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NFL Week 12 game picks: Broncos edge Chiefs; 'Hawks stay hot

It's tradition -- and it's worth celebrating.

Detroit has been playing Turkey Day games since 1934, when the Lions lost to the two-time defending-champion Bears in front of 26,000 at University of Detroit Stadium. This might be hard to believe, but that same Lions team won it all in 1935. (Yes, the Detroit Lions were champs.) Dallas, meanwhile, got the late Thanksgiving game in 1966, besting the Browns (who were not 0-11) at the Cotton Bowl, 26-14. That Cowboys team would go on, later that season, to play the Lombardi Packers in the first of two consecutive famous NFL Championship Games.

For years, nobody wanted to play on Thanksgiving. Detroit had always hosted the game, and then Cowboys VP Tex Schramm thought it a great showcase for his relatively young organization. Starting in the mid-to-late-'70s, other NFL teams wanted in. Finally, we saw the emergence of the night game a decade ago, which will be Steelers at Colts this time around. Andrew Luck's presence would make all the festivities a wee bit cooler, but beggars can't be choosers.

Cool, huh? Those are the '34 Lions in action. Meanwhile, the '66 Cowboys quarterback, "Dandy" Don Meredith, lives on in quotes ...

You've inspired me, Hawk ... IF the Cowboys hadn't beaten the Eagles, Steelers and Ravens, they'd all have winning records, BUT they did.

So, do the Lions win this week? Yeeeeeeesh. That's hard. How about the Cowboys? See below. As far as Steelers-Colts, whoever wins will go over .500. As for your team, the outcome is listed, as well. Feel free to send your take: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 11-3 on his predictions for Week 11, giving him a record of 105-54-2 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 12? His picks are below:

Tight game in Chicago this weekend -- or should I say, Titan-ic game in Chicago this weekend, providing Marcus Mariota continues to throw the ball effectively without the negative plays. Tennessee's quarterback has been nothing short of brilliant in November, save for the loss in San Diego, when he turned the ball over two times in the second half. Given the Titans' blueprint -- exotic smashmouth, or whatever you want to call it -- they can't afford giveaways. This is a run-first, throw-off-play-action team that is not designed to play catch-up. Here's the good news for Tennessee: The Bears aren't designed to build an insurmountable lead, or even, really, any lead at all. Jay Cutler seems pretty questionable, despite what we're hearing from John Fox. And without Zach Miller and Alshon Jeffery, QB Matt Barkley might not be able to pick apart Tennessee's secondary, à la Andrew Luck last Sunday. Of course, Matt Barkley might not be able to pick apart an NFL secondary, period. #TENvsCHI

Oh, boy. So the Jaguars haven't won a game in over a month, and the Bills have their playoff destiny in front of them. With Sammy Watkins slated to return and a back sked that shouldn't put Rex Ryan's team on the skids, expect Buffalo to handle Blake Bortles on Sunday. One way for Jacksonville to slow that down would be to run right at Dennis Thurman's defense, but Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon ran 21 times against the Lions' front on Sunday and only came away with 55 rushing yards. With the offense sputtering, Gus Bradley can ill-afford a massive special teams breakdown like last week. Buffalo moves to 6-5. #JAXvsBUF

As much as I would like to take the Bengals in an upset in Baltimore, I don't see it happening sans A.J. Green and Gio Bernard. Jeremy Hill would have to pick up some serious slack. Super ... The only problem is, Hill has been inconsistent, and the Ravens own the top run defense in pro football. They held Ezekiel Elliott in check -- or as much as you can these days -- last Sunday (25 carries for 97 yards). For Cincinnati to pull off the W, Andy Dalton would need to be efficient as all get out -- no turnovers. And no drops. Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd must hold onto the ball. But that's kind of been a challenge in the past. #CINvsBAL

Matt Bryant wins it on a 50-yard field goal. This represents a tough road trip for the Cardinals, who played a physical game against the 49ers two weeks ago, then got beat up in Minnesota. The defense is not the same without Honey Badger. Even if Tyrann Mathieu does play, how effective will he be in his first game back since Week 8? The Falcons won't be able to get after Carson Palmer the way the Vikings did, but Atlanta's pass rush is a far cry from how bad it used to be ... which is to say, totally absent. Methinks Palmer still will be feeling the effects of being stepped on by the Vikings a week later. Although, I wouldn't be shocked if David Johnson posted over 200 scrimmage yards. #AZvsATL

