It was Thanksgiving this week in America and you know what that means, turkey and football! The perfect Thursday right? Well it would have been if you were a Lions, Cowboys or Ravens fan. All three teams secured victory to kick off week 13 with some great performances. Matthew Stafford forgot he’d thrown four interceptions the previous week and ran rampant on the Green Bay defence, Tony Romo stayed calm under pressure while DeMarco Murray ran in for 3 touchdowns and the Ravens won a hard-fought battle against divisional opponents, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The action didn’t stop there of course as we had highlight reel plays all across the board on Sunday. The Panthers trounced the Buccaneers to continue their winning streak. They’re up to 8 now. I can’t quite believe it actually. There was a high drama game between the Jags and the Browns (a game which most people had written off) but in the last 4 minutes the lead changed hands 3 times with both teams trying their hardest to get the W. This included Josh Gordon going 95 yards for a TD which meant that he was the first player ever. Yeah that’s right, ever, in the NFL to have back-to-back 200 yard receiving games. Now that’s a hell of a record. Houston put up more of a fight against the Patriots than was expected but were eventually surpassed in a surprisingly close match and Denver did the double of the Kansas City Chiefs. I don’t think there’s any more doubt about who the best team in AFC West is any more. We then go to Monday’s game where I personally was expecting a close affair; however, the Seahawks absolutely dominated the Saints and made their mark on the NFC with a stunning victory. Now there’s only 3 weeks left until the playoffs, will your team be making it? What I have decided to do for the last three weeks of the season is take a closer look at the more important games, the ones that could raise or crush a team’s playoff hopes. I will put score predictions for ever game but apologies now if your team isn’t fully delved into, there’s always next season!
Bye Week: No Teams on Bye
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars
Prediction: Texans 24 – 27 Jaguars
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
Both of these teams come into this AFC match-up with an 8-4 record and you’d have to say that both of them ought to be heading to the playoffs. Though I must say the comparison of these two teams in certain respects is actually quite similar, in that, they have both had a rough patch in the season where they have most definitely underperformed. Take the Bengals 3 loss streak for example and compare that to the Colts’ losses against the Rams and Cardinals. Not that I’m taking anything away from their opponents victories, I’m just saying that these two teams could have been better. Anyway, the Bengals and Colts are both coming off good wins against San Diego and Tennessee respectively and I think this game will be a testament to the victor’s intentions in the AFC. Rankings-wise, the Cincinnati Bengals remain stalwart defensively at 6th, only allowing 314 yards and 18 points per game on average. The Colts on the other hand sit 22nd, in fact all of their rankings are 20th or lower. If Andy Dalton can take advantage of the Colts giving up 367.2 yards and 22.8 points per game then the Bengals could easily have this one. But I am unsure of Dalton; he started the season fantastically throwing a minimum of 325 yards a game but has since dropped off and has been noticeably lacklustre. He only threw 190 yards and one touchdown pass against the Chargers last week as well as yet another interception. Comparatively, Andrew Luck threw 200 yards, an interception and no touchdowns against the Titans. From these stats, I’d say this game goes to the team with the better running game. And we all know the state of the Colts run game right now.
Prediction: Colts 13 – 17 Bengals
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
Prediction: Browns 10 – 23 Patriots
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
This could be the game that sees the Jets drop out of the playoff hunt for good. If they lose to the Raiders this week and Miami beat the Steelers then they are done and dusted and just playing for draft picks from there on out. Now, after their performance against Miami I wouldn’t say that the Jets deserve to be anywhere near the playoffs in the first place. They scored 3 points in the entire game and benched Geno Smith at half-time in favour of Matt Simms who didn’t do any better. The pair totalled 108 yards passing. That’s just plain awful yardage. The Jets were sent to their 3rd straight loss with their tails between their legs. They go up against a Raiders defence that is giving up 356.8 yards per game of total offence, I don’t know which QB is going to come out for the Jets on Sunday but they’ve got to be aiming for that stat-line or else they’re goners. As for the Raiders, Matt McGloin didn’t throw a touchdown this week but he still threw 255 yards and led his team to a 21-7 half-time lead. I actually have faith in McGloin to dissect the Jets defence along with Rashad Jennings who has become a star for the Raiders at RB. I think the Jets are doing their usual self-destruct and just won’t be able to limit McGloin enough. It’s time to look towards the draft in New York.
Prediction: Raiders 20 – 14 Jets
Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins
Prediction: Chiefs 27 – Redskins 17
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
This is again a must-win for the Ravens in week 14. Luckily they are at home so that should give them a big advantage. The Ravens home record is and always has been aces as they remain undefeated this season at the M&T Bank Stadium. I call this a must-win for the Ravens because they need breathing space between themselves and the Pittsburgh Steelers who sit one game behind them. If they lose and the Steelers win then that playoff spot will be a lot more hotly contested. Funnily, the Ravens offence is almost as bad as the Minnesota Vikings’ defence when it comes to rankings being 29th to their opponents 30th. This might be an opportunity for Joe Flacco and company to increase their statistics and push the Ravens further up the table, but somehow I think this game will come down to the performance of one man. Justin Tucker. He kicked 5 field goals against the Steelers to help the Ravens hang on last Thursday. Five! Bet fantasy owners were chuffed. But in all fairness, the offence did manage 313 yards and a touchdown so that might just be enough. I won’t count the Vikings out because they beat Chicago in overtime last week, almost beat Green Bay the week before and have an offence that currently sits 14th and is scoring an average of 24.3 points per game. This will be an interesting match-up.
