The Week 12 NFL schedule for the 2021 season is stacked with great matchups, and we got you covered with what you need to know heading into the weekend. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the biggest keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and, of course, final score picks.
Additionally, ESPN Stats & Information provides a big stat to know and a betting nugget for each contest, and our Football Power Index (FPI) goes inside the numbers with a matchup rating (on a scale of 1 to 100) and a game projection. ESPN researcher Kyle Soppe hands out helpful fantasy football info, as well. Everything you want to know is here in one spot to help you get ready for a loaded weekend of NFL football.
Let’s get into the full Week 12 slate, including a huge matchup between AFC powerhouses in Foxborough, Massachusetts, a Tom Brady vs. Jonathan Taylor showdown, an offensive battle between the Rams and Packers, and two crucial AFC North head-to-head meetings. It all culminates with a Monday Night Football matchup between Seattle and Washington on ESPN. (Game times are Sunday unless otherwise noted.)
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 84.1 | Spread: TB -3 (51.5)
What to watch for: How will the Colts’ defense slow down Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady? The Colts did an excellent job of keeping Buffalo signal-caller Josh Allen in the pocket so that he couldn’t become a dual-threat QB. Now, they need to force Brady out of his comfort zone — outside the pocket. Brady leads the NFL in passing yards per game (317.7) and passing touchdowns (29) this season, while only throwing eight interceptions and getting sacked less than twice a contest. Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus summed it up best: “You’re not fooling Tom Brady. That’s not going to happen.” — Mike Wells
Bold prediction: The Bucs’ top-ranked rush defense will hold Indianapolis running back Jonathan Taylor to 70 or fewer rushing yards. That’s his lowest mark over the past six games. The Bucs have surrendered 100 rushing yards to just one running back this season (Khalil Herbert, in Week 7). Stopping the run is their bread and butter, but they have to show they can win on the road, which has been a struggle all year. — Jenna Laine
Stat to know: Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has six games this season with two or more passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. Only Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins have more such games (seven each).
What to know for fantasy: Everyone knows about Taylor’s five scores from last week, but did you know that he has a 30-plus-yard touch in eight straight games? He’s not only in the running for 2021 fantasy MVP, he’ll also have a strong case for being the top overall pick next summer. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Tampa Bay is 0-5 against the spread (ATS) on the road this season. Read more.
Laine’s pick: Buccaneers 29, Colts 27
Wells’ pick: Buccaneers 31, Colts 30
FPI prediction: TB, 60.6% (by an average of 3.6 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 67.7 | Spread: NE -6.5 (44)
What to watch for: “They have every blitz that you could choose to use.” That’s how Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels described the Titans, and after rookie quarterback Mac Jones saw a steady diet of blitzes from the Falcons last week, expect more of the same this week. How Jones handles the blitz figures to play a significant role in the outcome. — Mike Reiss
Bold prediction: Despite coming off a loss in which they turned the football over five times, the Titans will win the turnover battle with the Patriots. New England’s defense has 18 interceptions, the most in the NFL, and has forced 13 turnovers during its five-game win streak. But the Titans will rely on their front four to get pressure on Jones while dropping seven into coverage, looking to cloud the passing lanes and get those interceptions. — Turron Davenport
Stat to know: The Patriots have outscored opponents 70-0 since trailing the Browns 7-0 in the first quarter of Week 10. The Pats have allowed zero points on their past 19 opponent drives (nine sacks, five interceptions and 3-for-21 on opponent third-down conversions).
What to know for fantasy: For the second time this season, Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown has gone three straight games without a 20-yard catch. He hasn’t been a top-30 receiver in any of his past three games after being a top-five receiver in his two prior outings. See Week 12 rankings.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry explain why they are down on A.J. Brown against a stingy Patriots defense.
Betting nugget: Tennessee is 5-0 outright as an underdog this season. The only team in the Super Bowl era to win its first six games as an underdog was Cincinnati in 2009. Read more.
