It is Week 14 of the 2016 campaign and there are some quality matchups to look forward to as we forge into the final quarter of the season. All teams have just four games left to prove themselves and unless your team is the Cowboys you are still shouting at your TV hoping your squad will make it to the dance. Some teams can lock up playoff spots this weekend. As for the games, how do I see them playing out? Here are my picks.
Last Week: 10-5
Thursday, December 8th, 8:25 e.t.
Oakland Raiders (10-2) @ Kansas City Chiefs (9-3)
The first game of the week might just be the best matchup. The #1 seed and AFC West could very well depend on the outcome of this contest. It’s also a tough one to pick. I think I will go with the home team here (as I continue to debate this in my own head). I think they can get pressure on Derek Carr unlike many of the Raiders’ prior opponents, and let’s not forget that they did trail Buffalo 24-9 at one point last week. That could say a lot.
Kansas City 24, Oakland 19
Sunday, December 11th, 1:00 e.t.
Houston Texans (6-6) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-6)
The AFC South’s fate could very well hinge on this game also. The Texans, quite frankly, lucked into a win their first time around against the Colts at home but I don’t see that happening again on the road. I think Indy has really found something with their tight ends and Andrew Luck has really begun to heat up. The Texans are also struggling to score points, so in the end that will cost them and their team.
Power Pick of the Week: Indianapolis 27, Houston 6
San Diego Chargers (5-7) @ Carolina Panthers (4-8)
The Chargers are probably the better team here, but I think that their loss at home to Tampa Bay took a lot out of them. It was essentially the needle for their balloon of a season and I see them coming out flat against a Panther team that is likely enraged after getting blasted by Seattle in prime time a week ago. Injuries are finally starting to catch up to the Chargers and the Panthers could find success running the rock against them.
Carolina 20, San Diego 19
Chicago Bears (3-9) @ Detroit Lions (8-4)
The Lions can make a huge case for a playoff berth with an emphatic home win over the Bears who have actually been a little better lately with Matt Barkley himself leading the team. Chicago inexplicably won the first contest between these two but that won’t happen twice. Detroit’s defense has stepped up in a big way over the last month and really helped them get to their current four game winning streak. I like them to make it five.
Detroit 31, Chicago 13
Washington Redskins (6-5-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
This was going to be my upset of the week but after their effort (if you can call it that) against the Bengals, I’m not sure I can pick Philly to win another game all year with their injured and talent-poor offense. Their defense has really slacked lately, and even though they are home I’m not sure they can get enough pressure on Kirk Cousins to disrupt his game. The ‘Skins should sneak out a victory.
Washington 17, Philadelphia 14
Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1) @ Cleveland Browns (0-12)
I’m looking at Cleveland’s schedule, and if they are going to get a win this year this is their best chance at it: at home against a banged up Cincy team in possible elements. That said, I don’t know if it is going to happen. Andy Dalton looked great at home last week and he should not have many issues passing it against the Browns’ secondary. I do think they are going to want to establish the run after getting stymied last week, and they ran the ball down Cleveland’s throat the first time these teams hooked up.
Cincinnati 24, Cleveland 7
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) @ Buffalo Bills (6-6)
This game is, essentially, the Bills’ season and I think they will play like it. At home Buffalo has been a very different team, and the Steelers are certainly not always the epitome of a great squad when they hit the road. The Bills could have trouble running the ball against a very fast Pittsburgh team because they are good at stopping outside zone rushes. That leaves it up to Tyrod Taylor to pass the ball and I’m not sure that that will be the Bills’ best option.
Pittsburgh 27, Buffalo 22
Denver Broncos (8-4) @ Tennessee Titans (6-6)
This is a sneaky good game being played in Tennessee and the great Titan running game will square up with a good Denver defense. I am scared for the Broncos here because I don’t trust their offense. Tennessee could pull off a victory here, but in the end I see the Broncos doing enough with their “D” to steal a win. They might pitch in with a return TD against Marcus Mariota, who is certainly susceptible to giving those kinds of plays up.
