After another week of mediocre picks I can’t help but think I owe it to anyone that still has any faith in me to at least give my reasoning behind each pick from here on out. While it is a bit tedious to do so, it will show that I am not blindly bullshitting my way through things. Last week was another week of games that were maybe only surprising to me. What I did pick incorrectly were games that at first glance prior to the season might have been upset picks. Alas here we are in Week 14 and this is what we’ve got going for ya.
Houston over JACKSONVILLE- Both teams look primed to take the #1 pick in this year’s draft though both had opposite expectations coming into the year. While this may seem like a throw-away game (and it generally is for Jacksonville every week), Gary Kubiak’s job is on the line again, even though it seemed to be safe heading into the year going forward. Houston still has some weapons and the top-rated defense in the league. Ben Tate had a huge game last week and will be looking to make the same impact this time around. Chad Henne should have a solid game along with Cecil Shorts and MJD should have decent production but it should stop there. Look for a close one with Houston pulling it out.
GREEN BAY over Atlanta- Whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Scott Tolzien the Packers are in good shape at Lambeau Field. If Rodgers does play, this shouldn’t be terribly close. And if he doesn’t play, the running game will be an even bigger factor and the score won’t reach the 30s. Either way, the Pack’s chances of making the playoffs are dwindling, even with a very close margin between 1st and 3rd within the division. The best chance of making the playoffs this season resides within the division but must be taken care of starting now. The Falcons got a win last week and still maintain an even-keel locker room, but the jury was out long ago as to whether this team could contend for much of anything. Perhaps with Roddy White back at full strength things are improved a bit, but it will take a big effort from Matty Ice this week to come away with a W.
TAMPA BAY over Buffalo- In a yawner of a game when considering playoff implications, these two teams may very well provide some fireworks with two rookie QBs and young defenses with promise going forward. While I expect CJ Spiller and/or Fred Jackson to have a solid day running the ball, Tampa Bay has improved enough recently on defense to come away with the favorable prognosis. While Revis Island hasn’t been in effect this season very much, the Bills receivers don’t pose much of a threat even in the zone coverage that the Bucs have been playing for most of the season. Steve Johnson has been dealing with injuries on and off for a while and Marquise Goodwin is still too young to be consistent enough in the league. Mike Glennon should be solid in this one and Vincent Jackson will break one or two to make this go in his team’s favor.
CINCINNATI over Indianapolis- Cincy walks into this game with two other teams in its division (Baltimore and Pittsburgh) really hitting their stride. The Bengals need to win this one, especially since it’s at home, to ensure they keep their distance. Indianapolis on the other hand has been an interesting team this year beating teams like Denver and then getting blown out by teams like St. Louis. Andrew Luck has really been struggling since Reggie Wayne went down with a season-ending injury. For the Colts to have a chance the running game must be working and the defense must contain AJ Green (who has not been stellar of recent). With a running game that works and defense that is intimidating, the Bengals should have more than enough to come away with the win.
NEW ENGLAND over Cleveland- Playing at Foxborough this weekend is just one of many reasons we can point to as to why the Pats will win this one. But the Browns are a quality team and they will fight. Josh Gordon has blossomed into a young star in the making even without consistent play at the QB spot. Look for him to have another above-average game and for the defense to put in some good work against Tom Brady. Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen are the two players I am looking at to have the most value in this game. Look for Joe Haden to play in the slot from time to time while rotating coverage on Danny Amendola and Edelman. Still, Brady and the Patriots win this one comfortably.
PHILADELPHIA over Detroit- In perhaps the toughest pick of the week, I have the Eagles getting the win over the Lions. And it comes down to which defense has the best chance of coming through first. Both offenses will undoubtedly score some points but playing at home and playing great of recent is why I have the Philly defense coming through on this one. The pass rush has been very good and the run defense has been adequate. Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush (perhaps with a little Joique Bell sprinkled in) should have good games but it will come down to Matthew Stafford and whether he can protect the ball. My guess is that the opportunistic Philadelphia defense gets 3 turnovers and a +2 differential that ultimately wins this one.
Kansas City over WASHINGTON- As RGIII continues to show his vulnerability in the pocket the Skins continue to come up short. Alfred Morris has had another very good season despite less touches overall and Pierre Garcon is getting lots of targets. Other than that, this game will be a showcase of the KC running game and Jamaal Charles. Alex Smith is the anti-Robert Griffin, and for the Chiefs that is just what they need. Their defense has also been very good for much of the season, though showing some signs of slowing down in recent weeks. Expect Kansas City to get to Griffin at least 5 times and this game to be decided well before the beginning of the 4th quarter.
Oakland over NY JETS- Even with a talented defense line, the Jets continue to bottle up opposing offenses. Matt McGloin might not be a quality starting QB in the NFL but he has more talent surrounding him than Geno Smith and his offensive line is much better as well. Without many positives on either side of the ball for both teams, this one looks pretty ugly and will likely be a good ol’ fashioned ground and pound until someone makes a mistake. Look for some trick plays from Oakland and an effort to get the ball to their athletes as often as possible. The Jets won’t be rolling over at home but without a real threat on offense it will be interesting to see where their scores come from.
