NFL Week 12 Predictions: Playoff Hopefuls That Will Take Step Toward Postseason

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIINovember 25, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 11: Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on after the game against the Detroit Lions on November 11, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Week 12 of the NFL season brings with it an opportunity to move one step closer to the playoffs for the teams hoping to take a wild-card berth.

These four teams will come away with hard-fought victories on Sunday to propel themselves into the thick of the playoff race, and a few will be able to make the postseason because of their wins this week.

Look for these teams to move even closer to playing football in January.


Indianapolis Colts

The Bills' defense is struggling, while Andrew Luck couldn't be much hotter.

Luck has thrown for 994 yards in his last three games, including an NFL rookie record 443 against the Miami Dolphins.

The Bills rank in the bottom half of the league against the pass this season but are even worse against the run. Only the New Orleans Saints are worse against the run than Buffalo, as the Bills give up 153.3 rushing yards per game, including over 300 to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Colts are in the top half of the league when it comes to their rushing attack, and Vick Ballard has been impressive in his last few games. He has yet to punch it in for a score, but I see him getting his first NFL touchdown against the Bills on Sunday.

With a victory, the Colts retain their spot as the No. 6 team in the AFC and could move as much as two games up on the Cincinnati Bengals. A win on Sunday gives the Colts some breathing room as they prepare for a difficult end of the season, which includes two games against the 10-1 Houston Texans.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Even with Ben Roethlisberger out on Sunday, the Steelers are going to beat their AFC North rivals, the Cleveland Browns.

The 2-8 Browns have been pitiful this season, ranking No. 20 in the league or worse in passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, passing yards allowed per game and rushing yards allowed per game.

The team's two wins have come against the Cincinnati Bengals, 34-24 at home, and the San Diego Chargers, 7-6 at home.

The Steelers may be missing their starting quarterback, but the team's No. 1-ranked pass defense and No. 5 run defense are going to tear Cleveland apart on Sunday, and the Browns could conceivably fail to score at all in the game.

Pittsburgh's offense doesn't have to do much to win this game, and I would be shocked if the Steelers lost this game.

With a victory, the 6-4 Steelers will be in the same situation as the Colts, moving as much as two games up on the Bengals for a playoff spot and giving the team enough room to be patient for Big Ben's return.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs have a difficult matchup with the 9-1 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, but it couldn't come at a better time for Tampa Bay.

The Buccaneers are the hottest team in football right now, winning four straight games behind the offense. Quarterback Josh Freeman has been on fire, throwing 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the last five games, while explosive rookie running back Doug Martin is third in the NFL in rushing yards this season.

The team's offense is averaging 34.8 points per game during its current four-game winning streak and will have plenty of opportunities to score against a porous Falcons defense.

Atlanta, on the other hand, has been ice-cold. The team lost its first game of the season to the Saints two weeks ago and then turned the ball over a total of six times against the Arizona Cardinals last week.

Normally, I'd take the 9-1 team over the 6-4 team, but I expect Tampa Bay's momentum to carry the team to an easy victory at home on Sunday.

With a win, the team moves to 7-4 and into the playoff picture, and the Bucs would be able to control their own destiny.


Minnesota Vikings

Some people might think I'm crazy for picking the Vikings to beat the Chicago Bears in Chicago on Sunday, but the Vikings are sure to pull off the upset.

The Bears have struggled against good teams this season, going 1-3 against teams with records of .500 or better this season, including back-to-back losses against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings have been playing great football behind the team's stingy defense, which has given up fewer than 20 points per game this season, and the third-ranked running game in the NFL this season.

The return of Adrian Peterson has been huge for the team, as he leads the NFL in rushing yards this season.

The Bears have won seven games this season, but the combined win-loss record of those seven teams is a paltry 25-46-1.

The Vikings will be too much for Chicago to handle, and with a win they will improve to 7-4 this season. The team will own the tiebreaker over the 7-4 Bears, which will put Minnesota into the playoff picture with just five games left.


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