Week 12 of the NFL season started with three Thanksgiving games, including a near-upset of the Houston Texans by the Detroit Lions. The Lions didn't manage to finish the job, but on Sunday we will see a handful of major upsets.
With the playoff picture beginning to come into focus, these games all have massive playoff implications, and could be the difference between a first-round bye or playing in the Wild Card Games, or even simply making the playoffs or staying home.
With so much on the line, these will be the big upsets on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers over Atlanta Falcons
In an NFC South matchup with playoffs written all over it, the Bucs host the 9-1 Falcons, who lead the NFC at the moment.
However, the Falcons have been struggling, losing to the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago before turning the ball over six times in a narrow victory over the 4-6 Arizona Cardinals.
The story couldn't be anymore different for Tampa Bay, as the team has been on fire in recent weeks, winning four straight games by an average of 11.3 points per game.
The team's offense is playing out of its mind right now.
Josh Freeman has thrown for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the team's last five games for an average quarterback rating of 107.8.
Rookie running back Doug Martin has been even more important, rushing for an average of 148.0 yards per game during the team's four-game winning streak, and totaling 191.5 total yards per game and six touchdowns in those four games.
Tampa Bay may be the hottest team in football, and I don't just expect the team to beat Atlanta—I expect them to embarrass the Falcons.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 38, Atlanta 24
New Orleans Saints over San Francisco 49ers
The Saints looked like they would miss the playoffs entirely after starting the season 0-4, but after going 5-1 in their last six games the team has a legitimate chance of grabbing a wild-card spot.
The next challenge for the Saints is a matchup with the 49ers, who are currently just half a game up on the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers for the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye.
The Saints have been tough at home in recent weeks, constantly improving and winning their last three games in the Superdome. The last time the Saints played at home they took down a Falcons team that was undefeated at the time.
The 49ers are dealing with a quarterback controversy that is becoming a major distraction, and trusting Colin Kaepernick to start in a hostile environment as difficult as the Superdome seems like a poor decision on Jim Harbaugh's part.
With Kaepernick under center I'm expecting the Saints to keep rolling and improve to 6-5 on the season.
Prediction: New Orleans 28, San Francisco 24
New York Giants over Green Bay Packers
In a rematch of an NFC Divisional Round Game from last season, the Giants look to spoil a great season for the Packers once again. This time the Giants can push the Packers out of first place in the NFC North, and to the brink of missing the playoffs with a victory.
The Giants are a streaky team, and after starting the season 6-2, they have lost two straight.
However, the team had an extra week to prepare for this game after a bye, and should be able to expose a weak Green Bay pass defense that ranks No. 21 in the league.
Eli Manning is going to be the key in this game. In the last three games he has not scored a touchdown, but he will have plenty of opportunities to do so on Sunday, and I expect him to come out strong after the bye.
The Giants traditionally do well coming off a bye week, winning four straight games since 2007.
With the opportunity to take a commanding two-game lead in the NFC East, I see the Giants bringing their A-game in front of their home fans. Look for a narrow victory for the team.
Prediction: New York 27, Green Bay 24 (OT)
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