So Long, Champs. Week 14 NFL Picks

We’ve reached the portion of the season where regular season games are fought with playoff intensity. There’s plenty at stake in week 14. The Giants can take over the NFC East, the Jaguars can essentially clinch a playoff berth, and the Steelers got KO’d by…whom? The Cleveland Browns? I hope you’re as excited as I am for the final month of the 2009 season. Three division titles remain up in the air (NFC East, AFC West, East), and all three could come down to the final week. Three undetermined Wildcard spots will make for a compelling race as well. Of course, there will be plenty of shocking upsets and incredible football along the way. This really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Last Week:  8 – 8 – 0
Season:       118 – 74 – 0

Thursday (8:20PM ET)

Steelers at Browns
What a collapse. The defending champs are unconscious on the mat and there’s a 5’8, 145 LB, 8th grader standing in the opposite corner. That’s the equivalent of what occurred Thursday night in Cleveland. After their loss to Kansas City two weeks ago, I praised Pittsburgh Head Coach, Mike Tomlin for his resolve. I won’t embarrass myself further by including the rest of what I said (you can check for yourself here), but his resolve didn’t translate to wins. As we all know, wins are all that matter. On their five game skid, the Steelers suffered respectable losses to the Bengals and Ravens, but look at their other three defeats; Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland. There are a total of nine wins between those teams. On a positive note, Eric Mangini may have saved his job over the last few weeks. I completely agree with Matt Millen’s assessment of the Cleveland defense. Their play has improved dramatically because Rob Ryan has started to incorporate more of his style into the defense. I’m sure Buddy is smiling proudly somewhere. I’m ashamed, but I must be honest, I picked the… STEELERS

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Saints at Falcons
It doesn’t look good for Atlanta. Matt Ryan isn’t expected to play and Michael Turner won’t be 100 percent. Additionally, New Orleans has declared they won’t take their foot off the gas. Atlanta’s golden road to the playoffs melted away when Ryan stubbed his toe. Desperation often leads to surprising victories. But even desperation won’t fire a gun with no bullets. Without Ryan and Turner, the Falcons have no bullets. SAINTS

Packers at Bears
The Green Bay Packers (and Baltimore Ravens) owe me a night’s sleep. That game was brutal, not ugly, BRUTAL. I can’t remember the last time I saw a game with so many penalties. Worst yet, both teams are playoff contenders. Whenever I’d close my eyes to sleep, I was haunted by a barrage of yellow flags. I sincerely apologize for raving about how great that game would be in last week’s post. Hopefully, the yellow flags have stopped attacking you as well. I want to pick the Bears here. No logical reason whatsoever, simply a gut feeling. Chicago has to do something right this season don’t they? Right? You agree? Ok, I get the point. I’m alone on this one. BEARS

Jets at Buccaneers
I was hopeful that Mark Sanchez would play this week. He won’t. With the loss of Sanchez, we also lose the possibility of ten interceptions in one game. Now I won’t tune in at all. JETS

Dolphins at Jaguars
The Steelers loss on Thursday night turned the entire wildcard picture upside down. The champs are now dead. As a result, this Florida showdown is bursting with playoff implications. Ultimately, it boils down to this: A Jaguars win would essentially put them into the playoffs. THAT IS NOT A MISPRINT. It’s totally true. With a win, Jacksonville would have head to head victories over the Dolphins and Jets (both are chasing Jacksonville for the final wildcard spot). Assuming they lose to Indy and New England, and then beat Cleveland, Jacksonville would finish 9-7 with an 8-4 conference mark. The Jets are likely to lose at least one of their remaining games. Jaguars own the tiebreaker there. If the Texans and Titans miraculously win out to finish 9-7, Jacksonville still owns the division tiebreaker over both. If Pittsburgh finishes 9-7, the Jaguars would top the Steelers on conference record. Baltimore is the only glitch. Obviously, if they finish 10-6, they would top Jacksonville’s 9-7 record. Therefore, it is crucial that the Ravens drop one more game… BUTTTTTTT that loss has to come at the hands of a conference opponent. Baltimore has two remaining conference games, at Pittsburgh and at Oakland. That’s a tough task. I think they’ll drop one of those games. Thus giving them a 7-5 conference mark and the Jaguars the final playoff berth. Boo-yah! With all that said, the Dolphins are pretty good. DOLPHINS

