the last two weeks, the Panthers have come away with close victories over very good teams. In Week 10, they edged the San Francisco 49ers 10-9. After two big wins it wouldn't be crazy to worry about the team taking the Dolphins too lightly. After all, Miami is one of the most inconsistent teams in the NFL.
After beginning the season on a three-game winning streak, Miami lost the next four and has alternated wins and losses since. On paper, Carolina's 10th-ranked rushing offense should have a field day against the Dolphins' 25th-ranked run defense.
On the other side of the ball, the Panthers have the top-rated defense and the Dolphins are 20th in passing and 24th in rushing. The numbers don't lie, but teams don't always play up or down to their statistics—especially on the road.
The Panthers should win this game, but they will still have to bring maximum effort to make sure they don't take a struggling opponent too lightly.
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
The Saints Can't Afford to Look Ahead
Looking past a team is always a recipe for trouble, but it may very well be a temptation the Saints have to fight off against the 2-8 Falcons. In Week 13, the 8-2 Saints are set for an epic showdown with the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks. Obviously, that is a matchup that features two of the best teams in the NFL.
That said, if the Saints enter that game coming off a loss to the Falcons, the matchup will lose some of its shine. Right now the Falcons seem harmless, but they are at home and this is a division rivalry game.
Back in Week 1, when we still thought the Falcons would be good, they ran out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead on the Saints before being outscored 23-7 the rest of the way. The Saints handed them a 23-17 loss to open the floodgates on what has been a disastrous season in Atlanta.
Even within this dreadful year for the Falcons, you have to believe there is a big game brewing for the Dirty Birds. The team still has Matt Ryan under center, Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Roddy White.
In a Thursday night game with all the eyes of the NFL on them, the Falcons could make this game the beginning of their playoffs. Obviously, the woeful defense that ranks 22nd in the league against the pass and 30th against the run has to play above its heads.
In Week 11, the Falcons defense made it look like Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon was Kurt Warner and running back Bobby Rainey was the second coming of Barry Sanders. Glennon completed 20 of 23 passes with two touchdowns and Rainey racked up 163 yards on the ground.
This performance is all the more reason why the Saints could have their guards down. If they come to play early and don't allow the crowd to get in the game, Drew Brees and Co. will steamroll the Falcons. If it takes a quarter-and-a-half to wake up, there could be problems.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
KC Must Also Avoid Looking Ahead
Which team is most vulnerable in Week 12?
After suffering its first loss of the season in Week 11 against the Denver Broncos, Kansas City will have a relatively quick opportunity to avenge the loss. In Week 13, the Chiefs get another crack at Denver and this time the Chiefs will be at home. Before that happens, another AFC West opponent will come to Arrowhead Stadium to challenge the Chiefs.
The San Diego Chargers have faded to 4-6, and though they still have some hopes of making the postseason as a wild card, the Bolts aren't a threat to the Chiefs in the division. The Chargers are on the road here, but the team is desperate. Losing its seventh game in Week 12 would almost certainly mean the team will miss the playoffs.
With that motivation heading into this game, the Chiefs can't afford to overlook them. Philip Rivers has been outstanding this season for the Chargers. He's thrown for 2,989 yards and 19 touchdowns already.
The Chiefs' ninth-ranked pass defense will be tested. You can bet San Diego took note of how the Broncos attacked the Chiefs defense on Sunday night when Denver scored 27 points and Manning threw for 323 yards.
This is going to be a difficult matchup for the Chiefs. Of the three teams spotlighted here, Kansas City has the most to be concerned about.
It must take care of business here before it can began to prepare for revenge against the Broncos.