|Aaron Rodgers has set a blistering pace for Green Bay in recent weeks|
It’s Sunday, which can only mean one thing… NFL! With the season nearing the stretch run and the calendar about to flip to December every game counts, so to find out what Fred Stanley Sport thinks will unfold across the league this weekend keep it right here.
Cleveland @ Atlanta
Amazingly, with a 6-4 record the Browns sit last in the AFC North, while the Falcons lead the NFC South with a 4-6 record. Cleveland are still well in the play-off hunt, however, and with Josh Gordon returning from his 10 game suspension the Browns are well positioned to move to 7-4 and work their way back to the top of the division. Atlanta has plenty of holes on the roster and despite winning their past two games they could well struggle against an efficient Cleveland unit that should be able to put pressure on Falcons QB Matt Ryan all day. Browns 20, Falcons 10
Tampa Bay @ Chicago
The Bears ended their torrid losing streak last week with a hard-fought win over the Vikings at Soldier Field, in the process keeping their slim play-off chances alive. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, have been one of the worst teams in the NFL as they’ve compiled a 2-8 record. However, the Buccaneers are incredibly just two games out of first place, and they’ll fancy their chances of going to Chicago and earning their third win of the year. Unfortunately for Lovie Smith’s men I can’t see that unfolding, in large part because their cornerback’s stand little chance of being able to contain Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. Expect Chicago to edge closer to .500.
Buccaneers 17, Bears 28
Cincinnati @ Houston
Texans QB Ryan Mallett was effective in his first NFL start last week, a win over the Browns in Cleveland, while Bengals passer Andy Dalton rebounded from his disastrous performance against the Browns in week 10 with a steady showing in New Orleans. With both teams coming off wins this game figures to be keenly contested, and both teams have the kind of ground games that can control the clock. I like Houston’s pass rush more, however, and with home-field advantage also on their side I expect the Texans to move to 6-5 and put pressure on the Colts in the AFC South.
Bengals 21, Texans 24
Jacksonville @ Indianapolis
Andrew Luck stayed true to form last week when he underperformed against an elite team, this time New England (against whom Luck is 0-3 in his young career), but his play against mediocre teams has never been in question, which bodes well for this week against the Jaguars. Jacksonville have shown flashes of being capable this season but they are simply too inexperienced (they have the youngest average age of any team in the NFL) to pull up any trees against a skilled team like the Colts. The Jaguars haven’t laid down for anyone under head coach Gus Bradley, which is admirable. However, that’s unlikely to translate into a win this Sunday. Jaguars 23, Colts 33
Green Bay @ Minnesota
Green Bay were simply ruthless in dispatching Philadelphia this week, and while the Eagles were disappointing at Lambeau Field the Packers play on offense was simply breathtaking. With the Vikings unable to call on Adrian Peterson again this week expect a similar result in Minnesota, with Aaron Rodgers leading Green Bay towards the NFC North title and a play-off berth.
Packers 30, Vikings 16
Detroit @ New England
The Lions travel to New England in the second leg of a tough two game stretch, after they came up short in Arizona in week 11. Matthew Stafford struggled in a big way and the Lions offense was unable to move the ball with any regularity, something that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will be acutely aware of as he game-plans for this evening’s game. Tom Brady will face a tough test in the league leading Lions defense, but with a balanced attack and Rob Gronkowski in fine form Brady and Belichick should earn a crucial home win. Lions 17, Patriots 21
Tennessee @ Philadelphia
Philadelphia will welcome the Titans to Lincoln Financial Field as they get the perfect opportunity to erase the memory of last weeks hammering at the hands of the Packers. Mark Sanchez followed his excellent showing against Carolina in week 10 with a dud seven days ago, but he’s likely to revert to “Good Sanchez” this evening against the porous Titans defense. Philly may not be an elite team, but they should take care of business at home against one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Titans 17, Eagles 27
St. Louis @ San Diego
These two teams are heading in opposite directions, with the Chargers faltering after a fast start while the Rams have beaten San Francisco, Seattle and Denver in recent weeks. San Diego QB Phillip Rivers is carrying a significant rib injury and that doesn’t bode well as he readies to face the tenacious Rams pass rush, which leads me to predict a road win for the St. Louis, who may be the best team below .500 in football. The Chargers, meanwhile, have seen their season fall apart at the seams.
