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Who are you picking to win the week 14 games?

Posted Dec 8, 2017

Who are you picking to win the week 14 games?

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: New Orleans (9-3) at Atlanta (7-5): The Southern Shootout continues, as Atlanta is at Tampa, at New Orleans, and finishes with Carolina, meaning their future is in their own hands. A win tonight would be crucial, if only to keep in the wild card hunt. But the Falcons are only 3-3 so far in their brand-new stadium, and may need a little more enthusiasm from the crowd in Bubbaopolis tonight. One of the things I dislike about TNF is the way it twists the injury process: for the Saints Mark Ingram (toe) Terron Armstead (back and shoulder) and Marshon Lattimore (ankle) are all listed as questionable, game-day decisions. Ideally you'd like to give their injuries the time they need. They can't slide Andrus Peat out to tackle if Armstead can't play, because he's definitely out. They would miss Ingram of course, but the real question is Lattimore, who is needed to hold Julio Jones in check. I love Ken 'Creepy' Crawley: he was one of my spotlight undrafted guys coming out of Colorado, but even though Jones has been up and down (just two catches against the Vikes after the huge game against the Bucs) you have to like him against a Lattimore-less Saint secondary. The reality for Atlanta is that they have been good against not so good teams, and New Orleans is a good team. Their offense and defense have both retreated from their high points last season. Chandler Jones is playing at all-pro calibre on the Saints' line, AJ Klein has helped solidify the run defense, but this game is a test for Dan Quinn. Checking the injury list and at home on the short week I like the Falcons to pull it out. Pick (posted yesterday @carlsonsports): Falcons

FRIDAY FALLOUT: The injury situation going into the game didn't prove as critical as the in-game toll. Deion Jones was the Falcons' MVP 13 tackles (7 solo, 3 for a loss), the game-saving interception, and the hit on Alvin Kamara's head that put him out of the game. Just four days after we saw the Steelers' LeVeon Bell's 182 yards from scrimmage nearly matched by 173 yards of Bengal penalties, the Falcons got more than a third of their first downs (9 of 26) from penalties (11 to New Orelans 4 to Atlanta). The Saints lost backup guard Senio Kelemete (in for Peat) to hurt their offense further, but on D with Lattimore back, getting a pick and helping 'hold' Julio to five catches and 98 yards, New Orleans lost Klein, safety Kenny Vaccaro and rookie DE Trey Hendrickson. The contributions of rookies in transforming the Saints' D reminds me an awful lot of what the Falcons did last season. What should be more worrying for them now is the way they didn't complete a single pass to their tailbacks last night; play-action was a huge part of last year's success. But now the division is a three-way dance, with that Falcons-Saints matchup in two weeks looking huge.

SUNDAY

Indianapolis (3-9) at Buffalo (6-6): Tyrod Taylor is questionable with a knee, Nathan Peterman is questionable. Three points against a Pats' D that seems as poroous as the Colts' until you get to the red zone. Kelvin Benjamin may be back for the Bills, but Jordan Matthews is out, and pass-rusher Carl Lawson is also out. The Colts actually played pretty well against the Jags for three quarters last week before basically running out of gas. Maybe it will snow. Pick: Bills

Minnesota (10-2) at Carolina (8-4): We saw last week how the Vikings can shut down an offense, even on the road, and there isn't as much to shut down for Carolina as there was for Atlanta. The Panthers win by holding you in check with a defense that never seems to getthe credit it deserves, and then letting/hoping Cam makes plays. Like with Russell Wilson, when they win he usually has 85% of their yardage. Ryan Kalil says he's playing which is good news for their line, hence for Stewart and McCaffrey, but I think Case Keenum will be able to pick apart holes in their zone, and they can keep Cam in check and perhaps even torment him. Pick: Vikes

Chicago (3-9) at Cincinnati (5-7): The Bengals inflicted more damage on the Steelers than they absorbed, but they also racked up 13 penalties for 173 yards doing so (Pittsburgh's 7/66 kept audiences enthralled as well). Joe Mixon didn't practice so far this week in concussion protocol, so you have to assume he won't play. Gio Bernard will pose some difficulties, so rookie Brian Hill ought to get some carries (the first one he gets will be his first in the NFL, after being signed a month ago off the Falcons' practice squad). The Bengals put Jeremy Hill on IR for ankle surgery which apparently could have waited, but they couldn't trade him, and now of course, the other Hill may have to step up. The real key to this one is putting pressure on Mitch Trubisky, keeping his throws in front of you, and not teeing off on every player who touches the ball and getting Vontazed (flagged). Pick: Bengals

