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Week 12 viewer's guide

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Around The NFL's Kevin Patra fills you in on the key storylines for each matchup. Here's your guide as you settle into your couch for all the NFL action.

Josh Gordon's return will be the most intriguing storyline. We'll get to see the best receiver in 2013 function for the first time in Kyle Shanahan's offense, which has done admirable work with a bunch of No. 3 wideouts. Gordon's return should help open lanes for the Browns' stymied running attack featuring rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West. With Ben Tate shipped away we'll see if the young kids can make plays against a 24th-ranked Falcons run defense giving up 122.2 yards per game on the ground.

The Browns have a horrid run defense, allowing 142.1 yards per game, but Stephen Jackson looks like a shell of himself. Can he take advantage? Will we see more of rookie Devonta Freeman? Julio Jones and Roddy White have an advantage over most defensive backs, and with the Browns lacking any semblance of a pass rush, Matt Ryan should have all day to find his targets. Joe Haden matching up against Jones should be a fun one to watch.

Pregame reading material
Brian Hoyer thinks Josh Gordon is a 'freak'
Jabaal Sheard won't need surgery after second opinion
Matt Ryan thinks Falcons still relevant despite quirky season
Falcons not buying Browns' plan to ease in Gordon

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Browns.

The Battle of the Big Receivers!

"The Mike Evans Show" gets another juicy matchup. The Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate became the youngest player in NFL history with 200-plus receiving yards in a game last week (7 receptions, 209 yards and 2 TDs). This week he faces a Bears defensive backfield that has been torched. The matchup with Evans and Bears rookie corner Kyle Fuller should be fun to view. Fuller has cooled after his hot start to the season.

Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall got back on track last week with monster games. They'll face corners Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks and a Bucs secondary allowing a whopping 266.1 yards per game. Cutler is coming off a good game, mainly because he was aided by the ability to step up in the pocket. That might not be the case Sunday with Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald collapsing the middle, so expect the Bears to try and move Cutler to avoid the interior pressure.

Pregame reading material
Gerald McCoy says Mike Evans doesn't know he's special
Evans should be started in your fantasy league this week
The Soldier Field clocks have come under fire
Jared Allen explains why they wanted Teddy Bridgewater to get the ball

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Bears.

Getting Giovanni Bernard back could unleash a two-headed nightmare with rookie Jeremy Hill out of the Bengals backfield. Hill has proven he can carry the load between the tackles and Bernard is a matchup nightmare on the edges. Of course, the Bengals will have to avoid J.J. Watt, who has at least one sack in five straight games. A Wattnado has ruined Andy Dalton's day before -- remember the pick six in the 2011 playoffs?

Ryan Mallett had a solid first outing and took a lot of shots deep, which helped open up the offense. He faces another cushy defense in the Bengals' 28th-ranked unit, which allows 385.7 yards per game. Expect a run-heavy approach with an Arian Foster/Alfred Blue combo from the Texans against the 28th-ranked Cincy run defense.

Pregame reading material
Ryan Mallett aims to top his starting debut
Bengals OC Hue Jackson wants to get Jeremy Hill to get the ball more
Desmond Bryant thinks Mallett didn't do much in the Texans' win
Raiders fans want to bring back Jackson

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Texans.

Denard Robinson could be in for more fun this week coming off a bye. The Jamaal Charles look-alike has been stellar between the tackles and is a menace when he gets to the second level. He'll face a Colts defense giving up 112.9 yards per game on the ground and was just rolled last week. The Colts allowed 311.1 YPG during their first seven games, and 526.7 YPG during their last three. I'm expecting a heavy dose of Robinson early as the physical Indy corners could give Blake Bortles fits, especially with his security blanket, Allen Robinson, done for the season.

Andrew Luck had a career performance in their last meeting, throwing for 370 yards and four touchdowns. Expect more of the same with Trent Richardson and Daniel Herron the only options out of the backfield. The Colts will have to use quick passing game to supplement a lost rushing attack. Against a Jags D giving up 261.9 yards per game through the air (26th), they'll get another brilliant matchup to air it out.