Rams 20, Chargers 16
Arizona @ Seattle
For Seattle this game truly is a must win, as defeat would see them slip four games behind the Cardinals in the NFC West with just five games left to play. Their home-field advantage is well documented, but they’re carrying injuries and lack play-makers on offense besides the evergreen Marshawn Lynch. One thing in their favour, however, is the Cardinals loss of Carson Palmer to a season ending knee injury, and with the Seahawks in desperation mode I think that significant loss will be just enough to prevent Arizona from pulling further ahead of the reigning champs.
Cardinals 13, Seahawks 16
Miami @ Denver
The Dolphins are coming off a mini-bye after they defeated Buffalo two Thursday’s ago, and they’ll be encouraged by Denver’s loss in St. Louis last Sunday. Peyton Manning will be spewing, however, over that defeat and Miami doesn’t generate as much pressure as the Rams even with Cameron Wake rushing the passer. The Broncos clearly aren’t the same team without Julius Thomas in the line-up, so the tight end’s injury status should be closely monitored as kick off approaches. Yet with or without Thomas, I think the Broncos will have just about enough to overcome the upstart Dolphins on their own turf. Dolphins 22, Broncos 30
Washington @ San Francisco
Reports today suggest that if Robert Griffin III again struggles Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has the authority to bench him for back-up Colt McCoy, and with Washington coming up against the vaunted 49ers defense you don’t have to delve too deep into your envision to that scenario unfolding. For San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick has been far from convincing, but with a solid running game led by Frank Gore and some veteran receivers Kaepernick has been able to keep the niners in the play-off hunt, and at home against a dysfunctional Redskins team San Francisco should earn another crucial W. Redskins 15, 49ers 24
Dallas @ New York Giants
Even though Eli Manning threw five (!!!) interceptions against San Francisco last week the Giants were nearly able to upset the 49ers, which was a testament to their defensive play and spirit despite New York’s season having spiralled out of control many weeks ago. At 3-7 their play-off hopes are all but over, however in the NFC East anything can happen and with the Cowboys suffering through injury and Manning unlikely to be as bad again this week this one should be close. When the calendar flips to December Dallas tends to fold; fortunately for them it’s still November, and they’ll earn win number eight this evening. Cowboys 20, Giants 17
New York Jets @ Buffalo (in Detroit)
After a torrential blizzard hit Buffalo last week this game was moved to Monday night in Detroit, which probably favours the Jets more than the Bills as they are afforded the opportunity to play on a neutral field. Their win over Pittsburgh two weeks ago shook football, and with Michael Vick under centre their chances of winning have increased massively. Buffalo led briefly against Miami last time out but after they were defeated in that game their play-off hopes took a terminal hit, resulting in this game being relegated to a battle for pride and nothing else. Jets 24, Bills 21
Baltimore @ New Orleans
The Saints shocking defeat at home to the Bengals dropped them to 4-6, although they still remain tied for the NFC South lead. Baltimore meanwhile are half a game behind both the Bengals and Steelers in the AFC North, after some poor performances in recent weeks. After a fast start to the season Steve Smith has slowed down, although Justin Forsett has emerged as a workhorse in the backfield in the wake of Ray Rice’s suspension. The Saints defense has been a mess this year after it improved in 2013, and that could be enough to see Joe Flacco earn the victory at the scene of Baltimore’s Superbowl triumph nearly two years ago. Ravens 28, Saints 21
What do you think will happen in week 12 of the NFL season? Have your say in the comments or tweet @fredjstanley