Lions at Ravens
Apparently the AFC North doesn’t want either of the conference’s Wildcard spots. Historically, this is the time of year when tough, physical defenses take over games. Instead of controlling the game, Baltimore’s defense gave it away last Monday. A total of 53 pass interference calls for 438 yards doomed the Ravens. (Yes, those numbers are false, but 5 P.I. calls for 90 yards is still ridiculous.) Welcoming the Lions to town should get Baltimore a much needed win. Although, after Pittsburgh’s defeat to Cleveland, nothing should be taken for granted. RAVENS

Seahawks at Texans
The first week of Gary Kubiak’s goodbye tour. Get your tickets now, before he’s gone for good. TEXANS

Broncos at Colts
Due to Pittsburgh’s collapse and Baltimore’s struggles, Denver is a shoe-in for the playoffs. The question remains, do they have enough firepower to hang with the likes of Indianapolis or San Diego? We’ll have a better idea by Sunday evening. Unlike, the Saints, the Colts aren’t entirely concerned with finishing undefeated. Therefore, they’ll probably lose a game or two along the way. (This is why Indy struggles in the playoffs. There’s no on/off switch in sports. If it’s on, keep it on and play it out until it shuts off. This was the only critical error of the Dungy regime.) I like Denver’s defense but Peyton Manning at home will be tough to stop. The Colts will clinch home field throughout the playoffs on Sunday. COLTS

Bills at Chiefs
Where does Terrell Owens go from here? He’s a slightly above average receiver that thinks he’s still a superstar. That’s a bad combination. Needless to say, demand won’t be high. CHIEFS

Bengals at Vikings
For those of you that care, Chad Ochocinco has expressed his interest to change his name yet again. He hopes to change his name to Chad “Hachi Go,” which is Japanese for “eight five.” And with that, I step off the Ochocinco bandwagon. Once was funny, twice indicates some deeper issues. It was fun while it lasted. The skeletons came out of the closet last week for Minnesota. Brett Favre was pressured all night long, leading to turnovers and inaccuracy, and Brad Childress put together a horrible game plan. It won’t get any easier this week as Cincinnati’s defense is better than Arizona’s, especially in the secondary. If Minnesota can’t figure out a way to make Adrian Peterson the center of their offense, their playoff run will be short lived. BENGALS

Panthers at Patriots
My initial response to this game… “Bill Belichick and the Patriots are prepared to unleash a month’s worth of fury.” Then I remembered these Patriots are different. In fact, they’re pedestrian. No one is scared of them anymore. Randy Moss has been MIA since October, leaving Tom Brady and Wes Welker to manage the offense. Three offseason moves at receiver failed the Patriots. Joey Galloway forgot to bring his hands and Greg Lewis was Greg Lewis. The decision to let Jabar Gaffney walk was the most costly. He was a security blanket for Brady if Welker and Moss weren’t open. Now, Brady has no running game, which is almost normal because he’s never had one, and only one reliable receiver (Welker) instead of three or four. The team is in chaos and Belichick’s aggressive coaching style has cost his team two conference victories (see Colts debacle and week 13 Miami game). The Panthers have less drama but no quarterback. Unless they run for 300 yards, the Patriots should pad their lead in the AFC East. PATRIOTS

Game I’ll Watch: Broncos at Colts, Dolphins at Jaguars
Game I’ll DVR: Bengals at Vikings

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Redskins at Raiders
A matchup of two of the NFL’s top 18 teams over the past month. Laugh all you want, it’s true. In the last four weeks, the Raiders have upset AFC North bruisers, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and suffered a respectable loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving (dropped interceptions prevented a close game). With Bruce Gradkowski at quarterback, Oakland resembles a real football team. In that same span, the Redskins have beaten the Denver Broncos and lost three straight to Dallas, Philadelphia, and New Orleans by a grand total of seven points. They’ve done so with 15% of their team on injured reserve (seriously) and their starting running back out with a concussion. Could we really have Jim Zorn for another year? This is too exciting. REDSKINS

Rams at Titans
With only 16 regular season games, it’s nearly impossible to recover from a dismal start. Just ask the Titans, Panthers, and Redskins. Once considered playoff contenders, all were slow out of the gates and failed to recover. The Titans held on the longest. It will be interesting to see how they respond. With nothing to play for, will they tank the rest of the season or push to finish above .500? Vince Young strikes me as someone who’ll look to next year. I expect his play to drop off over the last month. Just my opinion. TITANS

