By: Michael Dugger follow in Twitter @Dugger_Sports
Welcome to the Week 12 NFL Preview Worksheet! I will be giving my thoughts on every game this week as well as some fantasy matchup advice for your season-long and daily teams. Odds taken fromhttp://www.footballlocks.com/nfl_odds.shtml.
Last week’s record- 7–5–1. Overall record- 47–29–3
Minnesota @ Detroit (-2.5), Thursday 12:30 ET
The two teams locked in a stalemate atop the NFC North kick off Thanksgiving football weekend with first-place on the line. The Vikings snapped their 4-game losing streak behind 2 defense and special teams’ touchdowns, but the issues on the offensive side of the ball remain intact. The ground game is non-existent and the offensive line can’t be trusted to provide consistent time for Sam Bradford. The defense can carry them against turnover-prone offenses, which is not the case when they take Matthew Stafford and Co. The Lions beat Minnesota in Week 9, 22–16, with Stafford leading a last second drive to force OT before finding Golden Tate for the game-winning score. Detroit is the most complete team in the division and also the healthiest, so expect them to create separation in the standings in the coming weeks. Lions take down Minnesota and improve to 6–1 in their last 7 games, 27–20.
Washington @ Dallas (-7), Thursday 4:30 ET
Thanksgiving’s marquee contest takes us to Dallas where Washington looks to halt to the Cowboys’ 9 game winning streak. These are two top-10 offenses that are predicated on establishing the run with powerful o-lines. Kirk Cousins threw for 3 touchdowns and Rob Kelley plunged in 3 of his own as Washington embarrassed Green Bay 42–24 on Sunday night. The newly found run game dominance is making life easier for Cousins who enjoys consistent single-coverage for his receiving corps. to exploit. If Josh Norman successfully shadows Cowboys’ wideout Dez Bryant, the Native Americans have a chance to pull off the upset. But slowing down Dez doesn’t mean the offense Dallas’ offense will be as well. Dak Prescott doesn’t force the ball to Bryant like his predecessor enjoyed doing, and will happily throw to whoever’s open. Prescott won’t be forced into action much this week because Ezekiel Elliot has the team’s best matchup offensively this week. Washington is horrendous against the run and Zeke is in line for a heavy workload. Dallas controls the 2nd half with the ground game and slowly pulls away from Washington, 34–27.
Pittsburgh (-6) @ Indianapolis, Thursday 8:30 ET
An exciting matchup with massive playoff implications has lost luster following Andrew Luck’s likely absence with a concussion. Pittsburgh controls their destiny in the AFC North race and should have no trouble putting Indy away early. Ben Roethlisberger and this offense can disappear whoever’s open. at times during road games, but this game is set-up for a patented Steeler outburst. The Colts’ season rests on the health of Luck. If he can return next week Indy has the firepower to catch Houston in the AFC South. This game won’t be close, though. Scott Tolzien can’t keep up with Big Ben, so a superhuman effort from Frank Gore is the only scenario where this game is competitive. Steelers win, 30–17.
San Diego @ Houston (-1), Sunday 1:00 ET
The Chargers are coming off a much-needed bye week and head to Houston after Phillip Rivers’ 4 interception 4th quarter in another collapse to Miami in Week 10. Rivers was at fault on this occasion, so expect a more efficient performance from the veteran gunslinger. Melvin Gordon is in line for another large volume of carries as Houston struggles to slow down strong running attacks. The Texans saw their ground game jolt back to life on Monday night when Lamar Miller exceeded 100 yards and found the endzone. Brock Osweiler should be able to replicate his surprisingly good performance in the friendly confides of NRG Stadium. I wouldn’t bet on this contest as both teams play inconsistent football, but I think San Diego will run the ball effectively and wear Houston’s defense out. Bolts win, 28–27.
Tennessee @ Chicago (-5), Sunday 1:00 ET
The Bears are in the midst of another lost season and face the easy decision of starting their rebuild process by ending the Jay Cutler era in Chicago after his latest injury. Matt Barkley takes over at quarterback, but the future signal caller is not on the current roster. Expect the front office to part ways with Cutler and his ludicrous contract. Tennessee have their franchise leader in Marcus Mariota who is in line for another successful outing against a below-average Bears’ defense. Mariota is developing at a rapid pace as he reaps the rewards of DeMarco Murray and their strong ground game. Murray failed to get going in last week’s loss, but picked up a receiving touchdown as he plays through an injured toe. The Titans can put pressure on Houston in the divisional race heading into their late-season bye with a win on Sunday. Tennessee wins big, 31–16.
