Week 14 Predictions for the 2014 NFL Season
Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and the days off from work/school. Maybe you might have even gotten some good deals on early Christmas gifts over the weekend. Currently there are 23 more days until the day which means we are also getting closer to playoffs. Playoffs? Yes, playoffs. Some very important games this week include Kansas City/Arizona, Seattle/Philadelphia and Dallas/Chicago. Enjoy the games and good luck to your team.
Cowboys @ Bears: Both Chicago and Dallas are in the playoff hunt but they are on the outside looking in. The Bears have one away game over the next month and it happens to be the last game of the season. They have a pretty fair advantage if you look at it. Not for Dallas though. As you might remember, they only have one remaining home game. What is sort of good for both of these teams is that they had the same amount of time to prepare for this game after their disappointing loss on Thanksgiving day. What I mean by that is that the Bears are not facing a team that played this past Sunday; which doesn't give them that big of an advantage since they are hosting the game. Both teams have pretty tough schedules which makes this game very important. A win won't guarantee anything as they both will have to see some teams get an improbable win over a current playoff team over the course of the next few games. I do think that Dallas is the more desperate team though.
Steelers @ Bengals: These two teams meet again to end the regular season but this first meeting is more important for the Bengals. First off, Cincinnati goes to Cleveland next week who are also fighting to get to the playoffs. You also might remember the Browns embarrassed them on a Thursday night game in early November. Secondly, the following week they play Denver who will be competing with New England to clinch home field advantage so it is important for them to get as many wins as they can. A loss for the Bengals here will put them in a tough situation at Pittsburgh in three weeks where most likely that winner will clinch the AFC North. The Steelers are also fighting for their chances but I think they have an easier road the next two weeks.
Rams @ Redskins: Three losses in a row for the Redskins after their bye week. Moving to St. Louis, they have a slight chance at getting in to the postseason. They most likely have the tougher road to get there because of the teams that are ahead of them. We'll see though. To at least continue on with the hope of talking playoffs, the Rams will face for the second consecutive week another bad team. The Rams have had recent success running the ball with Tre Mason so I expect that to continue. They've also found a way to use Tavon Austin which really helps the offense. I don't see Washington matching the intensity that the Rams defense will show.
Giants @ Titans: It seemed like a while, three months to be exact, since Tennessee won their first game against a playoff team. Then they won their second game a while later and stopped there. They really do need a break and they have a shot against the Giants who blew a 21-3 lead last week against the Jaguars. They have a decent pass rush with 31 sacks. However, you're most likely going to see a lot of attempts to run the ball as both defense are the two worst in defending the run. Maybe there is a chance that the Giants don't blow this game.
Panthers @ Saints: My thinking tells me that New Orleans is not worried about Carolina coming down to the Bayou. They did well winning their first road game of the season which was at Carolina on both sides of the ball. The defense did well against Big Ben for the most part intercepting him twice and not letting him get out of the pocket. I expect New Orleans do have a similar game plan for this meeting and win giving no hope to Cam Newton on playoff push.
Jets @ Vikings: Despite the quarterback play for the Jets, they are still a talented team. They could easily have three more wins if some plays went in their favor. Their strength for most of the season has been running the ball as well as defending it. So really, this game will come down to how Minnesota does defending the run as well as running the ball themselves. In the past three games, Minnesota has only eclipsed the 100-yard mark only once. While in that same span, they've allowed 471 total rushing yards. Most likely what I think will happen is that Minnesota will crowd the line of scrimmage by putting seven to eight men in the box, focusing more on defending the run than the passing game. In a sense, this was what Green Bay did at times against the Vikings in the last couple of seasons. The Vikings secondary and the offense have been playing well and I think that will continue.
Ravens @ Dolphins: Probably one of the most important games for the Dolphins in the last 20+ years. And this is an important game for Baltimore in probably the last six years, not to mention that loss they took from San Diego last week which could hurt them moving forward. Looking at it this way, Miami is not a good at defending the run as we saw specifically on Monday night. So instead of Joe Flacco throwing the ball against this pretty good Dolphins secondary and play into their favor, he'll just hand it off to Justin Forsett. One thing to know is that defensive tackle Haloti Ngata will be suspended for the rest of the season for violating the league's policy concerning performance-enhancing substances.
