FOX Sports’ staff of NFL reporters lays out everything you need to know going into Week 12. We’ll tell you what games, players and matchups to watch out for, as well as provide a prediction for each game coming up this holiday week.
Thursday, Nov. 24
Overview: The Bills defense will get a fun test in the Lions. And I use the word fun, because I don’t think Detroit is particularly threatening to Buffalo. If the Lions keep this game close, then it could be a problem for the Bills, whose offensive woes might be getting a little overstated. Yes, I’ve written about how I think they’d do well to sign Odell Beckham Jr. — and about how I think they needed to slightly rethink Ken Dorsey’s playcalling and Josh Allen‘s decision-making. But we’re not talking about an overhaul. This team remains one of the statistically elite teams in every category, even in terms of their record. I’m as guilty as anyone of harshly judging the Bills. But 7-3 is pretty darn good. They will be ready to beat up on the Lions.
Detroit, meanwhile, should hope to turn this game into a shootout. If the Lions can get Allen feeling like he needs to play like a world-beater, then maybe Detroit can get the All-World QB to press. When he presses, he makes mistakes. And when he makes mistakes against good teams, the Bills lose.
Josh Allen vows “to be better” after INT seals Bills loss
Josh Allen described his second half vs. the Vikings in Week 10 as “horrendous.” His three turnovers led to Buffalo’s epic 33-30 overtime loss to Minnesota.
Now, I’m not sure the Lions are a good enough team to convert Allen’s mistakes into a win. The Rams and Packers, for example, generated two interceptions but couldn’t pull off a win. But if there’s something the Lions demonstrated last week against the Giants, it’s that their offense can put points on anyone. Jamaal Williams leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns this season after having a total of 13 in his first five seasons. And it will be fascinating to see if WR Jameson Williams, who began practicing this week, might get on the field.
It looks like Jeff Okudah, Detroit’s No. 1 cornerback, is unlikely to play on Thursday due to a head injury. So that means Hughes will enter a lopsided matchup with Diggs. And he’s the key to Buffalo’s offense. When he’s clicking, this offense cannot be stopped.
Key stats: The Bills rank second in scoring offense (28.1 PPG), while the Lions rank 32nd in scoring defense (allowing 28.2 PPG). The Lions have lost five straight Thanksgiving games, their longest Thanksgiving losing streak since losing nine straight from 2004 to 2012.
Prediction: The Bills boast a truly elite defense, but I wonder if the Lions might keep this game close for longer than many expect. Ultimately, though, Buffalo pulls ahead, and the defense helps it hold the lead.
Bills 31, Lions 25 –Henry McKenna
Overview: Are the Cowboys finally due for some Thanksgiving fun? This holiday game hasn’t treated them well recently, as they’re riding a three-game losing streak. Last year they lost an overtime thriller to Las Vegas, and in the two years prior they got smacked around by Washington and Buffalo.
The Giants present an opportunity to get right. Obviously their overall record is a good one, but New York is coming off a 31-18 loss to Detroit that saw them lose rookie receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and star cornerback Adoree Jackson to injury. If the Giants are going to spring the upset at AT&T Stadium, it’s going to require a Herculean effort from Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones.
Matchup to watch: Giants offensive line vs. Cowboys pass rush
This one’s easy because we’ve already seen it. The Cowboys sacked Jones five times in their Week 3 win at MetLife Stadium — and that was when the Giants offensive line was much healthier. Jon Feliciano injured his neck in the loss to Detroit and will be a game-time decision, and it’s unclear if rookie right tackle Evan Neal will be able to go. It would be wise for Giants coach Brian Daboll to install a game plan that will get Jones on the move and out of the pocket. Otherwise, it could be a long afternoon.
Key stat: The Cowboys are 10-1 in their past 11 matchups against the Giants, with Dak Prescott sitting at 9-0 in his last nine starts against them.
Did Cowboys put the NFC on notice in Week 11?