Davenport’s pick: Titans 24, Patriots 21
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 23, Titans 20
FPI prediction: NE, 67.5% (by an average of 6.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Current NFL playoff picture: Cardinals, Titans are favorites to get No. 1 seeds … Smith works through foundational first year with Patriots … The Patriots, once 2-4, suddenly lead AFC East
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 44.0 | Spread: CIN -4.5 (45)
What to watch for: After a win at Heinz Field earlier this season, the Bengals are looking to sweep the Steelers for the first time since 2009. Pittsburgh hasn’t won since a narrow Week 9 victory against the Bears, but running back Najee Harris enters the game with 1,022 yards from scrimmage, good for sixth in the NFL. Pittsburgh will want to get him going early and often. — Ben Baby
Bold prediction: The Bengals will hold Harris to fewer than 50 rushing yards. In these two teams’ first meeting, the Bengals kept Harris to 40 yards on 14 carries, but 20 of those yards came on one run. While the Steelers’ run game has improved overall since that Week 3 matchup, Harris managed just 39 yards on 12 carries against the Chargers’ run defense — statistically one of the worst ranked in the league — last week. On average, the Bengals allow fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. — Brooke Pryor
Stat to know: Bengals wideout Ja’Marr Chase is one receiving touchdown shy of tying the team’s rookie record for most in a single season. (Isaac Curtis had nine in 1973.) Chase’s seven games with a receiving TD this season is tied with Adam Thielen for the most in the NFL.
What to know for fantasy: These two teams met in Week 3, and Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow scored more fantasy points than Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger … despite throwing 40 fewer passes. Burrow posted 172 passing yards and three scores on his 18 pass attempts in that game, serving up fantasy efficiency at its finest. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Pittsburgh is 4-1 ATS as an underdog this season. Read more.
Pryor’s pick: Bengals 24, Steelers 21
Baby’s pick: Bengals 20, Steelers 16
FPI prediction: CIN, 54.6% (by an average of 1.6 points)
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 37.3 | Spread: CAR -1 (42)
What to watch for: Over the past four weeks, the Panthers’ defense owns the highest sack percentage (10.8% of dropbacks) in the NFL, while Miami has given up the sixth-most sacks. The Dolphins didn’t allow a sack last week, but this will be their toughest test to date, as they try to protect both quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and their three-game winning streak. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Bold prediction: With all the attention on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the star will be running back Christian McCaffrey, who will have 220-plus yards from scrimmage against a defense ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game (382.8). McCaffrey now has 22 games with at least 50 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards. A 23rd would tie LaDainian Tomlinson and Tiki Barber for the second most in NFL history. — David Newton
Stat to know: Tagovailoa has a 64.6% completion rate in the first half this season, which ranks 22nd in the NFL. But his 72.2% completion rate in the second half and overtime leads the league.
Field Yates and Matthew Berry react to Cam Newton’s first start in his return to the Panthers.
What to know for fantasy: Miami running back Myles Gaskin‘s production isn’t consistent, but his role is. He has at least 15 touches in five straight games, while averaging 20.2 touches per game over that stretch. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Carolina is 10-3 ATS on the road under coach Matt Rhule. Read more.
Newton’s pick: Panthers 27, Dolphins 17
Louis-Jacques’ pick: Dolphins 20, Panthers 17
FPI prediction: CAR, 49.8% (by an average of 0.1 points)
1 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 36.6 | Spread: PHI -3.5 (45.5)
What to watch for: Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is gone for the Giants. So, how will that change their offense? Will it be a major boost for quarterback Daniel Jones? Is there a noticeable difference with Freddie Kitchens calling the plays? This will be interesting to watch. — Jordan Raanan
Bold prediction: With Jordan Howard out, Boston Scott will lead all Eagles running backs with 100-plus yards of offense. Miles Sanders is the starter, but Scott’s history against the G-Men can’t be ignored. In four games against New York, he has racked up 222 rushing yards with five touchdowns to go with 14 catches for 210 yards and a score. To put that in perspective, he only has 840 yards rushing and nine TDs on the ground in his entire career. For whatever reason, he balls out against the Giants. — Tim McManus
Stat to know: New York quarterback Jones has 26 completions into tight windows (less than one yard of separation) this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That leads the NFL, and his 44% completion rate into tight windows ranks second behind Jimmy Garoppolo (46%).
