Picks For All NFL Week 14 Games
NFL Week 14
Going into week 14 of this 2012 NFL season, I bet there were not many analysts or pundits out there that could have predicted that both conferences would be up for grabs so freely. That's right, while the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans sit atop the NFC and AFC, respectively, it may only be the dirty birds that have a solid path to home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
As the rest of the NFC has become a muddled mess with the New York Giants losing on MNF to the Washington Redskins and the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers also losing, there are three out of the four divisions still up for grabs. The NFC East, long the standard for the best division in the NFL, has been mediocre at best, and now sees three out of the four teams within a game of each other.
In the AFC, the Denver Broncos have won the West, while the New England Patriots have secured the East. With the Baltimore Ravens losing and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals surging, the North division is currently becoming a lot for Baltimore to handle. Even with Houston sitting at 11-1, it is not a foregone conclusion that they will hold the number one seed as they still have two tough games against the Indianapolis Colts and meet this week with the Patriots.
So as these key battles take place, there is still so much on the line for the remaining four weeks of this 2012 NFL season. It all starts Thursday night with the Broncos visiting division rival Oakland Raiders, so without further time wasted, here are my picks for the upcoming games. Feel free to leave me a comment or your own picks below.
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Denver Broncos(9-3) at Oakland Raiders(3-9)
The Denver Broncos have racked up seven straight wins and are looking to make it eight and their longest win streak since 1998 when they went 13-0 to start the season as they visit the reeling Oakland Raiders. The silver and black have lost five in a row, and if it wasn't for Carson Palmer, they might not have won any this season.
With no running attack and a defense leaking like a sieve, this will be a tough game for the Raiders to be competitive in. Peyton Manning has full control of his team and is putting together numbers that nobody could have fathomed. Knowshon Moreno should be able to get 80-100 yards needed to keep the balance and I look for the Broncos to have a big day.
The biggest difference in this game will be on the defensive side as Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller leads the charge on the front seven that will keep Palmer horizontal rather than vertical and not allow a rhythm to be started.
Broncos 34 Raiders 12
St. Louis Rams(5-6-1) at Buffalo Bills(5-7)
The St. Louis Rams, coming off a good win against the San Francisco 49ers in which they made phenom Colin Kaepernick look foolish, now have to travel to visit the Buffalo Bills. The Bills scored 34 last week against a weak Jacksonville Jaguars defense in a win and will have a tougher time with more athletic play-makers that the Rams pose.
This is just one of the many low budget games of the week between teams vying for a draft slot. I look for the Bills to protect their home field and win a close one. I don't yet trust that Sam Bradford knows how to rally his troops after a big win and be able to duplicate it on the road.
Buffalo 24 St. Louis 23
Dallas Cowboys(6-6) at Cincinnati Bengals(7-5)
This is one of quite a few games this week with playoff implications. The Dallas Cowboys are only a game back behind the New York Giants for the NFC East lead. The Cincinnati Bengals are only two games behind division leader Baltimore. A loss by either team could very well mean the end of their playoff hopes, especially the Cowboys.
Tony Romo may throw for a ton of yards and Dez Bryant may be getting more reliable as the season moves on, but both make critical mistakes at the most inopportune times against physical, aggressive defenses. That is what they will face against the Bengals on Sunday. The Bengals have not allowed more than 13 points in any of their past four games, all wins, and are the epitome of a solid all around club.
Andy Dalton will out-duel Romo in this one, as the Cowboys see their season slip right out of their hands once again because of an unfocused defense and costly mistakes from their franchise leader.
Cincinnati 27 Dallas 21
Kansas City Chiefs(2-10) at Cleveland Browns(4-8)
The Kansas City Chiefs visit the Cleveland Browns still mending from this past weekends murder/suicide and an inspirational win against the Carolina Panthers. The Browns are looking for any way to build momentum going into the off-season with a young Brandon Weeden at QB and a workhorse of a RB in Trent Richardson.
On any given Sunday, this would be one of the yawners for the week, but the league is waiting to get another glimpse of Brady Quinn duplicating his performance from a week ago when he went 19-23 for 201 yards and 2TDs. Okay, so we aren't really waiting to see Quinn break out, but there is no other way to beef this game up.
Cleveland 17 Kansas City 13
Tennessee Titans(4-8) at Indianapolis Colts(8-4)
The Indianapolis Colts are in the enviable situation that they gave up Peyton Manning in the off-season, then drafted a rookie in Andrew Luck that may eventually be just as good or maybe even better. They host the Tennessee Titans looking to keep the train running right into the playoffs. At 8-4, there is still the possibility of winning the division with two games coming against the Houston Texans.
