NFL Picks Week 14: Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Predictions
The final month of the NFL season is upon us.
As the saying goes: It's time to separate the men from the boys. Week 13 certainly helped in that regard—just ask the Saints and Chiefs—but Week 14 offers opportunities for the great teams to shine.
The Ravens are offered a gimme at home against the Vikings. If Baltimore truly has playoff aspirations, it shouldn't lose to a team with such a poor all-around roster (even if that team has Adrian Peterson).
How about the Colts heading to Cincinnati? The Bengals are a solid home team, and the Colts haven't been great at much of anything since Reggie Wayne went down.
Lions at Eagles, Giants at Chargers, Cowboys at Bears—these are all games with potential playoff implications. The truly scrumptious main courses, however, are almost like leftovers from last week.
The Saints host the Panthers Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Seahawks play their hated rivals on the road in San Francisco.
Our lead writers will pick all of those games and more just a few clicks ahead. Don't like our picks? Make yours in the comments below.
Name: Last Week; Overall
Consensus: 14-2; 108-60 (64 Percent)
Andrea Hangst: 11-5; 125-66
Brad Gagnon: 12-4; 123-68
Ty Schalter: 12-4; 123-68
Matt Bowen: 10-6; 121-70
Tyson Langland: 13-3; 121-70
Chris Hansen: 11-5; 119-72
Zach Kruse: 10-6; 117-74
Matt Miller: 9-7; 117-74
Erik Frenz: 12-4; 116-75
Mike Freeman: 12-4; 111-80
Michael Schottey: 9-7; 110-81
Knox Bardeen: 10-6; 107-84
To see how Bleacher Report's experts are faring against the best at other media outlets, check out Pickwatch.
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars, Thursday Night Football
B/R Consensus Pick: Jaguars (8-4)
Bowen: Jaguars, 23-22
The Jaguars are quietly playing good football right now. And that's enough for me versus a Texans team that can't close out games.
Miller: Texans, 21-13
The Texans have struggled lately with 10 straight losses, but they're playing well enough to take down the Jaguars. Expect a nice day from Case Keenum and Ben Tate.
Frenz: Jaguars, 21-14
The Jaguars and Texans may be only one game apart in the standings, but these teams are on completely different trajectories. The Jaguars are finding some mojo, while the Texans are coming apart at the seams.
Bardeen: Texans, 17-14
The illusion that Jacksonville seems to have figured things out (three wins in its last four games) while Houston is floundering has nothing to do with the fact that there’s so much more talent on the Texans’ side of the field.
Other Picks: Jaguars (Schalter, Freeman, Hangst, Gagnon, Langland, Kruse); Texans (Schottey, Hansen)
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
B/R Consensus Pick: Buccaneers (10-2)
Schottey: Buccaneers, 20-17
I've ridden the Bills bandwagon for far too long, so this probably means they'll pick up a win as I jump off. Still, I see a Bucs team with a ton of defensive talent and a vertical offense that seems to have a solid trigger man. Most importantly, the Bills have found ways to lose in recent weeks, while Tampa Bay has righted the ship.
Schalter: Buccaneers, 24-21
Mike Glennon is playing very well, fumbles notwithstanding. I'll take the Bucs, especially at home.
Freeman: Bills, 14-10
Buffalo has just enough offense to get by.
Hangst: Buccaneers, 23-13
There's nothing particularly dynamic about either the Buccaneers or the Bills, but Tampa's ability to stop the run should be Buffalo's undoing on Sunday.
The road is an unforgiving place for a rookie quarterback like EJ Manuel, while Buccaneers' first-year passer Mike Glennon has the comforts of home in his favor on Sunday. Buffalo's 24th-ranked run defense means good things for Bobby Rainey, too. The Buccaneers have a distinct edge this week.
Other Picks: Bills (Frenz); Buccaneers (Bowen, Miller, Hansen, Bardeen, Gagnon, Langland, Kruse)
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
B/R Consensus Pick: Baltimore Ravens (10-1)
Schalter: Vikings, 21-18
Both of these teams have been eking out close ones against mediocre teams lately, but the Vikes defense is waking up, and Flacco is due to lay another egg.
