NFL Week 14 game picks: Packers edge 'Hawks; Dallas hits 12-1


Many games to get to on the Week 14 slate, but first, an important discussion ...

Who is MVP?

There seems to be less chatter about this award than usual, nationally speaking, probably because the media is hyper-focused on two rookies in Dallas tearing it up, and many can't wrap their head around the fact that the Raiders are still good. Maybe it's that Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a horse in this race, given his so-so campaign (by his standards). Perhaps the absence of Peyton Manning, Marshawn Lynch and (early on) Tom Brady play a role here, as well. Whatever the case may be, the kind of buzz that surrounded Cam Newton's surprising MVP run last season just hasn't been there.

Some of you fans have reached out to me on this matter, and thus, here's my ballot heading into this week's games ...

1) Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

2) Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders

3) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

4) Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit Lions

5) Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders

I lob that list into the football ether. What do you think? (@HarrisonNFL) On to a few other matters y'all have brought to my attention ...

Spencer, I got ripped for suggesting the Panthers could fall to 10-6. Looks like 6-10 might be a stretch now.

Whoever the Raiders, Broncos or Chiefs dust in the Wild Card Round.

Speaking of, Oakland at Kansas City is probably the matchup of the week, considering the quality of the AFC West. Cowboys at Giants and Seahawks at Packers aren't too shabby, either. See who I'm picking below. Your take is definitely welcome: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Now, let's get to it!

Elliot Harrison went 10-5 on his predictions for Week 13, giving him a record of 126-64-2 thus far this season. How will he fare in Week 14? His picks are below:

Big leap of faith here. As talented as the Steelers are, how many times have we seen them crap out on the road? I owned a 1978 Celica with a manual moonroof that was more reliable on the pavement. Put some $500 wheels on that baby, too. I tried to shine a turd, in the way that Pittsburgh's four glossy home wins this year obscure the three ugly losses on the road. The Steelers lucked out in their last road game, as Colts quarterback Andrew Luck wasn't available for the Thanksgiving trip to Indy. T.T. didn't fare well in Oakland last Sunday, but the relevant narrative is that he is Tyrod Taylor, not Tyrod Tolzien. Keith Butler's Pittsburgh defense has its work cut out for it.

Key matchup to watch: The Bills' run defense vs. Le'Veon Bell. Buffalo has allowed 161 rushing yards per game -- 4.7 yards per clip -- since Week 12. And you know what? There are no massive 30-yard runs in that grouping. Good thing Bell isn't explosive ... #PITvsBUF

How many times can the Broncos' defense lift the stagnant offense to a win? If last season was any indication, however many it takes. Although pick-sixes might be hard to come by in Nashville. Save for a poor outing in San Diego and a two-pick, two-fumble stinker against Oakland, Marcus Mariota is far from a turnover machine. Denver will have to win this deal by stopping DeMarco Murray -- but shutting down the run certainly hasn't been a strong point for the Broncos (with the NFL's 28th-ranked rush defense). The big concern offensively is whether or not Denver quarterback Trevor Siemian is a go. If he's not, well, Paxton Lynch now has 11 quarters under his belt. Either way, Wade Phillips' defense needs to hold the Titans to less than 20 points. Mariota has posted eight straight games of multiple touchdown passes. Check. The Broncos, meanwhile, have only allowed multiple touchdown passes twice this year. Checkmate. #DENvsTEN

Carson Wentz needs someone to throw the ball to outside who is reliable and can make plays. Last week, it was Paul Turner, he of six career catches after going undrafted out of Louisiana Tech fame. I forgive you if you haven't heard of him, because I hadn't, either, until he headlined the Eagles' box score against the Bengals. There used to be a guy with that same name on "Antiques Roadshow" a lot. Maybe it's the same dude. Either way, what we do know is that Dorial Green-Beckham and Nelson Agholor -- you know, the players who are supposed to be catching touchdowns -- are doing jack for their rookie quarterback. As for Washington, expect Kirk Cousins to rebound from a disappointing loss in the desert. #WASvsPHI

