NFL Week 14: Blizzard Conditions in Chicago and 4 Last-Minute Picks
The beauty of the NFL is that every single drive in every single quarter of every single game matters.
Week 14 will probably be remembered for the weather. The 49ers, Dolphins, Buccaneers, Chargers and Texans are in must win situations. A loss by any of these teams and they can "Turn out the Lights, The Parties Over". I felt it necessary to honor the recently departed Dandy Don Meredith. Meredith passed away this week at the age of 72. It was this song Meredith used to sing in the booth on Monday Night Football when he believed the game was over before it ended.
The Jets and Ravens need to show resiliency by showing their crushing losses were just bumps in the road of a long season. While each loss was crushing for different reasons, we will see if Rex Ryan and John Harbaugh have their locker rooms truly on board.
This off season figures to have a record number of head coaching vacancies. There are some lame duck coaches standing on sidelines right now that will be head coaches in another city next year. How their teams perform in week 14 and beyond could have an impact on a potential new boss’s decision making process. So take note Marvin Lewis and John Fox, you and you teams are probably being watched.
I do my homework and study hard every day, just like I did when I was in school. However sometimes there are questions on a test I didn't anticipate and simply missed in the studying process, causing a bad grade.
Last week was one of those weeks. I surely didn't see that "butt whipping" as Jets coach Rex Ryan called it, on Monday night coming. Nor did I figure that the Ravens didn't think running the football was important with three minutes to go in the game, protecting and possibly adding to their lead. Only the AFC North and a possible first round bye were at stake. Lastly I just didn't think the Atlanta Falcons were worthy of their record, I was wrong and subsequently went 0-4 last week.
Bless my heart, that’s what my wife was saying all week, this week I turn it around. Here are four games I pick ATS and as always I don't avoid the hard ones. Good luck, it should be a great week to be at home watching on TV. With 40 to 50 mph winds and blizzard conditions predicted in Chicago and bad weather forecast all over it should be interesting football.
MIami Dolphins -5.5 @ New York Jets
Chad Henne needs to play mistake free football in New York
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
In a mid December AFC East playoff game anything is possible. The Dolphins lost another heart breaker at home last week but now get to go on the road where they are a lot more comfortable this season. The Dolphins are 5-1 away from South Florida this season. Conversely the Jets aren't a juggernaut at home two of their three losses have come in the New Meadowlands Stadium.
In those two losses the Jets scored just nine points. Both quarterbacks are coming off of poor performances, each throwing three interceptions last week in stunning losses. Sanchez is 3-4 coming off of a loss, while Henne is 6-3.
The Jets won in Miami back in week three, 31-23. In that game Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns, two of them to his big tight end Dustin Keller. Henne was good as well throwing for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Brandon Marshall caught one of those and figures to return this week after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury.
Weather figures to factor in this game, winds gusts are expected to be between 20 and 30 mph and rain is in the forecast. Long field goals will probably not be an option today.
Young quarterbacks plus poor weather conditions equals run, run, run. A task that may prove impossible for Miami, the Jets are ranked third v. the run and teams simply don’t run on New York at home. Miami ranks ninth against the run. The Jets did find success in week three, rushing for 146 yards against the Dolphins.
Henne gets WR Brandon Marshall Back from a hamstring injury and he could play a roll. In week three he caught ten balls for 166 yards and one touchdown. That was in Miami and after Monday night's debacle I expect the Jets secondary to bounce back. They have had an entire week to prepare a game plane without their defensive quarterback, Jim Leonard.
I look for Greene and Tomlinosn to pick up chunks of yards on first and second down, allowing Sanchez to convert manageable third downs with his TE Dustin Keller. Sanchez finds the end zone twice today and Tomlinson gets in once.
Henne can’t capitalize on a secondary that may be struggling and the Jets control the game at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. This one isn’t really all that close, take the Jets and give the points.
Jets 24 Miami 6
Oakland Raiders +4.5 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
David Darrard has the Jags poised for a playoff run
Al Bello/Getty Images
Just when you think you have the Oakland Raiders figured out, they go into San Diego and dominate a surging Chargers team. This is a very big game for both teams. The Chiefs without Matt Cassel figure to get beat in San Diego today and a Raiders win could get them to within a game of the division lead. They play in Kansas City the last week of the regular season.
The Jaguars must be careful. This qualifies as a trap game. Looking past Oakland to next week’s match-up in Indianapolis would be a huge mistake. The Jags aren't good enough to look past any NFL team and the Colts have already won a division game this week. Jacksonville is 1-2 v. the AFC West this season
If the Jacksonville Jaguars use the game plan from the last five weeks they should win this game. Maurice Jones-Drew to the left, Jones- Drew to right and Jones- Drew up the middle has worked just fine in the last five games.