PITTSBURGH over Miami- As much as it pains me to say, the Steelers are coming on strong. Sure, they just took a loss to my beloved Ravens, but they made it close and they should be feared in every game to end this season. Le’Veon Bell has run the ball very well of recent and Antonio Brown has been arguably the most consistent receiver in the NFL this season while leading the league in receptions. Unfortunately an aging and injured defense coupled with not much else to rely on offensively has been a poor combination in Pittsburgh. The Dolphins once has an undefeated record in a Monday Night game with New Orleans, now they are an embattled, broken-down team in turmoil, but that hasn’t stopped them. In spite of it all, the Dolphins continue to play solid football. Look for Lamar Miller to finally shoulder the load with Daniel Thomas out and a solid cast of pass-catchers in Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, and Charles Clay to really help young Ryan Tannehill. Still, Big Ben Roethlisberger has come on strong the last few weeks and will drag his team to victory one way or another.
BALTIMORE over Minnesota- Adrian Peterson will have a big game. You can put money on it. Aside from that, the Vikings won’t do much of anything. Depending on which team comes to face them, they might not need anyone else. The Ravens have had a tendency in the past few years, much less this season, to both play up and down to competition. If they can come out confident in the big play ability of receiver Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, and mix in some power running from both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce, it should be a runaway for Baltimore. If that doesn’t happen, expect a tight one that could come down to the last possession.
DENVER over Tennessee- I could just saying “Peyton Manning” and that would be sufficient. But devaluing the effort of Knowshon Moreno and the Denver offensive line wouldn’t be fair. The running game has been the saving grace for a team that gains its notoriety from its big-play passing game. Eric Decker, Demauryius Thomas, and of course Wes Welker has been solid all year long and when healthy, Julius Thomas has been one of the best TEs in the game. A defense that was supposed to be much better, the Broncos are still struggling. Chris Johnson will continue to produce, but his value in fantasy and otherwise comes down to his ability to get in the end zone. Look for a big day for one of the many random Titan WRs. With a concussion to Delanie Walker, the receivers will get lots of targets in a game they are sure to be down in quickly.
St. Louis over ARIZONA- In my surprise pick of the week I have the Rams beating the Cardinals. While this is not one of the sexier games on paper, these are actually two very good teams (or more specifically two very good defenses). Much of this game will come down to which team can run the ball effectively. My money is on Zac Stacy to come through with big numbers and the dink and dunk passing game to be working well for St. Louis while Rashard Mendenall or whichever un-American running back they have not fairing quite as well. Carson Palmer has been very good recently and that comes from two hard-working receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
SAN DIEGO over NY Giants- In a battle of formerly traded QBs these two teams come in with the same record but different paths. San Diego has been consistently inconsistent but is very good at home. If the running game is working and Danny Woodhead is getting touches then the Chargers are in business. If Woodhead gets less than 15 touches the Giants will likely run away with the game. Conversely, if Andre Brown continues to look solid and Eli Manning can actually have a decent game then the Giants are just as likely to pull this one off. Philip Rivers has been awesome this year regardless of how his team has performed. This truly is a game where anything can happen.
SAN FRANCISCO over Seattle- In a game that most figured would determine the division winner (though it will because of win differential), the two teams come in with different mind-sets. Seattle is close to wrapping up home-field advantage and has played awesome of late. Russell Wilson continues his stellar play and the Seahawk defense hasn’t slowed down. Though Percy Harvin looks to be shut down for the rest of the regular season after his return last week, Michael Crabtree looks like a missing piece to the 49ers puzzle. Colin Kaepernick needs the chemistry of last season with Crabtree to come through again. If it does, they could be a favorite heading into the playoffs whether home or away. I think the San Fran running game comes through in this one and the passing game does enough to make up the difference.
NEW ORLEANS over Carolina- After an embarrassing loss in Seattle, even though many teams have suffered the same fate, the Saints come into this very short week with a chance to take over the division lead. Getting the running game going will be helpful but getting the big play passing game going is most important. Drew Brees will want to get the hurry-up offense working early. For the Panthers, Cam Newton wants to control the clock and not turn the ball over. If he can get some help from his receivers and his defense then he should be in a good spot. If Carolina can win this one on the road they will be in a great position to win the division with a rematch coming up in Week 16.
CHICAGO over Dallas- At this point it might not matter whether Jay Cutler or Josh McCown are starting in this game. With Matt Forte running the ball and Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery catching passes this offense looks like it’s for real. Unfortunately, the defense is now the problem and against Dallas it might not be a problem they can overcome. Luckily, Tony Romo is in town and he turns the ball over. On a cold December night in Chicago, the Bears will put up enough points and gets enough turnovers to win in spite of good games by Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Demarco Murray.