Miller: Ravens, 24-13
The Baltimore defense is jelling at the right time and will have no trouble shutting down Matt Cassel and Co. at home.
Hansen: Ravens, 24-20
The Ravens know what is at stake over the final four games; they aren’t about to lose to a team like Minnesota at home. The Ravens might have some trouble stopping Adrian Peterson, but they have the advantage in just about every other way.
Langland: Ravens 23-20
With back-to-back wins to their name, the Baltimore Ravens are in contention for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Three weeks ago no one would have imagined this scenario, yet it just goes to show that it’s important to get hot at the right time. Expect their hot streak to continue against the hapless Minnesota Vikings.
Kruse: Ravens, 23-13
Minnesota is quietly playing much better, but the Ravens can run the football and attack vertically on offense. That should make this a difficult matchup on the road for the Vikings.
Other Picks: Ravens (Schottey, Bowen, Freeman, Frenz, Hangst, Bardeen, Gagnon)
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
B/R Consensus Pick: Patriots (12-0)
Schottey: Patriots, 35-10
Losing to the Jaguars? It's over. Josh Gordon may be enjoyable to watch, but the rest of this team has no chance against the buzzsaw that is the Patriots at Foxborough.
Frenz: Patriots, 34-20
The Patriots' run defense has been a major cause for concern in recent weeks, but if Willis McGahee and the Browns' 28th-ranked rush attack is able to find a way to run all over them, it could be time for a red alert. The Browns defense is better than they get credit for, but the Pats offense is dangerous right now, and Cleveland is simply running into them at the wrong time.
Hangst: Patriots, 35-21
The Browns have a top-tier receiver and a very good defense. The Patriots have the home field, Tom Brady as their quarterback, Aqib Talib to shadow Josh Gordon and an effective run game. With a better quarterback, the Browns could make this a close game. But as it stands, with Caleb Hanie possibly throwing the passes, the scales tip in New England's favor.
Gagnon: Patriots, 35-13
What's happening to the Browns defense? They gave up 32 at home against Jacksonville, and now they have to deal with a red-hot Patriots offense on the road. New England's run D is vulnerable, but the Browns don't pose a big threat on the ground.
Other Picks: Patriots (Bowen, Schalter, Freeman, Miller, Hansen, Bardeen, Langland, Kruse)
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
B/R Consensus Pick: Bengals (11-1)
Bowen: Bengals, 23-20
There is too much pressure on Andrew Luck to run this offense with limited weapons around him. Defense and the running game get the win for the Bengals.
Freeman: Colts, 24-21
Luck's struggles are concerning, but I think he starts to turn it around against Cincy. With the benching of Trent Richardson, Luck will have more of a running game to work with.
Hangst: Bengals, 33-23
Both Andy Dalton and Andrew Luck have been struggling as of late, putting the pressure on their respective run games and defenses to carry extra weight. The Bengals have the advantage in both areas and are one of the NFL's most complete teams.
The Colts need Luck to be near-perfect to pull out wins, while the Bengals can still win convincingly with Dalton having a down day. The Bengals just have too many tools to lose this week.
Bardeen: Bengals, 30-21
Cincinnati and Indianapolis are both division leaders, but they are in much different spots when it comes performance. The Colts have struggled with teams they shouldn’t have lately. They will continue to struggle Sunday against a good Bengals defense.
Other Picks: Bengals (Schottey, Schalter, Miller, Frenz, Hansen, Gagnon, Langland, Kruse)
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
B/R Consensus Pick: Philadelphia Eagles (7-5)
Schottey: Eagles, 30-27
This is a gut check for both teams in what should be a shootout. The Lions have always been susceptible to high-percentage passers in low-risk schemes, and that fits the Eagles and Nick Foles to a T. He could easily complete 70 percent of his passes as he picks apart a questionable secondary and utilizes shorter throws to keep the Lions defensive line off him.
Bowen: Lions, 34-27
The Lions have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL...if they protect the ball. Look for Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush to put up big numbers in the win over the Eagles.
