By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport There are no shortage of big matchups across the NFL in Week 12. One of the biggest takes place at Gillette Stadium, where a pair of first-place teams jockeying for playoff position will lock horns when the Dallas Cowboys meet the New England Patriots.

It's also a classic battle of offense vs. defense. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has injected himself into the MVP conversation with his play in recent weeks. He's thrown for yards over the last couple of games than any quarterback in franchise history over a two-week span. Prescott's 3,221 passing yards through 10 games is also a team record.

Meanwhile, the Patriots rank at or near the top of the NFL in just about every defensive category that matters. That includes pass defense, where the Pats have allowed a measly 152.6 yards per game-tops in the AFC. Only two teams have hit the 200-yard mark against the Patriots in passing yards this season. And the engine that makes that pass defense go is arguably the best cover corner in the National Football League in veteran Stephon Gilmore.

Gilmore's about as bad a matchup as it gets for any wide receiver playing at the top of their game-his passer rating against of 43.5 is second in the NFL among corners with over 300 coverage snaps in 2019. It's going to be that much harder for Amari Cooper Sunday in Foxborough though-because he's not anywhere close to 100 percent.

Due credit to Cooper for gutting through his knee injury. But that injury is clearly limiting Cooper-he was on the field for under 60 percent of the Cowboys offensive snaps last week and caught just three passes for 38 yards while being shadowed by Darius Slay.

Injury or no, it's more likely than not that Bill Belichick will use Gilmore to take Cooper away from Prescott, while bracketing Michael Gallup with the McCourty twins. Or vice versa. Either way, if Prescott throws for 300-plus Sunday it will absolutely strengthen his MVP case.

And if either outside wide receiver for the Cowboys cracks the top-20 in fantasy points this week, it will be an upset.

Paging Ezekiel Elliott. Mr. Elliott, please pick up the blue courtesy phone.

Miami Dolphins vs. Cleveland Browns (Nik Needham vs. Odell Beckham Jr.)

If you're wondering who Nik Needham is, join the club-when he moved into the starting lineup for the Dolphins a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure if the Dolphins had started just pulling guys out of the stands and throwing helmets on them or if they were just making names up.

Kidding aside, Needham's a great story-a young player who has gone from undrafted free agent out of UTEP to cut to Miami's practice squad to the active roster to starting and being tasked with shadow coverage.

OK, it's a great story until that last part. Then it gets rather ugly.

Needham did OK in his first couple stints against the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Zach Pascal. But last week against John Brown of the Buffalo Bills, Needham was roasted like a Planter's peanut-Brown caught nine of 14 targets for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Now Needham gets to face Odell Beckham-right at the time when Baker Mayfield seems to be putting things together and the Browns appear to have committed to targeting OBJ 10-plus times a game.

Welcome to the NFL, Nik. Or should we call you Peanut?

Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills (Courtland Sutton vs Tre'Davious White, Chris Harris Jr. vs. John Brown)

It's a shadow coverage double-dip! In Buffalo, of all places!

When the Denver Broncos lost Joe Flacco to injury, Courtland Sutton's fantasy owners resigned themselves to even more depressing production than they'd already been getting. But not only has Brandon Allen been a pleasant surprise under center, but Allen's looked early and often to Sutton as his No. 1 wide receiver. In two games with Allen under center, Sutton has hauled in 10 catches for 169 yards and a score on 17 targets.

As good as Sutton's been, he faces his stiffest test since Allen took the offensive reins Sunday on the road against a Bills team that ranks 23rd in PPR fantasy points given up to wideouts in 2019. And a big reason for that ranking is the play of White, who has more than held his own when asked to shadow No. 1 receivers this year.

Across the way, John Brown's coming off that huge outing abusing Nik Needham last week in Miami. In his first year with the Bills, Brown's quietly been one of the more consistently productive wideouts in the game, and as Matt Parrino wrote for New York Upstate, Brown has quickly earned the trust of Bills signal-caller Josh Allen.

