"Autumn in New York. Why does it seem so inviting?"
That's how the lyrics go of a Vernon Duke song for a 1934 Broadway musical.
In the fall of 2020, it's certainly not the football.
However, it gets a little interesting around Gotham on Sunday, because the slowly improving Giants have a chance to grab a share of the lead in the NFC East. All they have to do is win a road game at a limping Bengals team in Cincinnati to move into a tie with the Washington Football Team at 4-7. Of course, Philadelphia (3-6-1) can move back on top by winning at home against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday.
Even New York's other team, the winless Jets, gets a small bit of the spotlight with a home game against the surprising Miami Dolphins. The game is somewhat important because Miami stands only a game behind the Bills in the AFC East and is in the middle of the scramble for one of the AFC wild-card playoff berths.
The Jets' winless record has them in the lead to gain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft with a shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or, if they choose, perhaps pull off a trade to accumulate draft capital that could shorten the time until they become playoff contenders again.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' quest for their 11th consecutive victory against Baltimore has been moved to Tuesday, barring results of Covid-19 testing. That showdown was postponed from Thanksgiving Night to Sunday afternoon and then to Tuesday night because of a coronavirus outbreak that has hit the Ravens, including quarterback Lamar Jackson. The change also means the Ravens-Cowboys game will move from Dec. 3 to Dec. 7.
Divisional clashes between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts in the AFC South, the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers in the NFC North and the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West are other important games on the slate.
Most attractive, though, will be Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs going against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Tampa.
A capsule look at the Week 12 games:
Game of the day
Chiefs (9-1) at Buccaneers (7-4)
Kickoff: CBS, 4:25 p.m.
The line: Chiefs (-3 1/2).
Record ATS: Chiefs 6-4, Bucs 5-5-1.
Over/under: 55 1/2.
Times O/U: Chiefs 6/4, Bucs 6/5.
The scoop: The last time Mahomes and Brady, then a Patriot, hooked up, the Chiefs won 23-16 in Foxborough. Mahomes passed for one touchdown to put the Chiefs in the lead and Brady passed for only 169 yards and one score. Nothing like the 43-40 and 37-31 shootouts won by Brady and the Pats the season before. Kansas City has won five straight since its loss to the Raiders, avenging that setback last week. Brady and the Bucs are coming off a Monday night loss at home against the Rams. The longest gain on a Brady completion against LA was only 18 yards, a statistic that some view as another sign that the 43-year-old quarterback is finally slowing down. The Bucs might have to settle for an NFC wild card because they have fallen two games behind New Orleans in the NFC South and were swept by the Saints.
Outlook: The Chiefs are in command in AFC West but still have an eye on No. 1 seed and the first round playoff bye in AFC. Kansas City, 34-31.
Chargers (3-7) at Bills (7-3)
Kickoff: CBS, 1 p.m.
The line: Bills (-5 1/2).
Record ATS: Chargers 3-5-1, Bills 4-5-1.
Over/under: 53 1/2.
Times O/U: Chargers 7/3, Bills 8-2.
The scoop: While the Bills went through their bye week, stunned by the loss of a game they thought they had won in Arizona, they were helped when the Dolphins and Patriots lost. Now Buffalo has to get back on track and help themselves against a Chargers team that has been snakebit all season. The Bolts' three wins have been against the Bengals, Jaguars and Jets, who have three wins among them. However, LA has been outscored by only 13 points overall, despite the record.
Outlook: The Chargers with rookie QB Justin Herbert are dangerous and make the Bills work for victory. Bills, 24-20.
Titans (7-3) at Colts (7-3)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Colts (-3 1/2).
Record ATS: Titans 4-6, Colts 6-4.
Times O/U: Titans 6/4, Colts 5/5.
The scoop: Just two weeks ago, Indianapolis defeated the Titans in Nashville, 34-17. A blocked punt for a touchdown and a missed field goal leading to another helped the Colts to a 21-0 second-half rally. The Colts are second in league in total defense (298.1 yards per game allowed), but the Titans come at you with a balanced attack with Derrick Henry, the NFL rushing leader (1,079 yards), and Ryan Tannehill's passing (22 TDS, 4 INTS).
