The calendar has turned to December, and the 2013 NFL season is in the home stretch.
As such, there are a number of big games in Week 14, including a showdown for first place in the NFC South in New Orleans.
Can the Kansas City Chiefs stop their three-game losing streak against the reeling Washington Redskins? Can the San Francisco 49ers stop the Seattle Seahawks from running away with the top seed in the NFC?
Add to that matchups between first-place teams in Cincinnati and Detroit, and this promises to be an exciting weekend of NFL action.
Here's how experts from around cyberspace (including the NFL braintrust here at Bleacher Report) expect that action to play out.
Before we move on to Week 14's games, let's take a look at our panel of experts.
ESPN: ESPN's picks are a combination of the selections of 13 experts. Those experts include writers like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, as well as former players such as Cris Carter and Mike Ditka.
CBS Sports: The CBS Sports picks feature eight writers, including senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco and NFL insider Jason La Canfora.
USA Today: As with the other sites on our panel, USA Today uses a committee approach, with seven writers offering their picks for this week's games.
Bleacher Report: I would be remiss not to include the prognostications of my esteemed colleagues here at Bleacher Report. This year's starting lineup for Bleacher Report's picks team features each of the national lead writers as well as the lead writers covering the NFL's divisions.
There you have it: over 40 NFL experts (plus one computer) all offering their takes on this week's games.
Week 13 went very well for the experts, who rebounded from their worst week of the season in Week 12 to post one of their best.
Last Week: 10-3
Final Verdict: So the weather was bad in Philadelphia on Sunday.
How bad was it?
It was so bad that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles actually threw an interception!
Kidding aside, the Eagles and Lions played in conditions better suited for running the Iditarod than a football game, with the Eagles racking up over 200 rushing yards on the ground in the fourth quarter alone en route to a 34-20 win.
ESPN: Lions (7-6)
CBS Sports: Lions (6-2)
Fox Sports: Eagles (3-2)
USA Today: Eagles (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Eagles (7-5)
Overall: Lions (23-22)
The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions are a pair of first-place surprises.
The Eagles have surged into the lead in the NFC East with Nick Foles at the helm. The second-year pro is 5-1 as the starter for Philly, with an eye-popping 19 touchdown passes against zero interceptions.
Meanwhile, the Lions may have played their best game of the season in their last game, overcoming a couple of early miscues to eviscerate the Green Bay Packers 40-10 on Thanksgiving.
The vote here is as close as votes get, with plenty of supporters on both sides of the aisle.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey likes the hometown Eagles:
This is a gut check for both teams in what should be a shootout. The Lions have always been susceptible to high-percentage passers in low-risk schemes, and that fits the Eagles and Nick Foles to a T. He could easily complete 70 percent of his passes as he picks apart a questionable secondary and utilizes shorter throws to keep the Lions defensive line off of him.
NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse, on the other hand, thinks the visiting Lions will get the win.
"Detroit abused the Packers on Thanksgiving and will now get 11 days between games. A fresh, confident Lions team can take a big step toward a NFC North title with a win in Philly," he writes.
Final Verdict: We'll continue our winter wonderland that was the NFL in Week 14 with a stop in Titletown.
The weather there wasn't much better than Philly, but the Packers are feeling all warm and toasty right now.
That's because Green Bay's 22-21 win over the Atlanta Falcons, coupled with the Detroit loss, thrusts the Pack right back into the hunt in the NFC North.
Wonder how Aaron Rodgers' collarbone is feeling now?
ESPN: Packers (10-3)
CBS Sports: Falcons (5-3)
Fox Sports: Falcons (5-0)
USA Today: Packers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Packers (9-3)
Overall: Packers (28-17)
The 2013 season hasn't gone at all according to plan for the Green Bay Packers or Atlanta Falcons.
For the Falcons, the injuries came early and often on both sides of the ball. The result has been a total and complete collapse that has seen the Falcons lose three times as many games this year as it did last year.
Things were actually going well for the Packers, though—right up until quarterback Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. They haven't won a game since.
Rodgers will sit out again in Week 14, but that hasn't deterred Bleacher Report AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen from joining the majority in picking the Pack to end their winless skid.
"I don’t trust a bad team that plays in a dome to go to Lambeau and win," Hansen wrote.
Final Verdict: In an early slate filled with wild games, Sunday's clash between the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens may have been the wildest.