"He goes and attacks. He is an all-time teammate, a guy that nobody can say anything bad about. Just a guy that goes in and works and wants to get better," Allen said. "(He) doesn't care about stats, doesn't care about scoring touchdowns. He cares about winning, and when you have a recipe like that you're destined for success."

Brown had had at least four catches and at least 50 receiving yards in every game this year, but he faces a big bump upward in coverage this week in Harris. Who has allowed just one touchdown in coverage this season.

Unless your fantasy team is stupid loaded at receiver, you're rolling out both these receivers in Week 12. But of the two, Brown's a better bet to hit his season averages than Sutton.

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (James Bradberry vs. Michael Thomas)

As a fan of both defenses in general and IDP leagues in particular, I've long been an admirer of Panthers cornerback James Bradberry. In four seasons, Bradberry's gone from a hard-nosed youngster thrown to the wolves to a big-bodied cover corner who is going to make a whole bunch of cash next offseason.

He's also dead meat in Week 12.

It's no knock on Bradberry. He's an underrated player who has spent his career honing his skills in a division that's bursting at the seams with high-end wideouts. But as Barry Hirstius wrote for Sports Illustrated, Michael Thomas is more than just arguably the league's best receiver-he's an MVP candidate in the eyes of some.

"Throughout the NFL's 100-year history," he said, "only the greatest of pass-catching legends were ever considered for the prestigious honor of being named League MVP; and through the first half of the current season, Saints WR Michael Thomas has proven himself more than worthy of being a candidate."

Thomas' numbers are (again) ridiculous-he leads the league in catches and yards by a jaw-dropping margin and has been targeted over 11 times a game.

Gonna be a long day for JB, y'all.

Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins (Darius Slay vs. Terry McLaurin)

There hasn't been much to cheer about this year in the nation's capital, but the emergence of rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin has been an unexpected bright spot. As a matter of fact, per Zachary Neel of Redskins Wire, in at least one respect McLaurin's been as good as any wide receiver in the NFL.

"According to Pro Football Focus," he wrote, "among all receivers in the league, there is a young player in Washington that ranks as the best pass-catcher when it comes to an important stat. His name is Terry McLaurin, he's a rookie, and he's very good. On passes that travel more than 10-yards downfield, there is no WR in the league that holds a higher catch percentage than McLaurin, who has been able to turn those into 13 explosive plays and make six of them with a hand in his face."

The issue with "Scary Terry" this week is twofold. The first is his dip in statistical production of late-he hasn't hit 70 yards in a game or scored in over a month. The second is the coverage he's going to get from Slay, who put the clamps on Amari Cooper last week.

It was fun while it lasted. But McLaurin's run as a no-doubt start is over. Has been for a while now.

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (Davante Adams vs. Richard Sherman)

Richard Sherman has never been afraid to offer an opinion, so when asked by reporters why San Francisco has the best pass defense in the NFC but a middling run D, he was quick to offer an explanation.

"I don't think anybody on our team is concerned about it," Sherman said. "I think that's an outside stat. I don't think those teams are winning football games. I think when you're not giving up a lot of pass yards (just 253 per game, No. 2 in the NFL), you're going to give up yards somewhere. There are a lot of teams that are getting rushing yards on 3rd-and-23, and you're going to get 10, 15 rushing yards if you really want it. I think a lot of teams are getting rushing yards on drives that don't end in a touchdown. I mean, that's not something you're really concerned about as a defense."

His point has some merit. And the disparity between the two aspects of the NFC's best overall defense may be leading to some consternation from fantasy owners of a (still) dinged-up Davante Adams-never mind that he'll be covered by a corner who leads the NFL in passer rating against among full-timers at the position.

But it's Davante Adams. And Aaron Rodgers. And as good as the Packers have been running the ball this year, they aren't winning in Santa Clara playing ball control. San Francisco's better at it, and Green Bay's had their own issues stopping the run.

If the Packers are going to win this game, Rodgers is going to need to have a day (night, whatever).

For him to do that, Adams will, too.