Joy Taylor and David Helman discuss the Cowboys’ 40-3 victory over the Vikings. Helman says he has never seen such an impressive win by the Cowboys in 10 years of covering the team.
Prediction: You don’t see beatdowns like the one Dallas put on Minnesota very often in the NFL, and Thursday games can often be a slog. It’s not likely the Cowboys would be able to do that twice in a row, especially given the success the Giants have on the ground with Barkley. New York ran the ball well in the last matchup and should be able to do so again.
Still, it’s hard to find a reason to pick against the Cowboys here, so I’m not going to. Between their efficiency on offense and their big-play potential on defense, I expect Dallas to pull away in the second half for another comfortable win.
Cowboys 37, Giants 13 –David Helman
Overview: The NFL has to like how this scheduling ultimately turned out. Minnesota will play host to a primetime game on Thanksgiving with everything to prove after an “embarrassing” loss to the Cowboys. That is Justin Jefferson‘s characterization, not mine. Not much of anything went right for the Vikings in the 40-3 Dallas drubbing. They had just 183 yards of total offense. The defense didn’t get to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott once and has now dropped to 15th in sack rate.
The good news for the Vikings is that they were missing multiple starters on defense. Plus, left tackle Christian Darrisaw went out early with his second concussion in as many weeks. Coach Kevin O’Connell has already said that the team will hold Darrisaw out on the short week, so the Vikings will have to make up for his absence. But they should get some help on defense. At the very least, Za’Darius Smith, their top pass rusher, will have had a few more days to get healthy as he battles through a knee injury. Defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, dealing with a calf injury, has been at least a limited participant at practice this week.
Nick is not comfortable with Vikings as No. 2 seed in NFC
The Cowboys were so dominant vs. the Vikings in Week 11 that the game was taken off TV in favor of a more competitive game. Nick Wright believes all the attention should be focused on the Vikings’ embarrassing performance and expresses his concerns for Minnesota later in the season.
The Patriots, meanwhile, are coming off a thrilling finish to an otherwise cringeworthy game. Until the last minute on Sunday, New England was tied 3-3 with the New York Jets until a punt return to the house finally gave them the go-ahead points. The Patriots have held back-to-back opponents to three points and are the only team in the NFL this season to allow three points or fewer in multiple games. Despite lacking overall talent, New England has played nearly every team tough this season.
Edge rusher Judon leads the NFL with 13 sacks, already the most single-season sacks by a Patriot since 1985. I have to imagine that New England, in all its defensive glory, will try to exploit Darrisaw’s absence as much as possible. Heading into Week 10, Darrisaw was PFF’s highest-graded offensive lineman in the league. That’s a massive loss, especially at the left tackle position. Quarterback Kirk Cousins could be in for a long day if Minnesota can’t account for Darrisaw’s absence.
Key stats: The Patriots have won five straight matchups against the Vikings, dating back to 2002. The Vikings are the only division leader with a negative point differential (minus-2) this season.
Prediction: I just have to believe the Vikings are going to get back on track. They are a good team, a complete team, no matter the mistrust the rest of the league has of them. Jefferson criticized the lack of adjustments the team made on Monday, both in-game and leading up to it. Though it’s a short week, I can’t imagine O’Connell’s coaching staff is going to stand by and not tweak some things. Should they do it, Thanksgiving at home will be a breeze.
Vikings 34, Patriots 19 –Carmen Vitali
Sunday, Nov. 27
Overview: This is two teams heading in opposite directions, as the Bucs have won two straight and are coming off a bye, while the Browns have lost six of seven. Tampa Bay’s best option is to play like they’re in the AFC East — the Browns went 0-4 against AFC East teams, giving up at least 31 points in all four losses, including the past two weeks against Miami and Buffalo. They’ve held all non-AFC East opponents to 30 or fewer points and are 3-3 in those games, their defense holding the other six teams to 21.7 points per game, as opposed to 34.8 for AFC East games.
