NFL Picks Week 14: Predicting All the Winners and Top Performers
There is no more important time in the NFL season as Week 14 brings games with playoff implications, fantasy playoffs and do-or-die time for coaches. This week, there are plenty of good games on the slate for your football enjoyment.
The Giants and Cowboys play for first place in the NFC East, the Green Bay Packers look to take another step towards perfection and the Cincinnati Bengals get another chance to prove they are legit against the Houston Texans.
As the NFL regular season draws to a close, it is now time for teams to find their rightful place this season, whether that be somewhere in the playoffs, barely missing out, rebuilding mode or in the cellar looking at a high-draft pick.
Indianapolis @ Baltimore
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One of the AFC's best against the AFC's worst. The Ravens aim to keep pace with the other top teams in the conference and improve to 10-3 while the Colts try to pull off a monster upset and avoid falling that much closer to a winless season.
The Colts haven't had much success on offense this season and that trend will continue in Baltimore against the very talented Ravens defense. Ranking 26th in passing yardage and 25th in rushing yardage, the Colts are in a for long day.
While the Colts have shown some fight as of late, this game just isn't winnable for them. The Ravens are too good and the Colts are too bad. Look for another heavy dose of running from the Ravens as they control the clock and pound the Colts defense.
Prediction: Ravens 37-10
Top Performer: Ray Rice
Atlanta @ Carolina
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Despite falling to the Houston Texans last week, the Atlanta Falcons come into this matchup with the Carolina Panthers having won five of their last seven and in the heart of the NFC playoff race. The Panthers, winners of two straight, have had success staying in games, but have failed to pull out victories.
In a must-win game for the Falcons, they need big games out of both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner. They need to establish balance and eat up the clock with their offense. For the Panthers, Cam Newton needs to put on his Superman outfit once again and carry his team.
While the Panthers have made great strides from last year, they are still a year or two from competing with the big boys in the NFC. The Falcons have a chance to show they belong in the NFC playoffs and they will do so.
Prediction: Falcons 27-17
Top Performer: Michael Turner
Houston @ Cincinnati
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Despite their surprising success this season, the Bengals have failed to beat a contender. They get the chance at home Sunday against the Houston Texans. Extremely beat up, the Texans will lean on rookie T.J. Yates to carry the show.
Both teams are in the playoff hunt fighting for a spot or position. A win for the Texans keeps them in the race for the top spot in the AFC playoffs and a loss keeps the Tennessee Titans in the division hunt. With the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens at 10-3 and 9-3 respectively, the Bengals are realistically gunning for that second wild-card spot.
Dealing with so many injuries, the Texans could be in serious trouble in this game. Their rushing attack, behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate, has the ability to lead them to victory, but the Bengals rush defense has been very stable this season.
Prediction: Bengals 23-21
Top Performer: Andy Dalton
Minnesota @ Detroit
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Trying to hold on to their playoff hopes, the Detroit Lions need to beat the division rival Minnesota Vikings. Entering the game at 7-5, the Lions are currently tied with the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Vikings are playing strictly for pride at this point with a disappointing 2-10 record. Even while losing games, the future looks brighter for the Vikings with Christian Ponder developing into a decent player. A big lift for the Vikings, Adrian Peterson could be back after missing two games with a high ankle sprain.
For the Vikings to win, they will need a healthy Peterson to run wild in Ford Field which would allow Ponder more opportunities for success down the field. The Lions have a lot of firepower on offense and will be hard to stop for the Vikings.
Prediction: Lions 27-20
Top Performer: Matthew Stafford
Tampa Bay @ Jacksonville
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Struggling mightily, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a great opportunity to end their six-game losing streak as they play in-state rivals the Jacksonville Jaguars. Having lost three straight, the Jaguars look to avoid falling further down the NFL-pecking around.
The season has been a failure for the Bucs who came into the year as a potential playoff contender, but they have a chance to get some wins over the last four games and carry some momentum into next season. The Jaguars face a ton of uncertainty as the season draws to a close. A new owner and a new coach, and potentially a new quarterback and a new city.
With both teams struggling, this game should be an ugly battle. Josh Freeman should be back at quarterback which will give the Bucs a substantial advantage, but anything could happen in this game.
Prediction: 17-13 Buccaneers
Top Performer: Ronde Barber
Philadelphia @ Miami
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The return of Michael Vick and the recent emergence of the Miami Dolphins make this matchup of 4-8 teams very intriguing. While neither team is playing for a playoff spot at this point, there is plenty on the line for both teams.
The Eagles could use some momentum to carry into next season, which could also help keep Andy Reid employed. As for the Dolphins, they seem to be rallying around the play of quarterback Matt Moore. Having won four out of their last five following an 0-7 start, the Dolphins are one of the league's hottest teams.
The nightmare continues for the Dream Team against a Dolphins team playing with the fire of a playoff-bound team. Matt Moore and Reggie Bush have never played better than both of them are at this point in the season.
Prediction: 24-23 Dolphins
Top Performer: Matt Moore
Kansas City @ New York Jets
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The New York Jets look to stay alive in the AFC wild-card race as they host the Kansas City Chiefs. Underachieving this season, the Jets are still alive, but currently find themselves deadlocked in a tie for the final playoff spot. The Chiefs have been dealt harsh blows with injuries to many top players, but still find themselves only two games back of division-leading Denver.
The Jets must have success with their offensive line. If they can create some running lanes and keep Tamba Hali away from Mark Sanchez, the Jets have a great opportunity to get some good production out of their offense.
Since Matt Cassel went down, the Chiefs have heavily relied on their defense as the Tyler Palko-led offense has been anything but good. This is the type of offense that Jet defenders will destroy on their way to a big victory.
