As the NFL enters Week 12, there are 19 teams within one game of first place in their divisions, the most at this point of a season in NFL history.
“Every team in the NFL is a good football team,” says New York Jets head coach REX RYAN, whose team has won in the final 10 seconds or overtime in each of the past three weeks. “It’s a balanced league.”
There are 10 teams with at least seven wins, and three clubs – Atlanta, New England and the New York Jets – boast a league-best 8-2 record.
Two of those clubs – the Patriots and Jets – will be in action on Thanksgiving. This year, the NFL will feature a tripleheader with traditional holiday games in Detroit and Dallas and the NFL Network primetime game in New York.
|New England Patriots at Detroit Lions
|12:30 PM ET
|12:30 PM ET
|New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys
|3:15 PM CT
|4:15 PM ET
|Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets
|8:00 PM ET
|8:00 PM ET
“It’s good being part of the Thanksgiving tradition,” says Cowboys linebacker DE MARCUS WARE. “The Cowboys play every Thanksgiving and it’s special. People are with their families, eating Thanksgiving meals and everybody is watching you. You are actually part of that family time. So just being a part of that is a special thing.”
Some of the key games in Week 12:
GREEN BAY PACKERS (7-3) at ATLANTA FALCONS (8-2) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
The NFL’s two hottest teams meet at the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon. Both the Packers and Falcons have won four games in a row, the longest current streak in the league.
Green Bay is coming off a 31-3 victory at Minnesota. Quarterback AARON RODGERS threw a career-high four touchdown passes, including three to wide receiver GREG JENNINGS. Rodgers has eight games in his career with at least three touchdown passes and no interceptions and joined KURT WARNER (nine) and TOM BRADY (eight) as the only QBs to have at least eight such games within three seasons of their first NFL start.
“It will be exciting,” says Packers head coach MIKE MC CARTHY of the upcoming contest. “It’s a game we’re looking forward to, and it’s a big-time challenge. Atlanta is playing very well. It’s evident by their record.”
The Falcons improved to an NFC-best 8-2 with a 34-17 victory at St. Louis. Atlanta returns home, where quarterback MATT RYAN is 18-1 (.947) in his career as a starter, including 14 consecutive wins. Last week, Ryan posted a 101.8 passer rating and improved to 14-0 when he posts a 100.0+ rating.
“It should be a good time,” says Falcons head coach MIKE SMITH. “The Packers are on a roll. They’re playing good football. It ought to be an exciting afternoon. We are hoping that everyone will come out and help us win the game.”
MIAMI DOLPHINS (5-5) at OAKLAND RAIDERS (5-5) (Sunday, CBS, 4:05 PM ET)
On Sunday, CBS will broadcast its 5,000th game in its 51-year history of NFL coverage when the Dolphins visit the Raiders. The network’s first regular-season game was broadcast on September 30, 1956 between the Washington Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers.
“When you think of all the television firsts and the great broadcasters that have called all those games for CBS Sports, it is a tremendous contribution to sports television history,” says SEAN MC MANUS, President, CBS News and Sports. “We are extremely proud to be broadcasting our 5,000th NFL game and we look forward to broadcasting our next 5,000.”
Both teams enter Week 12 with 5-5 records and are in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
“We’re one of those teams right now that has no room for error,” says Miami head coach TONY SPARANO. “We’re stuck in this five-win group of teams here and have to battle our tails off. I think this team will respond pretty well to that. I know they’ll come out and they’ll compete well.”
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-3) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-3) (Sunday, FOX, 4:15 PM ET)
Two 7-3 clubs will meet at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday afternoon when the Ravens host the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay is 4-1 on the road and Baltimore is a perfect 4-0 at home this season.
In Week 11, the Buccaneers won 21-0 at San Francisco, the team’s first road shutout since September 8, 2003 at Philadelphia. Cornerback RONDE BARBER notched an interception – his franchise-record 40th – and became the first player in NFL history with at least 25 sacks and 40 interceptions.
“These guys are playing great,” says Tampa Bay head coach RAHEEM MORRIS. “We’re playing hard, playing fast, playing smart and playing consistent.”
Buccaneers quarterback JOSH FREEMAN has now won nine of his past 13 starts, including six of his past seven on the road.
The Ravens scored 20 points in the second half to defeat the Carolina Panthers 37-13 last week. Quarterback JOE FLACCO threw for 301 yards and a touchdown and defensive stars ED REED and RAY LEWIS made key interceptions to spark Baltimore.
Reed recorded the 50th interception of his career and tossed it to DAWAN LANDRY who returned it for a touchdown. Reed averages 26.8 yards per interception return, the highest in NFL history among players with at least 50 INTs. Lewis posted the 30th interception of his career and became the seventh linebacker in NFL history with at least 30 INTs.
“I like the way our team fights,” says Ravens head coach JOHN HARBAUGH, who is 4-0 against the NFC at home in his career, outscoring opponents 139-27. “For those two guys on defense to close it out the way they did was impressive.”
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (7-3) at CHICAGO BEARS (7-3) (Sunday, FOX, 4:15 PM ET)
The Eagles and Bears, both 7-3, will meet at Soldier Field with each team entering Week 12 with at least a share of first place in its division. Philadelphia tops the NFC East while Chicago is tied with Green Bay for first in the NFC North.
After three consecutive wins, the Eagles have soared to the front of the division. In Week 11, Philadelphia knocked off the New York Giants 27-17. Quarterback MICHAEL VICK leads the NFL with a 108.7 passer rating and has yet to throw an interception this season in 191 attempts, the longest streak to start a season in franchise history. Running back LE SEAN MC COY had 140 scrimmage yards against the Giants, including the game-winning 50-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-one late in the fourth quarter.
“It was a good win against a good football team,” says Philadelphia head coach ANDY REID. “We need to take it one week at a time. The way the league’s going now, you can’t look ahead. We’ve got Chicago coming up next, and they’re 7-3. So we have to make sure we’re ready to roll.”
The Bears opened Week 11 with a Thursday-night win at Miami and became the first team in NFL history with 700 regular-season victories. The defense allowed just 187 total yards and handed the Dolphins just their second home shutout in 40 years in Chicago’s 16-0 victory. Defensive end JULIUS PEPPERS recorded three sacks, his eighth career performance with at least three sacks.
“It’s nice to get a couple of sacks in a game,” says Peppers. “But it’s even nicer to have that goose egg on the scoreboard and get the win with it.”