2014 NFL Week 17 Predictions: Packers Take Over The NFC North
Sunday, Dec. 28
Cleveland Browns (7-8) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-6), 1:00 p.m.
Whether it is Brian Hoyer, Tyler Thigpen, or even Connor Shaw starting for the Browns on Sunday, this offense will struggle. The Ravens will shut down their running game and, ranking third in sacks, will be able to consistently pressure the quarterback.
Justin Forsett has fallen down a bit in recent weeks, but look for the veteran back to rebound. The Browns possess the 32-ranked run defense, allowing 4.5 yards per carry and 142.4 a game. That should take the pressure off of Joe Flacco, who has also struggled a bit.
Baltimore Ravens Win,
Dallas Cowboys (11-4) @ Washington Redskins (4-11), 1:00 p.m.
Coming off of a three-game stretch where they averaged 40 points, the Cowboys' offense is playing playoff football. The Redskins have a stout run defense, so do not look for DeMarco Murray nor Joseph Randle to get much production. Instead the Cowboys will throw the ball early and often, as the Redskins are allowing an average of 8.1 yards per attempt and have recorded just six interceptions.
The Redskins did a good job playing spoiler last week and upsetting the Cowboys back in Week 8, but that deed will be much more difficult this time around. The Cowboys were able to hold the Colts to just seven points while the Redskins totaled just 13 points in their two games prior to Week 16.
Dallas Cowboys Win, 26-16
Indianapolis Colts (10-5) @ Tennessee Titans (2-13), 1:00 p.m.
Averaging just 16 points in their last three games, the Colts' offense has went through a bit of a rough patch. Last week was especially bad for them; with T.Y. Hilton out, the Colts' offense totaled just 229 yards. Expect them to rebound this week, as the Titans arguably have the league's worst defense.
The Colts' defense has proven to not be playoff caliber, but the Titans' offense is led by Charlie Whitehurst and rookie Bishop Sankey. Sankey has yet to run for more than 61 yards in a single game and is averaging just 10 carries a game and 3.7 yards per carry, which will allow the Colts to focus on the Titans' passing attack.
Indianapolis Colts Win, 35-20
New Orleans Saints (6-9) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-13), 1:00 p.m.
The Saints' offense has been very inconsistent in recent weeks, but the Buccaneers' defense has not played particularly well. They have done a decent job against the run, but Mark Ingram will look to top 1000 rushing yards for the season. While that is possible, the Saints will likely pass the ball early and often, as the Buccaneers have been horrid against opposing air attacks.
The Buccaneers' offense has been stale this year, having topped 17 points just once since their Week 7 bye, but the Saints rank in the bottom five against both the run and the pass. Look for Doug Martin, who has had his fair share of troubles, to carry the load and find some success against the Saints' front. However, the rest of the offense will struggle, as Josh McCown has proven that he cannot lead his team down the stretch.
New Orleans Saints Win, 30-17
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) @ New York Giants (6-9), 1:00 p.m.
The Eagles' offense can be as explosive as any other, but they have been especially prone to turnovers. In his eight games, Mark Sanchez has thrown ten picks and has fumbled seven times. Look for them to struggle against the playmaking Giants, who have 16 picks and ten forced fumbles on the year.
Since the Giants' Week 8 bye, Odell Beckham has averaged 127 receiving yards and has totaled no less than 90. The rookie receiver has only gotten better as the season has progressed, with six touchdowns in the last three games. The Eagles got away with a porous secondary earlier in the year, but they have been constantly exploited in recent weeks.
New York Giants Win, 30-27
Buffalo Bills (8-7) @ New England Patriots (12-3), 1:00 p.m.
The Bills' offensive struggles have been very noticeable, and going up against a defense that held four of their last five opponents to under 20 points, they will have trouble keeping up. Kyle Orton has shown that he is capable of winning games, but when the running game is not going strong, the offense struggles to get on the board.
Despite scoring just 17 points against the Jets, the Patriots' offense is still among the league's hardest to defend. Putting up 30+ points against stout defenses like the Lions and the Dolphins, they should be able to hold their own against the Bills. The last time these two teams faced, the Patriots won 37-22, and they will look for a similar result to finish off the season.
New England Patriots Win, 33-17
Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12) @ Houston Texans (8-7), 1:00 p.m.
Winning two of their last four, the Jaguars have found a way to produce on offense. However, they will struggle against a defense that has allowed just 3.8 yards per run and 6.8 yards per pass attempt. The Texans held the Colts and the Ravens to just 17 and 13 points, respectively, and held to Jaguars to 13 in their earlier match-up.
Under Case Keenum, the Texans' offense actually had some success, but the Ravens arguably have the league's worst secondary. The Jaguars' defense is no slack, holding those same Ravens to 20 points and keeping the Titans to just 13 last week. Arian Foster will have to carry the Texans' offense if they are to win.
Houston Texans Win, 16-13
San Diego Chargers (9-6) @ Kansas City Chiefs (8-7), 1:00 p.m.
After totaling just 24 points against the Patriots and the Broncos, the Chargers' offense rebounded, scoring 38 against the 49ers' stout defense. The Chiefs are known for having one of the better defenses, allowing just 200.2 passing yards per game, but they have just four picks on the year and are allowing 4.7 yards per carry. With Ryan Mathews and Keenan Allen both set to return, the Chargers' offense will have no trouble moving the ball against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs' offense has had a hard time scoring in the past few weeks, topping 17 points just once in the past four. Luckily for the Chiefs, the Chargers' defense has not been to stop opposing teams, allowing the 49ers to put up 35. Expect this to be a high-scoring game despite the Chiefs' defensive mantra.
