Four Games with Playoff Implications in Week 12
Atlanta Falcons (9-1) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-4)
The Falcons barely escaped with a win last week against the Cardinals; in that game, the Falcons turned the ball over six times. Matt Ryan threw five interceptions to one of the league’s best pass defenses but this week the Bucs are still last in pass defense. Ryan should have an easier time against the Bucs but only if the Falcons can establish a strong running game against the Bucs stout run defense. The Falcons did struggle last week but some of those turnovers were fluke plays that just happened to go the Cardinals’ way. The Bucs are still fighting for one of the wildcard playoff spots. The Bucs will need another strong performance by Freeman and Jackson again this week. If Doug Martin can give the Bucs a 100 yard game, I expect this game to go down to the 4th quarter. The key to this game will be turnovers. If the Bucs can create some turnovers on their home field, they can pull off a win. But Ryan will be focused on curbing those mistakes going into this game.
Prediction: Falcons 24-20
Minnesota Vikings (6-4) vs. Chicago Bears (7-3)
The Bears have fallen as the NFC North division leader by losing two straight games. The Bears have struggled with the loss of their starting Quarterback, Jay Cutler. If Cutler does not play on Sunday, the Bears could miss the playoffs. The Vikings are one of four teams fighting for a wildcard playoff spot. The Vikings will have an opportunity to move into second place in the NFC North with a win on Sunday. The Vikings will need a big performance by their Quarterback, Christian Ponder to have a chance to win. Adrian Peterson leads the league in rushing and will be challenged by the Bears’ defense. If Peterson can break the 100 yard mark against this defense and Ponder can manage the game, the Vikings can win a big road game this Sunday. But if Cutler can play on Sunday, it changes the whole dynamic of this game. The Bears know how important this game is to their season and that will carry them against this emerging Vikings team.
Prediction: Bears 16-13
San Francisco 46ers (7-2-1) vs. New Orleans Saints (5-5)
The Saints are on a three game winning streak, thanks largely to their passing game. Drew Brees has led the Saints back to .500 and the Saints have a chance to fight for one of the wildcard playoff spots. But the 49ers are standing in their way achieving that goal. The 49ers will start Kaepernick at Quarterback again this week and this road game will be a true test of his development. The Saints will try to upstage the young Quarterback in their push for a playoff spot but the 49ers defense will be ready for their best attempt. The 49ers dominated the whole game against the Bears last week and they will try to do much of the same against the Saints. The Saints need this victory to stay alive in the playoff hunt but the 49ers have plenty to play for too. The 49ers are trying to lock up home field advantage in the second round of the playoffs. The 49ers defense will be too strong against this incredible arsenal of talent.
Prediction: 49ers 28-24
Green Bay Packers (7-3) vs. New York Giants (6-4)
This matchup has become one of the best in the NFC. The Giants have gotten the best of the Packers twice in the playoffs. The Packers have lost twice at home to the Giants, during the playoffs, in the last five years. The Packers know how important this game is to their season and to the rivalry. The Giants have lost two straight games and the Packers have won five straight games. The Packers are playing to put more distance between themselves and the Bears in the NFC North standings. But the Giants need this win so they can stay on top of the NFC East division. Both teams know the importance of this game and they will be prepared for a battle. The difference of this game will be the Giants’ defense slowing down this incredible passing offense. Rodgers is clicking with his talented wide receiver corps and Greg Jennings might rejoin the team this week. The Giants’ best chance of winning this game will be putting pressure on Rodgers. But if Rodgers has time to find the open receiver, it will be a long game for the Giants. Packers: 35-28
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