Week 13 in the NFL was a good one in the picks department, as I went 13-3 and the only games I missed were really weird ones (Kansas City Chiefs over Chicago Bears, Houston Texans over Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals over Dallas Cowboys. Now on to Week 14, where teams are stumbling into Wildcard contention based on the failures of the front-runners in each conference.
In the NFC, the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants all lost their games last week. In the AFC, the Buffalo Bills have lost five games in a row and the Cincinnati Bengals have lost three of their last five, opening the door for the surging Denver Broncos and the quietly effective Tennessee Titans. How strange.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers- Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense has produced less than 300 total yards in two of the last three games, but the defense has been so good that the team is riding a three-game winning streak regardless of those offensive failings. The Browns are pretty bad, sporting the fourth-worst point differential in the AFC at -65 (the Colts are an appalling -184), and they are especially terrible on the road (1-4). Pick: Steelers
Kansas City Chiefs at New York Jets - The Chiefs offense has scored 10 points or less in each of the last five weeks, and if not for a miracle hail mary pass against the Bears they would have lost every one of those games as well. I really dislike putting faith in Mark Sanchez in any given week, but he can get at least 14 points for a stable Jets offense. Pick: Jets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars - Wow this is a horrible matchup. The Bucs are trying to plug holes on a defense that has given up 20 or more points in eight straight games, but the Jaguars are the second- worst scoring offense in the league (12.7 pts/gm). Something has to give, people! This game has local blackout written all over it. Even if Josh Freeman doesn't play, I think the Bucs break their six-game losing streak...not that it matter much at this point anyways. Pick: Bucs
New England Patriots at Washington Redskins - Random fun fact that vaguely illustrates the fact that Rex Grossman and the Redskins can't hang with the Tom Brady and Patriots offense: the Redskins have scored 202 points the entire season, while the Patriots have scored 177 points in the past six weeks alone. Pick: Patriots
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton is the anti-Tim Tebow. He's playing pure quarterback really well and nobody is really making a big deal about it yet. The Panthers have quietly created an offense that ranks No. 8 in passing, No. 5 in rushing, No. 5 in total offense and No. 8 in scoring. That's enough top-10 rankings for me to take the Panthers over Falcons team that is mediocre on the road (3-3). Pick: Panthers
Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins - Matt Moore and the Dolphins have been more creative and exciting in getting to their 4-8 record than the Eagles have been stumbling to theirs, but the Eagles are still far more talented. I don't really care that the Dolphins have won four of their last five games, because this one feels like a LeSean McCoy fantasy explosion of a performance for some reason. There is a possibility that Michael Vick will return in this one, but is there anything that can get DeSean Jackson interested again? Pick: Eagles
Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions - Is the latest Ndamukong Suh story a poignant metaphor for the Lions' season? Just as Suh lost control of his vehicle and crashed into a tree, the Lions have lost control of their season after going 2-3 in their last five games. Perhaps both situations will be marred by fundamental lies as well, considering Suh is being ratted out by passengers in the car and the Lions started 5-0 on the season to only have gone 2-5 since. The Falcons have an important tie-breaker over the Lions by virtue of a head-to-head victory earlier in the season, so Matthew Stafford et al. need to get things on track very quickly if they want to parlay their 5-0 start into a playoff berth. Good thing the Vikings suck. Pick: Lions
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans - Are the Titans for real? Is the resurgence of Chris Johnson legitimate? This might not be the right week to ask either question, because all signs point to Drew Brees and the Saints getting up early with a potent passing attack and taking Johnson out of the game. The Titans like to grind games out, but they won't stay close enough to grind the way they like. Pick: Saints
Houston Texans at Cincinnati Bengals - How the heck did third-string rookie QB T.J, Yates get a win over a motivated Falcons team fighting for an NFC Wildcard spot? That Texans defense is still pretty solid, that's how. My obligatory Bengals analysis for the past few weeks has been the following little gem: the Bengals have beaten one team with a record currently over .500, the 7-5 Tennessee Titans, but have lost to all other playoff contenders they have played this season (Broncos, 49ers, Steelers and Ravens). That being said, I do think the Bengals will break the trend in Week 14 for two reasons: (1) Andy Dalton is more comfortable at home than he has been on the road, and (2) as teams build film on T.J. Yates he will fall apart. Pick: Bengals
Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos - That Bears-Chiefs game is three-plus hours of my life I can never get back. Caleb Hanie has been an unmitigated disaster and is giving Bears fans everywhere flashbacks to Henry Burris and Chad Hutchinson. Meanwhile, ESPN won't stop talking about Tim Tebow even though the Denver defense has been the key to their recent streak. In a low-scoring affair, the Bears will make a special teams play or two and will shut down Tebow's option package. The zone-gap principles of the Tampa-2 defense are designed to destroy option lanes, and Timmy hasn't seen a defense with the speed and skill of the Bears' unit. Pick: Bears
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals have been peskier that I expected at this point in the season, going 4-1 in their last five games, but the 49ers are really good and the Cardinals are not. Sure the 49ers wrapped up the NFC West division title last week with a 26-0 win over the Rams, but they are still fighting for home-field advantage and a bye in the playoffs. Star linebacker Patrick Willis may not play (hamstring), and Kevin Kolb is back for Arizona, but that isn't anywhere near enough to bridge the talent gap between the two teams. Pick: 49ers
Buffalo Bills at San Diego Chargers - The Bills are in a complete free-fall after dropping their fifth-straight game in Week 13 and they have the third-worst scoring defense in the AFC (25.3 pts allowed/gm). Now that Malcolm Floyd has rejoined Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates to bolster the Chargers' passing attack, expect Philip Rivers to post better numbers down the stretch of the season. Pick: Chargers
Oakland Raiders at Green Bay Packers - I will keep picking the Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense to outscore their opponents until they prove me wrong. The Packers have scored more points on the season that the Raiders and the Rams combined. Pick: Packers
Sunday Night Game
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys - Just when the Giants reach the legitimate opponents on their schedule they rattle off a four-game losing streak that has them needing this game to even consider the playoffs a possibility. DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys are 4-1 in their last five games, and are a special team at home (5-1). Tony Romo likes to do dumb things in prime time games that matter, but that has always felt more like a fluke than a reliable trend. I'm taking the Cowboys to put the nail in the coffin. Pick: Giants
Monday Night Game
St. Louis Rams at Seattle Seahawks - The guy that is in charge of selecting the Monday Night Football matchups had better start updating his resume. This is yet another stinker for MNF, which has produced some eminently un-watchable games this season: Colts vs. Bucs, Dolphins vs. Jets, Ravens vs. Jaguars, Chargers vs. Chiefs, Vikings vs. Packers, Chiefs vs. Patriots, Chargers vs. Jaguars. There has to be something on TV that is better than this on Monday night. Pick: Seahawks
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