Arizona has won double-digit games three years in a row. At 5-6-1, the Cardinals won't get there this season, but they do have a favorable matchup here. Carson Palmer is playing much better as of late. I generally start my fantasy quarterbacks against Miami, even if they're Joe Flacco, who destroyed this group last week. The Dolphins not only miss injured safety Reshad Jones, but they need to get running back Jay Ajayi -- who hasn't hit the century mark since Week 9 -- going again in order to provide their defense with the occasional break, à la Ezekiel Elliott and that well-rested Cowboys defense. Speaking of running backs, David Johnson continues his elite season for Arizona. The second-year RB out of Northern Iowa has outlasted his offseason hype to the tune of 1,709 yards from scrimmage. The dude has an outside shot at 1,000 receiving yards. Johnson's put up 100 yards from scrimmage in every game this season. #AZvsMIA

Ugh. Is there an uglier game on the Week 14 slate than this honey of a matchup? The Vikings' offense might be the only unit that looks uglier than the Jags' group week to week. These two teams are a combined 1-13 since Week 7. Sam Bradford must challenge Jacksonville down the field, although that has been challenging this season. The Jaguars are second in pass defense but dead last in picking the ball off. So take the risk, Sam. Or else the rest of the offense won't ever open up. Blake Bortles has taken plenty of risks -- in fact, it's a huge reason the Jags are tied for the most giveaways. Bortles knows people are lasering in on his performance, which makes it all the more important that he not laser in on his receivers. We'll see. #MINvsJAX

Huge game in the scope of the AFC South. The Texans escaped big-time against the Colts earlier this season, getting two late scores to prevail in the fourth quarter after 3.5 quarters of sucking badly. Now Houston has lost three in a row and is looking for a win in a place that has been a house of horrors since the Texans entered the league in 2002. In fact, their win in Indy last year was their first there ever. Andrew Luck was on fire versus the Jets on Monday. What's interesting to note here is that three of Luck's scoring tosses went to tight end Dwayne Allen, with TE2 Jack Doyle coming thisclose to another. That said, tight ends have done jack against the Texans' defense this season. So maybe Luck won't be able to pour it on like he did at MetLife on Monday night. But he won't need to -- Houston is one of five teams that hasn't scored 30 points once this season. #HOUvsIND

It would be just like the Chargers to go out and win this game. They get their fans' hopes up, then blow a home game to the Dolphins, then look like world-beaters on the road, then return to San Diego to lose another late. It's been a herky-jerky season for a Bolts team facing an identity crisis -- be it off-the-field future or on-field production -- from week to week. At least we know Philip Rivers won't be benched for not wearing his bolo tie. Hopefully, Cam Newton gets to play every series this week. Rivers must allow the game to come to him, and run the offense through Melvin Gordon if the situation calls for it. Forcing it in the fourth quarter has cost San Diego three games this season -- vs. New Orleans, Miami and Tampa Bay -- although everybody was giving it away against the Saints, including Billy Volek. #SDvsCAR

I'm doing it. I'm taking the plunge. I am almost picking Cleveland to beat Cincy in the we're-not-going-anywhere-but-we're-still-allowed-in-the-AFC-North bowl. OK, I actually did pick the Browns, until I found out Robert Griffin III is going to start. Not trying to disparage RGIII, but he hasn't played in three months. Andy Dalton will get his, so to speak, but will Griffin be able to take advantage of a Cincy defense that has struggled this season (despite the strong showing last week versus Carson Wentz)? On offense, the Bengals must provide a respectable showing on the ground if they are to finish the season with a quasi-respectable record. Cincinnati is running just 40.7 percent of the time, the lowest run-pass ratio of the Dalton era. #CINvsCLE

Would anyone be surprised if the Lions came out flat, Matt Stafford played like Scott Mitchell and Detroit lost a golden opportunity to take one step closer to the NFC North title? No. That's why they're the Lions. But it really does seem like there is something different about this group, starting with -- but not limited to -- the MVP candidate at quarterback. The defense has competed hard the last couple of weeks, too, especially the much-maligned secondary. Facing Matt Barkley one week after Drew Brees is like watching Matt LeBlanc's show after binging on "Westworld." Slight difference in quality, irritating promos aside. Although, they do beat Jimmy Johnson Extenze commercials. We digress. #CHIvsDET

The Jets start winning in time to not earn a top-five pick, just the way their fans don't like it. Bryce Petty should encounter easy pickins in the red zone against the 49ers' secondary -- San Francisco has allowed 26 touchdown receptions this season. At least the run defense makes up for it by ranking dead last in the NFL. Would you believe opponents already have rushed for more than 2,000 yards on the 49ers? Whatever they were paying NaVorro Bowman, they should double it and add that indoor bubble-bath pool Tony Montana owned at his pad. On the plus side for San Francisco, no one on the Jets looked like they were interested in tackling Monday night. #NYJvsSF