In the first three quarters of the game, the teams combined to score 13 points. In the fourth quarter alone, the Ravens and Vikings scored 42.
In a game that ended up looking like a bunch of kids gathered in a snowy back yard, it was the Ravens who had the last laugh, with a touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Marlon Brown with less than 10 seconds left the difference in a 29-26 win.
ESPN: Ravens (13-0)
CBS Sports: Ravens (8-0)
Fox Sports: Ravens (5-0)
USA Today: Ravens (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Ravens (11-1)
Overall: Ravens (44-1)
The defending champions are hanging in there, albeit by a thread.
With their two-point win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving, the Baltimore Ravens got back to .500 on the season and back toward the lead of a pack of teams in the AFC fighting for the final playoff spot.
That makes every game incredibly important, especially winnable games such as this week's tilt with the Minnesota Vikings.
It's a game that the vast majority of the panel, including Bleacher Report NFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland, feels the Ravens will win:
With back-to-back wins to their name, the Baltimore Ravens are in contention for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Three weeks ago no one would have imagined this scenario, yet it just goes to show that it’s important to get hot at the right time. Expect their hot streak to continue against the hapless Minnesota Vikings.
Final Verdict: Both the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals were hopeful of making Week 14 a "statement" win, a quality victory over a solid opponent that would quiet some of the whispers surrounding each team.
It was the Bengals who got that win. The Cincinnati offense played their best game in weeks, racing out to a 21-0 lead before holding on to win 42-28.
The Bengals move to 9-4 and get one step closer to the AFC North title. The Colts are all but assured a division title all their own, but this just isn't the same team since Reggie Wayne got hurt.
ESPN: Bengals (12-1)
CBS Sports: Bengals (8-0)
Fox Sports: Bengals (3-2)
USA Today: Bengals (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Bengals (11-1)
Overall: Bengals (40-5)
In many respects, the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals are similar teams. At 8-4, each team is in first place in its division by at least two games. Barring an epic collapse, both teams are headed to the playoffs.
However, thanks to inconsistency on offense, neither team is really expected to do a whole lot once it gets there.
It's the Bengals who are the panel's pick this week in the Queen City. According to Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst, it's because they're better equipped to handle those offensive struggles:
Both Andy Dalton and Andrew Luck have been struggling as of late, putting the pressure on their respective run games and defenses to carry extra weight. The Bengals have the advantage in both areas and are one of the NFL's most complete teams.
The Colts need Luck to be near-perfect to pull out wins, while the Bengals can still win convincingly with Dalton having a down day. The Bengals just have too many tools to lose this week.
Final Verdict: For most of Sunday's matchup between the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots, it appeared the Browns were set to pull off Week 14's biggest upset.
Then they remembered they're the Cleveland Browns.
The Patriots scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick, got a questionable pass interference score and then scored again in less than a minute to end the game, shocking the Browns 27-26 and reminding Cleveland fans everywhere that hope is for suckers.
ESPN: Patriots (12-0)
CBS Sports: Patriots (8-0)
Fox Sports: Patriots (5-0)
USA Today: Patriots (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Patriots (12-0)
Overall: Patriots (45-0)
Last week, the Cleveland Browns and New England Patriots played the doormats of the AFC South. The Patriots handed the Houston Texans their 10th straight loss, while the Browns fell at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
That tells you everything you need to know about this week's matchup between the two teams.
The experts are unanimous in their belief that the Patriots will cruise at home, including Bleacher Report NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon:
What's happening to the Browns defense? They gave up 32 at home against Jacksonville, and now they have to deal with a red-hot Patriots offense on the road. New England's run D is vulnerable, but the Browns don't pose a big threat on the ground.
Final Verdict: OK, so you can officially give up on trying to figure out the New York Jets.
Granted, no one is going to confuse the Oakland Raiders defense with the 1985 Chicago Bears, but the way the Jets have been playing on offense it hasn't looked like they could score 37 points in a month, much less in a game.
So of course that's exactly what they did, with quarterback Geno Smith passing for one score and running for another in a 37-27 win.
ESPN: Raiders (7-6)
CBS Sports: Raiders (5-3)
Fox Sports: Jets (4-1)
USA Today: Jets (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Raiders (11-1)
Overall: Raiders (24-21)
It wasn't that long ago that the New York Jets were being talked about as one of the more pleasant surprises in the NFL this year and a potential dark-horse playoff contender in the AFC.
