NFL Week Fourteen Preview

by Ryan Meehan

The first week of December brings us week fourteen of the NFL season, in which several teams will likely be eliminated from playoff contention.  A couple of top tier teams like the Patriots and the Cardinals lost tough games against division leaders on Sunday afternoon, and starting on Thursday the Eagles proved that they could easily be in that conversation as well – but they’re not alone.  The Chargers and the Seahawks both made convincing points that lead me to believe they might be Super Bowl contenders, while teams like Kansas City and Dallas really struggled to remain in the debate over this topic.  This week should bring us some killer games…I don’t know for sure, but since guessing is my game let’s see what I think may happen in week fourteen of the NFL season.

Thursday Night Football:  Dallas Cowboys (8-4) -3.5 at Chicago Bears (5-7)  (51.5)   

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Two teams that got smoked like burnt turkeys on Thanksgiving day will play each other on Thursday night before getting ten long days off.  This one is a tough one for me to get excited about…The Bears are of course a very confusing squad because they have a lot of talent at the wide receiver position, yet you see very few big plays coming out of that camp.  In a weird way it kind off reminds me of Dallas, who pretty much mirrored that quandry on Turkey Day when they were only able to get in the end zone at home once.  The Cowboys just have that “I still can’t trust you” feel to them – here again they should be much better than – and you just know they are going to lose their first playoff game…if they do get in.  I really do deep down wish that this game would end in a tie, but with Chicago failing to produce points when it counts I am taking Dallas to cover in what should be an excruciatingly painful football game to watch.  And 51.5 for a total is ludicrous.

Cowboys 19, Bears 13   

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) +2.5 at Miami Dolphins (7-5)  (44.5)   

Okay, so I admit I mailed in the write-up of the Monday Night game.  I’ve gotten some sleep and after some close examination, I still think that the Dolphins have a chance to regroup and take this one.  At least I thought I did…Even though I get that the Ravens were up ten on San Diego with four minutes left in that game and still lost, the Chargers are a good team and that’s bound to happen every once in a while.  Miami looked a little soft offensively in the MNF game now that I’ve had a chance to check it out, but at the same time the Jets were out for blood and wanted nothing more to ruin the Dolphins’ night and played very good defense.  Plus this is the same team who scored 36 points in Denver just two weeks back, so shouldn’t they be in good shape to take out Baltimore at home.  Oh, Who am I kidding?  I flip-flop more than a sandal in the bunker.  I’m taking the Ravens here, and I like the over on the point total as well.

Ravens 27, Dolphins 20         

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) -3.5 at Cleveland Browns (7-5)   (49.5)

A couple of weeks back I would have thought this would be a great game, but the doubt surrounding the Browns after yet another poor offensive showing has led me to believe it could be a long day for the Dawg Pound.  This was compounded this week when ESPN drummed up this huge bullshit debate over whether the Browns should start Johnny Manzeil in the game, a guy who has five completions in his long and storied NFL career.  All of that was quelled on Thursday when head coach Mike Pettine finally announced that he would continue to trust Hoyer with the starting job.  And thank God, because as much as I love Johnny there is no way that you start a guy with that little pro experience facing the Colts during the middle of a playoff run in which your division is a complete nightmare.  For every Colts hater on the planet that isn’t buying this year’s run (even though their losses have come against some good teams) just remember this:  They have scored the most points in the AFC all year, and have tallied over thirty in half of their games.  I get that sometimes that defense isn’t much to write home about, but something tells me they are going to have a big day exposing a team that might not be as good as their record would indicate.  It may happen, but I don’t feel comfortable about the spread.  I’m taking the Colts but not to cover, and stay away from the point total altogether.

Colts 24, Browns 20   

Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) +11 at New Orleans Saints (5-7)  (49.5)

The Saints looked strong early against an explosive Steelers team last week, but they almost threw the game away in the same fashion that they did in week seven against the Lions.  Let’s be honest, their defense is in rough shape.  They have a lot of issues with their secondary that can not solely be blamed on injuries, and there are a lot of first-stringers on that defense who are not living up to expectations.  Thankfully they’ll be facing Carolina, who can’t buy a break and seems to be playing poorly in almost every facet of the game.  They had two punts blocked last week by the Vikings, and nothing they seem to be doing from scrimmage is working.  They have entire drives where Mike Shula is almost forced to call plays he knows won’t work, but his only other options will result in sure turnovers.  At first glance this line looked outrageous, but upon further examination I get it.  Saints cover, and Carolina probably won’t score twenty points in another game this year so they had better enjoy this delicious loss while they can.  Point total should be over and is a total gift.