Jones- Drew rushed for a season high 186 yards yards last week v. Tennessee, his fifth straight 100 yard game. During that time only a loss against the Giants in New York has prevented them from being 5-0 during this stretch. The Raiders are 23rd v. the run giving up an average of 124 YPG.
Jones- Drew has allowed Jags QB David Garrard to play patiently in the pocket, throwing four interceptions in this five game stretch, Garrard has managed games well.
Who knows which Raiders team shows up today, will it be the one that was beaten by Pittsburgh and Miami by a combined score of 68-20? Or will it be the Raiders that to soundly beat the Surging Chargers in San Diego last week?
I just don't see Jack Del Rio not having his team ready play today. This is a 1:00 game for a traveling west coast team. Their last trip east to Pittsburgh didn't go well, a 35-3 loss. While I don’t think they will lose that badly today, they will lose and by more than four and half points.
Jaguars 23 Raiders 17
New England Patriots-2.5 @ Chicago Bears
Blizzard conditions in Chicago today
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Many accuse the Bears of being frauds. I was one of them a few weeks ago, not anymore. Critics say the Bears still have to prove that losses to teams like Seattle and Washington at home were exceptions and not the rule.
Currently on a five game winning streak the Bears beat a quality team in the Eagles two weeks ago and shutout the Dolphins in Miami 16-0, three weeks ago. The offense is starting to gel nicely as it seems Mike Martz system is catching on. The Bears have averaged 24 points per game over their winning streak and have done it with a balanced attack using Matt Forte and Jay Cutler.
The Patriots continue to look like a mirror image of their 2003 Super Bowl winning team. Statistically they don't impress, still ranked 31st defensively and even with Tom Brady leading the offense to 121 points in the last three weeks they are just 13th offensively.
Today’s game will probably come down to the weather, blizzard conditions are predicted in Chicago. So look for Matt Forte and Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis to be difference makers today.
Tom Brady and Jay Cutler are no strangers to bad weather games. This will be a difficult chore for either QB today with these conditions. Look for some unconventional play calling and special teams to play a huge factor. Brady has 13 touchdowns and only two interceptions on the road this season, making it hard to pick against him today.
The Bears will have their chance to prove everyone wrong about them being pretenders instead of contenders. After today’s game they still have the Vikings, Jets and Packers to play to finish out the season.
It’s the Bears run defense v. the Patriots run defense, I give the edge to Chicago and with the conditions, the win in the game today. If Brady throws for 250 yards and two touchdowns just hand him the MVP award tonight.
I think something is beginning to happen in Chicago and I think it continues today. This will be an ugly football game and "Da" Bears are notorious for winning ugly games in their history.
Bears 17 Patriots 16
Baltimore Ravens -3 @ Houston Texans
Matt Schaub and Andrea Johnson can pull the upset
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The Ravens like the Jets have to prove they have short memories. Unlike the Jets, the Ravens have to do it on the road and against a team that has a formula that has given the Ravens problems this season. Big running backs and deep threat wide receivers are the types of players that attack the biggest two weaknesses of the Ravens defense.
Arian Foster and Andre Johnson can both have big games. Johnson has had 11 days to rest his ankle and Foster, leading the NFL in rushing, will be fresh. The Texans must start fast, something they haven't done all year getting outscored 68-36 in the first quarter.
The Ravens have a pretty balanced attack but how much of an effect will their loss last Sunday night have on them? The play call to throw the ball last week wasn’t Flacco's fault but his failure to protect the ball was. Will his confidence rebound?
The Ravens have a chance to make the playoffs for three straight seasons, something they have never done in their brief history.
Cam Cameron can also rebound, calling a game allowing Flacco to pick apart a defense that ranks last in the league in passing defense and 29th in overall defense. They can be hard to run on and the Ravens haven't run the ball consistently this season. Look for Cameron to use Donte Stallworth a little more tomorrow night deep down the field.
The Ravens seem like they are missing something, there is missing chemistry somewhere. I believe Joe Flacco hasn't matured as quickly as the Ravens brass thought he would. While his stats say he is a good QB, silently they are doubts. Derrick Mason said following last week’s loss that this offense just isn't very good at times, and they’re not.
They don't need to be spectacular but they will need to score some points and I don’t see them outscoring Houston on this night. This is my upset special
Gary Kubiak has to be a lame duck coach and beating the Ravens may not save his job in Houston but Broncos owner Pat Bowlen may be watching.
Texans 30 Ravens 24