The Titans are waiting for their train to dock at the station for the year when they can re-group and hopefully get a full productive year out of Chris Johnson and a healthy year from Jake Locker in 2013. As a divisional game, there may be the tendency to keep this game close, but the Titans are not in the Colts league in this game.
Indianapolis 34 Tennessee 17
Chicago Bears(8-4) at Minnesota Vikings(6-6)
The Chicago Bears defense took a major hit this week when it was announced that LB Brian Urlacher may miss three to four games with a grade two hamstring strain. They travel to Minnesota losers of three out of their last four games and desperately need to gain a win in order to avoid a disappointing ending to what was looking like a solid season that began 7-1. Jay Cutler has been the proverbial gunslinger who has 15TDs to go with 11INTs on the year, and will have a tough day against the Vikings, who only allow 229 yards a game in the air.
The Vikings look to muddy up the playoff waters even further with a win at home against the stout Bears defense behind MVP candidate RB Adrian Peterson. Christian Ponder has been a game manager that will not "wow" you while handing off to Peterson, who has almost 1500 yards on the year, after missing time with a torn ACL. Peterson rushed for over 200 yards and a TD against division rival Green Bay, and while he may have a hard time duplicating that, it will be him that wins the game for the Vikings.
Minnesota 17 Chicago 13
Philadelphia Eagles(3-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers(6-6)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers get back on track after a tough loss to the Denver Broncos last week. Luckily for them, the Philadelphia Eagles are more reminiscent of the Bad News Bears than anything that resembles an NFL team. Head Coach Andy Reid has been firing members of his staff each week, and is probably getting ready for his own axing at the end of this season.
The Bucs are trying to keep pace in the suddenly wide open NFC Wild Card race that features half of the league. With Josh Freeman having his best year with over 3000 yards, 23TDs and only 8INTs, he has clearly been the difference in this resurgent franchise. Add to Freeman the running of rookie Doug Martin, who has over 1000 yards, and the offense will be potent for years to come. But for this week, the Bucs manhandle the Nick Foles-led Eagles whose Dream Team boasting has turned into nothing more than false bravado.
Tampa Bay 42 Philadelphia 12
Baltimore Ravens(9-3) at Washington Redskins(6-6)
This will be one of the more anticipated games of the weekend as the Baltimore Ravens travel to our country's capital to play the suddenly dangerous Washington Redskins. With three straight wins against division opponents, Robert Griffin III has everyone believing that he has all the intangibles needed to take his team on a playoff run. The Ravens had won four in a row until this past weeks loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. But with that loss, they find themselves with several teams breathing down their neck for not only the division, but the possible two-seed in the conference.
The Ravens defense takes a hit with Terrel Suggs tearing his biceps, but as a whole, this will be a tough assignment for RGIII. Their defense may not be top five in the league this year, but they are aggressive and some of the best tacklers in the league. The one thing that RGIII does not want to do is take several hits on the run, otherwise he will not be around to lead his team anywhere. I do give the edge to the home team with a rejuvenated Mike Shanahan on the sideline being that Joe Flacco has not looked good at all in recent weeks.
Washington 28 Baltimore 17
Atlanta Falcons(11-1) at Carolina Panthers(3-9)
The Atlanta Falcons have already clinched the NFC South and has all but wrapped up the number one seed in the conference. This becomes dangerous territory for Matt Ryan and company because if they begin to get complacent and go easy down the stretch, that will translate into an early exit out of the playoffs. Going to Carolina may be just the scare they need to keep their focus as they must remember that Cam Newton can be a formidable opponent even though the record may say otherwise.
What the Falcons need to do is focus more on the run game and trying to establish a rhythm that will carry into later games. The duo of Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers has not scared anyone all year averaging just over 91 yards per game. Will it be enough? For this Sunday it will be.
Atlanta 34 Carolina 23
New York Jets(5-9) at Jacksonville Jaguars(2-10)
Ah, the New York Jets visit the Jacksonville Jaguars in a showcase of one of the league's worst teams and one of the league's most dysfunctional franchises. Yes, there is a difference. At least the Jags have a legitimate shot at turning things around sooner rather than later. What the Jets have accomplished this year is nothing short of comical week in and week out. Guess what, Rex? The fat lady is singing.
The Jaguars win this game simply for the fact that Greg McElroy will start this game the same way Mark Sanchez has ultimately ended his career in New York: with no team around him. It doesn't matter who is the QB, I believe Brady, either Manning or Brees would have a hard time overcoming this talentless team. It's just not right what Tannenbaum and Ryan have down to this franchise.