Colts @ Browns: Brian Hoyer is still going to make the start against Indianapolis. Yes, the Browns are 7-5 this season while he has been under center but he has thrown six interceptions in the last three games. Although, Cleveland has a chance for the playoffs so you need your best players out there. We'll see what happens though later on in the quarterback situation. As far as the game itself, it will be a quarterback duel between Hoyer and Andrew Luck as the Colts defense allowed Colt McCoy to throw for 341 yards. Pretty much a reason why I don't think the Colts won't be a Super Bowl team this year. The game will be close in an uncomfortable way for Indianapolis but their front seven will in return cause Hoyer to be shaky in the pocket.
Buccaneers @ Lions: With the Packers playing as hot as they are, I don't see Detroit catching up to them to win the NFC North. The Thanksgiving performance by Calvin Johnson looks to say that he is at 100%. That is always a good sign for the Lions. A very winnable game that Detroit has to take advantage of both offensively and defensively. They can't let the Buccaneers hang around.
Texans @ Jaguars: Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles didn't throw an interception last week in a come-from-behind win over the Giants so I applaud him for that. Can he go for two in a row? I think he has a chance in another winning effort as I don't think Ryan Fitzpatrick will have another big game as he did against Tennessee last Sunday.
Bills @ Broncos: The next two games for Denver will be very important as they are road games against the Chargers and Bengals. Does it sound like a trap game? No, because Buffalo's defense is very good leading the league with 48 sacks on a QB. That will get Peyton Manning's attention. It almost seems like that loss against the Rams several weeks ago allowed them to play at a different level. They are starting to have success running the ball ever since.
Chiefs @ Cardinals: After starting out the season 9-1, the Cardinals have lost two consecutive games while the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks have been gaining on them. Is Arizona in trouble? I believe it just started after last weeks loss to Atlanta and it will just keep on growing after every loss that they have. Luckily for them, they will be playing another team that is in trouble for the Chiefs have also lost two games in a row. Arizona hasn't seem to find a running game in the last month (let alone allowing 266 rushing yards in the last two games) which will not pose a problem for Kansas City. You could call this the "Desperation Bowl".
Seahawks @ Eagles: The last time Seattle traveled to the Eastern Time Zone for a football game resulted in a close 13-9 win over Carolina. They have actually played well since then, more knowingly shutting down the 49ers and Cardinals to six total points in their last two games. It's interesting, and I'm rather surprised it happened, how the Eagles were able to dominate the Cowboys offensive line and hold DeMarco Murray to under 100 yards rushing. What ever they did to have success defensively over Dallas, I believe that it will transition to this game versus Seattle.
49ers @ Raiders: Is this the "Jim Harbaugh" game? Depends on what you believe, it is yet to be determined on what will happen to the current San Francisco Head Coach at seasons end. Hopefully the 49ers do have a plan on a potential replacement if/when Harbaugh decides to leave. Besides the popular reports of the signs pointing to Michigan, the other team in the bay area Oakland Raiders has been mentioned as a destination. Hopefully the beat down the 49ers took on Thanksgiving night motivates them for this game and the round 2 matchup with Seattle next week. San Francisco will need a boost after what has been a pretty disappointing season.
Patriots @ Chargers: Looking at it this way, the Patriots are playing their last game in what was a tough 4-game stretch for them. Then after that, they have their last three games against divisional opponents. The Chargers have tough games against Denver next week and then they will be at San Francisco and Kansas City. If Chargers runningback Ryan Mathews can get started early, it's a winnable game for Philip Rivers. There will be some instances where both offenses will have success throwing the ball but then the defenses will start to tighten up a bit. I think New England will have better success running the ball.
Falcons @ Packers: Great wins for both Green Bay and Atlanta last week against their respective opponents. The Falcons are 0-3 against NFC North teams this season and are 1-5 on Monday night games during Matt Ryan's tenure. There is no way Atlanta's offense will keep up with the Packers at Lambeau.
BONUS: Oregon, Oklahoma, TCU, Alabama, Kansas State, Georgia Tech, and Ohio State wind up with a victory over the weekend.
With that, I think the top four for the College Football Playoff would be:
4) Ohio State