Here are my Week 12 picks with confidence level selections. The picks with a confidence level of 1-5 will be available for all NFL Pickwatch readers.
The picks with a 6+ confidence level, a group of selections that have netted a 123-46-1 record over the past two seasons (including a 40-18-1 mark this year), will be available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.
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Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
KC’s pick: Detroit | Confidence level: 2
The coaching disparity in this matchup is simply amazing. The Lions have yet to win a game under Dan Campbell, and yet his club may have more fighting spirit than any team in the NFL. This moxie has nearly led to wins against Baltimore, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Chicago has posted 31 wins and two playoff berths under Matt Nagy, and yet their club now looks beset with infighting to the point that Nagy has to deny that this will be his last game coaching the team. The Lions also might have the most improved defense in the league, as that platoon went from trending to be historically bad early in the season to giving up only 29 points over the past two games, a pace that is eighth best per game in that span (per Stathead). Detroit will have to overcome having a backup quarterback, but their defensive prowess and Chicago’s myriad injuries should be enough to give the Lions their first win of the year.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
KC’s pick: Cincinnati | Confidence level: 3
It’s tough to know what to expect from these teams. The Steelers have the personnel to be a tough rush defense, but they have allowed 524 rushing yards over the past three weeks. Injuries are part of the problem, but Pittsburgh allowed 100+ rushing yards on four occasions before this, so they really just aren’t playing up to their talent level. The Steelers offense does have leading Offensive Rookie of the Year candidate Najee Harris, but they also have a limited vertical passing game due to Ben Roethlisberger’s noodle arm. The Bengals are equally hard to predict, but they have scored 31+ points in four of their last five games and dealt the Steelers a 24-10 loss at Heinz Field back in September. Add in a defense that has held three of Cincinnati’s last four opponents to 17 or fewer points and the Bengals are the percentage play in this one.
New York Jets at Houston Texans
KC’s pick: Houston | Confidence level: 3
Give Houston head coach David Culley credit for having a formula for victory. The Texans gave Miami a strong run for its money in a 17-9 loss and then, following a bye in Week 10, pulled off maybe the upset of the year in a 22-13 win over Tennessee. The way Houston did this is by being one of the best turnover machines in the business, racking up five takeaways in each of these contests. The Texans offset that advantage with four giveaways against Miami, but had zero versus the Titans. This is worth keeping in mind, as the Jets bring back Zach Wilson this week. His 5.0 percent interception rate is simply atrocious, but he isn’t the reason New York has posted 14 giveaways over the past five games. The Jets are also inept at takeaways, having posted eight all year. The projection here is the Texans will win the turnover battle by at least two and thus claim their second straight victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts
KC’s pick: Tampa Bay | Confidence level: 1
The battle between Jonathan Taylor and Colts dominant offensive versus the Buccaneers powerhouse rush defense might be the best in-game matchup of Week 12. Tampa Bay had been struggling in that area for a time when they allowed 295 rushing yards against Chicago and New Orleans in Weeks 7-8, but they have righted the ship since then and will be tough to move the ball against. Taylor’s MVP candidacy has most of the attention going to the Indianapolis offense, but the Colts defense deserves plenty of kudos for racking up 2+ takeaways in all but three contests this year. That trait will come in handy against Tom Brady, as he takes more risks in this offense than he did in New England, but it’s still tough to imagine Carson Wentz winning the turnover battle against Brady in this one, so the Buccaneers are the pick by a very small margin.
Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars
KC’s pick: Atlanta | Confidence level: 2
This has the potential to be the ugliest game of the year. Atlanta has been outscored 68-3 over the past two games and posted a total of 236 net passing yards in that span. The Falcons attack has looked lost without Calvin Ridley and teams are figuring out how to defend Kyle Pitts. Jacksonville’s offense hasn’t looked much better, as the Jaguars have tallied 152 or fewer net passing yards in each of the past three games in part because Trevor Lawrence may be hitting the rookie wall. Atlanta should get Cordarrelle Patterson back this week from an ankle injury that kept him out of the Week 11 game against New England and has had a week and half worth of rest following that Thursday night matchup. Combine that with the Jaguars having allowed 298 rushing yards over the past two weeks and Atlanta looks like the better bounce back candidate and thus earns the selection.