Tom Brady spent 20 seasons in the division, and his offense could play well against a Cleveland defense that ranks 30th in points allowed. Big milestone coming for WR Mike Evans, who had two TDs in Cleveland as a rookie in 2014 and needs only 28 yards to reach 10,000 for his career.
Matchup to watch: Cleveland RB Nick Chubb vs. Bucs run defense
Tampa’s run D got a boost two weeks ago with the healthy return of DL Akiem Hicks. The Bucs held Seattle’s Ken Walker III to 17 yards on 10 carries two weeks ago in Munich, and Chubb was kept in check by the Bills last week, getting 19 yards on 14 carries. For the year, Chubb is a top-five back with 923 yards and 11 touchdowns and limiting him will be a central part of the Bucs controlling Sunday’s game.
Key stat: Can Evans find the end zone? After scoring three touchdowns in the first four games this season, he has played six straight games without a TD catch. That matches the longest drought in his NFL career, six games in 2017, and only one other time has he gone even four games without a score in nine years in the league. The Browns defense has given up 10 touchdowns to receivers this season, tied for sixth-most in the league.
Prediction: The Bucs are getting back on track, and this is the Browns’ final game without Deshaun Watson. Does that bring out the best in Jacoby Brissett, or make him try to do too much in his last game? He hasn’t thrown a pick in four games, and the Bucs haven’t picked off a pass in six, so we’ll say both streaks end and the Bucs win this one easy.
Bucs 31, Browns 17 –Greg Auman
Overview: The Titans and Bengals meet for the first time since the 2021 AFC divisional round, a matchup Cincinnati won in Nashville — upsetting top-seeded Tennessee — en route to the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LVI.
This will be a clash of two of the NFL’s hottest teams. The Titans, winners of seven of their past eight games, are coming off a victory over the Packers last week on Thursday Night Football. Notable for Tennessee: Its passing game has come alive in recent weeks, making the team more formidable as we get closer to the playoffs. First-round rookie receiver Treylon Burks had his first career 100-yard receiving game in Green Bay.
The Bengals, meanwhile, have won four of their past five games. After a slow start to the season, over the past month they’ve been the explosive offense many expected entering 2022. Since Week 6, Cincinnati is averaging 31.4 points per game, second-most in the NFL — and could get Pro Bowl receiver Ja’Marr Chase back this week. He’s been on IR with a hip injury.
Matchup to watch: Titans DL vs. Bengals OL
Despite the playoff loss to Cincinnati last season, Tennessee sacked Joe Burrow nine times — the NFL single-game playoff record. That battle in the trenches figures to be in the spotlight again for this matchup, as the Titans once again have an elite defensive front and the Bengals are still having trouble protecting Burrow despite spending big money to fix their offensive line. The former No. 1 overall pick has been sacked 32 times this season, tied for second-most in the NFL, though he has been sacked just three times in the past two games.
Titans sack leader Denico Autry may not play Sunday due to a knee injury suffered against the Packers, but Tennessee has so much depth on the defensive line that it may not matter much.
Key stat: This is a matchup of NFL’s two best red-zone offenses: The Bengals have scored a touchdown on 75% of their red-zone trips and the Titans have scored a TD on 74.1% of their red-zone trips.
Prediction: The Titans get their revenge (even if they’re adamant this isn’t a revenge game). Their defense hasn’t given up more than 20 points in a game since Week 3. Even with some injuries, the unit is positioned to slow down the Bengals and their dynamic weapons. Tennessee’s offense appears to be ascending, too, and that makes this AFC South Goliath all the more dangerous.
Titans 24, Bengals 22 –Ben Arthur
Overview: Is there a matchup this week that looks more lopsided? And of course, that just means this will be a tight one. Because the NFL is never what you expect.
