This Week in: The NFL – Week 12 2012

Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley celebrate the Packers first touchdown against the Lions last Sunday

Heading into week 12 of the NFL season, all teams have now played 10 games and had their byes, so the race for the playoffs is really taking shape.  In the NFC North, the Packers, who had been written off by many following three defeats in their opening five contests, won for the fifth time in succession, beating Detroit 24-20 to move to joint top of their division with the Bears.  Chicago were without their starting quarterback, Jay Cutler, due to a concussion for their 32-7 loss on Monday Night to the 49ers, who themselves were without Alex Smith, after he had suffered the same injury against the Rams.

That win for San Francisco extended their lead in the NFC West to a game and a half over Seattle, who were idle, while both other teams in their division lost: the Rams were beaten by the Jets in St. Louis, 27-13, on the back of a competent performance for the visitors by Mark Sanchez; while the Cardinals were defeated for the sixth time in succession, falling to the Falcons, 23-19, despite picking off Matt Ryan five times.  Atlanta’s 9-1 record makes them huge favourites to take the number 1 seed in the NFC, while below them in the South, the Saints moved to 5-5 with a victory in Oakland, 38-17, over the Raiders; and the Buccaneers kept up their push for a wild card berth with a 27-21 overtime win on the road against divisional rivals, the Carolina Panthers.

With the reigning champion NY Giants having their bye week, Dallas had the opportunity to close the gap at the top of the NFC East to a single game, which they did by beating the Browns, 23-20 in an extra period.  The other two teams in the division met in Washington, as the Redskins routed the Eagles, 31-6, with their rookie QB, Robert Griffin III, throwing for 200 yards and four touchdowns.  While the Cowboys and Giants may end up in a tight race for their division, the AFC East is looking like a foregone conclusion for the Patriots, who racked up 59 points against the Colts last week as they improved to 7-3.  New England did lose one of their best players –  Rob Gronkowski – for the foreseeable future after the tight end broke his forearm in the one-point conversion kick after their final touchdown, but Bill Belichick’s side still has a three game cushion at the top of their division.  The Jets win in St. Louis move them to 4-6, tied with the Bills and Dolphins, after Buffalo beat Miami 19-14 last Thursday night.

In the AFC South, the Texans needed overtime to beat the one-win Jaguars, 43-37, with both teams scoring from field goals in the extra period, before Matt Schaub ended the contest with a 48-yard touchdown pass to Andre Johnson.  That victory moved Houston to 9-1 for the season, three games ahead of the Colts following their loss to the Patriots, with the idle Titans a further two behind.  Baltimore moved closer to securing their division as they defeated their rivals in the North, Pittsburgh – though the Steelers kept it close despite the absence of  their starting QB, Ben Roethlisberger, with the Ravens squeaking it 13-10 on the back of a punt-return touchdown from Jacoby Jones.  Cleveland’s loss in Dallas dropped them to 2-8, while the Bengals beat the Chiefs in Kansas City to even their record for the year at 5-5.

Peyton Manning led his Bronco’s team to their fifth successive victory with a 30-23 win over the Chargers last week and Denver are the only team in the AFC West to have a winning record, with San Diego joining Oakland and Kansas City as sides looking unlikely to make the playoffs.  This weekend, the Chiefs host the Broncos; Oakland are in Cincinnati; and the Chargers have a home contest against the Ravens.  Thursday’s traditional Thanksgiving home games for the Lions and Cowboys are against the Texans and Redskins respectively, while the Jets and Patriots play in the night fixture.  On Sunday, there are two rematches from the NFC playoffs last year as the Packers face the Giants, while the Saints take on the 49ers.  Elsewhere, the Bears play the Vikings in Chicago; Miami have a home game against the Seahawks; two NFC South rivals, the Buccaneers and Falcons meet in Tampa Bay; Tennessee are at Jacksonville; the Steelers take on the Browns; the Bills face the Colts; and the Cardinals entertain the Rams.  Monday Night’s matchup is between two sides that are all but out of the playoff hunt, as the Eagles and Panthers square off in Philadelphia.

Predictions

Last week, 8-6; Season, 82-77

Home teams in bold

Thursday

Lions +3.5 over Texans

Redskins +3.5 over Cowboys

Jets +6.5 over Patriots

Sunday

Vikings +5.5 over Bears

Bengals -7.5 over Raiders

Browns +3.5 over Steelers

Colts -3.5 over Bills

Broncos -10.5 over Chiefs

Dolphins +2.5 over Seahawks

Falcons -0.5 over Buccaneers

Titans -2.5 over Jaguars

Ravens -0.5 over Chargers

49ers -1.5 over Saints

Rams +2.5 over Cardinals

Giants -2.5 over Packers

Monday

Panthers +2.5 over Eagles

 

 

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