Dec. 14, 2017
NFL Week 14 Preview and Predictions
Week 14 Headlines
Giants Clean House: The New York Giants fired coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese on Monday following a turbulent week and a loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Brown Out: The Browns fired executive VP of football operations Sashi Brown on Thursday.
Gronk Suspended For One Game: After hitting Bills corner Tre’Davious White with a late elbow, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been suspended for one game.
Shazier Has Spinal Surgery: Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery Wednesday night to address his spinal injury suffered this week, the team announced Thursday.
Fantasy Football Start Em/Sit Em
Starting Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Derek Carr, Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, Case Keenum
Sitting Quarterbacks: Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles
Starting Running Backs: Lamar Miller, Jamaal Williams, Rex Burkhead, Samaje Perine
Sitting Running Backs: DeMarcco Murray, Latavius Murray, Ameer Abdullah, Jonathan Stewart
Starting Receivers: Michael Crabtree, Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, Sterling Shepard
Sitting Receivers: Marqise Lee, Devin Funchess, Jamison Crowder, Doug Baldwin
Starting Tight Ends: Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, Jack Doyle, Stephen Anderson
Sitting Tight Ends: Jared Cook, Vernon Davis, David Njoku, Austin Hooper
Starting Defenses: Patriots, Packers, Bengals, Chargers
Sitting Defenses: Dolphins, Eagles, Ravens, Falcons
Saints vs. Falcons: Following a loss to Minnesota last week, the Falcons simply have to have this game. They're teetering on that line of the NFC's sixth seed, and this might be a year when a 10-6 team misses the postseason in that conference. These two teams are both high-quality teams, but the Saints have a few things to their advantage. First, their offense is unstoppable. While the Falcons have an abundance of speed on their defense, that speed rarely translates to big turnovers. Secondly, the Saints improved defense will provide problems for the Falcons defense. Marshon Lattimore and Julio Jones will be going at it. In the end, I predict the Saints to come away with the win.
Packers vs. Browns: At this point, the Browns are looking forward to the Bears and hoping the Steelers are resting starters in week 17. At this point, that’s the only way they avoid going 0-16. The Packers are playing with pride and trying to give Aaron Rodgers enough wiggle room to try and save the season. So the Packers should win this game.
Lions vs. Buccaneers: Matthew Stafford’s health will likely tell the story of this game. If Joe Flacco can carve up the Lions defense, then I’m sure even Jameis Winston can find success on Sunday. So Stafford will have to strike back every time he leads the Lions offense onto the field. The Bucs defense isn’t much to be feared, so this will likely come down to which team makes the fewest mistakes. And given Winston’s documented problems with turnovers, I’m picking Stafford to make fewer mistakes and lead the Lions to victory.
Raiders vs. Chiefs: This is a huge game with big AFC West implications. The Chiefs free fall has given new life to the Chargers and the Raiders. With three teams sitting at 6-6 atop the division, every game could be do-or-die. Kansas City got some big plays in the passing game last week and fare a very weak Raiders defense. Unfortunately, their defense isn’t much better. Plus, Derek Carr already shredded them earlier in the season. And with Marcus Peters riding the bench for the week, that means more opportunities for Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. I’m expecting a shootout here, but I believe the Raiders will win this one due to the absence of Peters and potential mistakes from Alex Smith.
Vikings vs. Panthers: Arguably the game of the week, Minnesota and Carolina will bring in elite defenses to this game. So this will likely be a game of details. Who makes the fewest amount of mistakes? Who can score the most points given the circumstances? Time of possession and so on and so forth could be huge. As it so happens, the Vikings have a top-five offense good for 370.4 yards per game. They can run the ball and have playmakers at receiver. Given the balance of the Vikings, it’s hard to pick against them.
49ers vs. Texans: Jimmy Garopplolo got off to a good start as the Niners starter. With him under center, the Niners offense should see gradual improvement until the end of the season. He’ll face a better defense in the Houston Texans. Also, I don’t see the Niners o-line blocking the Texans pass rush that well. As long as Tom Savage doesn’t crash the offense, the Texans will win.
Colts vs. Bills: Indy may have finally met a team that matchup well against. Buffalo lacks the weaponry to attack their awful passing defense. Jacoby Brissett is capable of making plays on offense against the zone defense of the Bills. Unfortunately, the Colts can’t block Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams. And say what you want about the Bills zone defense, but I believe they can limit the Colts big plays. So look for the Bills to keep their playoff hopes alive with a win.
