The NFL season is drawing ever closer to its conclusion, and with that, the playoff push is in full swing. There are some pivotal games on the schedule this week, so without any further adieu, let's jump right into it.
Indianapolis @ Tennessee - The Thursday night game features two teams going in the wrong direction. The Colts come in having lost four out of the last five, while the Titans have lost all five of their last five games. Peyton Manning is on pace to have his worst statistical season since his rookie year of 1998.
The Titans meanwhile, have struggled offensively, as they have only managed to score 22 points in the last three weeks. The Titans playoff chances appear to be dead in the water, while the Colts, who have a must win game against division leading Jacksonville next week, can't afford a loss either.
My logic is this, Peyton Manning has to turn it around sooner or later. Colts 31-14.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh - One year ago, this game had some significance and excitement surrounding it. It's funny how quickly things change. The Bengals are 2-10, losers of nine straight games. The Steelers, meanwhile, are 9-3, and are coming off a hard earned victory against the rival Baltimore Ravens.
Ben Roethlisberger, playing with a broken foot, is once again showing his toughness, his heart and his uncanny leadership abilities that make him one of the top quarterbacks in the game.
These two teams played an exciting game in week 9 on Monday Night Football that came down to the last minute. Don't expect the same thing this time around, as the Bengals are easily the most underachieving team in the league this year. Steelers 28-10.
Atlanta @ Carolina - This is another mismatch. The Falcons are quite possibly the best team in the NFC, while Carolina, a team who has been decimated by injuries and terrible quarterback play all season long, is not only the worst team in the NFC, but possibly, the league.
Matt Ryan has guided the Falcons to a 10-2 record, and yet for some reason, still doesn't get mentioned in the same breath as some of the leagues other top quarterbacks.
Look for he, and everyone else in a Falcon uniform to have a big day. Falcons 31-13.
Green Bay @ Detroit - If you go by records alone, this should be an easy pick. But Detroit, while only 2-10, continues to fight and play hard, even having been down to their third string quarterback.
It took Aaron Rodgers and company a little while to really get going against San Francisco, but once they did, they showed that they are still one of the league's top teams.
This game will be relatively close, but in the end, the better team will prevail. Packers 27-20.
Cleveland @ Buffalo - Does anyone know what the over/under is on how many fans show up to this game? My guess is not very many. The Browns are coming off a solid road win at Miami, in what was a very defensive minded game.
Buffalo is coming off an ugly blowout loss to the Vikings, who pounded the Bills after losing Brett Favre early in the game. On the whole though, Buffalo has been playing tough, but in the end, I think that Cleveland, and specifically Peyton Hillis, will be able to continue their surprisingly decent season. Browns 20-14.
NY Giants @ Minnesota - Both teams are coming off very decisive wins. The Giants ground game carried them to a rout of Washington, while Tarvaris Jackson and Adrian Peterson sparked the Vikings offense in a blowout of Buffalo.
The great debate this week will once again center around Brett Favre, and if he is healthy enough, should he or Jackson get the start.
The opposing quarterback, Eli Manning, doesn't have to worry about whether he is starting or not, but he needs to worry about who he is completing passes to. The Giants receiving corps has been depleted by injury, and while Manning has still found a way to throw 23 touchdown passes, he has also been erratic at times, throwing 17 interceptions, which is the second most in the league.
This game will be close, but in the end it doesn't matter who starts for Minnesota, the defense will force Manning to make a few critical turnovers. Vikings 28-24.
Tampa Bay @ Washington - Tampa Bay has been another pleasant surprise this year, although they are coming off a tough loss to Atlanta, while things in Washington are currently nothing but a mess.
While still young and still learning, Josh Freeman is quietly having a nice season for the Bucs. And with the emergence of rookie wide receiver, Mike Williams, Tampa has found a nice combo in which to build around.
For the Redskins, there really isn't a lot to point to in terms of being positive. Every few weeks they find a way to put a few things together, but those weeks are seemingly becoming fewer and further between.
I think Tampa Bay comes in to this one with a fire lit under them. Buccaneers 28-14.
Oakland @ Jacksonville - These are two of the league's more pleasant surprises. At 6-6, and with a season ending game against division leading Kansas City, Oakland can still feasibly win the AFC West.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars are the current leaders of the AFC South and now control their own destiny. Expect this to be a battle of the ground games.
For the Raiders, Darren McFadden is having a breakthrough season, while Maurice Jones-Drew for Jacksonville has been red hot. He has recorded five straight 100 yard games, including 186 a week ago.
This will be a close game throughout, and should prove to be relatively entertaining. Jaguars 24-21.
St. Louis @ New Orleans - The Rams, behind super rookie, Sam Bradford, are quickly becoming America's new sweethearts. They are 6-6 and tied for the lead in their division. This week they travel to New Orleans to play the defending Super Bowl champions.
