Week 12, baby. Get the juicer ready, so that you can make an acai-fiber-wheatgrass blendi with a shot of soy protein to enjoy the sweet slate of games we have on the docket ... because nothing says football and Sunday Funday like a nice, healthy shake.
So what's the game of the week in pro football?
No, we think Broncos-Patriots is the top bill of the NFL weekend. And it's a timely matchup, considering both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famers -- and the Pro Football Hall of Fame just narrowed down its list of 126 nominees for the Class of 2014 to 25 semifinalists. You can see how we see each of those legendary players' candidacies here.
Not after my picks two weeks ago ...
Now, this is what you want to see. Talk about a tweet stuffed with star power -- and supportiveness, too. That's part of what the Pro Football Hall of Fame is all about. And I can tell you, that voters room is awfully split regarding Andre Reed.
As far as the rest of the games, I'm really, really looking forward to Chargers-Chiefs. That matchup is awesome; it means everything to San Diego's playoff hopes, while Kansas City surely is ready to move on from last Sunday night. Take a look at that pick and the rest of this week's lineup below. And per the usual, hit us up with your opinion ... @Harrison_NFL is the place.
Now, let's get to it ...Elliot Harrison went 11-4 on his predictions for Week 11, giving him a record of 101-61 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 12? His picks are below, with home teams listed second. To make your own predictions on this week's games, click here.
What it comes down to: Basic quarterback stuff for the
Geno Smith must play turnover-free -- not necessarily mistake-free, but
Ravens' passing offense, meanwhile, stinks. If the
Jets don't give
Joe Flacco any short fields to work with, they'll be fine, because there's no way Baltimore can run on this New York defense (which is allowing just 73.2 rushing yards per game and 2.94 yards per carry). Flacco's job will be to play efficiently. He's not hitting enough of the high-percentage throws, which is why his completion mark sits at 58.6. That's 26th in the NFL ... right where Flacco was in 2011.
Ebony and Ivory ... and, er, Ivory: Chris Ivory was thought to be stuck in a committee situation earlier this season, but not anymore. Give him the football 25 times, Rex Ryan, then start utilizing Bilal Powell. There's no reason for Smith to attempt more than 20 passes in this game. #slugfest. #NYJvsBAL
What it comes down to: What kind of punch the Cleveland running game gets.
Ben Roethlisberger will notch two touchdowns against the
Browns' defense, but that'll be about it. If
Chris Ogbonnaya or
Willis McGahee can get it going -- or if
Fozzy Whittaker can bear down -- and grind out some yards,
Norv Turner will capitalize through the air. Between receivers
Josh Gordon (125 receiving yards
last week) and
Greg Little and tight end
Jordan Cameron, there's no reason Cleveland's offense should struggle so much in the aerial game.
Saved by the Bell: Who isn't waiting on Le'Veon Bell to have a breakout performance? The Steelers, their fans, draftniks, fantasy owners, even us hacks who cover the game; everyone is eager for this guy to show why he was considered one of the steals of the 2013 NFL Draft. Many felt that he -- not Zac Stacy -- would be well on his way to a 1,000-yard rookie season by this point. (Get it? "Saved by the Bell" ... "Zack" ... Le'Veon "Bell" ... You're welcome.) #PITvsCLE
What it comes down to: Can Detroit's front four stop
Bobby Rainey -- who piled up 163 rushing yards
last week -- or pressure
Mike Glennon? If so,
game over. If the unit plays like it did
in Pittsburgh on Sunday, forget it. Would you believe the
Lions, vaunted though their defensive line might be, have just 16 sacks? That's 30th in the league.
May the Schwartz be with you: Detroit's coach didn't make the best decision Sunday, faking a field-goal attempt instead of taking the (needed) three points. The intermittent, inconsistent use of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell could be handled better, as well. The Lions need to pound Bell more, especially in this game. #TBvsDET
What it comes down to:
Christian Ponder -- and whoever else ends up
playing quarterback for the Vikings -- must threaten the
Packers' defense. That will mean throwing deep sometimes,
even if the attempt goes for an incompletion. Make Green Bay play the whole field, rather than just loading up to stop
Adrian Peterson. When they've tried to go deep, Minnesota's QBs actually have been pretty successful, combining for a 94.7 passer rating on throws that go over 20 yards in the air. Don't forget: The
Packers' secondary has given up some big vertical shots this year.
