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2011 NFL Week 12 Primer

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) leads his team on the field before their game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on November 14, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. UPI/Brian Kersey

Packers @ Lions, 12:30PM ET, Thursday
I truly believe that it’s Green Bay and then everyone else when it comes to the power structure of the NFL. But don’t think for a second that the Lions can’t beat the Packers on Thanksgiving Day. They’ve been waiting a long time to be strong enough to finally punch the bully back and they’ll have their opportunity tomorrow. The key for Detroit is its front four. If they can rush Aaron Rodgers with only Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch, then they’re going to be fine. And with how suspect Green Bay’s defense has been this year, if its still a game in the fourth quarter then the Lions have a shot to pull off the upset.

Dolphins @ Cowboys, 4:15PM ET, Thursday
This is definitely the weakest of the Thanksgiving matchups but this game still offers plenty of intrigue. The Cowboys are now tied with the Giants for first place in the NFC East but they’ve turned in inconsistent performances all season. And during Miami’s three-game winning streak, the Dolphins haven’t allowed a touchdown in 12 quarters. This is going to be a bigger challenge for Tony Romo and Co. than people think.

49ers @ Ravens, 8:20PM ET, Thursday
Forget the Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh stuff – this is a great matchup between two physical teams that will fight for four quarters. The Ravens have been playing up and down to their competition all season and their offense has sputtered at times. On the other side, San Francisco’s defense has been a rock for nine straight weeks but Baltimore’s run defense is outstanding so it’ll be interesting to see how the Niners fare when they have to lean on Alex Smith and the passing game. There doesn’t figure to be much scoring in this game but if you like hard-nosed football, then it doesn’t get better than this.

Vikings @ Falcons, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
This isn’t a very exciting matchup with Adrian Peterson out with an ankle injury but it’ll be interesting to see if the Falcons stay with their no-huddle attack on offense. They ran the no-huddle exclusively in their 23-17 win over the Titans last Sunday and had great success with it (outside of settling for field goals when they reached the red zone, that is). Matt Ryan looks most comfortable running that offense but will OC Mike Mularkey make it Atlanta’s identity on offense? He’s been hesitant to ditch his “smashmouth” approach but at some point the Falcons need to develop more consistency on offense. Maybe running the no-huddle full-time is the answer.

Texans @ Jaguars, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
It’s time to see if Matt Leinart has matured as a quarterback. He failed in Arizona because he wasn’t ready to lead a young team with potential (unlike Kurt Warner, who prospered in the situation). Now Leinart is at the controls of a veteran club that has an outstanding running game and a sound defense. Can he manage games and make plays when his number is called or will he crumble under the pressure? In Jacksonville’s defense, he’ll face a stiff test right out of the gates.

Buccaneers @ Titans, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
One of these teams will keep its playoff hopes alive on Sunday while the other could be looking at a long offseason. The Titans remain two games behind the Texans in the AFC South but with Matt Schaub out for the season, Tennessee has a golden opportunity to get back into the divisional race if it can string some wins together. On the other side, the Bucs continue to fall further behind the Saints and Falcons in the NFC South. In some respects, this might as well be an elimination game for these two teams (although more so for the Bucs).

Cardinals @ Rams, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney’s jobs seem safe for now in St. Louis. But any more displays like last Sunday and the Rams could be searching for a new head coach and/or general manager this offseason. Sam Bradford and Co. were pitiful on offense in their 24-7 loss to Seattle last weekend.

Browns @ Bengals, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Beware the letdown, Cincinnati. The Bengals are coming off consecutive hard-fought losses to the Steelers and Ravens, and have to play at Pittsburgh next Sunday. With the Browns rolling into town as a 9-point underdog, this smells like a trap game for the Bengals, who already beat the Browns in Cleveland in Week 1. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cincinnati gets caught sleepwalking this Sunday.

Bills @ Jets, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
Both of these teams are a complete mess right now. Buffalo looks done as a potential playoff contender and will likely be without star running back Fred Jackson this week. That’s not good news for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was completely flustered the last time he faced the Jets (and that was when Jackson was healthy). On the other side, Mark Sanchez is reportedly seeing fewer snaps in practice this week. He’s a quarterback playing with zero confidence right now and the Jets’ running game is no where to be found so things aren’t magically going to get better in New York. Maybe it is time to see if Mark Burrnell has anything left in the tank.

Panthers @ Colts, 1:00PM ET, Sunday
When I first saw the over/under for this game I was shocked that the total was 45.5. Forty-five and a half? Give me the under! That said, both of these defenses are a steaming pile of donkey dung and Cam Newton is liable to score seven touchdowns on his own. Even though the result of this game means nothing, this could be one of those wild, back-and-forth barnburners that could actually turn out to be pretty fun. (You know, if you generally like bad football and a lot of mistakes.)

Redskins @ Seahawks, 4:05PM ET, Sunday
This game wins my award for “Game in which I would be completely fine not seeing a single snap of.”

Bears @ Raiders, 4:05PM ET, Sunday
The Bears’ playoff hopes are in the hands of Mike Martz, not Caleb Hanie. Chicago has Matt Forte, Devin Hester and a physical, unrelenting defense that is capable of winning games on its own. But if Martz tries to run his offense as if Jay Cutler were still under center, then the Bears are going to die a very quick death. Hanie is too inexperienced for Martz to lean on.

Patriots @ Eagles, 4:15PM ET, Sunday
Just when I thought they were finished the Eagles manage to claw their way back into the spotlight. Vince Young could get the nod to start again if Michael Vick (who isn’t practicing due to a rib injury) can’t go. While he did throw two touchdown passes (including the eventual game-winner), Young was also picked off three times by the Giants last Sunday. He won’t be able to make those kinds of mistakes and hope that Philadelphia’s defense holds New England to only 10 points because its not going to happen. But if Young can rise to the challenge again, then the Eagles could jump right back into the NFC playoff picture with a win.

Broncos @ Chargers, 4:15PM ET, Sunday
Talk about no respect for Denver’s defense or the powers of one Timothy Tebow: the Broncos are 6.5-point underdogs against the Chargers, who have lost four in a row. It’s not hard to understand why people are still reluctant to believe in Tebow, who runs like a Mac truck but throws like an 83-year-old woman with arthritis. But have you seen Denver’s defense play lately? Plus, follow up question: Have you see Philip Rivers play lately? There’s no reason to believe the Broncos can’t march into San Diego this Sunday and pull off another upset.

Steelers @ Chiefs, 8:20PM ET, Sunday
You know, Tyler Palko actually moved the ball with some success against New England last Monday night; he just turned the ball over as soon as he got close enough to sniff the end zone. Kansas City’s defense also played very well despite receiving very little help from the offense. What does this all mean? Noting, really. The Steelers should be well rested coming off their bye and should shut down a struggling Chiefs offense. I just wanted to provide a little optimism for Kansas City.

Giants @ Saints, 8:30PM ET, Sunday
I fully believe that the Giants will beat the Saints on Monday night. Do you know why? They’re not supposed to. And whenever Tom Coughlin’s team is not supposed to win, it turns in its finest performance of the season. See their work as a 9-point underdog against the Eagles in Week 2 or their upset over the Patriots in New England three weeks ago. Conversely, whenever this team is supposed to win handedly (vs. Seahawks, vs. Dolphins, vs. Eagles last week), they monkey-f#%k around for three hours. So yeah, Giants 27, Saints 24.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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