Dec. 10, 2019
NFL Week 14 Preview
The 2019 season is now in its 4th quarter. Just like a typical week in the NFL, in which most games come down to the wire, most of the playoff races are still up in the air and ready to be determined in this final quarter. The Saints became the first team to clinch a playoff berth when they locked up the division title on Thanksgiving night. Every other spot is still up in the air, although it would take a few miracles for a few certain teams to fall out of the picture. But in the NFL, you truly cannot take anything for granted. Any given Sunday, any team can win. So if your team is not mathematically eliminated yet, don't give up hope. And if your team hasn't clinched anything yet, don't celebrate until they do. Because, while we can speculate all we want, like I am about to do, the game is not played on paper. But in the meantime, the paper is all we have for each of the following games.
Ravens vs Bills
No contending team has gotten less attention than the Buffalo Bills. Despite being just a step behind New England in the standings, Buffalo has gotten little-to-no recognition around the league. I'm sure many NFL fans couldn't name more than a few Bills' players, and some probably couldn't name their head coach. After their Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys, they may finally get the recognition they deserve. While they have not had many impressive wins to their name, I do believe the Bills have what it takes to present a challenge to even the best of teams, and no one has been better than their week 14 opponent.
It seems that every single week the Ravens find ways to impress. With every new challenge that is thrown their way, the Ravens find a way to bring home a win and appear even more dominant than the week before. The rest of the league desperately needs someone to stop their momentum and bring them back to earth before the playoffs. The Bills might be the last chance to do that. But even with top tier defense, a roaring crowd of passionate fans, and a little bit of chilly weather to slow them down, it's hard to see Baltimore's momentum stopping. It's beginning to look like we may not see a Baltimore loss for quite some time.
Ravens win, 24-16
49ers vs Saints
Every NFL team wants that coveted 1st-seed when the postseason comes around. Getting an extra week of rest and securing home-field advantage makes a Super Bowl run just a little less daunting. In the NFC, the 49ers and Saints have been the leading candidates for this spot for several weeks. and this game right here could very well be the difference maker between these two 10-win teams. The Saints' only goal at the moment is taking that top spot after being the first team to clinch their division. The 49ers, on the other hand, are less concerned about the 1st seed and more concerned about simply reclaiming the division lead that they just lost for the first time this year.
While both teams are undoubtedly in the top tier of the NFL, one of them, in my opinion, has proven to be a small notch ahead of the other. San Francisco has not let off the gas once all year long. They've bowled over all the lower tier competition and remained strong against every contender they've faced as well. While they do have a pair of losses to their name, it is hard to knock them for 3-point losses to great teams like Seattle and Baltimore who have the MVP front-runners on their side. New Orleans is just as good, if not better, than San Fran when they are at their best, but far too often they play much lower than their potential. Both their losses were ugly, and a few of their wins have been unimpressive. I expect much more consistency from a team with veterans Drew Brees and Sean Payton at the helm. Instead, the young hotshots in the bay area have shown the kind of consistency that wins in this league, and that's why I trust them to come through this Sunday.
49ers win, 30-23
Chiefs vs Patriots
One of the best football games we've seen in the past 12 months was the AFC Championship between these two teams. That matchup was anticipated for weeks as both looked poised to make a strong playoff run right out of the gate. The game absolutely lived up to hype as the NFL's MVP would take his team to OT before NFL's greatest dynasty would get the job done once again, just as they would again 2 weeks later. Now as we approach the rematch, both teams lead their respective divisions, but neither one appears to be as big of a threat as last year. Patrick Mahomes has still been playing great football in 2019, but opposing defenses have found ways to keep him out of the endzone, which means Kansas City's glaring weaknesses are costing them more games than last season. The Patriots seemed to be stronger than ever for much of the year, but when you realize how average they have looked against the few contenders on their schedule, it's hard to view them as a top tier team. So while both teams are nearly a lock to reach the postseason, this game is still an important one to gain some momentum and get their magic back.
Many people want to see this as a Mahomes vs Brady matchup, but I don't see it that way at all. Not how this season is going. While Mahomes is one of the league's best at the moment, Brady is finally showing signs of a decline. Brady is on pace to have his worst season in the last 10 years. That isn't to say that he's been horrible, but he certainly isn't at the top of his game. There is no way that he can keep up with Mahomes in a shootout. But the Patriots haven't dominated for 2 decades because Brady carried them. The Patriots dominate because they do all the little things right. They play good, fundamental football at its absolute best. Although that style couldn't get them out of Baltimore or Houston with a win, against a KC team with many holes, their odds still seem good without Brady at the top of his game, especially on their home turf.
Patriots win, 28-26
Seahawks vs Rams
I'm sure there were many NFL fans anticipating Seattle and L.A. to battle at the top of the division just as they did the past couple seasons. That was before the 49ers would launch their way to the top of the division by winning their whole 1st-half schedule. While the Seahawks stayed hot on San Francisco's tail until they would overtake them last week, the Rams have been stuck in a distant 3rd-place ever since a 3-game losing streak that included losses to both teams above them. L.A. now has virtually no chance at the division title, but they do have a real shot at a wild card. Doing so will be no easy task with rematches against Seattle and San Fran still to go, but if they can overcome those obstacles, there will be no doubting that they deserve to be in the postseason.
The Rams did look solid in their week 5 loss in Seattle. Losing by a score of 30-29, Goff threw for nearly 400 yards and Gurley ran for a pair of TD's. The game went back and forth with the Rams having control late in the 4th quarter. But after the Seahawks took the lead back in the final minutes, the Rams couldn't respond when it mattered most. Goff threw a costly INT on the ensuing drive. Then, after the defense gave them one more chance, L.A. began moving the ball down the field, only to stall out around Seattle's 30-yard-line and miss a game-winning field goal. That game really highlights the difference between these 2 teams. I could argue that the Rams have more talent than the Seahawks. But what they are lacking is the poise under pressure. They lack the kind of intangible qualities that can't be taught. Seattle, on the other hand, is continuing to thrive because they come through in the clutch week after week, and I don't see them stopping any time soon.
Seahawks win, 31-26