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NFL Picks Week 14: Teams That Will Claim Victories in Must-Win Scenarios

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 01:  Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals is congratulated by Andre Roberts #12 and Michael Floyd #15 after scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on December 1, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIDecember 7, 2013

There is still much to be decided with regard to the playoffs entering Week 14's NFL action, but many teams are faced with must-win scenarios. Some of them in particular stand out as viable candidates to come through in these desperation situations.

Whether it's recent form, intangible advantages or simply a favorable matchup across the board, a trio of clubs on the fringe of the playoff picture will be able to give their 2013 campaigns new life on Sunday.

Here is a look at some of the teams that will win with their postseason hopes on the brink, along with a complete list of picks for Week 14.

 

New York Giants (5-7) over San Diego Chargers (5-7)

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 01:  Andre Brown #35 of the New York Giants celebrates with teammate Victor Cruz #80 after running the ball in for a touchdown in the second quarter against the Washington Redskins during their game at FedExField on December 1, 201
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It's all about turnovers for both of these teams. The Giants seemed allergic to holding onto the football in the beginning of the season during a 0-6 start and have a minus-11 turnover differential to show for it.

But San Diego's isn't much better at minus-five, and New York's defense has improved immensely since its horrendous beginning to 2013. The Chargers have just over half the takeaways (11) that the Giants have produced this season (20).

What has aided the Giants' turnaround is that Eli Manning isn't forcing as many throws, and now a backfield tandem featuring Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis gives New York some serious physicality. It might be the heaviest duo in the league.

The Chargers are leaky against both phases of the game on defense and were manhandled by the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13's 17-10 loss in which Cincinnati ran it 36 times with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Gio Bernard.

A similar strategy could be deployed to keep quarterback Philip Rivers and San Diego's explosive offense off the field, allowing the Giants to come away from Qualcomm Stadium with a huge win.

Should Dallas and Philadelphia falter in their respective games against playoff-caliber teams, the G-Men would suddenly be just one game behind in the NFC East.

Prediction: Giants 34, Chargers 27

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7) over Miami Dolphins (6-6)

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sidelines during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 28, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

If Mike Tomlin's 5-7 Steelers are meant to make a run and qualify for the postseason, it has to start here. While snagging the No. 6 seed in the AFC is still a remote possibility at 8-8, this is essentially a do-or-die situation for Pittsburgh after a 22-20 loss to Baltimore on Thanksgiving.

The Steelers' vaunted defense does get to go up against a still-developing second-year signal-caller in Ryan Tannehill, who has shown signs of progression but has also thrown an interception in each of the last four games.

With the exotic looks defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau can throw at Tannehill, it should be tough sledding for the young quarterback.

Plus, Miami is 6-6, with the same record as the Ravens—the current No. 6 seed in the AFC. A win over the Dolphins would be a key head-to-head tiebreaker for Pittsburgh too.

Ben Roethlisberger and this Steelers nucleus of veterans have been together for years, with ample experience in these types of crossroads games. They've fought so hard to get off the mat from a 0-4 start, and it's hard to imagine them folding in this contest.

Rookie running back Le'Veon Bell should find some room to roam on the Dolphins' 25th-ranked rush defense, allowing Pittsburgh to stay balanced and help drive it to victory at Heinz Field.

Prediction: Steelers 31, Dolphins 17

 

Arizona Cardinals (7-5) over St. Louis Rams (5-7)

Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals will make it tough on a St. Louis offense in danger of becoming one-dimensional.
Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals will make it tough on a St. Louis offense in danger of becoming one-dimensional.Elsa/Getty Images

The NFC wild-card chase requires an extraordinary effort the rest of the way from those in contention. A tie in the NFC South division will be broken on Sunday between Carolina or New Orleans—both of which are 9-3.

Combine that with the fact that Arizona is featured in the same NFC West division as Seattle (11-1) and a surging San Francisco (8-4), and there isn't much room for error in the final four weeks.

Squaring off against a divisional foe in the Rams doesn't make matters much easier, but having home-field advantage for this clash is key for the Cardinals.

In Week 1, St. Louis squeezed out a 27-24 victory and looked like a trendy pick as a playoff team. Now the tables have turned somewhat, although the Rams have played better in recent weeks to give themselves a glimmer of hope for the postseason.

As terrifying as the pass-rushing tandem of Robert Quinn and Chris Long is for Arizona to deal with, it has the weapons on the outside in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Andre Roberts to combat it.

Plus, the Cardinals can shut down the run—they yield only 83.3 yards per game on the ground—and force Kellen Clemens to beat them through the air.

That's not a surefire strategy for success for St. Louis.

Prediction: Cardinals 24, Rams 16

 

Complete Week 14 NFL Picks
Away TeamHome TeamWinner
Houston TexansJacksonville JaguarsJaguars
Indianapolis ColtsCincinnati BengalsBengals
Atlanta FalconsGreen Bay PackersPackers
Cleveland BrownsNew England PatriotsPatriots
Oakland RaidersNew York JetsRaiders
Detroit LionsPhiladelphia EaglesEagles
Miami DolphinsPittsburgh SteelersSteelers
Buffalo BillsTampa Bay BuccaneersBills
Kansas City ChiefsWashington RedskinsChiefs
Minnesota VikingsBaltimore RavensVikings
Tennessee TitansDenver BroncosBroncos
St. Louis RamsArizona CardinalsCardinals
New York GiantsSan Diego ChargersGiants
Seattle SeahawksSan Francisco 49ersSeahawks
Carolina PanthersNew Orleans SaintsPanthers
Dallas CowboysChicago BearsBears
Picks are strictly opinion

 

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