Saints 32, Panthers 20   

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) +3 at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1)   (47)

The Steelers lost a close one last week in the Superdome, and the Bengals barely scraped by Tampa as well.  Neither team played particularly well, but I get the feeling that this bitter division rivalry will wake up even the most tired participants and you will see some excellent football here.  The Steelers are still anybody’s guess…they disappear for entire quarters and halves at a time, and when they are on they’re on (see Indianpolis game) but when they’re bad they’re atrocious (see week 6 vs Cleveland) so you never really know.  The Bengals still have that tie in their back pocket, which grants them that extra non-loss which might be very important come week 17 when we find out who moves forward.  I think that perhaps we’ll see a bit of a shootout here, and that we’ll see “Got all of his ducks in a row” Andy Dalton as opposed to the one who urinates in drinking fountains and goes 9 for 31.  I like the Bengals at home to cover, and I love the over on the point total of this one.

Bengals 34, Steelers 27    

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) +10.5 at Detroit Lions (8-4)  (41.5)

Ah yes…There’s nothing quite like an old school NFC Central battle.  When these teams were in the same division, both the Lions and the Buccaneers were horrid.  Even with players like Barry Sanders, the Lions were so bad that believe it or not the Buccaneers ended up winning a Super Bowl while Detroit’s trophy case is still Lombardiless.  The Lions perhaps have the better current situation now – Tampa is one of the five worst teams in the league at the moment, and Matthew Stafford is thriving in the pocket.  He’s a tough kid, and I don’t think that he gets enough credit for the number of shots he takes.  When you think about it there have been some games where I have seen him throw the ball fifty times, so even if he’s not getting pressured on every play he is still getting hit a lot.  However Detroit could very easily end up playing themselves out of the playoffs, although it is unlikely.  They’ll get the Vikings next week who are somewhat surging, the Bears the week after at Soldier Field, and then of course they close their season out at Lambeau Field against the Packers.  Green Bay has a much easier schedule from here, so I don’t foresee any way that the Packers don’t win the division.  So what it’s going to come down to is pretty much how the NFC West finishes out and if there is room for a team like the Lions to sneak in.  I like Detroit to cover here – The spread does worry me a little, but the Bucs are so impotent on offense they might put up 16 points.  MIGHT.

Lions 33, Buccaneers 16    

Houston Texans (6-6) -5.5 at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)   (42) 

The Texans have slowly gotten it together on offense, but unfortunately for them it has been too late in the season for them to make a legitimate AFC playoff push.  And until they can get get their quarterback situation straight, they’re not going to be able to jump the San Diegos and Kansas Cities that they are going to be competing for those wild card spots with as long as Andrew Luck isn’t holed up in a hospital room somewhere.  That being said, Fitzpatrick did throw for six touchdowns last week…too bad the NFL has overdone protecting the quarterback to the point where that number doesn’t even really mean anything anymore.  Jacksonville is coming off of a big comeback win against the Giants last week where they were dead in the water and somehow got out of it, and you know what?  Good for them.  Even though I’m a Giants fan, their fans totally deserved to see something cool like that and the Giants need every ass whooping they can get to remind them how dire their current predicament has become.  The Texans should be better next year – I can’t imagine they will be a sub-.500 team.  I just don’t know how anybody fails being in the same locker room as JJ Watt.  That guy is a straight up champion.  Houston covers, but barely.

Texans 23, Jaguars 17     

New York Jets (2-10) +7 at Minnesota Vikings (5-7)  (40.5)

I know the suspense leading up to this game is probably killing you, but both of these teams are dreaming big.  The Vikings dream that they will wake up tomorrow in the NFC South, where they would be in first place.  The Jets dream that they will wake up tomorrow and have a real coach, a decent quarterback, an offensive coordinator who doesn’t watch soccer, and a general manager who doesn’t eat his breakfast cereal with his fingers.  Believe it or not, I have become quite impressed with Minnesota as of late.  They lost a perennial MVP caliber player that was about 40 to 65% of their total offense, and they’ve gone out and played some good teams close.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect the Vikings to go 12-4 anytime soon, but they have been playing very well after every one of us had written them off for dead.  Holy mother of butthair wax the Jets are bad.  Now it’s not even pleasant to watch them suffer, and I’m not totally convinced that both Michael Vick and Geno Smith are secretly rooting for the other to get the starting gig week to week so they won’t be in a body cast for their vacation. Minnesota easily covers this spread, and the Jets spiral even further into their vortex of non-stop losses and unforgivable offensive performances.  Avoid the point total like the plague.