Jameis Winston is playing very well. During this four-game win streak, Winston has thrown six touchdown passes to three interceptions, while completing nearly 68 percent of his passes. If you think we are cherry pickin' stats here, well, in Tampa's last loss, the sophomore QB threw for three scores with no picks, recording a slick 110.3 passer rating. The Bucs' defense has played out of its mind, allowing 51 offensive points during the win streak. And seven of those points, you might recall, came on a fluky, end-of-half Hail Mary. This team is streaking through the quad toward the Falcons' dorm. While the Saints are second in the league in scoring, the Bucs have allowed just 13.3 points per game since Week 10. That's the lowest mark in the NFL in that span. #NOvsTB

Careful, careful, careful. The Falcons cannot afford to stumble in Los Angeles. The Rams' defense is a far better unit -- from top to bottom -- than it appears to be after bottoming out in New Orleans and fueling LeGarrette Blount's oven full of hot takes. You know Gregg Williams' D is going to be pissed off enough about Blount's comments that Devonta Freeman better duck. Yes, we know he's short. You get the point. Matt Ryan must atone for last week's blunders to ensure a pesky Bucs outfit doesn't surpass his team in the NFC South standings. The Falcons are 1-5 this season when they score 30 points or fewer. Thing is, I don't think Los Angeles can sniff 30 points right now. #ATLvsLA

Oh, man -- maybe the toughest game to call on the Sunday slate. Maybe the coolest game on the Sunday slate, too. These teams have engaged in some remarkable affairs in recent history, from the 2014 NFC Championship Game to the "Fail Mary" to "We want the ball, and we're gonna score!" Yes, Matt Hasselbeck and Brett Favre dueled in that infamous 2003 wild-card game. Thirteen years later, and the quarterback matchup might be even better. Aaron Rodgers has been hot lately. Russell Wilson is having by far his worst season, but is running around again. (And it's damn hard to defend.) With Wilson under center, Seattle is 29-7 in December. The Packers are 15-2 at home in December during Rodgers' reign. That's even stronger. #SEAvsGB

That's right: The Cowboys are moving to 12-1 by beating the only team to beat them this season. Much has been made of that Week 1 Giants victory. It was Dak Prescott's first NFL start. Ditto Ezekiel Elliott. The margin of victory? One point. Sunday night provides Dallas an opportunity to show the rest of the league who is coming out of the NFC tournament this season -- that is, if they win convincingly against their NFC East nemesis. If the Giants are going to slow Dallas' roll again, the front seven had better slow Zeke's first. Big Blue's run defense has been mostly awesome ... though Le'Veon Bell went for 118 last Sunday (it did take 29 carries). Elliott didn't get loose back in Week 1, but let's be real: He's figured it out since then. After averaging just 3.3 yards per carry in the first two weeks of his rookie season, he's cruising at over 5 yards per tote since. Good luck. #DALvsNYG

The Patriots get a couple of scores in the fourth quarter to outlast the Ravens -- a group New England might see again in the postseason. Baltimore's defense has been shutting the door on opponents, especially with Elvis Dumervil providing an extra-effective body on the pass rush. Rookie Matt Judon added another sack last Sunday. Lardarius Webb came up with a clutch red-zone pick. Eric Weddle picked a ball off himself, as he continues to make plays in Year 10. The Ravens' defense is tops in the league, and won't be giving Tom Brady gimmes. New England's pass-catching RBs could cause problems for Baltimore's aggressive unit, though, even if LeGarrette Blount finds the one-on-one tackling to be on point this week. Interesting that Brady has thrown 10 picks versus the Ravens since 2008 -- tied for the most he's thrown against any team, with the Bills, despite the fact he has faced Baltimore seven fewer times in that span. #BALvsNE


What a way to kick off Week 14 in the NFL. This is a bad@$% uni matchup, too. Raiders at Chiefs is classic AFL stuff. How about that huge in-game fight that went down in 1970? Now these two are fighting for the AFC West. Derek Carr has had a rough time versus the Chiefs, especially at home earlier this season. In fact, over his career, the franchise QB is 1-4 against Kansas City, with six touchdown and five interceptions. Against the rest of the league? Carr has 71 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. His passer rating versus the Chiefs is 72.0. Against everybody else? 90.7 That's a sizable difference. Oh, almost forgot: K.C. will have Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford all in the same game for just the third time this season. #OAKvsKC

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.



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