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
KC’s pick: Carolina | Confidence level: 2
The Dolphins were arguably the worst team in the league in the first half of the season, but Brian Flores deserves a ton of credit for keeping this club focused and determined, as it has led to Miami running off three straight wins. Those wins came via a variety of approaches, as four takeaways led to the win against Houston, a superb blitz-heavy game plan pulled off the upset versus Baltimore and posting nearly 400 yards against the Jets resulted in the 24-17 victory over New York. Carolina’s approach is much more direct, as they don’t throw the ball much (fewer than 200 net passing yards in seven straight games) and they stop the pass (200 or fewer net passing yards allowed on eight occasions). It’s tough to overcome Christian McCaffrey, however, and the addition of Cam Newton had helped Robby Anderson get some of his mojo back, so this one lands in the Panthers column.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
KC’s pick: Los Angeles | Confidence level: 3
It’s tough to know what to make of the Broncos, as they go from posting a huge Week 9 upset at Dallas to laying a proverbial egg against Philadelphia and letting the Eagles rush for 216 yards in a 30-16 loss. It’s a bit easier to predict what one will get from the Chargers, as they have been in shootouts in three of their last four games (a shootout being defined as a game where both teams score 24+ points). It’s easy to see why Los Angeles doesn’t mind getting into those types of games, as they are 4-1 in shootouts this season. Denver’s offensive limitations make them much less suited to keep up in that type of matchup, which is why the Broncos are 0-1 in their only shootout of the season, a 34-24 loss versus the Raiders in Week 6. Denver’s defensive injuries should give the Chargers the initiative in getting this game into high scoring mode, so Los Angeles rates as the better option.
Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
KC’s pick: Green Bay | Confidence level: 2
These are two teams navigating rough waters right now. The Rams started off 7-1 but have since lost two straight due mostly to a sputtering rushing attack (146 combined rush yards in those games) and four giveaways, but the biggest problem may be how they adjust to life without Robert Woods. Odell Beckham, Jr.’s addition could help, but OBJ is banged up and nowhere near as adept a blocker as Woods, so the struggles may continue. Green Bay was also 7-1, but has since lost two of three. The good news for the Packers is their offensive troubles were temporary, as they racked up 31 points against Minnesota last week, but Green Bay will still have to deal with Aaron Rodgers’ toe injury and not having Aaron Jones to lead their ground game. Fortunately for the Packers, AJ Dillon has the power back skills to make Green Bay not miss Jones. Combine that with one of the best defenses in the league and the Packers end up as the pick.
Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers
KC’s pick: San Francisco | Confidence level: 3
It’s easy to see why Mike Zimmer doesn’t like to get into shootout contests. The Vikings were fortunate to win last week’s shootout against Green Bay and even that victory only moved their 2021 shootout record to 2-3. Minnesota may try to take solace in that they have held three of their last four foes to under 100 rushing yards, but three of those teams tallied 419+ offensive yards and Baltimore destroyed the Vikings rush defense to the tune of 247 yards in a Week 9 win over Minnesota. That is a major concern when facing a 49ers offense that has racked up 131+ rushing yards on six occasions, including three of the past four. These strengths and weaknesses should combine to push this contest into the shootout category, which is just enough to move this pick into the 49ers column.
Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens
KC’s pick: Baltimore | Confidence level: 2
Kevin Stefanski turned Cleveland around via dominating the ground game on both sides of the ball. The Browns are still more than capable of overwhelming a defense with their rushing attack, as they have notched 150+ rushing yards in eight contests this year, and they have held seven foes to under 100 rushing yards. The problem is that formula hasn’t been holding up of late, as Baker Mayfield’s injuries have crushed the Browns aerial attack and they have given up 352 rushing yards over the past two weeks. Baltimore may finally be realizing that they were getting too far away from their run-centric roots this year, as the game against Miami provided a blueprint as to how to stop the Ravens passing system. Combine that with Lamar Jackson likely being able to return from a non-COVID-19 illness and it being a home contest for Baltimore and the Ravens are the selection.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team
KC’s pick: Washington | Confidence level: 1
These 2020 playoff teams have both been major disappointments so far in 2021, but the Football Team is starting to trend in a much better direction. This has largely been due to getting their offense back in gear after the Week 9 bye, as Washington has tallied 56 points, 284 rushing yards, and 689 offensive yards in their back-to-back victories over Tampa Bay and Carolina. By contrast, Seattle has posted maybe its worst consecutive offensive showings of the season the past two weeks, as the Seahawks have posted only 13 points, 313 passing yards, and 474 offensive yards in dismal losses to the Packers and Cardinals. Seattle does have a track record of doing well in east coast games, but this Seahawks club is 1-3 in non-west coast road contests, so Washington is the pick.
KC’s 6+ confidence level picks, a group of selections that have gone 123-46-1 over the past two seasons (including a 40-18-1 mark this year), are available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.