The NFL enters the final stretch with a bunch of teams in the mix for playoff spots. This weekend should go a long way in clearing up the picture for both divisions. Without any further adieu, here are the NFL predictions for Week 12 in the NFL.
New England vs. Detroit
New England travels to Motown to take on the hapless Detroit Lions. QB Tom Brady is listed as questionable on the injury report, but he should play. And with Brady playing, that means trouble for the Lions' secondary. Brady will continue to put pressure on opponents secondaries with his TEs and WRs. The excellence of Brady in the passing game should open up some running lanes for RBs Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. QB Shaun Hill gets another start for the Lions and this game, he must use the best weapon on the field, WR Calvin Johnson. No one on the Patriots' team can cover him. If Johnson can cause problems in the Patriots' secondary, the Lions will have a chance to run the ball and also use their talented TEs. This game will be good for a little while, but as the game goes on, the Patriots will exude their dominance.
Prediction: New England 31, Detroit 17
New Orleans vs. Dallas
The Saints travel to Cowboy Stadium to take on a surging Dallas Cowboy team. QB Drew Brees seemed to find his touch last week and he must continue his hot hand against a pretty weak secondary of the Cowboys. Also, Reggie Bush may return this year as well. If he is in the game, even more holes will be created in the Cowboy defense. This game will be a huge test for the Cowboys. They must continue to rally behind QB Jon Kitna and they must also continue to run the football. Now the issue with the Cowboys is what will happen when the Saints fight them back. I expect the Cowboys to not respond when they get hit in the mouth.
Prediction: New Orleans 27, Dallas 17
Cincinnati vs. New York Jets
The Bengals head to Gotham to take on the Jets this Thanksgiving. The Bengals looked like they had started getting it together until the Bills decided they had enough and steam-rolled the Bengals the rest of the game. WRs Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco will have a tough time getting open against the combinations of CB Antonio Cromartie and CB Darrelle Revis. With this being said, expect the Bengals to try and run the ball more with RB Cedric Benson and look for QB Carson Palmer to look for TE Jermaine Gresham more. QB Mark Sanchez has been the cardiac kid the last few weeks. He and WR Santonio Holmes must get help from RBs Shon Green and LaDanlian Tomlinson if the Jets want to handle business comfortably. With that being said, I expect the Jets to once again wait to the last minute to decide to play.
Prediction: NY Jets 24, Cincinnati 21
Green Bay vs. Atlanta
Green Bay takes their aerial attack to the Atlanta Dome to take on the Falcons in a big NFC showdown. QB Aaron Rodgers looked like he found his stride last week through the air and this week he must continue to light it up through the air. If the Packers aren't successful through the air, then they could have a long day because the Packer running game isn't that strong and they are facing a stingy Falcon run defense. QB Matt Ryan must continue to get great blocking from his line and great running from RB Michael Turner. If the running game isn't effective, then WR Roddy White must be. The Falcons must also pick up where OLB Clay Matthews is at all times. He is a beast and in Dom Caper's defense, he is the linchpin to the chaos that the Packers can create.
Prediction: Green Bay 31, Atlanta
Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo
Pittsburgh makes a trip to Orchard Park to take on a suddenly hot Buffalo Bills team. QB ben Roethlisburger must continue to value the football and select the right times for the big play and the correct play. RB Rashard Mendenhall must also continue to adjust to his role in the offense since the return of Big Ben. For the Bills, they must ride the arm of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the legs of RB Fred Jackson and the rest of this high-powered Bills' offense. The Bills, however, are facing a great defense in the Steelers' defense, so it could be a long day for the Bills.
Prediction: Pittsburgh 26, Buffalo 16
Carolina vs. Cleveland
Carolina travels to the Dawg Pound to take on the upstart Cleveland Browns. Whoever starts at QB for the Panthers will have to attack the Browns' secondary. The more the Panthers attack them, the more the running game will open up for them. QB Colt McCoy has been nursing an injury all week, so if he starts, expect him to not run around as much. That should be a problem for him because he will be handing the ball off to the battery ram that is Peyton Hillis. By the end of the game, the Panthers' defense will be tired of seeing number 40 running their way.
Prediction: Cleveland 24, Carolina 16
Jacksonville vs. New York Giants
The Jaguars head to New York to take on the suddenly-cold Giants. RB Maurice Jones-Drew and QB David Garrard have spearheaded the resurgence of the Jaguar offense and this game will test how far they have come. They must pick up the Giants' blitzes and pass rush in order to succeed. QB Eli Manning will be joined by RB Brandon Jacobs in the backfield this game. Jacobs will be getting his first start this year in the wake of RB Ahmad Bradshaw's fumbling issues. The Giants must get back to running the football this week and use the passing game secondarily because of the injuries to WRs Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks. This should be a smash-mouth football game.
