The weekly preview runs into the endzone with NFL tips for the eight standout fixtures of Week 12, including a trio of Thanksgiving Day fixtures for Aussies to tuck into on Friday.
History: Played 183: Bears 103 V Lions 75 (5 Ties)
Last meeting: October 3, 2021: Bears 24 d Lions 14 at Soldier Field
Final Thoughts: The Thanksgiving Day festivities get underway with a clash between NFC North also rans Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
The 3-7 Bears are on a five-match losing streak, going down narrowly to the Steelers (29-27) and Ravens (16-13) either side of their Week 10 bye. Andy Dalton, replacing an injured Justin Fields against a decimated Baltimore outfit, threw two touchdown passes. But the secondary conceded a touchdown with less than 90 seconds to play as the pressure continues to pile up on coach Matt Nagy.
The 0-9-1 Lions are the only winless team in the NFL but have at least shown some fight since their Week 9 bye. They played out a 16-all tie with the Steelers and were edged out by the Browns 13-10 last week, both on the road.
The Bears have won six of the last seven clashes between the division rivals, including a 24-14 result in Chicago in Week 4. Jared Goff – who missed last week’s match with injury but could return for this fixture – passed for 299 yds, 2 TDs and 0 INTs in a beaten Lions side.
Fields remains in doubt for this assignment and I don’t mind the Lions’ value at home after a couple of overachieving efforts in the past fortnight. They won’t get many better chances to register their first W of 2021.
History: Played 12: Cowboys 6 V Raiders 6
Last meeting: December 17, 2017: Cowboys 20 d Raiders 17 at O.Co Coliseum
Final Thoughts: Dallas Cowboys have maintained a handy lead in the NFC East despite a Week 11 loss, while the embattled Las Vegas Raiders are sliding down the AFC West pecking order.
The 7-3 Cowboys have dropped two of their last three, falling 19-9 to the Chiefs last week in the wake of their 40-point blowout win over the Falcons. Dak Prescott, so influential throughout a strong Cowboys campaign, struggled big time, passing for 216 yds, 0 TDs and 2 INTs to negate a strong Dallas defensive showing.
After winning their first two games following Jon Gruden’s resignation, the 5-5 Raiders have slumped to three straight losses. There were few positives to draw from any of their defeats to the Giants (23-16), Chiefs (41-14) and Bengals (32-13). The offence is in all sorts – an alarming drop-off that can’t be explained simply by Henry Ruggs III’s absence.
The Cowboys are 4-1 at home this season, with each of their four victories at AT&T Stadium coming by 8-plus margins. They should find their groove again quickly against the dishevelled Raiders.
History: Played 11: Saints 7 V Bills 4
Last meeting: November 12, 2017: Saints 47 d Bills 10 at Ralph Wilson Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 6-4 Buffalo Bills and 5-5 New Orleans Saints sit second in their respective divisions but are battling form-wise. This Thanksgiving night showdown could have a major bearing on both teams’ playoffs chances.
The Bills have slipped behind the Patriots in the AFC East after losing three of their last five. Their only wins during that period were against the struggling Dolphins and Jets, while they were pumped 41-15 by the Colts in Week 11. The Bills were dominated on the ground, while QB Josh Allen was a mixed bag with two touchdown passes, two interceptions and a fumble.
The Saints are on a three-match losing streak, going down to the Falcons (27-25), Titans (23-21) and Eagles (40-29) since Jameis Winston suffered a season-ending knee injury. Trevor Siemian is proving an inadequate replacement at quarterback, while the absence of star running back Alvin Kamara and tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk proved crucial in Philadelphia.
The Saints have won their last five against the Bills, whose last victory in this rivalry came back in 1998. But it’s hard to make a case for either side ahead of this clash.
New Orleans’ injury woes – with Kamara and Mark Ingram racing the clock to be fit – puts the Bills in a reasonably solid position, despite last week’s disastrous showing.
History: Played 44: Patriots 25 V Titans 18 (1 Tie)
Last meeting: January 4, 2020 (AFC Wild Card Game): Titans 20 d Patriots 13 at Gillette Stadium
Final Thoughts: The surging New England Patriots are searching for six straight wins as they host fellow AFC division leaders Tennessee Titans, who are coming off a disappointing, streak-ending loss.
The Patriots improved to 7-4 with a 25-0 shutout of the Falcons. Rookie quarterback Mac Jones continues to improve each week, but it’s defensive ruthlessness that has underpinned the Pats’ revival from a 2-4 start; they have leaked just 13 points in their past three games.
The 8-3 Titans won six straight – including the scalps of the Chiefs and Rams – before being rolled 22-13 by the lowly Texans in Week 11. Ryan Tannehill threw a whopping four interceptions, while AJ Brown joined Julio Jones and Derrick Henry in the offensive casualty ward.
After losing seven straight to the Patriots, the Titans have won the last two between the sides – including a Wild Card Game victory in what transpired to be Tom Brady’s last game for the Pats.
The Patriots heading into this game as $1.36 favourites would have seemed inconceivable a few weeks back. But they are riding high and it’s shaping as a torrid visit to Gillette Stadium for the injury-ravaged Titans.
