With the NFL playoffs fast approaching in Week 14, there are plenty of tricky matchups to pick, but there are a few home teams on the schedule that are sure to win.
With four games remaining on the regular-season schedule, many of the contests carry significant weight as it pertains to playoff positioning.
The Indianapolis Colts will be in Cincinnati in what could be an AFC playoff preview, the Detroit Lions will travel to Philadelphia, the Seattle Seahawks will take on the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park, the New Orleans Saints will host the Carolina Panthers with the NFC South title on the line, and the Dallas Cowboys will take on the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.
All of those games feature evenly matched teams, and the outcome could go either way. Conversely, while there's nothing sure in this world, these upcoming home teams will need to fall flat on their faces to lose this weekend.
First, here's a look at the entire slate of games with predictions for each one:
|Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Jaguars|
|Buffalo Bills||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Bucs|
|Minnesota Vikings||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Cleveland Browns||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Detroit Lions||Philadelphia Eagles||Lions|
|Atlanta Falcons||Green Bay Packers||Packers|
|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||49ers|
|St. Louis Rams||Arizona Cardinals||Rams|
|Carolina Panthers||New Orleans Saints||Panthers|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||Cowboys|
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
The Cleveland Browns were thought to have a shot at the AFC North title earlier this season, but this team is limping toward the finish line in 2013, having lost six of its last seven games.
Making matters worse, the Browns—already one of the most quarterback-starved teams in the NFL—could be without both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden, who are out with injuries. As a result, Cleveland recently signed Caleb Hanie, who could start this Sunday, as noted by The Associated Press:
No matter who's lining up behind center this weekend, the Browns are doomed.
New England's offense is starting to catch fire with Rob Gronkowski returning to form, as detailed by ESPN Stats & Info, scoring 34 points in each of the last two games:
Rob Gronkowski has caught a TD in 4 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL. He hasn't dropped a pass in his last 78 targets.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 3, 2013
Cleveland's defense is superb, ranking No. 5 against the run and the pass, but the Browns won't be able to outscore Brady at home on Sunday.
Projected Score: Patriots win 31-13.
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
After starting the season with a record of 1-7, the Minnesota Vikings have a record of 2-1-1 in the four games leading up to Week 14's battle in Baltimore.
But Vikings fans would be smart to temper expectations in this upcoming contest.
Baltimore comes into this upcoming contest with top-10 marks in both categories, and the Ravens are particularly dominant against the run, allowing just 100.1 yards per game (No. 6), 3.7 yards per carry (No. 5) and only two rushing touchdowns all year (No. 1).
You never count Adrian Peterson out of a game, but he'll have some tough sledding against this group.
Making matters worse for the Vikings, the offense will once again see a shift at the quarterback position. Matt Cassel will start in place of Christian Ponder, as reported by Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:
Matt Cassel told me Leslie Frazier told him Wednesday morning definitely will start at QB Sunday at Baltimore for injured Christian Ponder— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) December 4, 2013
Joe Flacco just needs to play a smart game, letting his defense impose its will on Minnesota's pathetic offense, and the Ravens will easily win at home to stay in the hunt for the AFC North crown. A loss, combined with a win by the Cincinnati Bengals, would likely be the final straw for the defending Super Bowl champs.
That's not going to happen.
Projected Score: Ravens win 24-14.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
File this one under the "duh" category.
Denver is not losing at home to Tennessee.
Not going to happen.
The Titans come into Sunday's game having lost three of four—the team's only victory being a narrow 23-19 win over the Oakland Raiders.
The Broncos have only lost twice all year long, on the other hand, losing at Indianapolis and at New England. In six games at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver has won by an average score of 40.8-20.8.
Peyton Manning continues his quest to break Tom Brady's single-season touchdown record (50). Through 12 games, he's thrown 41 touchdown passes (3.15 per game). Should he match that pace in the final four games, Manning will finish the season with 53 touchdowns.
He tossed five last weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Titans will be hard-pressed to keep him from matching that number in Week 14, despite owning the league's No. 7-ranked pass defense.
Oh, and head coach John Fox is back in action after undergoing heart surgery a month ago. Denver's going to be riding on cloud nine for this game and will win handily.
Projected Score: Broncos win 45-21.
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