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Phinsider Week 12 Game Previews and Predictions

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Welcome to the Thanksgiving edition of Justin Hier’s weekly Game Previews and Predictions!

NFL: New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Thanksgiving is one of everyone’s favorite holidays for a whole host of reasons. People get to hang with family members they haven’t seen in a while, platters upon platters of delicious food is served for by the boatload, and NFL football is on not once, not twice, but three times in the middle of the week! Not only that, but it’s meaningful football that will have a huge impact on the postseason picture.

That playoff picture remains very much in flux, especially in the AFC. Of the 16 teams in the AFC, a disproportionate six of them find themselves with a 4-6 record. That means six teams are sitting just one game out of a wildcard playoff spot, while another, the Buffalo Bills, are tied with the Baltimore Ravens at 5-5. Who will move ahead this week, and who will lag behind?

Each week of the NFL season, I’ll be giving you a sneak peak of the action ahead, as well as my own forecast for the outcome of every contest. Feel free to leave your own predictions and opinions in the comments below!

Week 11 prediction record: 8-6

2017 season prediction record: 98-62

Thursday

Minnesota Vikings (8-2) at Detroit Lions (6-4) - 12:30 PM ET on FOX

The Vikings defense can officially be considered elite. Mike Zimmer’s unit has performed admirably all season, but clearly proved to be at the top of the heap by shutting down one of the league’s most prolific offenses last week. Jared Goff and the Los Angeles Rams scored a measly seven points against Minnesota after scoring at least 27 in their previous four contests.

Now going up against Matthew Stafford and the Lions, will the Vikings put up a repeat performance? Earlier this season, the Vikes held Detroit to just seven points in a low scoring 14-7 bout. I foresee a similar scenario taking place to start off the Thanksgiving slate.

Score prediction: Minnesota 20 - Detroit 14

Los Angeles Chargers (4-6) at Dallas Cowboys (5-5) - 4:30 PM ET on CBS

The Chargers are coming off of a dominating showing against the Buffalo Bills, a contest in which Anthony Lynn’s defense registered an astonishing five interceptions in a single half. The picks were spurred by a fearsome pass rush led by Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram that pressured rookie passer Nathan Peterman into throwing some errant balls that landed in the hands of waiting defenders.

The Cowboys, much like the Bills, have had some problems of their own on offense in large part due to the absences of their best players on that side of the ball, Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. Smith is back this week, and he’ll be happily welcomed by an offensive line that’s badly needed his help. Smith’s matchup with Los Angeles’ pass rushers should be one of the highlights of this game.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 24 - Dallas 17

New York Giants (2-8) at Washington Redskins (4-6) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

The Giants made headlines last week with their victory over a strong Kansas City Chiefs team and will look to carry that momentum into an NFC East showdown against a better than advertised Redskins team. Washington has lost each of their last two games by one score, and both of those losses were to some of the strongest outfits in the NFL. While this game doesn’t have quite the same luster that it could have if these two squads were as good as they were projected to be at the beginning of the season, it should still provide plenty of intrigue given the rivalry and Thanksgiving setting.

Score prediction: Washington 23 - New York 20

Sunday

Buffalo Bills (5-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-4) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Chiefs have fallen down a slippery slope as of late, losing four of their last five games after starting the season with a sterling 5-0 record. This seems like a get-right matchup for Andy Reid’s crew, especially the offense. Buffalo’s 25th ranked defense has been a sieve to opposing offenses, giving up over 34 or more points in each of their last four games. If there’s ever been a time for Reid to get rookie sensation Kareem Hunt and veteran quarterback Alex Smith back on track, it’s this Sunday at home against the Bills.

Score prediction: Kansas City 30 - Buffalo 20

Tennessee Titans (6-4) at Indianapolis Colts (3-7) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Titans have been the epitome of a middling team all season, yet they are 6-4 and very much in line to secure a playoff spot in an equally middling AFC. In order to further cement their position in the playoff race, a win over the division rival Colts would mean a great deal. Earlier this season, the Titans soundly beat the Colts by a score of 36-22, but I predict a slightly closer outcome this week as both defenses have struggled to stop any competition. If Marcus Mariota can remain his usual mobile self, the Titans should score plenty of points and come away with the win.

Score prediction: Tennessee 28 - Indianapolis 21

Cincinnati Bengals (4-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-10) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

Two weeks ago, I correctly predicted the San Francisco 49ers’ first win of the season over the Giants. This week, I’m aiming for repeat success with the only winless team left in the league. The Browns’ defense is far better than most realize, coming in at eight in the league in yards allowed. Against the worst statistical offense in the NFL, led by a heavily inconsistent Andy Dalton, I foresee this being the end of Cleveland’s winless streak. Myles Garrett will register at least two sacks and propel the Browns’ defense to a stout performance that hands Hue Jackson his second regular season win as a head coach.

Score prediction: Cleveland 14 - Cincinnati 10

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) at Atlanta Falcons (6-4) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Falcons are coming off of a nail-bitter victory over the Seahawks, one that could mean a great deal in deciding who makes the postseason a few weeks from now. Until then, Atlanta will try to keep winning, this time in their own stadium. The Bucs are coming off a win of their own against the Dolphins where they picked off a turnover happy Jay Cutler three times and staved off a Matt Moore-led comeback.

Now that Matt Ryan is starting to heat up again, I expect him to carve up Tampa’s secondary to the tune of 300+ yards. Expect a big game from Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons’ receiving corps.

