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Green Bay Packers (5-5-1) at Detroit Lions (6-5)
Prediction: Both Chicago and Detroit have to be kicking themselves for not putting the Packers away when they had the chance. Green Bay can conceivably finish with nine wins and take the division. As a result, I don’t think it’s a must-win game for the Packers. I do think it’s a must-win game for the Lions. The last time these teams met, Aaron Rodgers started at quarterback, while Calvin Johnson was inactive. This time, Rodgers won’t play, while Johnson plays against a secondary that made Jerome Simpson seem dependable. Strange things happen in Thanksgiving games, but logic suggests a Detroit victory.
Lions 33 Packers 20
Oakland Raiders (4-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
Prediction: Had the Raiders hung on and beaten Tennessee, they would actually be the No. 6 seed in the AFC right now. Of course, they aren’t a playoff caliber team, but the AFC’s final playoff spot is up in the air right now. For Dallas, they’re looking to maintain their lead in the NFC East. Right now, they’re benefiting from an easy schedule, so they had better take advantage of weaker opponents, while they still can.
Cowboys 31 Raiders 17
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-6)
Prediction: The winner of this game probably becomes the frontrunner to grab the AFC’s sixth seed. After starting 0-4, Pittsburgh is 5-2 in their last seven games. The Ravens, meanwhile, have won two of their last three. The better defense normally wins a defensive struggle, so Baltimore gets the edge.
Ravens 20 Steelers 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8) at Carolina Panthers (8-3)
Prediction: In a battle of NFC South rivals, Tampa’s three-game winning streak meets Carolina’s seven-game winning streak. The Bucs are playing hard, but Carolina’s stout front seven will shutdown their running game. Can Mike Glennon produce enough through the air to keep it close? I don’t believe he can, so look for the Panthers to coast to victory.
Panthers 30 Buccaneers 7
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) at Cleveland Browns (4-7)
Prediction: The Browns are 1-5 in their last six games, while Jacksonville’s won two of three since their bye-week. Because of a concussion, Jason Campbell may not play, so Brandon Weeden gets yet another opportunity to prove he belongs as an NFL starter. Bad things tend happen when Weeden starts.
Jaguars 17 Browns 16
Tennessee Titans (5-6) at Indianapolis Colts (7-4)
Prediction: Neither team is playing particularly well, but the Colts are coming home after Arizona humbled them. However, I think last week was more about Bruce Arians knowing the weaknesses of a roster he coached for much of last season. The Colts are good enough to defeat Tennessee at home.
Colts 27 Titans 21
Denver Broncos (9-2) at Kansas City Chiefs (9-2)
Prediction: All eyes will be on the thermometer, as the media directs a narrative that suggests Peyton Manning can’t play well in the cold. I actually buy that premise, though I think the opponent matters. In this case, both of Kansas City’s best players on defense are hurting. In fact, Justin Houston probably won’t play, though Tamba Hali appears ready. Had they both played, I thought Kansas City would steal one back from Denver, but Houston’s absence opens the door for Denver to scheme around Hali. A Bronco win all but clinches the AFC West.
Broncos 28 Chiefs 24
Chicago Bears (6-5) at Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)
Prediction: This isn’t a bad matchup for the Vikings. Chicago’s currently last against the run, allowing over 140 yards on the ground per game. Because of Chicago’s weakness, this is a perfect spot for Adrian Peterson to lead Minnesota to victory. However, the Vikings can’t stop the run and pass, so Chicago should score 30-plus points. I don’t see Christian Ponder matching that, even with Peterson running wild.
Bears 34 Vikings 27
Miami Dolphins (5-6) at N.Y. Jets (5-6)
Prediction: Four of the Jets’ five wins have come at home, in large part because their defense allows just 18 points per game in MetLife Stadium. Led by their defense, they’ll win in spite of Geno Smith once again.
Jets 13 Dolphins 10
Upset of the Week
Arizona Cardinals (7-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
Prediction: While the Cardinals aren’t a good road team, they counter everything the Eagles do well. Defensively, Arizona is athletic enough to contain LeSean McCoy to the middle of the field. Patrick Peterson is also good enough to shutdown DeSean Jackson. When Arizona has the ball, they’re facing the only team in the league allowing 300-plus passing yards per game. That bodes well for a team that features Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd at receiver. On paper, this one shouldn’t even be close.
Cardinals 34 Eagles 24
Atlanta Falcons (2-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-7)
Prediction: I’m not sure Buffalo is out of the playoff picture. I know it’s a crazy theory, but their next four games are winnable, which gets them to 8-7. In the last week, they play New England, who may have their playoff seed clinched by then. First, they need to take care of business against Atlanta.
Bills 24 Falcons 14
St. Louis Rams (5-6) at San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
Prediction: In their last two games, St. Louis has scored 80 combined points. They’re clearly playing their best football, but the 49ers are still a level above them. That’ll remain the case on Sunday, as San Francisco’s defense stymies St. Louis’ offense.
49ers 26 Rams 13
New England Patriots (8-3) at Houston Texas (2-9)
Prediction: Did New England play well against Denver? On one hand, they turned the ball over three times, allowing Denver to take a 17-0 lead. On the other hand, without the turnovers, New England probably wins that game going away. The Pats are good (as are the Broncos), but I don’t think they’re a great team this season. In fact, I’m not as impressed with the AFC’s elite as I am the NFC’s elite. New England will handle Houston, but their Super Bowl outlook remains murky.
Patriots 38 Texans 20
Cincinnati Bengals (7-4) at San Diego Chargers (5-6)
Prediction: Because of Philip Rivers, San Diego’s probably the most dangerous of the AFC’s 5-6 teams. The Bengals are unbeaten (5-0) at home, but they’ve won just twice away from the jungle. Don’t trust Cincinnati on the road.
Chargers 27 Bengals 17
N.Y. Giants (4-7) at Washington (3-8)
Prediction: What’s the point of the flex schedule if you’re not going to flex out bad games? I know NBC went all-in on the Giants beating Dallas, but 5-6 versus 3-8 isn’t much better. Regardless, Washington is playing awful on both sides of the ball. It’s beginning to unravel for them, where as the Giants are at least putting forth a strong effort.
N.Y. Giants 28 Washington 14
Game of the Week
New Orleans Saints (9-2) at Seattle Seahawks (10-1)
Predictions: The two best teams in football are Seattle and New Orleans, although Carolina could make their case compelling with a win over the Saints next week. This is a remarkably even matchup. Both teams have good defenses, with the Seahawks a step above the Saints. However, offensively, New Orleans’ passing game is definitely the more explosive of the two. They’re two major hurdles standing in New Orleans’ way, though. Seattle may have the best home field advantage in football, and their secondary -- despite injuries and a suspension -- is good enough to combat New Orleans’ receivers.
Seahawks 27 Saints 21
Last Week: 9-4-1
Season Record: 110-65-1