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Many Tough Calls as NFL Enters Crucial Stretch Run

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Nov 25, 2023

As the 2022 NFL season enters its crucial home stretch, Week 12 presents many tough games to pick with major playoff implications on the line across the league. Several key divisional battles and conference showdowns could determine who keeps pace in the playoff hunt and who falls behind.

Fierce Battles Expected in Stacked NFC East and North

The NFC East features a Sunday night primetime matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, pitting two bitter rivals against each other with the division title race hanging in the balance. The Giants are riding high after a big win over the Lions, but the Cowboys will be hungry to bounce back from their blowout loss to the Vikings [1]. This game could come down to the final possession.

In the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings put their 8-2 record on the line against the 9-2 Eagles in a showdown between two of the NFL’s top Super Bowl contenders [2]. The Eagles will be fired up after narrowly losing to the Commanders on Monday night, while the Vikings aim to prove this year is different than past late-season collapses. This game could have major playoff seeding implications in the NFC.

Matchup Spread Pick
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants DAL -6.5 Cowboys
Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles PHI -7 Eagles

Surging 49ers Look to Bury Reeling Saints

The San Francisco 49ers have won four straight games and seem to be gelling at just the right time, with newly acquired superstar Christian McCaffrey adding another dimension to their offense [3]. They’ll take on a struggling New Orleans Saints team that just lost at home to the Rams and seems headed for major offseason changes. The 49ers are expected to roll on the road behind their suffocating defense and diverse rushing attack in this potential playoff preview [4].

Matchup Spread Pick
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints SF -9.5 49ers

Injuries Impact Games Across AFC Playoff Picture

The AFC playoff picture remains muddled, with injuries to key players further complicating Week 12 picks. Star quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are questionable, leaving their teams and fans anxious about their status [5]. Jackson’s ankle injury puts the Ravens in a tough spot against the Jaguars, while Watson aims to build off his impressive return last week against his former Texans squad [6]. The current AFC frontrunners like Kansas City and Buffalo face what seem like easy matchups on paper, but both teams have shown unexpected vulnerabilities this season.

With so many close games that could tilt the playoff picture and sky-high stakes, Week 12 presents some of the NFL season’s toughest calls. Browns QB Jacoby Brissett summed up the week best: "It’s crunch time now as we head toward December football. The intensity picks up as teams fight for their playoff lives. Every play matters." [7] After this Sunday’s action, some teams will emerge with new life while others may see their dreams dashed.

Other Notable Week 12 Matchups

While the above games have commanded national attention, several other intriguing matchups fill out the Week 12 slate:

Steelers vs Bengals: These bitter AFC North rivals meet again in a pivotal game for both teams’ playoff hopes. Cincinnati is favored at home but may be without star receiver Ja’Marr Chase again. Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled mightily but their defense maintains an edge. This old-school rivalry could come down to gritty defense and rushing attacks [8].

Raiders vs Seahawks: Two of the league’s most surprising teams clash as the 6-4 Raiders visit the agressing Seahawks. Seattle QB Geno Smith continues his incredible comeback season, but Las Vegas has shown impressive road toughness. Expect big passing numbers in a potential shootout [9].

Falcons vs Commanders: After falling short against the Bears in Week 11, the Falcons get another shot to add to their unlikely playoff push against Carson Wentz and the Commanders. But Ron Rivera’s squad is also fighting to stay in the muddled NFC wild card race. This game could ultimately determine who remains on the postseason fringe [10].

While plenty of eyes will be focused on the usual heavyweight matchups, these under-the-radar games have sleeper potential to produce unexpected results that shake up the playoff races even further as the calendar flips to December next week.

Looming Showdowns on Horizon

As much as Week 12 offers some tantalizing matchups, several big games still loom large on the schedule after Thanksgiving weekend. In Week 13, the Bills and Patriots will meet on Thursday night for a game that could decide the AFC East. Other late-season contests like Chiefs-Broncos, Dolphins-49ers, Titans-Eagles and more seem destined to have major playoff implications [11].

But as veteran players caution, every team needs to stay focused one week at a time. Titans running back Derrick Henry summarized this prevailing mindset: "We can’t get caught looking ahead or worrying about other teams. The key is going 1-0 each week and controlling what we can control. If we handle our business each Sunday, the big games will work themselves out" [12].

This disciplined approach has defined winning cultures across the NFL season after season. So while fans and media alike buzz about potential playoff and Super Bowl matchups, players dutifully fix their eyes on executing each upcoming 60-minute battle. The coach speeches and salty veterans undoubtedly will reinforce this mantra across locker rooms heading into Week 12 action.

Final Thoughts and Predictions

As the 2022 calendar winds down, the NFL enters the most exciting and influential stretch of its season after Thanksgiving. With so much uncertainty and teams balancing injuries, rookie growth, trades and other dynamics, predicting outcomes becomes incredibly challenging. Records and past matchups can often prove deceiving.

But based on the above analysis, here are some final predictions for Week 12:

  • The NFC East scene will only get messier after key Cowboys and Giants wins
  • The NFC playoff picture may crystallize after statement wins from the Eagles and 49ers
  • AFC South rivals Tennessee and Cincinnati will strengthen their division leads behind Derrick Henry and Joe Burrow
  • Justin Fields wills the Bears to an ugly upset win over the Jets
  • Aaron Rodgers and the Packers narrowly avoid a disastrous loss to the Patriots

As the mathematical elimination scenarios start taking shape, the emotion heightens across the league. Buckle up for a wild Week 12 slate filled with upsets, injuries and season-altering results. This is when legends are made as the NFL’s "crunch time" arrives.

Sources

[1] Bleacher Report Expert Week 12 NFL Picks
[2] NFL Week 12: Vikings-Eagles Showdown
[3] McCaffrey Sparks Surging 49ers
[4] 49ers Primed to Bury Reeling Saints
[5] Injuries Shake Up AFC Playoff Picture
[6] Watson Faces Former Texans Team
[7] Every Play Matters Now
[8] Steelers-Bengals Playoff Implications
[9] Raiders Bring Road Toughness to Seattle
[10] Commanders Try to Keep Pace
[11] Huge Games Still Loom Large
[12] Titans Back Derrick Henry

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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