Week 14 viewer's guide


Around The NFL's Kevin Patra fills you in on the key storylines for each matchup. Here's your guide as you settle into your couch for all the NFL action.

Will the Jets let Geno Smith throw after attempting just 13 passes last week? Odds aren't good, as they face Minnesota's 24th-ranked run defense that allows 123.8 yards per game. Expect more ground and pound from Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. When Smith does drop back, he'll have to be wary of the Vikings' pass rush, which is fourth in the NFL with 35 sacks, led by Everson Griffen. We also suggest targeting someone other than Xavier Rhodes, who's been fantastic as of late.

Teddy Bridgewater has been solid in his last few starts, putting up a career-high passer rating of 120.7 last week. He doesn't wow, however, and rarely attempts to stretch the field. He completed 15 passes for just 138 yards last week. Bridgewater has completed just one of 16 passes of 30-plus air yards. He faces a weak Jets secondary, so we will see if Norv Turner insists the training wheels come off Sunday.

Pregame reading material
Cordarrelle Patterson benched for Charles Johnson
Second-year wideout frustrated by role
Michael Vick: I didn't get benched by Jets
Rex Ryan embarrassed for letting fans, owner down

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Vikings.

The Giants' running game will be hindered if Rashad Jennings remains out. Andre Williams hasn't displayed much burst this season but has a great matchup against a Titans defense allowing 141.5 rushing yards per game and has allowed 99-plus rushing yards in 10 of 12 games this season. If Williams can't get on track, it'll be the Odell Beckham show again Sunday. The rookie wideout could duplicate DeAndre Hopkins' performance last week against this Titans secondary -- nine receptions, 238 yards and two touchdowns.

Zach Mettenberger hasn't locked down a future gig, but he's put up the best numbers of any Titans quarterback in his starts this season with a 60.7 percent completion rate, 254 yards per game, an 8:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 91.8 passer rating. He's also lost every game he's started. Mettenberger has a decent matchup against a banged-up Giants secondary and the NFL's 29th ranked total defense, giving up 385.0 yards per game.

Pregame reading material
Titans CEO: Roster will look a lot different next year
Mettenberger on Beckham's catch "He's had better"
Giants' Ayers done for season
Coughlin prepares team for questions about his job

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Giants.

In their last seven games, the Rams' 27 sacks are the second-most in the NFL. Chris Long's return last week makes the unit even more devastating. The quarterback steamrollers will face a Redskins offensive line that has allowed 39 sacks this season -- second most in the NFL. Colt McCoy has 345.5 passing yards per game but will need time from his offensive line to accomplish anything down the field against the Rams' secondary.

The Redskins' defense, meanwhile, will need to turn over Shaun Hill and quit with the mental errors. Too many times free runners are wide open in their secondary. Slowing Stedman Bailey (12 rec, 189 yards, TD in the last two weeks) and Kenny Britt will be key for the Redskins' promising but young cornerbacks.

Pregame reading material
Where do Redskins stand in race for No. 1 overall pick?
Should you pick up the Rams' defense for fantasy playoffs this week?
Rodger Saffold wishes Rams dropped 76 on Raiders last week
How good are St. Louis' chances of making the playoffs?

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Rams.

Justin Forsett has galloped for three straight games with 100-plus rushing yards and should be in for another big day against a Dolphins defense that has allowed 200-plus rushing yards in two straight games for the first time since 1990. Joe Flacco could struggle with the deep ball, especially if Torrey Smith (knee) can't play. The Dolphins' pass defense is allowing just 18.4 percent of 20-plus air yard passes to be completed this season (lowest in the NFL).

Miami's quick passing attack will give them a leg up against a shaky Ravens secondary that relies on pressure on the quarterback to aid them. The loss of Haloti Ngata to suspension could cripple the sustained interior rush. If Ryan Tannehill -- who has a 70-plus completion percentage in five straight games -- is on target and getting the ball out of his hands quickly, he could dice up a Ravens defense that is allowing 25.8 points per game on the road. I expect another big game for rookie Jarvis Landry in this matchup.

Pregame reading material
Ngata suspended four games
Ravens battling issues at wide receiver
In what scenarios could the Dolphins make the postseason?
See where Ryan Tannehill ranked on the QB index

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Ravens.

