With the holiday season upon us, it seems only fitting that Week 14 is shaping up to be a weekend full of reunions in the NFL.
First, we have LeSean McCoy returning to Philadelphia to take on his old team, although, don't expect Chip Kelly and McCoy to partner up for the three-legged race. Then, the Dallas Cowboys head back to Lambeau Field for a showdown with the Packers in their first matchup since Dez Bryant's non-catch (it was a catch) in last year's divisional round. And then, to top off Sunday's games, the New England Patriots travel to Houston to face former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien and his Texans squad.
I guarantee you the Texans defense is anxiously awaiting their chance to feast on New England's battered offensive line. Earlier this week, Bill Belichick compared Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor, and why not? Watt can do it all, and every Madden gamer out there knows this firsthand.
Between Monday and Wednesday of this week, Watt dominated the Madden online gaming scene. In Connected Franchise Mode (CFM), Watt had 1,798 receiving yards and 21 receiving touchdowns. He also had 321 fumble return touchdowns and 25,431 sacks.*
(Based on Madden 16 CFM online data)*
Suffice it to say, Watt, broken hand and all, is the most dominant player in the NFL today, and the Patriots will have their hands full come Sunday. Don't you love reunion specials?
Now, let's get to this week's ratings.
Moving On Up
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is up two points this week to 97 OVR. Is there anything this guy can't do? When Kelvin Benjamin went down with a torn ACL in the preseason, everyone was ready to write the Panthers off. What Newton's been able to do with this offense is remarkable. Soon, he's going to have some shiny new hardware to put next to that Heisman Trophy.
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is up a point this week to 92 OVR, thanks in large part to that 99-yard interception return last week against the Patriots. That play was really the turning point in the game. Had New England scored a touchdown on that drive they would've gone up 21-14. It's still hard to believe that the Patriots gave up 35 unanswered points at home. I guess at this point in the NFL season, anything is possible.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green had 128 receiving yards and a touchdown last week against the Cleveland Browns. It was his first 100-yard receiving game since Week 8. Green now has five-straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career, trailing only Randy Moss (six). Green is up a point to 96 OVR.
Moving On Down
Chicago Bears kicker Robbie Gould is down a point to 88 OVR. The usually reliable Gould missed two field goals last week, which ended up being the deciding factor in Chicago's overtime loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He's missed five field goals so far this year, his most since 2010. He still has four games left to play, too. Good luck.
Great Caesar's Ghost
You have Sinbad in his greatest role since agent Sam Simms in "First Kid", and there's also a pre-Anakin Jake Lloyd. Plus, you have Arnold Schwarzenegger doing some of his finest acting as workaholic Howard Langston. Personally, I'd love to see a "Jingle All the Way" prequel that explains how an Austrian bodybuilder ends up becoming a mattress salesman in suburban Minnesota. I feel Marvel needs to find a way to fit this into their cinematic universe.
Six bold predictions for Week 14
6. I called out Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith last week and he stepped up in a big way, so this week I'm going to make a bold prediction in his favor. I'll say the former number one overall pick has the first 400-yard passing game of his career. Why is that so bold, you ask? Well, consider this: In 117 career starts, Smith has thrown for 300-plus yards just five times. That's right, five times. Smith has his team poised for a playoff run, and I expect him to air it out against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
5.LeSean McCoy heads back to Philadelphia this weekend, and nobody needs to remind the running back of this. McCoy had a less than civil departure from the City of Brotherly Love in the offseason, and there's no doubt he wants to remind Chip Kelly and the Eagles brass what they lost. Philly is coming off a huge win in New England, and this game has all the makings of a good old-fashioned grudge match. McCoy wants this game, and so do the Bills, who need a victory to say alive in their quest for a Wild Card spot. McCoy will surpass 200 total yards as he carries the Bills to victory.
4. My colleague, Daniel Williams, thinks that Johnny Manziel is going to have a long, successful NFL career. Why? Well, because for some inexplicable reason the universe wants Manziel to play quarterback in this league. How else do you explain Josh McCown's injury and the Browns suddenly reversing their decision to bench the former Heisman winner? Johnny Football is getting the start Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Manziel has the universe on his side, so who am I to fight fate? Manziel throws four touchdowns in a Browns win.
3. I'm done picking against the Carolina Panthers. That comeback win last week on the road in New Orleans further showed how much moxie this team has. It also made Cam Newton the sole frontrunner for the MVP award. The Panthers are inching closer and closer to a perfect 16-0 regular season, and Cam has been playing like a man (or Superman) possessed the past several weeks. He's thrown for five touchdowns twice in the past three games. This Sunday against the Falcons he'll do it for the third time in four games, becoming the first quarterback ever to accomplish that feat.
2. As I've said before, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the scariest passing attack in the NFL right now. With Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Markus Wheaton at his side, Ben Roethlisberger is like a fat kid in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory every time he steps on the field. Oh, yeah, he also has DeAngelo Williams dominating in the backfield. After a 4-4 start, Pittsburgh is 7-5 and still has an outside shot at winning the AFC North. This Sunday they head to Cincinnati to take on the AFC's new number one seed. These two teams kept it close in Week 8, with Cincy winning 16-10. This time around, I'll take Pittsburgh on the road.
1. The New England Patriots have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 2012, and, boy, was last week's loss ugly. The Eagles (Malcolm Jenkins, in particular) ran circles around the Pats, and Tom Brady looked uncharacteristically awful. Sure, missing key players hurts, but the Patriots have only themselves to blame for that loss. Poor execution on special teams, dropped passes and errant route running (LAFELL!!!!) falls solely on their plate. Things aren't going to get any easier as they head to Houston Sunday night to take on a Texans team still fighting for a postseason spot. Bill O'Brien is a former Patriots coach, perhaps best known for getting into a shouting match with the Golden Boy. He knows Tom Brady's game, as does Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. The Texans' passing game will dominate as Houston hands Belichick's boys their third-straight loss.
Colin J. Liotta is a Digital Features Editor and Writer for NFL.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TheSportsHero.