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Thursday, 4 December 2014

2014 NFL Week 14 Predictions: The Seahawks Take Charge In The NFC

Thursday, Dec. 4


Dallas Cowboys (8-4) @ Chicago Bears (5-7), 8:25 p.m.

Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray are both coming off of their worst performances, as Romo was held scoreless for the first time since Week 3 of 2012 while Murray was held to his lowest rushing of this year. However, he Bears' pass defense has struggled, allowing a league-high 27 passing touchdowns, but their run defense has been no better than average. Expect Dez Bryant to have a big game, as the Bears have allowed an opposing pass catcher to top 100 yards in four of their five last match-ups.

The Bears seemed to have bounced back from their three-game losing streak, holding their own from Week 11 to the first half of Week 13, but they once again broke down. The Bears' offense has struggled to find a balanced offensive attack, as their line play has allowed opposing defenses to play the pass. The Cowboys' run defense, though, has been one of the worst in the league, having allowed nearly a touchdown and one run of 20+ yards per week, so expect Matt Forte to get the rock early and often.

Dallas Cowboys Win, 34-31


Sunday, Dec. 7


Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1), 1:00 p.m.

After beating the Colts and the Ravens by a combined 37 points, the Steelers have gone 1-2 against their past three opponents, three teams that have nine combined wins. Now in danger of missing the playoffs, the Steelers must step up, most notably Ben Roethlisberger, whose performance often predicts the win/loss outcome.

Andy Daltons and the Bengals' offense has been incredibly inconsistent, as expected, but so has the Steelers' defense. A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu should be able to get open against the Steelers' struggling secondary, which will allow Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard to bounce back and run free.

Cincinnati Bengals Win, 27-21


St. Louis Rams (5-7) @ Washington Redskins (3-9), 1:00 p.m.

Despite being last in the NFC West, the Rams have been one of the most competitive teams in the league. Tre Mason has provided a spark in the running game while a multitude of receivers have stepped up in separate weeks. The quarterback position remains a weakness for them, but going up against one of the worst secondaries in the league, their offense should do fine.

With Colt McCoy starting, the Redskins' offense has played better, but they were still unable to keep up with what their defense has allowed. Up against a defense that has really stepped it up in recent weeks, McCoy may struggle to reproduce anything he did last week.

St. Louis Rams Win, 31-16


New York Giants (3-9) @ Tennessee Titans (2-10), 1:00 p.m.

The Giants have lost their last three games by a combined ten points, but you cannot expect to win much averaging just 21 points per game. Rashad Jennings had a few nice runs against the Jaguars, but has not proven that he can be a consistent bruising back. Eli Manning's play, though, has gotten noticeably better, but he has never been able to do enough, as the Giants find themselves in a seven-game losing streak.

The Titans possibly have their quarterback of the future in Zach Mettenberger, but the rookie is far from being able to carry the offense currently. The running game has been one of the least productive in the league while the receivers lack consistency. The Giants have a tough secondary and a run defense that stepped up last week, so do not expect the Titans' offense to find much success.

New York Giants Win, 21-20


Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) @ New Orleans Saints (5-7), 1:00 p.m.

The Panthers' offense has not been too productive recently, as they have not scored more than 21 points since Week 6. Cam Newton has been struggling all year, throwing nearly as many picks as touchdowns while Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin have been the only reliable pass catchers. On the bright side, Jonathan Stewart has his best game and will face a run defense that has allowed 13 touchdowns and 11 rushes of 20 yards or more.

After losing three straight home games, the Saints beat the Steelers on the road. Drew Brees may have had his best game of 2014, throwing five touchdowns while averaging 9.5 yards per attempt and completing 70% of his passes. Mark Ingram had a nice game too, recording 23 carries to eclipse 100 yards for the fourth time in a six-week period. The Panthers' defense has been anything but efficient this year, ranking in the bottom half of the league against both the pass and the run.

New Orleans Saints Win, 28-20


New York Jets (2-10) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-7), 1:00 p.m.

The Jets' held their own against the Dolphins, but most of their offensive production was with the running game in the first half, something that they have not built up to last a whole 60 minutes. The Vikings' defense is a bit worse than the Dolphins, but the Jets will still have to use a more balanced attack, even if that means putting more responsibility on Geno Smith.

The Vikings' running game struggled without Jerick McKinnon, which, even if McKinnon is to return, will seemingly be nonexistent against the Jets' stout defensive front. Instead, the Vikings will have to air it out with Teddy Bridgewater, who has steadily gotten better as the season has progressed. The Jets' secondary has struggled heavily due to both injuries and a lack of talent, so Bridgewater should have a good game.

Minnesota Vikings Win, 17-9


Baltimore Ravens (7-5) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5), 1:00 p.m.

While the Ravens have had some rough games, their offense has not been the problem. Ranking sixth in scoring with 27.3 points per game, Joe Flacco has done a good job leading the offense. With a talented line, playmaking receivers, and a consistent back in Justin Forsett, this offense is among the most complete in the NFL. The Dolphins have a great front four, but they have struggled against the run and when they cannot generate pressure their secondary falls apart.

The Ravens have a great run defense, one most definitely capable of shutting down Lamar Miller and the Dolphins' ground game, but their defense is too reliant on how well their no-name secondary performs. The Dolphins have a nice duo of receivers in Mike Wallace and Jarvis Landry, but neither has proven to be a consistent threat. If the two pass catchers are able to roam freely against the Ravens, the Dolphins have a good shot at taking this one.

Baltimore Ravens Win, 24-23


Indianapolis Colts (8-4) @ Cleveland Browns (7-5), 1:00 p.m.

