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Week 14 NFL Picks

Superman and the Carolina defense have delivered eight straight wins for the red hot Panthers. Can they deliver the NFC’s second seed and the bye that comes with it? (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Last Week:  10 – 6 – 0
Season:    121 – 70 – 1

Thursday Recap

Texans at Jaguars
I picked the Jaguars last night for three reasons. 1. Case Keenum is a mess. It was inevitable Gary Kubiak would lose patience and insert Matt Schaub. 2. Matt Schaub is a mess. 3. Gus Bradley has the Jaguars playing well in recent weeks. The Jaguars defense is one of the more underappreciated units in the league. Under Bradley, good things are happening in Jacksonville.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Colts at Bengals
Kudos to the Bengals for winning without their defensive stars (Atkins, Hall). Cincinnati has also overcome a lackluster season from Andy Dalton. Dalton hasn’t necessarily regressed, but he hasn’t improved either. His completion percentage is nearly the same. He’ll likely finish with more touchdowns and yards than in 2012, but he’s already reached his interception total from 2012 and there’s still four more to play. Year three is supposed to be the leap year for these young franchise quarterbacks and Dalton hasn’t looked any better than he did in year two. Not sure how comfortable I’d feel moving forward with Dalton as my franchise quarterback. Regardless, the Bengals are undefeated at home and I don’t expect the struggling Colts to change that. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts +6.5

Falcons at Packers
We still don’t know if Aaron Rodgers will play Sunday. Even if he did, the Packers would need to win out and hope Detroit finishes no better than 2-2. Detroit finishing 2-2 isn’t that unlikely. They have the Eagles in Philly and then host Baltimore and the Giants before traveling to Minnesota in Week 17. If Rodgers were fully healthy, I’d put money on the Packers winning the division, but even Rodgers doesn’t seem convinced he’s ready to play. I’m still picking the Packers this week simply to keep hope alive. Plus, it’ll be cold in Wisconsin. The Falcons got lucky when they traveled to play Buffalo in a dome. Not so lucky this week. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; No line yet

Browns at Patriots
New England needs this win to stay ahead of the Bengals, especially considering the Patriots upcoming schedule; @Miami (no cupcake), @Baltimore. Remember, the Bengals snuck by the Patriots in October, so any tie would go to Cincinnati, relegating the Patriots to playing host during Wildcard Weekend for the first time since 2009. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; No line yet

Raiders at Jets
The Jets are still technically alive for a playoff spot. They’d need plenty of help, though. Let me rephrase that: They’d need a TON of help. The four teams ahead of New York for the last Wildcard spot; BAL, MIA, TENN, PITT, SD. The Jets lost to each one except San Diego, whom they have not played. So yeah, a miracle would be needed for Rex Ryan to get his team back to the postseason. JETS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets -2.5

Lions at Eagles
I am so torn here. One of the guiding principles in my life right now is to always pick against Jim Schwartz when Detroit meets a competent opponent. So naturally, the Eagles are the obvious pick this week. On the other hand, I’ve picked against the Eagles the last two weeks and they’ve won. Do I risk screwing that mojo up? This could be a huge weekend for the Eagles. If they win Sunday and put that pressure on Dallas to win Monday in Chicago, it’s likely Dallas folds under the pressure, because, well, they’re the Cowboys. If the Eagles lose? Dallas wins. It’s just the way things work in the NFC East. Anyway, superstitions aren’t really my thing. Picking against awful coaches is. (Just know this: If the Eagles get a lead and struggle to close it out as they did against Arizona, they’ll lose. No one mounts comebacks easier than the Lions and Calvin Johnson. They did the same thing last year in Philly, and that devastating loss was the beginning of the end of the Andy Reid era.) EAGLES If I were Charles Barkley; Eagles -2.5

Dolphins at Steelers
We need the AFC North to stay as interesting as possible for as long as possible. Since the NFL opted to stick with Bengals/Steelers on Sunday night in Week 15, we need a Pittsburgh win here to make that game interesting. (Don’t hate the NFL, the Week 15 slate is pretty brutal. Their choices for flexing were extremely limited.) STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers -3

