January not too far away
Week 14 is when the playoff talk begins in earnest. With a ticket to January football on the line, teams will be pulling out all the stops this week (lucky for us). Some teams are already out of playoff contention, but others are ready to give their all for a spot. We've got some truly heavy-hitting games this week.
For instance, take the Miami v. Jacksonville game. The Jags are holding on to a wildcard spot and are attempting to solidify their status in the playoffs. The Dolphins, on the other hand, are looking to knock the Patriots off in their race to the top of the AFC East. Can Miami keep Maurice Jones-Drew silent in the running game? The answers to these questions may very well decide who we'll see playing in January.
Even the Kansas City v. Buffalo game means something. Sure, both teams have miserable records right now, but both are trying to start their rebuilding process with a bang. Plus, T.O. is playing for a contract after a rather unimpressive season. Watch for this game to be a nail-biter.
It's Week 14, and we're getting a clearer view of the playoff picture. This is going to be one intense painting, and Silver Chips Online is offering you a preview.
Thursday, Dec. 10
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-6-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-11-0)
Rose - Pittsburgh
Dennis - Pittsburgh
Ava - Pittsburgh
The Steelers have slipped in their past few games. Especially now that talented safety Troy Polamalu may be out for the rest of the season, Pittsburgh is stuck at a mediocre .500 without the success they could boast of earlier in the season. Although the Browns showed some fight against the Chargers last week, they're still plagued by more injuries and little progress. Steelers steal a much-needed win.
The Steelers have been in a bit of a slump as of late, but none of that will matter when they play the mistake-prone Brady Quinn and company. Ben Roethleisberger and Hines Ward need to reestablish the connection that has elevated them to an elite duo status over the last couple of years.
Cleveland is still terrible, and Pittsburgh is still a decent team despite a loss to the Raiders. (Look at the Eagles: once upon a time they lost to the Raiders and somehow became one of the top two teams in the NFC East.) On a side note, there are rumors that Troy Polamalu won't return this year due to injury. That would certainly be a blow to the Steelers' defense, but I'll take my chances. I'm biting my tongue because I said this last week, but I don't think the Steelers will lose this game.
Sunday, Dec. 13
New Orleans Saints (12-0-0) at Atlanta Falcons (6-6-0)
Rose - New Orleans
Dennis - New Orleans
Ava - New Orleans
With their undefeated record protected, the Saints are dominating all the stats. They are in first place for 36.7 offensive points and 429 yards per game. They're also third best in the NFL for 286.4 passing yards. Although this meeting of NFC rivals is between first and second place division teams, the chances of an Atlanta win don't come close to the odds of another New Orleans victory. The Saints have too much momentum.
Remember how close this match-up was last time? Well, don't count on that happening again this week. Arguably the team's two biggest stars, Matt Ryan and Michael Turner, may sit out another week. That spells L-O-S-S.
The Saints barely scraped by the Redskins last week, but that has only proven their versatility. Sure New Orleans can blow out teams, but they can also hang in the tough games to pull out a win. As for the Falcons, they still don't have Matt Ryan and it shows. Atlanta was completely dominated just as the new quarterback, Chris Redman, was getting his legs. (Redman wasn't too shabby, either. He managed to accumulate 235 yards.) Nevertheless, it's going to be tough for Redman to turn around the Falcons' sliding performance in this game against one of the league's best. I'll take the Saints.
New York Jets (6-6-0) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-11-0)
Rose - New York
Dennis - New York
Ava - New York
With a few recent wins on their backs, the Jets should have no problem conquering the still-struggling Buccaneers. Up against a defense that ranks 31st in the league, New York should be able to have complete faith in their running game and QB Kellen Clemens, whose last start against Kansas City in 2007 resulted in a 13-10 victory for the Jets. This is just the easy game New York needs to get a winning record.
