Bet On It: NFL Week 12 predictions
Aaron Rodgers will deservedly get a lot of attention Thursday, but don't be surprised to see Matthew Stafford have a big game as well. (Andrew Weber/US Presswire)
Last Week: 3-4-1; Season: 37-48-3
What's a holiday this time of year without the NFL? There are three mouth-watering matchups Thursday, a full slate of games on Christmas Eve, a classic rivalry (Chicago at Green Bay) on Christmas night and Week 17 on New Year's Day.
In other words, if you're worried about how you'll stay busy at those family get-togethers, football has you covered.
The holiday celebration kicks off on Thanksgiving with games featuring the NFC's two best teams, plus three others in a furious fight for their playoff lives.
What will happen in Week 12 as you're stuffing your face with turkey -- both of the hot-out-of-the-oven and leftovers variety? Here's a look:
• There will be at least seven TD passes in the Packers-Lions game
Throw the turkey in the oven early and then settle in, because even if Green Bay runs away for an easy win in Detroit, the points will be flying fast and furious. Detroit actually did a nice job against Rodgers last year, holding him under 200 yards and picking him off twice in a near-upset of the Packers in Week 4, then allowing him just 46 yards in a quarter-plus in Week 14 before Rodgers left with a concussion. Green Bay hasn't lost a game Rodgers started since, so the Lions' challenge will be even bigger Thursday. But Green Bay will have its hands full with Matthew Stafford. If there's one thing we've seen from the Packers' defense this year, it's that it is capable of giving up points in bunches.
• Jason Witten will reach 100 yards receiving
Dallas' tight end hasn't pulled that trick since Week 2 -- he actually started the year with back-to-back 100-yard games. The Cowboys' Thanksgiving matchup with the Dolphins, though, looks like an opportunity for him to get back to triple digits. Miami's defense has been sensational during its three-game win streak, allowing just 72 yards rushing and 6.7 points per game. Dallas running back DeMarco Murray could find tough sledding against the Miami front, and the Dolphins will pay plenty of attention to Dez Bryant ... which should leave room over the middle for Witten.
• Frank Gore will outrush Ray Rice by at least 25 yards
The Ravens' offense has been tough to figure this year, and it's deserted Rice against some tougher fronts. And they don't come much tougher than San Francisco this season. The 49ers are allowing just 73.9 yards per game on the ground, tops in the NFL. For the Ravens to win, Joe Flacco will have to open things up through the air, meaning less rushing attempts for Rice. Gore won't have an easy task either against the Ravens' fifth-ranked rush defense, but Jim Harbaugh will ride him all game, whether it's working or not.
• Houston will rush for at least 200 yards
Can Matt Leinart keep the Texans on course for a division title, potential first-round bye and Super Bowl contention? We probably won't know the answer for at least another week or two, because with how Houston's defense has played this season, the Texans don't figure to need much from Leinart to take down Jacksonville. Blaine Gabbert's difficult rookie season keeps sputtering along. Assuming he doesn't have a breakout performance, Houston should be able to feed Arian Foster and Ben Tate Sunday to ease Leinart into the mix.
• Philip Rivers will be sacked at least three times
This doesn't mean San Diego will definitely lose to Denver or Tim Tebow will outplay Rivers or anything like that. But the Chargers' offensive line continues to be in flux, while Denver's pass rush seems to get better each week. The catalyst for that growth is the sensational Von Miller, who ought to garner plenty of Defensive Rookie of the Year votes. The Broncos' front could be even more dangerous if San Diego cannot establish a run game early.
• LeSean McCoy will have at least 175 total yards
Like the Ravens with Rice, the Eagles sometimes get away from McCoy to a frustrating degree. When he has the ball, though, few players in the league are as electric. New England's defense has been better in its past two outings -- wins over the Jets and Chiefs -- but it will have its hands full in Philadelphia, regardless of who's at QB. If it's Vince Young, look for McCoy to do the majority of his damage on the ground; if it's Michael Vick, the Patriots ought to beware of McCoy's pass-catching abilities.
• Pittsburgh's defense will force at least three turnovers
The math on this one doesn't really add up. Pittsburgh has forced just six turnovers this year, an amazingly low number, especially considering how the Steelers pressure opposing offenses. But the tide's been turning a bit lately -- Pittsburgh's D generated one turnover in Week 9 vs. Baltimore and two at Cincinnati in Week 10. The unit is more or less healthy heading into Kansas City, which will be starting either Tyler Palko (who looked abysmal at New England last Monday) or waiver-wire pickup Kyle Orton, if the Chiefs opt to claim him from Denver, who would be just a couple of days into learning a new system.
• Eli Manning and Drew Brees will combine for at least 650 yards passing In Brees' last outing against the Giants, during the 2009 regular season, he passed for 369 yards and four touchdowns. He'll head into this one Monday night with the New Orleans' offense clicking. Manning's been putting up big numbers lately, too -- 311 yards passing against San Francisco, 349 vs. Miami, 420 against Seattle. And just like in those three games, Manning's passing numbers will rise exponentially if the Giants fall behind early. Without Ahmad Bradshaw, New York will have trouble controlling the clock with its ground game.