Can we trust Eli Manning? That guy has been up and down all season, even though somebody predicted that he would be an All-Pro. So that's not happening. But Manning and the Giants' offense woke up in the second half last week to put a couple of touchdowns on the board against Chicago. Another slow start could put them in a tough spot in Cleveland. At this point, you would think the Browns would be desperate for a win. With Cody Kessler in the concussion protocol, Josh McCown has been announced as the starter, which gives the Browns their best chance to win. If you go by numbers, Kessler's passer rating dwarfs McCown's (92.6 to 66.2), yet the latter has been thrust into situations in which he needs to make plays. McCown takes chances -- granted, they haven't always worked out this year. But checking down when you are down two scores in the fourth quarter won't get a winless team anywhere. Back to Manning: Since the Giants drafted him in 2004, Cleveland has employed 22 starting quarterbacks. Fun. #NYGvsCLE

The Rams' defense has kept Jeff Fisher's team in games, but can they hold the fort against a Saints offense that averages over 30 points per home contest? New Orleans scored 25 on the Seahawks' defense and 23 on the Broncos' D, two units that are at least comparable to Los Angeles. My concern is that, with Jared Goff only making his second NFL start, the Rams will not be able to hold the ball long enough to provide the D a break. If Goff is to be successful, he must find some way to complete passes down the field. He was 0 for 5 this past Sunday on throws that traveled 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Speaking of last week, Drew Brees presents a much stiffer challenge than Miami's Ryan Tannehill for L.A.'s secondary. And Brees will bring it for more than just the final five minutes, too. #LAvsNO

I remember back in 1995, when folks in Miami were talking Super Bowl. It was Don Shula's swan song for the franchise, and the fans thought their Fins were loaded. Then the 49ers went into Joe Robbie Stadium (as it was known back before our beloved corporate sponsors got involved) and crushed the Dolphins on "Monday Night Football," 44-20. Now Miami has won five in a row, and the fans are once again fired up about their Fins. The way to beat this Dolphins defense is by torching the secondary. But I don't see Colin Kaepernick doing that.

 **Trivia:** Which Niners quarterback threw for 382 yards and four touchdowns in that '95 MNF win? Which 
 Dolphins running back -- who had been hired away from UPS -- scored on a touchdown run? #30 

Definitely one of the tougher games to pick this Sunday. The Chargers have been in every game this year -- literally -- with all of their losses being decided by one score or less. Don't see that changing this week. Anticipate less-risky throws from Philip Rivers this time around, as the veteran quarterback was visibly dejected after his four fourth-quarter interceptions cost his team the game in Week 10. Coming off the bye, Melvin Gordon should be the most productive of Rivers' arsenal against a Texans run defense that hasn't been that good. Can Brock Osweiler make enough quality throws on third down and in the red zone? That's the key. #SDvsHOU

Without question, this is the game everyone is looking forward to this week. Maybe not. Most analysts think the Seahawks are making their annual stretch run toward the postseason, emboldened by the blowout win over the Eagles, as well as the victory at New England in Week 10. Nobody seems to be taking the Bucs seriously. Remember, this Tampa Bay squad beat the Falcons in Atlanta, took the Raiders deep into overtime and just toppled the Chiefs at their place. Worth watching: The Mike Evans- Richard Sherman matchup. Will the All-Pro corner travel with Evans no matter where he goes in the formation? Evans is the most targeted wideout in the NFL. Tampa Bay sure could use 100 rushing yards from Doug Martin. So could about 1,000,000 fantasy owners playing Call of Duty 18 in their dorm rooms. #SEAvsTB

The Jets always seem to play the Patriots tough. But what is Todd Bowles going to get from his offense? Do you believe in FitzMagic?? Probably not. Meanwhile, New England is coming back from a long West Coast trip that could cause them to come out flat -- but flat enough to lose to a struggling team starting a quarterback with 13 picks in nine games? Well, Bowles' group is coming out of a bye week. Hopefully that translates to fresh legs for Matt Forte.

 **Fun fact:** The 
 Jets blitz more than any defense in the NFL (37.3 percent of pass plays), and 
 Tom Brady owns the highest passer rating against the blitz among quarterbacks (124.0). We're going to depart this blurb before we get more negative. 

A lot of people think this is a trap game for the Raiders. Look, I am as concerned as anyone that they could be sluggish after potentially disregarding the warning about the water in Mexico. I have personal experience, having lost weight unintentionally after taking in some of that water on Spring Break a few years back.

