It's officially crunch time around the National Football League. If the regular season was a game, it would be entering the fourth quarter with plenty to get decided. There are playoff berths to win and first-round byes to secure.
Week 14 should help expedite the process. The week's slate features several crucial games at every level, whether it be top teams fighting for byes, squads battling for division titles or those simply looking to stay alive in the postseason race.
Knowing that, here are selections for every remaining game on the Week 14 schedule after the Jacksonville Jaguars took down the Houston Texans on Thursday night. The list is followed by a breakdown of the best games on tap.
Week 14 Picks
|Time (ET)||Road Team||Home Team||Pick|
NFL Week 14
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
This clash is important on two fronts. First, both teams are still in the mix to get a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs if the New England Patriots slip up down the stretch. Second, if they don't get a bye, securing the third seed would allow them to avoid the Kansas City Chiefs in Round 1.
The Colts were riding high heading into their Week 8 bye after knocking off the previously undefeated Denver Broncos. Since then, however, Indianapolis has been far from dominant. It hasn't won any game by more than a single score and was blown out by the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals.
That doesn't bode well heading into a matchup with Cincinnati, one of the league's most well-balanced teams. The Bengals are 5-0 at home and have scored a combined 90 points in their last two games at Paul Brown Stadium. The positive home trend should continue.
Prediction: Bengals 31, Colts 23
Seattle Seahawks (11-1) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
The Week 2 meeting between these two rivals was the first sign Seattle had a real chance to become a special team this season. The Seahawks totally shut down the 49ers offense en route to a 29-3 victory, which was just as impressive as their blowout win over the New Orleans Saints last week.
What will be the best game of Week 14?
As things stand right now, it appears a perfect storm is brewing for Seattle. Russell Wilson has found his stride over the past three games (seven touchdowns, no interceptions), the defense leads the league in yards allowed and the team is on pace to secure home field advantage, which is huge given the raucous crowds.
The 49ers would love to bring an end to that momentum. Their poor play against top teams is a major concern, though. San Francisco's last win against a good opponent came in Week 6 against the Arizona Cardinals. So finding a way to end Seattle's hot streak will be an uphill battle.
Prediction: Seahawks 20, 49ers 17
Carolina Panthers (9-3) at New Orleans Saints (9-3)
The Panthers and Saints play twice over the next three weeks. By the time the dust settles from those two matchups, not only will the NFC South race be much clearer, but Carolina will have proven whether its a legitimate threat heading into the postseason or not.
There's a lot to like about the Panthers. Their defense is terrific, ranking second behind Seattle in yards allowed, and the running game is reliable. Whether the 27th-ranked passing game led by Cam Newton can step up in a potential high-scoring matchup is a key question, though.
It will probably get answered in a road game against the high-powered Saints. New Orleans is averaging more than 33 points per game at home en route to a 6-0 record. The Panthers may be able to slow them down slightly, but not enough to pick up the road win.
Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 24