The Saints are sitting at 9-3, but it has been done very quietly to this point. Drew Brees and the offense aren't putting up the same gaudy numbers that we grew accustomed to seeing a season ago.
While this won't be a blowout, I think it will still be fairly one sided. The Saints defense is good enough to give Bradford some problems, and the offense should score enough points to win fairly convincingly. Saints 31-16.
Seattle @ San Francisco - The 49ers have easily been one of the biggest disappointments of 2010. The really sad part is, that at 4-8, if they win out, they could still win the extremely weak NFC West.
The Seahawks, at 6-6 seem like they have been on a roller coaster all season. One week they are blowing out an opponent, while the next, they are getting blown out themselves.
When these two teams met in week 1, it was no contest. Seattle won going away, 31-6. While the 49ers don't seem capable of blowing anyone out, I think that they are at least good enough to get some revenge. Barely. 49ers 21-17.
New England @ Chicago - This is the game of the week. I don't think that at the start of the year, many people expected the Bears to be in the position that they are in. At 9-3, and atop the NFC North, there are still a lot of people that don't believe they are the real deal.
This will be a real good test. The Patriots have had a brutal schedule recently. Since losing to Cleveland, they had to travel to Pittsburgh, host the Colts, have a short week to play at Detroit on Thanksgiving, host the Jets on Monday Night Football, and now they travel to division leading Chicago. Not to mention that they have a Sunday night game with Green Bay the following week.
Through it all, Tom Brady has led the Patriots to a 10-2 record, and they sit atop the AFC East. This should be a close, hard fought game.
I still don't know how much I personally believe in the Bears, but when it comes down to it, I believe in Brady more than I believe in Jay Cutler. Patriots 20-13.
Miami @ NY Jets - The good news for the Dolphins is that this game is on the road, where they are 5-1, as opposed to just 1-5 at home. The bad news is that they are playing a Jets team that is coming off a Monday Night embarrassment.
I don't expect a lot of points here as both defenses rank in the top 10 in yardage allowed, and both defenses give up less than 20 points per game.
Coming off a humiliating 45-3 loss to the Patriots, I expect the Jets to come in to this game with more focus and determination than we have seen all season. If they are truly the Super Bowl contending team that some people thought they were, this needs to be a statement game.
But regardless, whatever the over/under is, take the under. Jets 16-10.
Kansas City @ San Diego - This is the most important game of the season for both teams. The 8-4 Chiefs are coming off a terrific defensive effort in a 10-6 win over Denver, while San Diego is coming off an extremely disappointing home loss to Oakland, making them a miserable 1-3 in the division.
At 6-6, San Diego basically has to win out for any hope of a playoff berth. Having been swept by the Raiders, and already losing to Kansas City earlier this year, they are in dire straits.
The Raiders ground attack gashed the Chargers for 251 yards, and with Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones coming in, it will only get tougher for the defense. Philip Rivers has had an MVP caliber year, but he needs other players to step up and make some plays.
This will be a shootout, and San Diego desperately needs this one. Chargers 35-31.
Denver @ Arizona - If you miss this game, you won't be missing much. The lone bright spot in this game is Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton. This has been a career year statistically for the former Purdue Boilermaker.
And while the Broncos quarterback situation has been a non issue, the Cardinals' has been as big of a train wreck as the quarterback situation in Carolina. You have to feel bad for Larry Fitzgerald.
The Cardinals offense has shown no signs of being able to score, and if you can't put points on the board, you can't win. Broncos 24-7.
Philadelphia @ Dallas - There will be some fireworks in this one. Michael Vick has once again proved to be the most explosive and dynamic player in the league, while the Cowboys have been rejuvenated since Jason Garrett took over the head coaching duties. The Cowboys are 3-1 and were a fumble away from being undefeated since Wade Phillips was relieved of his duties.
Still though, the Cowboys are long gone from the playoff race, while the Eagles are still in a fight with the Giants for the NFC East championship.
The Cowboys are coming off a dramatic 38-35 overtime win over the Colts, while the Eagles are coming off a 34-24 Thursday night win. I think the extra rest will prove beneficial for the guys in green. Eagles 35-31.
Baltimore @ Houston - Baltimore enters this game on the heels of a hard hitting loss to the Steelers, while Houston comes in finding itself in an all too familiar position of being on the outside of the playoff bubble.
Arian Foster has had a terrific year as the feature back for Houston, but the Baltimore defense is as tough as they come to run against.
Meanwhile, for the Ravens, expect a big day through the air for Joe Flacco. Playing against a pass defense that ranks dead last in yards allowed, giving up nearly 300 yards per game, Flacco is primed to put up some big numbers.
Baltimore never takes too kindly in losing to the Steelers, and I expect Houston to feel the brunt of their wrath. Ravens 28-13.
So, there you have week 14 in a nut shell. As always, do what you want with my picks, but remember, that I will not be held responsible for any money you lose if you choose to go with my not so expert opinions. Enjoy the games.