Score prediction: Atlanta 31 - Tampa Bay 16

Miami Dolphins (4-6) at New England Patriots (8-2) - 1:00 PM ET on CBS

The Dolphins let another game slip through their fingers last week. Now on a four game losing streak, the road doesn’t get any easier up in Foxborough where the Patriots are going on their usual run of domination that annually occurs through the second half of the NFL season. Tom Brady has been on his usual tear and the Patriots running game is churning out positive yards week after week. To make matters worse for Miami, New England’s defense has corrected course after a historically bad start to the season. No matter which way you spin it, this matchup is shaping up to be another bad loss for the ‘Phins.

Score prediction: New England 35 - Miami 20

Chicago Bears (3-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

Chicago fell just short of overcoming the Detroit Lions last week and fill face even tougher competition against the best team in the NFL this weekend. The Eagles are the hottest team in the league without question led by leading MVP candidate Carson Wentz. Given the fact that most Chicago’s offense comes from it’s dynamic running backs, and Philadelphia’s strength is its defensive line, the outlook for this contest doesn’t seem good for the Bears. The Eagles should win this one comfortably.

Score prediction: Philadelphia 28 - Chicago 17

Carolina Panthers (7-3) at New York Jets (4-6) - 1:00 PM ET on FOX

The Panthers have regained their swagger and will be well rested coming off of their late bye week. The Jets had a bye week themselves, but should nonetheless have a tough time getting much going against the league’s second ranked defense. Cam Newton is once again beginning to look like the 2015 MVP version of himself that terrorized defenses, at least in terms of his ability to change the game on the ground. For New York to stand a chance, they need to pressure the athletic quarterback repeatedly and force him to throw from the pocket. If they can’t, it’s going to be a long day for Gang Green.

Score prediction: Carolina 26 - New York 19

Seattle Seahawks (6-4) at San Francisco 49ers (1-9) - 4:05 PM ET on FOX

Russell Wilson is heating up as he usually does down the stretch run of the season, and it’s causing the entire Seahawks offense to improve (well, not the running game, but that hasn’t been the same since Marshawn Lynch left). The defense, on the other hand, is on a downward trajectory. With Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor both down for the count, the Legion of Boom has packed slightly less “boom.”

Fortunately for the Seahawks, the 49ers don’t have enough fire power to take advantage of Seattle’s ailing secondary. Expect to see a heavy dose of Carlos Hyde as Kyle Shanahan attempts to take the load off of rookie passer C.J. Beathard.

Score prediction: Seattle 31 - San Francisco 17

New Orleans Saints (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (7-3) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

Hands down my favorite matchup of the week. Two of the league’s highest powered offenses will take center stage in a game that truly should have been flexed to the primetime Sunday night slot. Jared Goff has taken massive strides since his rookie struggles and Todd Gurley is a legitimate MVP candidate. Can they bounce back from last week’s slump against the Vikings though?

On the other side, Drew Brees showed last week that although his offense has become far more focused on the run, he can still lead the team to victory when called upon. His defense has picked up some of the slack as of late too.

Score prediction: Los Angeles 33 - New Orleans 30

Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) at Arizona Cardinals (4-6) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians recently announced that David Johnson and Carson Palmer are most likely out for the rest of the year despite rumors that they may be ready for the final few games of the season. That means Arizona is practically out of the playoff race, something that’s not too surprising given their 4-6 record.

This game should be quite a breeze for Doug Marrone’s formidable defense. With Blaine Gabbert at quarterback and Adrian Peterson finding little room behind an offensive line that hasn’t run-blocked all too well, I don’t see Arizona scoring much here.

Score prediction: Jacksonville 24 - Arizona 14

Denver Broncos (3-7) at Oakland Raiders (4-6) - 4:25 PM ET on CBS

The Broncos took a tough loss to the Bengals last week, and the pent-up frustration within the organization has led head coach Vance Joseph to name last year’s first-round pick Paxton Lynch as the starting quarterback against the Raiders. Lynch gets a good matchup to make his season debut, as he’ll be throwing the ball against one of the league’s leakiest secondaries.

Derek Carr’s matchup isn’t as favorable, yet it’s not quite as tough as some might think. Denver’s secondary is immensely talented, but the unit hasn’t been able to hold opposing quarterbacks from scoring as of late. Over the past three weeks, the Broncos have yielded 10 passing touchdowns to Andy Dalton, Tom Brady, and Carson Wentz. Will they be able to corral Carr?

Score prediction: Oakland 27 - Denver 20

Green Bay Packers (5-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) - 8:30 PM ET on NBC

Zero. That’s how many points the Packers scored against the Baltimore Ravens last weekend. Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t any more forgiving, so don’t expect any fireworks from the likes of Brett Hundley. Ben Roethlisberger, on the other hand, is finally starting to look like the Big Ben who led the Steelers to multiple Super Bowls. Against Green Bay’s paltry secondary, he should be able to light it up once again.

Score prediction: Pittsburgh 28 - Green Bay 14

Houston Texans (4-6) at Baltimore Ravens (5-5) - 8:30 PM ET on ESPN

Houston managed a win last week in a game where Tom Savage didn’t look all too bad. Can he perform once again against Baltimore’s stacked defensive backfield? Houston will definitely need to establish a run game on the back of Lamar Miller to remain competitive in this contest.

Joe Flacco has been serviceable at best this season. Don’t let his 65.5% completion percentage fool you. Flacco has a 9 to 11 touchdown to interception ratio and has thrown to the tune of a 74.4 quarterback rating. If Baltimore is to make a push for the playoffs, Flacco will need to step up his game.

Score prediction: Houston 20 - Baltimore 17