Week 14 NFL Picks: Last-Minute Predictions for Every Game
The playoff field should look a little more clear by the end of Week 14 of the NFL season.
At least seven different games have the potential to fatally injure the postseason hopes of the teams involved, while 13 of the 15 games have direct playoff implications. Just two games feature teams out of the postseason hunt.
It's safe to say that Week 14 will have a major say in which teams are included in the 12-team playoff field and which teams are sitting at home in January.
In the following slides, we'll break down and pick each of the 15 remaining games on the Week 14 schedule.
St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) at Buffalo Bills (5-7)
This is a playoff elimination game, even if both teams are long shots to knock on the postseason door. At least for another week, that door is still in play.
A December game in Buffalo should be decided on the ground, where the Bills have actually been very good on both sides of the football lately. In Week 13, the Bills rushed for 232 yards and held Jacksonville to just 50. The Rams have also been poor away from St. Louis this season (1-3-1), not to mention their "home" loss to the Patriots in London.
Pick: Bills 23, Rams 17
Final: Rams 15, Bills 12
Dallas Cowboys (6-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
The Bengals have won four straight games, mostly thanks to a rejuvenated running game and turnover-inducing defense. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has three straight 100-yard rushing games, while the Bengals are plus-six in the turnover category over the past five weeks.
For Dallas to win its fourth game in five tries, both of those statistics probably need to be in the Cowboys' favor. With so much on the line for Dallas, it's not difficult to see the offense press and give away the football a few times.
Pick: Bengals 21, Cowboys 20
Final: Cowboys 20, Bengals 19
Kansas City Chiefs (2-10) at Cleveland Browns (4-8)
The Browns have won two straight games and four out of their last seven, giving this team the look of respectability.
Traveling to Cleveland in Week 14 are the Chiefs, who could be in line for a huge letdown. With everything going on around this team for the last week, it'd be hard to criticize them if the product isn't great on the road Sunday.
Emotion, especially in the form the Chiefs rode last Sunday to an inspiring win, can be hard to sustain away from home. Just ask the Colts, who were spanked in New York a week after coming back to beat the Packers in their first game without head coach Chuck Pagano.
Pick: Browns 24, Chiefs 9
Final: Browns 30, Chiefs 7
Tennessee Titans (4-8) at Indianapolis Colts (8-4)
The Colts are as vertical a passing offense as the NFL has today, but that's somewhat surprising considering the personnel in Indianapolis. Reggie Wayne is still physical but now strictly a possession receiver, while the burners—T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery and LaVon Brazill—aren't tall or physical players.
The Titans have allowed 24 passing touchdowns and an NFL-worst 69.5 completion percentage this season. Expect Andrew Luck to hit his unique personnel for big plays Sunday.
Pick: Colts 27, Titans 16
Pick: Colts 27, Titans 23
Chicago Bears (8-4) at Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
The Vikings have become a sexy upset pick this week, with the thinking that Chicago's older, tiring defense and a poor offensive line could equal big problems in the Metrodome.
There's some quality to that line of thinking, but let's not forget just how poor Christian Ponder has been for the last two months. Adrian Peterson can run wild, and Jay Cutler can get hit countless times, but the Vikings won't win unless Ponder is productive. Without Percy Harvin, I'm not confident Ponder can be.
Pick: Bears 17, Vikings 10
Final: Vikings 21, Bears 14
San Diego Chargers (4-8) at Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5)
Ben Roethlisberger will start for the Steelers, but you wonder how healthy he'll be just a couple of weeks removed from a pretty severe injury. He could be limited.
On the other sideline, though, the Chargers have one of the more inefficient quarterbacks in football.
Philip Rivers attempted 48 passes in Week 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals, but only 280 yards and zero touchdowns came out of the commitment. Winning teams need more production than that. On the road, against one of the better defenses, Rivers will struggle again.
Pick: Steelers 23, Chargers 10
Final: Chargers 34, Steelers 24
Philadelphia Eagles (3-9) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)
Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown has been a revelation, rushing for 347 yards and four touchdowns in two starts. The Bucs have the NFL's No. 1-ranked run defense, surrendering just 82.3 yards a game on the ground, so Brown might face the toughest test of his young career.