Josh Freeman may spend some quality time with the turf this week, as Rex Ryan will bring his infamous blitzes to torture the young quarterback. Tampa Bay's best chance is doing the same against Kellen Clemens, who will be replacing the injured Mark Sanchez.
The Jets are a fickle team, and I tend to choose incorrectly when it comes to their games. But the Buccaneers are 1-11 (though their "1" did come against Green Bay), and selecting a team with that record would be simply illogical! I wouldn't be surprised if Tampa Bay came out with a win, though. The only thing I'm sure about is that this game won't be very pretty to watch.
Miami Dolphins (6-6-0) at Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5-0)
Rose - Jacksonville
Dennis - Miami
Ava - Jacksonville
The Jaguars had a great game last week against Houston, which marked their fifth consecutive home win. David Gerrard had two touchdowns and no turnovers for the first time in a month, although the Texans' abundant turnovers and injuries made the Jacksonville win relatively easy. For Miami, they barely scraped a win over the Patriots last week without touching their tricky Wildcat formation. They're still uncertain as to whether the formation is a go for this week. With such insecurities against a team with winning confidence, they won't be able to sweep the victory.
This is bound to be an interesting match-up. Two teams fighting for playoff spots and both have been looking impressive in the last couple of weeks. Miami showed the Patriots why they are still a force to contend with, and Jacksonville has generally been on a roll this season. If Miami can continue to keep the Jags' running game silent, look for a Dolphin victory.
The Dolphins seem to have a hard time stringing together a couple of wins. That's not to say that they don't have their big moments now and again. (Come on, no one saw that win over the Pats coming). But Jacksonville is 5-1 at home and the Dolphins are 2-4 away. The Dolphins' defense is pretty ordinary, but unfortunately for them MJD isn't an ordinary player. But more than Jones-Drew, David Garrard has been playing exceedingly well - he had 238 yards last week. Miami might be able to get a little something going, but they won't be able to beat the Jags.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-3-0) at Minnesota Vikings (10-2-0)
Rose - Minnesota
Dennis - Minnesota
Ava - Minnesota
The Bengals have pulled off a winning record partly because of their recent run-ins with struggling teams such as the Lions and Browns. Up against the more consistent Vikings, their easy victories don't hold as much weight. While Cincinnati has given up only 187 points, the fewest in the league, Minnesota is still a powerhouse with third place for 84.2 defensive rush yards and second place for 29.9 points per game. Plus, we can give Favre a little slack for his struggles against the Cardinals - he was playing his record-breaking 283rd consecutive game! As the top of the AFC North battles the top of the NFC North, Minnesota prevails
This has potential to be a great match-up between two playoff-bound teams, but Minnesota saw defeat for the second time last week at the hands of Kurt Warner and the Cards. Adrian Peterson had a miserable game, but if he picks it up this week the Bengals won't see what hit them.
The Vikings are coming off a bad loss to the Cardinals, but every great team has a bad showing once and a while, right? We're at that point in the season during which everyone usually settles into a groove, but right now few teams have a solid streak going. (Remember in weeks one through eight when I couldn't pick against Denver? That didn't work out too well.) It's harder to know who's going to be hot when, but I think I feel confident about picking Minnesota at the Metrodome.
Seattle Seahawks (5-7-0) at Houston Texans (5-7-0)
Rose - Houston
Dennis - Houston
Ava - Houston
While Houston has had quite a slide after losing four consecutive games, the Seahawks are coming off two fairly impressive wins. QB Matt Hasselbeck should generate big numbers, considering he's not up against a high-caliber defense (does 19 sacs give you an idea?). But Houston's Matt Schaub still holds fourth place in the league for 3449 total passing yards and fellow Texans Andre Johnson is among the top three for receiving yards. These two should form a dynamic duo that will help bring the Texans to a victory on Sunday.
Believe it or not, this whole game may depend one Seattle receiver's ability to make big plays against Houston's secondary. That player is Nate Burleson, a major playmaker as of late. By now, Houston should realize that their whole season is on the line. They will step it up for Sunday's game.