The Dolphins are coming off their bye and, when Tua Tagovailoa is at quarterback, they’re undefeated. Sure, their defense has its issues, particularly with coverage. But the addition of Bradley Chubb should help with passing defense. And the offense scores so many points that the defense hasn’t been the biggest problem. The Dolphins sit atop the AFC East and are poised to make a run at the No. 1 spot in the AFC. It’ll just be a question whether Mike McDaniel’s pass-happy offense can hold up as temperatures fall.
Mike McDaniel not surprised with Tua Tagovailoa’s success
Emmanuel Acho and Joy Taylor discuss whether we should be surprised by Tua’s success this season. Joy says she predicted this last year but admits she is very impressed by first-year head coach Mike McDaniel.
The Texans seemed like they’d found something compelling in QB Davis Mills this year. Now what? He, like a few other members of his draft class (Zach Wilson and Mac Jones), has regressed in his second year. Mills hasn’t taken the second-year leap, and the offense is struggling as a result. It doesn’t help that WR Brandin Cooks has simply not looked bought in. It’s clear Houston is already thinking about 2023. The whole organization wants to get this season over with.
Matchup to watch: Dolphins safety Jevon Holland vs. Texans QB Davis Mills
Holland hasn’t been as consistent as I would’ve hoped this year. He made the All-Rookie team last season and earned a captaincy this year. It seemed like he’d make a big ascent. But he’s not quite the elite safety that he previously tracked to be. Still, if Holland wants to enjoy a big game, he can do it at Mills’ expense. The Texans QB has thrown 11 interceptions this season, most in the NFL.
Key stats: At 7-3, the Dolphins are off to their best 10-game start since 2001 (also started 7-3, finished 11-5). The Dolphins have scored 30-plus points in three straight games for the first time since 2009.
Prediction: I joked that this game might be tight, because that’s the kind of unpredictable thing that happens in the NFL. Realistically, though, this game is going to end in a Dolphins win.
Dolphins 30, Texans 20 –Henry McKenna
Overview: There’s drama in New York after Zach Wilson‘s postgame comments Sunday seemed to encapsulate his lack of accountability as a whole. It didn’t seem to sit too well with head coach Robert Saleh, who has now reportedly benched Wilson as the starter for Sunday’s game. During a Wednesday morning team meeting, ESPN reported Saleh told the team Wilson would not start against Chicago. The Jets then announced Mike White would start in his place.
The whole situation is a shame because the Jets defense is playing lights out, allowing just three points to New England last Sunday. The Patriots’ lone touchdown came on a punt return. The Jets have recorded 14 takeaways this season, which is already equal to their 2021 total.
In Chicago, QB Justin Fields is banged up — badly. Against the Falcons last Sunday, he fought through cramps and then suffered a left shoulder injury, the severity of which isn’t fully known. Head coach Matt Eberflus called Fields “day-to-day” but also wouldn’t rule out the injury being season-ending when asked directly. That should speak volumes.
If Fields plays, New York will have to watch a quarterback it passed on — one of the league’s most exciting young players — in favor of a QB who ranks at or near the bottom of every major passing category and doesn’t even seem to care. Tough break, Jets.
Are Jets ready to move off Zach Wilson?
Kurt Warner joins Colin Cowherd to discuss the latest news surrounding Zach Wilson and the Jets. Warner compares Wilson to a young Eli Manning and says the Jets need to develop Wilson into a winner like the Giants did with Manning.
Matchup to watch: Jets S Jordan Whitehead vs. Chicago running backs
Whitehead is a heat-seeking missile of a safety and loves coming downhill. He’s great in run support and will be a big factor, along with New York’s linebackers, in stopping a Bears ground game that will be formidable if Fields plays or not.
Key stats: The Bears have won five straight matchups against the Jets, dating back to 2002, but Chicago is 1-5 in road games this season.
Prediction: I’ll be honest — with so much uncertainty at quarterback, I have absolutely no idea. Chicago has lost seven of eight, including three straight games by three points or fewer. But I’m going with the Bears because I trust their ground game more, even though the Jets have a top-10 run defense.
