Week 12 of the 2021-22 NFL season brings us an annual slate Thanksgiving Day games as well as some really good matchups between playoff contenders on Sunday. With seven weeks left in the regular season, each game begins to carry more weight in the ultimate race for the postseason.
After the snoozer early matchup between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys host the Las Vegas Raiders in what is technically a good matchup, though Derek Carr and the Raiders are struggling as of late. The biggest treat of the day will be the Buffalo Bills taking on the New Orleans Saints at night, but even those two teams aren’t playing their best football right now.
Sunday, however, brings three must-see matchups:
- 7-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6-5 Indianapolis Colts
- 8-3 Tennessee Titans at 7-4 New England Patriots
- 7-3 Los Angeles Rams at 8-3 Green Bay Packers
These high-profile matchups will help determine which teams can stay hot down the stretch and compete for their divisions, with losers falling into more wildcard territory.
To debate or discuss these picks, be sure to join the conversation with @SakSports on Twitter.
Week 1: 6-10
Week 2: 12-4
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 12-4
Week 5: 13-3
Week 6: 10-4
Week 7: 9-4
Week 8: 9-6
Week 9: 5-9
Week 10: 9-4-1
Week 11: 12-3
Overall: 109-56-1 (66%)
Week 11 was one of my best weeks od the season for picking games. Not only did I get 12 of 15 matchups correct, but I hit on a pair of upsets: correctly predicting the seven-point underdog Indianapolis Colts would beat the Buffalo Bills and that 3.5-point underdog Washington Football Team would beat the Carolina Panthers. The Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs, and Los Angeles Chargers were also good selections in games that could have gone either way.
In Week 11 I incorrectly predicted:
- Titans over Texans
- Packers over Vikings
- Saints over Eagles
See Also: 2021-22 NFL Season Predictions
- AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West
- NFC East, NFC North, NFC South, NFC West
- Playoff Predictions and Super Bowl Matchup
- Midseason Predictions and Super Bowl 56 Matchup
- NFL 2021: Half Season MVP Watch
Thanksgiving Thursday Games
Chicago Bears (3-7) at Detroit Lions (0-9-1)
Line: Chicago Bears (-3.0)
Andy Dalton is set to start on Thanksgiving for the Chicago Bears, with Justin Fields going down in last week’s loss and Dalton playing better than him in relief, while the Detroit Lions anticipate Jared Goff will be under center after missing last week’s loss to the Browns. It’s a real barnburner in the early slot on Thanksgiving Day, with the two NFC North rivals combining for a 3-16-1 record. Don’t be fooled by Chicago’s three wins, as they enter the matchup on a five-game losing streak and the 29th-ranked offense in the NFL.
Detroit is one of the only two teams that scores less points (16.0per game) than the Bears, but the Lions rushing attack led by Deandre Swift has been ferocious as of late. It’s quite possible veteran Andy Dalton leads Chicago to a steady 17-20 points or so and a victory, but something tells me this might just be Detroit’s week, following a tie to the Steelers and a one-score loss to the Browns.
Lions win 24-19, Lions win ATS
Las Vegas Raiders (5-5) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
Line: Dallas Cowboys (-7.5)
Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot, and the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t get much done in last week’s 19-9 loss to the Chiefs. Luckily for Dallas, Derek Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders have been struggling, with three straight losses including their last two games by a combined score of 73-27. The Cowboys should bounce back in the afternoon slot, and worst-case scenario, their defense allows Carr to heat up and the game turns into a shootout. But more likely than that is a wire-to-wire Cowboys victory.
Cowboys win 33-16, Cowboys win ATS
Buffalo Bills (6-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-5)
Line: Buffalo Bills (-6.5)
On paper, the night slot presents the most intriguing matchup of the NFL has to offer on Thanksgiving Day 2021. Two teams from opposite conferences that both made the playoffs last season but are hungry for a win right now to stay in this year’s playoff race will meet in New Orleans. The only problem is, both are struggling, but this still could be a good football game.
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills are coming off an embarrassing 41-15 loss to the Colts at home, further proving they can beat up on bad teams but struggle against stronger opponents. The New Orleans Saints have experienced three straight losses in games started by Trevor Siemian, but have had chances in all three, and lost to the Falcons and Titans by just two points each.
The Bills are favored by nearly a touchdown on the road, but I’m not so confident this game is a given for Buffalo. I think Sean Payton can coach a talented Saints roster to their first win in four weeks to keep their season afloat.
