It's Week 14 of the NFL season and the huge matchup this week is arguably the game of the year.
Before we get to this week's games, I have some quick thoughts on the Thursday game.
I'm sure some people thought the Raiders would show some heart since it was a divisional game, but that really didn't happen. Their defense was atrocious as Peyton Manning threw for over 300 yards and the Broncos ran for over 100 yards.
The only reason the Broncos didn't score more is because they settled for four field goals due to poor red zone execution. They still managed to get the win and cover that 10.5 point spread as well.
Straight Up Predictions Record After Week 13:
127-64-1 .665 (Last week 11-5)
All game times are Eastern.
St. Louis (5-6-1) at Buffalo (5-7), 1 p.m.
I could have gone to this game. It's only about three hours away from where I live in southern Ontario and it's my favorite team (the Rams) in Buffalo, which will only happen once every eight years using the current NFL scheduling format.
I didn't choose to go because, have you ever been to Buffalo's stadium on a cold December day? It's not fun. Watching the game on my couch with the heat on is much more comfortable than freezing my ass off.
It's hard to explain why the Rams are 4-0-1 in their division, which means they are 1-6 outside of it. I think coach Jeff Fisher has instilled a lot of confidence in the team and also stressed the importance of their divisional games.
As a result of that, maybe the team puts so much energy into those games that when they get outside of the division they lose their focus. That's my best way to explain it.
I'm going with the Rams to win. I think they have found something offensively with rookie WR Chris Givens able to catch balls all over the field, RB Steven Jackson is fresh after splitting carries early in the year and the defense should be able to get some pressure against a bad Bills offensive line (I believe their third string right tackle is starting).
I know the Bills can score and they're better at home, but I don't think they're the better team right now.
Rams win, 23-20
Dallas (6-6) at Cincinnati (7-5), 1 p.m.
I'm going with the road upset for the Cowboys. I think both teams can be inconsistent at times, but when I watch the Cowboys their offense seems to have turned a corner. They're really feeding Dez Bryant the ball and he's produced with 29 catches, 475 yards and six TDs in his last four games. Those are big numbers.
I think if the Bengals key on him too much, which they might, the Cowboys have enough weapons in Austin, Witten and Murray to put some points on the board. The key is to limit turnovers.
Both teams are in the playoff race in their respective conferences so I think the focus will be there on both sides. I just think the Cowboys will be able to get the win late in the game.
Cowboys win, 26-24
Kansas City (2-10) at Cleveland (4-8), 1 p.m.
I feel for the players on the Chiefs right now. The murder-suicide situation from last week was something I hope we never have to see in the NFL again, so I give credit to their organization for fighting through that with a victory last week.
As for this game, the Browns are showing some fight. They don't have a lot of talent on offense, but the defense plays well, especially at home, and I think this is a game where they give their talented rookie RB Trent Richardson 30 carries as he leads them to the victory.
Browns win, 24-10
Tennessee (4-8) at Indianapolis (8-4), 1 p.m.
Are the Colts as good as their 8-4 record? I'm not sure.
I don't think it matters when people argue that, because the reality is that's their record. If they get in the playoffs and lose in the first round they still accomplished more than most people expected.
To be a playoff team you have to win a game like this against an inferior divisional opponent. The Titans have underachieved a bit due to a number of reasons, mainly their inconsistency at QB.
I'm not sure if Jake Locker is a keeper, but they're right to keep him out there to finish the season. They can win if RB Chris Johnson has a big day. I think he might, but these Colts have an amazing ability to stay in games and win them late.
I think that happens one more time.
Colts win, 27-23
Chicago (8-4) at Minnesota (6-6), 1 p.m.
Remember when the Bears were 7-1? They've gone 1-3 since.
Now that the defense has key injuries to MLB Brian Urlacher and CB Tim Jennings, who was having an amazing year, they may continue to struggle for the rest of the season.
I like what they are doing on offense for the most part, with Jay Cutler throwing it to Brandon Marshall, although their running game has been inconsistent. I just think their struggles are going to continue.
I like the Vikings in this game. When they played two weeks ago the Bears won 28-10. What happened was they got out to a 25-3 lead by halftime and took the Vikings out of their game.
Seeing that the Vikings threw the ball 43 times and gave Adrian Peterson just 18 carries helps me guess this time they will get back to doing what they do best: run the ball with Peterson. It's up to the defense to slow down the Bears offense, though.