Bears 13, Jets 7 –Carmen Vitali
Overview: Washington QB Taylor Heinicke isn’t exactly putting up big numbers. He hasn’t even thrown a touchdown pass in the past two games. But whatever he’s doing, it’s working. He’s 4-1 since taking over for the injured Carson Wentz, and the Commanders have won five of six to surge to the edge of the NFC playoff chase. They have a powerful run game and a suddenly dominant defense that now gets DE Chase Young back, too. The Falcons are all about that run, but the Commanders have given up just 68.8 yards per game on the ground over the past five games.
Taylor Heinicke on earning starting QB position
Taylor Heinicke talks with FOX Sports’ Jen Hale about earning the starting position for the Commanders and about Sunday’s victory over the Texans. “I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life,” he said.
Allen and Payne have been absolutely dominant the last few games. They’ve been immovable on running plays and disruptive on passing plays. It’s a huge test for Atlanta C Drew Dalman and guards Chris Lindstrom and Chuma Edoga.
Key stat: The Falcons are tied for 27th in scoring defense (allowing 24.9 PPG). That’s good news for a Washington offense that is clicking, and for head coach Ron Rivera, who is seeking his 100th career win (regular season and playoffs combined).
Prediction: At this point, bet against Heinicke at your own risk, because he’s one high pass (and interception) away from being 5-0 right now. His teammates have rallied around him, and they believe in his ability to run the offense. His mobility has negated their biggest weakness — the offensive line — and he has rejuvenated top WR Terry McLaurin, who has 28 catches for 425 yards and a touchdown in Heinicke’s five starts. If the Falcons were good at anything other than running the ball, they’d have a better shot. But not even the Eagles could run the ball on this Washington front with any success.
Commanders 23, Falcons 16 –Ralph Vacchiano
Overview: Carolina’s defense held Baltimore to three points entering the fourth quarter last week, and the Panthers face the NFL’s lowest-scoring team this week in the Broncos. Carolina is 3-1 when holding opponents to 15 points or fewer, and Denver has been held to 16 or fewer in all but two games.
A win for Carolina would mean dropping from No. 2 in the draft to probably around 10th overall. Denver has no such motivation, having sent its top pick to Seattle to get quarterback Russell Wilson. Carolina will turn to Sam Darnold at quarterback for the first time this season, as he’s been sidelined by an ankle sprain. Without him, P.J. Walker and Baker Mayfield have nine touchdown passes in 11 games. Darnold’s totals last year? Nine touchdown passes in 11 starts.
Matchup to watch: Carolina defense vs. what’s left of Denver’s run game
The Broncos cut Melvin Gordon this week and put Chase Edmonds on injured reserve. With Javonte Williams done for the year, that leaves Latavius Murray, who’s averaged 3.3 yards per carry since he was cut by the Saints. That puts more pressure on Wilson, who has just seven touchdown passes in nine games this year.
Key stat: Denver likes close games — its most lopsided final score was a nine-point loss to the Raiders, with every other game decided by a single score. Carolina, not so much — the Panthers have played six games decided by 10 points or more, including two of their three wins.
Prediction: Denver still has a top-five defense, with seven games holding an opponent to 17 points or fewer. And Carolina is winless on the road this season — 3-3 at home but 0-5 outside Charlotte. This feels like more of the same, and we’ll give Denver a defensive touchdown to go with whatever offense these two teams can muster.
Broncos 21, Panthers 16 –Greg Auman
Overview: The Ravens and Jaguars are in two very different spots. Baltimore is an AFC contender, currently sitting atop the AFC North and looking to build on its four-game winning streak. Jacksonville has lost six of its past seven games and has another high draft pick to look forward to in 2023.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, for all his dynamic athleticism, has struggled to push the ball downfield this season. His 6.8 adjusted yards gained per pass attempt is a career low. Of course, he hasn’t had a ton of help at receiver, with Hollywood Brown traded to the Cardinals earlier this season and Rashod Bateman on season-ending IR.
