The big story of Week 12 is what could be the final regular season Brady vs. (Peyton) Manning showdown. Thanks to the greatness that is the NFL flex schedule, a national audience will be able to catch that one live. Elsewhere around the league, a handful of teams will continue to compete for one AFC Wild Card berth.
Trust me when I say that's not because the conference is so competitive.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
There's something to be said for both teams being on a short week, and also for Atlanta wanting to play the spoiler role against a division opponent. There have, however, been no signs that the Falcons are on the cusp of turning 2013 into at least a respectable campaign. They were blown out by the Bucs last week.
Yes. The Bucs.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
Cleveland's best weapon heading into this pivotal contest is shutdown corner Joe Haden. Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown is having a pretty good season, but A.J Green or Megatron he is not. Haden having another solid outing could force the Steelers to try to win via what has been an unimpressive run game. Unless Jason Campbell is more banged up than he has let on, a possibility, I expect the Browns to win what should be a nervy contest.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
Somebody break up Tampa Bay! The Buccaneers have won two straight, and they seemingly have a real weapon in RB Bobby Rainey. I'd be more likely to go with the upset pick had the Lions not completely flopped in the second half of their game at Pittsburgh. Detroit has followed every defeat with a win in 2013. That trend continues.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
Scott Tolzien isn't Aaron Rodgers. Nobody is denying that. Minnesota is allowing over 280 passing yards per game this season, and the Vikes haven't yet won away from home this season. An adequate Tolzien should be able to get the job done.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
I was burned by the Chargers when they traveled to Washington, and I didn't learn my lesson before last Sunday. A disheartening loss at Miami convinced me that San Diego is far from super this fall. KC is looking for revenge following that first defeat of the season, and the Chiefs feel like they have something to prove. I think this one could get ugly.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams
This is one of those occasions where I think the Bye actually hurts a team. St. Louis has had an extra week to dwell on that 38-8 win at Indianapolis, a result that will prove to be the team's highlight of the season. The biggest worry about the Bears is that they routinely flirt with disaster late in games. I also don't love that Josh McCown realizes that this could be his last chance to impress Chicago and other teams before Jay Cutler returns. It's with little confidence that I'm going with the visitors.
2013 Week 12 NFL picks: Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
Logic indicates that the Carolina defense will dominate the makeshift Miami offensive line. I see this as a trap game for the Panthers, a team coming off of a massive prime time victory. Miami remains a side I cannot read. Is the locker room on the brink of a total collapse? Are those players more united than ever before? The Dolphins have shown me up every time I've started to count them out. I'm not willing to risk it.