Heading into the meat of the NFL’s Week 12 schedule plenty of surprises figure to be in store.
One game of particular interest will be Tennessee’s in Indianapolis for the AFC South lead. Then there’s the late afternoon game pitting Kansas City at Tampa Bay. Will Tom Brady continue to play in un-GOAT-like fashion?
Weather-wise, it’s will be nippy in Denver for the Saints-Broncos game with a forecast of 37 degrees at kickoff, and it will be in the low 30s in Green Bay for the Sunday night game vs. Chicago. As for precipitation, there’s a chance for light rain in Philadelphia on Monday night for the Eagles’ game vs. Seattle.
Now for a closer look at the games with some unusual notes/trends and forecasts. The odds are courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:
Las Vegas Raiders (6-4) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Raiders by 3
Facts: This is the first of back-to-back East Coast games for Vegas, and its fourth so far. They are 2-1 straight up and 2-1 against the spread (ATS), losing only at New England in Week 3. … The Falcons are coming off a 24-9 loss to host New Orleans, with their hopes torpedoed by two Matt Ryan interceptions in Saints territory. … The Raiders were sniffing the playoffs at 6-4 last year, too, but lost their next two games on the road by 31 points apiece.
Analysis: Ryan was sacked eight times last week, which likely won’t happen again vs. a Raiders team that’s 31st in sacks with 11. But with Atlanta’s top rusher, Todd Gurley, set to take the week off (knee), chances are play-action won’t be very successful here. Vegas, meanwhile, has been sailing offensively behind Derek Carr, who almost pulled off another upset of Kansas City last week before LV gave up the winning TD with 28 seconds left in a 35-31 defeat.
Forecast: Raiders 31, Falcons 21
Arizona Cardinals (6-4) at New England Patriots (4-6)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Cardinals by 2
Facts: The last time Cardinals visited Foxborough, in 2012, they were 13.5 point dogs and stymied Tom Brady and the Pats, 20-17, the biggest upset of the year. … Brady didn’t play for the Patriots the last time they met, sitting out his “Deflategate” suspension in 2016. NE won anyway, 23-21, as an 8.5-point dog. … The Patriots’ pass defense has played a big role in the team’s plunge. Last year NE gave up 6 yards a pass, second best in the NFL. This year it’s at 8.7, 32nd best.
Analysis: The Patriots handled Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in Week 10 before stumbling in Houston last week. Anyway, even though the Patriots likely won’t be playoff relevant down the stretch, they can make life miserable for a team coming from the desert to play in nippier temps (below 50). Plus, star Cards QB Kyler Murray might not be his usual self after falling hard on his right shoulder last week vs. Seattle. The vote is for NE, which is getting back RB Sony Michel.
Forecast: Patriots 26, Cardinals 19
NY Giants (3-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-7-1)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Giants by 6
Facts: Last week the Bengals opened as 3-point favorites in this game, but that was before QB Joe Burrow went down (knee). His replacement vs. NYG reportedly will be Denver reject Brandon Allen, even though on Friday coach Zac Taylor said Ryan Finley was still in the mix. … The Giants, once 40-1 shots to win the NFC East, can take the loop lead with a victory. Despite a similar record, a Cincinnati triumph would leave it three games deep in the AFC North cellar.
Analysis: NYG, off a bye, is going for its first three-game win streak since 2016. Now the Giants will face a team that showed little last week in Washington after Burrow was hurt. Plus, top Bengals RB Joe Mixon is on IR. If Finley gets in at any time the party will be over for the Bengals. The only reason he had a 0.0 passer rating in relief last week on 10 throws (plus four sacks) was because the formula doesn’t allow for negative numbers.
Forecast: Giants 26, Bengals 10
Cleveland Browns (7-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Browns by 7
Facts: Jags QB Jake Luton, who replaced injured Gardner Minshew in Week 9, gets the hook after his no TD/ four INT outing vs. Pittsburgh. Next up is ex-third-stringer Mike Glennon (6-16 in his career). The last time he was allowed to play, with Oakland last season, he fumbled three times on 13 snaps. … Cleveland is coming off four straight weeks at home, including a bye. Teams are 1-6 (1-5-1 ATS) the past two years when hitting the road after such a home stretch.
Analysis: Both teams have been devastated by COVID/injuries, with Cleveland still without NFL co-sack leader Myles Garrett and now top CB Denzel Ward (ankle). But the Browns didn’t miss Garrett last week in getting a season-high five sacks vs. Philly. Jax will be without two safeties, four of its five top corners in addition to its top pass rusher. Browns RB Nick Chubb and QB Baker Mayfield should have big days.