Finishing has been an issue all season for the Jaguars, who are coming off their bye week. Six of their seven losses have been by one possession. Despite winning the turnover battle by three against the Chiefs in Week 10, Jacksonville lost by 10 points.
Etienne has thrived as the Jaguars’ No. 1 running back. Since becoming the starter in Week 6, the 2021 first-round pick has 510 rushing yards, third-most in the league in that span. He’s become a key cog to the Jaguars offense — and will be in for a tough battle facing Smith and Queen, who form one of the league’s top inside linebacker tandems. Baltimore is allowing just 86.4 rushing yards per game, third-best in the NFL.
Key stat: The Ravens have recorded 19 takeaways this season, second-most in the NFL.
Prediction: The Ravens win their fifth straight game. The Jaguars have faced dual-threat quarterbacks this year, but none of Jackson’s caliber. He’s in his own tier. Yeah, the former NFL MVP doesn’t have great weapons around him, but All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews returned from injury last week, and he’s a major boost to Baltimore’s passing attack. Jacksonville has been inconsistent defensively all season.
Ravens 29, Jaguars 25 –Ben Arthur
Overview: Two teams looking to get back on the right track meet in the desert. The Chargers are clinging to faint playoff hopes after losing at home against the Chiefs last week, while the Cardinals are looking to put last week’s lambasting at the hands of San Francisco in Mexico City in the rearview mirror.
The Chargers own a 10-4 advantage in the all-time series, winning four of the past five games. Arizona has struggled at home this year, posting a 1-5 record. Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has missed the past two games with a lingering hamstring strain but could make it back on the field against the Bolts.
Kyler Murray criticized by former NFL players amid absence
Nick Wright, Chris Broussard and Kevin Wildes discuss criticism that Cardinals QB Kyler Murray received following Arizona’s blowout loss to the 49ers on Monday.
Matchup to watch: Cardinals RB James Conner vs. Chargers defensive front
Arizona has struggled to consistently run the football this season, but Conner is finally healthy and taking on a larger share of the workload. He finished with 42 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown on Monday and will face one of the worst run defenses in the NFL with L.A. coming to town. The Chargers allow 148 rushing yards a contest and a league-worst 5.46 yards per carry.
Key stat: Since returning to the field after serving a six-game suspension to start the year, Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins leads the league with 45 receptions and is second in receiving yards with 487.
Prediction: The Cardinals have already lost more games this year (7) then they did in the 2021 season (6). The Bolts certainly have more to play for, but the Cardinals would like to go into their bye week on a winning note with a rare victory at home this season. For Arizona’s struggling offense, a lot will depend on the health of Murray and if the Cardinals can effectively run the football.
As for L.A.’s offense, QB Justin Herbert has been held below 300 passing yards in six straight games, the longest stretch of his career. Still, I think the Chargers pull this one out.
Chargers 26, Cardinals 23 –Eric D. Williams
Overview: The Seahawks return from their bye week to host the Raiders, who are riding high after a 22-16 overtime victory against the Denver Broncos on the road. The Seahawks have won the past two games against Las Vegas, but the Raiders hold a 28-25 advantage in the all-time series.
Seattle’s rookie cornerback has been very productive this year, totaling 34 combined tackles and leading all rookies with five interceptions. Woolen more than held his own a few weeks ago against DeAndre Hopkins, helping to limit the All-Pro receiver to four receptions for 36 yards.
Even though the Raiders have been inconsistent on offense, Adams is still putting up good numbers. He leads Las Vegas in receptions (64), receiving yards (925) and scores (10).
Key stat: The Raiders have committed the fewest turnovers (7) of any team, but they have also forced the fewest takeaways (6).
