We’re headed down the stretch with the start of the final quarter of the season beginning in Week 14. The games, for some, are as important as ever as teams are jockeying for playoff position.
The biggest game of the week takes place in Dallas in prime time as the first place Cowboys take on the second-place rival Giants (one game behind) for the first time this season. It could be a shootout, as both teams have done well throwing the ball this season.
Who do you think will win?
Pittsburgh over Cleveland—I picked the Steelers to win on Thursday.
NEW YORK JETS over Kansas City—The Jets have struggled on offense and have gotten away from running the ball, once a specialty. Last week, though, they did run for 101 yards and three touchdowns. They should be able to do some more damage on the ground against the Chiefs, who are 25th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (130.3).
JACKSONVILLE over Tampa Bay—The Buccaneers have lost six in a row. The Jaguars are no world beaters, but at home against a Bucs team that gets worse every week, this could finally be Jacksonville’s day. Maurice Jones-Drew has done his part this year, leading the league in rushing yards. Against the 29th ranked rush defense he should be rewarded for his efforts with a win for the fourth time this season.
New England over WASHINGTON—Andre Carter returns to Washington, where he spent five seasons with the Redskins. While the Patriots pass defense has been lackluster, Carter has been a bright spot in the pass rush. He leads the team with nine tackles (top-10 in the league) and people within the organization have raved about his professionalism. It looks like a prime opportunity for him to reach double digits in sacks this game as Washington is in the top 10 in sacks allowed (33).
Atlanta over CAROLINA—While Cam Newton has struggled with his decision making as a passer, he’s been a sensational runner. He has rushed for 13 touchdowns this season, a record for quarterbacks. The Falcons rush defense, however, is one of the best in the league (third in rushing yards allowed per game actually). And the last time these two teams played, the Falcons forced Newton into some really bad throws, causing three interceptions. They should be able to dominate the Panthers again.
BALTIMORE over Indianapolis—The Colts put up some fight against the Patriots backups, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough. The Ravens tend to play down to their competition, but they’d really have to let themselves go to drop this game.
MIAMI over Philadelphia—Two teams here are going in opposite directions and surprisingly it’s the Dolphins who are on the up-swing. The ‘Phins are fifth in the league in points allowed and fifth in the league in rushing yards allowed per game. They’ll face a stiff test from LeSean McCoy and the return of Michael Vick, but the Dolphins have won three in a row at home and are just playing much better football.
DETROIT over Minnesota—Time for the early season darlings to get back to playing football. Discipline has been a huge problem for this team but coach Jim Schwartz has reportedly told players that they will sit for post-whistle fouls. Ndamukong Suh is still suspended and he is the biggest culprit, so maybe the rest of the team will learn its lesson. It would be nice if the Lions, on offense, could get to Calvin Johnson more. The wide receiver hasn’t had a 100-yard game in four games (he had five in the first eight games of the season) and only has one touchdown in that span. Fortunately for the Lions, the Vikings look like everybody’s whipping boy right now.
New Orleans over TENNESSEE—The Saints have won four straight and five of their last six. Drew Brees hasn’t thrown an interception in three consecutive games and has a streak of 39 straight games with a passing score. The Titans struggle against teams with winning records and their pass defense has taken a step back this year compared to previous seasons.
CINCINNATI over Houston—T.J. Yates had a respectable game against the Falcons last week, but now loses his No.1 target, Andre Johnson. Johnson will miss his seventh game of the season with a strained left hamstring. The Texans have a good running game too, but the Bengals have a top-10 defense against the pass and the rush. There are only so many injuries one team can endure.
DENVER over Chicago—Should I praise Tim Tebow and his 6-1 record as a starter this season (five wins in a row)? Or should I show concern for the Bears’ offense without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte? And then add the fact that Caleb Hanie has thrown two touchdowns compared to six interceptions in the past two games?
San Francisco over ARIZONA—The 49ers have allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the entire league and have not given up a rushing touchdown all season. They are looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs so a win against a conference (and divisional) opponent is big. The 49ers are 3-0 against the NFC West this season and beat the Cardinals 23-7 just three weeks ago.
SAN DIEGO over Buffalo—The Bills have lost five straight games and six of their previous seven. On the road this season the Bills are an abysmal 1-5. The Chargers had a similar losing streak recently (six straight) but broke that last week with a big Monday night victory against the Jaguars. The Bills are more talented than Jacksonville, but their defense is in the bottom half of the league in both passing and rushing yards allowed per game. Philip Rivers came back to life last weekend, throwing for just under 300 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. It was the second week in a row Rivers hadn’t thrown a pick and more games like that will help the Chargers win more games down the stretch.
GREEN BAY over Oakland—It was a close one last weekend, but the Packers prevailed and many think they have cleared the biggest obstacle remaining in finishing the regular season undefeated. It could be difficult for the Raiders to keep pace with the high octane Green Bay passing game because two of their top four leading receivers (and two of the top three wide receivers) are out with injuries.
DALLAS over New York Giants—The Giants secondary has struggled terribly the past couple games and things could get worse: safety Kenny Phillips will miss the game with a knee injury. Also out is Osi Umenyiora, which hurts the pass rush as well. The Cowboys have the seventh best passing game in the league and Miles Austin is expected to return after missing the past four games.
SEATTLE over St. Louis—Marshawn Lynch has really come on strong towards the end of the season. In his first eight games Lynch had 398 yards on 97 carries (4.1 yards per carry) with four touchdowns. In the last four games he has increased his production, rushing for 456 yards on 105 carries also with four touchdowns. In those games the Seahawks are 3-1. They are letting Lynch win games for them and he is in full-on “Beast Mode.”
This Week: 1-0
Last Week: 9-7