Forecast: Browns 34, Jaguars 13
Carolina Panthers (4-7) at Minnesota Vikings (4-6)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Vikings by 3
Facts: Teddy Bridgewater is set to return at QB for Carolina after taking a hit to his right knee in Week 10. Backup rookie P.J. Walker led the Panthers to a 20-0 win over Detroit last week, but twice threw INTs inside the enemy 10. No one else this year has had such multiple picks in a game. … Even in the Vikings’ 31-28 home loss to Dallas last week, QB Kirk Cousins had his second best game this year and RB Dalvin Cook had his fifth 100-yard rushing performance.
Analysis: It will be an emotional return to Minnesota for Bridgewater, who originally was with the Vikings but suffered a career-threatening injury to his left knee in 2016. In this game, though, he won’t have standout RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle), who’s missed eight games previously this year. Assuming Bridgewater doesn’t have full mobility and his scrambling is curtailed by the sideline bosses, Minnesota should be able to contain the Carolina offense.
Forecast: Vikings 31, Panthers 13
Tennessee Titans (7-3) at Indianapolis Colts (7-3)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Colts by 3
Facts: A victory for the Colts would give them a season sweep and essentially a 1.5-game lead in the AFC South, but they still have road games ahead with Las Vegas (6-4) and Pittsburgh (10-0). … Standout Colts DL DeForest Buckner will sit out after a positive COVID test. Also out, again, is DE Denico Autry, the team’s best sacker. … Tennessee’s earlier home loss to Indy 34-17 was its most lopsided of the season, but RB Derrick Henry still had 103 yards.
Analysis: The Titans’ 30-24 overtime victory in Baltimore last week was all the more impressive considering they erased a 10-point third-quarter deficit and never had better starting field position than their 27. No other team this year has won with such a lousy average launch point. The main concern here with Indy’s offense is QB Philip Rivers, who injured his right big toe in last week’s 34-31 OT win over Green Bay. If he’s hobbled in any way, he’ll be a real statue.
Forecast: Titans 27, Colts 21
LA Chargers (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Bills by 4.5
Facts: This will be the first time in three meetings dating to 2017 the Chargers won’t face a rookie QB making his first start. First it was the infamous Nathan Peterman game, a 54-24 Bills loss in which he had five first-half INTs before getting yanked. The next year current Bills QB Josh Allen made his starting debut in a 31-20 defeat. … For a change, the Chargers held on to a big lead last week (18 points) in their 34-28 home win over the Jets.
Analysis: The Chargers are shaping up for a spirited run to the end of the season with QB Justin Herbert about to shatter gobs of rookie passer records. Plus, this week he’ll have the return from injury of leading rusher Austin Ekeler. Buffalo, meanwhile, could be hurting with the loss of standout OT Cody Ford. LA keeps it extra close against a Bills team off a bye.
Forecast: Bills 28, Chargers 27
Miami Dolphins (6-4) at NY Jets (0-10)
Time: 11 a.m.
Line: Dolphins by 7
Facts: Six weeks ago the Dolphins beat the Jets in Miami 24-0. Backup QB Joe Flacco was in charge for that one, but this week starter Sam Darnold (shoulder) returns to the lineup … Miami, coming off a deflating 20-13 loss in Denver, looks ready to give the QB job back to original starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was benched four games ago so rookie Tua Tagovailoa could start. But Tua is doubtful because of a left thumb injury he suffered in drills Wednesday.
Analysis: Not only is Darnold back, but for the first time the team’s top three receivers are healthy and in the lineup: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims. And since Fitzpatrick has a tendency to put the ball up for grabs, this could be the Jets’ day.
Forecast: Jets 24, Dolphins 21
New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Denver Broncos (4-6)
Time: 2:05 p.m.
Line: Saints by 14
Facts: The line was New Orleans by 6 until news broke that Denver’s top four QBs would be unavailable Sunday because of COVID protocol. As of late Saturday, a rookie practice squad receiver and a varsity RB were taking snaps in drills. … The Broncos are 9-2 in the all-time series, but 0-2 when current Denver coach Vic Fangio was a defensive assistant in New Orleans, including a 42-0 defeat in 1988.
Analysis: Will the Broncos break out the Wildcat for this one? If so, the Saints could be caught off guard defensively the way Atlanta seemed to be last week trying to contain new QB Taysom Hill in New Orleans. Denver’s defense showed plenty of moxie last week vs. Miami and now gets to face a Saints team used to playing at 3 feet above sea level. In a fast-paced game with limited passing, New Orleans wins, but not by a lot.
