Week 14 Matchup Predictions
Rams (5-6-1) @ Bills (5-7): The Bills can run the ball like it's nobody's business, but their porous defense negates that by allowing opponents to gash them on the ground as well. The Bills also turnover the ball at a high rate, while the Rams are one of the NFL's safer teams with the football. The Rams are 2-1-1 since their bye week with a win and a tie against the 49ers. The Bills may have five wins, but they have only beaten the Chiefs, Browns, Cardinals, Dolphins, and Jaguars - not the best collection of teams.
Rams win 24-20.
Cowboys (6-6) @ Bengals (7-5): The Cowboys have won by more than a touchdown only once all season, and it was against the Eagles when Michael Vick got hurt and rookie Nick Foles was thrown into the fire. Their only real impressive victory came on opening night against the Giants, when they beat them by seven in the Meadowlands. The Bengals are playing great football right now, coming off their fourth straight win. They dominated the first three games of that streak by an average of over 21 points per game, and Andy Dalton led a fourth quarter comeback for their most recent victory over the Chargers in San Diego. I'm going with the hotter team at home.
Bengals win 31-24.
Chiefs (2-10) @ Browns (4-8): The Chiefs defied the odds last week, putting up 27 points (tied for a season high), and taking down the Panthers at home, tightening the race for the first overall pick. Chiefs fans, with their team facing the Browns, may be thinking this is the week their team finally gets picked to win. Sorry, but since their bye week, the Browns have lost to the Cowboys in overtime at Jerry World, beat the Steelers at home, and topped the Raiders in Oakland. I like the Browns, who have been running the ball well and have played suffocating defense over the past six weeks.
Browns win 17-13.
Titans (4-8) @ Colts (8-4): With the exception of one fluke game against the Jaguars, the Colts' only losses have come on the road when their defense gives up 35+ points. When the defense holds the opponent to under 35 points, the Colts are 8-1. While the Titans' offense has reached 35+ points three times this season, they're averaging only 14.5 points per game since their bye week (two games).
Colts win 27-17.
Bears (8-4) @ Vikings (6-6): This is a situation that not many people expected to see - the Vikings taking on the Bears in Week 14 to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Vikings, 3-13 last season, shocked NFL fans by getting out to a 5-2 start this year, but have since gone 1-4, dropping their record to 6-6. If they want a shot at catching the Seahawks for the second wildcard spot, they'll likely need a win on Sunday, as the Seahawks are playing the Cardinals at home. The Bears (who just felt the wrath of the Seahawks themselves) are just as cold as the Vikings, winning only one of their last four games. That one win, however, was a 28-10 victory over the Vikings. The difference in this game will be that it's in Minnesota, Brian Urlacher is out, Tim Jennings is almost definitely out, the Bears are down at least two starting offensive linemen (and possibly three), and Adrian Peterson is coming off his best game of the season.
Vikings win 21-20.
Chargers (4-8) @ Steelers (7-5): Well, Charlie Batch's stint with the 2012 Steelers has certainly been interesting - he lost to the Browns in one of the ugliest games of the season, then beat the Ravens in Baltimore. Fortunately for Steelers fans, that era is over, as Ben Roethisberger is expected to return to action this week. Big Ben was having one of his best seasons as a pro before his injury, and I expect him to come out ready to sling it while his defense shuts down the Chargers' 26th ranked offense.
Steelers win 24-13.
Eagles (3-9) @ Buccaneers (6-6): Both of these teams have been surprises this season - the Eagles were picked by some to win the Super Bowl, and the Bucs were 4-12 last season and started this year 1-3. Since their poor start, the Bucs have proven that they can put points on the board (4th in the league) and shut down the run (1st in the league). So what do the Eagles have to do to counter that? Most likely, put up some points of their own by throwing the football. Unfortunately, they're ranked 29th in points, and 17th in passing (26th in yards per pass attempt).
Buccaneers win 31-21.
Ravens (9-3) @ Redskins (6-6): The Ravens were seemingly invincible at home (5-0 before last week), but somehow lost to Charlie Batch and the Steelers on their home turf this past Sunday. How do you explain that? Maybe by noting that Ray Rice got zero - ZERO - touches in the fourth quarter of a tight game. Anyway, I don't expect the Ravens, who have been very mediocre on the road (4-2, 16.5 points per game), to bounce back against RG3's red hot Redskins in Washington. That 4-2 road record of the Ravens looks solid, but keep in mind they beat Byron Leftwich when he had broken ribs, and got an extremely improbable win against the Chargers. I like RG3 to light up the Ravens 23rd ranked pass defense and for Flacco and company to not keep up.
