Every team is fighting for something.
The playoffs are inching closer and closer every weekend, and following the Thanksgiving holiday in NFL Week 12 things are really heating up.
There are some huge matchups on the slate this week with playoff implications. There are also some intriguing contests between teams whose seasons have no intrigue aside from where they’ll land in the draft order next April.
Every game carries significant consequences, regardless. Every team is fighting for something.
So, who’s on upset alert this weekend as the league moves toward its final quarter?
Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals (-3)
Both of these teams have lost four of their last five games, but Cleveland actually comes into Sunday’s contest with a bit of momentum on its side after having beaten the Falcons in Atlanta last weekend.
The Bengals won’t likely have A.J. Green in the lineup once more, which bodes well for Cleveland’s defense. Andy Dalton has struggled in a huge way without his top receiver, and the Browns have the personnel up front to give him a hard time and shut down the run.
On the other side, look for Baker Mayfield to continue proving why he was the right choice at No. 1 overall. He’s been the best rookie quarterback all year long, and he should find ways to exploit a Bengals team that is banged up defensively.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-5) vs. Buffalo Bills
There are two factors here that should give Bills fans some hope that their team will pull off the upset at home against Jacksonville.
First, rookie quarterback Josh Allen is finally healthy again and will start under center. He’s rough. He’s raw. But he’s also the quarterback who gives Buffalo the best chance to win. Of course, Jacksonville still has incredible defensive stars who’ll make life difficult for the young gunslinger. But he at least gives the Bills a shot at making something happen on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, Buffalo is very strong. And better yet, it is going up against a quarterback in Blake Bortles who continues to be among the league’s worst at turning the ball over. The Jags have attempted to mitigate his deficiencies by running the ball. But at some point your quarterback has to win games. Bortles hasn’t been doing that.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles (-6)
This is how desperate Philly is right now on the defensive side of the ball: This week, the Eagles have had to use receivers as cornerbacks in practice because they have so many injured defensive backs.
That’s really bad news for a defense that’s already been awful at defending the pass this year. But it’s fantastic news for Eli Manning and Co., who’ve actually been coming alive the past couple of weeks.
If Big Blue can get any kind of defensive effort in Philadelphia this Sunday against a suddenly vulnerable Carson Wentz — he threw no touchdowns and three interceptions last weekend — this game is New York’s for the taking.
Miami Dolphins vs. Indianapolis Colts (-8)
Personally, I’m loathe to bet against Captain Andrew Luck and the Colts right now. At this point, Luck is not only in the lead for the Comeback Player of the Year award but is also right up there in the MVP conversation. He’s been fantastic, and last weekend’s effort marked the seventh game in a row in which he has thrown at least three touchdowns.
However, it’s worth pointing out that Indy has only one really impressive win during its latest four-game winning streak. It’s also worth pointing out that Miami is finally getting Ryan Tannehill back in the lineup this weekend, and that is a huge win because Brock Osweiler had been getting worse by the game for the Fins.
This comes down to whether Tannehill can shake off the rust quickly and get his playmakers involved. If he does that, then Miami has a shot to make a late-season push toward the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers vs. Minnesota Vikings (-3)
If the Packers have any shot at clawing their way back into the NFC playoff hunt, it has to start this Sunday night in Minneapolis. To this point in the season, Green Bay has not won a single game on the road. And both teams are fighting like crazy to shrug off mediocrity at this point — the game is going to be incredibly competitive from start to finish.
One reason to believe the Packers have what it takes to finally win a road game this year is the burgeoning stardom of running back Aaron Jones. Fans and fantasy experts have been clamoring for the playmaker to receiver more meaningful snaps the past two years. Now he’s finally getting that kind of attention in the Packers offense. And to nobody’s surprise, he’s dominating.
Another reason to believe Green Bay will prevail is that Kirk Cousins has thrown four interceptions the past three games, including two against Chicago last week. He seems to be pressing, and the Packers have the playmakers to take advantage.
Tennessee Titans vs. Houston Texans (-6)
Tennessee is two games behind Houston in the AFC South with six games left to play. It’s do-or-die time for Mike Vrabel’s club, which is heading into Houston to take on a Texans team that has won seven in a row and will be emotional following the passing of owner Bob McNair.
The Titans are going to need some sort of balance on offense, or Marcus Mariota — he’s expected to start after suffering an injury last weekend — will get hammered once again by the Texans’ ferocious front seven. If Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry and the big guys up front can wrangle J.J. Watt and Co., then Tennessee’s offense has a chance.
The biggest reason to believe in Tennessee, though, is that the Titans have a defensive front that should give Houston’s offensive line fits. The Texans have been decimated by injuries up front. Deshaun Watson has been sacked 33 times this year. If he’s corralled Monday night, then the Titans might just have their upset win.