Prediction: Vikings 13 – 19 Ravens
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
Prediction: Falcons 17 – 21 Packers
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Prediction: Bills 23 – 27 Buccaneers
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
So the Dolphins are well and truly back in the AFC wild card hunt. They can extend their hopes this week when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. This isn’t going to be an easy game for either side and both of them know that they need to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Steelers lost a crucial game against divisional opponents the Ravens last week and will be seeking to avenge themselves. I can’t overly fault their performance last week to be fair as Big Ben threw for 257 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions while Le’Veon Bell racked up 73 yards and a TD on the ground. That quality of play against the Dolphins will see this as being a very close game indeed. Especially as the Dolphins have been 20.7 points per game, that’s almost three touchdowns right there. However, as I said, it won’t be that easy. The Steelers offensive line is going to be dealing with the monster pass-rush of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon who have helped the Dolphins reach 37 sacks on the season which is tied 5th in the league. Not bad, right? The pair have 6.5 and 10 respectively. I can see this going the way of the Dolphins if Tannehill maintains his concentration and quality of performance, too, if he replicates the 331 yards and 2 TDs and cuts out the interception. This game could easily be in Miami’s hands.
Prediction: Dolphins 23 – 20 Steelers
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
This game should be and is very important for the Lions and Eagles, the winner will become outright leader of their division (until Monday at least). Chip Kelly’s offence has certainly been working out well for the Eagles, scoring an average of 25 points with 403.6 yards to boot. Strangely enough, there are only two offences that surpass this and one of them happens to be the Detroit Lions who average 27.2 points and 424.5 yards per game. As such, this game could most definitely end up in a shootout with the winner being who can throw the most touchdown passes. Now, at the start of the season if I had to choose who would win between Calvin Johnson and Riley Cooper I would have picked Megatron but as the season has progressed Cooper has shown that he can play with the big boys. Who am I kidding? I’ll still pick Megatron over nearly every other wideout in the league. Especially as his Quarterback is Matthew Stafford, the man has already thrown nearly 4000 yards and 27 touchdowns this season. However, the Lions have had a lot of issues with turnovers in the past couple of weeks. Even in week 13’s win over the Packers, Reggie Bush fumbled yet again. If the turnovers are eliminated this week the Lions will win, if not, well, there’s only one other option.
Prediction: Lions 34 – 31 Eagles
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Prediction: Titans 13 – 24 Broncos
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Prediction: Rams 17 – 21 Cardinals
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Oh boy. Clash of the NFC West titans. I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. The Seattle Seahawks have been outstanding this season, even when they’ve played badly they’ve won games and they currently have the best record in the NFL at 11-1. They absolutely destroyed the New Orleans Saints on Monday 34-7. They have already destroyed the Niners at home this season. Personally, I think the Seahawks are the team to beat right now and Colin Kaepernick is not the guy to orchestrate that. His QB rating is 88.9 on the season thus far and he has 15 TDs to 7 interceptions. I know the Niners are at home but I just can’t see it happening for them. Sorry San Francisco.
Prediction: Seahawks 27 – 20 49ers
New York Giants at San Diego Chargers
Prediction: Giants 16 – 23 Chargers
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Another clash of the titans game here, this time in the NFC South. The Saints are going to be reeling after that loss to the Seahawks while Carolina are on an 8 game winning streak. I’m not sure I’m allowed to doubt Cam Newton and his big cats any more. If that’s the case they should be able to take this divisional match-up and take the divisional crown at the same time. Or at least go top of the NFC South for a week anyway. Newton had 331 total yardage and 3 total TDs against the Bucs. Albeit he also threw 2 interceptions but everyone knows by now just how dangerous the Panthers defence is, ranked 2nd and only allowing 13.1 points per game on average. It did it’s job last week, only allowing one 3rd down completion out of 10. That’s damn impressive. You know that they’ll keep it up this week too, I can’t see Cam having quite the game he did against the Bucs but if there is one thing I am sure of, that’s the Carolina defence doing some damage. Drew Brees had better watch out. Even if his offence is gaining 26 points and nearly 400 yards per game, those stats are about to change for the worse.
Prediction: Panthers 24 – 17 Saints
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears
Okay so Dallas got a good win against the Raiders last week and have put themselves in a position to tussle for the leadership of the NFC East. They face the Chicago Bears who have lost pace against the Detroit Lions for position in the NFC North. However, a win here and a loss for the Lions will put them straight back into the mix. The Cowboys have done well of late though, winning three of their last 5 games. This has put them 7-5 on the season and they are in a good position to take this game against the Bears and put a gap between themselves and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys have a scoring average of 27.4 points similar to the Bears’ 26.9, while defensively they have allowed an average of 25.2 to the Bears’ 27.7. If statistics are anything to go by then I would have to say this is going to be a close one and whoever has more will to win might just end up doing so. Though Josh McCown has performed admirably over the past few weeks he is still a back-up whereas the Cowboys still have their starter in Tony Romo, which might just clinch it.
Prediction: Cowboys 24 – 20 Bears