Prediction: 31-13 Jets
Top Performer: Bart Scott
New Orleans @ Tennessee
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The New Orleans Saints come into this matchup with the Tennessee Titans scorching, having won four straight and on the heels of the San Francisco 49ers for the second seed in the NFC playoffs. The Titans look to remain in the hunt for the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
Somewhat quieted by the season a certain quarterback is having in Green Bay, Drew Brees is also having a historically good season for the Saints. Their offense is playing better than almost any other team in the league, and maybe even better than the Packers.
The Titans have had all types of unexpected success behind a solid defense, a rejuvenated Matthew Hasselbeck and a recently renewed Chris Johnson. While things have been going right in Nashville, the hot Saints will be too much too handle.
Prediction: 34-17 Saints
Top Performer: Jimmy Graham
New England @ Washington
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The New England Patriots, winners of four straight, need a victory to keep pace with the Steelers in the race for the top seed in the AFC playoffs. Hosting the Patriots, the Washington Redskins are playing to figure out pieces they can work with for next season.
Tom Brady has been exceptional most of the season with weapons Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, but the Patriots defense has left much to be desired. They have been shredded by almost every opposing quarterback, including a garbage time barrage of yardage and points for Dan Orlovsky.
The Patriots should come into Washington and handle their business against a superior opponent in the Redskins. On offense, the Redskins could have some success, but it won't be enough to match the output of Tom Brady and Co.
Prediction: 41-16 Patriots
Tom Performer: Wes Welker
San Francisco @ Arizona
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The San Francisco 49ers are already the NFC West Division champs, have a home playoff game locked up and have a clear path to a first-round bye. Should be an easy victory in the desert, right? Not so fast. The Arizona Cardinals are suddenly playing some very good football winning four out of the last five.
Playing through their defense, the 49ers have taken their toll on opposing teams and running backs. The defensive success has taken pressure off Alex Smith is having by far his best season as a pro. They are in great position to make a deep playoff run.
Against the Cardinals, the 49ers will look to maintain the same formula they have all season: stop the run on defense and run the ball successfully on offense. Playing well, the Cardinals have a chance to put up a fight, but the 49ers defense won't give up enough points.
Prediction: 20-14 49ers
Top Performer: Ahmad Brooks
Chicago @ Denver
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In the beginning of the season, this matchup looked as if it would be the two men traded for one another: Jay Culter and Kyle Orton. Instead, the Bears will throw out Caleb Hanie as their starter and the Broncos will run behind Tim Tebow.
These teams are trending in opposite directions as of late with the Broncos winning games after a slow start and the Bears faltering following Jay Culter's thumb injury. Both teams are in situations where a win would be huge and loss could be fatal.
The Bears take pride in their defense and have said all week long that they have the perfect type of defense to shut down the Tebow offense.This may be the case and the Broncos may struggle on offense, but the Bears will definitely struggle on offense without Cutler or Matt Forte.
Prediction: 13-10 Broncos
Top Performer: Elvis Dumervil
Oakland @ Green Bay
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The defending champion Green Bay Packers host the Oakland Raiders at what should be a fairly cold Lambeau Field. Looking to stay perfect and improve to 13-0, the Packers would clinch a first-round bye with a victory.
While the Packers offense has been unstoppable at times, their defense has been far from great and has allowed teams to hang around. The Raiders have enough speed on their roster to give the Packers problems, but the loss of Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Taiwan Jones severely hurt the Raiders chances of an upset.
Carson Palmer will have to be close to perfect for the Raiders to have a chance and the Raiders must get pressure on Aaron Rodgers with their front four, otherwise this game could get ugly. The Packers are all business at this point and will do what they need to do.
Prediction: 41-20 Packers
Top Performer: Clay Matthews
Buffalo @ San Diego
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After taking the league by storm and starting 3-0, the Buffalo Bills have faltered to a 5-7 record losing five straight. In similar fashion, the Chargers started the year 4-1 before losing six straight. They broke their losing streak last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Is it time for the Bills to break their streak? They have had success offense with their newly found franchise quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In order to beat the Chargers, they will need to force turnovers which have been a huge problem for Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
The Chargers are playing for the employment of their coach and possibly their GM over the last four weeks of the season. They have the personnel to be much better than their 5-7 record indicates and may have flipped the switch against the Jags.
Prediction: 27-21 Chargers
Top Performer: Antonio Gates
New York Giants @ Dallas
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After both teams failed to capitalize on big opportunities last week, the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys do battle in a game for first place in the NFC East. The 7-5 Cowboys lead the 6-6 Giants by a game in the division, but the two teams play each twice over the last four weeks.
In what should be the game of the week, the two hated rivals each need a win. With a loss, the team that losses could be looking in at the playoff picture with six losses.
The Giants looked a completely different team against the Packers with re-addition of Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks. They battled to the final seconds against the best team in football, while the Cowboys lost to a hot, but mediocre Cardinals team.
Prediction: 30-24 Giants
Top Performer: Hakeem Nicks
St. Louis @ Seattle
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All of a sudden, the Seattle Seahawks are playing good football behind Marshawn Lynch. Emerging as a top back in the league, Lynch's eccentric ways have brought national attention to a once forgotten Seahawks team. At 5-7, the Seahawks are still barely alive in the NFC playoff picture.
With Sam Bradford's status up in the air because of his high ankle sprain, the Rams may be forced to turn to third-string quarterback Tom Brandstater. That should tell you enough about the Rams' chances to come into Seattle and defeat the Seahawks.
Lynch should find even more success against the Rams, earn his Skittles and make life easy on Tarvaris Jackson. The 12th man should be rocking at CenturyLink Field for the second straight prime-time game for the Seahawks following their Thursday night defeat of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Prediction: 31-10 Seahawks
Top Performer: Marshawn Lynch