If it seems like more than half the NFL is still right in the thick of the playoff race with only four weeks remaining, that is because it is.
There is so much parity (or mediocrity, depending on your point of view) across the league that almost every game on the Week 14 slate has playoff implications. There will be some teams that take care of business and begin to create some separation, but there will also be those who are surprised by underdogs.
Let’s dig into a few matchups that will see the underdogs emerge victorious. All lines used are courtesy of Vegas Insider.
Miami Dolphins (+3 at Pittsburgh Steelers)
Just when it looked like the Pittsburgh Steelers were on their way to securing the inside track for the final AFC wild-card spot in the muddled race, they lost to the archrival Ravens on Thanksgiving.
This week Pittsburgh had to deal with the fallout from Mike Tomlin interfering with Baltimore’s kick return, but chances are that won’t be much of a distraction Sunday. The one-dimensional offensive attack is much more concerning against Miami.
The Dolphins rank ninth in the league in opposing passing yards allowed but a measly 25th in opposing rushing yards allowed. Their defense is ripe to be exposed by a run-heavy team, but the Steelers play right into Miami’s hands. Pittsburgh ranks eighth in passing yards but a lowly 31st in rushing yards.
Miami’s defense is built to stop the Steelers’ strengths, and Ryan Tannehill will do just enough with Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Dolphins 24, Steelers 17
Buffalo Bills (+2.5 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Buffalo is much better than its 4-8 record, as is evidenced by four defeats of seven points or fewer thus far. The Bills have also lost by blowing a lead seven times.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson form one of the league’s most dangerous rushing attacks and will control the ball and clock against Tampa Bay’s front. Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has done an admirable job for the Bucs, but he will be on the sidelines watching Spiller and Jackson dash Tampa Bay’s hopes.
Tampa Bay lost much of the momentum it had from a three-game winning streak in a 27-6 blowout loss to Carolina. Look for another L on Sunday.
Prediction: Bills 31, Buccaneers 20
Atlanta Falcons (+3.5 at Green Bay Packers)
Aaron Rodgers may have locked up his MVP trophy with the way the Packers have played since he went down. It’s hard to argue there is a more valuable player in the league than the Green Bay signal-caller.
Green Bay’s recent slide will continue against a team that knows something about disappointment itself this season. The Falcons were tabbed as legitimate Super Bowl contenders at the start of the year but have completely collapsed behind injuries and poor overall play.
Matt Ryan still leads what is the fifth-ranked passing attack in the NFL, and Green Bay’s secondary is vulnerable. The Packers are 22nd in the league in opposing passing yards allowed and 26th in opposing rushing yards. Ryan and Steven Jackson, who recently returned from injury, will destroy the Packers’ terrible defense.
Prediction: Falcons 34, Packers 17
|Road Team||Home Team||Spread||Pick|
|Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN -6.5||CIN|
|Cleveland Browns||New England Patriots||NE -11||NE|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Jets||NYJ -3||NYJ|
|Detroit Lions||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI -2.5||PHI|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Washington Redskins||KC -3||KC|
|Minnesota Vikings||Baltimore Ravens||BAL -6||BAL|
|Tennessee Titans||Denver Broncos||DEN -12||DEN|
|St. Louis Rams||Arizona Cardinals||AZ -6.5||AZ|
|New York Giants||San Diego Chargers||SD -3.5||SD|
|Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers||SF -2.5||SEA|
|Carolina Panthers||New Orleans Saints||NO -3||NO|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||PICK||CHI|
Follow and interact with Bleacher Report writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.