The slate of action this week is going to be a whole lot of fun.
Starting with the three games on Thanksgiving and continuing throughout the weekend, the NFL’s slate of action this week is going to be a whole lot of fun.
The Dallas Cowboys will be looking to take over first place from the Washington Redskins in Big D Thursday afternoon. They’ll do so while facing backup quarterback Colt McCoy.
As the calendar turns to the weekend, both the Vikings and Packers are in must-win mode. The same thing can be said for the Tennessee Titans as they do battle against one of the league’s hottest teams.
These are among the most intriguing storylines for NFL Week 12.
A battle for first in Big D
This week’s festivities get going with three pretty big Thanksgiving Day clashes. The middle game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys is what we’re primarily going to have our eyes on. Shockingly, Dallas can take over first place in the NFC East with a win here. It’s won two consecutive games and has seen a rebirth of sorts since trading for Amari Cooper.
Unfortunately for the Skins, they are headed in a completely opposite direction. Starting quarterback Alex Smith was lost for the season due to a devastating leg injury last week. Now forced to roll with Colt McCoy as the starter (and maybe even Mark Sanchez), it’s an open question whether Washington can hang with the Cowboys in Big D on turkey day.
Kirk Cousins’ biggest game to date
Cousins just has not been good in recent weeks. After opening up the season by throwing 14 touchdowns compared to three interceptions in the first seven weeks, Cousins has tallied five scores and four picks in the past three games. That includes a two-interception performance in a disastrous outing against the Chicago Bears last week.
Now at 5-4-1, Minnesota is battling for playoff relevancy Sunday night against a Green Bay Packers squad that’s also in desperation mode. Cousins must up his game in a big way if the Vikings want to avoid falling further behind in the NFC Playoff race.
Huge conference tilt in Charlotte
Cam Newton and the Panthers head into Sunday’s game against Seattle in possession of a wildcard spot. Unfortunately, Carolina has lost its past two games and is reeling heading into this one. That two-game stretch has seen Carolina yield an average of 36 points per game. Prior to that, the team hadn’t given up more than 31 points in a single game.
Set to take on a Seahawks squad that’s just one game behind them in the NFC, this is a huge game for the Panthers. It’s a game that should also see Seahawks quarterback and MVP candidate Russell Wilson excel in a big way. Whether Super Cam can match that will tell us the story.
A lot at stake at the horseshoe
The Colts have been on an absolute tear of late, winning their past four games by an average of nearly 20 points per outing. This very same span has seen Andrew Luck throw his hat into the NFL MVP conversation with 13 touchdowns compared to one interception. It’s also helped Indianapolis overcome a disastrous 1-4 start to the season.
Now at 5-5 on the year, Indy will be playing for playoff positioning against a fellow .500 squad in that of the Miami Dolphins. Sure Adam Gase’s squad doesn’t look like a playoff team right now, but getting Ryan Tannehill back under center should help some. This is a huge game with wide-ranging postseason ramifications in the AFC. No one would have thought that back in Week 1.
The Jameis Winston risk factor
It was somewhat surprising that Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter named Winston their starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the 49ers. It’s not that Ryan Fitzpatrick has been good. He hasn’t. Instead, it’s all about the future for Tampa Bay after a 1-7 stretch in which the Buccaneers have been humiliated at every turn.
For his part, Winston has thrown 10 interceptions and turned the ball over 12 times in five games (three starts). His regression has been among the biggest under-the-radar stories around the NFL. By rolling with a quarterback who might not have a future with the team, Tampa Bay is taking a major risk. His $20.9 million salary for the 2019 season is guaranteed for injury only. This means if Winston were to get injured, the Bucs would have to pay the struggling quarterback a hefty salary.
Baker’s day to shine in Ohio
There’s a lot of narratives being thrown around as the Browns and Bengals do battle Week 12. That obviously starts with recently fired former Browns head coach Hue Jackson now working on Marvin Lewis’ staff in Cincinnati. Shockingly, his focus has been on the defensive side of the ball. Whether Jackson has inside information relating to his former quarterback remains to be seen. It doesn’t help that the Bengals are yielding an average of 500-plus total yards over the past four games.
What we do know is that Baker Mayfield is a legit Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s coming off a stellar performance in Cleveland’s Week 10 win over Atlanta, throwing as many touchdowns (three) as incomplete passes. We’re highly intrigued to see what Mayfield has to offer against his former coach. In doing so, there’s a darn good chance Cleveland will see its first winning streak since all the way back in November of 2014.
Bears look to tame the Lions in black and blue clash
Riding a 7-3 record and first-place standing in the NFC North into Thursday’s matchup against the division-rival Lions, Matt Nagy and the Bears could very well be in for a rude awakening here. Detroit shocked everyone by handing Carolina a loss last week and needs a win here to remain relevant in the division race.
More to the point. Star young quarterback Mitch Trubisky will more than likely miss this game due to a shoulder injury. That means career backup Chase Daniel will get the start for Chicago. This team is ripe for a letdown after last week’s win over Minnesota. Though, a win here could stake Chicago’s claim as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Bayou is running hot and heavy
There’s no logical reason to believe the struggling Atlanta Falcons will be able to hang with their NFC South counterparts come Thanksgiving night. Atlanta has lost each of its past two games to mediocre squads in that of the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys. The bigger story here is just how darn good Drew Brees and the Saints are right now.
Winners of nine consecutive games, New Orleans is averaging nearly 38 points per outing. That includes a whopping 144 points over the past three games. Brees has thrown 25 touchdowns compared to one interception. Michael Thomas is catching 90-plus percent of the passes thrown his way. Meanwhile, the combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have put up north of 1,600 total yards and 20 touchdowns. Yeah, Atlanta is going to be run out of New Orleans in a big way.
Major battle in the AFC South
It’s rather simple for the Titans here. Fresh off a brutal blowout loss to Indianapolis, Marcus Mariota and Co. are in must-win mode against a Texans team that’s now won seven consecutive games. Two games separate these teams heading into this all-important Week 12 outing.
The good news for Tennessee is that Mariota should be good to go after suffering a stinger last week. The bad news? This team’s previously elite defense was picked apart by Andrew Luck last week. Deshaun Watson and Co. have to be licking their chops heading into this one. And a win here would pretty much help Houston eliminate one of its closest competitors in the division.
Mike McCarthy’s future on the line
Anyone who thinks McCarthy’s job is safe because of the MO of the previous Packers front office doesn’t understand how new general manager Brian Gutekunst runs the ship in Green Bay. Now that his Packers are 4-5-1 on the season and on the cusp of being irrelevant, McCarthy is in must-win mode. That’s magnified after his decision-making issues late in last week’s loss to Seattle.
Set to take on the Minnesota Vikings this week, the time is now for these Packers to get out of their season-long rut. Should that not happen, we wouldn’t be shocked to see McCarthy end up in the holiday unemployment line.