Thursday Night Football may have given us the Toilet Bowl between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, but Week 14 is chock full of tasty matchups and critical games with playoff implications.
Two divisional games within the NFC are on tap. The fight for the No. 3 seed in the AFC will be contested. And two of the league's most exciting offenses are set to clash.
You won't want to miss a single game. With my picks below, you won't be surprised by any of their outcomes, either.
|Detroit Lions||Philadelphia Eagles||Lions|
|Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals|
|Atlanta Falcons||Green Bay Packers||Falcons|
|Cleveland Browns||New England Patriots||Patriots|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Jets||Jets|
|Miami Dolphins||Pittsburgh Steelers||Dolphins|
|Buffalo Bills||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Bills|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Washington||Chiefs|
|Minnesota Vikings||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens|
|Tennessee Titans||Denver Broncos||Broncos|
|St. Louis Rams||Arizona Cardinals||Cardinals|
|New York Giants||San Diego Chargers||Giants|
|Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers||49ers|
|Carolina Panthers||New Orleans Saints||Saints|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||Bears|
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
It's unlikely there will be a more entertaining game than this one.
The Lions are second in yards per game, while the Eagles are third. The Lions are fourth in points scored per game, while the Eagles are eighth. Neither team is particularly good on defense. And both have quarterbacks that are playing really well right now (Matt Stafford versus Nick Foles) and dangerous offensive weapons (Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush versus DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy).
You might be tempted to favor the Eagles at home, where they've won two in a row, but that has come after a streak of home losses dating to last season. And while the Lions are better at home, they haven't been terrible on the road, going 3-3.
The difference in this game will likely be that the Lions are really solid against the run, allowing just 82.7 rushing yards per game, third in the NFL. If Detroit can make Philly one-dimensional and force long third-down tries and keep the Eagles offense off the field, the Lions offense will have no problem putting up big points on Philly's defense.
Prediction: Lions win, 35-31
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
The Colts are regressing. The Bengals keep finding ways to win with their incredibly deep defense, despite major injuries and the recent struggles of Andy Dalton. Both of these teams will likely win their division, but this game is hugely important for another reason.
With both the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots likely to earn the bye in the AFC, finishing third in the conference likely means avoiding the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card Round. Given how good the Chiefs have been this season, that's important.
So what will give in this game? Will the Bengals be able to move the ball against a Colts defense that has struggled of late? Can Dalton recover his strong form from earlier in the season? Can Andrew Luck lead the Colts to a tough road win?
In the end, the Bengals' superior defense and ability to move the ball on the ground with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard (the Colts are 29th in rushing yards allowed per game) will be the difference.
Prediction: Bengals win, 21-17
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks have won 14 straight games at home, an incredibly impressive mark. But this game isn't at home, it's in San Francisco, where the Seahawks have lost four in a row.
Let's make it five in a row.
Colin Kaepernick has had his struggles—as have the Niners in general—but the team can still pound the rock with the best of them and has one of the three best defenses in the NFC. The 49ers have won two straight and are very firmly stuck in the wild-card mix. Every single game counts from here on out.
With Michael Crabtree back in the fold, the Niners should be able to take advantage of a Seattle secondary missing several key contributors. And if they can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, they'll grind out a close win.
Prediction: 49ers win, 17-13
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
For as good as the Panthers have been—and while winning eight in a row and nine of 10, they've been pretty darn good—the Saints simply don't lose at home. Six games in the Superdome have led to six wins, including wins over tough opponents like the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Dallas Cowboys and 49ers.
This will come down to a clash between one of the NFL's best offenses for New Orleans and one of the league's best defenses for Carolina. If Drew Brees can consistently move the ball through the air, it's hard to imagine the Panthers playing keep-up, even with Cam Newton playing quite well on the season.
With these teams facing each other twice in the next three weeks, the NFC South is on the line. Expect the Saints to win Round 1.
Prediction: Saints win, 27-23