There are several huge games in Week 14, but the battle between the San Francisco 49ers and homestanding Houston Texans is not one of them.
The 49ers picked up their second win of the season when they won on the road against the toothless Chicago Bears in Week 13, while the Texans have had nothing but trouble since losing star rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson to a knee injury.
The Watson injury came after defensive stars J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus were lost for the season. If the Texans had their full complement this season, it seems likely that they would have been contenders for a playoff spot. That has not been the case, and they come into this game with a 4-8 record.
The 49ers are hoping to build some momentum in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's second start with the team. While Garoppolo did not throw a TD pass against the Bears, he moved the ball up and down the field and got them in position to kick five field goals, and that was enough for the 15-14 win.
The 26-year-old showed fine command of the offense, the ability to read the defense, a quick release and accuracy. Those are all factors that he will be able build off of and gain confidence. If Garoppolo can finish the season in impressive fashion, the Niners will have a chance to go into the offseason with their heads held high.
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien knows his team is not going anywhere and that backup quarterback Tom Savage is not a major threat. He will make mistakes because he struggles to diagnose the defense, and he will throw into coverage.
Savage is completing just 56.4 percent of his passes, and he has a 5-6 TD-interception ratio.
That means the Niners should have an opportunity to win their second consecutive road game. They come into this meeting as 2.5-point underdogs, according to OddsShark, and we like the Niners to make more key plays in the final quarter and pull out the victory.
Week 14 Point Spreads and Predictions
(Point spreads courtesy of OddsShark)
New Orleans at Atlanta (-1); 51.5, Over
San Francisco at Houston (-2.5); 43.5, Over
Oakland at Kansas City (-4); 47.5, Over
Indianapolis at Buffalo (NL)
Minnesota (-3) at Carolina; 41.5, Under
Chicago at Cincinnati (-6); 38.5, Under
Green Bay (-3) at Cleveland; 40, Over
Detroit at Tampa Bay (NL)
Dallas (-4) at N.Y. Giants; 41.5, Over
Washington at L.A. Chargers (-6); 46, Over
Tennessee (-3) at Arizona; 44, Under
N.Y. Jets at Denver (Even); 41.5, Under
Seattle at Jacksonville (-2.5); 41.5, Over
Philadelphia at L.A. Rams (-2.5); 48, Under
Baltimore at Pittsburgh (-5); 43.5, Over
New England (-11) at Miami; 47, Over
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
This is the kind of game that should get the fans' attention.
The Steelers are coming off a brutally painful game against the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night, and while they were able to pull out a come-from-behind victory, they lost linebacker Ryan Shazier to a spinal injury.
Shazier has since been transported from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh for further treatment, and the only other update is that he has had some movement of his lower extremities.
It remains to be seen how the Steelers react to playing their first full game without their defensive leader. While the Ravens are their top rival, it may be hard for Pittsburgh to play with full intensity.
The Steelers may have the most dangerous offensive team in the league. While the numbers say they rank seventh on offense, the combination of Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown is nearly unstoppable.
That trio appears especially dangerous at this time of the year, and the Ravens will be tested severely.
Baltimore got off to a miserable start this year, but John Harbaugh is one of the best coaches in the business, and they have turned their season around. The Ravens have won four of their last five games and have already registered three shutouts.
Quarterback Joe Flacco's overall numbers are not impressive, as he throws for 165.4 yards per game with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, but his ability to throw the deep ball makes him a threat to make big plays.
The Steelers are five-point favorites in this game, and while Baltimore will scratch and push hard, the home team will come through in the end and earn a seven-point victory.
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins
The Pats have won eight games in a row and are huge 11-point favorites.
That would seem to be accurate based on the way the two teams are playing. However, playing in Miami has always been an issue for the Patriots throughout their team history, and that includes the Bill Belichick era.
Belichick's Pats are just 8-9 in their games in South Florida. That should give Dolphins head coach Adam Gase some reason for hope.
However, when he looks at his roster and sees up-and-down quarterback Jay Cutler and a nondescript crew of receivers, he can't feel good about his team's chances.
The only way the Dolphins are going to have a chance to pull this game out is if the defense attacks with passion and makes life miserable for Tom Brady.
The onus is on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Cameron Wake to play an inspired and penalty-free game. The latter requirement may be harder to fulfill than the first.
It's difficult to see the Dolphins playing mistake-free football for 60 minutes. They may be able to challenge the Pats throughout the first half, but look for New England to pull away and get the cover with an overpowering second half.