(Originally posted at 4SportBoston.com)
The Mustache returns with Week 14 picks! For the record, I am 1-0 this week. Even though I didn’t get my pick into yahoo!, I did tell the Foot in Mouth Queen right before kickoff “for the record, I’m taking Cleveland and I don’t care what the spread is” (since I didn’t know the spread at the time. Earlier in the day, the Craigga said to me, “get your article in today so you can call the upset of the century” to which I replied “it’s an early century, I’ll do it tomorrow.”)
So here it is, tomorrow!
With that loss to Cleveland, the castle has officially been stormed and the Steelers are no longer the defending champs. I mean, the season doesn’t have to be over, they just need to be eliminated, which of course with a best case scenario for Pittsburgh 9-7 record, they are eliminated. That means we’ll definitely have a new champion this year, although most everyone outside of Pittsburgh knew this by week six.
So who’s going this weekend, and which games matter most?
New Orleans vs. Atlanta +10.5
When these teams faced off last time, Atlanta was a different team. Injuries to Michael Turner, Matt Ryan, and the Falcons defense have turned this team from a playoff contender (and my preseason super bowl pick) into a puddle of “maybe next year.” For all the 6-6 teams near elimination, the Falcons have the toughest draw this week. To beat the undefeated Saints, even at home, is not a likely scenario this week. The Saints struggled last week against the Redskins, finally winning in OT. It seemed the Saints just didn’t get up for that game. I don’t think that will be the case this week against a division foe.
Take the Saints, even with the 10.5 point spread 42-13
Indy vs. Denver +7
This is a great game for fans of the NFL. Fans in 7 cities outside of Indianapolis will be rooting for the Colts this weekend. A Broncos loss this weekend could break the AFC playoff picture wide open. At 8-4, McDaniels’ club holds the top wild card spot and is still in a position to win the division if the cards fall right. However, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Miami, NYJ, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Houston are all in the hunt, and if the Broncos lose it will surely generate a photo finish for the last 2 or 3 spots in the playoffs.
All of this said, my money is on a wide open playoff race. The Colts are just too lucky this year, and they’re at home. Denver has been up and down, and I suppose right now they’re up, however I just don’t know that they’re good enough to go on the road and beat Peyton and the gang. As always, the strategy will be to run the ball, control the clock, and score touchdowns. If 7’s become 3’s early on, this game can be checked off as a Colt win by halftime.
I’ll take the Colts at home, 27-19
Minnesota vs. Cincinnati +6.5
This is a tough draw for the Criminengals. The Vikings failed to perform against a mediocre Cardinals team last week, including an abysmal day for the Grape Ape and the Front Line Purple. That’d be a great band name, I’ve decided. Cincy does have a good defense, but they’ve struggled against all teams outside of the AFC North.
Although this might be the most competitive game of the weekend, and I for one am looking forward to seeing this game. I don’t think the Bengals can keep up though. With the exception of Chad Hachi Go, the passing game is anemic. Carson Palmer just isn’t the player he was once expected to be, and that’s a reality.
Minnesota wins, but not by 6.5. Vikings 28-23
Jacksonville vs. Miami +2.5
Unfortunately for both these teams, someone has to lose. Both teams are in the hunt for a playoff spot and a loss this week will set them back against fellow hunters with easier pray this weekend such as the NYJ (vs. Tampa), Baltimore (vs. Detroit), Houston (vs. Seattle) and Tennessee (vs. St. Louis). At least one, if not more of those teams will be upset this weekend, so it’s not a certainty that they will all move in on the loser of this game.
Next week it doesn’t get any easier for these 2 teams either. Jacksonville draws Indy while the Dolphins draw the Titans. What’s that mean? Both teams need a win this week. Like I said though, only one can get it. This Sunshine State matchup will be one of the best of the weekend. Both teams have strong running games with passing games that are barely complimentary.
David Garrard has never been a big play QB, and Chad Henne is still learning his position in the NFL. There should be a playoff atmosphere in Jacksonville (and hopefully the fans will fill the stadium), and this one will be decided by ball control and defense. The Jags have been inconsistent this year, including losses to San Fran and Seattle. Both those losses came on the road, and the Jags are 4-1 in their last 5.
The more I think about it, the less I know. JAX 23-20
Dallas vs. San Diego +3 and NYG vs. Philadelphia +1
I had no choice but to combine these 2 games. They were so intertwined in terms of their implications, I just couldn’t write a preview without it. The impact of the Dallas/SD game is similar to that of the Indy/Denver matchup. A loss by either of these teams can blow the lid off the playoff race. Provided the Indy/Denver game goes as I expect, the impact of a San Diego loss will be less than a Dallas loss. If Dallas goes down, there is potential for a 3 way tie in the NFC East. Dallas has to win in order to keep first place. Here’s how it breaks down:
Cowboys win, Eagles win:
Both teams are 9-4, and the Cowboys own the head to head tiebreaker for now. The Eagles/Cowboys face off in week 17 though. If the Eagles win that game, the Division tiebreaker will go to the Eagles. For now though, with this outcome, the Cowboys remain in first place.
Cowboys win, Giants win:
Cowboys keep first place and are the only 9-4 team in the NFC East. This is the ideal situation for the Cowboys.
Cowboys lose, Eagles win:
This puts the Eagles in first place as the only 9-4 team. They would own the head to head tiebreaker against the Giants, and would only need to keep pace until week 17, then beat the Cowboys to win the division.
Cowboys lose, Giants win:
In this situation, The Giants would be the front runners. All 3 teams would be 8-4, however the Giants swept the Cowboys and would have a 4-1 division record giving them the edge over the Eagles (3-2).
So now it’s laid out, all the scenarios that could change the picture in the NFC East. So the question becomes, who will win? In the first game, I’m taking San Diego. They’re on a 7 game win streak and they’re just flat out a better team than the Cowboys.
SD 27 DAL 20
In game #2, I’m going to take the Eagles. Andy Reid just renewed his contract and that adds some sense of stability to the team. DeSean Jackson should play after missing a week with a concussion, and Michael Vick suddenly became a part of the offense last week, if only to rub it in the face of Atlanta for daring to turn their back on a man who shoots dogs for sport. HOW DARE THEY!?!?! The Giants are still trying to figure out who they are, and are lucky to be 7-5 at this point in the season.
PHI 33 NYG 30
So there it is, I’m taking the road teams and the underdogs in those matchups.
So wow, there you have it. Next week the AFC East playoff race should be heated up and I’ll try to focus there next week.
As for the rest of the league:
GB over Chicago +3
KC over Buffalo even
NE over Carolina +13.5 – okay, my quick thoughts here. It’s pretty outrageous to give the Pats 13.5 points right now against any team. The Panthers are down there starting QB and running back though, and this game could very well be in the snow. We all know what happened to the Titans in the snow.
Tampa +3 over NYJ
Baltimore over Detroit +13
Houston over Seattle +6
St. Louis +13 over Tennessee – I’m not saying the Rams are going to win this game, however Young had a setback on his knee injury, Chris Johnson was a limited participant with a sore ankle, and DT Jason Jones could be done for the season with a torn rotator cuff. Those are all big ifs, and it will take a 175 yard 3 TD game from CJ in order to beat St. Louis by 13.
Oakland +1 over Washington
Arizona over San Fran +3