It is Week 12 in the NFL and we are back for our Pigskin Preview, previewing and breaking down the best games for this upcoming Week in the NFL. With Three big games on Thursday for Thanksgiving, unlike most Turkey Days, there will be a meaningful game played in Detroit as they look to creep to within one game of the Vikings. Also, on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys will host Philip Rivers and the LA Chargers as they look to take a grab at the wide open wild card spot currently held by the 5-5 Baltimore Ravens. Lastly, the biggest game for this Sunday is the 8-2 New Orleans Saints going on the road to face the 7-3 Los Angles Rams in a matchup of two of the most high powered offenses in the NFL.
Here is your Pigskin Preview for Week 12!
"We're all willing to do whatever it takes to win a football game." – @casekeenum7
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) November 21, 2017
Minnesota Vikings (8-2) @ Detroit Lions (6-4)
For this year’s Thanksgiving showdown, the Detroit Lions will play host to the NFC North division leaders, the Minnesota Vikings, as the Lions look to get within a game of the division leader. The Lions defeated the Vikings 14-7 @ Minnesota in Week 4, but since dropping that game, the Vikes have gone on to win the past six games.
A big key to the success of the Vikings is their ability to protect their quarterback Case Keenum, who has only been sacked five times in 300 attempts(1.6%). The Vikings have given up an NFL low 10 sacks all season. Keenum didn’t get sacked for the sixth time this season when defeating the Rams 24-7 and had another outstanding performance throwing for 280 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. In the victory over the Rams, Keenum found his favorite target Adam Thielen six times for 123 yards and a touchdown. Thielen has continued his breakout season with another tremendous game and now ranks second in total receiving yards with 916.
Another reason for the Vikings success has been their commitment to running the ball. Latavius Murray and Jerick Mckinnon have been solid while splitting duties, with Murray getting 15 carries, and Mckinnon getting 14. The two backs combined for 143 yards, while Murray scored two touchdowns.
The Lions defense that has been below average this season ranking 21st in total defense. They will have their hands full with a very efficient, and high powered Minnesota offense.
The reason the Lions are still within reaching distance of the Vikings has been the play of quarterback Matthew Stafford. He is ranked fifth in passing yards this season with 2760 and willing the Lions to victories the past week. Turnovers have haunted Stafford in the past, but he has done a great job limiting his mistakes and has only five interceptions on the season. A key matchup for this game will be how Stafford’s top targets Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr. and Eric Ebron will play against the dangerous secondary of Xavier Rhodes, Terrence Newman, and Trae Waynes.
It will be important for the Vikings top pass rusher Everson Griffin, who has 10 sacks on the season, to get to Stafford. They will try and force him to make mistakes. Both of these teams have averaged 31.6 points over their past three games, I think these are two very similar teams who are going to want to control the ball on the ground. The game will be nowhere near the offense we’ve seen of late and I see it being a close game coming down to the wire.
Los Angles Chargers (4-6) @ Dallas Cowboys (5-5)
"It doesn't get bigger than this."#Chargers Embrace Opportunity to Make Statement on National Stage
— Los Angeles Chargers (@Chargers) November 22, 2017
In another classic Thanksgiving game, the struggling Cowboys play host to red-hot Chargers, who after starting 0-4, have won four of their past six games and find themselves only one game out the #6 seed in the AFC. Coming off a dominating 54-24 win against Buffalo. The Charges will look continue on all the things that have had great success, and that starts with WR Kennan Allen who was target 13 times, catching 12 for 159 and two touchdowns.
But it was LA’s defense that shined forcing first-half interceptions of Nathan Peterman and finishing with six total turnovers for the game. The biggest strength on this Chargers defense is their defensive line, as the Chargers rank third in sacks lead by Joey Bosa (10.5), Melvin Ingram (8.5), and Chris McClain (5.0). The Chargers will be looking to feast on Thursday as the Cowboys have given up 12 sacks in the past two weeks without starting LT Tyrone Smith. LB Sean Lee has also been out for the past two weeks and the result is the Cowboys have given up an average of 32 points.
There have also been struggles scoring the ball as well in the absence of Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys have been held to less than 10 points in consecutive weeks, and have been held out of the end zone for seven consecutive quarters since an early touchdown @ Atlanta. I think a big reason for the struggles on offense is the Cowboys forcing Dak Prescott to do too much. I think the Cowboys need to commit to the run, and feed Alfred Morris, who in the 38-9 lose to Philly, rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries, and is averaging 6.19 yards per carry for the season.
The Chargers will look to neutralize top wideout for the Cowboys Dez Bryant with CB Casey Hayward, who has shut down top WRs all season and will try to make someone other than Bryant beat the Chargers.
I think this could be a tough game for the Cowboys playing a future Hall of Fame QB in Philip Rivers. If Melvin Gordon and this Chargers running attack get going, it could be another long night for the Cowboys.
New Orleans Saints (8-2) @ Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
This is the marquee matchup for the Sunday slate of games as two division leaders, and two of the top teams in the NFC collide in Los Angeles. This game has big playoff implications as the Rams still hold a one-game lead on the Seahawks, and the Saints try to fight off the Panthers (7-3) and the Falcons (6-4) who are right on their tail.
In the Saints 34-31 win over Washington, the Saints had 535 total yards offense, thanks to a 385-yard game from Drew Bress and 176 combined rushing yards from running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. The Saints have one of the most balanced offenses in the NFL averaging 144 rushing yards a game and are third in total points averaging 30.2 a game.
The Rams are about as equal of a matchup you can find in the league, as they rank second in total points with 30.3, are 11th in rushing, and 9th in passing. They are good enough for fourth in total yards. The Rams are coming off their worst game of the season offensively and were held to single digits for the first time this season. They will look to bounce back with a win against the Saints and will rely on All-Pro DT Aaron Donald to cause big problems in the middle of the line and try to stuff up the run game of Ingram and Karma.
With both offenses being so high-powered, it should be one of the highest scoring games of the week with the winner being whoever comes out on top between the Jared Goff vs Drew Bress shootout.