Week 14 of the 2013 NFL season holds a number of pivotal matchups that could begin to tell the tale of what the future holds for multiple teams.
Some contests will feature teams fighting for position in the playoffs, while others will focus on teams attempting to play spoiler. Even though it may not seem like each game is crucial at this point in the season, they all most certainly are—especially with the 2014 draft order coming into play.
However, matchups between opponents who are currently still in the hunt for the playoffs are the focus this week, as there are three games that could begin to decide the fate of the teams involved.
Let's take a look at full schedule predictions followed by a close look at the most pivotal matchups Week 14 has to offer.
|NFL Week 14 Predictions|
|Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Buffalo Bills||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Bills|
|Minnesota Vikings||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Cleveland Browns||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Detroit Lions||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles|
|Atlanta Falcons||Green Bay Packers||Falcons|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Washington Redskins||Chiefs|
|Miami Dolphins||Pittsburgh Steelers||Steelers|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Jets||Raiders|
|Tennessee Titans||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|New York Giants||San Diego Chargers||Chargers|
|Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers||Seahawks|
|St. Louis Rams||Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals|
|Carolina Panthers||New Orleans Saints||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||Cowboys|
|Sean O'Donnell's Predictions|
Cincinnati Bengals Keep Rolling Against Indianapolis Colts
The equation here is rather simple. The Bengals defense will simply be too much for a reeling Colts offense to handle.
Cincinnati currently boasts the NFL's sixth-ranked defense and is giving up just 18 points per game on average. This defense held a high-flying San Diego Chargers offense to just 10 points in Week 13 after Philip Rivers and Co. put up 41 points on a stout Kansas City Chiefs defense just one week prior.
This isn't good news for the Colts.
Indianapolis' aerial attack has faltered since the team lost Reggie Wayne for the season in Week 7. Newly acquired Darrius Heyward-Bey has been inconsistent as Wayne's replacement and now faces the possibility of a reduced role in this week's contest.
To make matters worse, the offensive line has not been able to help Andrew Luck of late. They currently rank 29th overall in pass protection with a negative-26.5 grade, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
The Colts look to have a stranglehold on the AFC South—the 5-7 Tennessee Titans are their closest competitors. However, after this matchup is settled, Indianapolis will be staring the AFC's fourth seed in the face.
Prediction: Bengals 24, Colts 17
Seattle Seahawks Prove They're Top Dog Against San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks showed how balanced of a team they can be in Week 13 against the New Orleans Saints. Seattle took care of business and completely trounced New Orleans to the tune of a 34-7 final score. This team continues to play great football, which is not a good sign for San Francisco in Week 14.
Seattle is the NFL's top-ranked defense through 13 weeks this season. They are allowing just 284.5 yards and 15.5 points per game. Getting past a defense like that is a feat in itself; however, Seattle's offense is a powerhouse in its own right.
Russell Wilson has been fantastic this season and has posted a passer rating of at least 91.3 in each of his last seven contests. Last week against the Saints, Wilson completed 22 of 30 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a passer rating of 139.6.
He's simply on fire right now.
The 49ers have won their last two games and now hold an 8-4 record. They look poised to return to the postseason once again this year, but they have not been able to reproduce the dominance they showed in 2012.
Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense are currently ranked 28th in the league, averaging just 311 total yards per game. Kaepernick has played well over his last two starts, posting passer ratings of 134.6 and 111.5, respectively.
Unfortunately for San Francisco, those performances were against the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams—two defensive units that do not remotely resemble the dominance of the Seahawks.
The last time these two teams met in Week 2, Kaepernick posted just a 20.1 passer rating—his lowest of the season. This time around, it may not be that ugly for the third-year quarterback, but it won't be pretty against a very talented Seahawks team. Seattle gets the season sweep here.
Prediction: Seahawks 27, 49ers 17
Carolina Panthers Beat New Orleans Saints and Take Control of NFC South
Both the Panthers and the Saints find themselves holding 9-3 records heading into Week 14. This will be the first time these division rivals face off this season.
The Saints have been riding the arm of Drew Brees, as the veteran quarterback has been immensely impressive. Brees has already thrown for 3,794 yards and 29 touchdowns against just eight interceptions for a passer rating of 104.9 in 2013.
However, Brees has faltered against tougher defenses. That was absolutely apparent against the stifling Seahawks defense in Week 13. Seattle did not allow Brees to go over the top of its secondary and held him in check for a total of just 147 passing yards—by far his lowest of the season.
Constant pressure was applied to Brees throughout the game, which limited his effectiveness in the pocket.
That was against the NFL's top-ranked defense. This week, Brees faces the second-ranked Panthers defense.
Giving up an average of just 289.8 yards and 13.1 points per game, Carolina's defense has been one of the NFL's best. Applying pressure to Brees shouldn't be an issue for the Panthers pass rush, either—the team is currently second in the league with 39 sacks this season.
Offensively, Carolina has been stellar due to the fantastic play of quarterback Cam Newton. Over the Panthers' eight-game winning streak, Newton has thrown 13 touchdowns against six interceptions and has rushed for an additional five touchdowns.
The Panthers' mix of a high-powered offense and stout defense has been virtually impossible for opponents to overcome. Over their last eight games, the Panthers have outscored opponents 211-99.
For the second straight week, the Saints find themselves facing one of the most balanced teams in football. The end result will be the same.
Prediction: Panthers 31, Saints 27