Week 12 kicked off in not-so-important fashion as the New Orleans Saints slipped by the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football.
As per the usual, Thursday's game is not exactly a good indicator of the strength of this weekend's schedule (but hey, money and ratings talk—forget player safety and quality).
Week 12 is yet another spoke on the wheel that continues to pick up speed toward what will be a playoff push for some and a draft push for others.
Three games in particular stand out as must-see action. The games are critical contests for all involved in one way or another. Here's a look at the full schedule, followed by an in-depth affair with the important three after the jump.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Detroit Lions||Lions|
|Minnesota Vikings||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||Houston Texans||Texans|
|San Diego Chargers||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs|
|Carolina Panthers||Miami Dolphins||Panthers|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Cleveland Browns||Steelers|
|Chicago Bears||St. Louis Rams||Bears|
|New York Jets||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Tennessee Titans||Oakland Raiders||Titans|
|Indianapolis Colts||Arizona Cardinals||Colts|
|Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants||Giants|
|Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||Broncos|
|San Francisco 49ers||Washington Redskins||49ers|
Chris Roling's predictions.
New York Giants Sink Dallas Cowboys
Yes, a battle between the .500 Dallas Cowboys (a Jerry Jones special!) and 4-6 New York Giants is one of the weekend's biggest games.
Dallas desperately needs to keep pace with 6-5 Philadelphia in the division, and New York simply needs a win to sit in second place and still have a shot at the postseason.
New York is the team with more momentum here as Tom Coughlin's specialty is getting the most out of his team with the season on the line—the Giants have won four straight.
"No doubt we're going to win this game ... put it on a bulletin-board" - Giants CB Terrell Thomas guaranteeing a win vs Dallas on Sunday— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 22, 2013
Most importantly, the Giants have re-discovered a running attack thanks to the return of Andre Brown. He has rushed for 181 yards and a touchdown in two games since his return from injured reserve.
This helps quarterback Eli Manning, who needs as much as he can get at this point (12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions). Manning and the offense will simply feast on a Dallas defense that ranks dead last against the pass and third-worst against the run.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys are capable of putting up points but not enough to cover for a defense that gave up over 600 yards of total offense in Week 10.
Prediction: Giants 35, Cowboys 30
Denver Broncos Silence New England Patriots
This one is big for obvious reasons. Two AFC powerhouses. Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady. Sunday Night Football.
Heck, even the return of Wes Welker to New England. Welker sounds as if he is good to go after an injury scare per ESPN's Adam Schefter:
Broncos WR Wes Welker passed the protocol of concussion tests and now is listed as probable for Sunday night's game vs. Patriots.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 22, 2013
Not that it matters.
Tom Brady has relied on a stout running game this season, which ranks in the top 10 at 126.9 yards per game on average. That has drastically helped Brady, who has surpassed the 300-yard mark just twice this season.
Brady won't have that help come Sunday. The Broncos are a top-five team against the rush. Brady and the Patriots were forced into a similar attack last week against a Carolina defense that ranks just above the Broncos in run defense.
The result? 20 points in a loss. Brady will score more than that against a shaky Denver secondary but not enough to get it done against Manning.
Prediction: Broncos 38, Patriots 31
San Francisco 49ers Abuse Washington Redskins
Monday Night Football has been rather hit-or-miss this season. When Colin Kaepernick and the 6-4 San Francisco 49ers make the trip to Washington, the team faces a must-win game as they are in danger of falling behind in the playoff hunt.
Kaepernick himself has been an issue for most of the year but turned things around in Week 11 against New Orleans with two touchdowns and an interception.
One problem—San Francisco still lost.
The good news? Washington is simply atrocious on defense. The unit allows 31.1 points per game for the third-worst rank in the league.
It matters little that Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III has come on in recent weeks after early-season struggles. Not only will RGIII consistently play from behind, he'll have to do so against a defense that allows 17.8 points per game.
Prediction: 49ers 33, Redskins 14