Saturday, November 25, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Week 12 preview capsules

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Cardinals at Falcons, 1

Line/OU: Falcons by 5; 50½

Forget everything you learned in geography class. The Falcons will win the South by conquering the West. Arizona is one of three NFC West teams the Falcons play in the next four weeks. The Matt Ryan-to-Julio Jones connection remains the statistical best in the league. Let's see what that pair can do against Arizona's top-ranked pass defense. The Cardinals have maneuvered into a playoff scenario that is long on hope and short on probability.

Bengals at Ravens, 1

Line/OU: Ravens by 3½; 40½

How southbound are the Bengals? Retired WR Chad Johnson offered to help on extra points after Mike Nugent missed twice in a loss last week. "I'm available & enjoy pressure situations," Johnson posted on Twitter. The Bengals can use the help. They just lost WR A.J. Green (hamstring) and RB Giovani Bernard (knee), shelving a combined 135 catches for 1,300 yards. The Ravens have held half their opponents to under 20 points. If they cannot end a five-game skid to the Bengals under these circumstances, they have no business challenging the Steelers for the AFC North title.

Jaguars at Bills, 1

Line/OU: Bills by 7½; 45

Bills coach Rex Ryan called the Jaguars "the best two-win team I've ever seen," forgetting every 2-0 team in history. Jacksonville plays solid defense (No. 7 in yards granted); the offense is the disaster behind five straight losses. Blake Bortles' 13 INTs are tied for the league's worst, and now he's playing with a bad shoulder. Buffalo has its problems: RB LeSean McCoy had thumb surgery Monday, and leading WR Robert Woods (sprained knee) is doubtful. But a loss now would be inexplicable, and the surest path to an NFL-leading 17th straight year without a postseason date. Buffalo does have WR Sammy Watkins (foot) returning off injured reserve.

Titans at Bears, 1

Line/OU: Titans by 6; 42

Can't the Titans make up their minds? They've seesawed between wins and losses for six weeks, unable to get above .500. DeMarco Murray has hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Marcus Mariota is a top 10 passer. Outside LBs Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan have a combined 17 sacks. The run defense ranks seventh. Is the secondary really that undermining? While Bears QB Jay Cutler has been coping with a shoulder injury, Matt Barkley prepared for his first NFL start after nearly four seasons.

Giants at Browns, 1

Line/OU: Giants by 7; 44

A few members of the 2008 Lions, the only NFL team to endure the anguish of an 0-16 season, recently said they would not wish the same fate on the Browns. This game won't do anything to relieve that sympathy, or Cleveland's pain. Browns QB Josh McCown draws the short stick. He will start in place of concussed rookie Cody Kessler, who became the third Cleveland QB to go down behind an offensive line that has allowed a league-worst 38 sacks. Fourteen sacks plus eight INTs have equaled a five-game winning streak for the Giants.

Chargers at Texans, 1

Line/OU: Chargers by 3; 46½

Houston finishes the season against six straight foes who went into Week 12 without winning records. If the Texans miss the playoffs after that, don't blame the Mexico City altitude surrounding Monday's 27-20 loss to the Raiders. Houston QB Brock Osweiler won't sleep on the Chargers; as a Bronco last year, he threw three INTs against them in the regular-season finale, which helped put him on the bench, behind Peyton Manning, for Denver's Super Bowl run. The Chargers are the best last-place team in the league, which means no one notices that Melvin Gordon has 838 rushing yards and 11 TDs.

49ers at Dolphins, 1

Line/OU: Dolphins by 7; 44½

Half a season ago, these teams were 1-4 equals in the standings. Only one team refused to let go of the sinking anvil. That would be the 49ers, losers of nine straight for just the second time in their history. Point one finger at a defense that is threatening to set the league record for yardage surrendered in a season. Point another at coach Chip Kelly's hurry-off offense, which ranks last in time of possession. The Dolphins' Jay Ajayi is destined to rush for 100 yards by simply rolling out of bed. Miami has won four straight by a TD or less.

Rams at Saints, 1

Line/OU: Saints by 7½; 46

The Rams, ranked sixth in total defense, give up 18-plus points per week; the Saints, ranked first in offense, bank 28.5 a game. On the flip side, no team has scored fewer points this season than the Rams, who are eight behind the Bears and 30 behind the Jets. And the Saints have allowed more points per game than all but the 49ers and Browns. Hence, a showdown for the right to be 5-6. Expect Rams coach Jeff Fisher to pass Tom Landry for second place on the list of most career losses and to pull within three of clipping Dan Reeves for the record.

Patriots at Jets, 4:25

Line/OU: Patriots by 7½; 45½

Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick complained in October that folks in the team's headquarters didn't believe in him. Now returning to the starting lineup to face New England, he might wish they didn't believe in him so much. Fitzpatrick shares the league's INT lead with 13, despite missing two games. So when the coach, Todd Bowles, said Fitzpatrick looked "normal" at practice this week, it's not certain what that portends for a team that has lost six of eight. The Pats' Tom Brady should tie Peyton Manning for most career wins as a starting QB with 200.

