NFL Week 14 Picks: Predicting the Winner of All 16 Matchups

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2014

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) shakes hands with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) following an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh won 30-20.(AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

Week 14 of the NFL schedule may not feature a potential Super Bowl preview like the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots showdown from Sunday, but there are plenty of high-stakes clashes with playoff implications.

The Patriots travel to San Diego to take on the Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs play the Arizona Cardinals, the Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles face off in a potential playoff preview and the Pittsburgh Steelers travel to Cincinnati for a critical AFC North game against the Bengals.

Here is a look at the predictions for every single Week 14 contest as well as a closer look at that AFC North battle.

Week 14 NFL Predictions
MatchupPredicted Winner
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago BearsCowboys
St. Louis Rams at WashingtonRams
Houston Texans at Jacksonville JaguarsTexans
New York Giants at Tennessee TitansTitans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit LionsLions
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans SaintsSaints
Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland BrownsColts
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati BengalsBengals
New York Jets at Minnesota VikingsVikings
Baltimore Ravens at Miami DolphinsDolphins
Kansas City Chiefs at Arizona CardinalsCardinals
Buffalo Bills at Denver BroncosBroncos
San Francisco 49ers at Oakland Raiders49ers
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia EaglesEagles
New England Patriots at San Diego ChargersPatriots
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay PackersPackers

AFC Game to Watch: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

Everyone in the AFC North is 7-5 except the 8-3-1 Cincinnati Bengals, so this is a critical game for both teams. The Pittsburgh Steelers need to make up some ground, but the Bengals can’t afford to drop a divisional home game with so many teams right on their heels.

On the season, Cincinnati is an impressive 4-1-1 at home, while the Steelers are 3-3 on the road.

The Bengals have quietly won three games in a row after an embarrassing prime-time loss at home to the Cleveland Browns when everyone seemingly wrote them off as a serious AFC contender. All three of those wins came on the road, including difficult ones at the Superdome and at the Houston Texans.

The Steelers have lost two of three, including an inexplicable loss to the New York Jets, and the one recent win was by a measly three points over the lowly Tennessee Titans. If you want to base your pick solely on which team is playing better entering this game, the pick is clearly Cincinnati. 

One development to watch when Pittsburgh has the ball is the status of Ben Roethlisberger’s throwing hand after he banged it on the helmet of New Orleans Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton. The Steelers had to turn to the run in the immediate aftermath (he even handed it off with his left hand at times) and struggled on offense until some late scoring after the Saints had already virtually put the game away.

The good news is that Roethlisberger started to play better down the stretch, but it may not be a bad thing if Pittsburgh has to rely on the running game and Le’Veon Bell against the Bengals.

Jeremy Elliott of PennLive.com praised Bell after the loss to the Saints:

I was a little skeptical on Le'Veon Bell entering the season, but I'm convinced he is going to be the Steelers' horse for years to come. Bell ran with vigor in racking up 95 yards and a score. Even more impressive was his eight catches for 159 markers. Bell has been a dual-threat back the entire season and is on the fast track to being an NFL star.

After Sunday’s game with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bengals were 25th in the league against the run. The best way to attack this Cincinnati defense is on the ground, and the Steelers are built to do just that. Bell has 1,046 rushing yards and 643 receiving yards on the year and will be a serious problem for the Cincinnati defense all game.

Ideally, Pittsburgh would force the Cincinnati defense to press up to stop Bell, which would open Antonio Brown up over the top for a deep ball or two.

Brian Blanco/Associated Press

On the other side, the Cincinnati offense finally has all its critical pieces healthy.

A.J. Green missed time earlier in the season with injury, which allowed Mohamed Sanu to develop into a game-changer at wide receiver, while Giovani Bernard missed time at running back and allowed rookie Jeremy Hill to become one of the most consistent between-tackle runners in the entire league in November. Hill went for over 150 rushing yards in two separate games. 

The Bengals now have something of a balanced rushing attack, as Dan Clasgens of ESPN 1530 noted Sunday:

The Bengals offense struggled and only scored 14 points against Tampa Bay Sunday, but that was largely because quarterback Andy Dalton was sick. He commented on his condition, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com:

As the game went on, I started to feel better. I'm not going to make any excuses for the way things started out. It obviously isn't something that you want to deal with, but I'm not saying that's the reason things came out the way it did.

Don Wright/Associated Press

Presuming Dalton is fine by this game, the Bengals should be able to attack the Steelers defense that is middle of the road at best and 21st in the league in points allowed per game after Sunday’s loss to the Saints. Cincinnati will utilize the running combination of the speedy Bernard and powerful Hill early and then hit its two wide receivers for a couple of big plays later in the game.

Cincinnati is playing better football than Pittsburgh, will be at home and should be able to put up some points against the Steelers defense. Look for a critical home victory for the Bengals that will solidify their grasp on the division.

Prediction: Bengals 27, Steelers 20

 

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