Week 14 in the NFL is stacked with important games. The most pivotal contests carry loads of playoff implications, but many of them also represent an opportunity for teams to make major statements.
To conclude Week 13, the Seattle Seahawks made a huge point by dismantling the New Orleans Saints, 34-7. The Seahawks won't get much rest as they are one of the teams set to do battle in yet another big-time matchup during Week 14.
Here's a look at my predictions for every game on the schedule. Following the table is a closer look at the biggest games.
|Thursday, Dec 5||Time (ET)||TV||Prediction|
|Houston at Jacksonville||8:25 PM||NFL||Houston|
|Sunday, Dec 8||Time (ET)||TV||Prediction|
|Indianapolis at Cincinnati||1:00 PM||CBS||Indianapolis|
|Atlanta at Green Bay||1:00 PM||FOX||Atlanta|
|Cleveland at New England||1:00 PM||CBS||New England|
|Oakland at NY Jets||1:00 PM||CBS||Oakland|
|Detroit at Philadelphia||1:00 PM||FOX||Detroit|
|Miami at Pittsburgh||1:00 PM||CBS||Pittsburgh|
|Buffalo at Tampa Bay||1:00 PM||CBS||Tampa Bay|
|Kansas City at Washington||1:00 PM||CBS||Kansas City|
|Minnesota at Baltimore||1:00 PM||FOX||Baltimore|
|Tennessee at Denver||4:05 PM||CBS||Denver|
|St. Louis at Arizona||4:25 PM||FOX||Arizona|
|NY Giants at San Diego||4:25 PM||FOX||NY Giants|
|Seattle at San Francisco||4:25 PM||FOX||San Francisco|
|Carolina at New Orleans||8:30 PM||NBC||Carolina|
|Monday, Dec 9||Time(ET)||TV||Prediction|
|Dallas at Chicago||8:30 PM||ESPN||Chicago|
Brian Mazique's Predictions
Indianapolis Colts Get Up for Big Opponents
Both the Colts and Cincinnati Bengals are 8-4 and looking to take major steps towards wrapping up their divisions. The Colts' season has been as hard to figure as a Rubik's Cube. The same team that owns wins over the Seahawks, Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers has been blown out by the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
What can we make of the Colts? This team gets up for big-time opponents. Despite being on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Colts will come ready to perform at a high level.
Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton is in the midst of a bad stretch. He's thrown 10 interceptions in his last five games, and it appears his confidence has taken a hit. In a matchup of two relatively evenly matched teams, turnovers will be the key.
Bet on Luck to protect the ball and execute better in the second half.
The Detroit Lions Will Win A Shootout
With the NFC wild-card spots almost certainly going to the second-place finishers in the NFC West and South, the Lions and Philadelphia Eagles need to win their divisions. Thus, Sunday's game is set to be a high-stakes shootout.
Neither team has had a great deal of success against the pass this season. The Eagles are dead last, and the Lions aren't much better at 26th. With Calvin Johnson on the field, the Eagles' struggles against the pass present a major issue on Sunday.
Teams that aren't last in the NFL against the pass have issues controlling Megatron. What's going to happen when the Eagles' poor secondary tries its luck? Something tells me the over is a good bet for this game, and the Lions' defense can offer more resistance and make the necessary plays to win.
The Dallas Cowboys' Defense Is Just What Chicago Bears Need
The scenario is the same here as it is in the Lions-Eagles battle. The Bears and Cowboys know they have to win their divisions to get in the playoffs.
Like the other NFC North-NFC East battle, this Monday night game should be high scoring. Dallas' defense is ranked last in the NFL, and the Bears are headed in that direction fast. Chicago could get some help if Lance Briggs is cleared to play, but injuries have decimated the once proud unit.
While Tony Romo and the Cowboys are third in the league in points scored, the Bears have also emerged as one of the premier offenses in the NFL. Alshon Jeffery eclipsed 1,000 yards in Week 13, and Brandon Marshall is about to hit that mark. Matt Forte has been his usual self, racking up 1,416 all-purpose yards.
There is no word on whether Jay Cutler will return to the lineup for the Bears, but with Josh McCown under center, the team has excelled offensively. Dallas' defense is in just as bad a shape as the Bears from a production standpoint, and Chicago is at home.
That factor gives the Bears the edge in prime time.
Carolina Panthers Will Keep the Saints Slipping
In the first of two games that will likely decide which team wins the NFC South, the Panthers will visit the Big Easy in search of a big win.
Drew Brees and the Saints' offense won't get any breaks in Week 14. The Carolina Panthers' defense is just about as good as the Seahawks' unit that smothered New Orleans on Monday. Ranked No. 2 in total defense just behind Seattle, the Panthers feature a front seven that rivals any in the league.
Seeing Luke Kuechly potentially matched with Jimmy Graham in pass coverage should be a treat. Likewise, it'll be interesting to see if the Saints' offensive line can contain Carolina's Greg Hardy, Star Lotulelei and Charles Johnson (who should be ready to play, per David Newton of ESPN.com) up front. The Panthers' defense gives teams a lot to worry about.
Establishing a run game is the key in this matchup for both teams. The Panthers have rushed for at least 100 yards in eight straight games. The last time the team failed to reach the century mark was its last loss in Week 5 to the Arizona Cardinals.
Armed with a stingy defense and the ability to control time of possession, the Panthers will hand the Saints' their second straight loss.
The Niners Will End the Seahawks' Win Streak
It is probably too late for the Niners to catch the Seahawks in the standings, but it's not too late for San Francisco to make a statement. The Niners also need to strengthen its hold on one of the NFC wild-card spots.
No team in the NFC—or perhaps the NFL—is going to defeat the Seahawks in Seattle. That said, this one is in San Francisco, and the Niners are beginning to hit their stride on the offensive side of the ball.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh is starting to open up his playbook and allowing Colin Kaepernick to throw the ball more often. Kaepernick had the reins pulled in on him after throwing four interceptions in the first three games of the season.
Over the last three games, Kaepernick's attempts (27.6) and completion percentage (61.4) are up and his picks are down (one interception in the last three games). That's a bad sign for any opponent—even the Seahawks.
The Niners have Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree healthy. They represent a more complete complement of weapons for Kaepernick. This is a different offense than the one the Seahawks held to three points in Week 2, and this game is not in Seattle.
The Niners will win and make a major statement in the process.