Jacksonville @ Buffalo (-7), Sunday 1:00 ET
The Jaguars are abysmal offensively and have to evaluate the future of their quarterback position with Blake Bortles regressing this season. The talent is there to succeed, but Bortles’ erratic throwing weighs this offense down. Jacksonville needs a coaching change to influx a new culture where anything but winning is unacceptable. Buffalo is coming off a win in Cincinnati and are eyeing a late-season push to make the playoffs. The Bills ground game will be leaned on with Jacksonville having a top-5 defense against the pass. Tyrod Taylor will make plays with his feet and LeSean McCoy is in line for a big day if he is able to shake off the thumb injury that forced him to exit last week’s game. The defense is a top streaming option and will stifle the Jags’ offense. Bills march on, 27–13.
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-4.5), Sunday 1:00 ET
The Bengals seem on the verge of cleaning house starting with long-time head coach Marvin Lewis. They sit two games back in the AFC North, but the loss of AJ Green puts a damper on any hope of sneaking in to win the division. Toss in Gio Bernard’s torn ACL and this offense will struggle to move the ball in Baltimore. The Ravens played the Cowboys tough, but couldn’t capitalize on their opportunities to pull off the upset. They are tied atop the AFC North and are equipped with a defense that should smother a hampered Bengals’ offense. Joe Flacco could have a productive outing of his own as the ageless wonder Steve Smith Sr. continues to get open at an alarming rate. Cincy’s defense isn’t the powerhouse we’re accustomed to seeing, so the advantages on both sides of the ball reside with the Ravens. Baltimore bounces back and defeats Cincinnati, 23–17.
Arizona @ Atlanta (-4.5), Sunday 1:00 ET
The Cardinals are on a freefall to mediocrity at the moment. Their offensive line is one of the worst units in football and have allowed 31 sacks at this juncture of the season. Carson Palmer can’t connect with the deep throw that made him and this offense so effective last year. It remains to be seen if they can turn it around, but facing a Falcons team coming off a bye is no easy task. Atlanta leads the NFC South behind the powerful offense with Matt Ryanplaying his way into the MVP conversation. Ryan has a unique blend of playmakers beyond Julio Jones and takes what the defense gives him instead of force-feeding the ball to Julio. Arizona is number one against the pass based off lockdown corner Patrick Peterson’s ability to shadow the game’s top receivers. Jones and Peterson have been battling one another since their college matchups at Alabama and LSU, respectively. Julio torched his colleague for 189 yards in an Atlanta victory in 2014, with this game trending that way. Falcons defend home turf, 27–23.
San Francisco @ Miami (-7.5), Sunday 1:00 ET
Not much to discuss with this one. The 49ers are losers of 9 straight and are dead last in the run. Colin Kaepernick remains a strong streaming option, but they have one of the worst rosters in football. Miami, on the other hand, has won 5 in-a-row with Ryan Tannehill and Jay Ajayi leading a balanced attack on offense. Tannehill led two 4th quarter touchdown drives to leave Los Angeles with a victory after finding DeVante Parker in the endzone with 1:35 remaining. Ajayi’s emergence sparked the Dolphins’ turnaround, but if Parker continues to develop this offense will be special for years to come. The offensive line losing more key pieces is worrisome going forward and something to monitor closely. Regardless, Miami wins convincingly, 34–24.
Los Angeles @ New Orleans (-7), Sunday 1:00 ET
The Jared Goff era is underway after a 14–10 loss to Miami in his first career start. The Rams’ coaching staff kept things simple for the rookie and tried to get the ball out of his hands with quick, short throws. Hopefully a date with the Saints defense will allow Goff to take some shots down the field. New Orleans fell in Carolina last Thursday and need to take care of business on Sunday if they hope to stay relevant in the NFC South race. Drew Breesreturns to the Superdome with a tough matchup vs. a Rams’ defense ranked 6th against the pass. Brees and Co. are too strong at home though and will soundly defeat LA, 35–23.
NY Giants (-7) @ Cleveland, Sunday 1:00 ET
The Giants can’t afford a slip-up here. They’re staying within striking distance of Dallas and have no business keeping this game close. Eli Manning has a resurgent ground game at his disposal with a healthy Rashad Jenningsregaining his form from last year. Their defense is living up to their price tag, too. The defensive line dominates opponents and forces ill-advised throws for safety Landon Collins to intercept. If the running game stays consistent, the G-Men will be equipped to make a deep postseason run. The Browns fight hard, but they are over matched due to their inept roster. They are years away from competing for a playoff spot. Giants roll, 27–14.