Chargers at Cowboys
If Dallas loses at home this week, cries of another December Swoon will ring louder than the Hallelujah chorus. In my week 13 review, I stated that Tony Romo’s trip to Vegas between games did not “directly” contribute to Dallas’ loss to the Giants. “Directly” was the key word. The trip had no affect on his playing ability, this was clear via his outstanding play. However, a midweek trip in the midst of a playoff push sends a bad message to your team. The NFL regular season is 17 weeks long with a vacation week somewhere along the way. Is it really too much for a quarterback to focus on his team for that long? Romo’s trip to Vegas (regardless of its purpose) made him an easy target. To this point, the defining play of Romo’s career was fumbling the snap on a game winning field goal, in the playoffs nonetheless. He won’t be granted any leeway or room for error. He hasn’t earned it. Stay home, focus on winning in December, and leave Vegas for the offseason. Romo’s fans, city, coaches, and most importantly, teammates, deserve better. (I don’t really mean that. They all deserve whatever they get.) CHARGERS

Game I’ll Watch: Chargers at Cowboys
Game I’ll DVR:
Redskins at Raiders

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Eagles at Giants
It’s been a good Eagles week for me. First, my new favorite Eagle, Akeem Jordan, returned from injury. Second, another of my top five players, Joselio Hanson, also returned to the team, albeit from suspension. Third, the team hasn’t played to a tie. Fourth, the team extended Andy Reid through 2013. I support the extension, not because I love Andy Reid, but because I fear the alternative. You don’t become the fourth coach to win 100 games in a decade by luck. On the other hand, plenty of Eagle fans have cursed the extension. My dad is not a Reid admirer. When news of Reid’s extension reached him, he cancelled his cable until 2014. (Semi kidding) What a big game though. Picture this, a Giants win, paired with a Cowboys loss, would put the Giants in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Whodathunkit? No reverse jinx needed this time. The Eagles will claim their first defining win of the season. EAGLES

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Cardinals at 49ers
Arizona’s win over Minnesota last week, and the 49ers crushing defeat to Seattle, severely dampened the sexiness of this matchup. What was potentially a battle for first place in the NFC West is now just another Monday of Jon Gruden gushing over average players. This is the time of year when the 49ers play well. They’re like clockwork. They play well, the media pegs them as a young team to watch for the following season, and then they play like a young team the following season and miss the playoffs… again. Same old story. The only difference this year is the quarterback. San Fran may finally have their quarterback of the future. Alex Smith has four more weeks to go. If he can avoid a collapse and continue his current level of play, the 49ers SHOULD be primed to compete for the NFC West next year. (I think we’ve all heard this before.) As for the Cardinals, they’re in love with themselves again. They’ll overlook the 49ers and Jon Gruden will use the term “terrific football player” to describe too many players. This is too predictable. 49ERS

If I were Charles Barkley…

Weekly Reminder: I pick every game so I don’t look like a pansy and only pick the easy ones. I’m now below .500. I’m on a self-destructing pace that rivals Tiger’s. As promised, I will resort to flipping a coin for my week 14 selections (unless I picked the underdog to win). Home team is heads, away team is tails. My goal was to be around 60% at season’s end (now impossible). As is the weekly custom, there is one over/under as well (because they’re too much fun not to have at least one).

Pittsburgh Steelers (-10)
at Cleveland Browns
Denver Broncos (+7) at Indianapolis Colts (Tails)
Cincinnati Bengals (+7) at Minnesota Vikings
New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3.5) (Heads)
Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (+1)
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (+3.5)
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (+10) (According to YAHOO!) (Heads)
Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens (-14) (Heads)
Miami Dolphins (+3) at Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers (+14) at New England Patriots (Tails)
Seattle Seahawks at Houston Texans (-7) (Heads)

St. Louis Rams at Tennessee Titans (-13) (Heads)
Washington Redskins at Oakland Raiders (+1) (Heads)
San Diego Chargers (+3) at Dallas Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles (+1) at New York Giants

Arizona Cardinals at San Francisco 49ers (+4)

Last Week: 6 – 10 – 0
Season: 85 – 88 – 4

Denver Broncos at Indianapolis Colts Over 44

Last Week: 0 – 1 – 0
Season: 6 – 7 – 0

(Lines as of 12/11, 5:04PM ET, from bodog)

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.


© 4th and Done. All rights reserved. Powered by WordPress.