If Derek Carr is on, I have a hard time seeing an Oakland loss. Amari Cooper has been a stud. Michael Crabtree should be more than motivated, coming off a tough outing in which he suffered a couple of drops. Carolina gets after the quarterback, but considering Carr's protection has been tops in the league, they won't be able to mitigate a secondary that is 27th in net passing yards allowed (which includes all the sacks) and tied for 23rd in touchdowns allowed. #CARvsOAK

Another in what I believe will be a low-scoring deal. Although the Chiefs enter this one nursing key injuries -- namely to Defensive Player of the Year candidate Marcus Peters (hip) and sack leader Dee Ford (hamstring) -- the Denver offense has struggled often this season. The Broncos' defense, however, has picked up the slack with three touchdowns of its own. Last time out, the special teams unit delivered a rarity of all rarities: the game-winning blocked PAT return. The key to Gary Kubiak's (and ultimately, Trevor Siemian's) success will be if Devontae Booker can get it going. Booker has received the bulk of the workload over the last four games, but has averaged a paltry 3.3 yards per carry during that stretch. The difference in this AFC West tilt, though, will be Alex Smith, who has struggled the last three games.

 **Fun fact:** The 
 Broncos are 7-0 this season when scoring at least 21 points. When they fall short of that mark? 0-3. 

Typing this while watching the 1994 Thanksgiving classic between the Packers and Cowboys, which featured Brett Favre and Jason Garrett. If you are old enough to recall that game, you might remember Favre balling out and Sterling Sharpe scoring three touchdowns. Ultimately, Favre's defense was unable to stop the inexperienced Garrett in the road loss. We might see a similar outcome in Philadelphia this weekend, as I expect Rodgers to try to mitigate the hemorrhaging on defense (given what we saw last Sunday night). Meanwhile, Carson Wentz might be inexperienced, much like Garrett was in '94, but with this being his 11th start, I expect him to improve. Wentz began the season playing like Joe Montana -- then, when defenses caught up to him, the rookie regressed. Through the first three games, Wentz posted a 140.0 passer rating on passes that traveled 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Over the last seven games, Wentz's rating dipped to 29.9 on those same throws. This is the time of year when, if Wentz is as capable as advertised, he will implement what he's seen on film the last two months.

 **Fun fact (unless you are a Cheesehead):** The 
 Eagles are only allowing 9.5 points per game at home this season. 


Huge game in the scope of the NFC North. The Vikings look to both capitalize on their win over the Cardinals last Sunday and distance themselves from the divisional bullies in Green Bay. Or at least that's what the Packers once were; now they're more like Sméagol. The Lions have precisely the same motivation as Minnesota in wanting to create space in a tight North race. Question is, how do they get there, especially coming off a game in which they ran for 14 yards? Fourteen yards. Now Detroit faces a front four that Trump'd, er, trumped Carson Palmer last week. The Vikings don't even have to hesitate when it comes to going after Matthew Stafford ... not without the threat of the run. Oh, by the way, remember last Thanksgiving, when Stafford threw for 337 yards and five touchdowns? Yeah, not this time around. #MINvsDET

This should be a high-scoring affair. The Cowboys' offensive line is a mismatch for the Redskins' front. (Please don't look at James Starks' rushing totals from Sunday night as evidence to the contrary; that's like holding up Ben Affleck's rendition of "Daredevil" to rate all superhero flicks against.) Kirk Cousins, who was hot Sunday, gets the benefit of facing an injury-depleted secondary for the second straight game. Dallas wins at home, salting away the clock with Ezekiel Elliott and ( a quite motivated) Alfred Morris in the four-minute offense. The Cowboys are 6-1 all-time against the Redskins on Thanksgiving. #WASvsDAL

With Andrew Luck sidelined, this matchup does not bode well for the Colts. The Steelers come into Indy on a one-game win streak, which is quite exemplary for them these days. Le'Veon Bell destroyed the Browns last week, putting up over two bills from scrimmage. It will be incumbent on Chuck Pagano's defense to hold Bell in check the way it did DeMarco Murray on Sunday (70 rushing yards). Huge issue: Bell is far more of a weapon in the passing game than Murray. T.Y. Hilton is playing great for Indy, but he's had Luck throwing him the ball. Not on Turkey Night. #PITvsIND

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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