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NFL Week 12: 5 Bold Predictions

Sam Spiegelman breaks down the five biggest NFL Week 12 games and offers a bold prediction for each.

Marshawn Lynch

On Thursday night, the Oakland Raiders earned their first victory of the 2014 season by upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs, shaking up the AFC West and AFC Wild Card race a bit.

That was the start of Week 12, but there are many more NFL games on the slate this Sunday and two on Monday night.

XN Sports will take a look at five marquee matchups, providing you with some insight and one bold prediction. Last week was rough, as Seattle and Indy both came up short in our picks column. But we predicted the Packers-Eagles would surely break the over-under of 55, and Aaron Rodgers nearly took care of that himself. He didn’t quite throw six touchdowns as we assumed he would, but he made it halfway there.

Onto Week 12 …

Cleveland Browns @ Atlanta Falcons

Who would’ve thought the Browns-Falcons matchup would have so much at stake at this juncture in the season? The upstart Browns, who Week 10 shellacked Cincinnati, followed up arguably their best performance of the season with a 23-7 stinker against Ryan Mallett in his first start for the Texans. The loss dropped the Browns out of first place in the AFC North and into a fourth-place tie with Baltimore. Brian Hoyer threw for 330 yards — a season-high — but managed one touchdown and one interception while completing a season-low 40 percent of his pass attempts.

The Falcons at 4-6 sit atop the NFC South standings, giving credence to just how awful of a division it is. The Falcons have managed to rip off two wins in a row, albeit against their divisional foes Carolina and Tampa Bay. The difference for Atlanta has been the turnover battle. The Falcons have turned it over once in the past two games while forcing five. In contrast, the offense turned it over 14 turnovers through the first eight weeks of the season.

Bold prediction: Can Atlanta push their win streak to three games and continue their hold on the NFC South? Somebody has to win the division, right? Well, logic is out the door when it comes to these Falcons and this division, so it has be the Browns bouncing back, which is on par with how their season has gone to this point. Josh Gordon makes his season debut, and while he won’t be out for there for every offensive snap, he’s a nightmare for this horrid Atlanta secondary. Gordon finds the end zone at least once as the Browns remain in the AFC Wild Card hunt.

Detroit Lions @ New England Patriots

Detroit suffered its third loss of the season as it came up short against the NFL-leading Cardinals last week, and now the team is in a first-place tie with the Packers in the competitive NFC North. Detroit’s resurgent defense has helped the team earn a 3-2 mark on the road. Reggie Bush is expected to make his return to the lineup, and Calvin Johnson received treatment on his elbow, also making him a go for Sunday.

The red-hot Patriots have reeled off six straight wins since their early season loss to Kansas City, conquering the likes of Cincinnati, Denver, and Indianapolis — all current division leaders — during that span. Tom Brady, who has resurfaced as an MVP favorite, is a perfect 5-0 at Foxborough on the year. The Patriots offense has averaged 40.5 points while the defense has surrendered 21.3 points during the win streak, which includes two top-five offenses in the Colts and Broncos.

Bold prediction: There’s nothing bold about continuing to pick the Patriots, because as of right now they’ve proven to be the class of the AFC.  The Lions have been exposed in their three losses, turning it over six times in their losses compared to seven in their seven wins. New England has forced 19 turnovers this season, tied for sixth-most in the NFL. Matthew Stafford playing in the cold against one of the top defenses in the league — lock him up for three turnovers in the loss.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks

It’s possible that Arizona can lock up the NFC West before Thanksgiving. Even the most optimistic Cardinals fan could not have imagined 2014 going that well. Whether it’s Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton under center, it doesn’t matter. The NFL-leading Cardinals have reeled off six wins a row, but face their toughest task to date by heading up to the Pacific Northwest to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. Last season, the Cardinals were the only team to defeat the Seahawks in Seattle, winning 17-10 on Dec. 22 as Palmer put four picks in the rear-view mirror then connected with Michael Floyd for a touchdown with 2:13 remaining in the game.