If Brown plays well, the Eagles have a real chance at the upset. But the Bucs simply have too much to play for (one game out in NFC wild card), and Josh Freeman is easier to trust at home than rookie Nick Foles on the road.
Pick: Buccaneers 30, Eagles 23
Final: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21
Baltimore Ravens (9-3) at Washington Redskins (6-6)
Despite a three-win margin between the two teams, these rosters aren't far off talent-wise. And overall, the Redskins' strengths match up well against the Ravens' weaknesses. Baltimore is allowing almost 130 yards a game on the ground, while Washington is possibly the most explosive running game in football.
Robert Griffin III has also become one of the NFL's very best at exploiting the one-on-one matchups he receives on the perimeter.
If the Ravens get slashed on the ground by RG3 and rookie Alfred Morris, Washington could certainly get to 7-6.
Pick: Redskins 31, Ravens 27
Final: Redskins 31, Ravens 28
Atlanta Falcons (11-1) at Carolina Panthers (3-9)
The Falcons are at their best defensively when Mike Nolan can play nickel and dime and still be competitive in stopping the run. For Carolina to win a game it has no business winning Sunday, the Panthers have to be able to run the football and get the Falcons into their base package.
Cam Newton will make mistakes if he's forced to deal with multiple schemes and looks in the passing game. We're betting the Panthers are held under 100 yards rushing Sunday.
Pick: Falcons 24, Panthers 14
Final: Panthers 30, Falcons 20
New York Jets (5-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
The Jets are starting Mark Sanchez again, but that shouldn't alter the offense's winning blueprint. When New York gives Sanchez easy throws and quick options and safeguards him with a running game, the Jets don't look like the unmitigated disaster they were Sunday against the Cardinals.
If Sanchez can't pull off that formula in Week 14 against the Jaguars, New York has serious, serious problems moving forward.
Pick: Jets 20, Jaguars 17
Final: Jets 17, Jaguars 10
Miami Dolphins (5-7) at San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1)
This game could be won and lost on the Dolphins' ability to protect the blind side of rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill. With left tackle Jake Long out, Miami has been forced to move rookie Jonathan Martin to the left side.
He'll see Aldon Smith, the NFL's sack leader, on every snap, plus a heavy mix of stunts from All-Pro defensive end Justin Smith. The 49ers could overwhelm the rookie duo Sunday.
Pick: 49ers 31, Dolphins 13
Final: 49ers 27, Dolphins 13
New Orleans Saints (5-7) at New York Giants (7-5)
After falling in Atlanta last Thursday night, the Saints have had extra time to prepare for this elimination game. A loss in New York effectively ends New Orleans' season.
You never want to bet against a team with an elite quarterback in that situation, but the Giants are also in must-win mode. What was once a commanding lead in the NFC East has dwindled into a one-game hold.
With two elite passing games at the forefront, we'll take the team at home with a much better pass rush.
Pick: Giants 34, Saints 27
Final: Giants 52, Saints 27
Arizona Cardinals (4-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is making a serious run at NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have been great, but Wilson (63.4 completion percentage, 19 touchdowns, 95.2 passer rating) isn't far behind.
With 11 touchdowns, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 122.0, Wilson has also made the Seahawks close to unbeatable at home (5-0).
The Cardinals have deep, serious issues, starting at quarterback. Seattle should roll.
Pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 10
Final: Seahawks 58, Cardinals 0
Detroit Lions (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-4)
The forecast in Green Bay is calling for snow and wintry conditions, which could lead to another ugly game offensively. The Packers, despite setting a franchise record for points last season, have grown accustomed to winning ugly in 2012.
Running the football and limiting the problems in pass protection have become a big part of the Packers' winning script. How the Lions handle such a depleted receiving corps behind Calvin Johnson will play a big role in the outcome Sunday night.
Pick: Packers 23, Lions 20
Final: Packers 27, Lions 20
Houston Texans (11-1) at New England Patriots (9-3)
Week 14's Monday night clash could be the NFL's game of the season and a potential AFC championship game preview. While the Texans are still searching for respect among the game's elite, New England has the level of quarterback that has been a big problem for Houston's defense in 2012.
Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Matthew Stafford have combined to throw 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions against Wade Phillips' unit this season. With Tom Brady up next, New England gets the nod.
Pick: Patriots 30, Texans 27