Happy Thanksgiving NFL fans! A surefire sign that the playoff race is about to really heat up is the annual triple slice of action on Thursday which Chris has previewed here. I will be looking for a bit of thanks from my selections this week after posting a miserable 6-7 record last week. Still it’s the first time I have come in under 50% for a week and lets be honest did any of you see the Raiders winning another game this season? Onto week 12……….

Bears @ Lions (Thursday)

Will Mitch Trubisky play? Will it make any difference? Massive win for the Lions over the Panthers last week but surely the Bears defence will be too good here regardless of who is playing quarterback.

Prediction – Bears

Redskins @ Cowboys (Thursday)

The Cowboys are hitting a rich vein of form at the right time and the Redskins look vulnerable. Good luck Colt McCoy, its great to see you still in the league but Zeke and the Cowboys will take control of the division here.

Prediction – Cowboys

Falcons @ Saints (Thursday)

The prediction here isn’t really a debate, surely its a case of how many points do Brees and co put up against the disappointing Falcons? I’ll start the bidding at 48.

Prediction – Saints

Raiders @ Ravens

One game and one win for Lamar Jackson. He did most of his damage on the ground and threw some ugly looking passes but he got the job done. The biggest surprise from the game was Gus Edwards who went for over a 100 yards on the ground and the Ravens have always looked better, regardless of QB, when they can get the ground game going. The Raiders 31st ranked run defence that surrender an average of 142 rushing yards per game, provide a great opportunity. A win for the Raiders last week drew huge celebrations from coach Gruden and the players and it was great to see that type of passion on display. The sub plot from last week was the interaction between the coach and his quarterback, Derek Carr, on the sidelines between series. Things don’t appear to be rosy in that relationship and against a much better opponent this week, I can’t see a winning streak beginning.

Prediction – Ravens

Jags @ Bills

It is safe to say that this match-up doesn’t get the neutral excited. In terms of points scored per game the Bills rank 32nd with 13.7 points per game and the Jags rank 29th with 17.6 points per game so get ready for a defensive battle. The Jags defence gave big Ben and the Steelers all that they could handle for 3 quarters last weekend and Jalen Ramsey had himself a nice afternoon with a couple of interceptions. Offensively they got back to the formula they should have been using all season with Blake Bortles at quarterback which was to run, run again and then run some more. Having Leonard Fournette back is a huge boost to their efforts here. The Bills are coming off a bye week and their best all round performance of the season against the Jets last time out. Josh Allen may be back for this one after over coming an elbow injury but after a serviceable outing in his Bills debut it maybe still Matt Barkley at the controls. The 2nd ranked defence in terms of yards allowed per game is enough for me to predict the Jags losing streak continues.

Prediction – Bills

Seahawks @ Panthers

Arguably the pick of the early window on Sunday sees 2 teams entering on the back of vastly contrasting fortunes a week ago. After pushing the Chargers and Rams close in previous weeks the Seahawks were able to get back in the win column against the Packers last week. The run game continues to impress and Seattle lead the league in rushing yards per game with a 3 pronged attack coming out of the backfield. A further positive for Russel Wilson and co was the sight of Doug Baldwin in the end zone for the first time this season last weekend. As for Carolina it looked as though they could have challenged the Saints for division honours only a couple of weeks ago. 2 defeats later and all of a sudden a win is required to firm up a wildcard berth for Cam Newton and co. The decision to go for 2 at the end of last week as opposed to the PAT to tie the game was questionable to me (Look out for an upcoming article on this) but it typified a sloppy afternoon last time out. Tough game to call but I like the Seahawks recent form so will go with the away side.

Prediction – Seahawks

Browns @ Bengals

Another team coming off a bye week following the best performance of the season are my Cleveland Browns. As of writing this piece Greg Williams is still head coach and not Condoleezza Rice so I’m looking to seeing the renewed passion and commitment of the past 2 games to be on display again. Winning in the division (or indeed at all) has been problematic for the Browns for several seasons now but with rookies Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Denzel Ward leading the franchise I fancy there chances here. The Bengals have lost 4 out of the last 5 and are desperate to get back into the win column with the AFC wildcard race looking very congested. It is likely they will get AJ Green back this weekend which will boost their offence that struggled against the Ravens last week generating only 259 yards overall with only 19 yards on 14 carries between the running backs. It would seem Hue Jackson is once again weaving his magic on a team.

Prediction – Browns

Patriots @ Jets

A Bill Belichick coached team coming off a bye week and a defeat in its previous game would be a problem for most teams. For the New York Jets it could well be a disaster at the Meadowlands. It was a game to forget for New England against the Titans a fortnight ago but is anyone really concerned? We have seen these supposed crisis in weeks gone by and then seen the Patriots man handle their next opponent. The imminent return of Rob Gronkowski is obviously a significant boost for Tom Brady and co and I would expect plenty of points to be put up on their side of the scoreboard. The Jets would have to be in the conversation as the worst team in football currently. Over the past 4 weeks the offence has averaged less than 11 points per game whilst the defence gave up 41 points to the Bills last time out. Yes the Bills! Sam Darnold may be back as he is dressing for practice and as I have said previously, his development is the only thing to stop this becoming a truly lost season.