Then again, maybe not.
Over the past few weeks rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been horrific, so much so that he was benched in Week 13 in favor of Matt Simms.
Smith will be back out there in Week 14, but with the New York offense languishing most of this week's experts believe the Oakland Raiders will leave the Big Apple with a win.
However, Bleacher Report NFC North Lead Writer Zach Kruse expects the Jets to get back on track. "I like the Jets defense to be the difference-maker at home," he said, "especially with Oakland being so far from home. And Geno Smith is due for something positive, right?"
Final Verdict: Things are starting to become uncomfortable in the Steel City, and it's not just because of the weather.
In a city where the fan base isn't accustomed to losing, Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins drops the Steelers to 5-8. A second straight year of missing the playoffs is all but assured now.
The Steelers actually held a 28-24 lead in the 4th quarter thanks to three touchdown passes from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but that lead, and any chance the Steelers had of making the postseason, fell by the wayside late.
ESPN: Steelers (12-1)
CBS Sports: Steelers (6-2)
Fox Sports: Steelers (5-0)
USA Today: Steelers (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Steelers (9-3)
Overall: Steelers (37-8)
It's been a weird season for the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Dolphins started the season 3-0, but things were already headed south before the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito affair engulfed the team and decimated an already bad offensive line.
The Steelers lost their first four games of the season, and just when it seemed the team was back in the playoff hunt, Pittsburgh suffered a crushing Thanksgiving loss to the Baltimore Ravens that included a bizarre sideline scene with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin has been fined $100,000 for interfering with Jacoby Jones' kick return, and now Pittsburgh is officially in a spot where they cannot afford another loss.
Luckily for the Steelers, most of the experts, including Bleacher Report NFC West Lead Writer Tyson Langland, don't think the Steelers will lose:
As badly as I want to pick the Dolphins, I simply can’t. They have been awful on the road as of late and their linebacking play is atrocious. Yes, the Steelers are far from perfect, but they have won three of their last four and three in a row at Heinz Field.
Final Verdict: By playing this game in Tampa the Buffalo Bills were able to dodge the wintry weather on Sunday.
That's the only thing they dodged, and the team probably wishes they had just stayed home.
Tampa running back Bobby Rainey raced 80 yards for a touchdown on the game's second play, Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times and the Buccaneers rolled to their fourth win in five games, smoking the Bills 27-6.
ESPN: Buccaneers (10-3)
CBS Sports: Buccaneers (7-1)
Fox Sports: Bills (3-2)
USA Today: Buccaneers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Buccaneers (10-2)
Overall: Buccaneers (35-10)
2013 has not been kind to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Buffalo Bills. The two are a combined 7-17 this season.
However, the Buccaneers have at least established a bit of momentum, winners of three of their last four as they prepare to face the Bills in Tampa.
That bit of momentum and the game's locale is enough for Bleacher Report AFC North Lead Writer Andrea Hangst, who went with the majority in picking the Buccaneers:
There's nothing particularly dynamic about either the Buccaneers or the Bills, but Tampa's ability to stop the run should be Buffalo's undoing on Sunday.
The road is an unforgiving place for a rookie quarterback like EJ Manuel, while the Buccaneers' first-year passer Mike Glennon has the comforts of home in his favor on Sunday. Buffalo's 24th-ranked run defense means good things for Bobby Rainey, too. The Buccaneers have a distinct edge this week.
Final Verdict: After dropping their last three games, there were plenty of questions surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs entering Week 14.
The Chiefs took those questions, put them in a bag, and then beat the Washington Redskins senseless with it.
The Chiefs absolutely destroyed the Redskins on Sunday, riding 151 rushing yards from tailback Jamaal Charles and a dominant effort from the Kansas City defense to a 45-10 win.
ESPN: Chiefs (12-1)
CBS Sports: Chiefs (6-2)
Fox Sports: Chiefs (5-0)
USA Today: Chiefs (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Chiefs (12-0)
Overall: Chiefs (42-3)
It's not all that often you find a 9-3 team freaking out as much as the Kansas City Chiefs are.
It's at least partly understandable. After all, three weeks ago, the Chiefs were 9-0. A defense that was being lauded a few weeks ago as one of the NFL's best has given up 76 points over the past two games.
