What a delicious plate of post-Turkey Day games we have this weekend. It's incredibly hard to pick the best, but here goes ...
Agreed. There haven't been many 15-1 teams to win it all -- the 1984 Niners and 1985 Bears are it. Wouldn't put Seattle above them, but then again, that's some exclusive company.
Yes, at least eight of them.
Good question, Scott, as this was quite the Power Rankings conundrum. Arizona has been as good as if not better than Philly over the past month. Plus, the Eagles' defense is ranked 31st in the NFL. The Cardinals? Seventh. Arizona is a more complete team than Dallas, which blasted Philly at the Linc, and has a better point differential than both. Head-to-head history only factors in to a point, of course -- otherwise, Indy would be higher than Seattle. It's super close, no doubt. And while I agree with Bruce Arians' decision to send video from the loss to the league office, it was still a great win for Chip Kelly's group.
Take a look below to see how that game will go, as well as our take on the rest of the Week 14 docket. As per the usual, feel free to send your thoughts along ... @Harrison_NFL is the place. I read them when "Battleship" is on HBO for the 8,575th time.
Now, let's get to it.
Elliot Harrison went 7-9 on his predictions for Week 13, giving him a record of 115-77 so far this season. How will he fare in Week 14? His picks are below, with home teams listed second. To make your own predictions on this week's games, click here.
Minnesota's non-losing streak will end at two games, unfortunately. Obviously, the Vikings will want to run their offense through the best running back in football, as they did Sunday, when Adrian Peterson went for two bills against the Bears. Sorry, but that's not happening against the Ravens' front seven. The guess here is that A.D. runs 25 times for 80 to 90 yards. He could pop one, especially if someone in the secondary misses a tackle -- but then again, that unit has proven it can get guys down. Baltimore is one of the NFL's best teams when it comes to limiting yards after the catch. Fifty times they've gotten receivers' butts on the ground the moment they caught the ball. Let us also not forget the Ravens' 37 sacks. This is a tough matchup for the Vikes. #MINvsBAL
If you've been watching
Colts football for the past month, we're sorry. Indy has flat-out played poorly. If you doubted whether Reggie Wayne was a
Hall of Fame-caliber player before, check out these numbers:
Luck with Wayne: Five wins, two losses, completion percentage of 60.7, 7.03 yards per attempt, touchdown-to-interception ratio of 10:3, passer rating of 91.3.
Luck without Wayne: Three wins, two losses, completion percentage of 55.2, 6.28 yards per attempt, touchdown-to-interception ratio of 5:5, passer rating of 72.1.
Meanwhile, the Bengals have gotten solid play all year out of their defense, particularly when it comes to Vontaze Burfict. Except for the penalties he's incurred, Burfict has performed at an All-Pro level, and he'll put Donald Brown on his back aplenty. We like this game to be close, but Cincy moves to 9-4. #INDvsCIN
There is no question the Green Bay offensive line played poorly in Detroit. Matt Flynn was hurried and harried all day. Fortunately for the Packers, the Falcons' pass rush can be handled (they have just 22 team sacks). Plus, Atlanta has been terrible versus the run. If I'm Mike McCarthy, I'd break my love affair with the pass and run power all day against that front seven; give Eddie Lacy at least 25 carries. As for the Falcons, balance is key. Did you know Atlanta throws the football 69 percent of the time? That's the highest percentage in the league -- and the Falcons just can't win that way at Lambeau. #ATLvsGB
Patriots have 24 takeaways, tied for fifth in the NFL. Going a step further -- and to avoid droning on about Tommy Touchdown -- forcing takeaways is something
Bill Belichick's Pats
always do, though they never seem to get enough credit for it. Consider this list of the teams with the most takeaways since 2010:
1) Patriots (137)
2) Bears (133)
3) Giants (125)
4) Seahawks (111)
5) 49ers (108)
6) Packers (107)
7) Cardinals (105)
The Browns, of course, have the eighth-most giveaways in the league, which doesn't bode well for them. The much-maligned Brandon Weeden played pretty well versus the Jags in Week 13, and the 30-year-old is a better QB than Timothy Busfield, at least. Of course, because he's recovering from a concussion, Weeden's status is up in the air. Whether we see Weeden or Jason Campbell on Sunday, Cleveland needs to do a better job converting third downs; the Browns are tied for 30th in that category. This would help give the defense a blow, which will be crucial against New England.