Cam Newton has struggled passing lately and has one or more interceptions in eight straight games (longest streak in Panthers history and longest active streak in NFL). Facing a Saints defense that doesn't tackle well, expect a heavy dose of Jonathan Stewart, who has run tough recently (7.1 yards per carry last week). DeAngelo Williams will likely be out Sunday, which would help keep the Panthers coaching staff from making the mistake of swapping out Stewart for Williams. Ride the horse, Ron, ride the horse.

The Saints' offense could have a field day against a Panthers defense allowing 31-plus points in five straight road games (0-4-1) and has given up 16 receiving TDs to wide receivers this season (T-second most in NFL) and a touchdown on 68.4-percent of red-zone drives this season (NFL's worst percentage). After Jimmy Graham didn't have a catch last week, I'm expecting him to see the ball often Sunday. In their last meeting against the Panthers, the tight end had seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. Drew Brees should air it out plenty against a limp Panthers secondary. Brees has completed 55.0 percent of 15-plus air yard passes this season (highest in NFL among QBs with at least 20 such attempts).

Pregame reading material
Payton dismisses rumors around Saints
Brees: "No validity" team wants to draft QB high
How can the Panthers reach the playoffs?
Rivera: "No apologies" needed from NFC South winner

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Saints.

It's always about J.J. Watt. The MVP candidate has 54 tackles, 11.5 sacks, one INT, 36 QB hits, five fumble recoveries and an innumerable amount of plays destroyed. Facing a woebegone Jaguars offensive line that has allowed 50 quarterback sacks this season (most in the NFL), Watt will easily add to his totals. Blake Bortles will need to use his athleticism to escape Watt plenty, but his lack of playmakers able to get open could cause him to be a sitting duck.

The Jags' pass rush will need to get pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick after the quarterback was kept clean last week in his six-touchdown performance. If Fitzmagic is allowed to sit in the pocket, he'll be able to pick apart a Jacksonville defensive backfield can't match the size and playmaking ability of DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Johnson.

Pregame reading material
Clowney heads to season-ending IR
Andre Johnson wants to play 15 seasons, all in Houston
Find out why Adam Rank lists Marqise Lee as a Week 14 fantasy sleeper
How has Bortles' rookie season gone?

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Texans.

The Steelers have won in big spots when they absolutely needed a W this season, Sunday marks another of those contests. However, when thinking about Kenny Stills running alone in Pittsburgh's secondary last week, it's difficult to get over what A.J. Green could do to that same group. Green has 100-plus receiving yards in two of the last three games. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh defense is allowing opponents to score on 41.7 percent of drives (29th in NFL). That's not a good combo for the Steelers to get it done on the road.

The Cincinnati defense has allowed just 12 points per game in its last three contests. However, they must slow down a Ben Roethlisberger offense ranked No. 3, earning 417.3 yards per game, averaging 299.3 passing yards (fourth best) and gaining 6.03 yards per play. Regardless of the status of Big Ben's wrist, expect Le'Veon Bell to continue his streak of being the workhorse for the Steelers' O against a Bengals run defense allowing 125.1 yards per game (25th).

Pregame reading material
How can the Bengals make a playoff push?
In an up and down year, where does Dalton sit in the QB index?
Big Ben says his wrist is fine
Tomlin doesn't worry about overworking Bell

Who will win? Four of the five Around The NFL writers pick the Steelers.

The matchup of the Colts' receivers against the Browns' secondary will be fun to watch. Andrew Luck has churned up yardage through the air but faces a Cleveland defense holding opposing passers to a 74.1 passer rating, lowest in the NFL (17 passing TDs, 17 interceptions). T.Y. Hilton (1,145 yards) has been the go-to wideout for Luck and will likely face stud cornerback Joe Haden. Still, the Colts possess young dynamo Donte Moncrief and a reliable, if declining, Reggie Wayne, not to mention two pass-catching tight ends that will create matchup problems.

The Browns stuck with Brian Hoyer. It could be the prudent move in a playoff race, but it also turned Johnny Manziel in to the proverbial Sword of Damocles on the sidelines. In games won by his team, Hoyer has the NFL's lowest passer rating this season (87.1). Slightly more efficient than Hoyer in his team's wins are Cam Newton (89.8), Drew Stanton and Nick Foles (both at 91.4) and Andy Dalton (91.5). Hoyer needs to cut down on the picks to keep the Browns in the contest and Johnny Football on the sidelines. If Vontae Davis -- who owns the NFL's lowest passer rating allowed when targeted -- can't play due to a concussion, it will make Hoyer's job immensely easier.

Pregame reading material
Hoyer tabbed as Browns QB over Manziel
Rookie says there's some "disappointment" in not starting
Trent Richardson won't see reduced role
Did Luck claim the top spot in the QB index?

Who will win? Four of the five Around The NFL writers pick the Colts.

Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson can take advantage of a Lions secondary that needs pressure from its front four to be dominant. Evans has been Josh McCown's go-to receiver. Over their last 11 games played, Evans actually has more yards (890) and touchdowns (eight) than Calvin Johnson (865 and five). However, McCown will need protection to find his big wideouts. Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah has been fantastic and is the perfect complement to Ndamukong Suh's dominant inside pressure.

The Lions got back on track last week against a poor defense, and Matthew Stafford should find Megatron and Golden Tate often against Lovie Smith's Cover-2 scheme. Tate has already earned his first career 1,000-yard season (currently at 1,137) and his run-after-the-catch ability could cause trouble for a Buccaneers defense that has missed 105 tackles this season, per Pro Football Focus.

Pregame reading material
Find out why the Lions' D isn't a guaranteed fantasy start this week
How can Detroit reach the playoffs?
How did the Bucs get called for 12 players on the field in Week 13?
How close is Tampa Bay to 2015's No. 1 overall pick?

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Lions.

It's the quintessential unstoppable force meets immovable object scenario. The Bills lead the NFL in sacks with 48, while Peyton Manning has been sacked an NFL-low 13 times. Manning's 36 pass TDs are the most in the NFL. The Bills have allowed just 14 pass TDs, which ranks as second fewest in the NFL. The Bills must take down Manning to keep the quarterback out of short-yardage situations on third down. Expect more of the balanced rushing attack we saw the last two weeks with C.J. Anderson (back-to-back 150-plus yard rushing days) to keep the Bills' pass rush off Manning.

The Broncos boast the second-best run defense in the NFL (72.7 YPG) and face a Bills team that hasn't gotten much outside of Fred Jackson. The matchup of Sammy Watkins, who has been slowed of late, against the Broncos' secondary should be kept a close eye on. If the rookie can't win, Kyle Orton and the Bills' offense will struggle to move the ball.

Pregame reading material
Does Peyton lead the QB index?
See the ways Denver can clinch home-field advantage
Woods: Manuel's coming along
Watkins trying to run through rookie wall

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Broncos.

One of these playoff contenders will stop their slide.

The Chiefs' ground strength with Jamaal Charles will be tested against Todd Bowles' No. 6-ranked run defense. With wide receivers playing next to no role in the Chiefs' offense (Antonio Brown has more catches himself, 96, than every member of the Chiefs' corps combined, 91) expect the Cards to load up to stop the run and pressure Alex Smith in passing situations.

After throwing zero interceptions in his first three starts this season, Drew Stanton has five in his last three games combined. Bluntly, the quarterback must be better against a stellar Chiefs pass rush. If Andre Ellington misses the game with a hip-pointer injury, the Cards' running game will be wholly hindered. Needing to throw on every down isn't advantageous with Justin Houston and Co. ruining the passer. (Getting Larry Fitzgerald back would help Stanton immensely.)

Pregame reading material
Arians: Stanton will take us where we want to go
Can Arizona lose the NFC West?
Reid: Chiefs have stalled last two weeks
Why Jamaal Charles may be a bad fantasy start this week

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Cardinals.

The 49ers' offense scored fewer than 20 points in five of its last six games, but Colin Kaepernick should get a reprieve Sunday against the 1-11 Raiders. One would hope this is the game Greg Roman gets back to the ground game, after he was roundly criticized again this week. Frank Gore has gone seven straight games with fewer than 100 rushing yards, and Carlos Hyde has been under 37 yards in every game during that same span. Opponents are rushing 49.4 percent of the time against the Raiders, highest in NFL, who are allowing 130.5 yards per game on the ground, sixth most.