What to know for fantasy: The Eagles have shifted to a run-heavy offense of late, but in Week 11, it didn’t really create clarity for fantasy managers. Sanders led the backfield with six first-quarter carries, before Howard led the way with eight in the second and Scott with four in the third. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: None of New York’s five home games has gone over the total (0-4-1). Read more.
McManus’ pick: Eagles 27, Giants 13
Raanan’s pick: Giants 27, Eagles 25
FPI prediction: PHI, 56.1% (by an average of 2.1 points)
Matchup must-reads: Hurts making compelling case to be Eagles’ quarterback beyond 2021 … Offensive coordinator Garrett first to be fired by Giants, more could follow … Giants fire offensive coordinator Garrett
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 9.3 | Spread: ATL -1 (46.5)
What to watch for: This should be a low-scoring affair. The two teams have combined to score 30 points in the past two weeks — and 27 were by the Jaguars. The Falcons don’t have wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and running back Cordarrelle Patterson is coming off an ankle injury. The Jaguars, meanwhile, won’t have wideout Jamal Agnew (hip), and running back James Robinson is bothered by heel and knee injuries. So, with a dearth of playmakers — Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts is by far the best skill position player on the field — this game might turn into a puntfest. — Mike DiRocco
Bold prediction: After two weeks without a touchdown, Atlanta will find the end zone — a lot. The Falcons will score five touchdowns against Jacksonville to quell conversations about a team struggling to score. They are seeking their fourth straight win against the Jaguars, which would be their second-longest active win streak against a single opponent (five straight vs. the Raiders). — Michael Rothstein
Stat to know: Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has zero touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past three games. Only one QB since 2000 has started and had none of either in four straight games: Jacoby Brissett from 2019 to 2021.
Field Yates, Matthew Berry and Stephania Bell discuss the fantasy impact of Jamal Agnew’s injury.
What to know for fantasy: Despite his huge rookie season, 44.6% of Pitts’ points this season have come in two big games. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Eight of Jacksonville’s 10 games have gone under the total this season. Read more.
Rothstein’s pick: Falcons 24, Jaguars 13
DiRocco’s pick: Falcons 10, Jaguars 7
FPI prediction: ATL, 52.5% (by an average of 0.9 points)
1 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 2.9 | Spread: HOU -2.5 (44.5)
What to watch for: The Texans have forced five takeaways in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history, and the Jets might be the right team to play to continue that streak. New York is worst in the league in turnovers (23) and is the only team in the NFL to have a turnover in every game this season, according to ESPN Stats & Info data. Houston is tied for fourth in the NFL with 19 takeaways this season. — Sarah Barshop
Bold prediction: The Jets, with quarterback Zach Wilson back in the lineup after a knee injury that cost him four games, will commit three turnovers in what will be the Jets’ ugliest loss of the season. This isn’t rocket science: The Jets have a league-worst turnover margin of minus-15. The Texans are a respectable plus-2. — Rich Cimini
Stat to know: The Jets have gained an average of 435.8 yards in their past four games (since Week 8), which is the best in the NFL. However, they are allowing 431.8 yards per contest in that same span, the worst in the NFL.
Matthew Berry and Field Yates break down Elijah Moore’s emergence as a top-scoring fantasy wide receiver in recent weeks.
What to know for fantasy: Houston wide receiver Brandin Cooks averaged 20.6 fantasy points per game through three games this season, but he has been held under 12 points in five of seven games since then. See Week 12 rankings.
