It’s that time of the week again: Time to plan out and arrange your weekend football viewing around all of the other events, responsibilities, or conflicts happening in your busy life. We want to be helpful to you in this endeavor, so we’ve analyzed the Week 12 NFL schedule and picked out a half-dozen games that are worth your time and interest (in addition to your favorite team’s game, the matchups that will make or break your fantasy team, etc., of course). Without further ado, here are the six Week 12 NFL games you need to watch, listed in chronological order.
1. Bengals at Texans – Sunday, 1 p.m. Eastern, CBS
Will the real Andy Dalton please stand up? What a difference 10 days makes: The much-maligned Bengals quarterback followed up a horrendous outing at home against Cleveland (10-33 for 86 yards with three picks) with a stellar one at New Orleans on Sunday (16-22 for 220 yards and three scores). Dalton’s passer rating against the Saints (143.9) was 70 times(!) better than his ugly one the previous week (2.0). Dalton and the Bengals face another road test this week, traveling to 5-5 Houston. The Texans aren’t completely out of the wild-card picture yet but could use a win Sunday afternoon to stay in the hunt.
2. Lions at Patriots – Sunday, 1 p.m. Eastern, Fox
Are the 7-3 Lions legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Detroit is on track for just its second postseason trip this millennium, but for a team that doesn’t have a playoff win since quarterback Matthew Stafford was 3 years old, the Lions still have much to prove. They can make a major statement with a win over AFC-leading New England in Foxboro. The Patriots are flying high thanks to six consecutive wins, and their backfield looks deeper than ever after Jonas Gray’s breakout game Sunday and the re-addition of LeGarrette Blount this week.
3. Cardinals at Seahawks – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. Eastern, Fox
The Cardinals not only have the best record in the NFC West but the best record in football, at 9-1 after 10 games. However, Arizona still hasn’t faced preseason favorite Seattle. That will change in a big way starting Sunday, as the Cards play the Seahawks in the first of two meetings over the next five weeks. Seattle is always tough to beat at home (4-1 in CenturyLink Field this year) and will provide a stiff test this weekend for QB Drew Stanton (pictured), the career backup who’s now being relied on to carry Arizona to the promised land — a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
4. Dolphins at Broncos – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. Eastern, CBS
Twelve of the 16 teams in the AFC are very much in the mix for a trip to the playoffs, and that includes the surprising 6-4 Miami Dolphins. Miami has won four of its last five but will have their hands full with Peyton Manning (pictured) in the Mile High City. The Broncos have already lost more in November than they did in September and October combined, so Denver needs to right the ship and pick up a victory, which would once again give the team sole possession of the AFC West lead.
5. Cowboys at Giants – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. Eastern, NBC
On paper, a 7-3 Dallas team against a 7-3 New York team looks like a bit of a mismatch, even at MetLife Stadium. However, a closer look at these longtime rivals’ records shows that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has played the Giants 18 times, winning nine and losing nine. Veteran New York QB Eli Manning has squared off with Dallas 20 times, winning — you guessed it — 10 and losing 10. So throw out the records and sit back and watch two (at least in recent history) evenly matched teams on Sunday Night Football.
6. Ravens at Saints – Monday, 8:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN
With the Bills-Jets game postponed to Monday night and relocated to Detroit because of the Buffalo snowstorm, there are two games to choose from Sunday night. However, the more appealing of the two matchups remains the game on ESPN, as Baltimore visits New Orleans. Of course, the 6-4 Ravens are tied for last place in their division, while the 4-6 Saints are tied for first place in their division, because … well, because the NFL has been wacky this year. Who will put up more points, Joe Flacco (pictured) or Drew Brees? Tune in to find out.