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Week 14 NFL Picks

Tom Brady and the Patriots know where the road to the AFC title goes; it goes through Houston. Elsewhere, the Giants, Bears and Ravens look to rebound and the Andrew Luck or RG3 debate heats up. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Last Week:  8 – 8 – 0
Season:      119 – 72 – 1

Thursday Recap

Broncos 26 at Raiders 13
The biggest takeaway from Thursday night was Denver’s ability to run out the clock on the ground late in the 4th quarter. Though, I should mention I don’t think it’s as big a deal as everyone else seems to think. Here’s why: Running out the clock matters only if you have a lead in the 4th quarter (obviously). I don’t see Denver in that position in the playoffs. In fact, I expect the opposite. Against every elite team Denver played this season, they trailed by double digits in the 4th quarter. The road to an AFC title requires the Broncos to beat the Texans or Patriots, and possibly both. I simply don’t trust Denver’s defense enough to do so. Wins over the Steelers, Bengals, Saints, and Buccaneers were nice, but that doesn’t make the Broncos an elite team.  It’s not like Peyton Manning is unstoppable in the playoffs, either. In fact, he’s been mostly mediocre throughout his illustrious career in the postseason. I like Manning and would love to see him win another title, so I hope I’m wrong.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Rams at Bills
There are 19 teams currently in the playoff discussion. Of those 19 teams, the St. Louis Rams are my favorite. Are they exciting to watch? No, not really. Do they have a team of superstars? Not at all. They’re gritty, though. I love gritty teams. I’d rather watch a season’s worth of Rams games than 16 games played by entitled, underachieving superstars, or as we know them; the Philadelphia Eagles. I also like the Rams because Sam Bradford is in a bad situation and hasn’t blinked. Bradford has little talent around him. It’s been this way since he came into the league under a rookie head coach. Things haven’t gotten easier. This offseason, the Rams essentially traded Robert Griffin III for a bunch of draft picks. In doing so, they added about 35 tons of pressure to Bradford’s surgical repaired shoulder. If Bradford doesn’t elevate his game soon, the native’s will get restless. Bradford has become what Donovan McNabb was in Philly after the Eagles passed on Ricky Williams. McNabb shed that pressure and won the city over by winning. Bradford will need to do the same. RAMS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +3

Cowboys at Bengals
With their season on the line, Cincinnati crushed the Giants, who were headed into a bye week and the Thanksgiving holiday. Then the Bengals won three straight against the AFC West. Forgive me for not throwing them a party. It feels like Cincinnati finishes 1-3 down the stretch. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Cowboys +3

Chiefs at Browns
I though the Browns screwed up when they fired Eric Mangini after two seasons. You don’t build a winning franchise in the NFL in two years. Though Mangini’s teams didn’t post gaudy numbers or winning seasons, they competed and improved. Two years later, the Browns face an identical situation. Pat Shurmur has had his struggles, but the Browns have also been one of the most consistent teams in the NFL this season. They compete, they’re tough, and most importantly, they improve. In fact, the Browns are 4-3 in their last seven games. Cleveland’s not a good team yet, but they’re showing all the signs of being on the right track. Now it’s up to the organization to let Shurmur finish the job. BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns -6.5

Titans at Colts
RG3 or Andrew Luck? Who hasn’t had this discussion over the past month? I’m on team Luck for two reasons. 1. This league is a passing league. Quarterbacks win and lose games based upon what they can accomplish through the air. Most often, success is found by standing in the pocket and dissecting a defense. Mobile quarterbacks with cannons have taken the league by storm before only to simmer out once defenses adjust. See Michael Vick and Cam Newton. Donovan McNabb’s best years were in the pocket. Unlike Vick and Newton, Griffin is a great passer, but if I’m choosing a quarterback to sit in the pocket and lead my offense for the next decade, I want Luck. 2. Griffin may not last a decade in the NFL. I’ve fought hard to not become an RG3 fan (not allowed because he’s a division foe). He’s amazing to watch and learns so quickly. Unfortunately, he hasn’t learned to avoid getting drilled. At some point, his body will start to break down and he’ll experience the injury-riddled seasons that Vick has endured over the past four years of his career. Griffin is smaller than Newton. He can’t go toe to toe with safeties and linebackers and expect to be in the league for the next 10 years. As for the game, the Colts are due to trip up. They’ll beat the Titans, but it won’t be pretty. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -5.5

Bears at Vikings
The Bears are fading, again. The defense has fallen apart in recent weeks, the offense still can’t find a rhythm, and the Bears have lost three of their last four to playoff caliber teams. In fact, since their Week 1 victory over the Colts, the Bears haven’t beaten a single playoff team. In other words, the Bears weren’t all that good to begin with; we just overvalued them based on their record. Sunday’s game comes down to Adrian Peterson and Christian Ponder. Can Peterson play well enough to offset Ponder’s awfulness? Sure, why not. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +3