This isn’t the same Seahawks club from a year ago, evident by their loss to Kansas City last week, which dropped the team to 6-4 and into a second-place tie with the 49ers in the NFC West. Still, the home-field advantage exists, as Seattle is 4-1 playing at CenturyLink Field. Thanks to a heavy dosage of Marshawn Lynch of late, Seattle has ascended to the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL, averaging more than 174 yards on the ground per game. Despite all of the hoopla about the declining defense, it still ranks third against the pass and seventh against the run.

Bold prediction: The Cardinals have been the superior team all season long, and it seems like no matter who Bruce Arians trots out at quarterback the team finds a way to win. Arizona can get after the quarterback as good as any defense in the league, which doesn’t bode well for Russell Wilson, whose leading the 30th-ranked pass offense. However, stats are one thing; the heart of a champion is another. The Seahawks won’t fall out of the playoff picture just yet, and in a game that features one offensive touchdown and a combined score of under 15, the home team squeaks by.

Miami Dolphins @ Denver Broncos

Miami has won four of its last five games, and has had 10 days to prepare for their trip to Denver in a game that surely has postseason ramifications on the line. The Dolphins own the No. 2-ranked defense in the NFL with 30.0 sacks on the year, good for fourth-best in the league. However, the road has not been a kind place for this team. The Dolphins are 3-2 away from South Florida, with their wins coming at Oakland, Chicago, and Jacksonville. Mile High is a vastly different environment they’ll have to contend in.

The Broncos have dropped two of their last three games, all of which were on the road. The last loss — to St. Louis — may have been the most costly. Montee Ball joins Ronnie Hillman on the sidelines, leaving C.J. Anderson to handle backfield duties. The Broncos have lacked an adequate running game for most of the season, and now a third-stringer is in line for the start. As of Thursday, neither Emmanuel Sanders nor Julius Thomas were practicing. Sanders suffered a concussion last week while Thomas is dealing with an ankle injury.

Bold prediction: It’s a lofty task for Miami to come into Denver and take down the Broncos, even if they are without the help of Sanders and possibly Thomas. The Dolphins’ defense is among the best in the league, though, and is a defense that travels well. The Dolphins’ pass rush, also among tops in the league, has a matchup advantage with the Broncos’ patchwork offensive line. But Peyton Manning is as aware of that as I am, so you’d think the future Hall of Famer has a game plan in mind on how to counteract it. Whether Anderson can find a way to spark the running game or Manning can take advantage of his other targets like Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and rookie Cody Latimer remains to be seen. But if the Dolphins want to be in the playoffs as a Wild Card, they need to learn how to win on the road. Too many injuries, too many backups, two losses in a row for Denver.

Baltimore Ravens @ New Orleans Saints

This is essentially a must-win for both Baltimore and New Orleans on Monday night. The Ravens are tied with Cleveland for last place in the AFC North, trailing Pittsburgh and Kansas City for a Wild Card spot. Still, there are some that believe the Ravens are the best team in the AFC North. That would be easier to believe if they hadn’t lost two of their past three games, which included games against those Bengals and Steelers ahead of them in the standings.

The Saints have lost two in a row, and surprisingly both in the friendly confines of the Superdome. In comes Baltimore, a team Drew Brees is 0-3 against in his NFL career. The loss to Cincinnati hurt more than just the team’s spot in the standings. Rookie wideout Brandin Cooks is out and the injuries are piling up for the Saints. Offensive line play has lacked in recent weeks, while this defense has been as inconsistent as any in the league.

Bold prediction: The Ravens are supposedly the best team in the AFC North, but they’re a mere 2-3 in division play. To me, that’s the obvious tell that they’re just not as good they’ve looked at times this season. The Saints have dropped two in a row playing subpar football, yet because of how weak the NFC South is, they still need to be considered the favorites to lock up the division. It’s unheard of for Who Dat Nation to lose not one, not two, but three straight games on their home field. Brees has beaten every other team in the NFL at least once, and he’ll finally conquer his demons and get past the Ravens in primetime. It’ll have to take Brees’ best performance of the season, however, to get the job done.

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