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Week 12 NFL Preview
By Matt Horkman

N.Y. Jets (5-5) at Baltimore Ravens (4-6)
Prediction: The Jets are the first team in NFL history to alternate wins and losses through their first 10 games. After losing in Buffalo last week, the pattern suggests they’ll win in Baltimore. However, I don’t trust Geno Smith on the road. For all of the Ravens’ problems (and they have a lot of them), they still have a respectable defense. They should be able to take advantage of the Jets’ mediocre pass protection and force two or three turnovers from the rookie signal caller.

Ravens 14 Jets 13

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-6)
Prediction: Is it possible the Steelers could get back in the playoff hunt?  The next week will answer that question, as they play back-to-back road games against Cleveland and Baltimore. The Browns really need to upgrade their quarterback play next season. They’ve won exactly one game since Brian Hoyer went on injured reserved. That’ll remain the case for at least another week, as Pittsburgh defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau will devise a game plan to keep Cleveland from mustering up much offense.

Steelers 21 Browns 17

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) at Detroit Lions (6-4)
Prediction: The Lions have an excellent opportunity to take control of the NFC North. They’ve already swept Chicago and Green Bay is against the ropes after losing Aaron Rodgers to a fractured collarbone. You can’t squander 17-point leads, though. Despite Tampa’s two-game winning streak, Detroit is a much better team. They’re also at home, where they can best utilize running back Reggie Bush’s skills.

Lions 33 Buccaneers 17

Upset of the Week
Minnesota Vikings (2-8) at Green Bay Packers (5-5)
Prediction: Simply put, the Packers don’t deserve to make the playoffs if the Packers can’t beat the hopeless Vikings. Green Bay’s defense is reeling. The decision to go with safety M.D. Jennings looks foolish and they aren’t tackling well. The Vikings are bad, but Adrian Peterson is good enough to explode and lead the Vikings to victory. Such a result would pretty much eliminate the Packers from playoff contention. 

Vikings 24 Packers 20

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) at Houston Texas (2-8)
Prediction: Where is the media outrage at Andre Johnson? He walked off the field with about a minute remaining in Houston’s home loss to Oakland. I remember Randy Moss (as a member of the Vikings) doing the same thing with just a couple of seconds remaining in a game against Washington and the media lit into him for it. The following week, Moss responded by tearing the Packers up in Minnesota’s wild card playoff victory at Lambeau Field. The stakes couldn’t be any different, but I suspect Johnson will rebound with a big game.

Texans 26 Jaguars 14

San Diego Chargers (4-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-1)
Prediction: For Kansas City, there’s no shame in losing on the road in Denver. In fact, I have a hunch they’ll get even next week when Denver plays at Arrowhead. They need to remain focused on San Diego, though. Come playoff time, there’s a significant difference between the No. 1 seed and the No. 5 seed. The Broncos have the tougher schedule, so the division remains in play so long as Kansas City takes care of business against inferior opponents.

Chiefs 24 Chargers 21

Carolina Panthers (7-3) at Miami Dolphins (5-5)
Prediction: The Panthers got away with one against New England. Luke Kuechly is one of the best defensive players in football, but that was clearly pass interference on the final play of Carolina‘s 24-20 victory over New England. Still, let’s not assume New England would’ve scored on the final play. The Panthers have a very stout defense, so it would’ve been interesting to see if New England went with a run or put the ball in Brady’s hand. The Panthers won, though, and now they must avoid a letdown in Miami. Because of Cam Newton, they’ll do just that.

Panthers 23 Dolphins 10

Chicago Bears (6-4) at St. Louis Rams (4-6)
Prediction: Stop with the fake quarterback controversy in Chicago. The Bears are fortunate enough to have a capable backup behind Jay Cutler, but when healthy, Cutler’s a superior player to Josh McCown. Period. End of story.

Bears 28 Rams 17

Indianapolis Colts (7-3) at Arizona Cardinals (6-4)
Prediction: I like the Colts more than most do this year. In fact, I think they’re a sneaky-good Super Bowl pick. However, they can’t fall behind and expect to comeback every week. They’ve gotten away with it against mediocre and bad teams. They won’t against good teams like the Cardinals. Keep in mind, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians coached Indianapolis for most of last season, while current Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano took a leave of absence in his battle with leukemia. As a result, Arians knows the weaknesses of Indianapolis’ roster. He’ll exploit them on Sunday.

Cardinals 27 Colts 21

Tennessee Titans (4-6) at Oakland Raiders (4-6)
Prediction: Somehow, the winner of this game will remain relevant in the wild card chase. I don’t know who the No. 6 seed in the AFC will be, but they’re going to be a bad team. My guess is Tennessee’s defense gives Oakland quarterback Matt McGloin trouble, while Chris Johnson does enough to lead the Titans to victory.

Titans 17 Raiders 16Tony Romo

Dallas Cowboys (5-5) at N.Y. Giants (4-6)
Prediction: Neither the Cowboys nor the Giants are good. The latter is beating up on bad teams with quarterback problems, while Dallas’ defense is last in the NFL. Because they play in big markets, though, the NFL feels obligated to put them on our televisions. An aggressive attack from Dallas should expose the Giants’ secondary. Green Bay quarterback Scott Tolzien was successful throwing the ball downfield. The Packers just didn’t stick with it enough. For obvious reasons, Dallas has more confidence in Romo than Green Bay does in Tolzien. Look for the Cowboys to expose the Giants’ secondary en route to a comfortable victory.

Cowboys 35 Giants 21

Game of the Week
Denver Broncos (9-1) at New England Patriots (7-3)
Prediction: At this point, it’s safe to assume Peyton Manning versus Tom Brady is the greatest player rivalry in NFL history. Frankly, it might be the best player rivalry in the history of professional sports. The only one I can think of that compares is Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird. The Broncos still strike me as 2013’s regular-season team that’ll flop in the playoffs. They’re vulnerable against quality passing games and I don’t trust Manning in the cold. The Patriots rarely lose twice and they possess the passing game to topple Denver.

Patriots 30 Broncos 28

San Francisco (6-4) at Washington (3-7)
Prediction: Bad defense and inconsistency from Robert Griffin III will define Washington’s 2013 season. They aren’t likely to correct any of those issues against San Francisco, who’s coming off back-to-back losses. The 49ers didn’t play bad in either defeat, but it’s obvious they‘re not playing as well as they did a year ago. Nevertheless, Colin Kaepernick should be able to recreate some of the magic from last season, while Frank Gore runs wild in a blowout victory.

San Francisco 37 Washington 10

Last Week: 9-6
Season Record: 101-61

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