Denver 28, Tennessee 21
Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5)
The Cardinals found a way to win at home over a good opponent and will now have to hit the road and do it all over again. I say they get the job done with their #1 ranked defense. The Dolphins have had a lot of trouble scoring points against decent “D’s” this year and that trend will continue here.
Arizona 35, Miami 14
Minnesota Vikings (6-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
The Jags have become everyone’s cupcake each week and are really up against it again this time with another good defense coming to town. Blake Bortles and company were bewildered by Denver a week ago and I think that will happen again. The Vikings desperately need a win to keep pace with the Lions and I think they will get it on the road after ten-days rest.
Minnesota 20, Jacksonville 13
Sunday, December 11th, 4:05 e.t.
New York Jets (3-8) @ San Francisco 49ers (1-11)
So here’s an ugly game that is hard to pick. The Niners looked awful on the road in snowy Chicago last week, but the Jets may have managed to look even worse at home against the Colts on Monday night. Traveling across the country on a short week won’t bode well for a team that honestly looks like it quit on their head coach. Also, Colin Kaepernick will be starting here and, before his horrible game against the Bears, he wasn’t awful. I think the Niners will snap their eleven game losing streak here.
San Francisco 29, New York 19
Sunday, December 11th, 4:25 e.t.
New Orleans Saints (5-7) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
This is a fun little matchup that has been flexed into the late=afternoon window on FOX. Are the Bucs for real or are they just on an odd-ball hot streak? This game will tell us a lot about Tampa Bay because if they are a legitimate threat in the NFC, there should be no problem with them putting N’awleans away. Their defense has been much better lately and I think they will be the difference in what could be a good game.
Tampa Bay 24, New Orleans 23
Atlanta Falcons (7-5) @ Los Angeles Rams (4-8)
Remember when the Rams were 3-1? That is ancient history now as the team has dropped seven of their last eight and have been close to unwatchable on offense. Atlanta, on the other hand, have been a lot of fun to watch and can score points with anybody. These days it only takes about 17 points to beat L.A. and the Falcons should have no problem going over that mark, even on the road.
Atlanta 34, Los Angeles 17
Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1) @ Green Bay Packers (6-6)
I was going to pick the Packers to win this game, but it is so hard to pick against the ‘Hawks in December, especially after seeing what they did last week to Carolina. Russell Wilson should have time to stand in the pocket and pick apart this weak Green Bay secondary. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers may find it difficult passing on the Seahawks if their pass rush gets cranking.
Seattle 25, Green Bay 20
Sunday, December 11th, 8:30 e.t.
Dallas Cowboys (11-1) @ New York Giants (8-4)
The Cowboys have already clinched a playoff spot and could lock up the NFC East with a win on Sunday. I think they will get it done, even on the road. This pick is more on my concern with the Giants offense than anything else. They have not looked great for most of this season and that does not bode well when you have proud owners of an eleven game losing streak coming to town. Jason Pierre-Paul, who had really heated up over the last month, will now miss the rest of the regular season for New York. They are in a tough spot now.
Dallas 30, New York 17
Monday, December 12th, 8:30 e.t.
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) @ New England Patriots (10-2)
Week 14 wraps up with a nice contest between the Ravens and Patriots, who seem to produce a lot of quality games. Baltimore threw the ball at will against the Dolphins to the point where Joe Flacco had 27 completions in the first half alone. Insane. Anyways, they will have to find more balance if they want to hang with the Pats on the road. Since it is a road game, I don’t like their odds at winning, but they could hang around. The Patriots might just run the rock like it were the ’80s here also. This should be a decent game.
New England 28, Baltimore 17
Week 14 Bonus Predictions
Sure Bet of the Week (10-2): Detroit over Chicago
Upset of the Week: Arizona over Miami
Offensive Player of the Week: Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers
Defensive Player of the Week: Harrison Smith, SS, Vikings
Rookie of the Week: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Cowboys
Best Quarterback: Cam Newton, Panthers
Best Running Back: Carlos Hyde, 49ers