NFL Week 14 Picks

If games were only played on Thursdays, I might be nearly perfect in picking games this year. The clean sweep on Turkey Day lifted my 14-1. Going 11-5 in week 13 raised the overall to 121-70, tied for 4th among the experts at ESPN. My fantasy football team was officially eliminated from the playoffs last week, so here’s to having more time to make a real run at a perfect week of picks.

Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday, 8:25pm

Houston took advantage of a weak first half from the Patriots to build a nice lead, but they couldn’t overcome the cheaters in the second half… Sarcasm, clearly. No team should have to cheat to be able to make the defensive adjustments to stop the Texans offense (force Case Keenum to throw the ball)  or defense (run it down their throats)—even Jacksonville. Speaking of the Jags, how hot have they been over these last four games? In the four weeks since their bye, Jax is 3-1—all three wins came on the road—and they’re averaging 22 points per game, compared to the 10.8 they were averaging through the first eight weeks. Gus Bradley has his team gelling at just the right (wrong?) time. Jags win 21-16

Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles, 1pm

Calvin Johnson may or may not run wild on this defense, but the difference in this one is going to be whether or not Matthew Stafford can stop turning the ball over. His 27 TDs this year have him on pace to come close to a career high, but the 8 picks over the last four games (including 4 against the Bucs a couple Sundays ago). A big part of the Eagles’ four-game winning streak has been the defense’s ability to create turnovers—nine in those four games—and the fact that no team has scored more than 21 points against them since the Week 4 debacle at Denver. Nick Foles has yet another opportunity to step up in a big moment and further solidify his future in Philly, and he’ll have an opportunity to pad those stats a little more—he’ll likely see a greater workload, thanks to the Lions’ 3rd ranked rush D, compared to their 26th ranked pass D. Eagles win 33-23

Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1pm

Both of these teams have been incredibly up and down over the last month and a half, and you never really know which group is going to show up on Sunday. For the Colts, a lot of that has to do (unfortunately) with the fact that Andrew Luck’s top target was lost for the season; for Cincy, it’s been the erratic play of Andy Dalton. The most consistent unit for either team has been the Bengals defense which ranks sixth overall, holding teams to just under 315 yards per game, and fifth overall with 18 pts per game. That’s enough for me in this one. Bengals win 26-23

Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers, 1pm

If Rodgers is back (he hasn’t been cleared to return yet) this game is a lock. With him on the sidelines and Matt Flynn getting another full week of practice with the first team under his belt, it’s a loosely double-knotted shoelace. Both of these defenses have been putrid for the better part of the season and have really let both teams down. If Flynn can sure up the turnovers, he should have an easier time against this Atlanta defense that has given up the 2nd most passing TDs (24) this year. Packers win 27-24

Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots, 1pm

With Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell suffering from head injuries, it’ll be either Alex Tanney (who hasn’t played a single snap of professional football during the regular season) or Caleb Hanie (who hasn’t played a single snap of professional football since 2011). Good luck with that. Pats win 35-12

Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets, 1pm

You’ve gotta give Matt McGloin some credit, don’t you? He’s at least kept the Raiders competitive in his three starts—they’ve won one, and have been within a single possession of beating both the Cowboys and Titans. This week he’ll get to play a little closer to his real home, against a Jets team that is in serious shambles. Given the trip for Oakland, I’d call this a coin flip, but the coin is weighted a little heavier to the road team. Raiders win 24-21

Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers, 1pm

We’ve had a lot of former players going back to visit their old teams this year (see: Ed Reed, twice; Peyton Manning; Wes Welker). Now Mike Wallace gets to go back to Pittsburgh. Each team’s strength will make this a far more entertaining watch than it probably should be—Miami ranks ninth against the pass while the Steelers have the eighth-ranked passing attack. If Ben is able to stay upright long enough in this one, Pittsburgh should be able to take care of business at home. Steelers win 24-10

Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1pm

Despite the tough loss at Carolina last week, I’m absolutely buying into the Greg Schiano juice. His team is buying in as well, and that’s what has led to this mini turnaround. Simply put, though, I’m not a fan of the Bills on the road. In five road contests this year, Buffalo is getting outscored 28.6-18.8, and that’s against teams like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, the Jets, and Miami (New Orleans is the fifth team, but that’s a bit of an outlier. Bucs win 28-20

Kansas City Chiefs @ Washington Redskins, 1pm

Reid gets to face a team that he went 17-11 against as the Eagles head coach, and he’ll do so with a Chiefs team that is desperately searching for a win after dropping their last three. Shouldn’t be a problem against a Skins team that has just three wins this season, and that will be with whatever draft pick they would’ve had in the first round next summer. L.O.L. Chiefs win 23-19

