Wow. We are rapidly approaching the end of the NFL’s regular season. With every team having played twelve games, week fourteen signals the start of the “final quarter” of the year. So that means we’re going to get some clear visuals on the playoff terrain. Let’s start this Opening Drive, shall we?
(8-4) Indianapolis Colts at
(8-4) Cincinnati Bengals
The Colts may have staved off a collapse by beating the Titans last weekend, but the Bengals are a tough-nosed squad with an aggressive front seven that can and will take advantage of Indy’s failing offensive line. Andy Dalton hasn’t been overly impressive the past month or so, but he has more reliable weapons around him than does Luck. I’ll be checking in on this game routinely, but I expect the Bengals to hold court at home.
(3-9) Atlanta Falcons at
(5-6-1) Green Bay Packers
The Packers haven’t won a game without Aaron Rodgers on the field this season. Their best result was a tie against the crappy Vikings. Now they welcome in the equally as terrible Falcons, who would love to play spoiler to Green Bay’s playoff hopes. Even though Matt Flynn is under center once again, I think the Packers will have an easier time moving the ball than they did against the Lions on Thanksgiving. And with ten days off, they should be rested enough to pick up a home win. But I wouldn’t put money on Matt Flynn beating Matt Ryan.
(4-8) Cleveland Browns at
(9-3) New England Patriots
The good news for the Browns is that Jason Campbell has been cleared to practice and will in all likelihood start on Sunday after recovering from a concussion. The bad news is that he’ll have to match points with Tom Brady. Unlike Weeden (who has a decent long ball), Campbell doesn’t push it down the field as much, meaning Josh Gordon may not have anywhere near 200+ yards in this game.
(4-8) Oakland Raiders at
(5-7) New York Jets
Now is the time when I start paying less attention to contests between teams that are irrelevant when it comes to the postseason. The Jets are starting Geno Smith again, so it could be another turnover-fest in Jersey. New York desperately needs to know what it has in Smith, so he should start for the rest of the season, regardless of what happens. I don’t even know what Oakland is doing anymore.
(7-5) Detroit Lions at
(7-5) Philadelphia Eagles
Well lookee here! We got ourselves a real chance for a shoot-out here. The Eagle corners are not equipped to handle Megatron, so don’t be surprised if he goes off, despite his lingering knee issues. But with Nick Foles may be playing about as well as any quarterback in the league right now, the Lion defense may not be able to force him into bad decisions. I kinda like Philly here. Kinda. Unfortunately, I can’t trust either of these teams.
(6-6) Miami Dolphins at
(5-7) Pittsburgh Steelers
The Mike Wallace Revenge Game is upon us! You can bet the speedster is ready to unleash hell on his former team,as they didn’t give him “respect…” in the form of mega-money. Despite the mediocrity of the teams involved, this game could actually be entertaining. Roethlisberger is at least good for a few enjoyable sacks. Miami could earn their way into the playoff discussion with a win, but it wouldn’t last long.
(4-8) Buffalo Bills at
(3-9) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bills are looking toward the future as E.J. Manuel gets more game experience under his belt. And the future does look brighter than it did last season. Meanwhile the Bucs could be playing their way into another season of Greg Schiano. Those are some imposingly dark skies in Florida. But as for this game…
(9-3) Kansas City Chiefs at
(3-9) Washington Offensive Names
The Chiefs are on a three game losing streak, but Alex Smith and an inept offense hasn’t been the culprit of their failures. The defense that was previously so dominant has struggled to get a pass rush on opposing quarterbacks. This week they’ll face RG3, who has been having plenty of struggles of his own. Washington owns the best running game in the NFL, so the Chiefs will have to hunker down and stack the box.
Oh, and Dan Snyder? The Chiefs are an example of how not to insult Native Americans with your team’s name. Ass.
(3-8-1) Minnesota Vikings at
(6-6) Baltimore Ravens
Adrian Peterson will be squaring off against the sixth ranked rushing defense, so I’d imagine the Ravens will force Matt Cassel (who’s starting now, for some fucking reason) to beat them. Dennis Pitta has been activated from the IR list, meaning soon Joe Flacco will see his favorite tight end on the field. (Heyo.) But Pitta shouldn’t be necessary to outscore the Vikings.
(5-7) Tennessee Titans at
(10-2) Denver Broncos
Normally I steer clear of making sweeping predictions about divisional games, just because they’re usually such a dog-fight. Teams that play each other twice a year simply know each other too well. But not in this game. It’s Ryan Fitzpatrick versus Peyton Manning. (Ya know, in the way that quarterbacks don’t actually play against each other.) The Harvard Beard can’t play with the Crusher of Dreams and Destroyer of Worlds.
(5-7) St. Louis Rams at
(7-5) Arizona Cardinals
After Carson “Palmer’d” all over himself last week versus Philadelphia, he has a shot to redeem himself against NFC West bunk-mate St. Louis. If Arizona’s defense can’t handle Kellen Clemens, they don’t deserve to get into the playoffs. No other analysis necessary.
(5-7) New York Giants at
(5-7) San Diego Chargers
Eli Manning. Philip Rivers. I’m going to set the over/under on interceptions/fumbles at 63.5. Who’s in? (And I’m ignoring the playoff hopes of these teams. Sorry.)
(11-1) Seattle Seahawks at
(8-4) San Francisco 49ers
Seattle will be without corner Brandon Browner and receiver Percy Harvin again, but we saw what their offensive line can do when completely healthy. While I do love the Seahawks and feel confident in putting them down as the NFC’s number one seed, this would be a completely acceptable game for them to lose. On the road versus a desperate divisional opponent? Totally could happen. That’s why it’s the “Trap of the Week.”
(9-3) Carolina Panthers at
(9-3) New Orleans Saints
Sunday Night Football brings us another doozy this week, as the Saints try to rebound after their Monday night thumping at the hands of the Seahawks. After failing to stake claim to the NFC’s number one seed, the Saints now have to try and hold onto the NFC South! The Panthers are in for a helluva game at the Superdome, but their defense has the front seven necessary to shut down the Saint running game and pressure Drew Brees. But can they keep them under 21 points? That’s about where they’d need to be in order for the Panther offense to have a realistic chance. Cam Newton doesn’t have the deep threats to win a shoot-out against Brees.
And there you go. Go get ready for a long day of football tomorrow! I’ll be back with a preview of the Bears’ Monday night match-up against the Cowboys.