Seattle (-5.5) @ Tampa Bay, Sunday 4:05 ET
The Seahawks are peaking at the right time once again. Russell Wilson has 8 total TDs with 0 turnovers in his last 3 games and faces a Tampa defense that lacks talent in the secondary to slow him down. Thomas Rawls returns as starting running back after upstart CJ Prosise fell victim to a shoulder injury. Rawls is an upgrade to the offense if he can run angry and powerful as he did on Sunday. Seattle is clicking offensively, but an injury to Earl Thomasderailed the momentum a near full-health defense had. Jameis Winston is waiting in the wings and just led his team to an impressive victory in Kansas City. Winston can exploit the injuries to Seattle’s secondary if his offensive line contains their oppositions’ speed pass rushers. This game will be high-scoring with the Legion of Boom feeling the impact of Thomas’ absence but the Bucs’ have no answer for Wilson. Hawks win, 34–28.
Carolina @ Oakland (-4), Sunday 4:25 ET
Last year’s Cinderella team meets this year’s version in the Bay Area on Sunday. Cam Newton has disappointed in the games he’s played, but this matchup bodes well for him. Oakland is horrid against the pass and Cam is due for a massive performance. The Panthers will attempt to control the clock and keep Oakland’s offense off the field. Derek Carr is fresh off a controversial, comeback win over Houston on Monday night and has the Raiders atop the AFC standings. The running game success was short-lived, but it won’t matter with Carr playing at an elite-level. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree will feast on a Panthers’ defense without the services of Luke Kuechly. I need to see more consistency out of Oakland’s defense to take them serious as a contender. A comfortable win over Carolina would help their case, but I think the altitude game in Mexico City combined with a shortened week of preparation will hinder them on Sunday. Cam goes off and the Panthers creep into playoff contention with a road win, 35–34.
New England (-8) @ NY Jets, Sunday 4:25 ET
Tom Brady doesn’t perform up to his standards against teams from New York. The Jets beat them in the Meadowlands last year, but Brady is on a warpath and Gang Green doesn’t possess the dominating defense they previously had. Expect an aerial assault on the Jets’ secondary. Ryan Fitzpatrick is back at the helm for New York. Nothing else needs to be said. Pats get to 9–2, 34–17.
Kansas City @ Denver (-3.5), Sunday 8:30 ET
The Chiefs’ offense is faltering and a trip to face Denver coming off a bye week isn’t the best thing to see on the schedule. Alex Smith is making mistakes that he hasn’t done in previous seasons as the injuries to Jeremy Maclin and Jamaal Charles appear to be catching up with the unit as a whole. The running game is inconsistent with Spencer Ware cooling off from his scorching start to the campaign. Their defense remains the backbone of the team, and is inching closer to full strength if Marcus Peters and Dee Ford are able to suit up. The Broncos are becoming an afterthought in the AFC West with the Raiders dominating headlines, but are as dangerous as ever behind their outstanding defense. The week off allowed some key pieces (Aqib Talib, Derek Wolfe) quality time to rest up for their divisional matchup. Trevor Siemian should be more comfortable as the full-time starter and needs to let his star receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders) make plays for him. I think they do as Denver rolls their rival, 27–17.
Green Bay @ Philadelphia (-3.5), Monday 8:30 ET
As great as Aaron Rodgers plays on a weekly basis, he will never be able to overcome the uselessness of the Packers’ defense. They’ve surrendered 89 points over the last two games, 120 over the last three, and a resounding 153 points over their last four. Rodgers is the greatest thrower of the football I’ve ever seen (forgive me, I never saw peak Marino and Elway), but his team can’t be trusted anymore. Carson Wentz is poised for a career night like everybody who throws on Green Bay. Wendell Smallwood is in line to start at tailback and will show why I think he is the best back on their roster. Fly Eagles Fly, 34–27.
Matchups to Target:
Jameis Winston- yes, he is playing Seattle, but they will be without two members of their Legion of Boom secondary including safety Earl Thomas.Winston has running back Doug Martin healthy to ease the pressure off the passing game, and this already proved costly in Tampa’s win in Kansas City. Expect a balanced attack for Tampa as Jaboo rolls to a multi-touchdown performance.
Carson Wentz- his group of wideouts is appalling, but the rookie gets the privilege of facing the Packers’ pass defense on Monday night. The Eagles are undefeated at home and Wentz will make sure that perfect record stays intact on his way to a great outing.
Eli Manning- he’s facing Cleveland. Not much else to say.
Matchups to Avoid:
Alex Smith- something seems off with Kansas City’s offense and Smith is a big reason for their recent struggles. Denver is no easy place to conquer, so avoid the Chiefs’ QB at all costs.