Green Bay (6-6) at Cleveland (0-12): It's not so much the Browns (or the Haslams) change direction so much, as they don't seem to have a clear idea of how to go in whatever direction they think they've chosen to go. Hiring John Dorsey, who did such a good job assembling the current Chiefs squad, was a good move; although Sashi Brown was named for the team, his speciality was caps not evaluation, and it might have made sense to keep him around because Dorsey's skill was just the opposite. The Browns realistically have two chances to win a game: at Chicago in week 16 or now, and now to me seems a better chance than many think. But a better chance doesn't get them my pick. Pick: Pack

San Francisco (2-10) at Houston (4-8): Jimmy G has never lost an NFL start. Tom Savage is 2-6 for his career. But Houston still has a good D, keeping the Titans' game close (17-13) until Derrick Henry broke away for a 75 yard TD. The Niners aren't the Titans, though what Jimmy G brings to them is an ability to find receivers like Marquise Goodwin or Trent Taylor who aren't going to be confused with Sammy Watkins and Antonio Brown. At home, I like Houston. Pick: Texans

Dallas (6-6) at New York Giants (2-10): Well that all went according to plan. Jerry Reese and Ben McAdon't are both gone; Spags is the interim head coach and Eli is back at QB. Proponents of the Giants' stealth-tank theory will wonder if Spags can continue to keep the D producing (after that embarrassing lay-down in Santa Clara they've held the Chiefs to 9 at home and allowed 20 and 24 points on the road) and if the team will rally around Eli somehow. Win one for the Manning? Meanwhile the Cowboys followed my instructions and handed the pill to Alfred Morris 27 times against the Skins (127 yards) and they're rested after that Thursday game. But Spags will have looked to the way Washington cut off Dak from his ends, and hope that the big Eli surge is effective. It's hard to think of a Jason Garrett-inspired team reaching the same level. The Giants beat the Chiefs 12-9 in the Meadowlands just three weeks. If they can hold the Chiefs, they ought to be able to hold the Cowboys. This makes this the hardest pick of the week for me. Pick: Cowboys

Detroit (6-6) at Tampa Bay (4-8): Matt Stafford apparently threw better yesterday than the day before and I'd be shocked if he doesn't start. If the Lions have to go to Jake Rudock they are in trouble. Amer Abdullah has been limited still at practice but he could play too. Doug Martin will play for the Bucs. This could be a tough one for Detroit, trying to keep that outside shot of a wildcard alive. Think what the Falcons did to them a couple of weeks ago and you'd think the Lions would be in a position to do something similar, and even Green Bay got seven sacks of Jameis and held Mike Evans and DeSean to just four catches between them. Assuming Stafford starts and can throw, pick: Lions

Oakland (6-6) at Kansas City (6-6): There's another three-way dance in progress, at a lesser degree of quality, in the AFC West. It's getting frustrating looking at Chiefs' matchups and thinking 'this is a game they ought to win' and then watching them stink up the joint. Even the 31 points against the Jets was a case of hitting four big plays, while the Jets rolled over their defense to the tune of a 43/17 difference in time of possession. They still can't run the ball, which means play-action isn't fooling anyone except the Jets' rookie safeties, and not getting a single sack of Josh McCown shows you what the problem is there. Like Alex Smith, David Carr is not making the throws that got Oakland so far last season. He will have Michael Crabtree back after his one game suspension on the chain gang, and Amari Cooper has cleared concussion protocol but is still dealing with his ankle. But the Chiefs will be without Marcus Peters, suspended for throwing a penalty flag into the crowd (check Ebay for the latest price) and maybe Mitch Morse, their best lineman, who has reinjured his ankle. I've picked the Chiefs wrong in seven games this season; the Raiders have proven me wrong only four times. OK Andy, cut me some slack. Pick: Chiefs

