On paper, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Sunday than the one we’ve got on tap for Week 12 in the NFL.
Make sure you get all your pre-Thanksgiving shopping and errands done early this weekend, so you can plaster yourself to the couch Sunday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m. ET when a potential NFC playoff preview between the Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks kicks off the day. Then, in the 4 o’clock hour, we’ve got the Dallas Cowboys heading to Foxboro for a clash with the New England Patriots in a game that pits two preseason Super Bowl favorites against each other. Finally, the day ends in San Francisco, where the 49ers host the Green Bay Packers in a game that has massive home-field advantage implications for the playoffs.
As always, NESN.com’s Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are making their against-the-spread picks for those games and the rest of the slate.
Before their picks, here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 4-10 (79-80-3 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 8-6 (89-70-3)
Andre Khatchaturian: 8-6 (80-79-3)
Here are their Week 12 picks.
THURSDAY, NOV. 21
Indianapolis Colts at (-3.5) Houston Texans, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Colts. The Houston secondary, once again, has been decimated by injuries, and that’s happening just as T.Y. Hilton looks slated to return. Not great for the Texans.
Ricky: Colts. Take the points in a coin-flip divisional matchup on Thursday night. Indianapolis’ defense is peaking right now, with Justin Houston (at least one sack in his last six games) pacing the pass rush and Darius Leonard’s recent return (missed three games with a concussion) bolstering the team’s ability to stop the run.
Andre: Colts. Houston’s offensive line has been very inconsistent this season. They gave up six sacks on Sunday against Baltimore and now they’re on short rest against an Indy pass rush that got to Deshaun Watson three times in Week 7. Nine of Indy’s 10 games have also been decided by one score (including all of their losses).
SUNDAY, NOV. 24
Carolina Panthers at (-9.5) New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. It’s a lot of points for a divisional game, especially how tough Carolina has played the Saints the last two seasons. That being said, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray don’t run all over the Panthers’ woeful run defense.
Ricky: Saints. Feels like a lot of points. But then you remember New Orleans has one of the NFL’s best defenses, thriving against both the pass and the run, and Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen has been a disaster recently, committing 10 turnovers (nine interceptions, one fumble) in his last four games.
Andre: Saints. The Saints have allowed the fewest yards per catch to running backs this season (5.4). Carolina’s pass rush is great, but in five starts Drew Brees has only taken seven sacks. New Orleans has also only turned the ball over six times all year and the Panthers have a minus-6 turnover differential in the last two games.
Denver Broncos at (-4) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Here are the defensive DVOA rankings for the Bills’ seven wins: 11th, 16th, 27th, 28th, 30th and 32nd (twice). Their two losses? The Patriots (first) and Eagles (sixth). Denver is No. 9. Buffalo’s defense is legit, but don’t be surprised if the Broncos pull the upset.
Ricky: Broncos. We’re probably looking at a very low-scored game decided by a field goal, in which case it’s wise to take the points. The Bills’ defense has been shaky against the run (27th in DVOA), suggesting there’s actually a path to victory for the Broncos despite their limited offensive upside.
Andre: Bills. Buffalo allows just 6.2 yards per pass attempt and they’ve allowed the second-fewest passing TDs this year. Denver also has the third-worst average drive start and that’ll be a problem with Brandon Allen going up against the Bills’ defense.
(-3.5) Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. The Lions are close to becoming an automatic fade for me because the defense just isn’t good. Granted, neither is Washington’s, but I think the Redskins have a big day on the ground (Derrius Guice breakout game, perhaps?) and keep it close.
Ricky: Redskins. I’m actually picking the Redskins, huh? Yikes. Maybe Dwayne Haskins will go off. Or something.
Andre: Lions. Opposing quarterbacks have completed just 61 percent of passes against the Lions. Washington hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a game since Week 2. I don’t see that changing this week.
Miami Dolphins at (-10.5) Cleveland Browns, 1 p.m.
Mike: Browns. Just feels like a spot where the Browns act like true front-runners and beat up on a bad team.
Ricky: Browns. Don’t love laying this many points given the Browns’ knack for being dummies. But I also think this is a bad matchup for the Dolphins, who probably will receive plenty of public backing based on the perception of these two teams but ultimately get eaten alive by the running back combination of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Andre: Dolphins. Say what you want about the Dolphins, but they’re the most disciplined team in the NFL this season in terms of penalty yards against with just 444. The Browns have allowed the most penalty yards with 822.