Jacksonville 24 New York 13
San Diego Chargers(4-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers(7-5)
The good news for the San Diego Chargers? There is only four weeks left in this 2012 season. The bad news? They play a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is number one against the pass and can taste a division title. Yes, the Steelers are breathing down the necks of the Ravens, and if they can get a Ben Roethlisberger back at 80%, they will easily win this game against the Chargers.
Phillip Rivers has been mistake-prone all year and at times has looked more like Mark Sanchez than anyone would like. Incredibly, Norv Turner retains his job as coach of this underachieving club, but visiting the Steel City will not help his cause. The Chargers are not built to handle the treacherous confines of Heinz Field and with or without Big Ben, the Steelers will find a way.
Pittsburgh 17 San Diego 12
Miami Dolphins(5-7) at San Francisco 49ers(8-3-1)
The San Francisco 49ers had to swallow a tough loss last week at the hands of the St. Louis Rams. This week they return home to face a Miami Dolphins squad that will take another year or two to mature and be a force in the NFL. The QB controversy will continue in San Fran as Colin Kaepernick will struggle for the second week in a row, but Ryan Tannehill does not have the weapons or the moxie to keep up with a 49ers defense that is among the top in the league.
With the Seahawks breathing down the 49ers back, Head Coach Jim Harbaugh needs to keep his team focused and the controversy surrounding Kaepernick and Alex Smith on the back burner for now. Although I do not see how Harbaugh, or any coach for that matter, makes a solid run while changing QBs more than halfway through the season when his starter is having a career year.
San Francisco 17 Miami 9
Arizona Cardinals(4-8) at Seattle Seahawks(7-5)
The Seattle Seahawks host division opponent Arizona Cardinals in a must win game in order to keep pace for the division and wild card races. The Cardinals and Seahawks could not be further on the spectrum when considering where these teams are headed. Last week, Cards Coach Ken Whisenhunt refused to go to John Skelton in relief of rookie Ryan Lindley who was absolutely putrid under center against the Jets. The Seahawks on the other hand, have a quality rookie in Russell Wilson that keeps his team in the game and creates a good balance with Marshawn Lynch running the ball.
The Cardinals are a mess from top to bottom and the Seahawks refuse to lose at home going 5-0 on the year behind a defense that is among the best in the league. The Seahawks play three out of the last four at home, and that does not bode well for anyone in their wake as they make their bid for a playoff berth.
Seattle 27 Arizona 9
New Orleans Saints(5-7) at New York Giants(7-5)
The New York Giants have now lost three out of their last four games and have plenty of company in the quest to win the NFC East. The problem is that they never seem to have good luck against the New Orleans Saints and Drew Brees. With their shaky play and inconsistent defense, it is no probability that the defending champs will make their customary late season run.
While the Saints have all but been eliminated for a couple weeks losing their last two, Brees himself will keep them in this game. Eli Manning will finally wake up and Victor Cruz will be able to perform his salsa dance a couple of times against a horrendous Saints pass defense, but this might be a little too close for comfort and the rude awakening that Tom Coughlin's crew needs to right the ship.
New York 28 New Orleans 27
Detroit Lions(4-8) at Green Bay Packers(8-4)
This will be another divisional game that will keep everyone on the edge of their seats. The Detroit Lions go into Lambeau Field to visit the Green Bay Packers in spoiler mode and would love every minute of it. Aaron Rodgers may have a tough time with the league's "bad boys" as they scratch, bite, push and kick their way to a win on the road.
Matthew Stafford leads the league's top passing offense averaging over 312 yards per game, but a lack of run game makes Detroit's offense one dimensional. The Packers overcame the Lions a couple weeks back in Detroit, winning 24-20, and I look for the Motown men to give their pay backs this week on Sunday Night Football.
Detroit 23 Green Bay 21
Houston Texans(11-1) at New England Patriots(9-3)
And finally, the match-up that everyone will be waiting for on Monday Night Football. The 11-1 Houston Texans head into Gillette Stadium to face a New England Patriots team that no longer relies only on a high scoring passing game, but can put points on the board with defense and special teams as well. This game can virtually set the wheels in motion for the Texans relinquishing the number one seed in the AFC, or the number two seed becoming the Broncos or Ravens for the taking.
This promises to be the marquis game of the week and even thought the Texans hold the best record, there are many out there that believe they are not the best team. I say that with Arian Foster running the ball and New England having to face a battle-tested and athletic defense that refuses to give up and is sound fundamentally, the Texans may be the only team to walk into Foxboro this late in the season and win. Tom Brady will be Brady in this game, but with Houston eliminating the Pats run game and Julian Edelman out, Donte' Stallworth will not be the difference maker and the Texans win a close one.
Houston 27 New England 23