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Week 12 NFL Preview: Be Thankful For Meaningful Football

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins
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It’s about to get real in the NFL this week. Here’s a preview of what to expect in Week 12 of the 2016 season:

Thursday, November 24

There Are 3 Potentially Great Thanksgiving Games

NFL Week 12 Preview 2016

Minnesota at Detroit | Ford Field, Detroit; 12:30 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Washington at Dallas | AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.; 4:30 p.m. (ET) on FOX
Pittsburgh at Indianapolis | Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Football has dominated America’s Thanksgiving Day schedule for decades, but the NFL’s games haven’t always been worth taking time away from stuffing your face full of turkey and pumpkin pie. This year, they should be.

This year’s three-course meal of gridiron goodness starts with traditional Thanksgiving Day football hosts Detroit (6-4) facing Minnesota (6-4) in a battle for control of the NFC North. The Lions have won two in a row, including a 22-16 win over the Vikings on Nov. 6. Minnesota should have beaten Detroit in that game, but (now former) kicker Blair Walsh missed a PAT and had a field goal blocked. The Vikings will find winning at Ford Field challenging, especially if they don’t get pressure on Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford.

After the early appetizer, the NFL’s main Thanksgiving Day course features Dallas (9-1) hosting Washington (6–3-1) in the latest chapter of a longstanding rivalry that hasn’t been very relevant lately. It is this year. The Cowboys started their current nine-game win streak by beating the Redskins 27-23 in Week 2. Dallas grows more confident under rookie quarterback Dak Prescott each week, but they live off of their powerful offensive line and the stellar running of NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott. Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins will need a big game to offset the tempo-controlling Cowboys’ offense.

The NFL’s big day of football wraps up with Indianapolis (5-5) hosting Pittsburgh (5-5) in a game between AFC teams that need wins to stay in line for playoff contention. The Colts could be without quarterback Andrew Luck, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s 24-17 win over the Titans. If Luck can’t go, inexperienced Scott Tolzien will start at QB for Indy. As bad as that sounds, the Colts bigger concern will be how their 30th-ranked defense handles the Steelers high flying passing attack led by Ben Roethlisberger.

Sunday, November 27

The Bengals & Ravens Both Need To Win
Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens
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Cincinnati at Baltimore | M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
The AFC North is a middling mess. No team has a winning record and the mediocre Steelers and Ravens are tied for the division lead at 5-5. Even the underwhelming Bengals aren’t out of contention (the abominable Browns are, though).

Cincinnati (3-6-1) must win at Baltimore (5-5) this week to climb back into the AFC North race. With running back Giovani Bernard (knee) and receiver A.J. Green (hamstring) both out with injuries, quarterback Andy Dalton will have to find another way to move the ball on the Ravens’ defense — the NFL’s second-ranked unit. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will have to take time away from his slow-motion transformation into Adam Levine and get the Ravens offense going against the inconsistent Cincy D. Flacco ranks 28th in QB rating, meaning that he’s been marooning five (or more) receivers downfield way too often (sorry).

The Chiefs-Broncos Game Is Pivotal For The AFC West
Kansas City Chiefs v Denver Broncos
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Kansas City at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC
After the Raiders come-from-behind win over the Texans on Monday night, both the Chiefs and the Broncos find themselves behind the Silver and Black in the AFC West standings for the first time in what seems like ages. Kansas City (7-3) travels to Denver (7-3) this week in a pivotal game for both the division and the conference playoff pictures.

If the Broncos are to win the AFC West for the sixth consecutive year, they’ll have to get their running game going against the Chiefs. If Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian has to throw often against the NFL leaders in takeaways, the results could be disastrous. Speaking of terrible results, have you seen the Kansas City offense? It’s awful. If Chiefs running back Spencer Ware isn’t able to move the ball against the NFL’s 29th-ranked run defense, this game could come down to a battle of field goals in the thin mountain air.

Monday, November 28

Eagles-Packers Could Be An Elimination Game
Green Bay Packers v Washington Redskins
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Green Bay at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN
This is what the final six weeks of the NFL season should offer: must-win games between teams jockeying for a playoff spot. It’s unlikely that the Packers or Eagles will win the title of their respective divisions, however both teams are still very much alive in the NFC Wild Card hunt.

Philadelphia (5-5) should be able to do more offensively against Green Bay (4-6) than they did in last Sunday’s loss to Seattle, especially at home where the Eagles have yet to lose a game this season. Losers of five of six games, the Packers must protect Aaron Rodgers from Philly’s seventh-ranked pass rush if they want to stay in the playoff chase.

Other Games

Sunday, November 27
Tennessee at Chicago | Soldier Field, Chicago; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Jacksonville at Buffalo | New Era Field, Buffalo; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Arizona at Atlanta | Georgia Dome, Atlanta; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
N.Y. Giants at Cleveland | FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
San Francisco at Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
San Diego at Houston | NRG Stadium, Houston; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Los Angeles at New Orleans | Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans; 1 p.m. (ET) on FOX
Seattle at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on FOX
New England at N.Y. Jets | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Carolina at Oakland | Oakland Coliseum, Oakland; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

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