Key Match-Ups Of Week 12


The Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson saga ended Thursday with the Miami Dolphins (8-3) defeating themselves against the Dallas Cowboys (6-5) 20-0. Was it too early for Dan Marino (5 interceptions) to return? Or is it too long for the future Hall of Famer to be playing?

The Detroit Lions (7-4), in the battle of backup quarterbacks, held off a late surge by the young but exciting Chicago Bears (5-7) 21-17Â… continuing their mastery on Â"Turkey DayÂ"Â… while keeping their heads just above the fierce waters of the NFC Central.

St. Louis can close the doors on the NFC West -- and the FishÂ's fumble opened the door wide open for the Indianapolis Colts. The regular season is coming down to the final stretch and CBS.com Sports takes a look at the key match-ups of this pivotal Week 12.


AP
Ray Lucas has given the Jets some life.

Jets vs. Colts


The AFC East spoilers, the New York Jets (4-6), are back this week to bring down the high-flying Indianapolis Colts (8-2). Everyone is talking about Peyton Manning and Edgerrin JamesÂ… but it will be up to the Jets quarterback Ray Lucas and running back Curtis Martin to control the pace in this key game.

The Jets believe that they still have a chance to make the playoffsÂ… donÂ't tell them that they donÂ't. Even with a win on Sunday, the Jets fell too far behind to catch up in the AFC East.

The Colts edged the Jets 16-13 in their last eeting. Look for Keyshawn Johnson to get revenge -- breaking away just when the Colts donÂ't expect it – but look for the Colts to waltz into the postseason even with a loss on Sunday.

Patriots vs. Bills


Maybe the biggest game of the year for both teams? Each are coming off losses and both teams desperately need a win. Besides the importance of this AFC East match-upÂ… the Bills (7-4) didnÂ't forget last yearÂ's Â"Hail MaryÂ" interference call that cost them the game and overshadowed Doug FlutieÂ's stellar performance (339 passing yards). Plus, Flutie will never forget being deemed too small to playÂ… by the New England Patriots (6-4).

Flutie struggled last week against the Jets and Drew Bledsoe threw five interceptions in his nightmare against the Dolphins. DonÂ't look for that to happen this week.

Both the Patriots and the Bills should run the ball a lot, since the quarterbacks will have little time to throw the ball. In the defensive battle the home field should play a big part in the outcome. So look for Doug Flutie to get revenge on New England and the Bills to get revenge for last yearÂ's lossÂ… and stay alive in the playoff race.


AP
Isaac Bruce could get some big yards against the Saints.

Saints vs. Rams


No Ricky WilliamsÂ… no problem for the St. Louis Rams (8-2).

If you thought the Rams would have had a chance to clinch the NFC West title in their 11th game, then you are psychic. But that is exactly what they will do when they tear apart the lowly New Orleans Saints (2-8).

It is bad enough that Mike Ditka will have to find some offense without their Heisman winner, especially since their defense, which gave up 494 yards in last weeks loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars (9-1), will be blown out by Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce.

The Rams went from 0-8 in the division last year, to 5-0 this year - and have a chance to clinch their first winning season since 1989. Look for great numbers from Warner, Bruce and Az-zahir Hakim, since the offense will have all the time in the world. And look out for the Rams' defense, because they will be on the field so little that you might miss them.

Chiefs vs. Raiders


Hard to believe that a game that has so much playoff implications could be overshadowed by pure hatred. But that is exactly what will happen on Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs (5-5) face off against their AFC West rival Oakland Raiders (5-5).

Rich Gannon, coming off a heartbreaking overtime loss on Monday night against Denver, will take the helm against his former team. And Elvis Grbac tries to turn things around for the Chiefs, who have lost three straight.

The Raiders and the Chiefs have relied on good defense, but this week look for some good offense. With Kansas City giving the Raiders coach Jon Gruden another devastating loss. Watch out for the final play of the game.


AP
Mike Holmgren has brought winning back to Seattle.

Bucs vs. Seahawks


Mike Holmgren, for the first time since 1990, has given Seattle (8-2) something to cheer aboutÂ… a winning season. Not to mention a three-game lead in the AFC West.

With a three-game winning streak, Tony DungyÂ's Buccaneers (6-4) could be headed for he postseason. Only if the team can find some offense. In fact, last week the Bucs won the game without the offense reaching the endzoneÂ… they wonÂ't be able to rely on Martin Gramatica this week.

RADIO CLIPS
  • Seattle, WA
    Tampa Bay flies
    into Seattle Sunday.(AP)
    Real Player
  • AP's Mike Brown
  • Seattle's Kitna
  • Seattle's Watters
  • The Seahawks are on a roll and behind a career performance by Ricky Watters reeled off their fifth straight victory. DonÂ't look for Watters to break down the quick defensive backs of Tampa, but look for Joey Galloway to break down field.

    Seattle is at home and Mike Holmgren is too good a coach. I look for this game to be very close with the home team squeaking out a victory.


    AP
    Jeff George has the Vikings rolling.

    Chargers vs. Vikings


    Minnesota (6-4) has become a different team since Jeff George has replaced Randall Cunningham at quarterback. The team has won four straight and is coming off a bye week with fresh legs.

    San Diego (4-6) has lost five in-a-row, and without Erik Kramer at the helm, a sixth could be in their stars. Maybe Ryan Leaf can come back from his flag-football game to save the team. Good luck!

    Many analysts feel the Vikings are not a good football team. I feel they should be a great one. This match-up is a must win for Minnesota and their playoff hopes. Look for the Vikings to kick the Chargers when they are down and look for Leroy Hoard to show something positive, and I donÂ't mean in is blood stream.

    CBS.com did not forget about Monday nightÂ's game – 49ers vs. Packers. Log on with us on Monday for the gameÂ's preview and the Live Action at 9:00 PM EST.

    Written by Larry Roth