Latavius Murray should be back this week. While coach Tony Sparano said he wouldn't be a workhorse back (mistake), it will be fun to see if Murray can dazzle again. Chris Borland will surely have something to say about that Sunday. However, the Raiders' offense has zero balance this season with the running game struggling behind Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. Even if it's not a good matchup against the 49ers' eighth-ranked run D, the Raiders must see if Murray can be a playmaker for the future.

Pregame reading material
Kap's struggles indicates a trend for running QBs
Justin Smith: Borland will be a special player
Raiders want to see more Latavius Murray
Oakland in lead to land No. 1 overall pick

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the 49ers.

This game could end up determining which team gets a first-round bye.

The Seahawks' passing offense has been stymied, but Marshawn Lynch has been in the beastliest of modes with healthy this season. Lynch has 100-plus rushing yards in three of his last four games and leads the NFL with nine rushing touchdowns. The Eagles' front line has improved, and they've proven they can get after the passer, especially against a line that has struggled like Seattle's. But Russell Wilson should be able to extend the play take advantage of a Philly secondary that has gotten burned at times this season.

Mark Sanchez is averaging 35.3 points per game in his four starts this season, which is the highest this year by any quarterback with at least four starts. Sanchez's points per game total is 3.5 more than Andrew Luck, 3.6 more than Aaron Rodgers, 3.8 more than Tom Brady and 5.2 more than Peyton Manning. Unfortunately, he's facing a Legion of Boom squad that is rounding into form at the perfect time to make another Super Bowl run. What a huge difference Bobby Wagner's return makes in the middle of the Seattle D. He'll be key against LeSean McCoy.

Pregame reading material
'Hawks not worried about Eagles' pace
Sanchez, Carroll leave USC feud in past
Chip lays Florida rumors to rest
Kelly quips Sanchez, Cooper's tiff was about Thanksgiving dinner

Who will win? Three of the five Around The NFL writers pick the Seahawks.

Tom Brady has been nearly flawless in the last eight games. He's completing 67.3 percent of his passes, earning 306.5 yards per game, has a 24:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 110.7 passer rating over that span. He'll face a floundering Chargers defense. That unit has also allowed a 100-plus yard rusher in six of its last seven games, so it could be a pick-your-poison type of day for Brady. San Diego will have no answer for Rob Gronkowski (few do), and the tight end should be in for a Gronk-spike or two Sunday.

Philip Rivers has carried the Chargers despite almost getting annihilated every time he drops back. He won't have as easy of a time finding open targets like he did last week. Darrelle Revis has played like one of the top cornerbacks in the game, and the Pats' secondary has been able to roll coverages the other way. If the Chargers are to pull the upset, Rivers will have to hit some big plays down the field to Malcom Floyd and Keenan Allen to keep pace with Brady's offense.

Pregame reading material
Two weeks in a row, Brady stars in marquee QB battle
Where do Brady and Rivers rank on the QB index?
Which QB is a better start?
Examine the AFC playoff picture

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Patriots.

Julio Jones will be the key Monday night for the Falcons to knock off the steamrolling Packers at Lambeau. Jones put on a show last week, eating Patrick Peterson alive. He'll need to do it again against a Green Bay secondary that has played well lately and crept up to 11th in passing yards allowed. Matt Ryan will need to make big plays and score a TON, because ...

Zero life forms on this planet can stop Aaron Rodgers when he has a football right now. Zero. It's been more than two years since he's thrown a home interception, and he is on pace to throw for 43 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. In his last six straight home games, he has two or more passing TDs and zero INTs (T-longest streak in NFL history with Peyton Manning). Not only is he a magician with the football, on Monday he gets to face a defense that is the NFL's worst in total defense (allowing 403.2 YPG), the NFL's worst in pass defense (allowing 284.9 YPG) and 28th in third-down defense (allowing 45.5 percent conversion rate). Good lordy, bet on a 50-burger being dropped.

Pregame reading material
Rodgers tops the QB index
Clinton-Dix learns how not to tackle Gronk
See how Atlanta can win the NFC South
Check out the NFC playoff picture

Who will win? All five Around The NFL writers pick the Packers.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews a busy Week 14 schedule and recaps the Cowboys' win over the Bears. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.