Reuben Thomas takes a look at all the battles as the NFL reaches Week 12...
"Josh McCown is unbeaten when he starts and his performances are earning him praise, the Bears have been ravaged with injuries all season but their defence is starting to rediscover it's vigour"
Carolina Panthers @ Miami Dolphins
Carolina go in hunt of their seventh straight win, after beating San Fran and New England the Panthers are rightly making waves. A resilient defence and Cam Newton's maturing performances have been the key, they face Miami this week. The Dolphins put their controversy behind them and picked up a decent win over the Chargers last time out but are susceptible against the run.
Recommended Bet: Panthers @ 1.51/2
Chicago Bears @ St Louis Rams
Two team relying on backup quarterbacks, The Bears seem happiest with theirs, Josh McCown is unbeaten when he starts and his performances are earning him praise, the Bears have been ravaged with injuries all season but their defence is starting to rediscover it's vigour. Kellen Clemens has struggled to adapt to his new starting role quite so easily as McCown although he did pick up his first win last time out against a good Colts team. The Rams need a win to keep alive but I doubt they'll get it.
Recommended Bet: Bears @ 2.021/1
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Houston Texans
Face off between the AFC South's bottom dwellers. It was somewhat expected that the Jags would struggle but the Texans have been a shocking disappointment. Season ending injuries to key personnel, disharmony amongst the team and the coach having a stroke, it's been real tough. They should have enough to gain a bit of respite this weekend though.
Recommended Bet: Texans @ 1.232/9
Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers
NFC North divisional action and the Packers continue without Rodgers, can they win a game without him? With Wallace out too they are reliant on Scott Tolzien, he can throw but too often it's to the wrong colour, interceptions are killing Green Bay's season. Minnesota's Christian Ponder has a similar ability to give away turnovers but injuries to the Green Bay secondary and the inclusion of Jennings may give him more openings. It would have been unthinkable to pick the Vikings at Lambeau a few weeks ago but that things have changed in that time.
Recommended Bet: Vikings @ 2.89/5
New York Jets @ Baltimore Ravens
Who can call what we'll see from the truly unpredictable Jets, they are a seesaw. The Ravens have suffered close margin losses in tough games for weeks on end, they look to be improving but it's slow progression. Last week's overtime loss to the Bears had to hurt but Ray Rice showed some of his old power. If Flacco can focus I feel a big win is due for the Super Bowl champs.
Recommended Bet: Ravens @ 1.558/15
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns
Two 4-6 teams from the AFC North square off to remain in the hunt for the post season. The Browns come off a mauling from the Bengals whilst the Steelers roll on after the biggest win of their campaign. Beating the Lions was a statement as was Big Ben's performance. He won't find it easy against a seriously impressive Cleveland defence that has been at the top of the rankings all year. However last week Cincy dumped fourty on them and Roethlisberger will have watched the tapes. Historically he has always shone against the Browns.
Recommended Bet: Steelers @ 21/1
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs
AFC West this time and how will the Chiefs react to their first loss? Pretty well probably back at Arrowhead and against a Chargers team that is slipping. Neither Alex Smith nor Jamaal Charles have been particularly flashy this year but the defence has been rock solid and expect it to up it's game again on Sunday. The Chargers showed real promise earlier in the campaign but Rivers has dried up recently and their away record has been bad all year.
Recommended Bet: Chiefs @ 1.454/9
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Detroit Lions
Detroit look to bounce back at home from a worrying slide, after such a promising start to the season they will not want to miss out. They shouldn't do, Stafford and Megatron will start connecting again soon and it could be this week, even against a miserly Tampa secondary. The Bucs are hot though, looking for their third straight win. Their success has been facilitated by their improved running game but it may struggle against the Detroit D-Line
Recommended Bet: Lions @ 1.251/4
Indianapolis Colts @ Arizona Cardinals
First up for the late games and it's an emotional meeting between coaches Pagano and Arians. The Colts have a comfortable divisional lead whilst Arizona are scrapping in the tough NFC West. Andrew Luck has not been at his best and Carson Palmer has frustrated also but they are both always capable of monster games. With the Colts comfortable with their position the need is greater for the Cards. Indy have struggled with the run all year and they won't find any holes against the second best rush defence in the league this Sunday.
Recommended Bet: Cardinals @ 1.768/11
Tennessee Titans @ Oakland Raiders
A pair of 4-6 pretenders do battle at the Coliseum. Matt McGloin leads the Raiders again after a near perfect start and Rashad Jennings continues to take the carries, maybe they should have started the season with these two. Jennings should prosper against a permeable front line of the Titans.
Recommended Bet: Raiders @ 2.021/1
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
NFC East crunch time, the Giants are on a roll, four straight wins has shot them up the standings and now they welcome the worst defence in the league hoping to continue their momentum. Romo's Cowboys are always capable of putting up huge numbers but also seem to be unable to stop even the most mediocre of offences. It's going to be a score fest no doubt but I see the Cowboys halting the Giants progression this week.
Recommended Bet: Cowboys @ 2.26/5
Denver Broncos @ New England Patriots
Late game on the Sunday and probably the most high profile of the weekend as Manning's Broncos travel to Foxboro to take on Brady's Patriots. Sadly Wes Welker may miss the clash as he recovers from concussion. For so long a Patriots stalwart and now a Broncos star, the Patriots will be happy not to face him and they'll be equally happy to get back on the field after a controversial pass interference decision lost them the game against the Panthers last week. Should be a classic, should be.
Recommended Bet: Patriots @ 2.166/5
San Francisco 49ers @ Washington Redskins
Redskins host the 49ers on Monday Night Football with both team in a tailspin trying to avoid a third straight loss. Kaepernick has come up short this season and despite still possessing the running ability he has been less productive with his arm, the return of receiver Crabtree to compliment Boldin and Davis should help this week. Meanwhile RG3 is struggling to find his rhythm after injury and must improve or the Redskins will fade without a trace.
Recommended Bet: 49ers @ 1.422/5