Gagnon: Eagles, 30-27
The Eagles are vulnerable going up against Calvin Johnson, but the secondary has been better and, more importantly, the pass rush is finally delivering in a big way. They'll get after Matthew Stafford and let the red-hot Nick Foles go to town on a mediocre pass defense, winning their fifth straight.
Kruse: Lions, 30-20
Detroit abused the Packers on Thanksgiving and will now get 11 days between games. A fresh, confident Lions team can take a big step toward an NFC North title with a win in Philly.
Other Picks: Lions (Schalter, Freeman, Bardeen); Eagles (Miller, Frenz, Hangst, Hansen, Langland)
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
Picks subject to change based on quarterback Aaron Rodgers' availability.
B/R Consensus Pick: Packers (9-3)
Freeman: Packers, 34-14
This is assuming Aaron Rodgers does not play. Without him, they win. With him, they win big.
Hansen: Packers, 24-17
If Rodgers plays, then this isn’t really a contest. I don’t trust a bad team that plays in a dome to go to Lambeau and win.
Bardeen: Packers, 27-23
Atlanta showed signs of life in Toronto in a domed stadium and could continue its progress. But the Falcons will be playing outdoors in the cold and possibly against Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers plays, the Packers win big. If not, Green Bay still wins a close one.
Kruse: Falcons, 27-13
If Rodgers is back, the Packers can score enough to mask a defense that is playing really poorly. If not, Green Bay will get routed again. It's probably that simple for the Packers.
Other Picks: Packers (Schottey, Miller, Frenz, Hangst, Gagnon, Langland); Falcons (Schalter, Bowen)
Kansas City Chiefs at Washington
B/R Consensus Pick: Chiefs (12-0)
Bowen: Chiefs, 26-19
The Chiefs need a win to get off their current three-game slide. Looks for the Kansas City secondary to bounce back versus Robert Griffin III.
Miller: Chiefs, 23-13
The Kansas City defense has struggled against top-tier quarterbacks of late, but it'll get back on track against a Washington offensive line that's begging to be torched.
Hansen: Chiefs, 24-21
The Chiefs are a good football team, and Washington is a bad football team. That’s easy to forget in this league because the Chiefs have lost three in a row.
Kansas City has actually played well on offense in recent weeks. The defense has had a few lackluster performances, but it should have success putting pressure on Robert Griffin III.
Gagnon: Chiefs, 28-27
It wouldn't surprise me to see Washington put up a fight. The team started strong against the Giants Sunday night, and Robert Griffin III is beginning to look a lot like his old self. Plus, I'm not sure how this young Chiefs team is going to react to three straight losses, especially on the road.
K.C. doesn't take a lot of chances through the air, so it's not a bad matchup for the Washington defense, but the difference here will be RGIII's lack of pass protection against a stellar front seven. A late turnover prevents Washington from pulling off the upset.
Other Picks: Chiefs (Schottey, Schalter, Freeman, Frenz, Hangst, Bardeen, Langland, Kruse)
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
B/R Consensus Pick: Steelers (9-3)
Freeman: Steelers, 21-20
Ben Roethlisberger has not been very accurate this season despite the stats, but he can pick apart that Miami defense.
Frenz: Dolphins, 20-17
Teams that can run the ball have given the Steelers some problems, and the Dolphins rushing attack has been a bit more consistent in recent weeks. If Ryan Tannehill can take advantage of Troy Polamalu with some play action, they should get enough big plays to match blows with Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense.
Hangst: Steelers, 23-21
The Steelers are trying to limp their way to a second consecutive 8-8 season, and the Miami Dolphins shouldn't be a bump in the road this week. The keys will be to give Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor help against his former teammate Mike Wallace, and to bring pressure on Ryan Tannehill so that he's not able to link up with Wallace often.
The Steelers may not be their Super Bowl-caliber selves this year, but they aren't struggling enough right now to fall at home to the Dolphins.
Langland: Steelers, 21-20
As badly as I want to pick the Dolphins, I simply can’t. They have been awful on the road as of late, and their linebacking play is atrocious. Yes, the Steelers are far from perfect, but they have won three of their last four and three in a row at Heinz Field.