Panthers at Raiders, 4:25

Line/OU: Raiders by 3; 49½

Everyone loves the Raiders again. TV executives. Mexico City. Las Vegas. And Oakland, with a renewed passion that prompted the mayor to announce she wants to work out a deal to keep the Raiders from moving to Nevada. Derek Carr keeps finding ways to win games near the finish line, where he has delivered his best work (see eight TD passes and a 119.4 QB rating in the fourth quarter). The Panthers have won three of four, but LB Luke Kuechly (concussion) remains out and here's hoping he's not rushed back. Carolina can miss the playoffs just fine without him.

Chiefs at Broncos, 8:30

Line/OU: Broncos by 3½; 38½

The Broncos are the defending Super Bowl champs and winners of five consecutive AFC West titles. The Chiefs have won 17 of 20 regular-season games. Remember that before mentally sending the Patriots and the Raiders straight to the AFC title game. Each defense is carrying its offense; both teams are in the bottom third of the NFL for yardage gained. Kansas City has a league-high 23 takeaways; Denver is just behind with 20. Both teams are a game behind Raiders in the division, and both still have home games against the Raiders.

Packers at Eagles, 8:30 Monday

Line/OU: Eagles by 4; 47½

Packers appear on Monday Night Football for a 24th straight season, second-longest streak in league behind Denver's 25. Packers are 30-31-1 on Monday nights; Eagles are 33-26. Packers, who are finishing three-game road trip, have lost four straight. Packers' Aaron Rodgers has nine TDs, two INTs and 104.3 passer rating in past three road games. Jordy Nelson leads NFL with nine TD catches. Eagles are 4-0 at home, where they've outscored opponents 108-38. Philadelphia's red-zone defense is first in NFL in scoring efficiency at 73.3 percent. Eagles allowing 18.6 points per game, fourth best in league.

Times wires

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Bucs-Falcons: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Tampa Bay Times staff predictions for Sunday’s 1 p.m. game

The Bucs face the defending NFC champion in its new home Sunday in Atlanta.Here’s the Times’ Bucs coverage team’s predictions for Tampa Bay’s 1 p.m. game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:MATTY ICE-FOLLIESRick Stroud, @NFLStroud: T...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bucs journal: DE Will Gholston likely to return from neck injury

Bucs journal: DE Will Gholston likely to return from neck injury

TAMPA — Bucs DE Will Gholston is expected to make a healthy return Sunday in Atlanta after missing two games with a neck injury, and he’s thankful and relieved not to have to deal with anything more severe."It was knee-buckling," said Gholston, offic...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Eye on Julio Jones, new stadium

Cannon Fodder podcast: Eye on Julio Jones, new stadium

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman is back for one more Bucs-Falcons preview podcast, looking at Julio Jones’ rank among the all-time Bucs’ opponents, the new stadium in Atlanta, our story on game balls and much more. Listen below: ...
Published: 11/24/17
Bucs’ Will Gholston glad to return from ‘knee-buckling’ neck injury

Bucs’ Will Gholston glad to return from ‘knee-buckling’ neck injury

Bucs defensive end Will Gholston will make a healthy return Sunday in Atlanta after missing two games with a neck injury, and he's thankful and relieved not to have to deal with anything more severe."It was knee-buckling," Gholston said. "I was stand...
Published: 11/24/17
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Published: 11/23/17

Koetter says Bucs not distracted by Jameis Winston’s off-field issue

The Bucs are 1-0 since news broke last Friday of Jameis Winston being accused by an Uber driver of groping her during a ride in March of 2016.That's really all the evidence coach Dirk Koetter needs to say the issue has not been a distraction to the t...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

TAMPA — The Bucs have some positive momentum with back-to-back wins, but DT Gerald McCoy said it’s too soon to say his 4-6 team has turned a corner."We haven’t turned a corner yet," McCoy said Wednesday, preparing for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. "It’s ...
Published: 11/22/17
McCoy is only Bucs player in Pro Bowl voting top 10s

McCoy is only Bucs player in Pro Bowl voting top 10s

The Bucs aren't faring well in early Pro Bowl fan voting, with DT Gerald McCoy as the only Tampa Bay player ranking in the top 10 at his position.McCoy, seeking his sixth straight Pro Bowl selection, ranks seventh among NFL defensive tackles, one wee...
Published: 11/22/17
NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Happy Thanksgiving! It's already week 12 of the NFL season, and the football feast is set to begin. It all starts at at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, when the Lions try to win their fifth straight Thanksgiving Day game against a Minnesota team out to bec...
Published: 11/22/17