Oh, and God help the Browns if Caleb Hanie or Alex Tanney is under center. For those of you scoring at home, Tanney went to Monmouth (Ill.), but not the same Monmouth (N.J.) as Miles Austin. Still, let's hope Tanney doesn't pull a hamstring. #CLEvsNE
Can the Raiders run the football against the Jets' immovable front seven? If not, can Matt McGloin do more than manage the game? He was able to make some big throws in Dallas on Thanksgiving, but the facts are these: McGloin has been asked to throw 31 times per contest (32 attempts against the Texans, 32 against the Titans and 30 against the Cowboys -- now that's consistency). When facing third-and-8 or longer, McGloin is 6 of 15 for 76 yards with one interception ( Brandon Carr picked him off in that very situation last week). So if Rashad Jennings can't get going against New York, expect the Raiders to run draws on third down and play defense. Geno Smith can't give Oakland a bunch of gimmes like he has everyone else. He has 23 turnovers, including an NFL-leading 19 interceptions. Given how effective the Jets have been at running the football this season, there's no reason they shouldn't go to the ground against the Raiders, who gave up 144 rushing yards and three touchdowns on Turkey Day. #OAKvsNYJ
Not sure I've ever typed this, but the key matchup in this one just might be the officiating crew vs. everybody. This is not to tar and feather the officials; rather, I'm acknowledging that how they call this game could determine the outcome. Will they let the Lions' front four get away with some extracurriculars? Nick Foles is the kind of quarterback who looks intimidate-able (that's our second word in this blurb that isn't a word, but oh well). Some people look at Philly as a finesse team -- will the Detroit defense attempt to cement that image? Then there are the Eagles' defensive backs, who -- as even the most ardent Philly fan would have to admit -- got away with some serious illegal contact against Arizona on Sunday. We're all for "letting 'em play," i.e., we're not being negative. But really, what about the officials? Will they let defenders put their hands on Calvin Johnson? Hmmm. Taking the home team here. #DETvsPHI
Miami has been playing outstanding football of late, while Pittsburgh has gone 5-3 since starting the season 0-4. For the Steelers to win, they need a clean bill of health for Le'Veon Bell, who was concussed Thanksgiving night, and they need their oft-absent pass rush to get it going and take advantage of the Dolphins' biggest vulnerability. Miami's offensive line has had trouble all year in protection (although it's been better recently), and when it comes to pocket awareness, Ryan Tannehill has the same sense of urgency as Bill Lumbergh. Yeah ... Pittsburgh is going to need the front seven to go ahead and come in on Sunday -- and not just for a half-day, either. LaMarr Woodley's calf needs to get better. Quick. #MIAvsPIT
Manuel! Glennon! It's the NFL on CBS! Oh boy. So this might not be the game of the week. But come on, football is football, and both these teams really want a win after what happened in Week 13. The Bills, who lost a heartbreaker in Toronto, must attempt to build off the momentum provided by a reignited C.J. Spiller. After rushing for just 6 yards versus the Jets in Week 11, Spiller exploded for 149 against the Falcons. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay was flying high after winning three in a row -- only to run into a buzz-saw in Carolina. The offense couldn't get anything going, racking up a grand total of 206 yards and possessing the ball for just 26 minutes. Bucs running back Bobby Rainey should find the sledding easier this time around, given that the Bills don't have Star Lotulelei, Kawann Short and Luke Kuechly. Buffalo feeds off its pass rush, so the more that Tampa Bay can interrupt it, the easier things will be for Mike Glennon. The Bills are not a huge blitzing team, but we can expect them to bring it against the rookie quarterback, who has struggled in that area. #BUFvsTB
This is an interesting one all the way around. Yes, the
are still 9-3, though it doesn't feel like it, thanks to their three-game losing streak. Then you have the
Redskins, whose passing offense wouldn't pass muster if there weren't about 20 other teams in the league playing like Division I squads. Washington must get its ground game going. We'd love to see
Roy Helu get 15 to 20 carries, as he has such burst -- and he can catch the ball, too. The
Redskins might have trouble with
Alex Smith, as their defense hasn't fared well against quarterbacks who can move: They lost
to the Eagles in Week 1,
to the Vikings in Week 10 and
to the 49ers two weeks ago. No,
Colin Kaepernick didn't exactly run all over the
Michael Vick did, but Washington still was caught eyeing the backfield a couple of times. Kansas City moves to 10-3.