Cimini’s pick: Texans 24, Jets 17
Barshop’s pick: Texans 20, Jets 17
FPI prediction: HOU, 54.6% (by an average of 1.6 points)
Matchup must-reads: Moore (and soon Wilson) provide hope for struggling Jets … Texans waive veteran RB Lindsay … Ankle injury to sideline Jets rookie RB Carter … Texans focus on building on win after snapping NFL’s longest losing streak
4:05 p.m. ET | CBS
Matchup rating: 58.1 | Spread: LAC -2.5 (47.5)
What to watch for: It’s all about comfort level. If Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is too comfortable, the Broncos will struggle in an important game for the congested AFC West playoff race. Herbert has three games this season in which he has thrown for at least 300 yards and completed at least 70% of his passes, and two of those have come in his past three starts. The Broncos have to find a way to put some heat on him with four-man pressures. — Jeff Legwold
Bold prediction: Herbert will combine for more than 400 yards passing and rushing, and he’ll add at least one score both ways. He has 15 touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past six starts against AFC West teams. — Shelley Smith
Stat to know: Broncos running back Melvin Gordon III has a touchdown in four straight games. No Broncos player has scored a TD in five straight since Julius Thomas in 2014. However, Gordon does not have a single TD in two games against the Chargers since joining the Broncos.
What to know for fantasy: Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is getting as much work on the ground this season as any other year in his career, and when you combine that with the fact he has over 10 points as a pass-catcher in each of his past three games against the Broncos, there is a lot of upside here. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Eight of Denver’s 10 games have gone under the total this season. Read more.
Smith’s pick: Chargers 34, Broncos 21
Legwold’s pick: Broncos 26. Chargers 24
FPI prediction: DEN, 54.4% (by an average of 1.5 points)
4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 83.1 | Spread: LAR -1 (47)
What to watch for: The Rams should be refreshed coming off their bye, whereas the Packers are banged up and limping toward their bye next week. The differences will be reflected most up front, where the Packers will be without three of their five preferred offensive line starters and where the Rams should have a sizable advantage on the defensive side with the likes of Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd and Von Miller. Look for Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur to go to a quick-passing game to combat that. — Rob Demovsky
Bold prediction: Donald will produce his second multisack game of the season. The last time the Rams star defensive tackle played at Lambeau Field, he was slowed by a rib injury, and Los Angeles fell in a divisional playoff. But with Aaron Rodgers dealing with a toe injury, the Rams’ new-look defensive front — which now includes outside linebacker Miller — will keep the pressure on the Packers quarterback. — Lindsey Thiry
Stat to know: Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford has 37 career passing TDs against the Packers, the most all time. But his 13 career losses to them are the second most since 1950. (Fran Tarkenton had 14.)
What to know for fantasy: Packers wide receiver Davante Adams caught a pair of touchdown passes last week in Minnesota after an underwhelming three scores before that this season. He caught seven TD passes in December last season. Could he be trending toward league-winner status again? See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Green Bay is 8-0 ATS after a loss over three seasons under LaFleur. Read more.
Thiry’s pick: Packers 27, Rams 24
Demovsky’s pick: Rams 27, Packers 24
FPI prediction: GB, 51.5% (by an average of 0.6 points)
4:25 p.m. ET | Fox
Matchup rating: 63.6 | Spread: SF -3 (48)
What to watch for: The 49ers’ recent success has come with a rediscovered running game and improvement on the turnover front. Meanwhile, the Vikings’ run defense is last in the NFL in expected points added, but Minnesota is tied for fifth in turnover margin (plus-6). This is an important game for both sides, and the team that wins those categories will have an excellent chance to get a victory and put itself in the driver’s seat for an NFC wild-card spot. — Nick Wagoner
Bold prediction: The Vikings’ defensive line looks nothing like it did at the start of the season, with Danielle Hunter (IR), Dalvin Tomlinson (COVID-19/reserve), Michael Pierce (IR) and Everson Griffen — who is dealing with a mental health-related issue — not playing against San Francisco. The 49ers’ run game will look to capitalize on Minnesota’s depth issues up front and will rush for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Deebo Samuel — whom the Niners lined up heavily in the backfield at Jacksonville — Trey Sermon and Jeff Wilson Jr. will all be involved, with Elijah Mitchell still iffy to play due to a finger injury. — Courtney Cronin
Stat to know: Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson needs 56 yards for his second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season. He is seeking to become the second player in Vikings history with 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first two seasons (Randy Moss). And after hitting 143 and 169 receiving yards in his past two games, his 11 career 100-yard receiving games are tied for the second most in the Super Bowl era through a player’s first two seasons. (Odell Beckham Jr. had 15.)
