A lot of intriguing action in Week 12, including a relocated game, the NFL’s #1 defense against Tom Brady, the return of Josh Gordon, Lovie Smith’s return to Chicago, Denver finally returning home, DeMarco Murray against the NFL’s worst run defense, and so much more.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchups . . .
Green Bay Packers (7-3) at Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
Man, could the Vikings use running back Adrian Peterson in this game!
Not only because he’s a great player, but also because his replacement Matt Asiata (concussion) is out.
The Packers don’t have a lot of weaknesses, but one of them is their 30th-ranked run defense.
But Roger Goodell won’t allow Peterson to play. He suspended “AP” for the rest of the season because the runner used a switch to punish his son, a charge the Texas criminal justice system has already dealt with, giving him probation.
NFL Players Association called the suspension “unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful.” And it’s impacting wins and losses in Minnesota, and expect another loss this week to the visiting Packers.
Cleveland Browns (6-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-6)
The Browns get standout receiver Josh Gordon off the suspended list, and head down to Atlanta to face one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. The Falcons have allowed 13 passing touchdowns, and an NFL-worst 281 passing yards a game.
And not helping matters, Falcons starting cornerback Robert Alford sits out with a wrist injury.
The Browns will likely be without two starting linebackers, Karlos Dansby (knee) and Jabaal Sheard (foot), so this is a good week for the Falcons to get their moribund running game going.
This game could go either way.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6)
This contest might look like a basketball game at times with so many talented, big, athletic targets on display.
Tampa Bay comes to town with their pair of six-foot-five wideouts, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, and they face off against Chicago WR’s Brandon Marshall, Marquess Wilson, and Alshon Jefferey–all six-foot-three or above.
And both teams are weak issues in the secondary.
So Lovie Smith’s homecoming to Chicago could turn into a shootout that the Bears should figure out a way to win.
Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) at Houston Texans (5-5)
The Bengals offense rolled last week in New Orleans, with a now-healthy superstar receiver (A.J. Green), and rookie running back sensation Jeremy Hill, leading the way.
A little extra excitement in this game for Andy Dalton. He hails from the Houston suburb of Katy. Players always get excited competing in their hometown.
Also, starting Houston cornerback Kareem Jackson (knee) watches rather than plays this game.
This matchup favors the road team, especially if Texans RB Arian Foster (groin) is inactive.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) at Indianapolis Colts (6-4)
This is a terrible matchup for the Jaguars, a team with a weak cornerback situation against the NFL’s #1 passing offense.
Also, New England embarrassed Indianapolis last week. So, the Colts are highly-motivated to get back on track, and should do just that with the NFL’s leader in passing yardage (Andrew Luck) against a bad secondary.
Miami Dolphins (6-4) at Denver Broncos (7-3)
The Broncos ended their three-game road trip 1-2, and now they come back home where they are 5-0 to play the NFL’s #2 defense, the Miami Dolphins.
But keep in mind the Dolphins will be without starting CB Cortland Finnegan, and that is huge. Against Peyton Manning, especially at home, you need all hands on deck at cornerback.
Also, the Dolphins will be without talented tight end Charles Clay.
Manning feels his team’s “sense of urgency needs to increase.”
Coming home after three straight road games, expect that to happen, and for the Broncos to prevail.
Washington Redskins (3-7) at San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
Robert Griffin III is really struggling.
And not helping matters is the entire left side of his offensive line, his blindside, is injured and iffy for this game. Both left tackle Trent Williams (knee/ankle) and left guard Shawn Lavuao (concussion) are questionable and game-time decisions.
Also not helping RG3: he will be without mobile, athletic tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring).
The 49ers 4th-ranked defense should be able to keep RG3 struggling, and the home team should win this game.
Dallas Cowboys (7-3) at New York Giants (3-7)
The Cowboys have the NFL’s #2 rushing offense spearheaded by RB DeMarco Murray, and the Giants have the 32nd-ranked rushing defense. How’s that going to work out?
The Giants are one of the most beat-up teams in the NFL, and the Cowboys travel to MetLife Stadium healthy and fresh coming off a bye-week? How’s that going to work out?
Also, the Giants struggling offense line will be without perhaps their most consistent player, right tackle Justin Pugh, out with a quad injury.
It would be a shocking to see the Giants win this game.
Tennessee Titans (2-8) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-3)
All signs point to the Eagles in this game.
First of all they are at home facing a rookie quarterback (Zach Mettenberger). Rookie QBs play historically bad on the road.
Second, the Eagles have a terrific pass rush (26 sacks in the last six games), and Mettenberger isn’t particularly mobile.
Third, expect master tactician Chip Kelly to have a tremendous game plan coming off a humiliating blowout loss to Green Bay. The bachelor didn’t leave the lab much this week.
Detroit Lions (7-3) at New England Patriots (8-2)
This game should be fun – Detroit brings the NFL’s #1 defense to Foxboro to face Tom Brady.
The Patriots are on a roll, having won six games in a row, and averaging 40 points per game during that stretch.
The Lions might have a hard time keeping up, even with a stout defense. Their offense is struggling so much, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi (Vince’s grandson) cut down his play sheet by 20 percent to simplify matters.
Due to the Lions’ offense struggles, and New England playing at home, expect the Patriots to prevail.
St. Louis Rams (4-6) at San Diego Chargers (6-4)
If the Chargers can protect QB Phillip Rivers adequately, they should win this game. But that is a big “if.”
Their line isn’t playing very well, and this led to a Rivers rib injury.
And the Rams have a talented defensive front.
If the Chargers had a better line, it would be easier to pencil in a win for them, but the protection issues make this game a toss-up.
Arizona Cardinals (9-1) at Seattle Seahawks (6-4)
A game-time decision could decide this game.
Cardinals star receiver Larry Fitzgerald has an MCL sprain, and his status won’t be decided until Sunday.
“We will see if he can capably play at the game,” said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
This is a statement game for the Seahawks. If they lose, they are probably finished.
Expect them to find a way to get a win, especially facing a backup quarterback (Drew Stanton) in Seattle, perhaps the toughest road venue.
Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at New Orleans Saints (4-6)
Do you know who Anthony Levine is?
He’s a former safety, starting at cornerback for the Ravens, because they are so thin at the position.
Considering how depleted the Ravens are at cornerback, it’s hard seeing them stopping Drew Brees, and the Saints #2 passing attack, especially in the Super Dome.
New York Jets (2-8) vs. Buffalo Bills (5-5) in Detroit
In a game relocated to Ford Field and moved to Monday night due to a major snowstorm in Buffalo, the Jets look to avenge a 42-23 loss a month ago.
The Jets are a better team now, with Mike Vick as their starting QB. The Jets were a turnover machine prior to Vick taking over, but in his two games as a starter, the Jets have none.
There were reports that the Bills didn’t want to move the game to a dome because it puts Vick on a fast track, with no weather impacting the game, which would should put his off-the-charts athleticism on full display.
The Bills lost starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin to a season-ending injury last week. He had a terrific game in the first Jets-Bills matchup.
This game is a toss-up.