Redskins win 30-20.
Falcons (11-1) @ Panthers (3-9): The Falcons absolutely shut down Drew Brees and the Saints' offense last Thursday, while the Panthers lost to the 2-10 Chiefs, who put up a season high in points. The Panthers have continually lost tight games this season (0-7 in games decided by seven points or less), while the Falcons have continually won tight games (7-1 in games decided by seven points or less). Given these teams' recent performances, I expect that trend to continue.
Falcons win 28-24.
Jets (5-7) @ Jaguars (2-10): We were so close. It almost happened. Mark Sanchez seemed inches away from getting benched, but it didn't happen. Sanchez will start again, and maybe in part because head coach Rex Ryan doesn't want to throw Tim Tebow or Greg McElroy in against the lowly Jaguars and their 31st ranked defense, allowing them to light it up and make him look like an idiot for not benching Sanchez sooner. Sanchez does have some good games to his credit this season, and I think he can have another one this week. The Jets defense has dropped off severely from the past few years, but they're good enough to keep the Jaguars in check.
Jets win 24-16.
Dolphins (5-7) @ 49ers (8-3-1): The 49ers are coming off of a head scratching second loss to the Rams, who they've gone 0-1-1 against this season. Between those two games against the Rams, however, the Niners have beaten the Saints by 10 in New Orleans, and smashed the Bears at home by 25. With the Dolphins traveling across the country to face off with the top ranked scoring defense, I can't see rookie Ryan Tannehill doing enough to get his team a win.
49ers win 27-17.
Saints (5-7) @ Giants (7-5): The Giants have been their usual selves lately, getting blown out by the Bengals, blowing out the Packers, then losing to the Redskins over their past three games. Just when the Giants look like they've got it all figured out, they fall apart, and just when they look like they're in trouble, they find a way to win. With the Redskins and Cowboys breathing down their neck, just one game behind for the NFC East lead, this week falls under the latter category. The Saints have been a bad road team in recent years, and are 2-4 away from home this season. I expect them to continue their road struggles, and for the Giants to give their fans a little sigh of relief.
Giants win 28-21.
Cardinals (4-8) @ Seahawks (7-5): The Cardinals pulled off a surprise win against the Seahawks on opening weekend, but a lot has changed since that game. First of all, the Cardinals are playing far worse at this point in the season, losing their eighth straight game to the Jets on Sunday. Second, this game will be in Seattle, where the Seahawks are a far better football team. In addition, Kevin Kolb is injured, and rookie Russell Wilson is way more experienced than he was in their first matchup. The Seahawks may have lost cornerback Brandon Browner to suspension, but they still have Richard Sherman to cover Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals will severely struggle to move the ball.
Seahawks win 23-10.
Lions (4-8) @ Packers (8-4): The Lions have now lost three straight games in which they had the lead inside the final two minutes. I picked the Lions to squeeze out a win when they played the Packers three weeks ago in Detroit, but that was the first of their late-game blunders. They'll now head to Lambeau Field, where the Packers are 5-1 (only loss was opening weekend to the 49ers), and Aaron Rodgers knows it's time for him to get his team that first round bye in the playoffs.
Packers win 31-24.
Texans (11-1) @ Patriots (9-3): I'm a fan of the Texans. I think they're a good team. I don't mean to take anything away from them, but take a look at their "impressive" wins: the Broncos in Week 3, when Peyton and his teammates were developing chemistry and struggling... the Ravens, who average 16.5 points on the road, in Houston... the Bears, who didn't have Jay Cutler for the entire second half... and the Lions, who gave the Texans a gift when Jim Schwartz idiotically challenged an automatically-reviewed play which allowed one of sports' dumbest rules to be enforced. They're not going to have any of that luck when they face off with Tom Brady and the Patriots in New England. The Patriots have won six straight games, including a dominating 59-24 win over Andrew Luck's 8-4 Colts. They have the top ranked offense with the least giveaways in the league, while their defense forces the second most turnovers in the league - a deadly combination.
Patriots win 34-27.