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Week 14 NFL Picks

A first round playoff bye is likely on the line Sunday in Philadelphia. Explosive offense vs. suffocating defense. Who blinks first? (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Season:       129 – 62 – 1
Last Week:  14 – 2 – 0

Thursday Recap

Cowboys 41 at Bears 28
DeMarco Murray had 41 touches last night en route to a blowout win over the hapless Bears. Any chance the Bears had was lost when Brandon Marshall went down. After Marshall’s injury, Chicago looked flat and disinterested for the part of the 2nd half that actually mattered. Also, I couldn’t help but wonder if Jason Garrett’s thought process was, “We have 10 days between games after this, let’s give it to Murray a million times. He’ll be fine by next Sunday.” Time will tell if the gamble pays off, but 41 touches this late in the season has to impact Murray down the road, no? At the very least, I just hope Murray is healthy enough to carry on his affair with the wife of a friend.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Steelers at Bengals
Cincinnati can pretty much wrap up the AFC North with a victory Sunday. A win would put the Bengals three up in the loss column over Pittsburgh. With two head-to-head victories over the Ravens, the Bengals would essentially have a three game lead over Baltimore as well. At that point, only Cleveland would have a fighter’s chance at the division crown. BENGALS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers +3.5

Rams at Redskins
Here is where I’d mention the Rams are on the upswing. They’ve beaten the 49ers, Seahawks and Broncos this season and the roster is full of young talent. However, I feel like I’ve said the same thing the last three years and the Rams continue to be the same team they were the year prior; inconsistent. One week they’re blown out by four touchdowns at home. Another week they crush the Broncos. REDSKINS If I were Charles Barkley; Redskins +3

Giants at Titans
We’re at that point of the season where nearly half the NFL schedule is meaningless. This is one of those games. The Giants come in riding a seven game skid. The Titans are close behind with a six game losing streak of their own. I know New York just lost in Jacksonville, but there’s only so much humiliation a two-time Super Bowl champ can tolerate. GIANTS If I were Charles Barkley; Giants -1

Panthers at Saints
I’ve been critical of Cam Newton this season. However, I’ve only criticized his mechanics and body language. Those two things are controllable regardless of everything around him. I say this because too many football writers and fans have written off Newton. Tell me, could an experienced carpenter build a beautiful home with rotted wood and rusty nails? That’s what Newton’s trying to win with this season. His offensive line is HORRENDOUS. Kelvin Benjamin is a talented receiver with a bright future but he runs his routes like he’s lost or lazy more often than not. There’s no running game to shoulder the load, either. Newton and the Panthers have been awful this season, no doubt about it. But to argue Newton’s time is past is senseless. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -10

Jets at Vikings
At one point last Monday the Jets owned a run/pass ratio of 47 to 9. Andy Reid didn’t know rules permitted rushing the football that many times in a single game. The funniest part about that lopsided ratio is the alleged intentions behind it. Quick backstory: Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik don’t get along. Supposedly it was Idzik’s call to play Geno Smith while Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wanted Michael Vick. Since Ryan’s choice wasn’t under center, what better way to stick it to Idzik than provide him limited data on which to judge Smith. Needless to say, all is not well in Jets land. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings -6

Ravens at Dolphins
Someone’s season likely ends with a loss Sunday. Currently, six teams sit at 7-5 in the congested AFC. The Texans are right behind at 6-6. Add in the 8-4 Wildcard-leading Chargers and there are eight teams jostling for those final two playoff spots. Baltimore is already behind the eight ball, as they own the worst conference record (huge for tiebreakers) of all AFC playoff contenders. The loss of Haloti Ngata for the remainder of the season makes a hurting defense significantly worse. Despite a solid season, Miami has flown under the radar. While their lackluster performance Monday against the Jets certainly didn’t win them public favor, they’re a legitimate playoff team built around solid defense. The Dolphins should win but I’m not ready to bail on the 2014 Ravens. Not yet at least. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens +3

Colts at Browns
Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel should go through NFL combine quarterback drills or some sort of pro day to determine Cleveland’s starting quarterback. I don’t think either one adds much to a struggling offense, but the flapping of the gums via the media is tired. I’d actually prefer if the Browns would just go away for the remainder of the season and work all this out behind close doors. Sadly, they’ll stay in the news this week because the Colts are due for another road loss to the AFC North. BROWNS If I were Charles Barkley; Browns +4

