Compared to last weekend, which featured several games with vital playoff implications, Week 12 is somewhat lacking.
Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos vs. Tom Brady at the New England Patriots is the clear headliner, but after that there aren't a whole lot of scintillating matchups.
The Indianapolis Colts vs. the Arizona Cardinals is the only other contest that features two squads currently above .500, with the Carolina Panthers (7-3) vs. the Miami Dolphins (5-5) serving as the lone matchup that even comes close.
Nevertheless, football is football, and even if the slate is underwhelming, it figures to be an enthralling week.
Let's take a look.
|New Orleans Saints||Atlanta Falcons||NO (-9)||ATL|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Detroit Lions||DET (-9)||DET|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Houston Texans||HOU (-10)||HOU|
|Minnesota Vikings||Green Bay Packers||GB (-4.5)||MIN|
|San Diego Chargers||Kansas City Chiefs||KC (-4.5)||KC|
|Carolina Panthers||Miami Dolphins||CAR (-4.5)||CAR|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Cleveland Browns||CLE (-1)||CLE|
|Chicago Bears||St. Louis Rams||STL (-1)||CHI|
|New York Jets||Baltimore Ravens||BAL (-4)||BAL|
|Tennessee Titans||Oakland Raiders||OAK (-1)||OAK|
|Indianapolis Colts||Arizona Cardinals||ARI (-2.5)||IND|
|Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants||NYG (-2.5)||NYG|
|Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||DEN (-2.5)||NE|
|San Francisco 49ers||Washington Redskins||SF (-5)||SF|
Odds courtesy of Covers (as of Nov. 20)
Underdogs to Consider
New England Patriots (+2.5)
If you get Tom Brady and the New England Patriots plus points at home, then you take it. No matter the opponent.
Now, that being said, I can understand why the Pats are the underdogs here. Many are ready to crown the Denver Broncos as the best team in the NFL right now, and for good reason. They are coming off a huge 27-17 win over the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs and sit at a sparkling 9-1.
But consider Denver's performances on the road.
Who ya got?
The Horsies gave up 23 points to the Giants (in Week 2 when New York was playing horrendous football), 48 points to the Cowboys, 39 points in a loss to the Colts and 20 points to the Chargers.
Peyton Manning and Co. can pretty much move the ball on whoever they want (although the status of Wes Welker and Julius Thomas could change things), but they are shaky defensively, especially on the road.
With Brady having a full, healthy arsenal of weapons around him, he has played better over the last couple of weeks and will be able to turn this one into a shootout.
In that particular situation, I'll take the extra points and the home team.
Atlanta Falcons (+9)
This one is not for the faint of heart.
Normally, I wouldn't touch the Atlanta Falcons with a Jeremy Trueblood-sized pole. They have lost their last four games by a combined score of 135-61, and that could be even worse if not for a couple of garbage-time touchdowns against the two-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
Add in the fact they are playing the 8-2 New Orleans Saints, who are coming off a shellacking of the Cowboys and a big win over the 49ers, and this seems like a recipe for an ugly blowout.
But stay with me here.
Much like the Broncos, the Saints are inconsistent on the road. At home, they have a plus-104 point differential in six wins. But away from the Superdome, they are plus-one with a 2-2 record.
Moreover, Thursday night games tend to be unpredictable, sloppy and at times low-scoring.
The Saints are going to win. But two of the Falcons' three losses at the Georgia Dome have come by a touchdown or less, and considering the circumstances, the nine-point underdogs can at least do that much.