If Thursday's trio of Thanksgiving specials provided any indication of what's ahead, then the weekend edition of Week 12 will deliver several mouth-watering matchups on its schedule. The Los Angeles Rams will travel to Lambeau Field to lock horns with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, who will be hungry to rebound from last Sunday's disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The outcome of that game will have wide-ranging implications on the playoff picture in the top-heavy NFC where the top seed remains wide-open. The AFC North will be well represented under the bright lights when Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens meet the Cleveland Browns in Sunday night's primetime contest.
Parity has been present in recent weeks, and the playoff picture is as jumbled as ever.
We've compiled three bold predictions for Sunday's action.
ZACH WILSON HAS BIG PERFORMANCE IN RETURN
Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson will make his highly anticipated return to the field against the lowly Houston Texans on Sunday. The second overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft hasn't played since suffering a knee injury in an embarrassing Week 7 loss to the New England Patriots. Since then, Jets fans have had to suffer through the less-than-ideal quarterback play of Mike White, Josh Johnson, and even Joe Flacco. Their suffering is over, as the face of their franchise is officially back in action. We're predicting a huge showing for Wilson.
Jets head coach Robert Saleh likely knew exactly what he was doing when deciding Wilson's timetable. His first-year signal-caller will return to face a dreadful Texans defense that currently ranks as the league's sixth-worst passing defense. Houston is allowing the opposition to throw for more than 255 yards per contest while giving up 27.1 points per game. Wilson should be able to spread the ball around to his weapons. Look for Elijah Moore and Corey Davis to help Wilson absolutely torch a secondary that is ripe for the taking.
PATRIOTS DEFEAT TITANS, MOVE INTO NO. 1 SEED?
The surging New England Patriots are officially the hottest team in all of professional football. Winners of five consecutive contests, Bill Belichick has his Patriots flying on all cylinders on both sides of the ball. The Patriots are not only winning games, they're legitimately blowing the opposition out of the water. Throughout their active five-game winning streak, the Patriots own an average margin of victory of an astounding 25 points, including victories with 38 and 41 point differences. It's a haunting turnaround for a team that started the campaign at a disappointing 1-3.
Sunday's showdown with the Tennessee Titans is a crucial one. The Patriots could shockingly move into the AFC's top seed with a victory and Baltimore Ravens loss. The Titans are reeling after suffering a shocking defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans a week ago. The most injury-plagued team in the league by a large margin, the Titans will once again be without several key playmakers when they board the plane for Foxboro, including A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, and Bud Dupree. Tennessee could be looking ahead to next Sunday's much-needed bye week. If so, the Patriots will be ready to pounce on a vulnerable opponent.
STEELERS UPSET BENGALS ON ROAD
The Pittsburgh Steelers suffered a heartbreaking defeat in Week 11, dropping a high-scoring nailbiter in primetime to Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. The Steelers will look to get back on track when they travel to Ohio to square off with their division rival Cincinnati Bengals. On paper, this promises to be one of Sunday's most entertaining and intriguing contests for a variety of reasons.
The playoff picture in the ever-competitive AFC North is absolutely fascinating, and the outcome of this contest will have a profound impact on its current standings. This match represents the second and final scheduled meeting between those two storied foes. The Bengals are largely considered favorites, but we personally see the momentum trending in the other direction. Cincinnati traveled to Heinz Field way back in Week 3 and reigned victorious in front of a disappointing home crowd, but the Steelers have been playing an improved brand of football as of late. We love Pittsburgh's chances of returning the favor on Sunday.