2021 NFL Week 12 Picks: Expect lots of close games, surprises

After an action-packed Thanksgiving Day, Sunday brings us a full slate of NFL action with a lot of intriguing matchups that could go either way. Below are my predictions for each game (as well as my predictions from Thanksgiving). Last week I went 9-6, bringing my overall record to 102-62-1.

Lock of the Week

It’s hard to say that there’s any locks this week, but this is the closest thing to it. I don’t think people have given enough credit to the amount of raw talent the Broncos have in their backfield. RB Melvin Gordon has continued to play at a high level, and RB Javonte Williams has an extremely bright future. Look for the Broncos offense to rely on this duo against a flawed Chargers run defense. It will be difficult for the Chargers to keep up, even though their own RB, Austin Ekeler, has been dominant of late.

Upset of the Week

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is out of the picture and the Giants receiving corps are close to full health. I see this as the final chance for Daniel Jones to prove himself as the Giants long term QB in what could be a close matchup. While I do have the Giants edging out a victory here, I think it will have more to do with RB Saquon Barkley being fully healthy than Jones playing well.

Lions Thanksgiving Game (Actual Score: 16-14 Bears)

This may be head coach Matt Nagy’s last chance to save his job. Look for the Bears to rely on their run game to keep this close. In the end though, I have Detroit coming out on top as Lions QB Jared Goff outperforms Bears QB Andy Dalton with the help of his own RBs.

Cowboys Thanksgiving Game (Actual Score: 36-33 Raiders)

Without WRs Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, it’s going to be difficult for this Cowboys offense to keep up with QB Derek Carr and the Raiders. Look for a big game out of TE Darren Waller as the Raiders win big on Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Primetime Game (Actual Score: 31-6 Bills)

After a rough week last week, I’m expecting QB Josh Allen to rebound in a prime time battle with the Saints. With QB Trevor Siemian’s top targets, RB Alvin Kamara and TE Adam Trautman out, he will have to rely on other options to fill the void. With more talent and better surroundings, Allen should outplay Siemian by a significant amount for the Bills victory.

The Other Games

Half of Tennessee’s core is on injured reserve right now. While their defense has stepped up this season, the Patriots defense has performed even better. The Pats should be all over a Titans team that’s missing three of its best skill players: RB Derrick Henry, WR A.J. Brown, and WR Julio Jones. Meanwhile, I’m expecting a respectable game out of QB Mac Jones as he keeps the hot streak going and leads the Pats to an important victory.
I think this game will come down to who can run the ball better. While I expect some success from RB Myles Gaskin and the Dolphins, he is no match for the legs of QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey. Look for Carolina to come out on top in the end here despite a close game.
I think we’re going to see a different Zach Wilson in his first game back from injury. I’m expecting WR Elijah Moore to keep up his success with Wilson under center as the duo lead the Jets to a road victory in Houston. Will Wilson carry the momentum into the rest of the Jets schedule? That could prove to be much more difficult.
Cincinnati embarrassed the Steelers in Pittsburgh earlier this season. However, it seems the Steelers have gotten their act together to an extent in the weeks since. Look for a big game from RB Najee Harris, who has posted a rather dominant rookie year, as the Steelers split the season series.
This one could be difficult for Tampa as WR Antonio Brown remains out. The Colts defense should have the ability to shut down the Bucs run game and limit QB Tom Brady’s other receivers. Meanwhile, QB Carson Wentz could benefit from the banged up nature of the Buccaneers secondary. I have the Colts edging out a victory at home.
This Jaguars offense has the raw talent to improve on its recent performance. However, I can’t really say the same about Jacksonville’s D. QB Matt Ryan tends to eat up bad defenses. Look for him to rely on TE Kyle Pitts in an extremely favorable matchup as the Falcons hand the Jaguars yet another loss.
Without RB Aaron Jones, this Packers offense will not be difficult to shut down. Look for CB Jalen Ramsey to shadow WR Davante Adams, leaving QB Aaron Rodgers with minimal other options. Meanwhile, QB Matthew Stafford should have no problem connecting with his receivers as CB Jaire Alexander remains injured. I’d like to believe that LA’s first game with WR Odell Beckham Jr. was a fluke. If so, the Rams will show off their full potential in this one.
Both of these teams find themselves in the race for a wild card spot due to the large drop off after the NFC’s top 5 seeds. I think Minnesota is going to begin to pull ahead in this race as QB Kirk Cousins posts another big game against an inexperienced 49ers secondary. I don’t think QB Jimmy Garoppolo will be able to keep up with Cousins, and it’s not like QB Trey Lance would be much better (at least in his rookie year).
The Ravens may have lost several RBs to injury, but this run game has continued to impress nonetheless. Look for QB Lamar Jackson to rely on his legs and his running backs to take down the Browns in prime time. The return of RB Kareem Hunt should give the Browns a boost, but it will not be enough in Baltimore.
While I do see WR Terry McLaurin posting a big game against this Seattle secondary, I have QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks winning this one in the end. Look for QB Taylor Heinicke to put up some flashy drives and score some points, but Wilson just posts successful drives on a more consistent basis.

In the coming weeks, check out my Twitter to keep up with my NFL picks.

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