Vikings 33, Jets 10    

New York Giants (3-9) EVEN at Tennessee Titans (2-10)  (44.5)  

The Giants are so far beyond weak it’s not even funny.  How else could you explain blowing an 18 point lead to the Jacksonville Jaguars?  In a year where they started the season 3-2, Big Blue has lost seven games in a row.  With Rashad Jennings unlikely to play in this one, all of the chips fall into the lap of Andrew Williams on every play where Eli isn’t handing the ball to the other team.  But for every bit as bad as the Giants have been, the Titans are just as bad and in some cases worse.  They’re last in the league at defending the run – if you’d even call that defending – and are only rushing the ball for less than 89 yards per game on offense.  Those are numbers that reflect a pathetic home record of 1-4 where their only home win was against Jacksonville.  I can’t expect New York to blow this one against one of the worst teams in the league, but I will hardly be shocked if they do.  Stay under for the point total.

Giants 20, Titans 17    

St. Louis Rams (5-7) -2.5 at Washington Redskins (3-9)  (44.5)

What I’m about to say is a very unusual comment for me to make about a team with a losing record.  It goes against everything I believe in, but consider the following facts:  I picked the San Francisco 49ers to win the Super Bowl this year, and that’s not going to happen.  I love the Seahawks, but they may not win the NFC West.  And I thought I believed in the Arizona Cardinals, but after two straight losses the drinks are starting to wear off and I can see through the makeup.  I am buying the only other team in that division (that will not make the playoffs this year) as your surprise team of 2015.  With San Francisco struggling and not a lot of folks investing a lot of faith into the Cardinals until they get a franchise quarterback, the Rams are set to take on a lot of these teams whom they once looked up to and eventually come after Seattle.  Against the bottom feeders, this is target practice.  Speaking of target practice – Enter the Washington Redskins, who are one finely placed circumcision related pun from being the biggest dick joke in a league where the Jaguars and Raiders dominate that style of humor.  (Did you figure it out yet?  If not, keep thinking before you advance…)  It doesn’t even technically matter whether the Redskins are playing at home or not (2-3 is not that impressive for a home record) they are going to get lit up.  (Okay, okay…it’s “foreskin”…Are you happy now?)  Rams cover easily.

Rams 23, Redskins 9   

Buffalo Bills (7-5) +11.5 at Denver Broncos (9-3)  (47.5)

It must be difficult to be double digit dogs in a game where you enter the last month of the season at 7-5.  The only thing that will soften that blow would have to be the fact that at least you’re at Denver, until of course you realize…you’re playing Denver.  Then the reality of the whole event sets in, and all of a sudden you’re not flying over Kansas anymore.  I will say this:  Buffalo’s defense has impressed me a lot this year.  Their only really bad showing was against New England, but seriously…get in line.  The Broncos were struggling to run the ball, but their answer to the one real problem they had turned out to be CJ Anderson.  In the end, this will be a matter of a team that’s just chock full of experience up against a team that isn’t quite there yet.  Plus, it’s a late game and the Bills don’t find themselves in too many of those.  Too much talent, too much elevation, and too much everything for Buffalo on this day.  I say they look good for about a quarter and then it becomes the Peyton Manning show from there on out.  Denver to cover the spread and an easy over.

Broncos 34, Bills 20    

Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) EVEN at Arizona Cardinals (9-3)  (40)

How ironic that just two days after I printed an article where I suggested that this year’s Cardinals remind me of last year’s Chiefs, I find myself having to predict a game between those two teams.  It’s very possible that the loser of this game may be full of shit, so obviously I want the Cardinals to clean house here.  The only problem is they can’t seem to find the endzone enough to justify that 9-3.  I can’t think of another team that tanked so fast so hard that…Er…actually wait a minute, it’s the Chiefs.  Look, Jamaal Charles can run the ball over about 95% of the teams in the league all day, but the gig is starting to be up on that.  Everybody is well aware that whenever it’s play action the ball is almost always headed in Dwayne Bowe’s direction, and that’s caused a bit of a problem for KC because everybody knows that is what they are going to do if they look pass.  But they RARELY pass the ball, and chew up a lot of clock fast.  This is why they don’t score a lot, and it’s also why they are one of the poorer red zone teams when you look at squads with winning records.  Kind of like Arizona, a team who is averaging nine points a game over the past three weeks.  Hard to call, huh?  In other words, something’s got to give.  I like that something to be the Chiefs linebacking corps and secondary, so I’m taking Arizona in a close game at home even though I don’t entirely feel comfortable doing so.