Prediction: New York Giants 27, Jacksonville 21
Minnesota vs. Washington
The Vikings travel to Our Nation's Capital to take on the Redskins. The Vikings are starting a new regime under interim head coach Leslie Frazier and he has decided to start QB Brett Farve again this week. Brett should find some holes in the Redskins defense, but ultimately, if the Viking running game doesn't get going, there could be serious issues for the Vikings in DC. QB donovan McNabb wasn't spectacular last week, but he was effective on 3rd downs. This week he should be able to relax a little more and have more time to hit his targets as the Vikings take yet another loss.
Prediction: Washington 30, Minnesota 20
Tennessee vs, Houston
Tennessee travels to H-Town to take on the struggling Texans. QB Rusty Smith will be making his first start for an injured Vince Young. He must get help from the running game. RB Chris Johnson has to be special. If Johnson is effective on the ground, then Smith should have a whole lot easier passes to complete, especially against the Texans' secondary. QB Matt Schuab must come out and be aggressive when given his opportunities. TEs Owen Daniels or Joel Dreissen should be effective against the Titans' defense, but just when you count the Titans out, that's when they come out resilient and strong.
Prediction: Tennessee 23, Houston 20
Miami vs. Oakland
Miami travel to the Dark Hole to take on the Raiders. QB Chad Henne may play this game and WR Brandon Marshall may too, but the key to the Miami team is the running game. It seems like last game they didn't run the ball enough and didn't score any points. This week, they will get down to business and run the ball more against Oakland. That way whoever is at QB won't have to feel like they are carrying the team. QB Jason Campbell should get the start this week. This team must get back to the run and the deep passing game, which means that RB Darren McFadden must rebound from last week and WR Jacoby Ford and WR Darrius Heyward-Bey must be factors in the game. I think the return home should help carry the Raiders.
Prediction: Oakland 31, Miami 20
Kansas City vs. Seattle
Kansas City travels to the Great Northwest to take on the Seattle Seahawks. QB Matt Cassel and WR Dwayne Bowe have been tearing apart opposing secondaries and I don't expect that to stop this week. With the running game of the Chiefs, the safeties have to be near the line of scrimmage, giving Bowe more single coverage. QB Matt Hasselbeck must continue to lead this Seahawk team through the doldrums and into success. But the Seahawks can't just throw the ball to win. They must get some production out of RB Marshawn Lynch. If they don't, then it could be a long day in the Northwest for Seattle.
Prediction: Kansas City 34, Seattle 23
Philadelphia vs. Chicago
The Eagles travel to Soldier Field to take on the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears. QB Michael Vick had the blueprint laid out by the Giants on how to stop him. The bad thing is that it didn't really work as well as the Giants thought because they lost. Vick must continue to keep his eyes downfield so that the Eagles can make big plays. Also, LaSean McCoy must continue to make plays in the running and passing game. QB Jay Cutler has to value the football this week and make defenses pay for trying to bring extra picture. Expect a lot of audibles to be called at the line and for Cutler to take a lot of shots this week. In the end, the Eagles have Vick and the Bears do not.
Prediction: 34, Chicago 24
St. Louis vs. Denver
St. Louis heads to the Mile High City to take on a passhappy Denver team. The Rams must get back to running the ball to help QB Sam Bradford settle in. If RB Stephen Jackson Gets going, then Bradford will have easier throws to make. QB Kyle Orton had a disappointing performance against the Chargers Monday and he will be looking to atone for that loss Sunday. The bad thing is the Broncos can't run the ball, so the Rams will need to continue to make the Broncos one-dimensional.
Prediction: St. Louis 27, Denver 24
Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore
Tampa Bay heads to Baltimore to take on a swarming defense led by Ray Lewis. QB Josh Freeman and company put on a dominating performance last week vs. the 49ers and he must come out strong this week as well. Freeman also must continue to have RBs LaGarrette Blount and Cadillac Williams gash defenses with their different running styles. QB Joe Flacco must continue his hot streak this week against the Buccaneers and also RB Ray Rice must gash the league's 31st ranked run defense.
Prediction: Baltimore 27, Tampa Bay 20
San Diego vs. Indianapolis
The Chargers travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts and Peyton Manning. QB Phillip Rivers has done more with less this year. He hasn't had his full cast of receivers all year. He will get WR Vincent Jackson back this week and that should help, but if the Chargers don't get DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis blocked, there will be no time for Rivers to get any passes off. QB Peyton Manning will be looking to atone for last week. Look for Peyton to spread the ball around against the Chargers and will his team to the finish line with a victory.
Prediction: Indianapolis 31, San Diego 27
San Francisco vs. Arizona
The 49ers travel to Arizona to take on a slumping Cardinal team. QB Troy Smith must get the offense of the 9ers back on track. Last week, they were shut out for the first time in a long time. RB Frank Gore must also get back on track and be the dominating force that he can be. The Cardinals don't have an identity on offense. They can start to form one by running the football and then looking for WR Larry Fitzgerald. This game depends on who establishes their will first and the 49ers should be the more aggressive team.
Prediction: San Francisco 27, Arizona 21
These are my predictions for the week. If you would like to challenge my picks, feel free to put them up against mine.