It’s high-flying offense vs. stifling defense in Chicago, while two wildcard hopefuls duke it out on Monday Night. Breakout Live breaks down all the matchups for week 14 in the NFL.
Panthers @ Browns
Like a 1970s disco shop filled with good-looking people, there’s a lot to like here as long as you ignore the records. Cam… McCaffrey… Moore. Mayfield… Njoku… Chubb. It’s young talent overload with a combined standing of 10-3-1. Speaking of overloading, I’m pretty sure the Steelers overloaded Carolina’s hard drive with a cornucopia of malware 4 weeks ago, because the Panthers haven’t looked the same since. They’ve fallen from 6-2 to 6-6 and it’s fair to wonder if Cam Newton should be shut down for the year. I don’t care that his completion percentage is the highest of his career; just watch him throw a 20-yard out-route and it’s obvious his shoulder is shot. This is about the future, and Carolina’s is very bright. This feels weird to say, but the Bengals actually got something right when they put A.J. Green on IR this week. The Panthers aren’t mathematically out of it yet, but realistically they are. Time for Riverboat Ron to fold ‘em and live to fight in 2019. Just sayin’.
Ravens @ Chiefs
Boy, did KC’s season take an unexpected downturn last week or what? I won’t even go into the Kareem Hunt situation here, but couple the Hunt debacle with his former team letting Oakland hang around last week, and the Chiefs proved they are far from invincible. Now they host the red-hot Ravens with a speed demon QB who’s won the first 3 starts of his young career by making mincemeat out of 3 bad defenses. Welp, KC’s defense ranks 31st in the league. The Ravens, by contrast, have the NFL’s #1 defense and with Lamar Jackson at the helm, Baltimore’s offense has controlled the ball for over 37 minutes per game, more than two-and-a-half minutes longer than any other offense in the league. That’s the perfect recipe for a team who’s a touchdown dog to pull off a stunning upset.
Colts @ Texans
December in the NFL is my favorite time of year. There’s so much on the line and so many shifts from week to week. This game comes with a ton of playoff implications. The Texans essentially have the AFC South locked up, but they’ve also got an outside shot at a 1st round bye and home field for the Divisional round. The Colts are in the thick of the wildcard race and need this win badly. They won’t get it, though, but it’ll be fun as hell to watch them try.
Patriots @ Dolphins
Tom Brady is so funny, you guys. He officially hit exactly 1,000 yards rushing for his career last week, and not only did he make sure to take two steps forward during his final kneel down to avoid dipping under 1k, he also took to Twitter afterwards to “retire” after reaching the milestone. LOL legend. Kinda cheesy, but whatever. I’m guessing the Dolphins aren’t laughing, but why should they? Brady’s 22-10 all-time against Miami and just clinched his 18th straight winning season. The only win the Dolphins can hope for is knocking Brady of his 1,000-yard pedestal and hopefully not losing by 1,000 points in the process.
Giants @ Redskins
Last week showed us two things: that New York’s best QB plays wide receiver, and Washington’s best QB is probably their head coach. I would have loved to know what Jay Gruden was thinking while watching Mark Sanchez lob wounded ducks all over the field in Philly, because I’m almost positive he was ready to rip off his headset, snag a helmet and relive his glory days as a Louisville/NFL Europe/Arena League QB. What a mess. And I love how Gruden is entertaining the thought of signing Colin Kaepernick like a cat batting a ball of string back and forth. We all know you don’t have the guts to pull the trigger, Jay, so stop wasting our time and sign Josh Johnson already. My only hope in this game is that OBJ tosses more TDs than Eli and becomes the Giants’ QB1 for the rest of the year, and that Mark Sanchez tosses a miraculous butt-INT to seal another Skins’ loss and their season.
Saints @ Buccaneers
I’m a grown man who can admit when he’s wrong. I was wrong about Jameis Winston. There, I said it. I still think he’s slightly immature and not a great QB, but he is the right QB for this team. He’s played well, and the Bucs have morphed into a respectable non-playoff team despite a defense that can’t stop a nose bleed. That’s all because of Winston growing up before our very eyes. Color me impressed. That said, there’s not a thing Winston can do to help his defense against a pissed-off Saints team coming off a bad loss. Hey Jameis, in the words of the iconic Liam Neeson, Good luck.