However, it may well be that all the Chiefs need is a trip to Washington, where they will face a Redskins team that has gone from worst to first to worst again.
The Redskins are just playing out the string after being eliminated from the playoffs last week, and Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller thinks the KC skid ends Sunday in D.C..
"The Kansas City defense has struggled against top-tier quarterbacks of late," Miller wrote, "but it'll get back on track against a Washington offensive line that's begging to be torched."
Final Verdict: Much like in Cleveland, it appeared for a time wo could be in for an upset on Sunday, as the Tennessee Titans built a 21-10 lead against the Denver Broncos.
It wasn't meant to be. The Broncos outscored the Titans 41-7 the rest of the way, clinching a postseason berth with a 51-28 win that included an NFL-record 64 yard field goal from Broncos kicker Matt Prater.
ESPN: Broncos (13-0)
CBS Sports: Broncos (8-0)
Fox Sports: Broncos (5-0)
USA Today: Broncos (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Broncos (12-0)
Overall: Broncos (45-0)
The Denver Broncos should be feeling pretty good about themselves after going 2-1 over a three-game stretch that featured a trip to New England sandwiched between two matchups with the Kansas City Chiefs.
However, as the temperatures drop talk has turned to quarterback Peyton Manning, and his less than stellar career numbers when the weather gets frosty.
It will be plenty cold on Sunday when the Broncos host the Tennessee Titans, but not a single expert feels that Manning and the Broncos will have any trouble dispatching Tennessee.
In fact, Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey doesn't think the game will be close:
A good old-fashioned butt-whoopin' a mile high—that's what this is going to be. Against the Chiefs, the Broncos showed they could match up when their receiving corps wasn't at full strength and could put the offense in the hands of their running backs. Tennessee doesn't stand a chance.
Final Verdict: If the Arizona Cardinals were going to be thought of as a serious playoff contender as the stretch run gets underway, then Sunday afternoon's NFC West tilt with the St. Louis Rams was a game they had to win.
Win the game they did. The Cardinals were in control of the game throughout and coasted to a 30-10 victory. With the Cardinals nipping at the San Francisco 49ers' heels the fight for the last wild card spot in the NFC is looking pretty...wild.
ESPN: Cardinals (11-2)
CBS Sports: Cardinals (8-0)
Fox Sports: Cardinals (5-0)
USA Today: Cardinals (7-0)
Bleacher Report: Cardinals (12-0)
Overall: Cardinals (43-2)
The Arizona Cardinals are a surprise playoff contender in 2013, but after falling in Philadelphia a week ago, the Redbirds can't afford to fall any farther behind the San Francisco 49ers.
That makes every week a must-win game, including this week's rematch of a Week 1 meeting between the Cardinals and St. Louis Rams.
The Rams rode a dominant effort by their defensive line to a 27-24 win in St. Louis, but the vast majority of the experts believe the Cardinals will even the score this week in the desert.
That includes Bleacher Report AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz:
The Cardinals are 3-1 after a loss this year, and with the struggling St. Louis Rams headed to town, they should be able to bounce back once again after their loss to Philly. Kellen Clemens will see more blitzes from the Cardinals defense than he's seen all season.
Final Verdict: We can finally stop talking about theoretical situations involving the New York Giants.
At least the ones that involve Big Blue somehow making an improbable playoff run.
The Giants came out flat and listless against the San Diego Chargers in Week 14, falling behind 24-0 before eventually losing 37-14.
The theoretical situations concerning Tom Coughlin's future in New York? Those are still very much fair game.
ESPN: Chargers (13-0)
CBS Sports: Chargers (5-3)
Fox Sports: Chargers (5-0)
USA Today: Chargers (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Chargers (7-5)
Overall: Chargers (36-9)
The New York Giants have been all over the place this season.
Six losses to begin the year were followed by four straight wins. Despite wildly inconsistent play from week to week, there's still talk that the Giants could become the first team in NFL history to make the playoffs after starting the season 0-6.
The vast majority of the panel thinks that talk ends this week, predicting a Chargers victory in a battle between two passers, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, linked forever by the events that unfolded early in the 2004 draft.
Still, nearly half the writers at Bleacher Report picked the Giants to get the win, including NFC East Lead Writer Brad Gagnon:
Two teams going in different directions. The Giants are playing hard for Tom Coughlin, and it's beginning to look as though that win in Kansas City was an anomaly for the Chargers. They just make too many mistakes, home or away. I can see a suddenly feisty Giants team forcing a major error late to secure the victory.