Bears vs. Bengals: After a bloodbath against the Steelers, the Bengals playoff hopes are just about on life support. Against the Bears, they’ll use their superior talent to get ahead. With their cornerbacks able to man up the Bears receivers, I expect Cincinnati to keep eight men in the box to force the Bears into passing. On offense, A.J. Green should be able to take advantage of the Chicago secondary and lead the Bengals to victory.
Cowboys vs. Giants: After the great purge, the Giants will start Eli Manning against the Cowboys. Dallas has the advantage of coming off of a long week with far less drama. And while the Giants have the size to slow down the run, Dak can still hurt them when he’s not focused solely on check downs. Plus, the Giants are lacking a pass rush. With the Cowboys defensive front and the Giants lackluster o-line, I expect Eli to be eating a lot of turf in his return. The only thing Eli has to look forward to is getting some respect from Giants fans. Other than that, the Cowboys should win this game.
Titans vs. Cardinals: Tennessee has a golden opportunity to put themselves in a favorable 10-win position. All they have to do is beat the Cardinals and the Niners. The Cards won’t be an easy out on Sunday. Their secondary can easily match up with the Titans receivers. Which means more men in the box to stuff the run. And while the Titans can stop the run, Bruce Arians will likely look towards the pass more with Adrian Peterson’s spotty health. There’s no reason to trust the Cardinals, but they're at home, and they match up well with the Titans on both sides of the ball. Because of that, I'm going to pick Arizona.
Jets vs. Broncos: The Broncos offense isn’t NFL caliber. And with added pressure on the defense, they’ll likely spring a leak or two and end up on the wrong end of this game. So I’m picking the Jets to win.
Redskins vs. Chargers: The Chargers couldn’t ask to be in a better position. Kansas City has collapsed, Oakland hasn’t proven to be good yet, and their final four games are easy on paper. All they have to do is take care of business and they’ll likely win the AFC West. Washington is coming off of a long week with a lot to think about after the Cowboys handled them. With their inconsistent running game and the Chargers stout run defense, the Redskins will likely dial up more passes. With the Chargers talented secondary and great pass rush, the should be able to limit the Redskins offense. As long as Philip Rivers continues his high-level play, the Chargers should win this game.
Seahawks vs. Jaguars: This game is probably like looking in the mirror of the Seahawks. The Jags in some ways are just like the Seahawks of old. A dominant defense with a good running game. The difference then and now is Russell Wilson, who better have his running shoes handy in this one. Even though they’re wounded, the Seahawks defense is still a force to be respected. Ask the Eagles about that. And since Blake Bortles is still throwing the football for Jacksonville, they won’t be able to take advantage of the Seahawks injured secondary. I expect Wilson to make the usual plays that will lead to a Seahawks victory.
Eagles vs. Rams: A year ago, it looked like the Rams gifted the Eagles the superior quarterback from the 2016 NFL Draft. Now with the emergence of Jared Goff and the Rams, the debate isn’t so one-sided. Coming off of a humbling loss, the Eagles will look to get back on track. The Eagles have a more balanced offense, one that can take advantage of L.A.'s lack of size on defense. While the Philadelphia front can contain Todd Gurley on the ground, the Rams will struggle to stop the Eagles run game. As for the Rams, they’ve already passed a huge test this year by beating New Orleans. Beating the Eagles would probably see their status rise from legitimate to NFC favorite. Jared Goff will have to be sharp with the Eagles front chasing him. If he can get time to throw, the Eagles may be in trouble. But since I expect a lot of running plays from Philly, that means a skewed time of possession. So I’m picking the Eagles in a close game.
Ravens vs. Steelers: More AFC North football for a Steelers team surviving a violent battle with the Bengals. They won’t get any sympathy from a Ravens team who intends to bring some physicality of their own. Without Jimmy Smith at cornerback, the Ravens will have trouble stopping the passing game of the Steelers. And no one really stops Le’Veon Bell for too long. So moving the ball won’t be an issue for the Steelers. As for the Ravens offense, I don’t expect similar results from last week. Pittsburgh’s defense is better than Detroit’s. While I expect another close game, I’m picking the Steelers.
Patriots vs. Dolphins: These teams just played two weeks ago and the results will remain the same. New England wins big.