Last-Minute Predictions for NFL Week 14
Week 14 of the 2013 NFL season should feature a number of competitive contests.
Minnesota at Baltimore, Cleveland at New England, Kansas City at Washington and Tennessee at Denver look to be fairly straightforward.
However, Miami at Pittsburgh, Detroit at Philadelphia, Indianapolis at Cincinnati, Seattle at San Francisco, St. Louis at Arizona, Carolina at New Orleans and Dallas at Chicago all look to be compelling games.
Read on as I outline my last-minute predictions for the fourth-to-last game of the regular season.
Mike Wallace Will Torch His Former Team
When Mike Wallace joined the Dolphins this past offseason after four seasons in Pittsburgh, he surely hoped to have more than three touchdown receptions through the team's first 12 games.
But Wallace is heating up, with 209 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Miami's last two games. He finally appears to be on the same page with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
On Sunday, the Dolphins take on Wallace's old team in a game rife with AFC playoff implications. And I expect Wallace to torch his former club and lead the Dolphins to victory.
As Steelers wideout Jerricho Cotchery told Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
You have to know where Mike Wallace is when he's on the field. When you watch the film, you see the guy run, his speed is something you probably haven't seen before, and defensive backs are very aware of that.
Look for Wallace to go over 100 yards receiving and score at least one long touchdown as the Dolphins earn a big road win in Pittsburgh.
The Bengals Defense Will Suffocate the Colts Offense
The Indianapolis Colts are 8-4. Barring an incredible collapse, they appear well on their way to winning the AFC South.
But don't let their record fool you. This isn't the same Colts team that defeated Denver, San Francisco and Seattle earlier in the season. Indianapolis is struggling mightily on offense, and that doesn't bode well for its matchup Sunday in Cincinnati.
The Bengals defense is playing at an elite level, despite being without stud tackle Geno Atkins and cornerback Leon Hall. Without Reggie Wayne, Indy will struggle offensively in this matchup.
Andrew Luck's offensive line isn't strong, and he's left running for his life on seemingly every other play. Plus, Trent Richardson looks stuck in the mud, and Darrius Heyward-Bey can't catch the ball.
The Bengals defense will hold the Colts offense under 17 points, and Andy Dalton will make enough plays in the passing game to secure a big victory for Cincinnati, moving it one step closer to an AFC North title.
The Falcons Will End the Packers' Playoff Hopes with a Win at Lambeau
The Atlanta Falcons entered the 2010 postseason flying high, having posted a record of 13-3 and claiming home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Yet they were trounced in the divisional round by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers, who went on to win Super Bowl XLV.
While the stakes are significantly lower when the teams meet Sunday at Lambeau Field, the Falcons have an opportunity to exact a measure of revenge. A win would all but knock 5-6-1 Green Bay out of the NFC postseason picture.
Expect that to happen. Rodgers won't play for the Packers as he recovers from a broken collarbone, and backup Matt Flynn hasn't proven he can lead the offense in his stead.
Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson Will Combine for 300 Yards Receiving
Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field between the 7-5 Lions and 7-5 Eagles is sure to be entertaining, with both teams capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
Two big reasons for that are DeSean Jackson and Calvin Johnson.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly knows Johnson poses a huge threat. Here is what he told Bob Brookover of The Inquirer: "The combination of his size and his speed and explosiveness, I don't think there's anybody like that in this league. He can just go get the football."
While the Philadelphia defense has played better over the past six weeks, it is still susceptible to the big play, and there's no one in the secondary who can hope to cover Johnson.
However, Jackson is no slouch on the other sideline. Jason Avant told Brookover, "Pound for pound, he's probably one of the most athletic people in this league."
The Detroit defense is ranked 26th against the pass, and Nick Foles will be throwing on it all day. Johnson and Jackson will both go off, leaving fantasy owners very happy.
The Ravens Will Score a Defensive Touchdown
After a slow start to the season, the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens are rounding into form. At 6-6, they're currently in pole position for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC.
On Sunday, the Ravens host the 3-8-1 Vikings and Matt Cassel, who starts in relief of an injured Christian Ponder. As Eric J. Thompson of the Daily Norseman points out, "For the fifth time this season, the quarterback depth chart is different than it was the previous week."
The Ravens defense is playing well and will make every effort to shut down Adrian Peterson, leaving the game in Cassel's hands. That is a scary thought.
Baltimore's defense will score at least one touchdown as the Ravens improve to 7-6.
Eli Manning Will Lead a Fourth-Quarter Comeback in San Diego
It's been almost 10 years since Eli Manning forced his way to the Big Apple, making San Diego deal him for a package that was headlined by Philip Rivers.
Since then, Manning is 0-2 versus San Diego. Of course, he does have two Super Bowl MVPs to his name, something Rivers can't come close to claiming.
On Sunday, Manning will beat the Chargers, and it will come in dramatic fashion.
Throughout his career, Manning has been a fourth-quarter virtuoso, but that hasn't been the case in 2013. However, San Diego is a dream matchup, as the team gives up 268.8 passing yards per game (28th in the league).
The game will be close throughout, and both Manning and Rivers will play well. But the Giants have won five of their last six and will continue their hot streak with Manning leading a late touchdown drive to secure the victory.
San Francisco Will Beat Seattle by 10
The Seahawks and 49ers represent the NFL's best rivalry.
In Week 2, Seattle obliterated San Francisco on Sunday Night Football, winning 29-3. It was a dominant performance by coach Pete Carroll's team and one that helped springboard them to an 11-1 record.
Make no mistake about it: This is most certainly a revenge game for coach Jim Harbaugh and the 8-4 49ers.
Seattle is a different team on the road, and San Francisco is 4-2 at home. Further, the addition of Michael Crabtree will be huge.
They're definitely going to have to make changes. We've got Crabtree back and have pretty much all our weapons. It's going to be exciting and interesting to see the changes they make to stop us. They can't leave us one-on-one the whole time.
The game will be close entering the fourth quarter, but Colin Kaepernick will put his new weapon to use as San Francisco gets a statement win.
Drew Brees Will Throw Three Touchdown Passes on the Panthers Defense
Drew Brees had a poor performance in Week 13 at Seattle, going 23-of-38 for 147 yards and one touchdown.
But playing at home will be a different story. Although Carolina ranks sixth against the pass and second against the run, Brees' numbers at home this year have been impressive.
Sporting a 6-0 record, Brees averages 357 yards and over three touchdowns per game at home, and he will throw for three scores Sunday versus Carolina.
At his news conference, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said the Saints were "beatable." On the road, definitely. At home? Not so much.
DeMarco Murray Will Rush for 150 Yards and Two Touchdowns
The Bears cannot stop the run. In fact, the once-proud run defense ranks dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, at 153.6 per game.
Chicago's run defense was eviscerated yet again in Week 13, allowing Vikings running back Adrian Peterson to put up 211 yards on the ground. Sure, Peterson is a stud, but that was by far the highest total of his season.
DeMarco Murray scored three touchdowns in Dallas' Thanksgiving victory over the Raiders, and the good times will continue to roll in the Windy City.
The Bears wouldn't be able to stop 44-year old Emmitt Smith, much less Murray in his prime.
Murray will rush for over 150 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys move closer to a playoff berth with a huge victory on Monday night.