Outlook: The Colts showed their mettle last week, coming back from 28-14 for an overtime win over the Packers. The Titans won the last time they visited Lucas Oil Stadium, but not this time. Indy, 30-24.
Ravens (6-4) at Steelers (10-0)
TV: NBC, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
The line: Steelers (5 1/2).
Record ATS: Ravens 4-5-1, Steelers 8-2.
Over/under: 44 1/2.
Times O/U: Ravens 4/6, Steelers 3/7.
The scoop: Already off to the best start in franchise history, the Steelers will be looking to become the 12th team in NFL history to go 11-0. It would be the best NFL start since the Panthers went 14-0 in 2015. The closest calls for Pittsburgh were on successive weeks, a 27-24 win at the Titans and 28-24 at the Ravens. In the victory in Baltimore, the Steelers were mauled on the ground for 265 yards and a 5.6 average, and the Ravens did not have Mark Ingram. Ingram and rookie J.K. Dobbins tested positive for Covid-19 this week and will not play. That leaves it up to Gus Edwards and Justice Hill to carry the ball. Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (foot) is an injury question for Pittsburgh, but the Steelers are deep at the position with Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington. Pittsburgh has allowed the fewest points (17.4) and leads the league with 38 sacks and 21 takeaways. Only 5,500 spectators will be allowed in Heinz Field for the game.
Outlook: Odds will catch up to the Steelers eventually, but Ravens have to be questioning themselves after three losses in the last four games and now being short-handed because of Covid-19. Can't see Ravens overcoming all the negatives. Steelers, 27-16.
Dolphins (6-4) at Jets (0-10)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Dolphins (-7).
Record ATS: Dolphins 7-3, Jets 2-8.
Over/under: 44 1/2.
Times O/U: Dolphins 4/4/2, Jets 5/5.
The scoop: Miami's five-game win streak ended in Denver last Sunday. The Dolphins turned in a dull performance when they had an opportunity to move into a tie in the AFC East standings while Buffalo was on a bye. The opportunity might not come up again. The last win for the Jets was in the season finale against Buffalo last season, 13-6, in a game that did not matter for the Bills, who already had locked up their playoff position. Despite their shortage of talent and the negativity surrounding a winless team in New York, the Jets have been competitive lately, except in a loss at Kansas City. Their last three losses have been by eight, three and six points. The first time around, they were shut out by the Dolphins 24-0 in South Florida. ... Joe Flacco has started at QB for the Jets in the last two games, but Sam Darnold is expected to return. ... Rookie Tua Tagovailoa of the Dolphins was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick in the second half of the Denver loss last week, and is questionable with a thumb injury.
Outlook: The Jets are getting competitive, but they'll take another tough loss. Dolphins, 24-20.
Cardinals (6-4) at Patriots (4-6)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Cardinals (-2 1/2).
Record ATS: Cards 5-4-1, Pats 4-6.
Over/under: 49 1/2.
Times O/U: Cards 4/6, Pats 4-6.
The scoop: Playing catchup, Cam Newton was unable to close the deal down the stretch in the Patriots' loss at Houston. It was a game New England really needed to win to realistically remain in the playoff hunt. Still, Newton turned in a strong passing performance, 25 of 40 for 365 yards. New England received more bad news with the loss for the season of RB Rex Burkhead. Running back, however, is where the Patriots have some depth. After the "Hail, Murray" win over the Bills, the Cards lost a tough one in their division at Seattle four days later.
Outlook: The Patriots are a rare home underdog. What makes this interesting is what strategy Bill Belichick devises to deal with Arizona QB Kyler Murray. The guess is he will come up with something that produces a close New England win. Patriots, 27-25.
Seahawks (7-3) at Eagles (3-6-1)
TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:15 p.m.
The line: Seahawks (-5 1/2).
Record ATS: Seahawks 6-4, Eagles 3-7.
Over/under: 50 1/2.
Times O/U: Seahawks 6/3/1, Eagles 5/4/1.