Game Picks Trivia: The Chiefs have lost in Washington only once. Their quarterback threw for more than 4,000 yards that season. Who was it? (Hit me up ... @Harrison_NFL.) #KCvsWAS
Thinking Tennessee is going to play better than people expect -- and then the Broncos will run away in the second half. The Titans' offense should be good enough to move the ball, but it will do so through the air. Chris Johnson will have a tough time against a Broncos team that has been surprisingly solid against the run most of the season. Denver allows 3.9 yards per carry; CJ700 averages 3.8. Going to the other side, Trindon Holliday will take one to the house ... and fumble another. And don't expect more than a couple of touchdowns from the arm of Peyton Manning. You know which team has given up the fewest passing scores? It's not Seattle. Or Kansas City. Or Carolina. Amazingly, it's Tennessee, which has allowed just eight. So Knowshon Moreno should be big Sunday. While we're at it, start Kendall Wright on your fantasy team, too. He'll get more than 100 yards and a score. #TENvsDEN
It might not be the most exciting game on the slate, but this NFC West tussle is nothing to sneeze at. These two squads locked up for an exciting Week 1 affair, when the Rams pulled off a comeback win with three fourth-quarter scoring drives. Of course, Sam Bradford was calling the shots for that ballgame, which was also played in Missouri. Since then, Arizona has gone 7-4, inserting itself into the heart of the NFC wild-card race. Frankly, the Cardinals need this game, because their next two are on the road (at Tennessee and Seattle). We're thinking Arizona will be 9-6 heading into an all-important home matchup with San Francisco -- thanks in part to a win over the Rams this week. St. Louis just doesn't have the offensive firepower to challenge the Cardinals' back seven. Arizona gives up just 5.45 yards per passing play, fifth in the NFL. #STLvsAZ
The season hasn't officially slipped away for either team -- though it will for whoever loses this one. At 5-7, the Giants are already two games behind the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys. A wild-card berth is out of the question, so New York needs to win out, starting with the matchup at Qualcomm. As for the Chargers, another loss would put them too far behind in the AFC wild-card standings. The Ravens and Dolphins have winnable games and, at 6-6, are already a game up for the sixth seed. The fifth seed, meanwhile, is long gone. So how will it play out? Philip Rivers rebounds to throw three touchdown passes and take advantage of home-field advantage this week. Don't expect the Giants to give this one away with turnovers, though, as they've clamped down on those lately, and the Bolts don't force them. #NYGvsSD
We're picking a loss for the best team in football. This figures to be a classic letdown game for the
Seahawks, who will be facing the archrival Niners just six days after notching
an emotional Monday night win over the
Saints. That's a tough assignment, as is facing
sans a couple of players in the secondary. San Francisco will have to lean on kicker
Phil Dawson early and often and, more importantly, force Seattle to rely on
its kicker, as well. The Niners can't let
Russell Wilson run wild.
Now, we're sure that the 12th Man is going to blow up Twitter this week, especially after we incorrectly picked the Saints in Week 13. And you can bet a local Seattle writer will retweet this prediction immediately after the game -- if, that is, the Seahawks win -- to seem like a local hero, just like last week.
That said, I'm sticking with my prediction for this week -- and for the whole enchilada, which I called long ago. #SEAvsSF
The Panthers have been en fuego, and we absolutely abhor picking against these guys ... and using that kind of language in the picks. This group, which has encountered little adversity during its eight-game winning streak, is due for a comedown at some point. The secondary has played very well, though it's hard to argue its case against Drew Brees in the Superdome: The QB has averaged 9 yards per attempt while completing 73.5 percent of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns against just three interceptions and recording a passer rating of 122.0. Oh, and he's been sacked just once for every 17 pass attempts. Make no mistake, there's a reason that the Panthers' defense has given up the fewest points in the league (13.1 per game) ... but do you trust the unit against what should be a highly irked New Orleans team? #CARvsNO
Dallas wins on the road. Don't be so shocked. The Cowboys are playing better, especially on defense. For the Bears to get back into the NFC North hunt, they need to do a better job stopping the run, something they've stunk at since injuries struck the middle of the defense weeks ago. Now, DeMarco Murray and Dallas' run blocking both have been maddeningly inconsistent this year. No, we're not referring to John Madden, who likely would internally vomit at the sight of what the Cowboys' ground game has been for much of the year. Lance Dunbar's season-ending injury hasn't helped. Still, with Tony Romo operating at a high level, Chicago's defense will be forced to play nickel and will not always be able to assist a soft middle missing Henry Melton and D.J. Williams. Murray will have a productive day, and Dallas will win. Speaking of running the football, make sure to catch "A Football Life: The Great Wall of Dallas" on NFL Network when you get a chance. #DALvsCHI
Putting a little faith in the Texans on the road. From top to bottom, Houston still has more talent than Jacksonville. I'm also encouraged by the hard running we've seen from Ben Tate, who's been playing with damaged ribs for weeks now. Against the Patriots on Sunday, he carried the rock 22 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Case Keenum merely needs to make plays off the Texans' ground game, because the Jaguars' run defense, which has struggled most of the year, is currently ranked 29th. As for the Jags, Chad Henne must complete some big throws without unnecessarily taking big risks. This figures to be a tight game, so he shouldn't just Geno Smith it all over the field and simply hand the Texans a win. #HOUvsJAX
Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL.