NFL Stat Oddity: Week 14

Do you like dramatic endings to NFL games? You’re here, so of course you do. While there is one game (Ravens-Browns) remaining in Week 14, this was hands down the least dramatic week of NFL action in the last decade.

Since I have been documenting this stuff on a weekly basis, I have never seen a week like this before. We had four games with a game-winning drive opportunity, tying Week 9 of 2014 for the lowest total since 2011. I didn’t even say comeback opportunity because the Falcons-Chargers game, seemingly a ripe one for lead changes, technically never had a 4QC opportunity since the score only changed on the final play of the game after it was tied at 17 all quarter. That was the only game-winning drive of Week 14.

Chiefs-Dolphins was the only 10+ point comeback win this week, snapping a streak of multiple double-digit comeback wins every week this season. There were five games where the losing team failed to score more than seven points (most since Week 17 in 2018).

Some special thank you notes for this boring week of action:

Thanks for nothing, Cam Newton, with your horrible pick-six that ruined any chance of TNF being good.

Thanks for not being able to field any of your top four wideouts, Houston, so now Deshaun Watson will hold a 36-7 loss in likely his only meeting with Mitchell Trubisky as a member of the Bears.

Thanks for not finding a better backup quarterback, Cincinnati, so that the Andy Dalton Revenge Game could be such a dud. Dallas finally won a game without scoring 31 points for the first time since the 2018 playoffs. The Cowboys still scored 30 though.

Thanks to the Jaguars (31-10 vs. Titans) and Jets (40-3 at Seahawks) for being your miserable selves.

Thanks to the referees for never giving Detroit any charity calls against the Green Bay Packers, unlike the numerous charity calls of DPI that Tom Brady gets this year and twice on Sunday.

Thanks to Dan Bailey for missing three field goals and an extra point, you Minnesota Masterclass of Muck.

But I guess I deserve everything I get for betting on both New York teams, neither of which even cracked 200 yards of offense on Sunday.

While it may have been lacking in drama, Week 14 was quite impactful on the season. The No. 1 seed changed hands in both conferences with the Chiefs and Packers moving ahead of the Steelers and Saints in moves that may stick through the rest of the season.

We need Drew Brees back next week for the showdown with the Chiefs. We need some drama again. But if you love one-handed interceptions by defenders, then Week 14 was incredible for that.

Previous weeks in Stat Oddity:

Steelers Flop Again in Buffalo

For evidence of how anticlimactic this week was, the Game of the Week on Sunday Night Football was decided after the Bills ran out the final 7:11 on the clock in their 26-15 win. The only people seemingly less interested in this final drive than Mike Tirico and Cris Collinsworth were Mike Tomlin and the Steelers, as the coach did not even use all three of his timeouts to try to get the ball back.

If this was the game to determine the main challenger to the Chiefs in the AFC, then Kansas City has little to worry about. If the Chiefs play their A game, neither one of these teams is beating them, especially not the Steelers right now.

During the first half, I remarked that this felt like a game Pittsburgh, a 2-point underdog, was going to win as long as Ben Roethlisberger did not give up some turnovers. In a first half puntfest on a cold night, the Pittsburgh pass rush was rattling Josh Allen as sacks and turnovers started to pile up for Buffalo, leading to the Steelers going up 7-0 after a short field.

Then the game took a turn. Allen remembered that Stefon Diggs had a huge advantage without cornerback Joe Haden (concussion) available and started to get him the ball. Buffalo scored and then quickly scored again after Roethlisberger floated a short pass that was returned 51 yards for a touchdown. The Buffalo defense seemed to know exactly what was coming and was just waiting for the throw.

Still, with two timeouts and 52 seconds left, you’d expect the Steelers to try to answer before halftime, trailing 9-7 now. Buffalo was getting the ball to start the second half too. But Pittsburgh seemingly raised a white flag, handing the ball off before waiting to throw another short pass and letting the clock expire. That was odd.

Much like on Monday against Washington, Pittsburgh’s defense went from having a great half to not being able to stop a thing afterwards. In fact, Pittsburgh’s only defensive stop in the second half was keyed by the Bills trying an ill-fated end-around run to Diggs that brought up a 3rd-and-6. Diggs was unstoppable as a receiver with 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter.

In between Buffalo’s two third-quarter touchdowns, Roethlisberger saw his no-sack streak end as the Bills finally got to him for a three-and-out. Cue an Ebron drop on third down to end the next drive before Roethlisberger finally engineered his best drive of the night, going 81 yards for a touchdown and two-point conversion to cut the 23-7 deficit in half to 23-15 with 12:18 to play.

But instead of the defense getting the ball back in a one-possession game, the Steelers faltered again and gave up a 35-yard pass interference penalty on third down in the end zone. That fortunately only led to a field goal after the Bills botched their goal-to-go offense, but the Bills led 26-15 now. Facing a 3rd-and-4, Roethlisberger badly underthrew a deep ball to James Washington that was intercepted with 7:11 left. Again, this is a spot where something shorter would have actually made sense, but he continued his all-or-nothing approach with the bomb.

From there, the Bills picked up four first downs and never even had to give the ball back. After nine possessions in the first half, the Steelers saw the ball just four times in the second half.

Much has been made of Pittsburgh playing three games in 12 days, but does that mean all the games have to look like a team suffering from the exact same problems?

They started the game with a dropped screen pass by Diontae Johnson, who had another non-contact drop and saw the bench for a while after that. Ebron had another big drop as well. The running game saw center Maurkice Pouncey and back James Conner return, but it was still terrible with 17 carries for 47 yards (2.7 YPC). Pittsburgh couldn’t create any play longer than 20 yards and scored fewer than 20 points for the third game in a row with a season-low 15 points.

Sadly, the problems have been there since 2019 started. The season opener, a 33-3 loss in New England, was the last time the Steelers played on SNF with Roethlisberger at quarterback. On that night, the Steelers seemed to have no plan on how to run their offense without Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger was throwing a ton of short, quick passes with Donte Moncrief, a free-agent signing, dropped several big passes. Pittsburgh also finished the game with 32 rushing yards. Sound familiar? Little did we know the Patriots would have such a historic first half of the season on defense, but that game was the first sign that things may be problematic with an offensive coordinator (Randy Fichtner) unable to adjust to the changes in talent on the unit.

Now you go to this year with Roethlisberger back from elbow surgery, and the Steelers drafted a talented receiver in Chase Claypool. However, this is still a young offense and receiving corps with talent, but not much experience or proof of consistent play. Pittsburgh got to 10-0 with Roethlisberger making this short-passing game work well thanks to playing strong situational football (red zones, third downs). And yes, the schedule helped too. Beating up on the Eagles, Bengals and Jaguars is different than an improved Washington defense or a Buffalo team that is really coming around on that side of the ball again. If Baltimore exposed anything in that Wednesday afternoon game, then Washington and Buffalo have found it easy to cheat from that tape with the Steelers not changing the answers.

The colder weather can certainly be contributing to the drops too, but this offense has been trending to dangerously one-dimensional since November started. Pittsburgh has failed to rush for 50 yards in five of their last seven games, a new franchise record. We know their usage level of play-action passing is almost criminal in this era.

The last three games are proof that you cannot expect to function as an offense in this league if all you can do is get in shotgun and throw short, quick passes with no play-action, no running game to speak of, and the most drops in the league.

The other contrast in this game was the athletic ability of a 38-year-old Roethlisberger and a young Allen. Obviously, Allen has the bigger arm and is more mobile. That likely made Roethlisberger look worse than he would in a normal week, but he did not look capable of throwing downfield well in this game outside of his bullet for a 19-yard touchdown to James Washington.

So why is this offense so broken looking the last three weeks? When you mix in the cold weather with the improved defensive opponents, and consider the three games in 12 days, it may also just be the fact that it is too much on an old quarterback who is leading the league now with over 500 pass attempts.

If the Steelers look this bad again on offense in Cincinnati next Monday night, then you can count on this team to flop in the first playoff game. But even when they play the Colts in Week 16, that could be a brutal home loss if this team continues to play the way it has the last couple of games.

Again, these offensive issues, both systematic and philosophical, have existed since 2019 started. Those issues likely are not going away this year. It’s just starting to look worse because the quarterback is wearing down.

He may not be ready to hang it up, but at least twice on Sunday night, the Steelers looked content to throw in the towel on this terrible game. Meanwhile, the Bills finally have their key AFC win before the playoffs start. Pittsburgh still has a great shot at the No. 2 seed, but that no longer means what it used to without a bye.

I Fvcking Love Patrick Mahomes Chapter 49: Week 14 at Dolphins

The 49th game of Patrick Mahomes’ career – first against Miami — was certainly an adventure. The first quarter was likely the worst quarter of his NFL career. He threw an interception inside the Miami 30 on a slow-developing screen pass that was tipped. Two plays after nearly losing a fumble, Mahomes tried to outrun a defender on third down before backtracking so far, he lost 30 yards on a sack, a historic feat you don’t want to put your name in the record books for. On his third drive, Mahomes was too high on a pass that was tipped by his receiver for a second interception, only the fifth multi-interception game of his career.

However, as I tweeted during the game, I felt pretty confident he could overcome fluky plays like tipped interceptions as there were receivers very open against this highly-ranked Miami defense.

Sure enough, Mahomes rebounded in a big way despite Miami taking a 10-0 lead. Mahomes completed 24 passes for 393 yards with two touchdowns. That is 16.4 yards per completion, or higher than any game in Mahomes’ career where he completed more than 15 passes.

Rather good when you can turn a personal worst quarter into a huge game. This game is also a reminder of just how annoying and noisy interceptions can be. Mahomes threw a third pick in the fourth quarter while the Chiefs were up 30-10. Xavien Howard made an incredible one-handed interception to save a touchdown. Meanwhile, the Chiefs had a shot at an easier interception thrown by Tua on the ensuing drive, but it still came down to the receiver for a touchdown to keep the game alive for Miami.

How did Miami fare with my tips for beating the Chiefs? Only scoring 10 points through three quarters is a huge no-no, as is giving up a punt return score and a safety. However, they were able to recover the obligatory fumble (a bad one by Mecole Hardman) and get some third-down sacks. But trying to come back from 20 down in the fourth quarter is a terrible idea against anyone, and Mahomes was able to get points in the four-minute offense once again.

Since 2019, the Chiefs are an incredible 8-1 with Mahomes when they trail by 10+ points in a game, only losing to the Raiders this year. That Las Vegas loss is also the only thing preventing the Chiefs from being on a 22-game winning streak, which would be the new record.

We are witnessing one of the best title defenses in recent history, and with Pittsburgh’s loss on Sunday night, the Chiefs have a clear shot at the No. 1 seed now. However, when does being a pass-happy team that gets into so many close games catch up to the Chiefs? Mahomes just broke the record for most passing yards over a six-game stretch in NFL history (2,309).

Despite all the yards and points, the Chiefs still seem to find every game come down to a one-score margin in the final four minutes with Mahomes in possession of the ball, like he was on Sunday again. This time, the key play was a 4th-and-1 conversion to Tyreek Hill for 22 yards, but Hill got very greedy in his attempt to score when all he had to do was go down and the game was over with Miami out of timeouts. That was a horrible mistake that could have cost the Chiefs. Instead of taking three kneeldowns, three plays with zero risk, the Chiefs ended up having to kick a 46-yard field goal, kickoff, defend five plays on defense, a field goal by Miami, and then finally recover an onside kick to secure the win.

That’s the risk Hill’s selfish move brought to the team in what should have been a simple 30-24 finish instead of 33-27. Maybe next time Harrison Butker isn’t good on the field goal with 1:08 left, opening the door for the defense to lose on a last-second touchdown again.

So, with four turnovers and that clock gaffe by Hill, this was another game where the Chiefs made things a lot more interesting than they needed to be. Maybe no one is good enough to make them pay for it in the end, but we’ll see how the Chiefs fare in New Orleans as they look for their sixth road win over a team with a winning record this season. The NFL record for such wins in a season is four, so that could be another record for Mahomes and the Chiefs depending on how the Buccaneers, Ravens, Raiders, and Dolphins finish this season.

Carson Wentz: If I Could Start Again, a Million Miles Away…

Does Doug Pederson have another late-season playoff push in him with a quarterback not named Carson Wentz? Jalen Hurts made his first start and the Eagles just so happened to knock off the 10-2 Saints with a 24-21 victory.

The Eagles even would have led 20-0 at halftime if not for missing a 22-yard field goal. I’m not going to pretend Hurts was the best thing since Mahomes arrived, but I’m also pretty confident in saying this game is not a Philadelphia win if Wentz started.

Hurts took zero sacks in this game despite throwing 30 passes and rushing 18 times (includes three knees). Wentz has one game this season (Rams) where he didn’t take a sack. He took at least three sacks in every other game and often a lot more than that. The Eagles scored 24 points after not topping 17 points in any of their four games since the bye week. This was also against a New Orleans defense that had been playing great football.

Hurts rushed for 106 yards and looks like he can be very effective as a runner (design and especially scrambles) in this league. He is simply faster and more elusive than Wentz ever will be. The passing can develop of course, but it was nice to see a 15-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.

Miles Sanders also chipped in an 82-yard run on his way to 115 yards. The Saints hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 56 games, but allowed two Eagles to do it in this game. I just do not see that happening if Wentz was still the quarterback. If Pederson wanted to see a spark by making the quarterback move, he definitely got it on Sunday with this huge win to put the Eagles back in contention for that division at 4-8-1.

As I wrote earlier this week, the Saints were 8-0 without Drew Brees thanks mostly to the defense. But there were problems with Taysom Hill and sacks that you just don’t worry about with Brees in the game. Hill took five sacks in this game, or something Brees has done once in the last five seasons. The most costly one came in the fourth quarter with the Saints down 17-14 and facing a fourth-and-2. Hill took a sack and lost a fumble. The Eagles turned that into a 53-yard touchdown drive and 24-14 lead. Hill then took two more sacks, leading to a 57-yard field goal that was missed with 1:55 left.

Hill was not overall poor in this game, but there are just some inexperience flaws in his game that cost him against a defense that is better than given credit for this season. The Saints will have to get Brees back to have any legitimate shot at knocking off the Chiefs on Sunday.

But all of a sudden, the Eagles look interesting again with games left against the Cardinals, Cowboys, and Football Team. The Eagles no longer control their own fate, but it would be nice if Week 17 against Washington was for the division title.

The Falcons Out-Falcon the Chargers

This game might have mattered if these teams weren’t exactly who we thought they are: epic chokers. Incredibly, there was only a single score in the fourth quarter as the game was tied at 17.

Sure, there were three interceptions thrown in the last four minutes alone (two by Matt Ryan), but this was surprisingly a tame ending given the standards these teams have set for how to lose games.

Rookie Justin Herbert’s interception with 47 seconds left sure seemed like it would be a dagger to his team and leave him with one of the saddest stat lines in NFL history. At this point, Herbert was 33-of-40 for 195 yards. He would have been the first QB in NFL history to finish with fewer than 200 passing yards on at least 32 completions.

Fortunately, Ryan was picked three plays later and Herbert delivered two of his longest completions of the day, including a 25-yard pass to set up a 43-yard game-winning field goal with no time left. Surprisingly, there were no surprise penalties, icings of the kicker, or anything goofy on the play. It was just a simple kick and the Chargers made it to win the game 20-17.

Herbert finally has a game-winning drive, and he finished with 243 yards on 36 completions, avoiding the Chris Weinke benchmark of 223 yards.

This game actually would have been easier to explain if he did break the Weinke record. It’s the Chargers. It’s the Falcons. This is what they do. We’ll do this again in 2024.

NFL Week 14 Predictions: AFC Goes Old School

Pandemic or not, 2020 had a 1999 vibe to it coming in as it expected to be a changing of the guard season in the NFL, especially in the AFC. As a clear sign of that, the Bills (9-3), Browns (9-3), and Dolphins (8-4) are currently the third, fifth, and sixth seeds respectively in the AFC playoffs.

These teams are usually competing for The Three Stooges of Who Gives a F*ck?

Believe it or not, this would be the first season ever in which the Browns, Bills, and Dolphins all made the playoffs. The only time they have ever all had a winning record was 1973, but the Browns (7-5-2) did not qualify for the playoffs. It is hardly clinched yet, but they have a fair shot to all reach January.

Last week I wrote that Cleveland’s win over Tennessee was arguably the biggest win for the team since a playoff win in January 1995. A win this week over Baltimore would rank pretty high up there too. For the Dolphins, I wrote a detailed preview for their game against the Chiefs, which I called potentially their biggest win against a non-Patriots team since the 2000 playoffs (beat the Colts in overtime).

Finally, my other in-depth preview was Steelers-Bills on SNF, and that would easily be one of the biggest Buffalo wins in the last 25 years too. None of this is hyperbole. It just goes to show that some fan bases take their team’s success for granted. You get to play multiple big games a season while a team like Buffalo is rarely ever treated to a home game on SNF with a chance to beat an 11-1 team and make a statement as the second-best team in the conference.

I’m looking forward to those games, as well as Jalen Hurts’ starting debut for the Eagles. I also wrote previews for Cardinals-Giants and the Andy Dalton Revenge Game I love as a bet in Cincinnati this week.

NFL Week 14 Predictions

I drank a little too much Bill Belichick Kool-Aid for TNF, but at least I still picked the Rams to win the game. Also, good riddance to the bye weeks, it’s a full slate.

I said I like the Cowboys to actually win an easy game for a change, and I also like for Kirk Cousins to implode in Tampa Bay after watching the Vikings squeak by the Panthers and Jaguars the last two weeks.

A game I think I’ll flat out avoid is Jets-Seahawks, especially after the Seahawks screwed up the Colt McCoy layup against the Giants a week ago. A 14.5 point spread for this team? Seattle has won 20 games since 2019 and exactly one of them (27-10 vs. Arizona) was won by more than 13 points. Worse, the Jets have scored at least 27 points in three of their last four games, losing by a combined 12 points in those games. They should have won last week. Seattle has only scored 27+ in one of its last four games as the offense has gone south.

NFL Week 14 Predictions: The Old Familiar Sting Edition

Week 13 was an unlucky one for many of the NFL’s most notable quarterbacks. Some of them have a matchup in Week 14 against an opponent that has been a nuisance throughout their careers, with most of those coming as a surprise since these teams generally aren’t quality opponents. I imagine we’ll see at least one upset there.

Upset Alert: Steelers at Raiders (+10)

You can say I’m forcing the narrative on this one, but it’s a fact that underachieving Steelers seasons always involve a loss to the Raiders no matter how bad Oakland is. It’s happened all four times the Steelers have missed the playoffs in the Ben Roethlisberger era (2006, 2009, 2012, and 2013). This Oakland team is hardly any worse than those teams were either. Roethlisberger had two of his best performances in a loss ever in the 2009 and 2012 games, but he’s still just 2-4 against Oakland for his career.

This is almost a must-win for the Steelers (7-4-1), because they have the Patriots and Saints coming up. A five-game losing streak could knock them out of the playoffs altogether, so they have to get this one, but it won’t be easy. Oakland did just only lose by 7 points to the Chiefs last week. As much as I criticize Derek Carr, he’s been very functional in three of the losses this year (DEN, IND, KC). They can move the ball and score in this one, and the Steelers are playing anything but stellar defense right now.

I think the spread is too high, and that’s even after coming down from 11 earlier this week. The Steelers have played 14 road games since last year. They’ve won only two of those games by more than 7 points. They just make too many mistakes on the road to trust them to win big. With James Conner out, Roethlisberger might think he’s going to throw 45+ times just because he’s the least-pressured QB in the NFL and the Raiders have the worst pass rush. That’s why they should win this game, but it’s also easily why they could lose it if he starts forcing passes to Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. By DVOA, the Raiders are actually good (top 4) against #1 and #2 WRs. They suck everywhere else, and again, they just don’t generate pressures and sacks. So Roethlisberger needs to use his tight ends and use Jaylen Samuels as a receiver in this one and just be careful with the ball.

My biggest pet peeve about this season would be people blaming Le’Veon Bell’s absence on any lack of success for the Steelers. Clearly, they haven’t missed him and still remain a great offense, albeit more one-dimensional. However, it’s a different story when his replacement is out too. The Steelers aren’t well equipped to handle a RB injury since they put so much into a workhorse back, and Samuels has never been that type of player going back to college. So it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, but if they’re just going to follow the script of past Pittsburgh disappointments, then bet on an Oakland win here.

Falcons at Packers (-4.5)

Yes, I picked both of these teams to finish 12-4, so them coming in with 4 wins (4.5 for Green Bay, technically) is very depressing. Aaron Rodgers is 3-5 against the Matt Ryan-led Falcons, including a playoff split. I think the Packers play well after the Mike McCarthy firing and get this win over an Atlanta team that has gone off the rails offensively the last month. Cue “dome team in Green Bay in December” too, though these teams did play a 43-37 game on a Monday night in 2014 (12/8) that was pretty entertaining. 2014 was also the last time the Packers looked like a well-oiled machine.

Patriots at Dolphins (+8)

Believe it or not, but Tom Brady is 7-9 as a starter in Miami, including 1-4 since 2013. He’s lost to some QBs much worse than Ryan Tannehill there, including Joey Harrington, A.J. Feeley, and Chad Henne. I’d feel better about Miami’s chances if Xavien Howard was active, because the Dolphins have a lot of takeaways this year and he has 7 INT alone. But he’ll miss a game for the first time since 2016 (figures). I’d also feel better about Miami scoring enough points to win if they had some of its YAC players still active, but Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant have been lost for the season. So I don’t think Miami has much to hang its hat on right now, but Adam Gase has at least beaten the Patriots before so it could be worth a watch. The first matchup in Foxboro sure as hell wasn’t.

Saints at Buccaneers (+10)

Tampa Bay had one of the stunners of 2018 with that 48-40 win in New Orleans in Week 1. Ryan Fitzpatrick had a monster day, but it’s Jameis Winston now. He can still move the ball at a high level, but he’ll obviously have to avoid the turnovers in this one. The Saints had a mini-bye after that Dallas stinker and will be looking for a bounce-back performance, especially from Drew Brees. Tampa Bay has done better against the pass since firing Mike Smith, but the problem is the run defense is still atrocious too, and the Saints still have Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

So I think the Saints get a series split, but I still like Tampa Bay to keep it within 10. Maybe that’s fool’s gold, but in 12 career starts in Tampa Bay, Brees is 7-5 with only three wins by more than 7 points (all in 2006-2010 era). He’s not immune to throwing up a stinker in that building. Of course, he’ll probably throw for 500 yards and 6 TD after I questioned if the cliff is coming sooner than expected since he is about to turn 40.

SNF: Rams at Bears (+3)

Finally, I wanted to briefly cover SNF’s flexed game in Chicago. It could be a good one, and picking the Rams could be my regret of the week. I just think the Rams are more than capable of winning out to finish 15-1 and get the No. 1 seed. I also know that teams rarely finish 15-1, and a road game against a potential No. 3 seed that ranks top 5 in points scored and allowed is a juicy spot for an upset. I’m still going to trust the Rams in that they don’t let Khalil Mack blow this game up, because that’s Chicago’s most likely path to victory. Mack disrupting Jared Goff and forcing turnovers. But even when the Rams look off, like they did last week in Detroit, they still found a way to score 30 points on the road and won by 14. Whether it’s Goff, Gurley on the ground, or Aaron Donald doing incredible things on defense, I trust this team to find a way in this one.

It’ll be good to see Mitchell Trubisky back in the lineup in a big game, arguably the biggest of his young career. It’s not huge for playoff seeds since Bears are unlikely to catch anyone for a bye after losing to the Giants last week, but it could be big just to see if the Bears match up well with a top team. Show us that the NFC playoffs could be more than just an inevitable rematch between the Rams and Saints. Alas, the Bears are the only team this season with multiple losses despite 3+ takeaways. They’re also the only team to have 7 such games, but the point is even with takeaways they can still be outscored, especially by a potent team like the Rams.

Final: Rams 27, Bears 23

NFL Week 14 Predictions

I didn’t realize Jacksonville would quit after that shocking 6-0 win over the Colts. They really wanted no part of tackling Derrick Henry on TNF, so I’m 0-1 ATS, which has been kicking my ass for weeks now.

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Browns and Cardinals are two underdogs I like to win outright at home. I also will put something on Oakland winning straight up against Pittsburgh, but likely stick with the spread on that one.

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NFL Week 14 Predictions: The Best Week?

Week 14 just might be the best schedule the NFL has on paper all season. There are six games between teams with at least a .500 record. Maybe more importantly, there just aren’t any real “gimme games” where you can feel very confident that one team is just going to roll over the other. I’m going to quickly go through the remaining 15 games this week to show my concerns with picking a winner.

IND-BUF: Sure, the Colts stink, but they’ve blown five fourth-quarter leads and we don’t know if Tyrod Taylor is good to go. Nathan Peterman and his turnovers could be the key to an Indy win on the road, unless he turns into Rob Johnson vs. Indy.

CHI-CIN: I’d be worried about the Bengals having blown their emotional wad vs. Pittsburgh on Monday night. Chicago is bad, but good enough to pounce on some mistakes for return touchdowns/short fields.

SF-HOU: I can see the headlines already. “49ers 2-0 in close games with Garoppolo at QB.” This would be an interesting game if, you know, Tom Savage wasn’t the Houston QB.

OAK-KC: Trust the Chiefs these days? Impossible, and they already lost a game they should have won against the Raiders this year. Throw in a suspension to Marcus Peters, the return of Michael Crabtree, and I’m hesitant as hell about going with the Chiefs.

DAL-NYG: I believe in teams getting a boost the next game after a major firing, such as getting rid of Ben McAdoo. Add in the return of Eli Manning at quarterback, home field, and the fact that Dak Prescott has struggled to score points on the Giants in three tries. I don’t trust Dallas period these days, but this is a matchup I especially would not trust them in.

DET-TB: I think Matthew Stafford will be fine health wise, but you know I already suck at predicting Tampa Bay games. I can say fade Mike Evans in fantasy (DFS), and he’ll probably go off for 140 yards and 2 TD.

MIN-CAR: I feel oddly confident about the Vikings like I did last week when they won in Atlanta, but Carolina has shown some real quality play at times this season. Just don’t know which Cam will show up, and everyone seems to be waiting for Case Keenum to have that fall back to Earth game, which is certainly possible on the road against a decent defense. But MIN should win.

GB-CLE: Hey, I think this might be the week for the Browns to avoid 0-16. Another big firing (GM Sashi Brown) took place here, and it’s really just a good matchup for Cleveland. The Browns should be able to stop the run, forcing Brett Hundley to throw more. He hasn’t been that consistent or sharp. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon could feast on the secondary. The only concern here is DeShone Kizer, who continues to make crippling turnovers for this offense. But I could already see the headlines for this one too. “Packers expecting a win with Aaron Rodgers coming back next week suffer a huge loss in Cleveland; playoffs much in doubt.” Not my preferred narrative, but just something that I could see happening.

NYJ-DEN: Do you really want to start trusting Josh McCown and the Jets? Sure, they have no doubt been playing better than Denver this year, but doesn’t the losing streak have to stop eventually? The Jets aren’t the Eagles or Patriots. and Mile High is one of the best home-field advantages in the league. I could see some McCown turnovers helping out the struggling Denver offense. Not a game I’d want to bet on.

WAS-LACH: This is another one with a probable narrative. “The Chargers had been playing so well, but choked away another late lead to a Washington team that has now won twice in LA this year, as well as in Seattle.” Redskins had a long time to rest after that shitshow in Dallas. Not sure what we’ll get from them, but they’ve played pretty solid football outside of that game.

TEN-ARI: The Titans are one of the worst 8-4 teams in NFL history, and Arizona can still be competitive at home even with Blaine Gabbert. Bruce Arians should know Dick LeBeau’s scheme well. I’m sure I’ll have to write about this game in Clutch Encounters either way.

SEA-JAC: Oddly enough, this might be the game I feel the best about this week. I just think Seattle will go in there, like the Rams earlier this year, and win the game by making Bortles play bad and cough up turnovers. The Seattle defense is still very good. Not better than Jacksonville’s this year, but I was impressed with the way the Seahawks handled Philadelphia’s front last week to allow Russell Wilson time to make things happen. If they can do that on the road, and it’s not a 10:00 AM body clock game, then they should win this one, underdog status be damned.

PHI-LARM: The game of the week, I suppose, but still a lot of things for both teams to prove. I think Jared Goff’s stats are still as misleading as anyone’s this year, and he’ll have to play well against a very solid defense. Carson Wentz has to clean up the mistakes from last week on the road again, but I think this is a game for the Rams defense to remind us how good they can be too. I’ll take the Rams in a close one at home, but obviously the Eagles winning wouldn’t be any surprise.

BAL-PIT: The Steelers can’t really overlook their main rival for their main obstacle (NE) to a Super Bowl, plus this game is to clinch the AFC North. We know the Steelers play much better at home on offense, especially in prime time. Jimmy Smith being out is a huge loss for the Ravens, which should give Antonio Brown a better chance at a huge night. He might need it with the suspension of JuJu Smith-Schuster. Obviously the loss of Ryan Shazier is big too, and the losses in the secondary (Joe Haden most notably) are troubling for a defense that has started to give up many big plays. If Joe Flacco can throw the ball like he did against Detroit, then we definitely have a game here, but I think the Steelers will take care of business at home. I just don’t feel overly confident about it, because these teams love to split and play 3-point games. The Steelers aren’t going to keep winning every one-score game either.

NE-MIA: I’d say it’s the lock of the week, but no Rob Gronkowski makes things interesting. Not to mention we’ve seen NE go down to Miami and lose when no one expected in 2004, 2006, and 2013-15. Yeah, you say Jay Cutler, but don’t forget about A.J. Feeley (2004) and Joey Harrington (2006). Weird things happen to NE down there. Plus I’ll probably have a ton of money at my fingertips on parlays waiting for the Patriots to give me a Merry Christmas, and they’ll screw me like they always do.

2017 Week 14 Predictions

The Saints quickly ended my dream of a 16-0 week, not like I ever had a shot at that in this particular week.

2017Wk14V2

  • Week 1: 8-7
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 9-7
  • Week 4: 8-8
  • Week 5: 6-8
  • Week 6: 6-8
  • Week 7: 11-4
  • Week 8: 12-1
  • Week 9: 6-7
  • Week 10: 12-2 (Spread: 6-8)
  • Week 11: 8-6 (Spread: 8-5-1)
  • Week 12: 12-4 (Spread: 7-9)
  • Week 13: 11-5 (Spread: 10-6)
  • Season: 120-72 (Spread: 31-28-1)

NFL Week 14 Predictions: Pivotal Edition

Week 14 started with what I think should go down as the most important game in the standings for the 2016 regular season. Kansas City beat Oakland for the fifth game in a row, and those Raiders fans were pissed at me after a week of calling them the worst 10-2 team ever and how Derek Carr would lower the standard of the MVP award.

cocksucker

Welp. The rest of the week’s schedule looks pretty good too, and I see some games that should also go a long way in clearing up this playoff picture.

Pittsburgh at Buffalo

Big snow game potential? Not bad for Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy then, but I like the Steelers having a better ability to throw the ball in this one. Still, it will be a tough game on the road, as Buffalo has played many teams better than itself closely this year. The Steelers need this game since I think they should get help from the Patriots on Monday night to take over the lead in the AFC North.

Baltimore at New England

I feel like I’m not giving Baltimore enough respect in this one on Monday night. Maybe it’s because the game is in New England, or maybe because I still don’t think that highly of the Ravens this year, or think too much of this Patriots squad. Frankly, are the Patriots any better right now than they were in 2014 or 2015? I don’t think so. The loss of Rob Gronkowski is huge, and you can see in the last three games (against crap competition) where he was basically unavailable, Tom Brady’s YPA is a measly 6.14. And we know the Ravens have had more success against Brady than just about any defense in the NFL. No, this year’s unit is not as strong as the 2009-2012 defenses, but it’s still a good unit, and it helps to have Elvis Dumervil back in action. But my main concern with the Ravens here is the offense’s low-scoring outputs. Last week against Miami looked like a major outlier. Even at his best, Joe Flacco is usually never a 36-of-47 for 381 yards and 4 TD type of passer, but he really took over the Dolphins game. He’ll need to be sharp again in this one, because we know how the Patriots tend to feast on turnovers and red-zone stops. They’ll give up yards, but they rarely break. So while I think the game can be very good, I still would have to pick the Patriots at home.

Seattle at Green Bay

This could be the season for the Packers (6-6), a ninth-place team in the NFC right now. Aaron Rodgers has never passed for 250 yards in six career starts against the Seahawks, and he’s 1-3 against the Legion of Boom era. That LOB will be missing Earl Thomas, which can be a problem when you’re playing an improv QB like Rodgers, but I think Seattle’s defense will be fine. The other side of the ball is where this one should be decided. Russell Wilson has alternated between looking like an MVP and having some of his least effective games, whether due to injury or the offensive line this season. I don’t think the Packers have the defensive front to really get after Wilson in the way that teams like the Rams and Buccaneers did. I think Wilson will take advantage of that weakened secondary with his receivers, and the Seahawks will control the game in Lambeau. At 6-7, it would have to take a big Detroit collapse for the Packers to rebound for the playoffs.

Dallas at NY Giants

These teams played another close finish in Week 1, the first start of Dak Prescott’s career. Had Terrance Williams got out of bounds late, the Cowboys might be looking at a 12-0 record right now. I honestly never would have seen that coming after that harmless loss in Week 1, but Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have only continued to get better to make this one of the best offenses in recent years. I think the Giants have been a bit of a paper tiger on defense this year, and were shown up by a superior Pittsburgh offense last week. Now with Jason Pierre-Paul out, that just makes it harder on the pass rush to produce. Part of me wants to believe this is a bounce-back game for Eli Manning, who despite the reputation for having a down year, has been throwing multiple touchdowns week after week. He’s just not getting the yards and leading the offense to many points. I think he gets on track against a quietly weak Dallas defense, but it still may not be enough to outscore the Cowboys at home. Look for another super-close finish between these teams, but I think Dallas clinches the division.

2016 Week 14 Predictions

Oakland felt my kiss of death on Thursday night, so the dream of a 16-0 picks week died early this time.

Winners in bold:

  • Chargers at Panthers
  • Bengals at Browns
  • Bears at Lions
  • Redskins at Eagles
  • Steelers at Bills
  • Cardinals at Dolphins
  • Vikings at Jaguars
  • Broncos at Titans
  • Texans at Colts
  • Jets at 49ers
  • Falcons at Rams
  • Saints at Buccaneers
  • Seahawks at Packers
  • Cowboys at Giants
  • Ravens at Patriots

Guess I’m big on road teams for a change. Boy, we get a real turd bowl with Jets-49ers. The 49ers haven’t had a fourth-quarter lead since Week 1. I think that will finally change this week.

  • Week 1: 7-9
  • Week 2: 10-6
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 8-7
  • Week 5: 7-7
  • Week 6: 12-3
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 7-6
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 7-7
  • Week 11: 12-2
  • Week 12: 12-4
  • Week 13: 10-5
  • Season: 118-74

NFL Week 14 Predictions: Cincinnati Is Pittsburgh’s Safe Space

Over the next three weeks the AFC playoff picture will get a lot clearer with a series of games involving the Steelers, Bengals and Broncos playing one another. Buried in that absurdly deep 1 p.m. slate of 11 games is the rematch between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. You probably knew I would write about this one, because I tend to write about the biggest games. It just so happens that the only other Week 14 game between teams with winning records happened on Thursday night in Arizona, and I already shared 3,000 words on that yesterday. Today I also wrote about QBR and QB stats for 2015 involving Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Cam Newton. I’m trying to stay busy while things are difficult at home right now.

Steelers at Bengals

I think this is one of the craziest stats I know: Marvin Lewis is 2-11 at home against the Steelers in his career, including that infamous playoff loss in the 2005 season. For some reason, the Bengals continue to play much better in Heinz Field than they do at home against their rival. I don’t want to ignore that, and frankly it leans me towards picking the Steelers to get the season split. But I see much better reasons than that for it.

Ben Roethlisberger is not making a return from an MCL sprain this time like he was in Week 8 when he had his worst game of the season. The Bengals are the only team to hold him under 334 yards passing in a game he finished this year, and the two interceptions in the fourth quarter were obviously killers. I’ve warned in the past that Roethlisberger has had some of his worst games against the Bengals, but I like him to rebound this week with the way he has been playing in the last month. The protection is usually solid this season and the receivers are healthy and available with Markus Wheaton starting to come along as a viable option. The running game is a bit hit or miss, but DeAngelo Williams has been quite good at times, making you forget about Le’Veon Bell’s absence. That’s the other difference I see this time. Not only was Roethlisberger making his return in Week 8, but the Steelers had to deal with the blow of losing Bell early in the second quarter of that game, which had an offensive start before the defenses took over and the Bengals pulled out a late 16-10 win.

I feel like the offenses are going to shine in this one and we’ll get a much different game. A.J. Green is a DFS favorite for me this week as few defenses get targeted by the No. 1 WR more than Pittsburgh, and Tyler Eifert is back in the lineup. The Bengals have stomped the Rams and Browns the last two weeks, just as you would expect them to do given the mismatches in team quality. The Bengals are actually first in DVOA right now. This is a very good team playing a big game at home, so of course that will be the measuring stick this week. It’s not in prime time, but it certainly counts a lot with the Bengals pursuing a No. 1 seed. I just think the Steelers can copy a similar formula to what the Cardinals used a few weeks ago and attack this secondary, which has had some recent injuries (Adam Jones is out and Darqueze Dennard went on IR), with the bevy of receivers. That requires Roethlisberger to be on point, but again, I think the prospects of him doing that are much higher this week than they were in Week 8 when his movement looked limited in the pocket. Still, I do not trust the Pittsburgh defense to have a standout game against this talented offense, so the score should be pretty high, but I don’t think the game will have enough possessions for both teams to get into the 30’s.

Final score: Steelers 29, Bengals 26

2015 Week 14 Predictions

I had the Cardinals, but they sure cut it closer than expected against Minnesota in one of the best TNF games you’ll see. Now explain to me why we couldn’t have seen that game on Saturday night? This late in the season you’re either going to get lousy teams in prime time, or if it’s a big game, why play it on four days of rest? Once the college football regular season ends, scrap that TNF noise and move the games to Saturday.

Winners in bold:

  • Saints at Buccaneers
  • Redskins at Bears
  • Seahawks at Ravens
  • Falcons at Panthers
  • Titans at Jets
  • Chargers at Chiefs
  • Steelers at Bengals
  • 49ers at Browns
  • Bills at Eagles
  • Lions at Rams
  • Colts at Jaguars
  • Raiders at Broncos
  • Cowboys at Packers
  • Patriots at Texans
  • Giants at Dolphins

Season Results

  • Week 1: 10-6
  • Week 2: 6-10
  • Week 3: 14-2
  • Week 4: 11-4
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 8-6
  • Week 7: 10-4
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 4-10
  • Week 11: 9-5
  • Week 12: 8-8
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Season: 118-74 (.615)

I’ll end with an amusing stat.

For all the talk about Brock Osweiler giving the Broncos a deep threat with his arm, the fact is he is 3-of-15 on passes thrown 20+ yards this season.

Do you know which other quarterback started this season 3-of-15 on his 20+ yard passes? Why yes, that would be Peyton Manning.

NFL Week 14 Predictions: Try To Write It Down Into a Perfect Sonnet or One Foolish Line

I am feeling better this week and have some random thoughts to share on a few Week 14 games.

Colts at Browns

This is a bad game for Vontae Davis to miss with Josh Gordon getting his share of targets. He only needs a little space to break a huge play. Brian Hoyer has to know he’s on a short leash and must play better before he loses his job to Johnny Manziel. I think he’ll play a good game and the Cleveland offense will have to score a decent amount to get the win. The Colts haven’t played a road game since November 3 and this is statistically one of the best pass defenses Andrew Luck will face this year. I doubt he’ll fear Joe Haden on T.Y. Hilton and the Colts have a bunch of other weapons to go to anyway. I just hope this isn’t viewed as a week to get T-Rich going because of that dreadful trade. The best backs on the field will probably be the undrafted ones (Isaiah Crowell and Dan Herron).

The Colts surprisingly haven’t had a 4QC/GWD this year, so I think this could be the one in a 27-24 type of finish.

Texans at Jaguars

Houston should win this game, but I just wanted to reiterate a point about the ludicrous thought of J.J. Watt for MVP in 2014.

Not only is Houston just a 6-6 team, but the Texans’ strength of victory is 22-50 (.306).

Furthermore, look at the quarterbacks Watt and the Texans have feasted on in those wins:

  • RGIII (benched)
  • Derek Carr (rookie’s second start)
  • EJ Manuel (benched)
  • Zach Mettenberger (rookie in his 1st and 5th starts)
  • Brian Hoyer (slumping and may be benched too)

Now here comes rookie Blake Bortles with his league-worst 15 interceptions and poor 9.1% sack rate.

A guy scoring five touchdowns, including a 1-yard catch while already up 24 in the fourth quarter, is an asinine argument for someone to be named the Most Valuable Player in the league, yet that’s what Watt’s teammates and some fans are selling now because there’s really nothing else going on with Houston’s season. You’re 6-6? Cheers. That’s good for 12th place in the AFC.

It also helps Watt that defensive end is one of the most blameless positions in football. You don’t hear someone bash Watt or any pass-rusher for not getting to Tony Romo when he evaded him and threw a touchdown. Keep in mind the Texans lost that game in overtime. Where’s the criticism? Yet if you play defensive back and get burned for a touchdown, you can guarantee someone will point that out. Hell, Richard Sherman allowed a few first downs to Keenan Allen and people acted like he was exposed. A star defensive end can get locked down on 85-90% of the snaps in a game, but if he gets one sack some people will think he had a good game. People bash quarterbacks for not putting up enough points. Why don’t we bash a DE for not generating enough stops and pressure? Some of them are making close to QB money after all.

We’ve seen the Texans lose 14 games in a row with Watt playing at a high level. We’ve seen them allow 40+ points in games he shined. He’s a great player. He’s running away with DPOY.  Maybe he should get more red-zone snaps at tight end. He’s just not MVP material when his impact on the game is so minimal compared to the quarterback position where several great players are having incredible seasons.

Steelers at Bengals

I know the Steelers for some reason play Marvin Lewis’ Bengals better in Cincinnati (10-2 since 2003) than they do at Heinz Field (6-5), but I’m calling my shot on this final quarter of the season.

The Steelers will lose in Cincinnati, lose in Atlanta, beat Kansas City and beat Cincinnati to finish 9-7. Too little, too late. Shouldn’t have pissed around with Tampa Bay and the Jets.

Ravens at Dolphins

Close game last year won 26-23 by Baltimore. This is almost a “loser goes home” game right here, and I think there may be a little more pressure on Miami to get the win at home with the gift of Haloti Ngata’s suspension. Miami still has a very tough game left in New England. Baltimore is more than capable of winning its last three games, but if they drop this one and Miami only loses once more, that’s 10-6 for both with the Dolphins having the H2H win. So yeah, it’s a big one. I just think with or without Ngata, that Baltimore secondary is struggling and Ryan Tannehill has been playing solid. They’ll get a boost in the running game with Ngata out and I like the Dolphins to sneak out a close one.

Bills at Broncos

Julius Thomas is a game-time decision (ankle), but will his return make the Broncos worse on offense? All the rage the last two weeks has been Virgil Green’s blocking, a revamped OL, some 6-OL sets and C.J. Anderson’s excellent running. Peyton Manning’s never had an offense with two 200-yard rushing games in the same season, let alone back-to-back games. I think Thomas was missed in the red zone and he should have an impact there, but the Broncos may want to limit Wes Welker’s playing time and keep the 2-TE sets more with Thomas in the slot when he’s up to full health. Buffalo has a front four to get pressure on Manning, so it’s a good week to experiment with that extra protection. I think given time Manning will have a big day at home and Kyle Orton will be the one taking the majority of the game’s sacks. Something to watch for is Connor Barth’s kickoffs in the Mile High altitude. He was awful in Kansas City, routinely giving the Chiefs good starting field position. If he can’t get touchbacks at home, the Broncos may still have a major kicking dilemma.

49ers at Raiders

After an inexplicable fake punt loses the game on the final play, Jim Harbaugh races to midfield to a gang of Oakland players and rips off his shirt to reveal a “Just Win Baby” Raiders t-shirt. The screwjob is complete.

vince

That probably won’t happen, but it would be so much fun to see the NFL perfectly emulate old-school wrestling. You know, back when shit was called WWF.

Seahawks at Eagles

This is a big one with a lot of interesting layers, many of which were covered by my co-workers at Football Outsiders this weekend.

The Eagles have allowed a league-worst 14 pass plays of 40+ yards, but Seattle’s lost its vertical edge with the departure of Golden Tate and failure to do anything with Percy Harvin. It’s shocking to see Russell Wilson is the only current starter getting over 60% of his yards from YAC (60.9%) this season. His scrambling has been a bigger threat this year, but we’re still waiting to see a game where Wilson has to throw a lot. He’s never thrown more than 37 passes in any game, which is insane given how quickly (and often) most quarterbacks do that in their career (click to enlarge).

37RW

This could be the week with the Eagles ranking 8th against the run in DVOA and having just contained DeMarco Murray and that consistent Dallas running game that has tortured most of the league. Perhaps more importantly, the Eagles have the ability to score points. We know Seattle’s defense is healthy and playing at a high level again, but Chip Kelly is a whole different beast from Arizona/49ers and the game is in Philly.

The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in 21 consecutive games (16-5 record), tied for the 10th-longest streak in NFL history (including playoffs). The record is 25 games (2010-12 Saints). The fact this streak is alive is amazing considering the offense scored 0 in San Francisco, but three return touchdowns still gave them 21. Don’t discount the impact of special teams on the Eagles’ season.

We keep setting up Mark Sanchez to fail this year, but he’s doing okay so far. In the blowout loss to Green Bay, he literally threw one bad pass and took a few sacks and still trailed 30-3 for it. That loss didn’t say much about him. He never had a chance really. The Seahawks do not pose that kind of dynamic offense, but I think Wilson’s going to have to have one of his best games this season to get the win. This isn’t another 19-3 game by any means.

I hate to say it because I already see Sanchez making me eat my words, but I think he’ll struggle with the Legion of Boom and the Seahawks will keep rolling towards what could be another strong finish that puts them in prime position for a repeat.

Patriots at Chargers

Circadian rhythms, December records and Justin Bieber curses? What the heck are we talking about here? All I know is Philip Rivers is 0-5 against the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick duo, and outside of an ass-kicking in the 2007 regular season, the losses have been right out of a Greek tragedy.

Two game-tying field goals from 50+ yards away missed at the end. Eric Parker’s butterfingers. Martyball. Marlon McCree fumbling a Brady INT on fourth down with a 21-13 lead. Rivers having to play on a torn ACL for the 2007 AFC Championship. LT on the bike. Three straight fumbles recovered by NE in the 2010 meeting, the last time they played in SD. Four more turnovers in NE in 2011 by San Diego’s offense, including a Vince Wilfork pick.

Can San Diego win this game? Sure, but I just don’t see it happening. Darrelle Revis will contain Keenan Allen and the bigger Brandon Browner could limit the deep-ball threat of Malcolm Floyd. I think Eddie Royal and Antonio Gates have to play huge for Rivers in this one, as does the running game. He pulled out a great 4QC in Baltimore last week, but something just always goes wrong at the worst moment when he’s playing this team. I’m not sure San Diego has any answers for the tight ends of the Patriots.

Denver will be rooting like hell for San Diego to win and suffer a letdown in next week’s game, giving the Broncos a nice path to the No. 1 seed. However, I imagine we’ll see the opposite. After a loss to NE, the Chargers rally and drop Denver in Week 15, which I’ve been penciling in as a Denver loss since April. But the No. 1 seed in the AFC is very much going to be in control of what San Diego does these next few weeks.

Falcons at Packers

This is like Russell Stover taking on Hershey Chocolate. The only intrigue is whether the Packers dominate so much by ground or air and where it leaves Aaron Rodgers on this list of the most passing yards through 100 starts since 1960. He needs 293 yards to break the record.

100

NFL Week 14 Predictions

I had the Cowboys on TNF and the streak of 8-8 seasons is over. However, this could still be a 10-6 non-playoff team and that Romo back injury that led to losses to Washington and Arizona will be the main culprit.

Winners in bold:

  • Colts at Browns
  • Buccaneers at Lions
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Texans at Jaguars
  • Rams at Redskins
  • Ravens at Dolphins
  • Jets at Vikings
  • Steelers at Bengals
  • Giants at Titans
  • Chiefs at Cardinals
  • Bills at Broncos
  • 49ers at Raiders
  • Seahawks at Eagles
  • Patriots at Chargers
  • Falcons at Packers

Season Results

  • Week 1: 8-8
  • Week 2: 9-7
  • Week 3: 11-5
  • Week 4: 8-5
  • Week 5: 11-4
  • Week 6: 9-5-1
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-5
  • Week 9: 11-2
  • Week 10: 10-3
  • Week 11: 8-6
  • Week 12: 12-3
  • Week 13: 9-7
  • Total: 126-65-1

NFL Week 14 Predictions and the Saints’ Superdome Dominance

I have been getting the “big games” correct lately, though the Patriots did not finish the job in Carolina. Still, that game provides part of the reason why I expect the Saints to beat Carolina on Sunday night. Until the last drive, which called for some desperate throws, Tom Brady picked apart the Panthers’ suspect secondary all night. The Patriots are the best passing team Carolina has played all season, which says a lot since it’s the worst New England passing offense since 2006.

The only other respectable passing game Carolina saw was Seattle in Week 1. While the Seahawks put up 12 points, Russell Wilson was 25-of-33 passing for 320 yards and a game-winning touchdown pass. Carolina enters on a nice eight-game winning streak, but the three wins against teams .500 or better came by a combined 9 points.

Playing a top quarterback makes a difference. Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs. While both games against Brady and Wilson were at home for Carolina, Sunday will be in New Orleans in the Superdome against Sean Payton and Drew Brees. Given how poor the effort was in Seattle on Monday night, expect a much better performance. The Panthers do not have the secondary to match what Seattle did.

Brees is typically lights out in these situations going back to 2006:

BreesSD

The very first game on the list was the emotional return to the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. It was a great night for the Saints, but it was actually one of the weaker offensive performances on the list. The nine games since 2011 have been freakishly good, and there’s no great explanation for it. Four of those last nine wins were against playoff teams and that number could grow to five or six depending on how Miami and Dallas finish this year.

A Thursday game is beneficial to the home team in terms of not having to travel on a short week. A Monday game would give the Saints an extra day of preparation, which benefits the best-coached teams. But there’s no real reason the Saints should be any better at a Sunday prime-time game than the Sunday 1-4 p.m. games.

This season the Saints are 6-0 at home and four of the wins have been against teams .500 or better. Sean Payton has won his last 15 home games, dating back to 2011.

I have never been to New Orleans, but the atmosphere down there for a prime-time game seems like it would be more beneficial than for most teams. That’s why home-field advantage was so crucial for this team and why Monday was such a letdown, but truthfully it was always going to be a struggle to get the No. 1 seed. The Saints likely have to take care of Carolina twice just to win the NFC South, so this game is the most important one in the regular season for New Orleans. Forget about Monday. I’m sure the Saints have and will until they have to return to Seattle.

I’m not expecting Carolina to get blown out like many teams do in New Orleans, and that’s a tribute to the No. 1 scoring defense. But if the Saints handle this week the way they usually do against a Carolina team with flaws that have rarely been taken advantage of, it’s going to be a long night for the Panthers.

Final prediction: Panthers 17, Saints 28

NFL Week 14 Predictions

Apparently I am done picking the Texans again this season. Good lord…

  • Dolphins at Steelers
  • Browns at Patriots
  • Bills at Buccaneers
  • Raiders at Jets
  • Falcons at Packers
  • Chiefs at Redskins
  • Vikings at Ravens
  • Colts at Bengals
  • Lions at Eagles
  • Titans at Broncos
  • Seahawks at 49ers
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Giants at Chargers
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Cowboys at Bears

Okay, including the fact Jacksonville already won, I have home teams going 15-1 by my picks. I’m totally screwed here. Just based on this simple fact, I’m going to change a few picks, so here are my official choices:

  • Dolphins at Steelers
  • Browns at Patriots
  • Bills at Buccaneers
  • Raiders at Jets (You’ve seen the Jets offense, right?)
  • Falcons at Packers (GB can’t win one without Aaron Rodgers)
  • Chiefs at Redskins
  • Vikings at Ravens
  • Colts at Bengals
  • Lions at Eagles
  • Titans at Broncos
  • Seahawks at 49ers
  • Rams at Cardinals
  • Giants at Chargers (Eli Manning finally gets a win over the Chargers)
  • Panthers at Saints
  • Cowboys at Bears (the real Josh McCown returns)

Okay, that looks better, even if I don’t feel any better about it.

Season results:

  • Week 1: 11-5
  • Week 2: 12-4
  • Week 3: 8-8
  • Week 4: 9-6
  • Week 5: 9-5
  • Week 6: 11-4
  • Week 7: 10-5
  • Week 8: 10-3
  • Week 9: 8-5
  • Week 10: 8-6
  • Week 11: 9-6
  • Week 12: 7-6-1
  • Week 13: 11-5
  • Season: 123-68-1

NFL Week 14 Predictions, Rookie QBs on 3rd Down and Writing Recap

With the news out of Dallas on Josh Brent killing teammate Jerry Brown in a drunk-driving accident, this is another NFL weekend with tragedy coming before the games. Hopefully the NFL and really everyone out there can learn lessons from these incidents. How hard is it not to get into a car when you’re drunk? If we are still too stupid to make these decisions, then maybe we need cars that will make them for us.

Something has to change.

Before I get confused for Bob Costas during one of his halftime speeches, onto the usual Saturday recap.

This Week’s Articles

Captain Comeback Week 13: Colts, Steelers Rally to Build Familiar AFC Race – Cold, Hard Football Facts

The Colts were able to rally from a 12-point deficit in the final 4:02 for another stunning comeback victory over the Lions. Pittsburgh surprised everyone with Charlie Batch leading the team to a road win in Baltimore. The two wins shape up yet another AFC playoff picture with the usual suspects. Also: Tony Romo tied Troy Aikman for most 4QC wins in Dallas history (16). He did it by attacking “The Todd Bowles Movement.” This is the most jam-packed edition of Captain Comeback yet with 11 game recaps. It was a good week of games.

Andrew Luck Outclasses Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson in the Clutch – Bleacher Report

True story: this article originally had a general headline (see URL), but after finishing it, the results were pretty clear: Andrew Luck owns clutch moments in a way no rookie really has. We know all about his five game-winning drives, but his performance on third down, especially third and long, is something we just never see from a young QB. The surprise is just how historically bad RGIII has been at converting on third and long.

The war is clearly raging between these fanbases, so arm yourself with some real data that matters, unless you think throwing a short pass on 3rd and long and punting is good.

R3D

3DS

Following a Legend: Andrew Luck Week 13 at Detroit Lions – Colts Authority

Find out how Andrew Luck threw 30 incompletions, three interceptions, had a season-high in three-and-out drives, but still managed to grow his legend with another comeback win and career-high four touchdown passes. The young Jedi just had to use the Schwartz.

Yes, Those NFL Offenses Are Better Than Ever – NBC Sports

If the numbers stay on their current pace, then the 2012 NFL season could be the most efficient ever in terms of passing, rushing, kicking and punting, otherwise known as the primary acts of a football game. Details on each category and the record-breaking numbers the league is averaging. It is also the most pass-happy season ever with teams throwing the ball on 57.95 percent of their plays.

The Thinking Man’s Guide: NFL Week 14 Predictions – Bleacher Report

In-depth previews for Raiders/Broncos, Chargers/Steelers, Saints/Giants and Texans/Patriots plus predictions for every game.

Ranking the Random Fumble Luck of NFL Quarterbacks – Cold, Hard Football Facts

Last week we looked at turnover rates using all fumbles. This week I took the lost fumble data that goes back to 1992 and looked at which quarterbacks have the most and least fumble luck, because recoveries are in fact random, and the data bears that out. Tom Brady is completely average (42.5%) in this regard, while Matthew Stafford has only lost four of his 14 fumbles, and Kyle Orton has the worst luck, losing 60% of his fumbles. Finally an updated turnover rate list using fumbles lost is included for the 59 quarterbacks from the last two decades.

 2012 NFL Week 14 Predictions

Was there even any doubt on the Thursday game? Peyton Manning has now won at least eight straight games in a season for the seventh time in his career. If only I had his consistency at making these game picks.

Winners in bold:

  • Rams at Bills
  • Falcons at Panthers
  • Cowboys at Bengals
  • Chiefs at Browns
  • Titans at Colts
  • Jets at Jaguars
  • Bears at Vikings
  • Chargers at Steelers
  • Eagles at Buccaneers
  • Ravens at Redskins
  • Dolphins at 49ers
  • Saints at Giants
  • Cardinals at Seahawks
  • Lions at Packers
  • Texans at Patriots

Season results:

  • Week 1: 12-4
  • Week 2: 11-5
  • Week 3: 4-12
  • Week 4: 10-5
  • Week 5: 10-4
  • Week 6: 5-9
  • Week 7: 12-1
  • Week 8: 10-4
  • Week 9: 11-3
  • Week 10: 9-4-1
  • Week 11: 11-3
  • Week 12: 10-6
  • Week 13: 8-8
  • Season: 123-68-1 (.643)