Buccaneers at Lions
Detroit looks like a lock for an NFC playoff spot. Not because they’re an elite team but because their schedule is made of cupcakes and rainbows. Aside from Green Bay in Week 17 (which could be a meaningless game to the Packers), the Lions have Minnesota and Chicago. While neither division rival is awful, the Lions have proven themselves more than capability of beating teams with losing records. LIONS If I were Charles Barkley; Lions -10

Texans at Jaguars
I’m blinded by hopes of a bet on life support, but if there’s any hope for the Texans to win the AFC South or even reach the playoffs they’ll need to finish 4-0. While it sounds unlikely for a 6-6 team, the Texans draw the Jaguars twice with game against the Colts and Ravens in between. Houston was the better team for 45 minutes of their first meeting against Indianapolis. It just so happens that the Texans trailed 24-0 after those first 15 minutes. The Ravens are on the verge of collapsing under defensive injuries and suspensions. Though faint, a playoff heartbeat still exists in Houston. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -6

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Bills at Broncos
Do me a favor, judge the Bills defense on the first 40 minutes this week. They’re a very good defense with absolutely no help from Kyle Orton and the offense. Against the Broncos, a solid defense can only go so far without help from its offense. This one will ultimately end up as a two or three score blow out but only because the Bills are incapable of doing anything offensively. They run the most unimaginative, boring offense in the league outside of Carolina and the Jets. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos -10

Chiefs at Cardinals
I’m feeling good about calling the Cardinals frauds all season. Let the momentum continue! CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs +1

Seahawks at Eagles
I can’t stop thinking about what it would mean if the Eagles pull this off. A first round bye? A legitimate shot at the Super Bowl? It’s been exactly ten seasons since the Eagles last had a Super Bowl worthy squad. While this team isn’t as good as that team, things could break right for the Eagles. Though, that can’t happen without a win over Seattle first. And as much as I’d love that to happen, I just don’t see it. The Eagles have played two elite defenses this season. They’ve managed only two offensive touchdowns. I could say the Eagles need a defensive TD or two to win, but they scored three defensive touchdowns against the 49ers and lost, so there’s not much solace there. As effective as Chip Kelly’s offense has proven to be, it’s still been slowed by elite defenses. I don’t see how that changes against the NFL’s premiere defensive unit. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Seahawks +0.5

49ers at Raiders
Screw this game. Let me say this about Chip Kelly. I don’t think Kelly gets enough credit for his offense. Watch the offense of about a dozen teams around the NFL or anyone in the AFC East outside of New England. It’s brutal. If the NFL is such a copycat league, why hasn’t anyone attempted to use Kelly’s scheme? It’s not like Kelly has the most talent in the league. His quarterbacks are middle of the pack guys. His receivers outside of Jeremy Maclin are just OK, and even Maclin isn’t a top seven receiver. Kelly’s offense, put simply, is designed to have his quarterbacks throw to open receivers in open spaces. His quarterbacks don’t need to be Aaron Rodgers and throw receivers open. Nor do they need to squeeze passes into tight spaces. Watch any Eagles game and you’ll see 70% of their completions are to a receiver that’s open by at least two yards. Unfortunately, this is also the reason the Eagles have struggled in the red zone this year. Mark Sanchez can’t fit the ball in tight spaces. When the field shrinks and there’s less for the defense to cover, you need a top tier quarterback if you don’t own a dominant ground game. Last year the Eagles had that ground game. This year it’s been absent most of the season. Though it appears to be emerging with every passing week. Thanks for permitting my rant. Back to your regularly scheduled program. 49ERS If I were Charles Barkley; 49ers -8

Sunday Night (8:30PM ET)

Patriots at Chargers
Bill Simmons mentioned the Patriots went vanilla in Green Bay on purpose. I’m not arguing otherwise. Bill Belichick would do something like that to keep his schemes close to the vest but also to keep his players focused. Losing brings focus. Gregg Popovich loves losses because it means his players are forced to listen to him. I feel bad for the Chargers this week. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Patriots -3.5

Monday Night (8:30PM ET)

Falcons at Packers
Atlanta’s victory over the Cardinals provided some breathing room this week. A loss to the Packers won’t doom Atlanta’s division title hopes. Good thing, too, because they’re about to get crushed. The Falcons surrender the most passing yards per game by a whopping 10 yards per game. Of their five victories, only one came against a capable quarterback and that was Drew Brees in Week 1. The others? Mike Glennon, Josh McCown, Cam Newton (sorry, Cam) and Drew Stanton. Meanwhile, Green Bay has a decently talented quarterback that occasional has big games. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -13

*****

If I were Charles Barkley…
Season:        106 – 84 – 1
Last Week:   12 – 4 – 0

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