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The Raiders and Falcons can flex their Super Bowl muscles in week 12

There’s a crunch AFC West match-up in particular to keep an eye on.

Week 12 continues this Sunday.
Week 12 continues this Sunday.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-4) – 6pm, Sunday

THE CARDINALS RAN the ball really well against the Vikings last weekend but that performance was overshadowed by serious issues in pass protection that saw quarterback Carson Palmer take no fewer than 15 hits — including four sacks — in the game.

However, if there is a side to help correct things for a broken offensive like it’s Dan Quinn’s team as the Falcons are ranked 31st against the pass and have given up 23 touchdowns through the air this season, the third-worst record in the league.

A loss for Atlanta wouldn’t kill off their playoff hopes but it would give the doubters even more ammunition as these are the games Super Bowl hopefuls have to win. They will be reliant, as ever, on Julio Jones who has dropped just two of his 97 targets this season.

Verdict: The Falcons are five-point favourites and rightly so. Atlanta by 6+

Carolina Panthers (4-6) @ Oakland Raiders (8-2) – 9.25pm

The Raiders may have the joint-best record in the AFC right now with the New England Patriots but it appears that Vegas doesn’t believe in the Silver & Black as they are just three-point favourites against a Panthers team potentially missing Luke Kuechly, Ryan Kalil and four other starters.

Part of the reason might be that the Raiders played 73 snaps on defence on Monday at 7,328 feet (2233m) above sea level with players visibly exhausted at the end of the win over the Houston Texans.

The Panthers have been a bit better of late but they are far from the team that reached last season’s Super Bowl.

Verdict: There’s something about this Raiders team and they keep winning close games. Oakland by 5.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) @ Denver Broncos (7-3) – 1.30am, Monday

Should the Raiders win on Sunday, the pressure will be on the chasing pack in the AFC West as suddenly the loser of this game finds themselves two games back.

The key to the game for Denver will be running the football. In the last 30 fixtures, including the run to the Super Bowl, when their running backs have had 20 or more touches, the Broncos have won every single game.

This week they face a Chiefs team that ranks 27th against the rush but Devontae Booker is no CJ Anderson. Kansas City were lucky to beat the Panthers two weeks ago and were deservedly beaten by the Bucs last weekend.

Verdict: The Broncos are 3.5 point favourites and that seems about right given the few differences between these teams. Denver by 3.

And the rest (picks against the spread in bold)

Los Angeles Rams @ New Orleans Saints (-7.5)
San Francisco 49ers @ Miami Dolphins (-7.5)
Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens (-3.5)
Tennessee Titans (-4.5) @ Chicago Bears
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Buffalo Bills (-7.5)
New York Giant’s (-7) @ Cleveland Browns
San Diego Chargers (-1) @ Houston Texans
Seattle Seahawks (-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
New England Patriots (-7.5) @ New York Jets
Green Bay Packers @ Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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