Forecast: Saints 19, Broncos 9
San Francisco 49ers (4-6) at LA Rams (7-3)
Time: 2:05 p.m.
Line: Rams by 6.5
Facts: LA is at a scheduling disadvantage, with an extremely short week after playing on the East Coast on Monday night, beating Tampa Bay 27-24, and not arriving home till Tuesday morning. The 49ers, meanwhile, are off a bye. … In Week 6, San Fran beat the visiting Rams 24-16, but the 49ers’ QB back then was Jimmy Garoppolo, now on IR, who threw three TD passes without an INT. QB Nick Mullens has been in charge of SF’s current three-game losing streak. Analysis: The 49ers are getting a boost with the return of star RB Raheem Mostert and the quarterback of the secondary, Richard Sherman. Now only if TE George Kittle wasn’t on IR.
Forecast: Rams 29, 49ers 27
Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) at Tampa Bay Bucs (6-4)
Time: 2:25 p.m.
Line: Chiefs by 3.5
Facts: Tampa Bay is playing its 12th straight game, one of two teams (Carolina) that hasn’t had its bye. KC’s siesta was two weeks ago. Plus, the Bucs are working on short rest after their demoralizing 27-24 home loss to the Rams on MNF. … The Chiefs don’t have an easy schedule either, coming off a victory in Las Vegas and now traipsing out to the East Coast. … The Bucs have won five straight in the series, including in 2016 when KC finished 12-4.
Analysis: KC should have the benefit of a little extra giddy-up in its step based on how the schedule is playing out. And last year’s MVP, QB Patrick Mahomes, probably will have lots of time to throw considering TB didn’t get any sacks vs. LA despite 51 passes. And if the fact that TB’s Tom Brady has gone 0-for-19 on his last 19 deep balls is true, maybe the Bucs don’t make it this close — especially with a banged up line.
Forecast: Chiefs 38, Bucs 31
Chicago Bears (5-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-3)
Time: 6:20 p.m.
Line: Packers by 9.5
Facts: Coincidentally or not, the line jumped by two points after Bears coach Matt Nagy said Mitch Trubisky would take over again at QB since Nick Foles was still hurting (hip, glutes) from a sack two weeks ago. … Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is tied for the most completions of 20-plus yards entering Week 11 with 41. He’s tops with 11 of 40 yards or more. He had 12 all of last year.
Analysis: The Bears are hoping the return of their top rusher, David Montgomery (concussion protocol), helps them snap out of a rut that has seen them lose four of their past five. But even before he got hurt his norm was only 3.6 yards a carry for the league’s most anemic running game. Without his help, Trubisky shouldn’t be able to match spirals with Rodgers.
Forecast: Packers 33, Bears 14
Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)
Time: 6:20 p.m.
Line: Seahawks by 6
Facts: This is a rematch of last year’s wild-card round, which the Seahawks won 17-9. That was a rematch of a regular-season game in Philly six weeks earlier, which Seattle won 17-9. … Philadelphia QB Carson Wentz is working on a hat trick, with a league-high 14 INTs, 10 fumbles and 40 sacks. But that sack total isn’t much compared with when the Eagles yielded an NFL-record 104 in 1986 with Randall Cunningham getting beaten up the most.
Analysis: The Seahawks, who shared the NFC West lead before weekend play commenced, have had lots of extra rest for this one, coming off their 28-21 home win over Arizona last Thursday. Philly and RB Miles Sanders will likely give Seattle’s pedestrian defense trouble, but Seattle is expecting back star RB Chris Carson (foot), who hasn’t played since Week 7. The Eagles stay just close enough to keep their fans in front of TVs till the game is over.
Forecast: Seahawks 26, Eagles 24
Baltimore (6-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
Time: 6:20 p.m.
Line: Steelers by 8
Facts: Last week, before Pittsburgh won at Jacksonville and Baltimore blew a 10-point lead in a home overtime loss to Tennessee, the Steelers were favored by 2.5. But then came all the COVID issues, especially for the Ravens, who had 20 affected as of Saturday. Top Steelers RB James Conner also tested positive. … This game already has been postponed from Thanksgiving to Sunday and now to Tuesday.
Analysis: Even without Conner, it would appear the Steelers should be able to run effectively against a Ravens defense that reportedly has only three defensive lineman available. Plus, how would backup Baltimore QB Robert Griffin III handle going against the very best pass defense in the league? We may never know. The guess here is …
Forecast: The game will be called off.
Last week: 4-9 against spread, 6-7 straight up
Thanksgiving: 2-0 vs. spread, 2-0 straight up
Season total: 23-28-3 ATS, 35-19 SU