Seattle (8-4) at Jacksonville (8-4): Dan Quinn Bowl! With Sherman and Chancellor out, the Jags may be the better of the Seahawks' defenses on show here, but the big difference between the teams is Russell Wilson vs Blake Bortles. I'd give the Jags the nod based on the red eye effect, but being a later game will mitigate those horrible first half starts that killed the Seahawks against Carolina and Atlanta in the past. They won't be able to run the ball, and the Jags might be able to. The receivers are pretty much a matched set, and the Seahawks are likely to hold it close and then wait for some Wilson magic in the final few minutes. Pick: Seahawks

New York Jets (5-7) at Denver (3-9): As Rex Ryan was throwing Geno Smith under a Newark Airport to Port Authority bus this week, Geno reminded us that no one had expectations for the Jets' team he led to an 8-8 season. Rex got all the credit, Geno took all the blame. Substitute Josh McCown and Todd Bowles this year: McCown is getting a lot of credit, and at 38 will get another contract somewhere, but Bowles has kept this team fighting and deserves some notice too. What do you say about Denver when McCown is a better choice at QB than any of your three guys? The fact that they're on an eight game losing streak means they ought to win sometime, or else we could start calling them the Browncos. I am really regretting this already, but pick: Jets

Tennessee (8-4) at Arizona (5-7): The Rams sacked Blaine Gabbert six times last week. The Titans could probably match that. The question is whether the Cards' D can do something similar to Marcus Mariota, and more importantly hold both Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray in check. Can Mariota be Jared Goff this week? Pick: Cards

Washington (5-7) at LA Chargers (6-6): I called the Chargers for the AFC West title a few weeks ago, and their march toward 9-7 and the tie-breaker will continue this week, though it would be nice if it were a home game. Washington is just the kind of team that can make the big plays that tend to sink the Chargers in close games, and they really struggled to keep the boat afloat against the Browns last week. If Kirk Cousins completes a 50 yard TD to Josh Doctson in the last minute of the game while Joey Bosa has him wrapped up, I'll be wrong, but pick: Chargers

Philadelphia (10-2) at LA Rams (9-3): The Eagles' game against Seattle was not as bad as it looked, though pressure caused them not to make a few plays that were there to make, and they will get a lot of that from the Rams. But going against a 3-4 front ought to be easier for their line, and if Kerwin Williams can run for 97 yards against the Rams, you'd think the Eagles' troika ought to be able to do something similar. They stayed on the west coast and practiced in Anaheim, which is closer to LA than Carson. This would be a sort of statement game for the Eagles, much as the Saints game was for the Rams. Pick: Eagles

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Baltimore (7-5) at Pittsburgh (10-2): It's a short week for the Steelers coming off the WWI-style war of attrition against the Bengals, and they will be without the lynchpin of their D, Ryan Shazier. The Ravens will make it difficult for the Steelers to run, and Ben will likely be searching for targets with JuJu suspended, but the baseline is the same problems apply to the Ravens', only moreso. Their D is a better than Pittsburgh's, their O is worse, and they're on the road against a tired team. It almost all balances out. Pick: Steelers

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: New England (10-2) at Miami (5-7): This one has trap game written all over it, especially after Gronk was suspended a game for dropping the people's elbow on the prone TreDavius White. Gronk does get manhandled in coverage, but there was zero excuse for what he did and one game was lenient. I would have liked to put together a cut-up of blatant holds/interference/pick plays that weren't called, especially those right in front of officials, and I'm talking about non-Gronk plays. As I've been saying for years, it's like an NBA game downfield, and like rugby in the trenches. Jay Cutler may have had his best game as a Dolphin last week against his old Denver team, but the keys to ending their five-game losing streak were a Kenyan Drake 42 yard TD and Xavian Howard's 42 yard pick six. New England is so battered on D that newly-returned linebacker Jonathan Freeny might wind up playing. Adam Gase kicked onsides while the Dolphins were killing Denver, a sign that maybe he thinks he should have got that Denver job, but remember he coached with Josh McDaniels in Denver and maybe understands a little bit of how the Pats' OC thinks. The Pats in December can have trouble in the heat of Miami, so this could be a closer contest than expected, but still, pick: Pats

LAST WEEK 13-3 SEASON 127-65

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