Saints win 26-24, Saints win ATS
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-4-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
Line: Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5)
Coming off a tie to the Lions and a Sunday Night Football loss to the Chargers, the Pittsburgh Steelers need a win to regain this season’s momentum. The outcome of this game may depend less on how the Steelers play and more on which Cincinnati Bengals team shows up. The one that beat the Steelers 24-10 and the Ravens 41-17? Or the one that lost to the Jets 34-31 and Browns 41-16 in back-to-back weeks? The Steelers haven’t exactly been the model of consistency either, but I trust them more right now to play a solid game than I do for Joe Burrow and the Bengals.
Steelers win 31-20, Steelers win ATS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-3) at Indianapolis Colts (6-5)
Line: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.0)
While this game just misses the cut for my Game of the Week pick, it has all the makings of a high-profile matchup. Tom Brady and the 7-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to keep the ball rolling with their high-powered offense after recovering from a two-game losing streak. Carson Wentz, Jonathan Taylor, and the Indianapolis Colts are on the rise, with three straight wins and a 6-2 record in their last eight games after an 0-3 start.
The Colts are playing at home, and coming off a 41-15 win over the Bills last week. I’d love to pick Indianapolis to win their fourth straight, but besides their win over the Bills, their wins have come over the Dolphins, Texans, 49ers, Jets, and Jaguars. Buffalo is definitely a quality opponent, but besides that, Indy still needs to beat more playoff-caliber teams before I would pick them in a game like this. Again, don’t get me wrong, I think the Colts are playoff-bound, but this is one of two matchups remaining for Indianapolis that could be a real struggle to win.
Buccaneers win 30-24, Buccaneers win ATS
Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at New York Giants (3-7)
Line: Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)
Jalen Hurts is quietly figuring out how to efficiently run an NFL offense in his second season in the league. While the Philadelphia Eagles rank 29th in the league in passing yards per game, the second-best rushing attack in the NFL (led by Hurts himself) has allowed the Eagles to score the eighth-most points per game (27.0) in the league this season. Philadelphia is surging, with three wins in their last four games and a 34.5 points per game average over that stretch.
Daniel Jones and the New York Giants, on the other hand, have been an offensive nightmare, recently firing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett with the team scoring just 18.9 points per game, 25th in the league. Sometimes, teams can have breakout games after making such a change, but barring a great performance, I don’t think the Giants can keep up with the Eagles.
Eagles win 33-17, Eagles win ATS
New York Jets (2-8) at Houston Texans (2-8)
Line: Houston Texans (-2.5)
Two of the worst teams in the league, based on their records, will meet this Sunday, and what to expect is anyone’s guess. Zach Wilson is back after missing four games, but with Mike White and Joe Flacco both finding some success in his absence, New York Jets fans almost have to wonder if Wilson’s return is a good thing. New York has beaten Tennessee and Cincinnati this year, proving they’re not completely inept. While Tyrod Taylor’s return wasn’t enough for the Houston Texans to beat the Dolphins, Houston was able to overcome the Titans: go figure. I like the Texans, at home and coming off a win, over a cold rookie Zach Wilson.
Texans win 26-17, Texans win ATS
Carolina Panthers (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)
Line: Carolina Panthers (-1.5)
The Carolina Panthers couldn’t get it done against Washington Football Team last week, but Cam Newton had himself a pretty good game. Meanwhile the Miami Dolphins, led by both Jacoby Brissett and most recently, Tua Tagovailoa, have won three straight. It’s definitely a toss-up type of game, with the Panthers failing to establish an identity at this point in the season. Miami comes in hotter, but I think with a game already under his belt, Newton and co-star Christian McCaffrey will find ways to put points on the board.
Panthers win 28-20, XXX win ATS
Tennessee Titans (8-3) at New England Patriots (7-4)
Line: New England Patriots (-6.5)
There’s quite a few good matchups in Week 12, with this one also earning some serious consideration for Game of the Week. The 8-3 Tennessee Titans have the second-best record in the league, and even if they’re coming off a bad loss to the Texans, I still respect the Derrick Henry-less Titans for their wins over the Rams and Saints. Mac Jones and the New England Patriots are surging, with five straight wins including utter dominance on both sides of the ball for the last three weeks.
I’m not sure the Patriots can stay this hot for the rest of the season, but they may have caught Tennessee at the right time. If the Texans can beat Tennessee, I’m sure Bill Belichick can find ways to limit Ryan Tannehill and the Titans offense.
Patriots win 27-20, Patriots win ATS
Atlanta Falcons (4-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8)
Odds makers can’t decide who to favor in this matchup of misfortunate teams. The Atlanta Falcons season hasn’t completely slipped away, though it looked much better two weeks ago at 4-4, but their last two losses have been downright embarrassing, with just three points scored over two losses to the Cowboys and Patriots. The Jacksonville Jaguars are on a two-game losing streak of their own, and while they’re not exactly the most offensively talented team in the league.
