A look ahead at Week 12 of the NFL season:
1. If you wonder why the TV ratings are down in the NFL, check out the matchups this week. Two games feature (or featured) two teams with winning records: Vikings-Lions on Thanksgiving Day and the Saints-Rams on Sunday. Pittsburgh-Green Bay would have been a third featuring Ben Roethlisberger vs. Aaron Rodgers. But with Rodgers injured, the Steelers figure to have little trouble beating Brett Hundley. The problem is that it’s the Sunday night prime time game. Even worse the Monday night game is Houston-Baltimore. The Saints-Rams game will be worth watching and it is the CBS doubleheader game but only about 80 percent of the country will see it because the Denver-Oakland game will be shown in much of the West. For those who get it, they have to hope the Saints-Rams game lives up to expectations. The Saints will bring in an eight-game winning streak into the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Rams don’t have much of a homefield edge because the L.A. fans are so apathetic. The Rams are still favored by two despite their loss to Minnesota last week. This one could down to the wire with veteran Drew Brees facing young Jared Goff. These two teams could meet again in the playoffs.
2. The Bills-Chiefs game features two teams trying to bounce back from terrible games. Bills coach Sean McDermott benched Tyrod Taylor against the Los Angeles Charger for rookie Nathan Peterman, who promptly threw five interceptions in the first half so Taylor gets the nod. The Chiefs, who started out 5-0, lost their fourth in five games to the Giants, 12-9. So both teams will try to get their offenses untracked. The most interesting about this game may be how many plays Darrelle Revis gets for the Chiefs after being signed this week. Revis wants to prove he can still play after his subpar season last year.
3. The 0-10 Browns usually aren’t worth watching as they continue their march to a winless season. But their game against 4-6 Cincinnati will be interesting because it will mark the return of wide receiver Josh Gordon from his multi-year drug suspensions. How effective will he be? The problem is that he has DeShone Kizer throwing to him, and Kizer has been erratic at best. Coach Hue Jackson says having Gordon back is like an early Christmas present, but Gordon, even if he quickly returns to his old form, can’t turn the Browns around.
4. The Jaguars-Cardinals matchup cornerback Jalen Ramsey shadowing veteran Larry Fitzgerald, although Ramsey is hampered by a hand injury. A curious twist in this game is that the Jaguars missed on three first-round quarterbacks since 2003, and all three are involved in this game. Byron Leftwich is coaching Blaine Gabbert and Blake Bortles is still playing for the Jaguars. It will be Gabbert’s first game against his former team. A Bortles-Gabbert matchup figures to be low scoring, but then nobody will see it outside of Arizona, Nashville and north Florida and south Georgia.
5. The Denver-Oakland rivalry is a long and storied one, but these two teams are going nowhere this season. What makes it interesting is that Denver fired its offensive coordinator Mike McCoy last week and Oakland fired its defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. So who has the edge in the matchup of new coordinators Bill Musgrave of the Broncos and John Pagano of the Raiders. Probably Pagano because the Broncos are starting Paxton Lynch, the latest in the list of bust QBs drafted by GM John Elway. Lynch has been injured, but he’s not the long-term answer for the Broncos when he is healthy. Meanwhile, coach Jack Del Rio of the Raiders has little control over his team. Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack skipped practice in what amounted to a one-day strike to protest Norton’s firing, and the Raiders announced they had been given a rest day. Del Rio is on the hot seat despite signing a four-year contract extension.