San Diego Chargers Win, 37-35
New York Jets (3-12) @ Miami Dolphins (8-7), 1:00 p.m.
The Jets' offense is anything but explosive, scoring less than 17 points in four of their last five games. They will have some trouble this week, but the Dolphins' defense is not what it was earlier in the year. The Jets should be able to run the ball against them.
After three consecutive games under 17, the Dolphins put up 37 points to overcome their defensive deficiencies. While they had some production on the ground, they won due to Ryan Tannehill's improved play. The third-year quarterback threw four touchdowns and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt and should have little trouble moving the ball against the Jets.
Miami Dolphins Win, 34-23
Chicago Bears (5-10) @ Minnesota Vikings (6-9), 1:00 p.m.
While abundant with talent, the Bears' offense has failed to put up points with consistency. They are now on a four-game losing streak and will face a defense that is no slouch. Matt Forte should be able to have a good game, but the offense as a whole will struggle to keep the chains moving.
Led by rookie Teddy Bridgewater, the Vikings have scored 30 points or more in three of their last four. The Bears, on the other hand, are allowing 4.3 yards per carry and 8.1 yards per pass attempt. The Vikings do not have much of a running game, but they should be able to move the ball through the air with ease.
Minnesota Vikings Win, 27-21
Oakland Raiders (3-12) @ Denver Broncos (11-4), 4:25 p.m.
The Raiders averaged 25 points in their three wins, all of which were against stout defenses. However, the Raiders were never able to carry that momentum, scoring a combined 13 points in the two games following their wins. Expect their offense to take a step back against a defense that will look to rebound after a dismal performance.
Peyton Manning struggled against the Bengals, but he should have a good game against the Raiders. They have not been able to stop opposing teams' aerial attacks, allowing 28 touchdowns while recording just nine picks. Look for the Broncos to go back to their pass-happy attack, as their running backs will not fare too well against the Raiders' front.
Denver Broncos Win, 35-20
Arizona Cardinals (11-4) @ San Francisco 49ers (7-8), 4:25 p.m.
Scoring no more than 18 points in their last six match-ups, the Cardinals' offense has failed to produce. Their running game is virtually nonexistent with Andre Ellington out while they are down to Ryan Lindley at quarterback. The 49ers allowed the Chargers to put up 38 points last week, but they are normally one of the better defenses, having allowed an average of 16 in their five previous.
The 49ers' offense found a spark last week, putting up 12 more points than in Weeks 13-15 combined. However, the Chargers' defense has sputtered in recent weeks. The Cardinals' defense stands well above that of the Chargers, so do not expect the 49ers' offense to carry much momentum.
San Francisco 49ers Win, 16-10
Detroit Lions (11-4) @ Green Bay Packers (11-4), 4:25 p.m.
Matthew Stafford has looked less-than-impressive with just 19 touchdowns on the year, but he has been able to keep the chains moving, with two of the league's best receivers out wide. The Lions' offense is starting to look more complete, though, with Joique Bell and Reggie Bush each taking one to the house last week. The Packers' defense has been killed by the run all year, so look for the Lions to utilize to their ground attack early and often.
The Packers have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, but they will face one of the league's most dangerous defenses. Despite the fact that in the past three weeks Eddie Lacy has scored four times, averaging six yards per carry, the Packers will likely air it out. The Lions have allowed an average of just 3.1 yards per carry.
Green Bay Packers Win, 20-17
St. Louis Rams (6-9) @ Seattle Seahawks (11-4), 4:25 p.m.
The Rams' offense is not among the most talented in the NFL, but when Tre Mason gets going, so does this team. However, the Seahawks have held opposing backs to an average of just 3.5 yards per carry, so it will be hard for the rookie to build up any momentum. If Mason does not get going, then the rest of the offense will struggle.
Last week was different for the Rams, as they lost due to poor defensive play. Eli Manning torched them through the air while Andre Williams was able to consistently find running lanes. The Seahawks' possess the best run offense in the league, so unless the Rams rebound, they will not be able to hold their own.
Seattle Seahawks Win, 27-13
Carolina Panthers (6-8-1) @ Atlanta Falcons (6-9), 4:25 p.m.
The Panthers' offense exploded against the Saints, putting up 41 points, but they have combined for just 36 since. The Falcons' run defense has improved in recent weeks, holding the likes of Le'Veon Bell and Mark Ingram to under 50 yards, but their pass defense ranks dead last. The Panthers will have to win off of their aerial attack, something they are not built around.
The Panthers have held each of their last five opponents to under 20 points, including the Falcons in Week 11. The Falcons' offense will look to prove that was a fluke, averaging 28 points since. They have not had much of a running game over the past few weeks, but the Panthers are allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Ultimately, though, it will come down to how Matt Ryan and the passing attack fares.
Atlanta Falcons Win, 30-24
Cincinnati Bengals (10-4-1) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (10-5), 8:30 p.m.
After two consecutive high-scoring performances, the Bengals will look to carry their momentum into and through the playoffs. First, though, they must take on the Steelers, who beat them in Cincinnati just three weeks ago. The Steelers' defense has not fared too well against the run nor the pass, so the Bengals should be able to move the ball with consistency this time around.
Ben Roethlisberger will have some trouble, going up against a defense that picked off Peyton Manning four times and shut out their previous opponent. The Bengals have not been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks much, ranking last in sacks, but their secondary has held up more often than not, recording more interceptions (18) than passing touchdowns allowed (16). If the Steelers are to keep up, they must utilize Le'Veon Bell, who matches up favorably against the Bengals' 23rd-ranked run defense.
Cincinnati Bengals Win, 35-31
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