Other Picks: Steelers (Schottey, Miller, Hansen, Bardeen, Gagnon); Dolphins (Schalter, Kruse)
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
B/R Consensus Pick: Raiders (11-1)
Miller: Raiders, 23-16
These are two teams with big question marks at quarterback. While I would normally pick the home team, the Raiders are playing tougher than the Jets right now. They get the edge even in a cross-country travel week.
Frenz: Raiders, 24-16
At least the Raiders have been competitive in recent weeks; that's more than the Jets can say. The Raiders have lost three of their last four games by seven points or fewer, and the Jets have lost four of their last five by 16 points or more.
Unless Geno Smith can seriously rebound from a seven-game stretch with one touchdown and 12 interceptions, the Jets could be looking at their fourth straight loss.
Hansen: Raiders, 24-17
The Raiders have been competitive despite winning just four games. West Coast teams playing the early game on the East Coast are usually at a disadvantage, but the Raiders should be well rested coming off a long week after their Thanksgiving game.
I don’t know how anyone could trust the Jets and their quarterback situation. Matt McGloin has helped Oakland’s passing game, and the Raiders might try to incorporate more special plays for the athletic Terrelle Pryor.
Kruse: Jets, 16-13
I like the Jets defense to be the difference-maker at home, especially with Oakland playing on the East Coast. And Geno Smith is due for something positive, right?
Other Picks: Raiders (Schottey, Schalter, Freeman, Bowen, Hangst, Gagnon, Bardeen, Langland)
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
B/R Consensus Pick: Broncos (12-0)
Schottey: Broncos, 37-13
A good old-fashioned butt-whoopin' a mile high—that's what this is going to be. Against the Chiefs, the Broncos showed they could match up when their receiving corps wasn't at full strength and could put the offense in the hands of their running backs. Tennessee doesn't stand a chance.
Freeman: Broncos, 28-10
My only concern for the Broncos is they are coming off a tough divisional win. A letdown? Only for a quarter.
Hansen: Broncos, 27-24
The Titans have a secondary that can slow down Denver’s receivers, making this game more interesting than it might appear on paper. The forecast calls for light snow with a high of 27 degrees, and Manning’s performance issues in the cold are well-documented.
Bardeen: Broncos, 36-21
How much damage do you think Manning will do against Tennessee's defense? I think it’ll be bunches and bunches. The Titans won’t roll over; there’s too much talent there for that. But this game won’t be interesting for too long.
Other Picks: Broncos (Schalter, Miller, Bowen, Frenz, Hangst, Gagnon, Langland, Kruse)
New York Giants at San Diego Chargers
B/R Consensus Pick: Chargers (7-5)
Bowen: Giants, 20-17
I'm taking the Giants on the road as Perry Fewell's secondary comes up with some big plays in the second half to flip the field for Eli Manning.
Miller: Chargers, 31-20
Philip Rivers is playing as well as any quarterback not named Peyton or Tom, and against a defense as bad as the Giants, he's going to go off big time.
Hansen: Chargers, 33-30
After losing four out of the last five, the Chargers could really use a victory. San Diego’s pass defense is terrible, which means the Chargers will have to score a lot to win.
With weapons like Keenan Allen, Ladarius Green, Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates and Ryan Mathews, the Chargers have the personnel to get it done. The Chargers will also play at home, despite being on blackout watch again.
Gagnon: Giants, 27-24
Two teams going in different directions. The Giants are playing hard for Tom Coughlin, and it's beginning to look as though that win in Kansas City was an anomaly for the Chargers. They just make too many mistakes, home or away. I can see a suddenly feisty Giants team forcing a major error late to secure the victory.
Other Picks: Giants (Freeman, Bardeen, Kruse); Chargers (Schottey, Schalter, Frenz, Hangst, Langland)
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
B/R Consensus Pick: Seahawks (7-5)
Schottey: 49ers, 24-23
It's interesting, because both teams are seemingly heating up and getting healthier here toward the end of the season. The Seahawks offensive line is healthy, and Percy Harvin may be back. The 49ers have Michael Crabtree back. This should be a good, hard-fought game. I'm taking the home team.