I just can’t believe a former NFL MVP (Matt Ryan) would go three weeks without throwing a touchdown pass. I pick Atlanta not because they’re playing better right now, but because I think they’ve already hit rock bottom and have nowhere to go but up.
Falcons win 20-13, Falcons win ATS
Los Angeles Chargers (6-4) at Denver Broncos (5-5)
Line: Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5)
AFC West rivals clash as Teddy Bridgewater and the Denver Broncos take on Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers. Denver is just 2-3 at home on the season, despite having the mile-high home-field advantage, while the Chargers are a strong 3-1 away from Los Angeles. Both teams are 2-3 in their last five games, and play different styles of football: the Chargers rank 11th in points scored and 27th in points allowed, while Denver ranks 23rd in points scored and 3rd in points allowed. A strong defensive effort could get it done for the Broncos, but in an NFL that remains about scoring points, I’ll take Herbert and the Chargers.
Chargers win 24-17, Chargers win ATS
Sak Sports Blog Game of the Week: Los Angeles Rams (7-3) at Green Bay Packers (8-3)
After a couple of close calls, I’ve decided that this is the best matchup of Week 12. Two of the NFL’s best offenses meet with the two teams combining for a 15-6 record this season. Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams may be coming in off a two-game losing streak, but that should only give them more reason to play hard in Week 12. Los Angeles is 4-1 on the road this season, but the Green Bay Packers are a perfect 4-0 at home this year. Aaron Rodgers is expected to start despite a toe injury, and Green Bay is coming off a narrow loss to the Vikings themselves.
Was the bye week enough time to assimilate Odell Beckham Jr. into the offense? Will Rodgers be playing at full strength? This game could end up in a shootout, but Green Bay is actually much stronger defensively (5th-fewest points allowed per game) than offensively (22.5 points per game, 17th in the league.)
I’m going with the more consistent product, Green Bay, as there’s no telling which Rams team will show up on Sunday. Could the Rams win by a couple touchdowns? Absolutely. Could they struggle to put up points for the third game in a row? Also entirely possible. I’ll predict something inbetween: a close game.
Packers win 27-24
Minnesota Vikings (5-5) at San Francisco 49ers (5-5)
Line: San Francisco 49ers (-3.0)
Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers are favored in this matchup after three wins in their last four games, including 30+ point offensive performances in each win over the Bears, Rams, and Jaguars. The Minnesota Vikings have just two wins n their last four games, but have remained in every game they’ve played this season, never losing by more than a score. I can see why the 49ers are considered hotter right now, and Minnesota’s 22nd-ranked defense could be a liability. Still, I think the Vikings can win their third straight, and drop the 49ers home record to 1-5.
Vikings win 30-24, Vikings win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Cleveland Browns (6-5) at Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
After losing to the Dolphins two weeks ago and fighting their way to a win over the Bears in Lamar Jackson’s absence last week, the Baltimore Ravens aren’t exactly at the strongest spot in their season. And if Baltimore loses on Sunday night, they’ll invite all three other teams in the AFC North to challenge them for the division lead.
But luckily for the Ravens, who are 4-1 at home this season, the Cleveland Browns have been an up-and-down mess. They’re not an abysmal team, they even have a winning record. But since Week 5, Cleveland is 3-4, failing to string together any back-to-back wins. The offense put up just 20 points in total over the last two week’s: a 45-7 loss to the Patriots and a 13-10 win over the Lions that shouldn’t have been so close.
The Ravens have a few problems to iron out, but they can start working on them against Baker Mayfield and the Browns.
Ravens win 33-17, Ravens win ATS
Monday Night Football
Seattle Seahawks (3-7) at Washington Football Team (4-6)
Line: Washington Football Team (-1.0)
If you told me near the beginning of the season that I would picking against Russell Wilson, in primetime, against Washington Football Team in Week 12, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly where we are right now: the Seattle Seahawks have lost five of their past six games, and only put up 13 points over the last two weeks despite Wilsons return to the field. Taylor Heincke and Washington, on the other hand, are coming off back-to-back solid wins against Tampa Bay and Carolina.
Could a suddenly competitive Seahawks team show up on Monday night? Perhaps, but there’s no reason to predict so.
Washington wins 27-17, Washington wins ATS
Teams on Bye
- Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) will enjoy a bye week after defeating the Cowboys for their third straight win. Kansas City sits alone atop the AFC West, and can seal the deal with wins over the Broncos, Raiders, an Chargers over the next three weeks.
- The NFL-best Arizona Cardinals (9-2) get a bye week at a good time, allowing them to rest up Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins before the final six games of the regular season. Colt McCoy has gone 2-1 in Murray’s absence, allowing Arizona to maintain the best record in the league.
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Header Photo: Mike Roemer / Associated Press