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Five things to watch in NFL Week 12

Your favorite team is on their bye week — but don’t worry. There are still reasons to watch football this weekend.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Some would say the Kansas City Chiefs bye week is a good time to use the weekend for more than just mindlessly watching football. While it’s probably a good idea, let’s be honest: By noon on Sunday, we’ll all be ready for an exciting day of professional football.

With the final stretch of the regular season beginning, I have five things to watch in NFL Week 12 that affect the Chiefs.

1. Oakland Raiders at New York Jets

12:00 Arrowhead Time on CBS (locally on KCTV/5)

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was only a month or so ago that the Chiefs had a stranglehold on the AFC West. Now, their hated rival is a win away from a matching record — although the Chiefs currently own the tiebreaker over the Raiders because of their 28-10 victory in Week 2. Now on a three-game winning streak, Oakland travels to the east coast to face the New York Jets in Week 12. The Jets have had their struggles this season, but when starting quarterback Sam Darnold is healthy, they are 3-4.

The Raiders cannot afford to lose many of their remaining games. But with Oakland coming to Arrowhead Stadium in Week 13, it’s possible they overlook the Jets.

Still, quarterback Derek Carr has been heating up lately; he is top five in the NFL in completion percentage, yards per attempt and passer rating over the last three weeks. If he is really in the zone, he should be able to manipulate the Jets secondary.

Watch to see how well the Raiders handle the Jets. If they’re truly legit, they should be able to comfortably win this game — which will set up Week 13 as the most important Chiefs home game of the season.

2. Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

3:25 Arrowhead Time on Fox (locally on WDAF/4)

NFL: New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

All season, the talk of the NFL has been the dominance of the New England Patriots defense. They have allowed only 10.8 points and 249.9 yards per game and have forced 28 turnovers — all of which lead the league. But while their competition has been tougher lately, they were gifted with an incredible stretch of weak opponents to start the season. On Sunday afternoon, they will host the Dallas Cowboys — the team with the NFL’s highest offensive DVOA.

Watch to see how the Patriots defense responds to playing an elite offense for just the second time this season; the first was a barely competitive 37-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. If the Patriots struggle to stop Dallas, it should bode well for the Chiefs’ chance of beating them in Week 14.

Another interesting viewpoint will be the New England offensive line, which hasn’t been protecting quarterback Tom Brady very well. If they can’t get it fixed, Chiefs defensive linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark should be excited to get their shots at Brady in two weeks.

3. MVP candidate performances

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Chiefs starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes is now rarely mentioned in the MVP race. His injury absence has been a factor, but he has also not been as consistently impressive as he was in 2018. A strong finish to the regular season could propel him right back into the conversation — but it might also take declining performances from the other candidates.

In my eyes, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the front runner. He has dazzled with big-time throws and game-winning drives all year. He will lead Seattle across the country to face a desperate Philadelphia Eagles team in Week 12.

You can also argue that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is the MVP leader — and he will have another big stage to make his case with a Monday Night Football matchup against the Los Angeles Rams.

One potential candidate to emerge this week could be Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott — if they are able to pull out the victory in Foxboro.

4. Remaining Chiefs opponents

NFL: Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The bye week is a good time to get a glimpse at how the rest of the NFL is playing — especially this late in the season. The Chiefs have five remaining opponents, and all but the Los Angeles Chargers are playing on Sunday. You already know about the Raiders and the Patriots. The Chiefs will face the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears Weeks 15 and 16.

The 3-7 Broncos are traveling to play the Buffalo Bills. The team has had to move to a new quarterback since the Chiefs played them in Week 7: fourth-year backup Brandon Allen. Allen has actually performed better than anyone could have expected in his first two starts; the Broncos are 1-1 (with a 20-point blown lead against the Minnesota Vikings) since Allen took over. The Broncos defense is forming back into its usual shape.

The 4-6 Bears have a chance to get a win with a matchup at home against the reeling New York Giants. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been awful for most of the year. Former Chiefs offensive coordinator (and current Chicago head coach) Matt Nagy has received a lot of heat for Trubisky’s lack of progress, but it’s hard to tell who deserves more of the blame. The Bears defense may not be as good as last year, but they are still one of the league’s best units.

5. Potential playoff opponents

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We all know which teams are the most likely to be contending against the Chiefs in the championship round of the AFC playoffs. But it’s also important to consider which teams the Chiefs could face in the early stages of postseason play.

It’s hard to truly believe in the 7-3 Buffalo Bills — but that doesn’t mean they are a team to overlook. They play great defense — especially against the pass — and can make enough plays with the offensive playmakers on their roster. Second-year quarterback Josh Allen will have another chance to prove himself in this Week 13 matchup against a tough Denver defense.

We should also keep an eye on the 5-5 Pittsburgh Steelers, 5-5 Tennessee Titans, 4-6 Cleveland Browns and the 4-6 Jacksonville Jaguars.

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