The state of NFL parity is such that, heading into Week 12, making picks for every game with playoff implications pretty much entails picking every game on the schedule.
One such game is the Tennessee Titans visit to Houston to take on the Texans. With five and six losses respectively, another defeat might put either team over the edge and out of the playoffs in the AFC, where a seven loss season might be enough to keep non-division winners out of a wild card spot.
The Titans and Texans are two such teams who stand a much better chance of winning their division than claiming a wild card berth from either second place team in the AFC East or North.
With that in mind, here's are picks for Tennessee at Houston and the rest of the Week 12 games that have playoff implications.
The New England Patriots travel to the Motor City for a Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions, who are annual turkey-day warriors.
Last week, the Patriots defeated the Colts, 31-28, when Peyton Manning threw an interception with under a minute remaining. Manning was leading the Colts down the field, and back from a 31-14 fourth quarter deficit, when he threw the game-ending interception from the Patriots 24-yard line.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions took a second half beating on the road in Dallas, losing 35-19.
The Lions are not technically eliminated from the playoffs, but they stand little chance of making the most miraculous run to the playoffs in NFL history. On the other sideline, the Patriots will be playing to continue their battle with the Jets for the AFC East crown and with the Ravens and Patriots for home field advantage and a first round bye.
The Lions are 33-35-2 on Thanksgiving Day and the Patriots are 1-2. Both of the Lions wins have come at home and both of the Pats losses have come on the road.
The Lions have a productive pass offense, generating 255.9 yards per game through the air, which is good for sixth in the league. It should serve them well against the Patriots, who have the 31st ranked pass defense that allows 289.6 yards per game.
No indicators pop out at you when examining the matchup that would suggest the Patriots are going to win. However, that seems to be the case most weeks with the Patriots and they just keep on winning.
It's impossible to pick against the Patriots here. They find a way to not only win, but do so impressively week in and week out, while the Lions seem to find a way to lose most weeks. Following the trend of the Patriots past few games, they will most likely build up a lead, allow the Lions to throw all over their pass defense in the second half, but still pull out a decently comfortable win.
Patriots win, 35-27
This will be New Orleans Saints' first game on Thanksgiving Day.
They enter the game in Dallas coming off a 34-19 victory against the Seattle Seahawks and seem to be getting their act together.
The Cowboys are coming off back-to-back wins, with their latest being the aforementioned 35-19 rout of the Detroit Lions.
At 3-7, the Cowboys are not eliminated from the playoffs, but they, like the Lions, have little chance of making them, so they'll be looking to play spoiler for the remainder of the season starting Thursday against the Saints, who are a game behind the Falcons in a two-way tie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A win here would hopefully either allow them to gain a game on the Falcons in hopes of winning the NFC South or distance themselves from the Buccaneers and other wild card hopefuls.
The Saints, with their 3-1 road record, are one of the better road teams in the NFL. So playing in Dallas shouldn't be much of a problem for them, especially because the Cowboys are just 1-4 at "Jerry World" this season.
Drew Brees is coming off a 382 yard, four touchdown performance against a weak Seahawks pass defense. While the Cowboys' pass defense is not as bad as Seattle's, they are still susceptible on pass defense, allowing 235.1 yards per game through the air.
The Cowboys don't really have any statistical advantages to crow about. But their offense is really hot right now, having scored 68 points in their last two games.
The Cowboys are playing better under Jason Garrett and possess a 27-14-1 record on Thanksgiving. However, the Saints are on a three game win streak of their own and mean business. This game should be tightly contested the whole way with the Saints pulling one out with a late touchdown.
Saints win, 28-24
These two teams are at completely different ends of the spectrum at the moment.
The Jets have won three straight games, two in overtime and one in the final 10 seconds, including last week's 30-27 victory against the Houston Texans. The natural high off of such exhilarating victories has the Jets soaring with confidence, yet wary of the inconsistencies they've shown in allowing teams with a combined 9-21 record to hang with them.
