Here are my NFL Week 14 Picks
(10-6 last week, 123-69 for the season)
Bye teams: none
Min @ Ari – The Vikings are a vast display of bad signs. The Falcons were in a similar boat a few weeks ago; now they’ve lost 5 games in a row. So if you’re a Minnesota fan, there’s reason to be concerned. Yes, the Vikings were briefly in 1st place in the NFC North, yes they’re 4-2 both at home & on the road, yes their defense has played very well this season as a whole. But two red flags have appeared. One is that Minnesota isn’t scoring enough, totaling +6 net points on the season, compared to Arizona’s +150. The other is that they’ve begun to get creamed by good teams, failing to show up vs both Green Bay and Seattle AT HOME. And with yet another loss looming in primetime on Thursday, the Vikings should be thankful that no other NFC Wild Card-caliber team is playing great football right now, except the aforementioned Seahawks. The Cardinals will win this game because they are the superior team, allowing the exact same points as the Vikings but scoring 144 more on the season. At home, on their way to the playoffs, facing a team that can’t reach the endzone, this is Arizona’s game all the way.
Sea @ Bal – Finally, the Seahawks, have come back, to Seattle. Well, to Baltimore I guess, but you understand. The Seahawks are returning to their old form, reminding us why this team went to the Super Bowl two years in a row. The defense is stepping up, the offense is humming, playing even better without Jimmy Graham than they played with him. Russell Wilson is playing like a man possessed, perhaps noticing all the attention Cam Newton has been receiving because of his play. Whatever the reason, Seattle looks like a contender right now, and facing a team that is anything but should feel pretty good. The Ravens have been wracked by injuries and find themselves toward the bottom of the AFC North, saved from the basement by the pathetic Cleveland Browns. Matt Schaub has stepped in at quarterback, and with his reputation for throwing interceptions for touchdowns, I expect to see multiple pick sixes in this game. The only thing going for the Ravens here is that they’re at home, where they’ve gone 2-3, while the Seahawks are 3-3 on the road. Still, my money is on the better team.
Atl @ Car – The coldest team in the league vs the hottest; I know you can always say “any given Sunday”, but this game seems pretty straight forward. The Falcons have lost five in a row after starting 6-1. That’s insane, especially after how hot they looked on offense, like it would never cool. Well, cool it did, and now they find themselves winless within in the division and about to lose another one. The Panthers remain undefeated, though there have been many moments in which it seemed that their perfect run would be over. All their toughest games are behind them now, so what they need to do now is stay focused. Don’t look past the “easy” teams and you should be OK, although that’s easier said then done. For Cam Newton, the MVP award is his as long as nothing crazy happens, especially with Brady & Co. looking a little shaky right now. Currently, the Cardinals are the only team in the NFC who will give the Panthers a fight for the Super Bowl, and Arizona might even be the better team; they score more & allow less. But they have two losses, Carolina has none, and that shouldn’t change this week.
Was @ Chi – Like last week, Chicago finds themselves in a game which someone has to win, but neither team seems likely to do it. For the Redskins, that’s because they’re 0-5 on the road. That’s awful, and it advertises a terrible flaw, but somehow Washington is still winning the NFC East, go figure. They do play well at home, going 5-2, but that loss last week vs the Cowboys was a heartbreaker. There’s no way they lose that game, but somehow they did, and they could find themselves losing again after such a crushing defeat. If the Redskins are bad on the road, the Bears are almost as bad at home, going 1-5 in Chicago. That’s a combined record of 1-10 for these teams this week when considering their home/away split, and that’s kinda pathetic. Unfathomably, the Bears actually have the same record as the Redskins, and yet Chicago might not even make the playoffs while Washington might win their division. It’s a weird world I guess, with bad play & bad officiating making it all weirder, so who knows what to expect from either of these teams going forward.
Pit @ Cin – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; this is not the Cincinnati team we’ve become accustomed to. In recent years, the Bengals would have gone into Cleveland and lost that game, regardless of the Browns’ QB, record, or playoff hopes. This was a team that failed mentally almost every week, forgetting their talent and living inside their own heads where doubts crowded out successes. But not this year. This team is no longer the Bungles, but rather the Bengals, a real contender for the AFC title that Denver & New England better prepare for. Now, the Steelers aren’t pushovers, and will definitely make this a fun game to watch. Pittsburgh is glad to have Big Ben back, they score points, this young defense is too fast to stop at times, and this is a team that could cause havoc in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. What’s more, they’re used to beating the Bengals, know how that feels, and have a fan base that travels well, especially to Ohio. But I’m going with Cinci here for multiple reasons. They’re at home, they picked it back up after a couple tough losses, and have their sights set much higher than in previous seasons.