Eagles at Buccaneers
Let me share a little secret with you. Josh Freeman isn’t great. I know it’s been a popular opinion around the NFL world that Freeman has had a great year, and statistically, that’s true, but I’m unimpressed. Freeman can’t squeeze the ball into tight spaces. He can’t pick apart a defense. Last week he looked so overwhelmed in the 4th quarter I thought he was going to have a panic attack. With that said, the Eagles secondary is the worst in the league. Freeman may throw for 400 yards. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers -7.5

Ravens at Redskins
Monday’s victory over the Giants was a great win for the Redskins. I’m not even referring to what it did for their playoff chances. Monday’s win was a statement win for the franchise. The Redskins are officially done with being the doormat of the NFC East. For the first time in my lifetime, the Redskins have a bona fide superstar. Teams fear the Redskins now. Though they won’t make the playoffs, 2012 will be the year the Redskin franchise turned around. Regardless, they’ll lose to a more experienced Ravens team angry off an embarrassing loss. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +2.5

Falcons at Panthers
I hate to admit this, but the Falcons are the best team in the NFC. While they’re not a juggernaut, they’ve been consistent and most importantly, healthy. Do I think they’re a shoe-in for the NFC title? No way. For now, though, they’re alone as the class of the NFC. FALCONS If I were Charles Barkley; Falcons -3.5

Jets at Jaguars
If you told me four months ago that I’d be typing the following sentence in December, I would’ve assumed their was a horrible outbreak in the Eagles locker room or the players went on strike. I hope the Jaguars win so the Eagles can get the top pick. JAGUARS If I were Charles Barkley; Jaguars +1.5

Chargers at Steelers
Early in the season the Steelers were a decent team with no teeth. The defense was struggling and the offense had to dominate in order to win. Not anymore. The defense has turned it on and if Ben Roethlisberger is indeed healthy, the Steelers are a team you want to avoid in January. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -7.5

Late Games (4:25PM ET)

Dolphins at 49ers
I can’t confirm this, but my NFL sources tell me it was Alex Smith who called the option pitch inside the 49ers own 15 while nursing an eight point lead late in the 4th quarter. Is Jim Harbaugh really doing this? Does he think Colin Kaepernick is ready to perform at a high level under the bright lights of a playoff game? If so, I can’t wait to wager against the 49ers. Smith isn’t a great quarterback, either, but he plays to the 49ers strength; defense. Turnovers beat great defenses. Smith protects the football. Kaepernick isn’t experienced enough to protect the football. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; Dolphins +10.5

Cardinals at Seahawks
Seahawks at home? Easy enough. One more thing: My brother and I disagreed on how legit the Seahawks are. I’m not a believer. He is. His point: Seattle knows how to win close games. My point: The defense is overrated, collapses in the 4th quarter, and the Seahawks struggle on the road. Since they won’t win the division (trust me, it’s not happening), the Seahawks must travel in the postseason. No esta bien. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks -10

Saints at Giants
Here’s the thing about New York’s loss to the RobertGriffinSkins; the Giants dominated the game. We’ve seen it a millions times. Team dominates play, marches up and down the field, physically manhandles opponent but fails to convert in the red zone. Overmatched opponent sticks around, slowly building momentum and confidence before snatching a win in the 4th quarter. I’m not trying steal the thunder from Washington’s victory, but the Giants are still the same team we thought they were a week ago… that is of course assuming the red zone issues were a fluke and not the start of an alarming trend. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -4.5

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Lions at Packers
Green Bay is banged up right now and it’s painfully obvious. For the second week in a row, the Packers offense started hot and then struggled their way through the remaining 50 minutes. Aaron Rodgers has been amazing this season and last week was no different. Though the stat sheet didn’t reflect an offensive explosion, Rodgers carried the offense despite another horrific performance from the Packers offensive line. Since the Packers just lost another running back, Rodgers’ job just got harder. again. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -7

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Texans at Patriots
So my brother and I made a wager about a month ago. I can’t share the stakes because it’s an irresponsible amount of money and I don’t want to be judged. Anyway, I told him the Texans were hands-down the best team in the NFL and would win the AFC. He told me he didn’t think it was that obvious. Naturally, we put our money where our mouths were. Since then, Houston has struggled, winning back to back overtime games against two teams with a combined six wins before looking downright awful in the 2nd half against the Titans. Since I was so confident (or foolish) about the Texans a month ago, I told my brother to pick two teams to knock off the Texans. Obviously, he took the Patriots and Broncos. So here we are. A preview of what could be the AFC title game. My brother’s confidence is soaring. Mine is sinking. Either way, enjoy the last watchable Monday night game of the 2012 season. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -3.5

*****

If I were Charles Barkley
Last Week: 7 – 7 – 2
Season:     95 – 90 – 7

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