Eddie and the Cruisers: Eddie Lacy had a rough go against the Giants on Sunday. Green Bay should give him 29 carries, like the last time out against Minnesota, to take pressure off Scott Tolzien. #MINvsGB
What it comes down to: First, whoever wins the turnover battle wins this game. Second, both of these offenses probably will stall, thus making this a Josh Scobee-Randy Bullock matchup. (Bullock is the kicker for Houston, in case you were wondering. He's a Sagittarius.) Both of these teams have been terrible in the red zone: Houston is 26th in red-zone scoring, Jacksonville 32nd. Ouch.
Andre the Giant: The Texans, who are spiraling toward a 3-13 record, must have Andre Johnson focused and ready to rock. As the one guy who has really stepped up of late, Johnson has been getting a ton of looks (42 targets over the past three weeks). Everyone knows about Week 11's sideline blowup; let's hope it doesn't affect AJ's play. By the way, he's now 34 yards short of his seventh career 1,000-yard season. #JAXvsHOU
What it comes down to: How conservative will
Chargers offensive coordinator
Ken Whisenhunt's game plan be? The more he employs
Danny Woodhead and even
Ronnie Brown, the better; Mathews and Woodhead
trucked for 148 yards on the ground last Sunday. San Diego
has to neutralize what will be a very motivated
Chiefs pass rush, which was
just shut out against the
Philip Rivers run a no-huddle offense would be understandable at Arrowhead -- arguably the loudest stadium in the league (still a tough call between that and CenturyLink). However, he can't be required to change a bunch of plays at the line, nor should he attempt more than 40 passes. One way to ensure that is to commit to the run and stay with it.
Alex the Great? Watch any Chiefs broadcast, and you'll hear about Alex Smith's record as a regular-season starter since 2011, which is 28-6-1. Yet, even the most ardent Kansas City fan knows Smith needs to make more plays. He's doing two things very well: running and not turning the ball over. Everything else has been strictly average. Give the D a lift. #SDvsKC
What it comes down to: Can
Ryan Tannehill get out of the pocket and make plays for the
Dolphins with his mobility? The
Tom Brady plenty uncomfortable
Monday night, even if they weren't getting the sacks. And while the Carolina pass rush is solid (though
Charles Johnson is ailing), Miami's pass protection has been terrible. The offensive line -- which has allowed the most sacks in the NFL (41) -- will have to repeat Sunday's successful showing
against San Diego. Tannehill has shown little presence in the pocket this year -- call it
Not a fantasy wasteland: If you play fantasy football, you know how tough it is to find a quality tight end. Well, both the Panthers and Dolphins are better on offense when they get their respective tight ends, Greg Olsen and Charles Clay, involved. Olsen made some key catches in the Monday night win over New England, while Clay's bulldozer style gave everyone in Sun Life Stadium a lift versus the Chargers. Clay might be one of the most underrated players -- at any position, not just tight end -- in football. #CARvsMIA
What it comes down to: Facing a formidable
Rams front seven, can
Josh McCown get off to a better start than he did
last week? McCown couldn't get anything going in the first half against the
Ravens, throwing 20 passes that netted all of 84 yards. Ugh. On the road this week -- in a dome where it could get loud -- McCown can't afford to stumble out of the gate. St. Louis' pass rush is top notch, but will the
Rams be flat following their bye? Several teams have struggled after their off weeks:
Every squad that had a bye in Week 10 -- the
Jets -- lost in Week 11.
Encore? Who isn't curious about what Tavon Austin will do this Sunday -- especially after he gained 314 yards on eight touches in Indy? One of those touches was a dynamic 98-yard punt return. Speaking of, remember that Monday night game in St. Louis when Devin Hester took two kickoffs to the house? Whichever returner goes nuts Sunday could seal the deal for his team. Oh, and like we did last week, we're calling another safety, this time courtesy of Chris Long. #CHIvsSTL
What it comes down to: Can
Carson Palmer go turnover-free for the second time this season? The guess here is no. But if
Andre Ellington is
once again a non-factor, the
Cardinals will be forced to lean on their veteran quarterback. We trust
Andrew Luck more than we do Palmer, as the second-year pro can make the difference with his legs against a defense that has kept Arizona in games.