Cincinnati is 2-8 this season after being picked by some to go to the Super Bowl. The effort the team showed in Week 11's game against the Buffalo Bills was pathetic, as they allowed the Bills to score 35 second half points and erase a 31-14 deficit in a 49-31 loss.
New York needs a win to keep pace with the Patriots in the AFC East race leading up to the showdown between the two teams on Monday night football in Week 13. The Bengals are out of the playoff picture and will look to be spoilers, like the Lions and Cowboys.
The Jets are only 3-2 at home, but the Bengals are only 1-4 on the road.
This game will pit the Jets' running game against the Bengals' passing game, as both should be able to get something done against the other team's defense. The problem is, the Jets' pass attack under Mark Sanchez seems to be getting to the point where they are no longer a weakness. The Bengals rush offense has been abysmal and won't be able to back-up the pass offense like the Jets pass offense will back-up their rush offense.
On paper, the New York Jets are a team that should easily handle the Bengals. However, they also are a team that should have put the Texans away when they had a 23-7 fourth quarter lead, not have to rely on a miracle touchdown pass from their second year quarterback in the game's final 10 seconds. Chances are this one doesn't turn out much different; the cardiac Jets strike again.
Jets win, 23-20
Houston can neither catch a break at this point nor stop any pass attack from doing as it pleases. Back-to-back heartbreaking losses in the final seconds of regulation have proved that.
Meanwhile, the Titans have gone from 5-2 to 5-5 in what seems like the blink of an eye after dropping their third straight game to the depleted Redskins, 19-16, at home.
Now the bottom two teams in the AFC South are fighting for their playoff lives against one another. Though Tennessee has a game in hand, a victory here would probably knock the Texans out of contention, and one less competitor is always a good thing. And on the other hand, a loss would seriously hinder the Titans chances of making up the ground they've lost over the past few weeks.
This week the above statement about the Texans' pass defense is going to be tested to the fullest because Rusty Smith, a rookie quarterback from Florida Atlantic. If the Texans 32nd ranked pass defense cannot stop a Titans pass offense ranked 31st in the league and now counting on Rusty Smith then it's time to put the Texans to bed.
The Titans will be counting on Chris Johnson to carry them and their defense to slow down the Texans seventh ranked offense. It should not be easy, as the Titans are ranked 26th against the pass in the NFL.
Both teams are going to be going all out to potentially save their season. While some will say the Texans will be deflated, that their spirit will be broken from the consecutive losses, there is just as much a shot of them reaching down deep and finding themselves against an offense that won't be able to take advantage of their greatest weakness. The Texans offense should put this one out of reach late and get a win at home, handing the Titans their fourth straight loss.
Texans win, 28-17
Eli Manning is being put on the spot this week. After last week's dismal performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, Manning is going to have to step up and lead the Giants without his top two receivers, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, both of whom are out with injuries.
The Jaguars are hot right now, winning three straight, including a 24-20 victory against the Browns. Their 2-2 road record is evened out by the Giants mediocre 3-2 home record.
As an intra-conference matchup, this game has implications for both the AFC and NFC playoff pictures. The Giants are now a game behind the Eagles in the NFC East and a game behind several other NFC teams in contention for a wild card that all sport 7-3 records. The Jaguars are now atop the AFC South thanks to tiebreakers and need to win in order to keep the Colts at the infinitesimal distance they established this past week.
Besides owning the home field advantage, the Giants seem to have every other advantage over the Jaguars. Their seventh ranked pass offense, even without Nicks and Smith, should be able to move the ball on the Jaguars 28th ranked pass defense.
When the Jaguars have the ball they depend on their sixth ranked rush offense. That might not be the case this Sunday because the Giants only allow 89.5 yards per game on the ground.
This game is a mismatch. Look for the two teams to trade off the momentum, as the Giants once again silence their critics with a fairly dominant victory and the questions that have been plaguing the Jaguars due to their negative 50 net points return.
