Though the 2013-14 season is slowly winding down, Week 14 in the NFL offers no shortage of big games. From rivals playing for the division lead to two of the most storied franchises facing off on prime time, this weekend's crop of matchups is sure to please.
With three of the best teams in the NFC going on the road as underdogs, there are sure to be a few upsets this week, with two coming in the late games. All betting lines provided by Vegas Insider.
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears (-1.5)
The Monday Night Football clash between the Cowboys and Bears might appear to have lost some luster due to Jay Cutler's injury and an atrocious defense as of late for Chicago, but this should be a high-scoring affair that leaves one team closer to a potential playoff berth.
The Cowboys have one of the worst pass defenses in the league, but also present a triple-threat passing attack with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.
On the other side, we have the trio of Josh McCown—don't laugh, he's been playing well—Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who single-handedly had more yards than the New York Jets on Sunday:
Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffery and Adrian Peterson all had more yards than the #Jets yesterday (177 total).— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 2, 2013
While it may not be quite what ESPN hoped for at the beginning of the season when it scheduled this game, expect an offensive explosion from both sides, with the Cowboys coming out on top.
Prediction: Cowboys 35, Bears 32
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5)
One of the fiercest rivalries in all of football pits two teams with a combined 18-5 record this season against each other. Only this time, the game will be played at Candlestick Park.
Both offenses appear to be clicking on all cylinders coming into this game, but football fans know this one is all about the defense. Seattle comes in with the No. 1 passing defense, while San Francisco features the No. 3 passing defense.
The game-changers for both teams might be Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch.
Gore couldn't get anything started against the Seahawks the last time the two teams faced off, gaining only 30 yards from scrimmage. Lynch, on the other hand, went into Beast Mode for 135 total yards and three touchdowns in the 29-3 win.
While the 49ers have won two straight, the wins came against the St. Louis Rams and Washington Redskins. The Seahawks still have the upper hand in this game and will win outright.
Prediction: Seahawks 28, 49ers 23
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Now for the biggest showdown no one saw coming before the start of the regular season: Panthers vs. Saints for first place in the division.
As Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer points out, this is essentially the only game that means anything in the NFC South at the moment:
All that said, projecting NFC South is about 98% useless right now until CAR plays NO— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) December 2, 2013
The two teams both went 7-9 last year and were expected to potentially exceed that this season, but an eight-game winning streak by the Panthers has both teams at 9-3 with the NFC South and potentially the No. 2 seed in the playoffs on the line.
From the outset, Cam Newton against Drew Brees might look like the biggest storyline, but it might just be the two defenses that steal the show. The Saints and Panthers rank fourth and sixth in passing yards allowed per game, respectively.
What will set Carolina apart is its rushing defense, which ranks second in the NFL in yards allowed per game.
Prediction: Panthers 21, Saints 17
Spreads courtesy of Vegas Insider.