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We hope the rest of the NFL enjoyed their one-year breather from the New England Patriots because all of a sudden Bill Belichick has his squad right where they have been for the better part of two decades. Only this time with a different quarterback at the helm.
With seemingly every team in a state of flux over the past few weeks, the Patriots have looked like the most consistent squad in the entire league and there is suddenly a real chance the AFC playoffs could go through Foxborough.
The Patriots can increase that likelihood in Week 12 when they take on the one team in the AFC they trail in the win column.
Also on deck for this weekend, the defending Super Bowl champs try and slow down a red-hot running back, while two NFC contenders square off with playoff seeding implications aplenty.
Here is everything you need to know about the top three matchups coming your way this Sunday:
Tennessee Titans vs. New England Patriots
Sunday, Nov. 28 at 1:00PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Patriots -5.5
Over/Under Total: 44.5
Moneyline: Titans (+210), Patriots (-250)
There was only one team that may have been playing more consistent football than the Patriots heading into Week 11, and that was the Tennessee Titans. That didn't last long, however, as the Titans lost to the 1-8 Houston Texans last weekend, and a season that was already filled with monumental upsets added another.
It was a disaster of a game for Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who threw four interceptions during the divisional matchup. This game was the first time the absence of Derrick Henry truly seemed to impact the Titans' offence. The weather was brutal, and with Henry in the backfield, Tennessee would have leaned on its workhorse to control the clock and keep the ball out of harm's way.
But Henry is most likely out until at least the playoffs, and the Titans, who are also currently without receiver Julio Jones, will be searching for answers this week in hopes of kickstarting their offence.
Unfortunately, they go up against a Patriots defence that is fresh off a 25-0 shutout of the Atlanta Falcons, which included four interceptions of their own.
It is pretty clear that this Patriots defence might be playing the best football out of any unit in the entire league. They currently lead the league in opponent points per game, giving up just 16.1 this season. Recently, they have been even better, giving up an absurdly low 4.3 points over their past three contests.
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 19, 2021
The play of the defence is exactly what you want when you have a rookie quarterback starting on the other side of the ball. And with the support, Mac Jones has flourished under centre for the Patriots.
Jones is currently the odds-on favourite to take home offensive rookie of the year, thanks partly to his 70.2% completion percentage, which if he holds, will set the NFL record for completion percentage by a rookie.
Tennessee's defence has been playing well as of late, but with the way the Patriots are rolling, don't be surprised if New England is once again on top of the AFC at the end of Week 12.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Indianapolis Colts
Sunday, Nov. 28 at 1:00PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Buccaneers -3.0
Over/Under Total: 51.0
Moneyline: Buccaneers (-150), Colts (+130)
It has been nine years since a position outside of quarterback has won the NFL MVP award.
Is that stretch in jeopardy of being broken? Probably not, as quarterbacks reign supreme. But with the way Jonathan Taylor has been playing these past few weeks, he is beginning to build a fairly convincing case.
Covered the NFL a long time and have rarely seen a running back spark the kind of belief Jonathan Taylor does for the Colts. They rightly believe EVERY touch can be a TD. They think they can win any time he’s on the field.
He is, IMO, the definition of an MVP.
Yes, I said it.
— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) November 22, 2021
Taylor had 204 total yards and FIVE touchdowns this past weekend when Indianapolis put a hurting on the Buffalo Bills.
The Colts have found their identity, and although they are 6-5 and currently on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff picture, they are a team no one wants to see moving forward.
They play solid defence, Carson Wentz has limited the backbreaking turnovers, and most importantly, they put the ball in Taylor's hand, a lot.
If there is one team that might be up for the task of slowing down the red-hot Wisconsin product, it might be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who own the league's best rushing defence.
In their win over the New York Giants on Monday night, the Bucs held Saquon Barkley and company to just 66 yards on the ground, and that was without their No. 1 run-stopper in defensive tackle Vita Vea.
Vea has a chance to play this weekend and as one of the most under-appreciated players in the entire NFL, she hould be key if the Buccanneers want to slow down this bruising Colts running attack.
On the other side of the ball, the Colts will look to bottle up Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offence, which looked to get back on track against the Giants and snapped a two-game losing streak in the process.
As the usual strategy goes for teams matching up against the seven-time Super Bowl champ, the Colts will look to run the ball and keep it out of Brady's hands.
And it just so happens the Colts have just the man for the job. Let's see if they can execute on Sunday.
Los Angeles Rams vs. Green Bay Packers
Sunday, Nov. 28 at 4:25PM ET | Live Stream
Spread: Packers -1.0
Over/Under Total: 48.0
Moneyline: Rams (EVEN), Packers (-120)
If Matthew Stafford joining the Los Angeles Rams was a marriage, the honeymoon phase has officially come to an end and the happy couple is experiencing their first rough patch.
After starting the season 7-1, the Rams have lost back-to-back games where their offence has had more than its fair share of struggles. Over the losses, Stafford has thrown just two touchdowns compared to four interceptions.
Stafford has made poor decisions, but his receivers haven't helped him, either. The Rams currently are second in the league in drops, including five in last week's loss to the 49ers. Things aren't going to get any easier for the Rams offence, as the season-ending injury to receiver Robert Woods is a massive blow.
Thankfully, the Rams pulled the trigger and signed Odell Beckham Jr. and now have to hope the 29-year-old can step up and find some of the magic from earlier in his career. Beckham Jr. joins Von Miller as new additions to a team that has made one thing clear: it is Super Bowl or bust.
Both players made their debuts in Week 10 in the team's loss to the 49ers but were still working their way into the rotation. Now, coming off a bye, Rams fans will be hoping their shiny new additions can make a difference and stop the two-game skid.
Standing in their way is Aaron Rodgers and the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, where Stafford has a 3-7 record over his career.
Rodgers will be looking to get his team back on track after suffering a tough divisional loss on the road against the Vikings. The reigning MVP struggled in the first half, before finding his stride after the break to finish with 385 yards and four touchdowns.
His favourite target, Davante Adams, hauled in seven catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns. This week, Adams will have his hands full, as he will most likely spend some time being shadowed by the Rams' star corner, Jalen Ramsey.
The Packers' injuries are beginning to pile up, as they will likely be without three of their starting offensive linemen, as well as running back Aaron Jones when they take on Aaron Donald, Miller, and the rest of the new-look Rams' defensive front.
Packers likely O-line against the Rams on Sunday:
LT: Yosh Nijman
LG: Jon Runyan Jr.
C: Lucas Patrick
RG: Royce Newman
RT: Billy Turner
LT David Bakhtiari (knee), LT/LG Elgton Jenkins (knee) and C Josh Myers (on IR, knee) the three starters missing.
— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) November 22, 2021
Rodgers is still very capable of dragging his team to victory as he has done many times over his career. But Rams fans will have to hope the bye week allowed the team to get right, because with a third-straight loss Sunday, things will start to get a bit hairy in La La Land.
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