As the NFL enters Week 12, there are 22 teams within two games of a playoff spot. And with six weeks to play, nothing has been settled.
“Stacking wins together is what good teams do this time of year,” says Dallas Cowboys quarterback TONY ROMO, who is 18-2 in his career as a starter in November. “You need to put yourself in position for the stretch run. It’s been big to win these past three games. It’s going to keep on getting bigger every game.”
Week 12 begins on Thursday with a Thanksgiving tripleheader for the sixth consecutive year. Traditional competitors Detroit and Dallas will host games during the day followed by a primetime nightcap on NFL Network featuring the first game between head coach brothers – JIM and JOHN HARBAUGH – in NFL history.
|Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
|12:30 PM ET
|12:30 PM ET
|Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys
|3:15 PM CT
|4:15 PM ET
|San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens
|8:00 PM ET
|8:00 PM ET
For the first time since 1998, every team that will play on Thanksgiving won its preceding game. The six teams have combined for a 42-18 (.700) mark, the best combined mark for the Thanksgiving teams since 1975 (28-12, .700). Four of the six participating teams – Baltimore, Dallas, Green Bay and San Francisco – own at least a share of first place. And two of the three games – Green Bay at Detroit (17-3, .850) and San Francisco at Baltimore (16-4, .800) – will feature teams with a combined winning percentage of .800 or better. Some of the key games in Week 12:
GREEN BAY PACKERS (10-0) at DETROIT LIONS (7-3) (Thursday, FOX, 12:30 PM ET)
Green Bay and Detroit will meet on Thanksgiving Day for the 20th time, the most matchups in NFL history between any two teams on the holiday.
The Packers have won 16 consecutive games (including the playoffs), the longest streak in team history. Green Bay is the third defending Super Bowl champion (1990 San Francisco, 1998 Denver) to start the following season 10-0 and the Packers are 10-0 for the third time (1929 and 1962; Green Bay won the NFL Championship in both of those seasons). Green Bay is the first undefeated team to play on Thanksgiving since the 1962 Packers.
“I love playing on Thanksgiving,” says Green Bay head coach MIKE MC CARTHY whose team aims to be the first undefeated club to win on Thanksgiving since the 1934 Chicago Bears. “I think the players really like it too. It’s an honor to play on the holiday.”
The Lions erased a 24-7 deficit to defeat Carolina 49-35 last week, the team’s third comeback win of at least 17 points this year. Detroit is the first team in NFL history to win three games in a single season in which it trailed by at least 17 points.
“We’re definitely looking forward to the game on Thanksgiving,” says Lions defensive tackle NDAMUKONG SUH. “It’s a great honor to play on Thanksgiving. So I’m looking forward to that and I love playing against Green Bay.”
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-1) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (7-3) (Thursday, NFLN, 8:00 PM ET)
The first-ever meeting between head coach brothers will take place on Thanksgiving night when San Francisco’s JIM and Baltimore’s JOHN HARBAUGH meet in primetime on NFL Network.
“On one hand, you’re really focused on the job,” says John Harbaugh. “But the other side of it is that it’s an amazing thing. It’s an historic thing. It’s very special. I couldn’t be more proud for our parents or for Jim. I think it’s really neat.”
The 49ers have won eight in a row and lead the NFC West with a 9-1 record, the club’s best start since 1997. San Francisco can clinch the division title this weekend with a win at Baltimore and a Seattle loss to Washington. Last week, the 49ers defeated Arizona 23-7. The defense has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 32 consecutive games – the longest current streak in the NFL – and the 49ers have not allowed a rushing touchdown all season. San Francisco is the first team in the NFL to not allow a rushing touchdown in its first 10 games since the 1997 49ers.
The Ravens are a perfect 5-0 at home this year and currently tie for the best record in the AFC at 7-3. Baltimore knocked off Cincinnati last week in a key AFC North clash led by wide receiver TORREY SMITH (six catches, 165 yards, one touchdown). Smith joined KEN BURROW (two in 1971) and RANDY MOSS (three in 1998) as the only rookies to have multiple games with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown catch since 1970.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (7-3) at PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (4-6) (Sunday, CBS, 4:15 PM ET)
At 7-3, the Patriots are tied for the best record in the AFC and lead their division by two games. New England defeated Kansas City last Monday night by a 34-3 score.
Tight end ROB GRONKOWSKI scored two touchdowns last week and reached 20 career TD catches in his 26th game, the fewest games that any tight end in NFL history has needed to reach 20 touchdowns (Pro Football Hall of Famer MIKE DITKA, 31 games). Gronkowski has also reached the 10-TD mark for the second consecutive season and joins ANTONIO GATES (2004-05) as the only TEs in league annals to accomplish the feat.
The Eagles notched an important win last Sunday night with a 17-10 victory against the New York Giants. With the win, Philadelphia moved to within two games of first place in the division, trailing the Giants and Dallas.
“You have to take it one game at a time,” says Eagles head coach ANDY REID. “You control what you can control and that’s getting ready to play the New England Patriots, who are a good football team.”
Philadelphia running back LE SEAN MC COY leads the NFL with 1,019 rushing yards – the most ever by an Eagles player through the first 10 games – and is tied for the league lead with 12 touchdowns (10 rushing, two receiving).
“If we just win out and take care of business, we’ll be fine,” says McCoy. “But it won’t be easy.”
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-4) AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (7-3) (MONDAY, ESPN, 8:30 PM ET)
Two teams in the thick of the NFC playoff race will meet on Monday night. The Giants are currently tied with Dallas for first place in the NFC East while the Saints enter Week 12 with a 7-3 record and a one-game lead on Atlanta in the NFC South.
New York quarterback ELI MANNING returns to his hometown and the site where his father, ARCHIE, played quarterback for the Saints (1971-82). Manning leads the NFL with a 120.5 passer rating in the fourth quarter this season, throwing for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“Obviously, we have to go win,” says Manning on the importance of this game. “That is always going to be the case since we have a tough road ahead. We have a good team coming up this week and we just have to find ways to play more consistent football throughout the game.”
The Saints are coming off a bye in Week 11. New Orleans has won two in a row and the team is a perfect 4-0 at home.
Quarterback DREW BREES leads the NFL with 3,326 passing yards, the most yards through the first 10 games of a season in NFL history. He has thrown a touchdown pass in 37 consecutive games, the second-longest streak all-time (Pro Football Hall of Famer JOHNNY UNITAS, 47 games). And he has completed at least 20 passes in an NFL-record 30 games in a row.
“This six-game stretch to end the season without a doubt becomes the race trying to put distance between you and the teams behind you,” says Saints head coach SEAN PAYTON. “It’s just as important to improve each week with your own team and challenge yourselves to be playing your best football toward the latter part of the year.”