NFL Week 12: Predicting the Outcome of Every Big Game
Week 12 of the NFL season got off to a normal start on Thanksgiving with each favorite winning. The rest of the scheduled games will be played this Sunday—the Monday night game is a bad one—and there are five games that are really good.
The top game in the AFC will feature Peyton Manning going against Philip Rivers as both teams try to make a late-season charge to the playoffs. The Chargers are starting to play well as they always do in the second half, but will they be able to beat Manning in Indianapolis?
In the NFC, the best game will be the Packers at the Falcons. Which quarterback do you think is the better one: Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan? Maybe this game between two first-place teams will help settle the debate.
There are also some dark-horse teams from Florida trying to prove that they're for real heading into December.
Which five teams will win these good matchups? Here's a breakdown of each game with a prediction.
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
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This is going to be a pretty interesting matchup between two teams who can score with great quarterbacks.
Here's a good one for you—which of these guys are better: Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan? If you look at the numbers, Rodgers has been better. He has a higher QB rating, more passing yards and more touchdown passes.
Matt Ryan, though, is almost unbeatable at home in his young career at 18-1. Both guys are in their third full seasons as starting quarterbacks and both have lost their lone playoff game. Right now, it's very hard to make the choice of who's better, and maybe this game will give us a clue.
The Packers are 7-3, tied for first in the NFC North. It's a big game for them as they can tie the Falcons at 8-3 with a win.
Rodgers should put up some major passing numbers, perhaps somewhere close to 300 yards, being the Packers' passing game is good and the Falcons are 23rd against it.
Matt Ryan can also throw, but the Falcons have been about the run and Michael Turner is having a great season. It's going to be up to Clay Matthews to put pressure on Ryan, and Charles Woodson will have to do a great job of covering Roddy White.
The Woodson-on-White battle will be the best one in this game and if White is limited, the Packers will have to stop Turner on the ground.
This game has the potential of being high-scoring, and it should be a fun one.
Final score: Falcons 24, Packers 20
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Giants
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It's getting to the point where it may be fair to say the Giants' Super Bowl XLII run was a fluke. Not to knock the Giants or take anything away from their big win over the Patriots three seasons ago, but this team can't get it done in the second half of seasons anymore.
They started last season 5-0 and looked like locks to at least make the playoffs. They finished the season 3-8 to end up 8-8 and missed the postseason. That was after losing a home playoff game the season before as the No. 1 seed.
This season, they started out 6-2. People across the board were saying the Giants were the best team in the NFC if not football. Now, they've lost two in a row to drop to 6-4 and must win this week. They're at home taking on a Jaguars team that's also 6-4 but talent-wise, doesn't match up well.
What's kept the Jaguars in the mix, as they're actually in first place in the AFC South, is the play of their short running back, Maurice Jones-Drew. It's not disparaging to describe Jones-Drew as short because he's only 5-foot-7. He's a good back, though, and he's having a great season.
But that's why the Giants shouldn't lose this game. Other than rushing the football, the Jaguars aren't that good. They're sixth in the league in rushing but can't pass, and have a bad defense.
The Jaguars' only strength could be shut down as the Giants are fifth in the league in stopping the run. Meanwhile, the Giants can pass the ball well and the Jaguars are 28th in stopping it.
All of the numbers favor the Giants in this game and if they lose, you can officially feel that another collapse is on the horizon.
Final score: Giants 38, Jaguars 13
Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears
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This is a big game between two teams that are fighting to stay in first place and earn a huge eighth win.
Mike Vick will lead the Eagles into Soldier Field to face Jay Cutler and the Bears with both teams sitting at 7-3, in first place in the NFC East and North.
The Eagles' ground game has been great this season with second-year running back LeSean McCoy leading the way with over 700 rushing yards, and Vick has been known to run himself.
The Bears, though, have been able to stop opponents from running as they're second in the league, only allowing an average of 78 rushing yards per game.
Therefore, will Vick and the Eagles decide to pass the ball a little more? Jeremy Maclin had a big game against the Giants in the victory on Sunday night, catching a season-high nine passes for 120 yards, which was his second-highest total of the season.