Andy Dalton- he has lost his top weapon and travels to face a top-5 defense in Baltimore. Dalton shouldn’t be trusted until we see if he can produce numbers without AJ Green.
Plug N’ Play:
Brock Osweiler- finally some positive remarks about the Houston QB. He plays well at home and could find his way into a shootout.
Jared Goff- I expect the offense to open up this week, and New Orleans is always susceptible to the pass game.
Matchups to Target:
Jay Ajayi- at home facing the worst run defense in football sounds like a recipe for success for Ajayi. The offensive line injuries are worrisome going forward, but the 49ers are awful enough where the injuries won’t impact his performance.
Frank Gore- it’s kind of odd that the oldest man on the Colts’ offense is also the only healthy one. Gore will be the focal point on Thanksgiving night and has a nice matchup against Pittsburgh. If anybody will score for Indy, the veteran tailback seems like the surest bet.
Jonathan Stewart- Oakland can’t contain the run game, and Carolina will go back to basics and pound the rock. Cam Newton is taking too many hits, so expect Stewart to shoulder the load in a great matchup.
Matchups to Avoid:
LeGarrette Blount- he will have his chances to score, but I think the Patriots spread the Jets out and attack them through the air. Blount’s volume makes him an every-week starter. I just think Sunday will be a no-show for him.
Jeremy Hill- he is the lead back now that Gio Bernard is out for the season, but a date with Baltimore won’t do him any favors. The Ravens contained Zeke Elliot a week ago and will lock in on stopping Hill. His lack of value in the passing game limits his PPR upside as well.
Plug N’ Play:
Wendell Smallwood- I’m a big believer in the Eagles running back and Green Bay offers a perfect opportunity to showcase his talent.
Benny Cunningham- the Rams’ 3rd down back is a favorite of the coaching staff. LA will be in a shootout so Cunningham provides some sneaky PPR value.
Matchups to Target:
Julian Edelman- nobody reaps the rewards of Rob Gronkowski’s injury like Edelman. His chemistry with Tom Brady is uncanny and the slot-receiver is coming off his two best outings of the season. Brady will get the ball out of his hands quickly vs. a great Jets defensive line with Edelman having a 3rd straight strong game.
Sterling Shepard- the Giants rookie has found the endzone in 3 straight games and faces a Cleveland defense that poses no threat to stop his streak. Shepard isn’t producing a great deal of yardage, but he’s the №2 wideout in a pass-happy offense so he will always find targets. Expect a solid outing for the rook.
Devante Parker- another personal favorite of mine is putting together his world-class ability for the first time in his short career. Parker finally has a role in a growing offense that will have a cakewalk afternoon against San Fran.
Matchups to Avoid:
DeAndre Hopkins- I don’t care who the Texans’ face, Osweiler and him are not on the same page. Hopkins was unlucky as a long touchdown was wrongfully ruled out, but he still failed to produce in a plus matchup vs. Oakland. The offense just doesn’t run through him anymore.
Donte Moncrief- no Andrew Luck, no way I trust Moncrief. Add in the questionable tag surrounding his status and owners would be wise to sit the Colts’ route runnter.
Plug N’ Play:
Marqise Lee- he has produced better numbers than people think, and is only 23 yards behind Allen Robinson despite 40 fewer targets. Lee will have another solid PPR showing.
Cecil Shorts- Jaboo will look his way early-and-often with Richard Shermanexpected to shadow Mike Evans. Shorts is a trusted set of hands, so don’t hesitate streaming him vs. Seattle.
Matchups to Target:
Zach Ertz- he found the endzone in Seattle and gets to run rampant on a maligned Packers’ defense. The Eagles elevate their play at home, so expect Ertz to see an uptick in targets and score once again.
Eric Ebron- the Lions’ tight end is becoming a security blanket for Matthew Stafford after working his way back to the lineup following an injury. Ebron put up a 7/92 stat line 3 weeks ago against Minnesota and figures to find room for success this time out against them. Throw in a rushing TD from last week and this player is on the rise.
Matchup to Avoid:
Martellus Bennett- it’s a strange correlation that his stats wane when he’s the lone starter at tight end, yet surge when he is joined by tight compatriot Rob Gronkowski. If this trend remains true, Bennett will enjoy another day of blocking for Brady and limited pass opportunities with Gronk being sidelines for Sunday’s contest with the Jets.
Plug N’ Play:
Vance McDonald- he is the 49ers best weapon in the pass game and has scored in 2 of the last 3 weeks. Colin Kaepernick loves to find his tight ends, so Gronk owners should look into streaming McDonald.
That’s all for this week. If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me or text me and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks for checking it out!