Prediction: The Seahawks have won six of their past eight nonconference games and have been tough at home this year, posting a 3-1 record. Look for Seattle to lean on running back Ken Walker III, who leads all rookies with seven rushing touchdowns. That’s the most rushing TDs by a Seattle rookie since Curt Warner had 13 in 1983.
Seahawks 24, Raiders 20 –Eric D. Williams
Overview: The defending Super Bowl champs are reeling, losers of four straight games and likely on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason. Quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered his second concussion this year, making his availability for Sunday’s contest at Kansas City a question mark.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have an argument as the NFL’s best team heading down the backstretch of this season. Kansas City has won four straight games and boasts the league’s top offense, averaging 30 points a game. The Chiefs own a 7-5 edge (including postseason) in the all-time series between these two teams.
It’s a matchup of two of the best players at their respective positions. Donald must figure out how to get consistent pressure on Mahomes for the Rams to have any chance to come out victorious. The Pittsburgh product has put up solid numbers this season (24 tackles, 5 sacks, 1 forced fumble) but hasn’t been his usual dominant self.
Mahomes is the frontrunner for NFL MVP honors. He tops the league in passing yards (3,265), passing touchdowns (28) and passes of 20-plus yards (47).
Are Chiefs toughest team to beat in NFL?
FOX Sports NFL Analyst Michael Vick joins Colin Cowherd to discuss why the Chiefs are so hard to beat, focusing on the QB-coach relationship between Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid.
Key stat: Travis Kelce needs 139 receiving yards to become the fifth tight end in league history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards, joining Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, Antonio Gates and Shannon Sharpe.
Prediction: The Chiefs are 25-0 in the team’s past 25 games in November and December, dating back to the 2019 season. There’s a pretty good chance Kansas City will make it 26 against an L.A. squad ravaged by injuries. With a loss on Sunday, the Rams would have their most losses in a season under head coach Sean McVay, who took over the team in 2017.
Chiefs 33, Rams 17 –Eric D. Williams
Overview: The 49ers have won three straight and now sit atop the NFC West, but are they really back? Three of their losses are confounding — to the Bears (3-8), Broncos (3-7) and Falcons (5-6) — and their lone win against a team with a winning record is against Seattle (6-4). But Jimmy Garoppolo has 15 touchdowns against only four interceptions, and the defense is elite, giving up the fewest yards, rushing yards and fourth-fewest points in the league.
How do the Saints keep up with that? For starters, they can’t turn the ball over. New Orleans’ turnover margin of minus-12 is easily the worst in the league. San Francisco isn’t great on turnovers either, as shown in their loss to the Falcons.
Matchup to watch: 49ers’ RB Christian McCaffrey vs. his old division rival
He already faced the Saints once with Carolina, rushing for 108 yards in a Week 3 win. He has five career touchdowns in eight games against New Orleans, so there’s a familiarity there. McCaffrey’s role will continue to grow with time, and he already has 21 catches in four games since being traded to San Francisco.
Should 49ers be the most feared team in the NFC?
Emmanuel Acho and Joy Taylor debate if the Niners have shown enough to be considered the most feared team in the NFC.
Key stat: San Francisco’s defense hasn’t given up a point in the second half of their past three games, outscoring the Rams, Chargers and Cardinals by a combined score of 54-0 after halftime. The Saints, to counter that, rank third in the league in second-half scoring at 12.8 points per game, including 17 points in Sunday’s win over the Rams.
Prediction: San Francisco is a big favorite at home, and they have home wins by 20 (Seahawks), 15 (Rams) and 28 (Cardinals) to thank for that. Can Saints quarterback Andy Dalton pull off a game like his three-TD, zero-INT effort in Sunday’s win over the Rams? At 35, he’s never played a game in San Francisco, so this is a big first. Feels like the 49ers’ momentum will pick up another gear, with turnovers keeping this from being a close game down the stretch.