Fold, bluff, raise? Yes, the Cardinals are 6-4, but it's tough to exhibit tremendous confidence in them, given the organization's track record. Then again, that sneaky-good defense (tied for eighth in points allowed) should be bolstered by coach Bruce Arians' knowledge of the Colts personnel. #INDvsAZ
What it comes down to: Which Tennessee offense will we see in Oakland: the group that ran the ball right down the
Colts' throats in the first two drives
last Thursday, or the unit that stalled repeatedly in the second and third quarters? Given the talent on their offensive line, the
Titans should be able to run the football, and yet, they hover around the middle of the pack (15th in the league). Trust us, it's not because they're abandoning the run for
more of that Fitzmagic. The
Raiders' run defense, meanwhile, has been stout this season.
For a limited time, the McGloin: Considering how reined-in the offense had been under Terrelle Pryor -- and considering Pryor's restrictive knee brace -- why not stick with the guy who just threw three touchdown passes in a win at Houston? #TENvsOAK
What it comes down to: Flip a coin. Seriously. Anybody have one of those 20-sided dice from Dungeons & Dragons? Sure, the
Giants have won four in a row. They also struggled some against former practice-squad quarterback
Scott Tolzien and the
on Sunday. The
Cowboys? Well, they make up for it by having the worst defense in the NFL.
The NFC Least: Either of these teams could overtake the Eagles in the NFC East. However, as long as Eli Manning turns the ball over -- he's averaging nearly two per game -- it's difficult to trust the Giants, regardless of any winning streak. As bad as the Cowboys' defense is, it would be easier to hang your hat on their hopes if DeMarco Murray would decide how great he wants to be. The running back has one 100-yard performance and three games under 40 yards. Nearly a third of his yardage this season came in one contest. #DALvsNYG
What it comes down to: Can the
Patriots run on the
Broncos, and can
Kyle Arrington and Co. compete with those Denver receivers?
Wes Welker is recovering from a concussion, so his status is unknown at publishing. Considering how effectively
Peyton Manning sprays the ball around, it's imperative that the New England secondary stays disciplined in coverage.
High ankle chain: For all the talk about Manning's high ankle sprain, the way the Denver offensive line stuck together and played as a cohesive unit Sunday night was remarkable. The Chiefs never even laid a hand on Manning. Sure, the likely Hall of Fame quarterback's decision-making abilities mean opposing pass rushers often have less than three seconds to collapse the pocket. Still, the line was nothing short of awesome. If those guys play like that in Foxborough, Denver will be 10-1. #DENvsNE
What it comes down to: Let's go to the tale of the tape ...
Running game: Redskins
Special teams: 49ers
Pass rush: Redskins
Run defense: 49ers
Even Steven, except not at all: We tried looking at this game through the prism of the Redskins turning their season around, but we're just not seeing it. The quarterback matchup is close, as are the teams' running games. The issue for Washington is defense, where about the only thing going for the Redskins is the pass rush (which has been strictly mediocre). It doesn't help much that Kai Forbath has missed some very makeable kicks. #SFvsWAS
What it comes down to: Can the
Falcons' receivers beat the
Saints' secondary, which just
lost Jabari Greer for the season? New Orleans has received far better play in the back seven than anyone expected.
Matt Ryan, however, has not been able to muster much of anything for Atlanta, with
Roddy White not playing like
Roddy White and
Harry Douglas being the WR1. Ryan also has been picked off nine times in his past four games. The matchup between Ryan and the
Saints' D is everything.
Be the man: Is Steven Jackson "just a guy" at this point, or is he still a difference-maker? How will he close out this season for the Falcons? In six games, he's rushed for 192 yards at 3.3 yards per carry. You make the call: Will we see a finish worthy of being presented by Alcoa? #NOvsATL
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.