If Week 15 of the NFL season taught us anything, it is that you cannot take games in the NFL for granted, even when the top experts all agree.
NFL Pickwatch compiles the predictions of top football analysts from across various types of media to give fans a complete look at the week ahead. In Week 15, there was a 100 percent consensus on four different games. Unfortunately, two of them were wrong as both the Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles suffered surprising defeats.
A total of seven teams lost after getting support from over 80 percent of experts.
This should not force you to lose faith in humanity, but those picking games on a weekly basis should certainly be a bit more wary of completely agreeing with the masses. With that in mind, here is a look at the upcoming week of games based on expectations from NFL Pickwatch.
|Away||Home||Predicted Winner||Confidence %|
|Miami Dolphins||Buffalo Bills||Dolphins||85|
|Minnesota Vikings||Cincinnati Bengals||Bengals||95|
|Indianapolis Colts||Kansas City Chiefs||Chiefs||95|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||St. Louis Rams||Rams||98|
|Cleveland Browns||New York Jets||Jets||53|
|Dallas Cowboys||Washington Redskins||Cowboys||88|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||Panthers||78|
|Tennessee Titans||Jacksonville Jaguars||Titans||68|
|Denver Broncos||Houston Texans||Broncos||100|
|New York Giants||Detroit Lions||Lions||100|
|Arizona Cardinals||Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks||100|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||Green Bay Packers||Packers||82|
|Oakland Raiders||San Diego Chargers||Chargers||100|
|New England Patriots||Baltimore Ravens||Ravens||60|
|Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||Eagles||68|
|Atlanta Falcons||San Francisco 49ers||49ers||100|
via NFL Pickwatch
The first thing you should look at with this chart is the "locks," as in those that have a huge confidence rating with agreement from almost everyone involved.
This includes a few safe picks, such as the San Francisco 49ers beating the Atlanta Falcons or the Denver Broncos winning on the road against the Houston Texans. However, there are a few that require a second look.
One questionable choice is that of the Detroit Lions, especially after their poor performance on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens. Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions—one of them on the final drive of the game—to raise question marks about his future.
However, things look better when compared to the New York Giants' starting quarterback:
NFL QB Leaders: (INT) 1 Eli Manning 25 2 Geno Smith 21 3 Carson Palmer 17 4 Joe Flacco 17 5 Matthew Stafford 17— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) December 18, 2013
Eli Manning was picked off five times in his last start, which brings his total to 22 in the team's nine losses. Although he should be able to throw for a lot of yards against the Lions' weak secondary, his mistakes will once again doom the Giants.
Another team that should not be counted out is the Arizona Cardinals. They have the tough task of traveling to Seattle, where no road team has won in two years. On the other hand, they have also won six of their last seven and will likely need to win their next two games to reach the playoffs.
Andy Benoit of the Monday Morning Quarterback provided a look at the excellent coaching job of Bruce Arians:
The 2013 Cardinals seem destined to go down as one of the most overlooked winning teams in NFL history. Perhaps that’s another sign that they’re well-coached. After all, the only time coaches truly captures the headlines is when they make questionable late-game decisions or butt heads with stars. All Bruce Arians and his staff have done is fully maximize their resources in the first year of what’s essentially a franchise rebuilding project.
The Cardinals might not be able to earn a win at CenturyLink Field, but their ability to stop the run will make things much closer than anyone is expecting.
Meanwhile, there are a few matchups that will almost certainly be close no matter who wins. The New England Patriots take on the Baltimore Ravens in a battle between two of the more successful organizations of the past decade.
However, the Patriots are coming off a bad loss to the Miami Dolphins, and New England's offense struggled without Rob Gronkowski. The team has averaged only 20.7 points per game without its star tight end, compared to 32 points per game when Gronkowski is in the lineup.
New England will once again struggle to get into the end zone as the Ravens continue their recent winning streak in an important game in the AFC.
Another interesting battle will take place on Sunday night between the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. While the Bears have performed well in many aspects, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports points out one major weakness:
The Browns are the latest team to run the ball right through the heart of that Bears defense with relative ease— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 15, 2013
Even if Lance Briggs returns to the defense, the Eagles have the top-ranked rushing attack in the NFL and should be able to rack up plenty of yards against this unit, helping secure a key victory.
Finally, the toughest game to predict will not necessarily be the most exciting as the New York Jets host the Cleveland Browns. Just like most seasons, there are questions about whether Rex Ryan will be fired in the offseason. According to the Associated Press (via USA Today), he thinks he should stick around:
There's one guy, though, who thinks the Jets already have the right man to lead them beyond this season.
"Of course, I believe it," Ryan said Monday. "No question, I believe it. There's no doubt, but again I'd rather get out of this press conference and go to work. That's how I feel about it."
Confidence in himself is good, but winning is much more important. Fortunately, he gets a chance to do that at home against a squad that has lost its last five and has only one road win this season.
The Jets should work toward a strong finish to the season with a close win over the Browns.
No matter what happens in each game, the playoff implications in virtually every matchup will make things exciting throughout the weekend.
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