The Bears give up over 200 yards passing, so perhaps Maclin and DeSean Jackson can make something happen offensively in the air.
Look for D.J. Moore and Charles Tillman to be covering those two talented receivers as they've combined to intercept seven passes this season in the secondary.
On offense for the Bears, it'll be tough to hang with Vick. Chicago hasn't had a great season trying to score, as their high is only 27.
Jay Cutler, after getting off to a flying start, has been decent at best. He's actually thrown more touchdowns than interceptions this season, but he's still been picked off 10 times.
Asante Samuel will be trying to lock down Johnny Knox and the Bears may try to utilize Matt Forte in the game.
The entire game is fascinating with some nice matchups, and it'll be interesting to see if the Bears can win the game with everyone calling them overrated all season.
Final score: Eagles 31, Bears 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens
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Some people were calling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the worst team in football in preseason. They turned out to be this season's surprise team, as there always is one.
Unfortunately, their nice season may not be good enough to get them to the playoffs. They're in a division where two teams already have eight wins and one can get to nine on Sunday.
The Buccaneers are 7-3, in third place in the NFC South, and have a huge game in Baltimore this week. It's as much a must-win as there is in November for many reasons.
With a loss, they can potentially fall two games back in the division. The Wild Cards are still up for grabs but with the Saints' win on Thursday, they'd have major competition for the sixth playoff spot in the NFC.
With a win, they can potentially enter a three-way tie with the Falcons and Saints at 8-3, with the problem being they lost to both teams. So, they can't be higher than third no matter what.
They'll face another 7-3 team in the Ravens in Baltimore with the home team being 4-0 in their building.
The player who could have the biggest game on either side is Ravens' running back Ray Rice. He hasn't had the fabulous season that he had in 2009, but he's still been good and the Buccaneers are 29th in stopping the run.
Rice has only had one game of 100 or more rushing yards this season stunningly, and it came against another bad run defense in the Broncos. This could be a 100-yard type game for Rice and that would force Tampa Bay to match him on the ground.
The Buccaneers aren't good in the air and one of their best players is running back LaGarrette Blount. He rushed for 82 yards in last week's shutout win over the 49ers and he'll probably have to match Rice yard-for-yard to give Tampa Bay a chance at the win.
The Ravens as always have a great defense all-around, so look for Baltimore to avoid the slight upset at home.
Final score: Ravens 24, Buccaneers 17
San Diego Chargers at Indianapolis Colts
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This is a very weird game. By name, it's the best of Week 12. But strangely, both of these teams are having off seasons and are in the same position.
The Chargers got off to a 2-5 start and looked like they were missing both LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Cromartie, who both left for the Jets in the offseason. But just like they always do, they've turned it around with a three-game winning streak to break even at 5-5.
The Chargers have put up great numbers offensively and defensively this season and it's really odd to see them at only .500. They're the best passing team and the best against the pass in the league. They're also great at stopping the run as the Chargers have the NFL's top ranked defense.
The only thing they've struggled at statistically this season is rushing and there's no coincidence with the loss of Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson although his performance decreased last season, leading to his exit.
Meanwhile, the Colts have had one of the worst seasons in the Peyton Manning era, yet they're still tied for first place. Last season through 10 games, they hadn't lost a game. This season through 10 games, they've lost four games.
Most of that is due to the injuries the Colts have suffered this season. Dallas Clark was lost for the season in Week 6 with a broken wrist, and Austin Collie has been battling a concussion and will not play in this game against the Chargers.
Therefore, two key receivers, including a tight end, will not be available for Manning this week.
Yet, Manning has still been able to work his magic and the Colts are second in the league in passing. The Chargers and Colts are the top two passing teams in the league and that should make for a shootout between Rivers and Manning.
In last week's win against the Patriots, Manning threw for nearly 400 yards as Reggie Wayne is leading the offensive in the air. He went for 107 yards last week and will have to team up with Pierre Garcon to help Manning make plays.
Is the Chargers top-ranked defense going to keep Manning in check, as the Colts have no running game, or will the Colts continue to find ways to win? Both teams need to win and if the Chargers don't, they may not make the playoffs.
Final score: Chargers 35, Colts 31