Bills at Buccaneers
Buffalo would be 5-7 and in the AFC Wildcard mix if they didn’t agree to play in Toronto. You have to wonder where the Bills would be if they didn’t struggle through injuries all season. EJ Manuel, CJ Spiller, the backup quarterback whose name I can’t remember; all injured at various times throughout the season. A win in Cleveland (when Manuel went down with a 24-17 lead in the 3rd quarter) and a win over Atlanta last week would have the Bills in the final Wildcard spot. Oh, what could have been. BUCCANEERS If I were Charles Barkley; Buccaneers -2.5

Chiefs at Redskins
One team is 9-3 and one is 3-9 and both are DESPERATE for a win. The wheels have already fallen off in our nation’s capital. Robert Griffin III’s pocket presence has disappeared entirely. If you’re not open by the time he completes his drop back, he’s running for his life. For the sake of the NFL, I hope he hasn’t ruined his career by rushing back from that knee injury, because he looks horrible right now in nearly every facet of the game. At least the Redskins will have a nice high pick to improve the team for 2014. Just kidding. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -3.5

Vikings at Ravens
The Vikings have been pesky as of late. They’re 2-2-1 in their last five, but they nearly beat Dallas and totally screwed up overtime to lose to the Packers. A 4-1 stretch may have saved Leslie Frasier. I know, I know, the Vikings already said he’s safe, but you can’t really believe that. Have you seen him coach? Anyway, I like what the Ravens are doing. Jacoby Jones has opened up the offense and given Torrey Smith more opportunities downfield. A Bengals/Ravens showdown on Wildcard Weekend should be similar to those wonderful Steelers/Ravens playoff bloodbaths of a few seasons ago. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -7

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Titans at Broncos
Though the Titans have five wins, it feels like they’re 2-10. Peyton Manning better have a good game Sunday if he wants all the questions about his performance in cold weather to go away. But really, it’s only natural to shrink in the cold. Right? RIGHT? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -12

Rams at Cardinals
I agree with Bruce Arians that the Cardinals got the short end of the NFL officiating stick last week in Philadelphia. However, I don’t think his team played well enough to win even if the calls swung the other way. With every Carolina victory, the Cardinals playoff hopes get slimmer and slimmer. They need a win this week and a 3-1 finish to catch the 49ers. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Rams +6

Giants at Chargers
The Chargers likely won’t sell out. The Giants are out of playoff contention. No one will be watching. Be safe out there. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers -3

Seahawks at 49ers
A very big game for the Eagles, Cardinals, Cowboys, Bears and Lions. A loss to the powerhouse Seahawks drops the 49ers into the land of tiebreakers with the other good-but-not-great NFC playoff hopefuls. Given San Francisco’s remaining schedule (@TB, ATL, @AZ), a win over the Seahawks would all but seal a playoff berth. Seattle doesn’t seem like a team to get comfortable, despite wrapping up the NFC already. And I’m not buying the ground swell behind the 49ers. They simply haven’t beaten anyone good. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks +2.5

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Panthers at Saints
I felt very foolish Monday night watching the Saints get mauled by the Seahawks. I thought the Saints were a great team, one capable of finally winning outside the comforts of the Superdome. My bad. I should have known better after losses in New York and New England. While I think the Panthers are the better team, my money is on New Orleans going gangbusters this week. Besides, the Panthers eight game winning streak had to end sometime. Also, keep in mind this is likely the first of three matchups between these division rivals within a four week timespan. Where that third matchup will be remains to be seen. (Though, unless Carolina sweeps the regular season meetings, it’ll likely be in New Orleans based on conference record. That early season collapse in Buffalo will come back to haunt the Panthers.) SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -3

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Cowboys at Bears
The Bears season could be on the line depending on how Detroit does in Philadelphia. Likewise, the Cowboys will need a victory to either keep pace with the Eagles or jump back ahead by a full game. Either way, it should be a close and entertaining game, assuming of course Bears coach Marc Trestman doesn’t start punting on 3rd downs. (It’s almost inevitable at this point. The Eagles and Cowboys will play for the division on Sunday night in Week 17. On a related note; I’ll likely die from an anxiety induced heart attack before 2014.) BEARS If I were Charles Barkley; Bears No line yet

*****

If I were Charles Barkley…
Last Week: 7 – 9 – 0
Season:    91 – 93 – 7

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