Pregame reading material
The Colts signed Josh Cribbs
Colts RBs featured in best and worst fantasy matchups
Is Dan Herron a fantasy sleeper?
Cecil Shorts among waiver-wire candidates for fantasy

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Colts.

Bridgewater will need to be more than "Teddy Checkdown" to keep up with the Packers' high-flying offense. Bridgewater is averaging 211.3 yards this season, but had just 158 yards last week against a weak Chicago secondary. This week won't be so kind, facing a Packers defense with 22 takeaways this season, second most in the NFL. The Vikings can't win if Norv Turner keeps Bridgewater in bubble wrap this week.

Vikings corner Josh Robinson got picked on mercilessly last week and now faces a Jordy Nelson-Randall Cobb duo that is the most dangerous in the NFL. The two have combined for 19 touchdowns and 1,777 yards on 104 catches this season. The Vikings' defense will have to win at the line of scrimmage and badger Aaron Rodgers all day to have a shot of slowing the Packers' steamrolling offense.

Pregame reading material
Adrian Peterson suspended for rest of season without pay
Peterson appeals suspension via NFLPA
Aaron Rodgers leads top 10 MVP candidates
Rodgers was laughing at Eagles, per Graham

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Packers.

Jonas Gray was a revelation last week, but he'll face the NFL's top rushing defense in Detroit, allowing just 68.8 yards per contest. I'm expecting Bill Belichick to switch it up this week, using more Shane Vereen out of the backfield in mismatches with Lions linebackers. Much like the Pats did to the Broncos, Brady will take advantage of coverages on the outside and the uncoverable Rob Gronkowski over the middle against the NFL's No. 1 scoring and total defense.

How bad has first-year coordinator Joe Lombardi's offense been? The Lions are the only team ranked in the bottom-10 in scoring with a winning record. Yikes. This team would be in the cellar again if it weren't for the defense's magnificent play. Calvin Johnson going up against Darrelle Revis is the matchup I want to see. In their two career matchups, Revis Island has essentially swallowed Megatron, holding the wideout to 9 targets, 5 completions, 75 yards and 0 TDs. Revis isn't that shutdown corner anymore, but he's had his brilliant games this season.

Pregame reading material
Reggie Bush says he's on track to play Sunday
Darrelle Revis: Calvin Johnson a 'freakish' player
LeGarrette Blount rejoins Pats after release by Steelers
Jonas Gray awarded 201-yard game after stat change

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Patriots.

Zach Mettenberger had his best game last week when he had a ton of time to throw the ball against the Steelers. He'll face a frustrated Eagles pass rush that was laughed at last week by Aaron Rodgers. If Mettenberger can get the ball out quickly against Connor Barwin (10.5 sacks) and Co. he could hit some big plays down the field.

Mark Sanchez fell back to earth, but is coming off his first career back-to-back 300-yard games. He'll face a Titans defense that has allowed 300-plus total yards in nine straight games with just one takeaway in its last three contests. Seeing Le'Veon Bell go HAM against this Titans' front had to put a pep in LeSean McCoy's step this week. If he can avoid Jurrell Casey, he could be in for his best game of the season.

Pregame reading material
First-round pick Marcus Smith not seeing the field
Jeremy Maclin thinks even the Raiders would've beat 'the hell' out of Philly last week
LeSean McCoy irked, says he's the same player
Titans trampled by Le'Veon Bell's 200-yard day

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Eagles.

Shaun Hill threw for 220 yards, but managed the Rams' offense much better than Austin Davis. Put in better down-and-distance situations by Hill, St. Louis should be able to lean on Tre Mason again this week against a nondescript Chargers defense allowing 109 yards on the ground per contest.

Philip Rivers could get shattered Sunday. OK that's overly dramatic. But his offensive line has been a mess this season and will struggle to slow Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn, who have helped St. Louis to 18 sacks in their past five games. Rivers will need help from a running game to slow the rush. Unfortunately, just 32.1 percent of the Chargers' running attempts have gone for 4 or more yards (lowest in the NFL).