New York Giants at (-6) Chicago Bears, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bears. The Giants really don’t do anything well other than turn the ball over with the second-most giveaways in the NFL this season. The Bears are poised to get a touchdown on defense or special teams in this game (they’ll need it), and that makes the difference.
Ricky: Giants. Just scoring six points tends to be a problem for Chicago’s offense these days.
Andre: Bears. The Bears allow the fourth-fewest yards per carry and Saquon Barkley is banged up and coming off his worst performance when he had 13 carries for just one yard against the Jets. Saquon will continue to struggle (if he plays) and turnover-happy Daniel Jones will be forced to throw the ball a ton against a stingy Bears’ D.
(-3) Oakland Raiders at New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jets. We’re on the wrong end of the line movement — Oakland opened -4.5 — but it’s an early start for the Raiders, who have struggled defensively at times this season, while the Jets are showing signs of life on offense with 5.3 yards per play over their last three games.
Ricky: Jets. Not sure Sam Darnold is the best quarterback in the AFC East right now. But he’s showing improvement. And that’s enough to side with the Jets here, as the Raiders are far worse on the road and typically don’t play well when making a cross-country trip.
Andre: Jets. Ever since Darnold saw ghosts against the Patriots, he’s thrown eight touchdowns with a 66 percent completion percentage in four games. Oakland allows 8.2 yards per pass attempt, the fourth-worst mark in the league. The Jets’ rush defense allows just three yards per carry, the lowest-mark in the league, so this could be a pass-heavy game for Derek Carr.
(-6.5) Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Steelers have a ton of injuries on the offensive side of the ball — most notably JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner — but the biggest loss this week could be center Maurkice Pouncey. If Cincy gets any sort of pressure up front, Mason Rudolph has proved this season he can’t handle it.
Ricky: Steelers. Feels like a square bet, but it’s hard to envision the Bengals doing much offensively. Only two teams have more giveaways than Cincinnati (20), whereas Pittsburgh has the second-most takeaways (26), trailing only New England (28).
Andre: Steelers. I don’t care how decimated the Steelers’ offense is, that defense is as good as anyone’s in the league. Since Week 4, they’ve allowed the fewest yards per play, while the Bengals are 30th in yards per play during that span.
Seattle Seahawks at (-1.5) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. We saw Philly’s pass rush fluster Tom Brady last week, and that unit likely will turn up the heat on Russell Wilson this week. Sure, Wilson is better vs. the rush than Brady, but the Eagles should have a much easier time moving the ball this week against Seattle. It could be an especially big day for Zach Ertz an Dallas Goedert with the Seahawks allowing the fifth-most yards per game to tight ends.
Ricky: Seahawks. Seattle has a few trends working in its favor, with a 9-0 ATS record in its last nine games as an underdog and a 5-1 ATS record in its last six games on the road. More importantly, Wilson’s elusiveness will offset the Eagles’ improving pass rush and Seattle’s run-heavy approach will soften up Philadelphia’s front enough for the quarterback to gain time in the pocket and connect on some important deep balls late in the game.
Andre: Seahawks. Philly’s run defense has been mediocre since Week 6 (16th in yards allowed per carry) and as Ricky mentioned, the Seahawks’ run-heavy attack will open up the game for Wilson. The Seahawks also have the advantage in turnover differential and yards per play differential.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-4.5) Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. Atlanta has been much better since reorganizing the coaching staff on the bye, and the defense has been considerably better at home this season. Also, the Falcons have former Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter on staff, and that has to be worth something, right?
Ricky: Falcons. Not putting too much stock into the Falcons’ back-to-back wins over the Saints and Panthers, but this is a juicy matchup for Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s passing attack. Siding with Tampa Bay also has been a bad move this season, as the Bucs are an NFL-worst 2-8 ATS.