Falcons @ Packers
Christmas came early for Aaron Rodgers this week when Mike McCarthy finally got fired. Now let’s see if it makes any difference at all. Neither the Packers nor the Falcons have given their fans much to cheer about this year, but there’s still plenty of intrigue in this game. Rodgers gets a chance to prove he’s not the Grinch he’s been made out to be, and the Falcons can prove they’re more than just a team who hopes everyone has fun because a win over Green Bay still carries some clout. I do think Rodgers will ball out and show his new head coach (whoever that may be) that he can play nice when his head is right, but with how long that version of #12 lasts remains to be seen. For now, the team around him isn’t good enough to make any QB believe in the spirit of Christmas.
Jets @ Bills
I’ll pick this game, but I really can’t write about it. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Same time next year, Jets and Bills.
Bengals @ Chargers
Two opposite ends of the spectrum here. The Bengals have officially buried their heads in the sand with Andy Dalton and now A.J. Green on IR. Meanwhile, the Chargers are looking more and more like a Super Bowl contender every week. Last week’s comeback in Pittsburgh was incredible, and now they’re just one game back of the Chiefs in the AFC West, which is incredible considering all the hype KC has gotten this year. But the tides are definitely turning with KC in turmoil and LA turning it on. I picked the Chiefs to get upset at home by Baltimore this week, which would set up an epic clash next Thursday night with the division on the line. Yes, please.
Broncos @ 49ers
Don’t look now, but the Broncos are winners of 3 straight, they’re just one game out of the AFC’s final playoff spot, and they probably have the most favorable remaining schedule in the NFL. But here’s something Broncos fans won’t want to look at: top WR Emmanuel Sanders went down at Wednesday’s practice and it looks like a torn Achilles. Brutal. There’s a snowball’s chance in hell that Denver would actually do anything if they did make the dance, even with Sanders, but it would’ve been a good story. Regardless of how they finish though, seems like Vance Joseph bought his backside a year-long ice pack for the hot seat he’s been on for months prior to the Broncos deciding to get good.
Eagles @ Cowboys
Philly won last week, but watching them struggle so mightily against Washington and Buttfumble Sanchez should tell you all you need to know about this team: they’re not very good. Dallas, though, is peaking and they have a chance to essentially lock up the division at home. And I just have to give a huge shout out to stud Cowboy LBs Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, who represent the best bromance to happen to football since Bertier and Big Ju in “Remember the Titans.” Both these dudes are so good and such good stories in their own rights. I can’t get enough. Strong Side! Left Side!
Steelers @ Raiders
There aren’t a lot of great ways to pull yourself together after getting your heart ripped out like the Steelers did last Sunday Night, but a visit to Oakland is about as good of a healing potion as there is in the NFL. For as bad as the Raiders have been this year, they actually haven’t embarrassed themselves like many thought they would since getting blown out by the Niners 4 weeks ago. I actually think this game could get interesting, but I’d have to be as crazy-ridiculous as Mark Davis’ haircut to bet against Pittsburgh when the final whistle sounds.
Lions @ Cardinals
Eww. There’s no game on the Week 14 docket stinkier than this one, and that includes Jets-Bills. I’m really trying to find something to be excited about here, but there’s nothing beyond Arizona possibly winning their 2nd straight game and opening up some breathing room for my beloved Niners at the top of the 2019 draft. That’s it. No excitement here whatsoever. I bored myself to death just writing this.
Rams @ Bears
If this were the NBA during the home stretch before the playoffs, we’d likely be seeing starting lineups filled with dudes who make you go, “Huh?” and, “Who?” – which is why I absolutely love the NFL. Both the Rams and Bears are going to win their division and host at least one home game, but neither one is going to run any 2nd or 3rd-stringers out there unless they absolutely have to. Two great teams with a ton of talent going toe-to-toe in freezing December temps is what football is all about. Sign me the eff up.
Vikings @ Seahawks
The NFC wildcard takes center stage on Monday Night and I can’t wait for this one. I actually think both these teams end up in the playoffs, which is kinda wild considering Seattle started 2-3 with tons of question marks on the offensive line, and Minny started 1-2-1 with an embarrassing 21-point loss to the Bills sprinkled in. It’s really just a matter of who these teams would rather visit in the WC round: Chicago or Dallas. It’s too soon to handicap either matchup, but as a embarrassed-yet-proud Niners fan, I’d love to see Seattle go into Soldier Field in January and get Mack’d for the second time this season.