SF @ Cle – This game is unwatchably gross. Eww. The Niners score the least points in the league and are 1-5 on the road this season. They also can’t play defense and have Blaine Gabbert as their quarterback. Now, they won last week in Chicago, but that’s saying as much about the Bears as it is about the Niners. Lucky for them they get another easy one here, not that it will matter in the greater scheme of the NFL, but they could find themselves with another win and possibly another chance to save their head coach’s job. But, uh oh, here comes Johnny Football to save the day! He’s back from rehab, back from a benching, out of the doghouse, and ready to …what? …do exactly what he’s done his entire career? Run around, make mistakes, be less than stellar? That’s what the Browns should expect from Manziel, and that’s what any team should expect from him next season if Cleveland gets rid of him. He & the entire Browns organization are a complete mess and should probably go back in time to start over again. I’ll pick them to win this game, but just because of the Dawg Pound, which I assume still shows up.
Ind @ Jax – Well the other shoe finally dropped for Matt Hasselbeck. It was only a matter of time; a 40-year-old quarterback who was 4-0 had to lose at some point. The question is, does this turn into a trend, and I think the answer is yes. The Colts aren’t a very good team, they’ve just had some great luck being in such a terrible division. I know they’ve had bad luck too, namely losing Luck, no pun intended. But the fact that they’re 6-6 and mediocre across the board shows how poor of a coach Pagano is, how this team wasn’t built to succeed, and how much they wrongly depended on Andrew to do everything. The Jags aren’t any better, actually they’re two games worse, but at least they’re getting their young franchise QB some playing time and it’s paying off early. They have lost the last two games, but Bortles has been moving this offense up & down the field, showing that if the defense can match the intensity then this could be a legitimate team. At home the Jags have only been OK, but the same is true about the Colts on the road, and I think the younger squad wins here.
SD @ KC – I just can’t stand Phillip Rivers and the Chargers, so I’m really glad that they’re doing so horribly. I don’t want to sound hateful, but I just despise that guy and I refuse to even try to like San Diego until he’s gone. Not that I will ever really like them, they’ll always be rivals, but even the Raiders I can respect what they’re trying to do, enjoy watching their young QB, root for them to become more competitive so that they & the Broncos can have a few exciting games. But not the Chargers, I just want them to lose miserably every week, and this season they’ve been especially accommodating. 3-9 overall, 1-4 on the road, 0-3 in the division; it just keeps getting worse for San Diego, and I couldn’t be happier. I’d also like the Chiefs to finally lose, but that’s for other reasons, mainly because I wish they’d stop breathing down Denver’s neck. KC has won six in a row now, though they’re still three games back from the Broncos thanks to a terrible start. A Wild Card spot seems assured, but they need to keep winning, and this week shouldn’t pose much of a challenge.
Ten @ NYJ – Quarterbacks went wild last week, including Marcus Mariota, who went 20 out of 29, 268 yards, 3 passing TDs, and also ran for 112 yards with another touchdown tacked on. Talk about a coming out party remix, after his first game went so well and nearly every one after that went poorly. It also marked the first win for Tennessee at home this season, which is a little late, but better than never, as they say. Are the Titans & Mariota for real? It’ll take time to tell, especially with new coaches next year and a possible sophomore slump, but anything is possible. However, I don’t think they take their 2-3 road record to New York to pick up the win, especially knowing they they’re also 1-7 against the AFC. The Jets are just too tough, are 4-2 at home, and are on a 2-game winning streak. They also feature a veteran quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick who’s playing very well and getting the ball very often to his two studs, Marshall & Decker. The Jets are in the thick of the playoff hunt, while the Titans are far behind. Look for a solid W from Gang Green this week.
Buf @ Phi – LeSean McCoy might not be ready to hug it out with Chip Kelly after being shown the door in Philadelphia last season, but that’s actually a good thing for the Bills as they prepare to face the Eagles. Grudges, chips on shoulders, imagined betrayals; these things matter in a game where the talent should dictate the win, but doesn’t always. Just look at the BUFvsNYJ game a few weeks ago, where the Jets were the better team on paper but the Bills had all the fire thanks to their head coach & his past in New York. I think that same passion could be on display here, but with McCoy taking that feeling to the endzone. And it helps that I don’t really trust Philly, even after they improbably beat the Patriots last week. That was due to some key mistakes on New England’s part and key special team plays when the Eagles needed it most. It didn’t make me a believer overnight, and I’ll probably never feel comfortable picking Philadelphia until they find a new QB. So I’ll go with the X factor here instead of with the home team, but I expect a good, close game.
Det @ STL – I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions were completely checked out of this game. Last week’s devastating Hail Mary loss was a knife to the heart of this team, a group who actually believed that they might run the table & grab a last minute Wild Card spot. And they might have done it to, but for Aaron Rodgers & some bad box outs. So now that hope is gone, I can’t imagine this team playing with passion. I think Stafford is a competitor, he’ll still fling the ball around, but if momentum wins games this Detroit team won’t win another this season. Not like the Rams are a very hopeful team either, they have the same 4-8 record after all, and they won’t be in the conversation come playoff time. But there’s at least a good chance that they’ll win this game, if not many more this year. The Rams are 3-3 at home, while the Lions are 1-4 on the road. Also, the Rams have Todd Gurley, who has slowed down a bit in recent weeks, but could see a resurgence in Week 14. Perhaps we’ll see a high-scoring game, perhaps it’ll be more interesting than I imagine, but I think Detroit is mentally done.