Andre: Falcons. Sure, Tampa’s run defense is great, but Atlanta never runs the ball. The Falcons are 30th in rush attempts and third in pass attempts. Jameis Winston also does the Bucs no favors. He has has 13 picks over the last five games. Ryan, who is on fire, will be even more dangerous if he can get strong field position caused by turnovers.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-3) Tennessee Titans, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Titans. The year is 2043, and we sit there, staring at the board, once again thinking to ourselves “How the hell does anyone handicap the AFC South?”
Ricky: Titans. Expect the Titans to follow the same script as the Texans and Colts over the past two weeks, during which the Jaguars averaged just eight points per game: bottle up Leonard Fournette and force Jacksonville to throw. Nick Foles attempted 47 passes upon returning from a nine-game absence, and he’ll likely be busy — and unsuccessful — again Sunday, as Tennessee has the NFL’s No. 2 run defense, per Pro Football Focus’ grades.
Andre: Titans. After upsetting the Chiefs, the well-rested Titans take on another poor rush defense. Derrick Henry rushed for nearly 200 yards against Kansas City, and now he goes up against the Jaguars, who average the most yards per carry this year.
Dallas Cowboys at (-6.5) New England Patriots, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Patriots. It’s a lot of points, and the Cowboys are very talented. And maybe this is naive, but I think the Patriots get right offensively at some point, and a return home could do the trick. The Cowboys also haven’t beat anyone good this season, and Bill Belichick should coach circles around Jason Garrett.
Ricky: Cowboys. Dallas owns the better offense right now, ranking first in yards per play (6.7) and second in yards per drive (42.64) while the Patriots rank 24th (5.1) and 22nd (29.83), respectively, in those categories. The Cowboys also extend drives, owning the NFL’s best third-down conversion percentage (52.07), which will be crucial as Dallas looks to wear down New England’s defense by exposing the unit’s recent vulnerability against the run.
Andre: Cowboys. Dallas’ offensive line has only allowed 12 sacks all year and they’re good enough to neutralize the Patriots’ pass rush, which is second in sack rate. The Patriots lead the league in yards allowed per play, but they’re 23rd in yards allowed per carry. Dallas loves to run the ball and they should be able to succeed on the ground against a mediocre run defense. The Cowboys are the more complete team (first in the NFL in yards per play differential.)
Green Bay Packers at (-3) San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Packers. A few weeks ago, I’d be all over San Fran here, but there are just too many injuries: George Kittle, Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Joe Staley and Dee Ford are either questionable or won’t play after missing practice this week. Not only that, the Niners’ run defense has been an issue since Kwon Alexander went down, allowing 145 rushing yards per game with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams coming to town.
Ricky: Packers. The early bye (Week 4) is coming back to haunt the 49ers, as they could really use a breather right now given their recent regression coupled with the injuries Mike highlighted above. The Packers, meanwhile, are healthy and rested, coming off their own bye in Week 11. Green Bay’s offense will keep the sticks moving against San Francisco’s defense, which has looked a bit less daunting in recent weeks, particularly against opposing ground attacks.
Andre: Packers. Jimmy Garoppolo is fourth in the NFL in interceptions thrown and the Packers are second in turnover differential. San Francisco went up against lousy opposing quarterbacks in the first seven games of the season. In the last three weeks, Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson gave the Niners fits. They’ve allowed 26 points per game and are 16th in the NFL in yards allowed per play since Week 9.
MONDAY, NOV. 25
(-3) Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Everything points to the Ravens in this game, but the Rams’ season is all but over with a loss here, and they should be desperate. For as good as Baltimore has been this year, the Ravens have also struggled at times on the road against teams that aren’t Miami or Cincinnati.
Ricky: Rams. Los Angeles ranks third in DVOA against the run, per Football Outsiders. Pro Football Focus has the Rams with the NFL’s No. 2 overall defensive grade, trailing only the Steelers, which is notable because Pittsburgh made life difficult for Lamar Jackson and Co. back in Week 5 before Baltimore squeaked out a 26-23 overtime win. This will be the Ravens’ letdown game. Finally.
Andre: Ravens. It makes sense to take the Rams because they’re getting points at home and have a great rush defense, but I’m going to ride the hot hand. Also, the Rams’ defensive stats over the last three weeks are inflated after going up against weak offenses like Chicago, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Since Week 7, Baltimore is averaging an astronomical 6.85 yards per play with key wins over elite opponents like Seattle, Houston and New England.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images