Pregame reading material
Rams proving to be a factor in playoff race
Tre Mason shuts down hot-hand talk vs. Broncos
Ryan Mathews returns but Branden Oliver still relevant
Clock operator factors in Chargers' win over Raiders

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Chargers.

Bruce Arians will always take his shots, even against very good secondaries. But I want to watch Andre Ellington's usage this week. The Seahawks were gashed last week and obviously sorely miss defensive stopper Brandon Mebane. Ellington isn't a big-time inside runner and is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, but he should see the ball plenty. I also expect him to be targeted a lot out of the backfield when he draws matchups with a linebacker. The Seahawks getting Bobby Wagner back (out since Week 6 with a toe injury) can't be understated in its importance if he's able to play more than cursory snaps. He churns the butter in the middle of that D.

What happens when a sledgehammer meets an iron block? We might see the sparks fly Sunday afternoon in this bludgeoning contest. Marshawn Lynch has looked Beastly (with a capital B) this season and is the engine that fuels, runs and guides the Seahawks' offense. However, Beast Mode will face a Todd Bowles defense that has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 20 consecutive games. I'm expecting Bowles to stack the box and dare Seattle to beat his corners in the passing game. Russell Wilson has had his magic moments with his feet, but has gone four consecutive games without posting a passer rating over 100 for the first time in his career.

Pregame reading material
Bruce Arians says everyone's an underdog in Seattle
Why Arians has Tony Sparano swag
Marshawn Lynch expresses frustration after loss to Chiefs
Lynch fined $100,000 for avoiding media

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Seahawks.

The Dolphins' pass rush has earned 30 sacks as a team, tied for third in the NFL. Led by Cameron Wake (8.5 sacks) Olivier Vernon (5.5) they hold the key to Miami stymieing Peyton Manning for another week. The Dolphins' backend with Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones has been rock solid, but no one can hold Manning down forever. The Broncos' offensive line has allowed 11 sacks this season (fewest in NFL), but a lack of a running game could allow Miami to put all their eggs in the "destroy Manning" basket.

On the flip side, the Broncos must limit Lamar Miller and force Ryan Tannehill into a one-dimensional offense relying on his arm. Miami is a much more efficient team when Miller is gashing defenses. The Broncos allowed Tre Mason to scamper for 113 yards last week. They must be better against Miller to get Tannehill in long down-and-distances so their pass rushers can tee-off on a shuffled Dolphins offensive line -- specifically right tackle Dallas Thomas who is the weakest link.

Pregame reading material
Peyton Manning says sense of urgency must increase
Montee Ball to miss 2-3 weeks
Ryan Tannehill a fantasy sleeper this week
Mike Wallace says to not blame OC Lazor for woes

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Broncos.

It always starts with the quarterback in Washington. The Redskins are 0-3 in games Robert Griffin III has started and finished. He has one game with a passer rating of 100-plus (the game he got injured in the first quarter). RGIII plain stunk last week and Jay Gruden essentially said so, until relationship-remorse set in and the coach apologized for his spot-on assessment of his struggling quarterback. Griffin doesn't have it easier this week versus the 49ers' fourth-ranked pass defense, allowing just 220.2 yards per game. RGIII has to hit on his deeps shots to DeSean Jackson on Sunday against a Niners D allowing just 26 receptions of 20-plus yards this season, 5th in NFL.

Colin Kaepernick has gone four straight games with a passer rating below 100, which is the longest streak of his career as a starter. He's been wayward with many of his throws and receivers have been plagued with drops. However, he does face a secondary that has been torched in recent weeks (Mike Evans!!!) and has a major tendency toward mental breakdowns. The Redskins have allowed a 100-plus passer rating in six of 10 games this season and a 104.4 opponent passer rating, 31st in NFL.

Pregame reading material
Jay Gruden apologizes for criticism of RGIII
RGIII: We're focused on San Francisco
Frank Gore knows his future's in doubt
Ahmad Brooks was benched for lashing out at coach

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the 49ers.

