It's crunch time for many teams around the NFL as the playoff race heats up and division showdowns take on new meaning.
While the 10-1 Seattle Seahawks sport the league's best record through 11 weeks, they'll enjoy a bye in Week 12, allowing the spotlight to remain on another Super Bowl favorite in the Denver Broncos, who are set to square off against the New England Patriots in a potential AFC Championship Game preview in prime time on Sunday night.
But before the weekend's action reaches fever pitch, there'll be a dozen matchups for fans to enjoy.
With Week 12 set to kick off from Atlanta on Thursday, here are my predictions for all 14 games, including three teams set to earn momentous victories on Sunday.
|NEW ORLEANS SAINTS||31-21||Atlanta Falcons|
|Minnesota Vikings||17-20||GREEN BAY PACKERS|
|PITTSBURGH STEELERS||23-16||Cleveland Browns|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||27-34||DETROIT LIONS|
|San Diego Chargers||13-24||KANSAS CITY CHIEFS|
|CHICAGO BEARS||26-18||St. Louis Rams|
|CAROLINA PANTHERS||23-14||Miami Dolphins|
|New York Jets||16-20||BALTIMORE RAVENS|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||23-27||HOUSTON TEXANS|
|Tennessee Titans||21-24||OAKLAND RAIDERS|
|INDIANAPOLIS COLTS||31-17||Arizona Cardinals|
|Dallas Cowboys||20-27||NEW YORK GIANTS|
|DENVER BRONCOS||30-24||New England Patriots|
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS||34-26||Washington Redskins|
Green Bay Packers 20, Minnesota Vikings 17
Despite having dropped three in a row since Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone on his non-throwing shoulder in early November, the Packers are just one game out of first place in the NFC North and can remain in the hunt with a win over the lowly Minnesota Vikings at home in Week 12.
Scott Tolzien will start at quarterback for Green Bay for the second straight week but should feel much more comfortable at home after getting his debut jitters out of the way last week in New York.
What's more, Tolzien will be facing a horrid pass defense in Minnesota. The Vikings rank 29th in fewest passing yards allowed (280 per game) and have surrendered more passing touchdowns (23) than any other team in the league this season.
Look for Tolzien, who's thrown for 619 yards since taking over for Seneca Wallace in Week 10, to continue to make big plays in the passing game on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
Offensively, Minnesota hasn't been able to mount much of an attack in 2013. The Vikings rank 25th in passing and 17th in rushing. Meanwhile, Minnesota's top playmaker, Adrian Peterson, is battling a groin injury and averaging just 4.4 yards per carry through 10 games. That mark is his lowest since 2009.
Therefore, the Packers defense should get some relief this weekend as they look to slow a hobbled Peterson and an unimpressive Christian Ponder.
Christian Ponder's career at Lambeau: 28/59 (47.4%), 309 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT, 47.9 QB rating.— Bruce Ciskie (@BruceCiskie) November 20, 2013
New York Giants 27, Dallas Cowboys 20
Winners of four in a row, the New York Giants can pull within one game of the NFC East with a win over rival Dallas at MetLife Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Giants are three-point favorites at home, per VegasInsider.com, and should have little trouble covering the spread if they stick to the formula that has sparked their recent turnaround.
It all starts with playing mistake-free football on the offensive end. After turning the ball over 23 times through the first six games of the season, Eli Manning and Co. have committed just six over the last four games.
Defensively, New York has been a much different unit since the arrival of linebacker Jon Beason, who the Giants acquired earlier this season through a trade with Carolina. New York is 4-1 since Beason strapped on a blue helmet and is allowing less than 15 points per game over that time.
Meanwhile, Dallas enters Sunday afternoon's pivotal matchup in desperate need of some momentum. The Cowboys have dropped two of their last three and have been dealt several key injuries on the defensive side of the ball.
And with Dallas' running game virtually nonexistent (77 yards per game), Tony Romo will likely need to turn in one of his best performances of the season in order to lift Dallas above .500 this weekend.
Denver Broncos 30, New England Patriots 24
The Denver Broncos will be slight favorites when they head to Foxborough to battle the New England Patriots on Sunday night. And although the Pats are a perfect 5-0 at home this season, Week 12's clash is sure to be their toughest test all year.
Led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos boast the league's top-ranked passing attack and can change the game with a single screen pass. After all, Denver ranks first in completions (288), yards per attempt (8.7) and passing touchdowns (34) in addition to passing yards (350 per game).
New England's secondary could catch a serious break if the dynamic Wes Welker, who suffered a concussion in Week 11, can't suit up on Sunday night. But there's still a decent shot Welker could return and present a nightmare matchup for the Patriots in the slot.
Denver will also look to hit New England with a healthy dose of Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball on the ground, considering the Pats rank 27th in fewest rushing yards allowed this season.
Who ya got in Week 12's marquee matchup?
Consequently, the key for Tom Brady and the Patriots will be establishing the short passing game we saw on Monday night against the Panthers in order to keep Manning on the sideline. Remember, Denver boasts one of the best run-stopping defenses in the NFL, and it's unlikely that the Pats will be able to pick up easy yardage on the ground.
If the Patriots are going to avoid losing two in a row, they'll need to exploit the Broncos' porous secondary and move the chains with quick and easy throws that neutralize Denver's pass rush. But keep in mind that the Broncos execute this strategy better than any other team in the league and have many more weapons at their disposal.
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