Minnesota Vikings @ Baltimore Ravens, 1pm

This is difficult one to pick, in my opinion. After a pretty dreadful start, the Vikings have managed to scrap together a 2-1-1 record in their last four (granted they were about a minute away from being 1-1-2). A lot of that has to do with their ability to find ways to get the ball into Corderrelle Patterson’s hands, and number 28 in the backfield. The Ravens have done a fairly decent job stopping the run this year, though—they rank 6th giving up just over 100 yards per game. Whatever side can hold their ground in that portion of the game should come out on top. Given the Vikings ineptitude on the road (0-5-1) and the Ravens dominance at home (5-1), I’ll lean in favor of the slightly darker purple team. Ravens win 27-20

Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos, 4:05pm

There’s no use trying to find a way that the Titans can actually walk out of Denver with a W on Sunday—they just aren’t going to do it. The Tennessee/Houston franchise hasn’t won at Mile High since the mid 1980’s, and they’ll be facing a quarterback who beat them 13 times in 18 career meetings when he was playing for a team in their division. Oh, and forget about all of that cold-weather talk. Peyton’s back to form. It all adds up to a a win for the home team. Broncos win 41-17

St. Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals, 4:25pm

It’s a brutal stretch for the Rams as 2013 winds down and they’re faced with another year watching the playoffs at home—three of their final four are against teams with winning records and playoff aspirations, including a week 17 trip to Seattle (though the Seahawks may be resting guys by then). It starts this week in Arizona against a Cardinals team that dominates at home (5-1), holding teams to just 18 points in six games (15 pts/g in their 5 wins). Defense has been the key to their midseason surge and they’ll be looking to bounce back from a tough road loss in Philly last week [:-)]. Cards win 24-17

New York Giants @ San Diego Chargers, 4:25pm

Talk about a clunker for the Chargers last week. Not how you want to go about keeping pace, or separating yourself from the pack, in the AFC playoff race. One thing in their favor, though, they get another week at home, and they get to face a team that is travelling cross-country to face them for a change. AND! That team is the New York Giants, whose quarterback is Eli Manning—the guy that snubbed the team in the 2004 NFL Draft and demanded they trade him. Sure, Eli has his two Super Bowl rings, but he has yet to beat the Chargers in two career meetings, including a 45-23 loss the season after the draft-then-trade incident. Besides all that, I just can’t see myself picking the Giants D over Philip Rivers. Chargers win 34-24

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers, 4:25pm

Aside from their Week 1 win over the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers haven’t shown the ability to step up in a big game this season—losses at Seattle, at New Orleans and at home against the Panthers and Indy soil an otherwise impressive 8-4 record. This week they get an opportunity to exact a little revenge against an NFC West foe. I’m sure fans will be pumped for this one, but they won’t have the same kind of impact the 12th man does. If San Fran has a chance, it’s going to come in the running game—Seattle’s “weakness” on defense would be their 13th ranked rush D, which gives up just over 107 yards per game. Kaepernick has shown slight improvement in the passing game over the last couple weeks, but St. Louis and Washington don’t own the number-one ranked passing defense. When it comes down to it, I just think the Seahawks D is going to own the game. Seahawks win 28-14

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints, 8:25pm

The Flex Game! This should make for incredible football, but I’ve gotta say, I’m nervous about which Saints defense is going to show up for this one. I know it’s nearly impossible to get a win in Seattle, but to give up 34 points? And what about the 26 they gave up in a loss to the Jets earlier this month? That was a road loss as well, but c’mon. It was the Jets! Rob Ryan’s done well, but you can’t overlook the fact that he’s still utilizing the men who made up a historically bad defense just a season ago. Now they’ll have to stop a Panthers offense that has gone for 30+ five times this year, and their defense, which is holding teams to a league-low 13.1 points per game. It’s in the Superdome, which is a beast in and of itself, but don’t be surprised when this turns out to be much closer than many are predicting. Panthers win 31-28

Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears, Monday, 8:30pm

It’s December, which can only mean one thing: An epic Cowboys collapse is right around the corner. They’ll get their first opportunity to fall flat on their faces in a road matchup against the Chicago Bears. Both teams have truly struggled on the defensive side of the ball of late, and both offenses are just sort of meh. What I do like for Dallas (threw up in my mouth a little after typing that) is that they come into this with a bit of momentum, winning two straight. What I don’t like is that they tend to collapse in big road games (see: Kansas City Week 2, San Diego Week 4, Detroit Week 8, and New Orleans Week 10—and there was that near collapse at New York two weeks ago). This game has major playoff implications, which makes it a big game. I expect them to be typical Dallas-in-December in this one. Bears win 17-13

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