Giants win, 31-14
The Steelers rebounded from an embarrassing loss to the Patriots with a blowout victory against the Oakland Raiders, 35-3, and travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills.
With a 4-1 road record, the Steelers are not going to be hindered by travelling to Buffalo. But they might be hindered by Bills, who are hot at the moment. They have won back-to-back games, which are their only two victories of the season.
This game really means nothing to the Bills, who are only trying to end the season with some victories to give Chan Gailey some momentum heading into his second season at the helm of the Bills. The Steelers need the game to keep pace with the Ravens in the AFC North and other wild card competitors in the AFC.
This game does not provide good matchups for the Bills, who possess the worst rush defense in the entire league. Rashard Mendenhall should be able to have his way with the Bills. On top of that, the Bills mediocre pass defense should struggle to stop the combination of Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace, who are starting to round into shape as a tandem.
On offense, Ryan Fitzpatrick should be able to throw a little on the Steelers 21st ranked pass defense, but nowhere near enough to keep up with the trio of Roethlisberger, Wallace and Mendenhall. He will get no support from the Bills ground game because nobody has run against the Steelers this season and nobody should peg the Bills to be the first to do that either.
The Bills might make the game interesting for a small moment in time at some random point in this game, but before wrong the Steelers should pull away with their superior defense and offense.
Steelers win, 34-20
In what should be the game of the week, and possibly a preview of the NFC Championship game, the Green Bay Packers travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons a week after trouncing the Minnesota Vikings 31-3 in Minnesota.
The Packers have won their previous two games 76-10, however, the game against the Falcons should be incrementally tougher. The 8-2 Falcons are 18-1 in the Georgia Dome with Matt Ryan under center, including 5-0 this season.
Not only could this game be a preview of the NFC Championship game, it may be hugely significant in determining home field advantage in said Championship game. Ask the Packers whether they'd rather win in Atlanta this week or in the playoffs and they'd undoubtedly answer this week.
In the battle between Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan, Rodgers has the advantage of playing on a team with a solid pass defense. The Packers are 11th against the pass, which isn't lights out, but the Falcons are 24th against the pass. Rodgers is hot right now and might have a field day against the Falcons.
But that doesn't mean the Falcons are dead in the water. Even though the Packers run defense has improved in weeks past, it is still ranked 18th in the NFL, which means it might be susceptible to being burned by Michael Turner and the Falcons seventh ranked rush offense.
This game should come down to which team can most effectively conceal their defensive weakness.
The odds are certainly stacked against the Packers winning this game at the Georgia Dome given Ryan's record as a starter there. But you could look at it this way: The Falcons and Ryan are do for a home loss. The Packers defense is just scorching hot at the moment and stand a better chance of doing what is stated above.
Packers win, 27-24
The Seattle Seahawks need to rebound following their 34-19 loss to the Saints in Week 11. They will try and do so at home, where they are 3-1 with their lone home loss coming against the Giants when Charlie Whitehurst was starting in place of an injured Matt Hasselbeck.
They have exactly the right opponent to do just that, as the Kansas City Chiefs have a terrible 1-4 road record. Their only road victory was a narrow 16-14 win in Cleveland against the 3-7 Browns. However, they are coming off a 31-13 victory against another NFC West team, the Arizona Cardinals.
This is the second intra-conference game with playoff implications in both conferences. Seattle needs a win to maintain their control over the NFC West and Kansas City must win to keep their one game advantage in the AFC West.
Matt Hasselbeck should be able to throw the ball against the Chiefs 25th ranked pass defense. The veteran will be able to use the confidence from Seattle's "12th Man" to hurt a young Chiefs secondary.
Interestingly enough, the Seahawks 14th ranked rush defense is the only category of the four offense/defense rush/pass statistics ranked in the top half of the NFL. Unfortunately, it is not a good enough unit to completely shutdown the Chiefs' potent ground game.
