As the pretenders and contenders continue to be separated, the NFL heads into the home stretch of the season with some extremely intriguing storylines. While a couple divisions have been locked up, there are plenty of division battles, not to mention playoff races, that remain wide open with four games to play. Here's how I see Week 14 going down.
Picks are in BOLD.
Last Week: 12-4
Denver vs Oakland
The Broncos have a stout defense that is able to get after the quarterback and a passing game featuring a future Hall of Famer. What they don't have is a running game. This is the perfect game to get that on track.
St. Louis vs Buffalo
The Rams play much better at home than they do on the road, and Ralph Wilson Stadium in December is about as tough a road game as any team can have. C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson have big games to limit Fitzpatrick's attempts against a stingy Rams secondary.
Dallas vs. Cincinnati
After a slow start to the year, Andy Dalton is playing like the young up-and-coming quarterback we thought he was in 2011. The Cowboys have finally found some rhythm on offense, but the Bengals defense is playing much better ball than the Cowboys D, which gets them the W.
Kansas City vs. Cleveland
The Chiefs' emotional victory over the Panthers showed what the team is capable of on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately Cleveland's defense will present a much tougher test. Brandon Weeden and Josh Gordon have found a groove and that continues here.
Tennessee vs. Indianapolis
Andrew Luck was brutal for much of the game against Detroit last week, until his brilliant final drive to win it. No such drama this time around against a Titans defense that gives up points like it's going out of style.
Chicago vs. Minnesota
The Bears had the Seahawks beat and ended up giving the game away when they were unable to stop the read/option. They are presented with a much more traditional rushing attack in Adrian Peterson and company this week. Jay Cutler moves the Bears enough to score a couple touchdowns and win the game.
Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay
The Eagles couldn't be in more disarray as they face the Buccaneers. Have they hit rock bottom? Not yet. Not until Doug Martin and company tear through them. I actually think Nick Foles has a nice game here, but it won't be enough.
Baltimore vs. Washington
After a brutal loss to the Steelers, the Ravens try to regroup against the Redskins. Without Terrell Suggs, the Ravens will be hard pressed to get after RGIII, who will win his cat-and-mouse game with Old Man Ed Reed.
Atlanta vs. Carolina
The Falcons keep finding ways to win. More often than not, at least lately anyway, that has meant Mike Nolan's defense picking up the slack for Matt Ryan and the offense. No one needs picking up against the Panthers, however, who are in total play-out-the-string mode.
Two teams that are brutal to watch. Who plays quarterback for the Jets? Does it matter? Chad Henne does just enough to pull one out for the hometown crowd.
San Diego vs. Pittsburgh
After the biggest win of Charlie Batch's NFL life, the Steelers may just get Big Ben back under center. The Chargers continue to implode and shouldn't present much of a roadblock for a Pittsburgh team that is playing tough team football.
Miami vs. San Francisco
The 49ers may be licking their wounds from their loss to the Rams, but the Dolphins provide the perfect opportunity to get back on track. While Miami's defense can hang with the 49ers offensive attack, Ryan Tannehill and a retooled offensive line will be overwhelmed by the Niners defense.
Arizona vs. Seattle
Russell Wilson is showing everyone that Pete Carroll might not be crazy after all, with two brilliant drives to beat the Bears in overtime last week. More of the same is on tap against the Cardinals, who have quite possibly the worst quarterback situation in the league.
New Orleans vs. New York Giants
Detroit vs. Green Bay
The Lions are down to Megatron and a bunch of stiffs at wide receiver while Aaron Rodgers watches Jordy Nelson go down but knows he has Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley to pick up the slack. Rodgers and company explode on offense.
Houston vs. New England
This was my preseason pick for the AFC Championship Game and I haven't seen much to make me change my mind. The Patriots win this matchup in New England, mostly because Tom Brady will pick apart the Texans secondary. A rematch in Houston, however, might be another story...
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