Both of these teams are 5-7, but Houston should really be better than that. Not to play the blame game, but Gary Kubaik could have done a lot better with his Texans. Neither team really has an edge, but I'll go with Houston because I think they have the potential to win, plain and simple.
Buffalo Bills (4-8-0) at Kansas City Chiefs (3-9-0)
Rose - Buffalo
Dennis - Buffalo
Ava - Buffalo
For this game, history will repeat itself. The Bills managed high numbers against Kansas City last season, but they've really struggled against the run this year and defense has faced major difficulties. Then again, prominent receivers Lee Evans and Terrell Owens still have lots of potential. The Chiefs, however, are all bad news. They rank 30th for both offense and scoring defense. This may not be an incredibly impressive match-up, but the Bills will definitely be able to boost their record just a little.
Neither Buffalo nor Kansas City is looking to get into the playoffs anytime soon, so this game is purely about pride...and contracts. Speaking of contracts, Terrell Owens plays for one in the last stretch of games. Expect him to emerge against a pass-prone secondary.
This game is really up in the air! If only I could study game film everyday perhaps I could make this pick more accurately. But I'll take the Bills because they've actually beaten some good teams this year (i.e. Tampa Bay, Miami and the Jets), although they're not exactly a powerhouse. Kansas City's winning repertoire is slightly less impressive, with only the Redskins and Steelers as notable victory match-ups.
Green Bay Packers (8-4-0) at Chicago Bears (5-7-0)
Rose - Green Bay
Dennis - Green Bay
Ava - Green Bay
For the Packers, their road to the playoffs is now clearly paved before them. They've got four consecutive wins on their back and a significantly improved defense and offense. However, penalties have posed a major problem for Green Bay progress. Regardless, the Bears rank just under the Packers in their division and won't pose a major threat since they haven't been doing too well against decent teams (a win against St. Louis doesn't count). Packers for the victory.
Jay Cutler has been looking lackluster on the Chicago offense and don't expect an improved performance this week with veteran corner Charles Woodson roaming for the Green Bay secondary. The Packers looked extremely able while holding Baltimore's offensive yards to a minimum and attacking their defense. Look for the Packers to do even better against the Bears.
This is a pretty big game in the NFC North, and could be a huge win for the Bears. That being said, Chicago shouldn't be too hard to beat; Aaron Rodgers is playing well (263 yards and three touchdowns!). Though I've never been a Jay Cutler fan and that's not going to change any time soon, I have an inkling that the Bears' quarterback will step up and have a good game - he's long overdue. The stats say it all: the game may be in Chicago, but it'll be Aaron Rodger's neighborhood on Sunday. The Bears' will just be passing through.
Detroit Lions (2-10-0) at Baltimore Ravens (6-6-0)
Rose - Baltimore
Dennis - Baltimore
Ava - Baltimore
After an unfortunate loss and embarrassingly perpetual lack of consistency throughout the season, the Ravens are badly in need of a chance to rebound. Fortunately, this Sunday's match-up against the Lions will provide an opportunity for them to do just that. Baltimore gets a winning record this week.
Baltimore was in some serious penalty trouble against Green Bay; in fact, it may contribute to their inability to make the playoffs this year. But Detroit is just an all-around mediocre team (and maybe even worse than that). If the Ravens can pass rush effectively and put straps on Calvin Johnson, the Lions won't have a chance. Ravens win it.
Finally the Ravens catch a break after a tough stretch of games! They still managed to emerge 6-6 though, and should enjoy the break they get with the Lions this week. However, I wouldn't be completely shocked if the Lions beat Baltimore, but that doesn't mean that the Ravens won't handle their business.
Carolina Panthers (5-7-0) at New England Patriots (7-5-0)
Rose - New England
Dennis - New England
Ava - New England
A team that ranks number one in the AFC East and has a quarterback who is beaming with fatherly pride for his new baby boy, the Patriots look to be in good shape this week. (Just kidding about the Tom Brady part.) But in all honesty, New England is second in the league for total offensive yards and passing. The Panthers, on the other hand, have struggled at third place in their division. Patriots pave the way to another win.
New England has experienced its fair share of frustration over the past few weeks, and that might cost them a playoff trip. However, if Tom Brady can rally back against Carolina, a win could definitely be in sight. Just make sure Julius Peppers gets blocked.
Last week, New England lost a divisional game to Miami. Quite frankly, that was downright weird. As the season progresses, the Patriots' performance continues to flip flop and I question their ability to make a deep run in the playoffs. Assuming Brady hasn't run out of steam, New England will be fired up and demolish the Panthers. The Patriots badly needs this win – a 7-6 record with only three games left doesn't bode well at all.
Denver Broncos (8-4-0) at Indianapolis Colts (12-0-0)
Rose - Indianapolis
Dennis - Indianapolis
Ava - Indianapolis
If this match-up had occurred a little earlier in the season, it would have been the battle of two undefeated teams. But Denver slipped after their bye week, and met up in Week Eight for four consecutive losses. But recently, they've pulled themselves together with two outstanding victories. Indianapolis' Peyton Manning is nothing less than MVP caliber, so even Denver's occasionally strong ground game won't be able to save them against the Colts' powerhouse. Indianapolis remains undefeated.
The Colts perform better in every offensive category than their opponents, with the exception of rushing yards per game. Denver needs to look to Knowshon Moreno to lead the way for the Bronco offense and run over Colts defense. However, as long as Peyton Manning is under center the Bronco secondary is going to be manhandled.
The Colts just keep finding ways to win, don't they? I don't think the Broncos will be able to stop a team that includes the fifth best quarterback in the league, the player with the third most sacks and the player with the fifth most receiving yards.
Washington Redskins (3-9-0) at Oakland Raiders (4-8-0)
Rose - Oakland
Dennis - Washington
Ava - Oakland
Throughout their past few games, the Redskins have come close to victories but haven't been able to surpass their opponents. They lost their past three games by a combined seven points, which were tacked against them all in the fourth quarter and at the last minute. While their fights were notable, they just don't seem to have the stamina to get through an entire game with powerful play. Conversely, the Raiders have experienced success in two recent games against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Also, the Redskins' away game record is a pitiful 0-4. Although this one is really almost up in the air, the odds are slightly with Oakland.
Washington almost pulled off the upset of the season last week against the Saints. However, the Skins couldn't pull through in the last stretch of the game and fell to New Orleans. Still, they looked impressive in the first half and a similar defensive performance will put Bruce Gradkowski in a difficult position. The Skins can win this.
For this game, I'm inclined to go with the Raiders. At this point it doesn't really matter if the Skins show up - they will find a way to lose. Washington is on a three game losing streak and probably feel the pressure. If they want another win this season it'll have to be this Sunday because they finish the season by playing the Giants, Dallas and San Diego. Though the Redskins will almost definitely lose, it's always interesting to see which team we will get to watch. The Redskins who play solidly and are able to beat Denver, or the Redskins who miss 12-yard field goals?
St. Louis Rams (1-11-0) at Tennessee Titans (5-7-0)
Rose - Tennessee
Dennis - Tennessee
Ava - Tennessee
Predictably, the Titans' incredible winning streak came to an abrupt stop after a Colts encounter last week. But that doesn't diminish the team's newfound power through QB Vince Young and league-leading rusher Chris Johnson. The Rams allow 146.2 yards per game and are one of the worst team for average points (26.2) and total yards (363.7) allowed. The Titans will embrace this easy step toward a chance in the playoffs.
Despite their loss to the Colts last week, Tennessee is still playing solid football. Chris Johnson is officially an elite rusher and will run over the Rams' defense without a doubt. But to Steven Jackson's credit, the runningback has been pulling his own on a 1-11 team and miraculously leads the NFC in rushing.
As predicted (not to toot my own horn), the Titans' winning streak was snapped last week. But never fear Tennessee fans! Look for the Titans' fire to reignite with the help of the proverbial lighter fluid that is the awfulness of St. Louis.
San Diego Chargers (9-3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (8-4-0)
Rose - San Diego
Dennis - Dallas
Ava - San Diego
With QB Philip Rivers leading the Chargers with confidence, San Diego could make early headway against the Cowboys in this week's match-up. No doubt the Chargers have momentum - they haven't lost since Week Six and are running the longest winning streak that has ever hit an NFL team during December. They'll use that to propel them through a victorious Dallas match-up.
If San Diego wins, they may be able to clinch their playoff spot. However, if they play the way they did last week against Denver, that won't happen. Dallas has all the tools it needs to make it through December, and it's up to them to prove history wrong. Also, Tony Romo should have an unexpectedly sensational performance.
Oh, another fun game to pick. As everyone knows, my favorite quarterback Tony Romo isn't too good in the month of December; he just doesn't clutch like that. And, unfortunately, as the quarterback flops so does his team. On top of that, LaDanian Tomlinson and the Chargers are on fire right now with an amazing seven-week streak! Chargers all the way.
Philadelphia Eagles (8-4-0) at New York Giants (7-5-0)
Rose - Philadelphia
Dennis - New York
Ava - Philadelphia
The Giants will need to get a lot more from QB Eli Manning this week if they hope to tie with NFC East Division rival Philadelphia. The Eagles have dominated in their last three encounters with the Giants, although New York cornerback Asante Samuel may have a hold on the Philadelphia quarterback if he doesn't hold his own. Regardless, the Eagles have this one down.
The Giants have this game. Philadelphia crushed Atlanta last week, but both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner were injured that game. On the other hand, the Giants defeated an able team of Cowboys. But the G-men are going to need Brandon Jacobs to run a little faster against an impressive Eagles' defense.
Number two and number three in the NFC East are playing each other in New York? Now this should be a good game in prime time. The Eagles have been playing well lately, but the Giants beat the NFC East division leader last week. I have to consider the fact that New York has also been facing some trouble lately, especially with their loss to the Broncos over Thanksgiving weekend. Because of the tumult, I think the Eagles will take the win and improve their division record on Sunday.
Monday, Dec. 14
Arizona Cardinals (8-4-0) at San Francisco 49ers (5-7-0)
Rose - Arizona
Dennis - Arizona
Ava - Arizona
With a powerful offense, the Cardinals have the upper hand in this NFC West match-up. Last week, the 49ers experienced their sixth loss in eight games, not to mention that Arizona has a history of victory against San Francisco. In their first game of the season, the 49ers' futile attempts at a running game limited RB Frank Gore to 30 yards on 22 attempts. Although San Francisco has practically abandoned their running game since then, the struggling team is still facing an Arizona defense that just conquered the likes of outstanding Minnesota. Cardinals deal the 49ers a loss.
If Kurt Warner can pass the ball with any of the success he had against the Vikings, Arizona will clinch their playoff spot this week. Is there anybody on the 49ers that can shut down Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin? Didn't think so. Cards can look forward to playing in January.
After last Monday when the Cardinals crushed the Vikings, I think it's safe to say that Arizona is a better team than the 49ers. It's not that San Francisco is without merit, but Arizona will definitely be victorious on Monday!
Dennis Chae. Whhaazzaaa, I'm Dennis Chae. I love my Baltimore Ravens and shoes. In fact, I collect sneakers and am always looking for a new pair of Nikes. The Ultimate Fighting Championship is probably going to be the greatest thing ever in a year or so. I … More »
Ava Wallace. More »
Rose Wynn. I love piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and the ladies of the Blair Pom Squad. More »