49ers 31, Saints 17 –Greg Auman
Overview: The Packers have looked a little more like their old selves the past two weeks, while the Eagles have looked a lot less like themselves. But the gap remains pretty wide. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is still struggling, except when he throws to surging rookie WR Christian Watson, who has caught all five of his touchdown passes the last two weeks. The Packers do have an occasionally potent running game, though, and that’s how the Commanders beat the Eagles and how the Colts almost beat the Eagles. The Philly defense has been a mess against the run, so that’s Green Bay’s opening to make this a game.
Matchup to watch: Eagles CB Darius Slay vs. Packers WR Christian Watson
Rodgers has been complaining for years that the front office doesn’t draft him enough receivers, yet it took him 10 weeks to figure out that the execs drafted him a good one this year. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Watson, a second-rounder from North Dakota State, has been a force the past two games with eight catches for 155 yards and five touchdowns. He’s the first Packers rookie since 1954 (Max McGee) to score two-plus receiving touchdowns in back-to-back games. Slay, meanwhile, is one of the NFL’s best corners and is surrounded by one of the most aggressive secondaries in the game.
Key stat: With a loss, the Packers would have more defeats this season (8) than they had in 2020 and 2021 combined (7). Good news for the 38-year-old Rodgers, though: Thanks to the four-year, $200 million contract extension he signed in March, they have until 2026 to turn things around.
Is it time for Packers to bench Aaron Rodgers?
The Packers appear to be fading fast, so is it time to bench Aaron Rodgers? Colin Cowherd explains why Green Bay should play Jordan Love moving forward.
Prediction: The Eagles’ 17-16 win over the Colts last week was arguably worse than their loss to the Commanders the previous week. They looked completely out of sync and needed QB Jalen Hurts to bail them out in the end, mostly with his feet. Some of their issues have to do with the loss of TE Dallas Goedert (shoulder), but they’re too talented to look so sloppy and lackluster for long. They will find their groove against a Packers defense that has been generally bad against the run all year. That will open up Philly’s passing game, too.
Eagles 27, Packers 19 –Ralph Vacchiano
Monday, Nov. 28
Overview: This figures to be another of the many low-scoring primetime games we’ve seen this season. The Colts saw their honeymoon phase with interim coach Jeff Saturday end Sunday with a 17-16 loss to the Eagles. The crux of the issues? The offensive line, which has been dreadful all season. The unit can’t consistently run-block and pass-protect. Penalties also killed some Colts drives against Philadelphia.
On the flip side, Kenny Pickett and the Steelers offense aren’t explosive either. Pittsburgh didn’t have a touchdown longer than eight yards until last week. Reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt will be in his third game back from IR, but he doesn’t fix all the defensive issues for Mike Tomlin’s squad. The Steelers gave up 37 points to the rival Bengals last Sunday.
After a slow start to the season, Harris has had more than 90 rushing yards on at least 4.5 yards per carry in each of the past two games. He’s found a rhythm for a Steelers offense that needs it. Franklin, meanwhile, has been one of the best middle linebackers in the NFL this season, pacing the league in combined tackles. The Harris vs. Franklin battles up the gut, or in space, should be fun.
Key stat: With a loss, the Steelers would be five games below .500 for the first time since 1988.
Prediction: I like the Colts here. For all the talk of their offensive struggles, the defense has been consistently strong all season. Gus Bradley’s unit has star power at all three levels. Maybe Indianapolis’ offense will look miserable (again), but I find it hard to imagine that it will look worse than Pittsburgh’s.
Colts 20, Steelers 9 –Ben Arthur
FOX Sports’ Week 12 NFL preview was compiled by:
AFC South reporter Ben Arthur (@benyarthur)
AFC East reporter Henry McKenna (@McKennAnalysis)
NFC West reporter Eric D. Williams (@eric_d_williams)
NFC East reporter Ralph Vacchiano (@RalphVacchiano)
NFC North reporter Carmen Vitali (@CarmieV)
NFC South reporter Greg Auman (@gregauman)
Dallas Cowboys reporter David Helman (@davidhelman_)
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