The Colts have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, even without a running game or Ahmad Bradshaw catching passes out of the backfield. The Browns, though, have had trouble stopping the run, so the Colts should be able to produce on the ground. However, if they fail to do that, they can turn to Andrew Luck and the Colts' passing attack, one that is too deep for the Browns' secondary.

Brian Hoyer is the starter again, but his play has been very uneven in recent weeks. If the Browns' offense is to produce, they must do so through the ground, something the Patriots did to exploit the Colts' front. Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell are both capable backs, so they should be able to find success and take the pressure off of Hoyer's shoulders.

Indianapolis Colts Win, 28-24


Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) @ Detroit Lions (8-4), 1:00 p.m.

The Buccaneers' offense has really struggled this year, having yet to establish a running game or a threatening passing attack. Going up against the first-ranked run defense, they will become one-dimensional. Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson have both been productive this year, but the line will have trouble protecting Josh McCown when the Lions know that they are going to pass it.

Like the Buccaneers' the Lions have playmakers at the receiver position, but their offense has had a lot of trouble. Reggie Bush, though, is expected to return, which should allow the Lions to utilize their running game. That will allow the Lions' passing attack to reach numbers they have in years previous.

Detroit Lions Win, 30-17


Houston Texans (6-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10), 1:00 p.m.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had his best game as a Texan, throwing six touchdowns and leading the Texans to a 45-21 victory over the Titans. The Texans, however, will face a much more dangerous defense. The Jaguars have struggled against the run, but their prowess in rushing the passer makes it hard to move the ball against them.

Blake Bortles finally went turnover-free, something he has a good chance of continuing as the Texans' secondary has struggled all year. The Jaguars will likely try to utilize Denard Robinson again, as the back has the explosiveness to run free against the Texans' defensive front. After winning a game off of timely turnovers, the Jaguars will want their offense to step it up, especially because their defense will have their hands full with Arian Foster.

Houston Texans Win, 26-23


Buffalo Bills (5-7) @ Denver Broncos (9-3), 4:05 p.m.

Led by Kyle Orton, the Bills' offense is one of the least explosive offenses in the league. The Broncos have a great run defense, though, so the offense will be forced to revolve around Orton and a group of inconsistent receivers.

C.J. Anderson has done a good job in relief of Ronnie Hillman, but the undrafted back will have a hard time finding holes against what may be the best front four in the league. The Bills' secondary has done a good job containing opposing pass catchers, but the Broncos have some of the most talented receivers in the league.

Denver Broncos Win, 30-19


Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) @ Arizona Cardinals (9-3), 4:05 p.m.

Jamaal Charles' drop in production has taken a toll on the offense, but a lot of the blame has to go to the offensive line and the lack of a receiving threat. The Cardinals have one of the more difficult defenses to move the ball against, so the Chiefs will struggle to put up points.

Under Drew Stanton the Cardinals' offense has been well below average, and going up against the league's best pass defense, they will have trouble moving the ball. The Chiefs have struggled to stop the run, but without Andre Ellington, the Cardinals will have to turn to the likes of Stepfan Taylor and Michael Bush.

Kansas City Chiefs Win, 14-13


Seattle Seahawks (8-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (9-3), 4:25 p.m.

Marshawn Lynch has been productive, rushing for 100+ yards in three of his past four games, but the Seahawks as a whole have scored no more than 20 points since Week 10. Russell Wilson and the receivers will have to step up, as the Eagles are among the best in the league at generating pressure and have improved their play against the run.

The Eagles' offense answered most questions with strong performances against the Titans and the Cowboys, but it is still unknown whether they can produce against a high-quality defense. The Seahawks have held opposing backs to just 3.5 yards per carry, so LeSean McCoy will likely not be the offense's focus. The Seahawks' secondary has underperformed at times this year, but with only Jeremy Maclin and Jordan Matthews showing a consistent knack for the ball, the Eagles' offense may suffer.

Seattle Seahawks Win, 23-20


San Francisco 49ers (7-5) @ Oakland Raiders (1-11), 4:25 p.m.

The 49ers have scored more than 17 points just once since Week 7, but with Colin Kaepernick and a plethora of reliable pass catchers, this is still a very potent group. The Raiders have struggled against the pass, allowing a rating of 100.9 to opposing quarterbacks, so Kaepernick should have a nice rebound game.

After their first win, the Raiders played their worst game of the season, losing 0-52. However, there is hope for the Raiders, as Latavius Murray is expected to come back this week. Murray will be going up against a tough run defense, but he gives the Raiders the best hope for a reliable back.

San Francisco 49ers Win, 27-17


New England Patriots (9-3) @ San Diego Chargers (8-4), 8:30 p.m.

After putting up 30+ points in four straight games, the Patriots scored just 21 against the Packers. Look for them to have a nice rebounding performance, as the Chargers are ranked in the bottom five in both sacks and interceptions.

The Chargers made a nice comeback last game to make up for their defensive failures, but that will be much more difficult this week, as the Patriots have a strong pass defense, as well as capable run stoppers in the trenches. The Chargers' offense will likely have trouble reproducing that performance, let alone keep up with the Patriots.

New England Patriots Win, 34-23


Monday, Dec. 8


Atlanta Falcons (5-7) @ Green Bay Packers (9-3), 8:30 p.m.

The Falcons upset the Cardinals last week, putting up 29 points against what was seen as a top-five defense. The Packers do not have a top-five defense, but they have very capable corners. The weakness in the Packers' defense is their run defense, but outside of Week 13, Steven Jackson has not been very productive.

After scoring 50+ points twice in a row, the Packers offense has not topped 30, but they will be up against a defense that is ranked dead last in pass defense. With Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb likely to run free, look for the Packers to possibly top the points total of their last two games.

Green Bay Packers Win, 52-38


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