Field Yates and Matthew Berry share their thoughts on Jimmy Garoppolo’s expectations against the Vikings.
What to know for fantasy: Samuel is on the short list for best values this draft season, as he has a rushing TD or 100 receiving yards in six of his past seven games. He had more fantasy points than receiving yards last week. Versatility pays the fantasy bills. See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Minnesota is 5-1 ATS as an underdog this season. Read more.
Cronin’s pick: 49ers 28, Vikings 25
Wagoner’s pick: 49ers 27, Vikings 23
FPI prediction: SF, 59.3% (by an average of 3.2 points)
8:20 p.m. ET | NBC
Matchup rating: 58.2 | Spread: BAL -3.5 (46)
What to watch for: Can the Browns finally slow down Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson? Jackson, who is 4-1 against the Browns as a starter, has accounted for at least three touchdowns in his past four meetings with Cleveland. Only six QBs have had five-game streaks of three-plus total touchdowns against a single team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. This season, the Browns have allowed four quarterbacks to total three-plus touchdowns: Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, Kyler Murray and Mac Jones. — Jamison Hensley
Bold prediction: After a string of several dismal offensive performances, Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Browns’ offense will finally break out with five touchdowns. Jackson, however, will total five touchdowns himself in his return from last week’s illness. — Jake Trotter
Stat to know: Cleveland pass-rusher Myles Garrett leads the NFL with 13.0 sacks this season. He needs 1.5 more to set the Browns’ record of sacks in a season, passing Reggie Camp (14.0 in 1984).
What to know for fantasy: Mayfield has thrown at least one interception in all six of his games against the Ravens (10 TDs and eight interceptions), tied for the longest interception streak against the Ravens in their history (Derek Anderson, Steve McNair). See Week 12 rankings.
Betting nugget: Baltimore is 2-6 ATS as a favorite this season and 1-6 ATS in Jackson starts (all as at least a three-point favorite). Read more.
Trotter’s pick: Ravens 38, Browns 35
Hensley’s pick: Ravens 24, Browns 20
FPI prediction: BAL, 61.3% (by an average of 3.9 points)
Matchup must-reads: Mayfield says ‘don’t really care’ about being booed by Browns fans … Jackson ‘felt good’ a day after missing Ravens’ victory with illness … Browns betting on banged-up Mayfield to turn his — and their — season around
What to watch for: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has not been sharp in the two games since returning from his finger injury, and he also has been sacked a combined seven times. Seattle’s guards have struggled, and that’s a great matchup for Washington, with defensive tackles Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis. If Washington takes advantage here, Wilson and the Seahawks’ passing game — DK Metcalf has not surpassed 50 yards in the past three games — will continue to have issues. — John Keim
Bold prediction: Washington running back J.D. McKissic will top 50 yards receiving and catch a touchdown pass against his former team. Given how prolific he is as a pass-catcher and how much trouble the Seahawks have had defending screens out of the backfield, that might be conservative. McKissic, who played 19 games for Seattle from 2016 to 2018, is seventh among NFL running backs in receptions this season (38) and fourth in receiving yards (371). Seattle, meanwhile, has allowed the most passing yards to running backs (726) this season. — Brady Henderson
Field Yates and Matthew Berry discuss Russell Wilson and the Seahawks’ poor production since Wilson’s return from injury.
Stat to know: Washington QB Taylor Heinicke led the NFL in Total QBR in Week 11 (92.5), and he is now looking to become the first Washington QB with three or more passing TDs in back-to-back games since Kirk Cousins did it in 2016.
Betting nugget: Seattle games are 8-1-1 to the under this season, including 5-0-1 after a loss and 6-0 in conference games. And the under is 13-2 in Wilson’s past 15 regular-season starts. Read more.
Henderson’s pick: Seahawks 21, Washington 19
Keim’s pick: Washington 24, Seahawks 21
FPI prediction: SEA, 50.8% (by an average of 0.3 points)