The scoop: A team that seems to travel well, the Seahawks had won 10 consecutive games in the Eastern Time Zone since 2018 before losing to the Bills three weeks ago. They have one cross-country roadie, at Washington, remaining, unless they have to travel east for a playoff game. ... Russell Wilson got back to form after rough outings against the Bills and Rams, and passed for two scores in the win over Arizona. Seattle gets RBs Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde. ... The season has been a struggle for the Eagles, mainly because of Carson Wentz's up-and-down performance at quarterback. He has 14 TD passes and 14 INTs with Philadelphia playing from behind much of the season. The Eagles have the Packers (away), Saints (home) and Arizona (away) after this one, before closing with two division games.
Outlook: If ever a team is due for a strong performance, it's Philadelphia. At home, Philly can win outright. Eagles, 31-28.
Best of the rest
Raiders (6-4) at Falcons (3-7)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Raiders (-3).
Record ATS: Raiders 7-3, Falcons 4-6.
Over/under: 53 1/2.
Times O/U: Raiders 8/2, Falcons 5/5.
The scoop: Vegas turned in another strong performance against the Chiefs at home last Sunday night. The problem was, they left too much time for Patrick Mahomes to wipe out their late lead. Derek Carr's outstanding season for the Raiders (19 TD passes, only 3 INTS) is being overshadowed by the play of Mahomes, Murray, Josh Allen and others. Raiders RB Josh Jacobs has run for 755 yards and nine touchdowns. ... The Falcons laid an egg in New Orleans, where they usually play well. Matt Ryan, who was ineffective against a heavy Saints pass rush last week, needs just 22 passing yards to exceed 3,000 yards for the 11th consecutive season. The Falcons will be without Todd Gurley, who has nine rushing touchdowns, but only 210 yards total and a pedestrian 3.7 average.
Outlook: Unless they are deflated by the loss to the Chiefs in a game they easily could have won, the Raiders have too much firepower for an Atlanta defense that is giving up 406.8 yards per game. Raiders, 34-27.
Browns (7-3) at Jaguars (1-9)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Browns (-6 1/2).
Record ATS: Browns 5-4-1, Jags 4-6.
Times O/U: Browns 5/5, Jags 5/4/1.
The scoop: After three straight weeks of dealing with the wind, rain and chill at home, the Browns should be happy to get away to the South. Also, the sight of the Jaguars, who have not won since Week 1, should be welcome. Cleveland's Baker Mayfield has not thrown an interception in his last three games as the Browns have turned to a devastating ground attack with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They've averaged 156.3 yards on the ground in the last three games. The Jaguars' defense isn't as bad as stats (411.3 yards allowed per game) would indicate, but a weak offense keeps them on the field too much.
Outlook: With run game and defense coming on, the Browns should smother Jags with Mike Glennon – whose last start was in 2017 – running the attack. Browns, 27-13.
Panthers (4-7) at Vikings (4-6)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Vikings (-4).
Record ATS: Panthers 6-5, Vikings 5-5.
Over/under: 48 1/2.
Times O/U: Panthers 6/5, Vikings 6/4.
The scoop: After five straight losses, Carolina broke the spell by shutting out the undermanned Lions, 20-0, with P.J. Walker at QB in place of the injured Teddy Bridgewater. The Panthers expect Bridgewater to play against his former team and may get RB Christian McCaffrey (shoulder) back, too. McCaffrey is listed as questionable, and the Panthers are pessimistic that he will play. The Vikings were coming on until a three-point loss at the Cowboys last week. ... Dalvin Cook is averaging 5.3 yards per rushing attempt for the Vikings, with a league-best 13 rushing touchdowns. He has had more than 100 scrimmage yards six times this season. Besides the reliable Adam Thielen, the Vikings are getting good play from rookie WR Justin Jefferson.
Outlook: The Vikings are 1-4 at home. They're due to win one at U.S. Bank. Vikings, 27-26.
Saints (8-2) at Broncos (4-6)
Kickoff: Fox, 4:05 p.m.
The line: Saints (-6).