Cardinals 20, Chiefs 16   

San Francisco 49ers (7-5) -9.5 at Oakland Raiders (1-11)  (41)

I understand that the San Francisco 49ers are a much better team than Oakland.  I also get that this is pretty much a home game for them, seeing as most of the players have about a twenty minute drive to get to the stadium in bad traffic.  And we can all agree that losing to a team that won’t make the playoffs by 52 points last week (albeit a good one) is inexcusable in any setting.  But how funny would it be if the Niners came out and just everything that was going wrong with them happened all at once and they lost the damn thing?  I’m not trying to throw salt on the wound here, but it would be a fun to see how Jim Harbaugh dodges those questions about his future after losing to a one win ballclub.  It would be interesting to see if Jed York gets on Twitter and apologizes to the fans again, and it would be even funnier if he suggested that maybe giving Colin Kaepernick 130 million dollars wasn’t the best idea for the team’s long term well-being.  I have just been very unimpressed by that franchise’s ability to show class in defeat, and I guess part of me doesn’t want them to get away with it anymore.  Please God, let it be true.  Going out on a limb here but I want it so bad I can taste it.

Raiders 20, 49ers 10   

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) EVEN at Philadelphia Eagles (9-3)  (48)

Please excuse the bad language, but this should be a fucking fantastic sporting event to witness.  If you have tickets to this game, there are very few reasons as to why you should miss it or be forced to sell them.  Let me just clear one thing up before we go any further:  I do believe that the Philadelphia Eagles should win this game.  They have a top 3 running back (who, you know…can keep it together for long enough to not miss the entire season) and plenty of above average receivers to which they can spread the ball around.  Their defense is playing better as of late, and they stuffed the Cowboys’ panties down their throats on Thanksgiving.  But Seattle may very well be in kill mode again, and when that switch is on I’m not sure that there’s a team in the league who can score 24 points on them.  They seem to have matched the intensity of last year’s run, the only question is “How long will it last?”.  I think it’s going to be a hard road ahead, but I like them to win this one and Sanchez to be kept under wraps.

Seahawks 23, Eagles 19      

Sunday Night Football:  New England Patriots (9-3) -3.5 at San Diego Chargers (8-4)  (51)

Where Tom Brady likely had some soreness Monday morning as a result of being planted on the cold Wisconsin earth, he should be able to bounce back from such hits in a city where it’s effectively August all year long.  The Chargers are ranked seventh against the pass, and that’s why this should be a welcome challenge for Brady.  But they gave up 33 points to the Ravens last week, and if they hadn’t won that game I might be sitting here saying the same things about Philip Rivers that I usually say about Alex Smith.  Even though the Patriots might still be the most complete team in the league, I don’t like them to cover the spread.  Point total seems like it’s exactly where it needs to be.  I don’t have a lot to say about this one other than I could see both of these teams winning a playoff game (which they both did last year) so it’s hard for me to pick this because I don’t want to see either of these teams lose.  But lose one shall…

Patriots 27, Chargers 24   

Monday Night Football:  Atlanta Falcons (5-7) +13 at Green Bay Packers (9-3)  (55.5)

The Packers took out the two-loss Patriots at home last week, and I see no reason why they shouldn’t be able to the same against a garbage Falcons team whose only true upside is the fact that the rest of their division might hand them the crown.  I realize that this is kind of hypocritical for me to say since I was so high on the Cardinals less than a month ago.  Atlanta is coming off of a huge home win against Arizona last week, a team who also had only two losses coming in.  And to be fair, they have looked like a ten win team this year at certain points.  That being said, the Falcons are game meat covered in gun powder here.  Green Bay is just way too good at the moment, and it’s going to be obvious that they are the better team even though Jon Gruden is going to give both QBs verbal handjobs throughout the whole broadcast.  Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are hardly used to the temperatures of Lambeau Field, hence the spread.  Packers cover, but keep the point total and the deed to the farm in your pocket.  Yeehaw.

Packers 31, Falcons 17     

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