The NFL has provided a handful of nail-biting finishes already this season. Don't expect that to change during Week 12.
Although questionable calls stole the headlines during two of last week's best finishes, the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers each obtained narrow victories over the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots, respectively, to set up an intriguing NFC South race.
But hidden from the spotlight, the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers played to a close finish in a match with big wild-card implications (sadly) while the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears jousted to overtime in the Windy City.
Let's take a look at some under-the-radar matchups in store for this weekend that can offer exciting conclusions.
|NFL Week 12 Picks|
|Away||Predicted Score||Home||Time (ET)|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||13-9||Cleveland Browns (-1.5)||1 p.m.|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||20-27||Detroit Lions (-9)||1 p.m.|
|Minnesota Vikings||16-24||Green Bay Packers (-4.5)||1 p.m.|
|San Diego Chargers||13-20||Kansas City Chiefs (-5)||1 p.m.|
|Chicago Bears||20-17||St. Louis Rams (-1)||1 p.m.|
|Carolina Panthers (-4.5)||17-6||Miami Dolphins||1 p.m.|
|New York Jets||10-20||Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)||1 p.m.|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||9-24||Houston Texans (-10)||1 p.m.|
|Tennessee Titans||21-20||Oakland Raiders (-1)||4:05 p.m.|
|Indianapolis Colts||27-23||Arizona Cardinals (-2.5)||4:05 p.m.|
|Dallas Cowboys||34-26||New York Giants (-2.5)||4:25 p.m.|
|Denver Broncos (-2.5)||35-31||New England Patriots||8:30 p.m.|
|San Francisco 49ers (-6)||27-14||Washington Redskins||8:30 p,m. (Mon.)|
|Spreads courtesy of Vegas Insider|
Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams
As of Thursday, Vegas Insider touts the 4-6 Rams as the one-point favorite over the 6-4 Bears. Are the oddsmakers simply reading too much into St. Louis' home-field advantage, or are they on to something?
The Rams are getting a deep look due to their 30-point victory over the Indianapolis Colts. Using the transitive property, the Rams have now defeated the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. In reality, the Seahawks and 49ers have both bested the Rams in their NFC West clashes.
Against the Colts, the Rams found a blueprint to victory that is difficult to sustain. Kellen Clemens only needed to throw 16 times, as he hit Tavon Austin on two deep scores. Austin also returned a punt for a touchdown while the defense scooped up a fumble recovery for another six points.
But there is hope to beating the Bears, who rank No. 31 with 133.9 rushing yards allowed per game. Zac Stacy, who has run the ball at least 26 times in each of his last three games, will again receive plenty of carries on his plate.
A bullying ground game will keep the Rams close, but the Bears' more well-rounded offense will make enough plays to sneak past a squad with just one big win to boast.
Prediction: Bears 20, Rams 17
Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders
As much as you'd rather not believe it, the winner of this bout is well alive in the AFC.
Each team resides at 4-6 along with most of the AFC, but the two 5-5 squads ahead of them are far from safe bets. The Dolphins will face the Panthers, while the Jets again followed a victory with a catastrophic loss, so 5-6 could be good for a share of a wild-card spot after Sunday.
Matt McGloin made an impressive first start for the Raiders last week, combating the Houston Texans' elite passing defense for 197 yards and three touchdowns. But we've seen plenty of replacements get exposed through more playing time, and Tennessee's secondary ranks seventh with 213.1 passing yards surrendered per game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven a competent fill-in for the injured Jake Locker, and Chris Johnson is again finding his second-half mojo with 266 rushing yards and four scores in his past three games.
Brandishing a plus-one point differential to Oakland's minus-52 rate, Tennessee is the lesser of two evils here.
Prediction: Titans 21, Raiders 20
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
This game would have carried a much different tune if it was played a few weeks ago.
The Colts were cruising after slaying the league's fiercest giants, but a monumental letdown against the Rams and a near defeat to the Titans has them looking vulnerable. On the other side of this matchup, the Cardinals are demanding to be taken seriously after winning their last three games.
These teams rest on near-even footing, but the Colts will easily win the poor AFC South while the Cardinals look to steal a playoff spot from a heavy helping of fierce players. This is a golden chance for the Cardinals to put the NFL on notice, but expect them to fall just short.
If the Cardinals would give Andre Ellington a chance, maybe they'd have a stronger shot at winning. But Rashard Mendenhall and his 2.9 yards per carry are not nearly good enough to attack the Colts' main weakness. Indianapolis, however, can eschew the run against Arizona's dominant front seven and instead exploit its secondary.
It's also getting increasingly difficult to dismiss Andrew Luck's late-game heroics as lucky, so that could come into play during a tightly contested affair.
Prediction: Colts 27, Cardinals 23