Record ATS: Saints 5-5, Broncos 5-5.
Over/under: 43 1/2.
Times O/U: Saints 6/3/1, Broncos 5/5.
The scoop: Without Drew Brees, the Saints pretty much dominated the Falcons in a home game last week with Taysom Hill starting at quarterback. Hill threw no TD passes, but was a central figure in a 24-9 win, completing 78.3%, and rushing for 51 yards and two touchdowns. He kept the offense on the field by completing nine passes to Michael Thomas, four to Emmanuel Sanders and not turning the ball over. The Broncos have won their last two games at home after dropping three in a row. The Bills are the Broncos' next home opponent after this.
Outlook: The Broncos have held The Chiefs (286) and Dolphins (223) to fewer than 300 yards in two of their last three home games. They will give Saints trouble, but lose. Saints, 27-24.
49ers (4-6) at Rams (7-3)
Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
The line: Rams (-7).
Record ATS: 49ers 4-6, Rams 6-4.
Over/under: 45 1/2.
Times O/U: 49ers 4/4/2, Rams 4/6.
The scoop: The Rams' passing game looked unstoppable in a Monday night win at Tampa Bay, with Jared Goff passing for three touchdowns and ex-Bill Robert Woods (12 receptions) and Cooper Kupp (11) riddling the Bucs' defense. The Niners are still feeling the loss of Jimmy Garoppolo, even though they are getting some of their wounded back. San Francisco is coming off its bye week, which should help the injury situation.
Outlook: The Rams looked at their best in the Monday Night win at Tampa Bay and have won all four of their home games at the new Sofi Stadium in Inglewood. However, the 49ers have won their last three against the Rams, including a 24-16 win in Santa Clara on Oct. 20. Rams, 30-27.
Bears (5-5) at Packers (7-3)
TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m.
The line: Packers (-8 1/2).
Record ATS: Bears 5-5, Packers 6-4.
Times O/U: Bears 3/7, Packers 4/5/1.
The scoop: It's the 201st meeting of these old rivals. The Packers have dominated lately – with seven wins in the last eight games – and lead the overall series 99-95-6, counting two postseason games (1-1). Green Bay was stung by a 34-31 loss at the Colts, with the winning field goal set up by a lost fumble after a pass reception in overtime. Aaron Rodgers has 29 TD passes for the Packers and can become fifth in NFL history with seven or more seasons with 30. Chicago had a bye last week after a 19-13 loss at Minnesota Mitch Trubisky (shoulder) is set to return after missing two games, with Nick Foles listed as doubtful with injuries to his hip and backside after rough treatment by the Vikings.
Outlook: The Bears have lost their last four, averaging only 15.7 points against the Rams, Saints, Titans and Vikings. Green Bay extends its two-game lead in the division. Packers, 24-14.
Dog of the day
Giants (3-7) at Bengals (2-7-1)
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
The line: Giants (-5 1/2).
Record ATS: Giants 7-3, Bengals 5-4-1.
Over/under: 42 1/2.
Times O/U: Giants 3-6-1, Bengals 5/5.
The scoop: The Giants have won their last two over division rivals, Washington and the Eagles. They can move into a share of the NFC East lead with a win. New York looks improved each week under Joe Judge, but the schedule gets tougher from here with the Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns and Ravens in the next four weeks. Even losing, the Bengals were fun to watch with rookie Joe Burrow at quarterback. Now, he's out until 2021. Ryan Finley was expected to make his first start of the season, but Brandon Allen was called up from the practice squad and looks like the starter, according to some reports. Allen played at Arkansas and has seen roster time with the Jaguars, Rams and Broncos, but his only playing time came in three starts with Denver last season.
Outlook: Two of the Giants' wins have come on the road and one of the losses was by two at Buccaneers. Giants, 24-10.
Last week: Favorites were 8-6, 6-8 against the spread; 6 games went over the number, 8 were under.
Thursday: Favorites were 1-1, 1-1 ATS. Both games went over the number.
Last week's results: 6-7 outright, 4-9 ATS, over/under predictions 8-5.