I think playing at home in that loud dome, and with the pass rush the Vikings have, they can stay in the game early. Obviously the pass game will miss Percy Harvin, but if they can control the clock with Peterson running the ball I think they'll win the game.
Vikings win, 23-20
Philadelphia (3-9) at Tampa Bay (6-6), 1 p.m.
The Eagles have lost eight in a row. It looks like the defense has quit since they have given up 28 or more points in their last six games.
The Bucs are coming off two losses in a row against very good opponents in the Falcons and Broncos. I bet they're very frustrated.
This Eagles team is the perfect opponent to beat up to make the Bucs feel better and stay in the very tight NFC playoff race.
Buccaneers win, 37-17
Baltimore (9-3) at Washington (6-6), 1 p.m.
This is a tough game to pick.
The Redskins are a streaky team. They were 3-3, then they lost three straight and went into their bye week. Since that time they've won three straight games against their divisional opponents. In each game, Robert Griffin III was very impressive. Against the Eagles and Cowboys he put up four touchdowns. Against the Giants he didn't have a huge game in terms of touchdowns, but he played mistake-free football for the most part. His poise in the pocket is very impressive.
I think I've picked the Ravens game wrong for the last three weeks. When I don't believe in them they find ways to win late in games and when I do believe in them they lose to a third string QB like Charlie Batch last week. This week I'm picking against them largely because I think their defense is banged up.
If Terrell Suggs plays he won't be that effective due to his arm injury and Ray Lewis still isn't there. I'd expect the Redskins to run the ball over 30 times and the Griffin/Morris rookie combo should be able to get 200 yards or more on the ground. If that happens they'll control the clock and win the game.
Redskins win, 27-21
Atlanta (11-1) at Carolina (3-9), 1 p.m.
This is a tough game for the Falcons. Don't let the records fool you too much. In Week 4 the Panthers lost 30-28 because they let the Falcons complete what was basically a hail mary pass by Matt Ryan from his own end zone to Julio Jones at midfield.
That allowed them to get into field goal position and eventually win.
I'm going with the Panthers because I think playing at home will be good for them after a tough loss to the Chiefs. Their pass defense is pretty good (No. 8 in the league) and since they know the Falcons well I think they'll be able to prevent those deep balls from happening.
Can the Falcons run game carry them? I'm not sure. On the other side of the ball, I think the Panthers should be able to put some points on the board just like they did the first time around. This will be a sneaky good game to watch with a lot of physical play. It will be high scoring too.
Panthers win, 31-27
NY Jets (5-7) at Jacksonville (2-10), 1 p.m.
These are two really bad teams, so the outcome doesn't matter that much. I'm tired of all the Jets quarterback talk. If it was a team with a lower profile I doubt the media would care.
The Jags offense has been better in recent weeks with Chad Henne throwing the ball a lot more successfully than Blaine Gabbert did. That's enough for me to pick the Jaguars to win their last home game of the year.
Jaguars win, 23-20
San Diego (4-8) at Pittsburgh (7-5), 1 p.m.
Much like the Eagles earlier, the Chargers have quit. Plus, I don't think their offense is as talented as a lot of "experts" seem to think.
Antonio Gates is well past his prime, Malcom Floyd should not be considered a No. 1 receiver and I've yet to see Ryan Mathews put together two or three great games in a row.
They picked up Danario Alexander at WR, who got cut by my Rams because he's injury prone, and I doubt he's going to last. I know Phillip Rivers gets a lot of blame because he's the quarterback, but I don't think he has a lot of weapons around him.
Last week's win by the Steelers in Baltimore was huge for him Charlie Batch. Did you see how emotional he was after that win? Dude was crying. Now Ben Roethlisberger is back (it's confirmed) and I think their offense will do enough to get the win by running the ball quite a bit in order to keep Roethlisberger from taking a lot of hits.
I fully expect their defense to shut down the Chargers like they have shut down a lot of teams this year.
Steelers win, 27-13
Miami (5-7) at San Francisco (8-3-1), 4:05 p.m.
The Niners are mad after getting beaten by my Rams, so it's a good thing for them to be at home this week against a non-conference opponent that will have a tough time coping.
