By Tim Monk (@Tim_MonkF10Y)
The business end of the season is here and the games get more important as the weeks go by. That is even the case for Bengals, Dolphins and Redskins fans as they are on the edge of their seats hoping their teams continue to lose so they don’t have to stay up as long come draft night.
For (pretty much) everyone else, your teams will still be vying for January football and we have some great matchups including Dallas, New England, Green Bay, San Francisco, Baltimore and the LA Rams. So let’s see what’s on the menu for week 12.
AFC South Battle
Thursday Night Football sees one of the games that hold the most importance.
The Colts and Texans get it on in Houston in the first game of week 12 and the Colts must win otherwise the Texans will have a game lead in the division but also the tiebreaker, thus essentially giving them a 2 game lead with just 6 games remaining.
The Colts will be hoping that star wideout T.Y. Hilton can check in to the game after missing the past few weeks with a calf problem whilst the Texans will be hoping the epitome of boom or bust Will Fuller can return from a hamstring niggle.
Expect both teams to leave it all out on the field and let’s all hope that Quenton Nelson gets a legitimate touchdown this week!
The Hippy Hippy Shakes
Dak and his pre match warmup routine head over to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro for a tasty match in the late window (why are there only 2 games on the late slate btw?!?)
Many are trying to nudge Dak into the MVP conversation considering how he has overcome the average defence, inconsistent run game and Jason Garrett captaining the ship.
The Cowboys are in focus over the next 5 weeks, either being in primetime or on America’s game of the week so we’ll get a real good look at his credentials to take the end of season award.
His toughest matchup to date awaits him though and will be fascinating what weapon Bill Belichick tries to take away from the no.1 ranked offence in the league. It will also be fascinating to see if Garrett and Kellen Moore try to utilize Dak’s legs a bit more in this one.
Dallas need the win to stay 1 ahead of the Eagles, whilst the Patriots need the win to cling on to the coveted #1 seed in the AFC.
We don’t need to go back in to detail about what happened on TNF last week. That being said, it will be intriguing to see the Browns response to the adversity.
Freddy Kitchens, Baker Mayfield and the Browns have endured a lot of criticism this season for a varying reasons, and rightly so, but that can all dissipate if they can make a run (with a favourable schedule) at the playoffs which starts this week at home to the maybe tanking Dolphins.
Can Baker put a marker down and take the situation by the scruff of the neck and become the leader that the Browns need him to be, or will the Browns continue to be plagued by their continuing allegiance to underachieving?
Do the 49ers Pack a punch?
Whenever you think of this matchup in recent times, you think of the playoff game between these two in 2012 where Colin Kaepernick ripped the Packers to shreds and the Fox commentators got rather excited about it.
No Kaepernick in this game, despite his efforts, but there is the small matter of the #1 seed potentially up for grabs in this one on Sunday Night Football.
Jimmy Garoppolo, fresh off his career day last week vs the Cardinals, travels to Wisconsin to face Aaron Rodgers and the Packers fresh off their bye week in one of the games of the week. If the Garoppolo and the 49ers are able to take the W here, it will answer a lot of critics that they still have chomping at their ankles, despite their record.
A loss coupled with a Seahawks win however, could actually see the 49ers drop to the #5 seed. Fine margins, high stakes, all reasons we love late season football.
battle of the birds
Talking of the Seahawks, in another fascinating battle on Sunday, the Eagles host the Seattle who are coming off a bye in the battle of the birds. Whilst there are many birds in the NFL, these two predators will be looking for easy prey on the football field.
Carson Wentz has not been able to show his MVP capabilities much this season, but this matchup poses a chance to get the better of a beatable defence that ranks bottom 5 against the pass in terms of yardage and a defensive line that averages only 1.5 sacks and 3 Quarterback hurries per game.
On the other side, the masterful Russell Wilson was eclipsed by Lamar Jackson in his bye week with regards to MVP consideration, maybe he’ll came and remind everyone not to forget about old Russ.
This game like another few this week, has implications for both divisions and the wildcard race so there is a lot on the line here for both teams.
Late Slate isn’t great, mate
What is up with the scheduling this year?
This Sunday sees just 2 games in the late window. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time that the Sunday scheduling has seen the entertainment become very front heavy.
For those in the UK that do not have Sky Sports, the late window sees us being treated to an absolute classic between…the Titans and Jags.
The Eagles/Seahawks game was flex out of Primetime to the early games. Why?
Seattle are a mainstay in the late slate for the majority of their home games being on the west coast, so what’s changed?
The one saving grace is that you’ll still be able to watch the majority of the Patriots/Cowboys game on RedZone because there’ll be no highlights to show in the Titans game in the late slate, so there is that I suppose. Scott Hanson will be working hard to find the content filler, that’s for sure.
The Lamar Jackson hype train steam rolls into the Los Angeles Coliseum on Monday Night Football.
Massive game for obvious reasons, but it can’t be understated how much more it means for the Rams. Loss here coupled with a possible SF and/or Seattle wins, could see them be cut too far adrift from the others in the wildcard race.
Just 10 months removed from the biggest game of them all, the Rams may even not have the chance of trying to get there once again, with questions being asked of McVay and his team. Funny how the NFL landscape changes so quickly.