Schalter: Seahawks, 21-17
This is the game a lot of folks had circled to determine the division. Instead, the Seahawks decided it a long time ago. They're on a giant roll, and I like them even on the road.
Freeman: Seahawks, 28-24
Seattle is the best team in football, but the 49ers are starting to get scary now that their deep threats are returning. Seattle's defense is the difference here.
Langland: Seahawks, 20-17
Is there a better team in the NFL right now than the Seahawks? No, but that doesn’t mean the 49ers won’t play them tough. Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll are rivals, and they can't stand each other. That should make for a heated matchup come Sunday.
Other Picks: 49ers (Bowen, Miller, Hansen, Kruse); Seahawks (Frenz, Hangst, Bardeen, Gagnon)
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
B/R Consensus Pick: Cardinals (12-0)
Frenz: Cardinals, 24-10
The Cardinals are 3-1 after a loss this year, and with the struggling St. Louis Rams headed to town, they should be able to bounce back once again after their loss to Philly. Kellen Clemens will see more blitzes from the Cardinals defense than he's seen all season.
Hangst: Cardinals, 28-14
The Cardinals and Rams have well-matched offenses, but Arizona has the defensive edge that should propel it to an all-important divisional win. The postseason is within the Cardinals' grasp, and that fact can do a lot for a team's chances to win.
Langland: Cardinals, 23-16
The Rams have been playing inspired football of late, but the Cardinals have hit their stride offensively. Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald have emerged as the best wide receiver pair in the NFL, which will put St. Louis at a major disadvantage.
Kruse: Cardinals, 24-10
Arizona will make points hard to come by for Kellen Clemens and the Rams offense. A few takeaways should give the Cardinals a comfortable home win.
Other Picks: Cardinals (Schottey, Schalter, Bowen, Freeman, Miller, Gagnon, Hansen, Bardeen)
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints, Sunday Night Football
B/R Consensus Pick: Saints (7-5)
Schottey: Panthers, 23-20
Maybe the only issue on Monday Night Football was the Seattle crowd, but I believe it's more than that. The Saints have looked downright atrocious twice this season—against the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers are bringing a better defense to town than either of those groups, with a better defensive line as well.
Bowen: Saints, 24-20
The Panthers front seven will be a good test for the Saints, but does Carolina have enough in the secondary to slow down Drew Brees in the Dome?
Bardeen: Saints, 24-20
While the Panthers have the ability up front to attack Drew Brees just like Seattle did, they don’t have the secondary to slow him down as effectively as the Seahawks. The Saints will be in the Superdome coming off an embarrassing loss, and they will end Carolina’s eight-game winning streak in a close one.
Hansen: Panthers, 30-27
It’s hard to win in New Orleans, but the Saints will have one fewer day to prepare after playing on Monday night. The Panthers are finally getting the respect they deserve, and with a close win this week, they will become NFL darlings for at least a few more weeks.
Other Picks: Panthers (Schalter, Frenz, Kruse); Saints (Miller, Freeman, Gagnon, Hangst)
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears, Monday Night Football
B/R Consensus Pick: Cowboys (7-5)
Freeman: Cowboys, 24-14
Dallas' running game might generate 200 yards against that pathetic Bears run defense.
Hangst: Bears, 24-23
The Cowboys might not need many heroics out of Tony Romo in Chicago, with the Bears giving up a dismal 153.6 rushing yards per game.
Their defense needs to beware of Chicago's passing game, however, with Alshon Jeffery in the midst of his impressive second-year breakout and Josh McCown playing well in relief of the injured Jay Cutler. The national stage on the road hasn't been kind to the Cowboys, which makes them ripe for a loss.
Gagnon: Cowboys, 27-17
Chicago's run defense can't stop anybody, and the Cowboys are finally realizing how important DeMarco Murray is. Murray, who leads all qualified backs with 4.9 yards per carry, should dominate Chicago's D as the well-rested Cowboys continue to roll.
Kruse: Cowboys, 34-23
Murray once rushed for a Cowboys' single-game record 253 yards. He could certainly push 200 against this Bears defense. It's that bad.
Other Picks: Cowboys (Schottey, Bowen, Miller, Frenz); Bears (Schalter, Hansen)