Forget stuffing, mashed potatoes or green bean casserole. Put the cranberry sauce back in the fridge. My favorite side dish on Thanksgiving is NFL football.
If you can stave off the tryptophan on Thursday, you can watch a solid block of football from 12:30 p.m. until nearly midnight. Yeah, yeah, visit with your family and stuff like that, too, but the NFL has arranged a rather interesting trio of games for this year's turkey day. And some of them have implications for your Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who will be watching with the rest of the nation as they take a break from their preparations for their own game in Cleveland on Sunday.
Speaking of the Buccaneers, they will be coming off their much-appreciated bye week and returning to action against the Browns while holding a 5-5 record and a very slim lead in the NFC South over the 5-6 Atlanta Falcons. The playoff stretch run has begun and the Buccaneers will be battling for position in the NFC standings for the next seven rapid-fire weeks. While the Bucs do technically "control their own destiny" in the NFC South division race, they could definitely see their chances at returning to the postseason improve with certain outcomes from other NFL outposts. So who should Bucs fans be rooting for (and against) besides their own krewe in Week 12?
Allow me to help with that. Here are my suggestions for which teams to root for in Week 12, with the games presented in chronological order. This is your 2022 Week 12 Viewing Guide.
Buffalo Bills (7-3) at Detroit Lions (4-6), Thursday, 12:30 p.m. ET
The Lions are on a three-game winning streak and they are fun to watch, but they are probably not going to be an issue for the Buccaneers. They have virtually no chance to win the NFC North and if they do assert themselves in the Wild Card race they will be the least of Tampa Bay's concerns. If the Buccaneers do fall out of the division lead and have to scramble for a Wild Card seat they will first have to climb over such contenders as the 7-3 Cowboys, 7-3 Giants, 6-4 Seahawks and 6-5 Commanders. If the Buccaneers are worried about the Lions in mid-December, they will probably be too far down the standings to have much hope. That said, Detroit is playing the Bills, who are also fun to watch and, crucially, make their living in the AFC. No harm in the Bills beating the Lions; let's just hope it's an entertaining shootout.
Verdict: Go Bills and the scoreboard operator!
New York Giants (7-3) at Dallas Cowboys (7-3), Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET
Hopefully you don't need me to tell you to root against the Cowboys as a general life principle, but yeah, root against the Cowboys this Thanksgiving. Obviously, both of these teams are in the thick of the Wild Card race and, as the conference pecking order stands now, the winner of this game would be the top Wild Card team and the most likely one to come to Tampa if the Bucs stay in the fourth seed. So which team would you rather face in Round One? Yes, the Buccaneers beat the Cowboys in Week One so should have confidence in a rematch, but it's fair to say that Dallas has found a new gear in recent weeks. Meanwhile the Giants are a very pleasant surprise (I mean, to Giants fans, I guess) but seem to be fading a bit. New York has just one win in its last three games and it was against the nearly winless Houston Texans. Would you rather play the team that just beat Minnesota 40-3 or the one that just lost to Detroit 31-18?
Verdict: Go Giants, and go home turducken-free, Cowboys!
New England Patriots (6-4) at Minnesota Vikings (8-2), Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Fun fact: Neither of these teams scored an offensive touchdown in Week 11. While the Vikings were getting shellacked at home by the Cowboys, the Patriots needed a last-second punt return touchdown to beat the Jets, 10-3. If the first two games on Thanksgiving are as full of fireworks as most expect, this matchup could be the one that lulls you into a nap. Still, it's pretty clear what Bucs fans should want here: A victory for Bill Belichick's crew. It won't be easy but it's still possible that the Bucs could climb as high as the second seed if they get hot down the stretch, and that would probably mean catching the Vikings.
Verdict: Go Patriots! And maybe score an offensive touchdown this time!
Denver Broncos (3-7) at Carolina Panthers (3-8), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
You'll be watching the Buccaneers in this time slot so will be spared from exposure to what looks like the least appealing game on the Week 12 schedule. Still, this one is not complicated either. It's an interconference matchup so you simply pull for the AFC team. Plus, the worse the season potentially gets for the Panthers, the less motivated they might be when they come to Tampa in Week 17.
Verdict: Go Broncos! Let's Ride!