This should be a fairly competitive game. The Chiefs are probably a better team overall, but the Seahawks have the advantage of a strong home field advantage against a team that doesn't travel well and now must go out to the West coast. The Seahawks should control this one from the beginning, never really put the Chiefs to bed, but ultimately prevail in a close one at the end.
Seahawks win, 17-14
Last week the Oakland Raiders were demolished by the Pittsburgh Steelers team, which, in a way, proved the Raiders three consecutive victories by a score of 115-37 were a product of home field advantage and playing weak opponents. The Steelers burst their bubble by blowing them out, 35-3.
Miami has been obliterated by injuries and are buried in the AFC East after a 16-0 home loss to the Chicago Bears. It really doesn't matter that the Dolphins have to take the show on the road this week because they have a 4-1 road record.
Although the Dolphins stand little chance of catching the Jets and Patriots in the AFC East or securing a wild card berth, they are more alive than plenty of other teams and need to either show some resiliency or fall by the wayside. The Raiders, who at 5-5 would be buried in the AFC, are just a game behind the Chiefs, tied with the Chargers at second in the AFC West.
What has happened to Miami's top five running game from 2009? They are ranked 21st in the league on the ground. If they have any shot of winning in Oakland, they'll need to get that ground attack going against the Raiders' 25th ranked rush defense.
When Oakland has the ball, Darren McFadden will be looking to bounce back from an abysmal performance against the Steelers top ranked rush defense. He might be able to do it against the Dolphins 20th ranked rush defense, which is definitely trending downward after allowing 135 yards to the Bears and their 20th ranked rush offense.
Miami seems to be down for the count this year, however unfair that might be because of the division they're in, and the Raiders are still fighting for their division crown. These are two teams going in separate directions. While the Dolphins will put up a great fight, the Raiders are going to be willing to go that extra inch to get the win.
Raiders win, 14-10
Philadelphia is coming off a huge 27-17 division win against the Giants and are lead by Michael Vick, who passed and rushed for 292 combined yards in a game where most would say he was "contained."
While the Giants provided Vick a staunch test, the Bears are every bit as capable of slowing him down. Fresh off a 16-0 shutout against the Dolphins, the Bears' No. 1 ranked scoring defense will look to slow down the NFC's top scoring offense. They'll try and do it while defending their home turf of Soldier field, where they are just 3-2. The Eagles are 4-1 on the road, something that does not bode well for the Bears.
This game is all about the No. 1 scoring defense in the NFC and NFL against the top scoring offense in the NFC (second in the NFL to the Patriots).
It's really as simple as that because the Bears pass offense is terrible and won't be able to capitalize on the Eagles' 14th ranked pass defense, their greatest weakness.
This is an extremely tough game to judge. But to get a decent prediction for the game, ask yourself one question: Which unit do you trust more to win this game if the Bears' defense and Eagles' offense stalemate, the Bears' offense or the Eagles' defense? Based on past performance it has to be the Eagles' defense. Therefore, the Eagles win what should be another great game when. In fact, it might play out fairly similar to the game against the Giants, with the Eagles pulling away late on a Cutlerception.
Eagles win, 27-17
It probably won't suit those that wish to proclaim the Ravens a dominant team, but that game against the 1-9 Panthers on Sunday was awfully close at the start of the fourth quarter. Then Brian "House Husband" St. Pierre threw two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns within 20 seconds.
Josh Freeman might be a second year quarterback, but he's not Brian St. Pierre and the Buccaneers are not the Panthers. Then again the Ravens were on the road in Week 11; This week they will be at home against the Bucs where they are 4-0.
This is the third intra-conference game that has playoff implications for both conferences this week. The Ravens need a win to keep pace with the Steelers and the Bucs need a win to remain one game behind the Falcons and tied with a plethora of other NFC opponents.
