With plenty of teams jostling for the playoff spots, Lindy’s Sports’ UK editor Simon Milham looks at some of the big games ahead of NFL Week 12, including a big Sunday night clash between the Packers and Niners.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

This could boil down to who can successfully take advantage of their opponents’ weak secondary. Tampa Bay’s pass-oriented offense should have some success against an injured Atlanta backend, who have fared particularly poorly against well-balanced attacks.

The Bucs need to find a semblance of a running game to keep the Atlanta defense honest, which would help QB Jameis Winston take a few deep shots off an effective play-action passing scheme.

Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are two of the best receivers in the game, but the Falcons have recently been generating pressure from their front four and Winston has been a turnover machine this year when rattled.

The same can be said for Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, who similarly should get plenty of change out of a pass defense that ranks among the worst in the NFL. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley can post big numbers if the Falcons can find a way to limit linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who has 11.5 sacks this season.

The Falcons are coming off two wins against NFC South teams and are 4.0-point handicap favourites at BetVictor NFL odds of 10/11 as they bid for a sixth consecutive win over the Bucs, who have been better than their 3-7 record would suggest.

Those two wins came on the road at New Orleans and at Carolina, where they conceded a combined total of 12 points.

This has the makings of a shoot-out, however, and even though Atlanta’s defensive form against two one-dimensional teams has signalled an upturn in fortunes, the Bucs may get a few more offensive drives than in recent weeks. As such, taking them to score over 24 points might pay dividends.

TIP: Tamps Bay to score over 24 points at

 

New York Giants at Chicago Bears

The New York Giants have won four of the last five meetings with the Bears at Soldier Field but are 6.0-point underdogs according to the BetVictor NFL handicap odds for Sunday’s clash.

Chicago’s offensive line depth is a concern, with DT Akiem Hicks on Injure Reserve and the Giants will need to establish the run early with Saquon Barkley if they are to cause an upset.

He rushed for 124 yards on 24 carries against the Bears last season, so the hosts know what they must do, bottle him up and force rookie QB Daniel Jones to win the game with his passing. He has made a few mistakes, throwing into coverage, and so LBs Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd will smell blood.

The Bears’ slow starts have become a frustration. The only time they managed to score on their opening possession this season was way back in Week 4 against the Minnesota Vikings.

They, too, must try and establish the run with RB David Montgomery and while there is uncertainty over whether QB Mitchell Trubisky will play, the Bears don’t have a serious drop-off should Chase Daniel take the snaps.

The Bears are clinging to slim playoff hopes and need this game after losing six of the last seven, but Big Blue’s good record in Chicago should not be dismissed and Barkley’s threat is a real one.

TIP: New York Giants +6.0 points at

 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Pittsburgh are at .500 after losing to Cleveland in last Thursday’s bruising encounter. The status of receivers Juju Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson are in doubt and RB James Connor is also a doubt. RB Jaylen Samuels had five catches and a score against the Browns, however, underlining he is a very capable deputy.

The Bengals are still searching for their first win of the season and must do so with back-up QB Ryan Finley, who has plenty of limitations, as Steelers’ DB Minkah Fitzpatrick will doubtless highlight. His five interceptions, one forced fumble and eight passes defensed in eight games since arriving from the Miami Dolphins is a major reason why the Steelers are still in the playoff mix at 5-5.

Cincinnati are one-dimensional without receivers John Ross and A.J. Green, so the onus will fall on RB Joe Mixon to pound the rock. He managed 62 yards at a 4.1-yards per carry when the Steelers beat the Bengals 27-3 in Week 4.

The Steelers have won their last six visits to Cincinnati and are 6.5-point favourites at odds of 10/11 this time round. The Bengals have managed to score more than 17 points on just two occasions this season – and that was without inexperienced Finley at QB.

However, Cincinnati invariably raises its game at home against the AFC North opponent Steelers and the Bengals have failed to score 17 points on just two of the last 11 meetings at home. It may be worth playing that trend again.

TIP: Cincinnati Bengals to score over 16 points at

 

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

New Orleans bounced back from a shocking home loss to the Falcons when going on the road and beating Tampa Bay by 17 points last week. The Carolina Panthers were trounced by the Falcons themselves at home last week and have dropped three of their last four.

Yet three of their five losses have come by one score and they are a gritty team that may be able to keep things closer than the 9.5-point handicap offered by BetVictor.

New Orleans’ defense is stout, so it will be imperative that RB Christian McCaffrey gets going early to supplement the Panthers’ inconsistent passing game, and TE Greg Olsen has often terrorised the Saints. The veteran may well have a few favourable match-ups, particularly if Saints’ CB Marshon Lattimore is not fully fit upon his return from a hamstring injury. His inclusion would, however, be a nice insurance policy against big plays, should QB Kyle Allen find some deep-ball accuracy.

TIP: Carolina Panthers +9.5 points at

 

Oakland Raiders at New York Jets

The New York Jets have had plenty of difficulties at the cornerback and linebacker all season long, and they have been unable to rely upon their offensive line.

This spells trouble as the Oakland Raiders should have no trouble moving the ball downfield, with QB Derek Carr expected to have a big day as RB Josh Jacobs may find running the ball against the solid Jets defensive line problematic.

The Raiders, who have lost each of the last five meetings in New York, are similarly vulnerable against the pass, ranking near the bottom of the NFL in passing yards per game conceded. That comes as a result of a pass-rush that has been flimsy at best.

The Raiders are still in the thick of the playoffs hunt at 6-4, but with games upcoming against Kansas City, Tennessee and Jacksonville, this is one the Silver and Black dare not lose.

TIP: Oakland Raiders -3 points at

 

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Two less-than-convincing wins over Arizona and an overtime defeat by Seattle has many wondering if the San Francisco 49ers’ bubble is about to burst.

Injuries have been a problem, but they may get TE George Kittle back following a knew injury, which would dramatically help their offensive scheme.

Defending the run has proved to be something of a weakness and if Aaron Jones can pick up where he left off in victory over Carolina before their bye, he will open the passing lanes for Aaron Rodgers.

Niners opponent Rodgers

The Niners’ pass rush is a good one and despite his elite status, one does have concerns about Rodgers’ ability to get the ball out quickly enough against the Niners’ strong pass rush.

Likewise, Green Bay LBs Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith can make life miserable for San Francisco QB Jimmy Garoppolo, who has suffered a few growing pains this season and is forcing the ball into coverage when pressured.

The Packers have won seven of the last 10 at San Francisco, but they were far from convincing against a Carolina side that was blown out by Atlanta at home last week. Kittle’s likely return means the Niners could sneak this.

TIP: San Francisco to win at

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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