Baltimore Ravens (7-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Houston Texans (1-8-1) at Miami Dolphins (7-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Cincinnati Bengals (6-4) at Tennessee Titans (7-3), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
A trio of all-AFC matchups in the early afternoon. Honestly, all of them look like very entertaining contests, but they won't mean much to the Bucs' playoff hopes. You could root for Baltimore on the very slim chance that the strength of victory tiebreaker comes into play down the road, but it's not anything to get too worked up about. Personally, in the first two matchups I'd like to see the good teams stay good so the playoff chase in the AFC is more fun to watch. As for the Bengals-Titans, the Buccaneers play Cincinnati in a few weeks so it would be a little bit encouraging to see them struggle.
Verdict: Go birds and fish (I mean mammals)! And go very large men!
Chicago Bears (3-8) at New York Jets (6-4), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Jets are turning to Mike White, who had about 15 seconds of fantasy football fame last year. Red hot Bears dual threat Justin Fields is now dealing with a left shoulder injury. The quarterback situations here are, shall we say, shaky.The Jets appear to have a much better defense, however, so maybe that will carry the day in another AFC-NFC matchup.
Verdict: Go Jets!
Atlanta Falcons (5-6) at Washington Commanders (6-5), Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
The Buccaneers' best chance of making the playoff field is, by far, winning the division, so the number one outcome to hope for each weekend is a loss by the Falcons. (Except for Week 14, when the Falcons and Saints are both on a bye, in which case will have to direct our main vitriol at…Seattle?) Washington has won five of six and appears to be rallying around Taylor Heinicke. Let's see that hot streak extend at least one more week.
Verdict: Go Commanders!
Los Angeles Chargers (5-5) at Arizona Cardinals (4-7), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
The Cardinals have lost three of their last four and five of their last seven. They have not yet strung together consecutive wins this season. They're 5-11 in their last 16 games dating back to last season. Kyler Murray is dealing with a hamstring issue. The Cardinals really don't look like a playoff team right now, but let's make it official. It's hard to imagine them launching a postseason run from 4-8. The Buccaneers play in Glendale on Christmas night, so hopefully the Cardinals are more focused on the holidays by then.
Verdict: Go Chargers!
Las Vegas Raiders (3-7) at Seattle Seahawks (6-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
Boy, there are a lot of interconference matchups this week, which is making this exercise much easier than usual. I might actually advise you to root for the Seahawks against, say, the 49ers or the Cowboys, but there's no reason to do so here. Seattle is not technically in first in the NFC West anymore but they do have the same record as the 49ers and could get that spot back. If so, that's who the Bucs would be chasing for the third seed in the conference standings.
Verdict: Go Raiders!
Los Angeles Rams (3-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-2), Sunday, 4:25 pm. ET
The Rams look to be dead in the water and now they draw a trip to Arrowhead Stadium to face perhaps the best team in the NFL. The defending Super Bowl champions are 14.5-point underdogs! Matthew Stafford is in the concussion protocol. The Rams just surprisingly cut running back Darrell Henderson, their leading rusher. The vibes here aren't great, folks. It's not nice to hit a man when he's down, but we might as well root for the Chiefs to put L.A. out of its misery once and for all.
Verdict: Go Chiefs!
New Orleans Saints (4-7) at San Francisco 49ers (6-4), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
So, probably the smart thing to do here is root for the…[retching noises]. What I'm trying to say the smart play here is to back the…urp! I'm sorry, I just can't do it. I can't tell you to root for the Saints. A 49ers loss would help in the Bucs quest to move up the overall NFC leaderboard and would still only leave New Orleans at 5-7. Still, I can't do it. What I want more than anything out of this game is for the Saints to be kept as far away from the division-title race as possible. I want them completely out of the picture. One more loss won't accomplish that, but it would be a nice start.
Verdict: Geaux 49ers!
Green Bay Packers (4-7) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-1), Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
It is very, very unlikely that the Buccaneers are going to capture the NFC's top seed and the first-round bye. FiveThirtyEight.com gives them a 0.2% chance of doing so. It's nearly impossible to make up four games in seven weeks against a good team, and even if the Eagles do falter badly the Bucs would also have to climb over the 8-2 Vikings and whoever wins the NFC West. Given that, we might as well let the Eagles do their thing and instead try to eliminate one more contender from the conference race.
Verdict: Fly, Eagles, fly!
Pittsburgh Steelers (3-7) at Indianapolis Colts (4-6-1), Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
Okay, it's Monday night and you've enjoyed a long weekend of food, family and football. You're probably pretty tired at this point. The good news is you don't have to think too hard about this one. I guess you could root for the Steelers since that would marginally help the Bucs' strength of schedule figure, but you might also just want to fall asleep in front of the TV.
Verdict: Go Steelers, wrap this week up!