It won't be as easy for the Buccaneers 29th ranked rush defense to mask their inefficiency against the Ravens as they did against the 49ers in their 21-0 shutout victory. However, if the Ravens start to throw the ball too often they might find themselves in trouble against the Bucs sixth ranked pass defense.
When the Bucs are on offense the onus will be on Josh Freeman to lift the Bucs 22nd ranked passing attack over a Ravens pass defense that is solid, but has proved to be susceptible at times.
The Buccaneers need to win this game if they want to quiet their naysayers. They've lost to all three games they've played against teams with records over .500 by a combined score of 96-40. Their 4-1 road record should help them in a tough environment, but it probably won't be enough against a Ravens team that is more talented overall.
Ravens win, 23-13
The Chargers are at it again. After starting the season 2-5, they won their last three games to put them just one game out of first place in the weak AFC West. Last week they handled the Broncos, 35-14.
Indianapolis on the other hand, is clearly not the same team that went 14-2 in 2009. Whether it's injuries to Peyton Manning's targets, a complete lack of run defense or the inability to run the ball due to more injuries, the Colts are in some trouble. Yet they still were knocking on the door in New England and were about to, at the very least, tie the game.
It would make this game sound much more interesting if both really were in dire straits if they lost, but that's simply not the case. If either team loses it won't be the end of their playoff hopes, it would just mean the Chargers and Colts would have almost no shot at a wild card and would need to rely solely on winning their divisions.
This is a matchup between the top two passing offenses in the NFL. These teams also have the first (Chargers) and eight (Colts) ranked passing defenses in the league. Something has got to give, and it will most likely be the two defenses, as Rivers and Manning take turns dissecting each others defense.
The Chargers are the more well-rounded team, though. That shows in the Colts complete inability to run the ball or stop the run because the Chargers can stop opposing team's ground games and has an average rush offense themselves (17th).
However, the Colts do have one thing going for them: Home field advantage. They are 4-0 at home, while the Chargers are a measly 1-4 on the road.
This Sunday night showdown should come down to how much more balanced the Chargers are than the Colts, though getting Joseph Addai or Mike Hart back could help the Colts rush offense. It will still be a bit of a shootout. But in a battle between two quarterbacks who have been doing a lot of heavy lifting without much help, it will ultimately be the quarterback who gets the most help from his teammates that prevails. That will be Philip Rivers.
Chargers win, 35-31
Well 12 of the 16 games this week are covered here so why not just give some quick predictions for the other four.
Carolina (1-9) at Cleveland (3-7): Which conference's bottom-dweller is better? Chances are it is Cleveland, especially playing in Cleveland. Cleveland's defense should handle the Panthers league worst offense and Peyton Hillis should have a field day against Carolina's 24th ranked rush defense. Browns win, 20-10
Minnesota (3-7) at Washington (5-5): Washington is still alive in the playoff hunt, but they stand very little chance of overcoming their division rivals or overtaking other wild card contenders. This might be crazy, but Brett Favre lights up the Redskins 29th ranked pass defense and Washington's inconsistency continues to kill their fans. Minnesota wins, 27-21
St. Louis (4-6) at Denver (3-7): St. Louis has lost two games in a row and their 0-4 road record does not bode well on the road against Denver, who are 2-3 at home. They are still in the playoff hunt, but the Rams might be fading. Kyle Orton and the Broncos fourth ranked pass offense out-duels Steven Jackson, who should have a big day on the ground against Denver's 31st ranked rush defense. Denver wins, 24-17
San Francisco (3-7) at Arizona (3-7): Seriously, this is no joke: This is the Monday Night Football game. It would still probably get better ratings than an MLB Playoff game. The sad thing is that this is the first of two games left on the NFL schedule between these two teams. What happens here is anybodies guess. Let's say Arizona wins because they're at home. Arizona wins, 20-17
That's it. Predictions for all 16 games. Feel free to comment if you disagree with any picks or have something to add that wasn't covered here. Thanks for reading!