Final Verdict: Sunday afternoon's NFC West matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers could have been a coronation. Had the Seahawks won, they would have clinched the division on their most hated rivals' home field.
The 49ers weren't having it.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick led a six-minute drive (highlighted by a 51-yard Frank Gore run) that not only set up Phil Dawson for a chip-shot field goal but also left the Seahawks with less than a minute left to answer.
They could not, and the 49ers got a huge 19-17 win.
ESPN: 49ers (8-5)
CBS Sports: Seahawks (7-1)
Fox Sports: Seahawks (4-1)
USA Today: Seahawks (4-3)
Bleacher Report: Seahawks (7-5)
Overall: Seahawks (27-18)
With their emphatic win over the New Orleans Saints last week, the Seattle Seahawks took a big step toward locking up home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.
That's good, because the Seahawks are a much more beatable team away from the Pacific Northwest. And they'll be this week when they face their NFC West rivals in San Francisco.
A win for the Seahawks will give them the division title, and the experts believe it will be celebration time for Seattle on Sunday.
Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Michael Schottey disagrees:
It's interesting, because both teams are seemingly heating up and getting healthier here toward the end of the season. The Seahawks offensive line is healthy, and Percy Harvin may be back. The 49ers have Michael Crabtree back. This should be a good, hard-fought game. I'm taking the home team.
Final Verdict: If you needed an example of why so much has been said and written about home-field advantage in the NFC, Sunday night's game in New Orleans was it.
A New Orleans Saints team that was blown out last week in Seattle paid it forward, waxing a very good Carolina Panthers squad 31-13 in the Superdome.
The Saints move to 10-3 and take a one-game edge in the NFC South, and for the second straight week the panel is rolling.
ESPN: Saints (10-3)
CBS Sports: Saints (7-1)
Fox Sports: Saints (5-0)
USA Today: Saints (5-2)
Bleacher Report: Saints (7-5)
Overall: Saints (34-11)
Thanks to the wonders of flex scheduling, Sunday's huge NFC South showdown between the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints will cap off Sunday's action in Week 14.
It promises to be a great game.
The red-hot Panthers have won eight straight, thanks in large part to their defense. But that defense will face a tall task on Sunday night.
Sure, the Seahawks contained Drew Brees and the Saints offense last week, but that was in Seattle. This game is in New Orleans, and Bleacher Report NFC South Lead Writer Knox Bardeen is among the majority who think that the Saints will maintain control of the division:
While the Panthers have the ability up front to attack Drew Brees just like Seattle did, they don’t have the secondary to slow him down as effectively as the Seahawks. The Saints will be in the Superdome coming off an embarrassing loss, and they will end Carolina’s eight-game winning streak in a close one.
AFC West Lead Writer Christopher Hansen, on the other hand, looks for the Panthers to keep right on rolling:
It’s hard to win in New Orleans, but the Saints will have one fewer day to prepare after playing on Monday night. The Panthers are finally getting the respect they deserve, and with a close win this week, they will become NFL darlings for at least a few more weeks.
Final Verdict: The wind chill in Chicago was well below zero Monday night, but neither the cold nor the Dallas Cowboys defense could slow down the Bears.
In fact. it was the Cowboys who froze solid. The Dallas defense was absolutely horrible, allowing the Bears to score touchdowns on their first seven possessions en route to a 45-28 win.
Three times this season, an NFL team has gone the entire game without a punt.
Two of those games came against the Dallas Cowboys.
ESPN: Cowboys (11-2)
CBS Sports: Cowboys (7-1)
Fox Sports: Cowboys (5-0)
USA Today: Cowboys (6-1)
Bleacher Report: Cowboys (7-5)
Overall: Cowboys (36-9)
Don't look now, Cowboys fans, but it's that time of year again.
More than once in recent years, the Cowboys have entered December in playoff contention. As Tony Romo's 13-17 record in December indicates, though, more often than not, they didn't end the month there.
The Cowboys may well have had their fair share of holiday blues, but against a Chicago Bears team that has been shredded by injuries on both sides of the ball, the experts believe the Cowboys will move to 8-5 on the season.
In the words of of Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman, "Dallas' running game might generate 200 yards against that pathetic Bears run defense."