Prediction – Patriots

Giants @ Eagles

The G men have managed to put back to back wins on the board after a fine offensive display against the Bucs last time out. Saquon Barkley is producing at the level they would have hoped when drafting him and three visits to the end zone last weekend would have won many a fantasy football match-up. Odell Beckham also continues to find the end zone with regularity but when watching any game reviews or film analysis it would appear there are many plays where he is wide open and Eli does not even look in his direction. The defending champs got completely abused by the Saints last weekend and suffered the worst ever defeat by a reigning Superbowl champion in the process. They are completely decimated in the secondary with 4 cornerbacks all battling injury and likely out of this one so expect a shoot out and yards a plenty. The Eagles are desperate and surely need a win to stand any chance of a post season appearance but I’m going for the upset and 3 in a row for New York.

Prediction – Giants

49ers @ Bucs

Another week and another quarterback change for Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston played his best football in relief of Fitzmagic last weekend but despite huge numbers on offence again they came up short. In fact a remarkable stat is that the Bucs put up more yards against the Redskins in a 3 point effort a fortnight ago than the Rams put up whilst scoring 54 against the Chiefs on Monday night – INCREDIBLE. For San Francisco the season fell flat several weeks ago following Jimmy G’s season ending injury but encouraging play from running back Matt Breida and tight end George Kittle provide hope for next season. Coach Kyle Shanahan has openly challenged his players to prove their worth down the stretch as attention turns to roster evaluation ahead of 2019. I really shouldn’t keep picking the Bucs but I’m going to again this week but its not with huge confidence.

Prediction – Bucs

Cardinals @ Chargers

Both teams are coming into this one off the back of defeats last weekend both of which were surprising. Maybe not a huge surprise for the Cardinals who continue to look like a poorly coached team under Steve Wilks. Larry Fitzgerald had 2 touchdown receptions last weekend bot they were his only 2 receptions. The rest of the wide receiving room combined for just a further 4 catches as rookie Josh Rosen only completed 9 balls out of his 20 attempts. He did manage to complete an additional 3 to Raiders players unfortunately to reach double figures on that category for the year. David Johnson had a nice game on the ground so there is at least a positive there. One of those days last week for the Chargers? I would put it down into that category personally as they put up nearly 500 yards of offence but suffered from costly turnovers and a ridiculous 14 penalties. Look for them to clean that up this week and a multiple touchdown game for Melvin Gordon.

Prediction – Chargers

Dolphins @ Colts

I have a real soft spot for the Colts and find them extremely watchable. Andrew Luck has now had 7 consecutive games with at least 3 touchdown passes and TY Hilton had a monster game in a demolition job of the Titans. On the defensive side of the ball Darius Leonard continues his push towards defensive rookie of the year as he now has over 100 tackles on the season to lead the league. Last week he also recorded a sack, interception and forced fumble to produce an all around brilliant display. The Dolphins enter this one coming off their bye week and may get Ryan Tannehill back having endured 5 weeks of Brock Osweiler. They are incredibly banged up though with many starters either likely to miss this one or already ruled out so I can only see the Colts march to January continuing.

Prediction – Colts

Steelers @ Broncos

A big last second win for the Steelers in Jacksonville after disappearing offensively for the majority of the game. The defence continues to play at a high level and now rank 6th in the league in terms of yards allowed and they have limited their opponents to less than 21 points in the past 6 contests. Last week had an air of inevitability about it even when they fell 16-0 behind on the scoreboard and you can not keep Antonio Brown down for long and despite a good Jalen Ramsey performance he still produced over 100 yards receiving. A shock win for the Broncos aided by the Chargers indiscipline keeps them just about in the wildcard hunt surprisingly. Phillip Lindsay had a nice day on the ground with 2 touchdowns and even the rarely used “wildcat” formation provided success. Although he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, massive credit should go to Case Keenum for the way he moved the offence on the game winning drive last weekend so hopefully that will provide him confidence for the weeks ahead. I can’t see them getting 2 shock wins back to back though.

Prediction – Steelers

Packers @ Vikings

You would have imagined this being a division deciding encounter following their draw earlier in the season but the Bears are pulling away in the North so this is more important for wildcard purposes. As this is the Sunday “Primetime” game a full preview of this game will drop on Sunday.

Prediction – Vikings

Titans @ Texans (Monday)

7 in a row for Houston but it really was not a convincing performance against a Washington team that lost its starting quarterback to a devastating injury part way through. They could be the least convincing divisional leader and will need to keep winning to keep the surging Colts at bay. Having DeAndre Hopkins in your side will always give you a chance offensively and he found the end zone again last weekend but the recently traded for Demaryius Thomas was held without a catch last week. The 7th ranked defence in terms of both yards and takeaways added a lovely 101 yard interception last week in what turned out to be a decisive play. After defeating the Patriots I’m struggling to understand how the Titans looked so poor in their following game against the Colts. Losing Marcus Mariota is obviously not going to help and he has been limited in practice so far this week. The fact this game is played on Monday may give him a chance to play so keep your eyes on the injury report. On a real positive note defensive coordinator Dean Pees has returned to the team after leaving the game last week to attend hospital for a medical issue.

Prediction – Texans

Enjoy week 12 everyone and be sure to share your picks and thoughts on the slate of games heading our way this week.

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