Can this NFC East division rivalry really be distilled into this simple matchup: The Cowboys' offense is averaging 153.2 rush yards per game this season (second most in NFL), while the Giants' defense is allowing 145.0 rush YPG (worst in NFL). If the Giants can't stop DeMarco Murray, just turn the lights in MetLife Stadium off. If the Giants can slow Murray (easier said than done) and put Tony Romo in poor long down-and-distances then their pass rush could get to the quarterback. Then they just have to deal with Dez Bryant, which should be easy for the most banged-up secondary in the NFL.

On the flip side, the Giants' offense moved the ball against a much better 49ers defense last week than they will face Sunday night. If only Eli Manning could channel his "Bizarro Eli Manning" and not throw backbreaking interceptions. Odell Beckham is a matchup nightmare for any corner for his versatility and play-making ability. He could see a lot of Orlando Scandrick in the Cowboys' Cover-2 scheme, where the corner moves between right and slot positions. Scandrick has had a very solid season under Rod Marinelli and could give the rookie a frustrating night.

Pregame reading material
Eli Manning dismisses Tiki's call to fire Coughlin
DeMarco Murray ready to carry Cowboys in stretch run
Antrel Rolle says Giants will run the table
Jerry Jones says Tony Romo made the most out of bye week

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Cowboys.

First off, I'd like to say I hope everyone in the Buffalo and Orchard Park areas stay safe. That much snow is no bueno and it could become much worse when the rain turns the area into a flooded mess. Good luck Western New York, and be well, as the game has moved to Detroit's Ford Field.

Having said that, I'm not sure why everyone is making a big deal about the Bills not practicing. Kyle Orton has clearly proven he plays much better straight off the couch. (Jokes, clearly. I'll be here all weekend -- literally.)

In their previous meeting in Week 8, Orton threw 17 passes and completed just 10, four of those for touchdowns. He still faces a lopsided defense allowing opponents a passer rating of 108.8, the highest the NFL. Opponents have also thrown for 25 touchdowns against the Jets' secondary, which is the most in the NFL. So no practice hurts, but at least he's not facing the Fort Knox of secondaries.

Can the Jets protect Michael Vick against the team leading the NFL in sacks with 39, or will Marcell Dareus and Co. destroy him all game? Vick has shown his patented ability to avoid presser and escape the pocket, but the main thing he's done since taking over the starting gig is not turn the ball over. Will that continue if he's under immense pressure? The Jets' offense averages 4.74 yards per play, second fewest in NFL. It's become more diverse with Vick and Percy Harvin in the lineup, but if the quarterback doesn't have time to breathe, how will he have time to throw?

Pregame reading material
Game moved to Monday night in Detroit
Bills GM says Sammy Watkins trade still worth it
Vick would like to play two more years
Rex Ryan fined $100,000 for profanity

Who will win? Three of five Around The NFL writers pick the Bills.

After watching rookie Jeremy Hill run over Rob Ryan's defense last week, we should expect the Ravens to attempt the same on Monday with Justin Forsett. The Ravens' most reliable weapon the past handful of weeks, Forsett's 721 yards are enough for seventh in the NFL. He has 24 rushes of 10 plus-yards this season, second most in the NFL, and we know the Saints have a tendency to give up big runs. If Joe Flacco has another cold came (he's had six games under 260 yards passing, with three under 200 yards) the Ravens will lean on Forsett, again.

The Saints' offense on the other hand has been in a season-long malaise and it starts with the quarterback, Drew Brees. He can't afford another game-killing turnover, which has epitomized his season. The Ravens have turned teams over on the regular, earning at least one takeaway in seven straight games. With the way Rob Ryan's defense has been playing, the Saints can't afford to give Baltimore extra possessions. Against the Ravens' fifth-ranked run defense, it could be tough sledding for Mark Ingram. I'm expecting Brees to try to force a lot of balls to his pal Jimmy Graham come Monday night.

Pregame reading material
Saints dropping in latest Power Rankings
Brandin Cooks out for season with broken thumb
Start or sit Justin Tucker this week?
Ravens not concerned about Steve Smith's production dip

Who will win? Four of five Around The NFL writers pick the Saints.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps the Raiders' shocking win over the Chiefs and previews every other Week 12 game. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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