NO @ TB – This is a season the Saints would soon forget, and with wholesale changes coming, the new roster might not even remember it anyway. Brees & Payton might both be goners, we could see a complete overhaul, and it might be years before New Orleans is a viable team again. This season has gone so very badly; traded away Jimmy Graham, just lost Mark Ingram for the season, 1-5 on the road, 1-3 within the division, and currently on a 4-game losing streak; not good. And it doesn’t get any easier this week, so look for another bad loss and the end of an era. For the Bucs, changes in past seasons might be reaping benefits now. I’m not a fan of either Lovie Smith or Jameis Winston, but I can see that the team has bought in to where its leaders are taking them. Tampa is 6-6, 3-1 within the NFC South, can score, play mediocre defense; not too bad for the first year under a rookie QB. With Atlanta & New Orleans struggling so much, the Bucs actually find themselves in 2nd place in their division, and have a legitimate shot at a Wild Card spot. Good luck, I can’t say I’m rooting for you, but good luck.
Oak @ Den – It’s a renewing of a classic rivalry, one that has become a bit lopsided of late, but still gets the fans excited each time it comes around. For the Raiders, this has been a season of improvement, but perhaps not as much as they had hoped. Oakland scores points under QB Derek Carr, but this defense is pretty bad. Coach Jack Del Rio has proved his lack of talent both in Jacksonville and in Denver, but somehow he still got the job, and has since shown exactly how successful he’ll most likely always be. For Denver, this is a season of improvement as well, in a weird way, as they transition from Peyton Manning to Brock Osweiler. Brock and Roll, as Broncos Country says, and I think it would be a huge mistake to go back to Peyton when he’s deemed “healthy”. When Kubiak entered, Denver needed a young, mobile QB, someone who didn’t make mistakes, someone who could bootleg, someone to spark the running game. That was obviously not Manning, though they tried it anyway, and failed miserably, despite a good record. But Brock is the better option and shouldn’t be benched, not next week, not next season.
Dal @ GB – With Tony Romo down again, the Cowboys should be completely without hope. And yet, as bad as the NFC East is and after an unusual win in Washington, Dallas finds themselves only one game out of first place in their division, while holding a 4-8 record. Ridiculous, but true. So there’s still a chance for the ‘Boys, but I can’t see Matt Cassel grasping that opportunity. He sucks, though the talent around him is still good, so we’ll see who steps up to take control of the team. For Green Bay, there’s no question who its leader is, and that man just threw a Hail Mary that might have saved the Packers season. They’re back on top of their division and hopefully over some of their offensive inconsistencies. This is a team with problems, but they’re still 8-4 and on their way to a home game in the playoffs, so all’s not lost. If Rodgers can get in sync with his receivers the Packers should win this game easily. I know the Cowboys have a solid pass defense, but they shouldn’t be able to score enough points to be competitive in this one, in Lambeau, with the Pack on the attack.
NE @ Hou – If you’re a Patriots fan; ouch. First a loss in Denver, no shame in that. But next a loss at home vs the Eagles? That’s just embarrassing. New England is injury-riddled, their special teams failed too many times, Brady got rattled, and a loss to a bad team followed; nothing to do but get up, dust off, and try again. But unfortunately for the Pats, they don’t get an easy one in Week 14 on Sunday Night Football. Instead they get the Texans, a team that’s 6-6 but playing better as of late and excited by the knowledge that they could still win their division, let alone a Wild Card spot. And Houston is 4-2 at home, playing strong defense behind JJ Watt and actually moving the ball with QB Brian Hoyer. The Patriots are the better team overall, of course, but once a team starts losing you’re free to start picking them to lose more, as momentum can swing both ways. So I’m not ready to pronounce New England dead, no way, but injuries & issues have finally caught up with them, and one more loss might be in order before they right the ship. With a win & an Indy loss, Houston will be in 1st place in the AFC South.
NYG @ Mia – The Giants were my preseason pick to win the division, and while they’re currently tied up at the top, I’m about to give up on them. They had the division gift wrapped for them when Tony Romo went down, but couldn’t take control. Here’s a weird tidbit; the Giants would be 10-2 if every game they played in had each been 70 seconds shorter. That must just feel awful to know, to look back and see how you lost winnable game after winnable game, to be the best team in the division but to have lost three straight and lost all momentum. If New York loses this game, which I think they will, I’ll completely write them off. Not that the Dolphins are any good, and I doubt I’ll even watch this Monday Night game, but at least they’re playing at home and could win a game vs a team that can’t finish. Miami already started some much-needed changes and we should see even more in the offseason, but this team is far from having figured itself out. Is Tannehill the guy? He sure has talent around him but hasn’t done much, which raises serious doubts about his future with the team.