History: Played 14: Colts 8 V Buccaneers 6
Last meeting: August 12, 2019: Buccaneers 38 d Colts 35 at Raymond James Stadium
Final Thoughts: Tampa Bay seized control of the NFC South and snapped a two-game slide with a convincing 30-10 victory over the Giants last week. Tom Brady (300+ yds, 2 TDs) and the 7-3 Buccaneers were back to their clinically efficient best on offence.
But they’ll get a far sterner test this week as the travel to take on the in-form Indianapolis Colts. The 6-5 Colts made their biggest statement of the season via a 41-15 beatdown of the Bills in Week 11, with running back Jonathan Taylor (185 yds, 4 TDs on 32 carries) having a party at the expense of the Buffalo secondary.
QB Carson Wentz is gradually looking more comfortable leading an Indy offence that has scored 30-plus points for six straight games and the Colts are emerging is a real dark horse – despite still sitting two games behind the Titans in the AFC South.
The Bucs are just 2-3 on the road this season and only 4-9 ATS as the away team since Brady’s arrival last year. The Colts, 3.5-point underdogs here, boast three wins and an OT loss to the Titans in their past four games. This should be a barnburner and I’m heading towards the over as two red-hot offences lock horns.
History: Played 96: Rams 47 V Packers 47 (2 Ties)
Last meeting: January 16, 2021 (NFC Divisional Playoff Game): Packers 32 d Rams 18 at Lambeau Field
Final thoughts: NFC big dogs LA Rams and Green Bay Packers face off in a blockbuster, with both teams striving to force their way back into the winner’s circle.
The 7-3 Rams have lost ground to the Cardinals in the NFC West with consecutive losses to the Titans (28-16) and 49ers (31-10) before their Week 11 bye. They were beaten up physically in both defeats, while key receiver Robert Woods has been rubbed out for the season in another blow to a stalling offence. The Rams need Odell Beckham Jr to rediscover his mercurial best – a big if.
The 8-3 Packers are comfortable atop the NFC North but suffered their second loss in three games courtesy of a 34-31 defeat to archrivals the Vikings last week. Two of Aaron Rodgers’ four touchdown passes were clutch fourth-quarter plays, but the Packers were pipped by a late field goal in what was a disappointing defensive performance.
The Packers have won six of their last seven against the Rams, including last season’s authoritative 32-18 Divisional Playoff victory.
Both sides have endured some recent stumbles but the Packers appear in much better shape – despite Rodgers’ nagging toe injury. In a near pick ‘em, the hosts look excellent value.
History: Played 44: Ravens 33 V Browns 11
Last meeting: December 14, 2020: Ravens 47 d Browns 42 at FirstEnergy Stadium
Final Thoughts: A pivotal clash in the super-tight AFC North title race as Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns meet for the first of two clashes in three weeks. The 7-3 Ravens lead the division, while the 6-5 Browns sit last.
The Ravens – with Lamar Jackson headlining a packed casualty ward – bounced back from a 22-10 loss to the Dolphins in Week 10 by grinding out a 16-13 victory of the Bears. Tyler Huntley filled in at QB impressively, but Jackson is slated for a return.
The Browns have struggled for consistency since a three-game winning streak early in the season, but they responded to a 45-7 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots with a 13-10 eclipse of the winless Lions last week. Nick Chubb was enormous in his return from a one-week layoff, rushing for 130 yards and chalking up a receiving touchdown. But Baker Mayfield continues to drag his injured shoulder through the campaign – he struggled against the Lions (176 yds, 1 TD, 2 INTs).
The Ravens boast a dominant 33-11 record in this divisional rivalry and have won their last three against the Browns. Last season they prevailed 38-6 in Baltimore and took out a 47-42 shootout in Cleveland.
The Ravens are $1.58 favourites at the time of writing and it’s hard to argue with that assessment given Jackson’s likely return and Mayfield’s injury tribulations. Though two of their four home wins this season required overtime and another was decided by one point.
History: Played 21: Washington 12 V Seahawks 9
Last meeting: December 12, 2020: Seahawks 20 d Washington 15 at FedEx Field
Final Thoughts: A bit of a fizzer on face value to close out Week 12 with 4-6 Washington hosting 3-7 Seattle.
But Washington remain an outside chance in the NFC North thanks to a post-bye upswing, overcoming Tom Brady’s Buccaneers (29-19) and Cam Newton’s Panthers (27-21) in the past fortnight. The limited but determined Taylor Heinicke was especially impressive opposite Newton, throwing three touchdown passes against his former team.
The Seahawks are in the midst of potentially their worst season in more than a decade. They have made the playoffs in 14 of the past 18 seasons and have not finished worse than 7-9 in the Pete Carroll era (2010-present), but things are more grim than the Seattle weather currently. The Seahawks’ only win in their past six was against the lowly Jaguars, while they have crashed to the Packers (17-0) and Cardinals (23-13) since the Week 9 bye. Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since his post-bye return from injury.
The Seahawks accounted for a fast-finishing Washington 20-15 on the road last season. But the goalposts have shifted significantly in the past 12 months and Washington are very difficult to pass up as only slight favourites at home.