It's also awesome for QB Colin Kaepernick, who will use this game to remind everybody how much potential he really has and why people overreact to inconsistency from young players. I think the Niners are right to believe in him. I also think the Dolphins will have a tough time doing anything in this game.
49ers win, 33-14
Arizona (4-8) at Seattle (7-5), 4:25 p.m.
I'd have to check, but I think I have picked against the Cardinals every week during their eight-game losing streak. I'm consistent that way. The Seahawks are a team that I pick to win at home nearly every week (I probably picked the Packers in the Fail Mary game), so to me this is a no-brainer.
That's the thing I've learned from picking games. Sometimes we tend to overthink them. I'm not doing that in this instance.
The Seahawks are clearly superior to the Cardinals in every way. Of course anybody can lose any game, but I have no confidence in this Cardinals team. Give me impressive QB Russell Wilson and his Seahawks at home. It wouldn't surprise me if Marshawn Lynch has a big game too.
Seahawks win, 27-7
New Orleans (5-7) at NY Giants (7-5), 4:25 p.m.
This has upset written all over it. The Giants are similar to last year when they finished 9-7 on their way to winning the NFC East in Week 17 and then the Super Bowl.
Luckily for the Giants, the Saints defense is awful. The Giants should be able to put a lot of points on the board because they love the deep ball and Victor Cruz is also very good at getting yards after the catch.
Since the Saints defense is so bad at tackling, that means a big play or two is very likely for the Giants offense. I like the Giants in this game, which should be a high-scoring affair.
Giants win, 37-27
Detroit (4-8) at Green Bay (8-4), 8:20 p.m.
The Lions can put up a lot of points, but the problem is their pass defense is so bad that they give up too many points. They lose a lot of close games because of that.
I know the Packers defense has a lot of problems mainly because Clay Mathews and Charles Woodson are out, but I think a the championship-caliber team will be ready to put on an offensive show Sunday night. This is their chance to remind everybody how good that offense can be.
Obviously their run game is as bad as it's ever been, but the Lions don't have the personnel to deal with the Packers' passing attack. This feels like one of those 350 passing yards for four touchdown kind of games for Aaron Rodgers.
I like the Packers to win this game comfortably.
Packers win, 42-24
Houston (11-1) at New England (9-3), 8:30 p.m. (Monday)
When I saw this matchup I immediately thought about the Packers/Texans game when Green Bay went into Houston and absolutely destroyed them. It was the template on how you beat the Texans: spread the field and throw the ball.
The problem is that most teams in the NFL don't have a quarterback as good as Aaron Rodgers or receivers as good as what the Packers have. What team comes close to that? The Patriots. The difference is that the Patriots can run the ball way better than the Packers can (No. 8 in the NFL at 140.8 yards per game), so it will keep the Texans' defense on its toes.
I think the Patriots have more weapons (if you include the running backs) that the Texans may have trouble dealing with. Plus Tom Brady is playing as well as I've ever seen him and that's with his best weapon, TE Rob Gronkowski, on the shelf. When Brady is in this zone he's tough to beat. He's better this year than he was in 2012 when they made it to the Super Bowl. That makes them scary.
I like the Texans a lot. Their offensive line may be the best in football, their defense can handle teams that run the ball and they've been able to force turnovers too. With their offense, sometimes they can stall because a defense may focus on Andre Johnson in the passing game and then they don't really have anybody else to scare you.
I'll admit that TE Owen Daniels is good at finding seams in the middle, but I'm talking more about a deep threat. I've thought for a few years now that they need a better second receiver than Kevin Walter. If they want to be a more dangerous offense they would use their running game to set up the play-action deep ball more than they do. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but that's one thing I think they can be better at.
I'm leaning towards the Patriots in this game. It's nothing against the Texans. I think they're impressive too and if these teams meet in the playoffs in January I may change my mind. It's not necessarily a home-field advantage thing either. It's more of a matchups thing.
I'm excited to watch this game as an NFL fan. I don't root for either team and I doubt I'll lay down a bet. I'm excited because they're two elite teams playing an important game in primetime very late into the season. It's the NFL at its best. It should be fun to watch.
Patriots win, 31-24
John Canton is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. You can read more of his work at his website TJRWrestling.com along with his talented staff of writers. He also writes a lot about the NFL at TJRSports.com, so check him out there as well! You can follow John on Twitter @johnreport, too.
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