For the first time since the bye weeks began, every team has now played exactly the same amount of games in the NFL: 10. So we should know what every club is by now. I say “should,” because it rarely works that way. And currently, a whopping 25 teams are within two games of a playoff spot with six weeks to go.
But what do we really know about the Chicago Bears, for example? They would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but they looked like a Division II team in Monday’s blowout loss to San Francisco. Yeah, the Bears were starting a backup QB but so were the Niners. What do we really know about the Seahawks as well? They currently hold down the final NFC wild-card spot. Seattle seems unbeatable at home (and in fact is) but very mediocre away from the Pacific Northwest.
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In the AFC, what do we really know about the Ravens? They are 8-2 but the offense and Joe Flacco are regressing, while the defense isn’t very good these days. New England is 7-3 and the offense is humming. But now Rob Gronkowski is out for perhaps the rest of the regular season. And the Pats can’t seem to string more than two strong games in a row together.
It’s a Thanksgiving Day threesome for the seventh year in a row this year, and I don’t know about you but I will be deep into a Turkey-induced coma by about halftime of the Cowboys game. Last week, all four of my “good” choices won, although Dallas (vs. Cleveland and my top pick) and Houston (vs. Jacksonville) both deserved to lose. On to Week 12, with all presumed favorites listed first.
Cincinnati vs. Oakland: The Bengals have saved their season with back-to-back wins. Think star WR A.J. Green might extend his touchdowns reception streak to 10 in this one? The Raiders are putrid on defense, having allowed 135 points the past three games. That’s the fourth-most in any three-game stretch since the 1970 merger. So explain to me why Oakland cut former starting linebacker Aaron Curry this week!?!?
Indianapolis vs. Buffalo: If you would have told me before the season I would have recommended the Colts once this year, I would have asked what medication you were currently taking. But it’s all due to Andrew Luck, and Indy is 4-1 at home. The Bills are playing better and had a few extra days to prepare off last Thursday’s win over Miami. But Colts should win by a field goal at least.
Dallas vs. Washington (Thursday): It’s the Cowboys’ first look at Robert Griffin III and probably much of the nation’s – at least the casual football followers. The Cowboys might be down to their third-string running back, but they can now feel a playoff berth and could be tied with the Giants atop the NFC East by Sunday night. Dallas has won five of its past six on Thanksgiving.
Houston at Detroit (Thursday): The Lions generally stink on Thanksgiving Day, but they will be totally desperate because a loss essentially ends their playoff hopes. The Texans, meanwhile, would still hold the AFC’s top seed with a loss. You know my feelings about road teams in quick turnaround games. If Chad Henne can torch the Texans, what will Matthew Stafford do?
New England at NY Jets (Thursday): The Jets are in the exact same situation as the Lions, only New York knows its opponent inside and out. The Jets pushed the Pats to overtime earlier this year in Foxborough and will be duly jacked up to end a four-game skid to their hated rivals. Gronkowski’s absence will start to be felt for Tom Brady.
Chicago vs. Minnesota: I presume Jay Cutler will play after sitting out Monday with a concussion, but as bad as the Bears’ offensive line looked I wouldn’t touch this team right now. Plus, they are on a short week, while the Vikings had last week off. Adrian Peterson usually shreds the Bears as well.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland: Would you really risk your survivor pool on Charlie Batch? Enough said. Browns have lost 10 of past 11 at home in this series but I almost expect an upset.
Denver at Kansas City: The Broncos will badly miss running back Willis McGahee, who was put on season-ending injured reserve on Wednesday. Ronnie Hillman has shown promise, but he’s not McGahee. This just smells very much like a trap game for Denver, for which everything is going right at the moment. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, it’s going to be a pretty nice day in K.C. on Sunday, but I still have a feeling Denver’s franchise-record streak of five straight games with 30 points ends.
San Diego vs. Baltimore: Don’t trust the Ravens’ offense or anything on the Chargers, particularly the coaching staff.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay: I still don’t believe in the Bucs, but it’s hard to argue what Greg Schiano has done. This franchise was lost at the end of last season, when the players quit on Raheem Morris as it dropped the final 10 games of 2011. Now the Bucs suddenly look loaded with offensive playmakers. Think Chip Kelly regrets not taking the job? The league is starting to figure out the Falcons, who could easily be on a three-game losing streak entering this one.
San Francisco at New Orleans: I don’t care if it’s Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith starting. This is a major letdown game off Monday night’s destruction of the Bears. The Saints now have plenty of film on Kaepernick if it’s him, while Smith might still have some cobwebs off his concussion. New Orleans has much more to play for and wins the game.
NY Giants vs. Green Bay: I actually think the Packers are still PO’d from last year’s playoff loss to the Giants and win this game, but it’s clearly too close to call. Maybe the week off did wonders for struggling Eli Manning, who reportedly was dealing with a tired arm.
Seattle at Miami: That Seahawks offense is pretty bad in road games – and there is no tougher road trip in the NFL than Seattle to Miami (other than London) for a 1 p.m. ET game. Seahawks should still win, but I just don’t trust them.
Tennessee at Jacksonville: UGH! Jaguars going with Chad Henne, and the Blaine Gabbert experiment could be over as he was put on season-ending IR. Gabbert, the 2011 first-rounder out of Missouri, has been terrible when he has played. I will be stunned if Tim Tebow isn’t in Jacksonville next season.
Arizona vs. St. Louis: How hilarious would it be to see the Cardinals finish 4-12 after starting 4-0? If they don’t win this game, it’s quite possible. It might be a blessing in disguise, as then Arizona can draft USC golden boy QB Matt Barkley. Of course, that didn’t work out too well for the Cards with another former Trojans golden boy QB named Matt.
Philadelphia vs. Carolina (Monday): The Jon Gruden Bowl! Both teams are likely to be very aggressive to lure Gruden after Andy Reid and Ron Rivera, respectively, are let go after this season. Wonder if they address it on Monday night in the booth? I would think Carolina would be a better gig with Cam Newton already in place and less media scrutiny than in Philly. I honestly don’t care or know who wins the actual game.
I don’t overly love the Bengals as much as I loathe the incompetent Raiders, so Cincinnati is the pick. You might have to favor Cincy for the AFC’s final wild card with the quarterback problems going on in Pittsburgh right now.
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