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NFL Week 12 bold predictions: Patriots make huge statement, Dak Prescott carves up Raiders

NFL Week 12
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Week 12 is here, which means it’s time for Thanksgiving football. With three games on Thanksgiving Day and plenty of great matchups on Sunday, fans get to feast on football in the days ahead.

We have no complaints about the Thanksgiving slate. It starts early with the Chicago Bears facing the Detroit Lions, opening the door to a potential big performance from rookie Justin Fields. But the marquee matchups come later, with the Las Vegas Raiders battling the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints hosting the Buffalo Bills.

Of course, Thursday isn’t the only day for great football. In fact, we could see a few upsets on Sunday that would have major implications on the NFL playoff race.

Let’s dive into our bold predictions for NFL Week 12.

Dallas Cowboys carve up the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Dallas Cowboys
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no escaping it, the Raiders look lost right now. It’s not a surprise considering everything this locker room has gone through in the past two months. It impacts this team on both sides of the ball. We also saw real signs of trouble in that humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Considering Las Vegas had trouble against Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Darrel Williams, things could be just as ugly against Dallas. Dak Prescott is playing the quarterback position better than Patrick Mahomes right now, making far fewer mistakes and delivering dives more consistently.

Las Vegas can try and win with pressure and its limited use of the blitz is actually better in a matchup against Prescott. But the Cowboys might get Tyron Smith back in NFL Week 12, rounding out one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Pair an effective ground gape with an explosive passing attack, that’s a recipe for 30-plus points. Toss in a side of takeaways from the Cowboys’ defense, the margin of victory could be even wider.

Indianapolis Colts stun Tom Brady, Buccaneers

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Buffalo Bills
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have certainly earned their reputation as a Super Bowl contender with one of the best run defenses in the NFL. But right now, this team just isn’t playing up to its usual standard. While Tom Brady and Co. will be favored against Indianapolis, there could be an upset being cooked up.

Look at Tampa Bay’s run defense in its last four games before Week 11. Opponents averaged 4.3 yards per carry with 489 rushing yards, all before Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vita Vea went down. Weak on the interior, that’s a matchup the Colts and Jonathan Taylor will look to exploit. Another important note against the Buccaneers’ blitz-heavy defense, Carson Wentz entered Week 11 with the ninth-highest passer rating (108.4) when blitzed.

This all sets up for a low-scoring game, one that will come down to the final drives. With Brady not playing his best football right now against a Colts’ defense showing real improvement, Indianapolis could be celebrating a season-defining win in NFL Week 12.

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Patriots enter Super Bowl hunt with dismantling of Titans

NFL: New England Patriots at Atlanta Falcons
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone expected the New England Patriots to cook the Atlanta Falcons, it was inevitable. But a matchup between two AFC teams near the top of the NFL standings, that will have everyone’s attention. While these two clubs might seem close on paper, a decisive Patriots’ victory is very possible.

Bill Belichick doesn’t have to give Tennessee’s rushing attack much thought. With Derrick Henry out, Tennessee’s run game has become wildly ineffective and it will be even more difficult to move the football against the Patriots. But there is a bigger problem for Tennessee. Over the last five games, opposing quarterbacks are averaging 169.6 yards with a 51.5 passer rating and a 56% completion rate against Belichick’s defense.

Related: Week 12 NFL defense rankings

Realistically, New England won’t have much trouble shutting the Titans down. That leaves it up to Mac Jones handling interior pressure well and making the right reads. Josh McDaniels will also need to tailor his game plan for a dominant Titans’ defensive line. The Patriots can handle all of that and it should translate to a double-digit victory over Tennessee.

Odell Beckham Jr. makes a splash on big stage

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week came at the perfect time for the Los Angeles Rams. Sean McVay needed time to figure out how to reshape this passing offense without Robert Woods. As for Matthew Stafford, a week away from football should get him out of this brief cold spell that saw frequent pick-sixes and wild throws.

It also gave Beckham Jr. more time to practice with his new team. He only played 15 snaps in his Rams’ debut, but that number should skyrocket in NFL Week 12. With the Packers’ pass rush and secondary wiped out by injuries, Stafford will have time to throw and it wouldn’t be a surprise if OBJ delivered 70-plus yards and a big touchdown.

Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers combine for eight-plus sacks

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Pass protection is one of the most important ingredients for a great offense. On Sunday, we’re going to see a matchup between two teams who are better than anyone at allowing their quarterbacks to get hit. From Week 5-10, the Panthers and Dolphins have allowed a combined 182 pressures, 132 quarterback hurries and 28 hits.

Those are red flags for Cam Newton and Tua Tagovailoa. From Cam’s perspective, he faces a defense with the second-highest blitz rate (38.2%) and a defensive front that has become increasingly effective at getting to the quarterback. As for Tagovailoa, he’ll play behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in a matchup against a defense with the third-highest pressure rate (27.8%). This is going to be a painful Sunday for both quarterbacks.