NO (9-3) @ ATL (7-5) | THU 8:25 PM ET | NBC/NFL Network/Amazon
In what could be the most meaningful Thursday Night Football game of the year, Atlanta and New Orleans will clash in a huge NFC South matchup that will have both conference and divisional implications. The Saints are two games ahead of the Falcons and Panthers (due to the tiebreaker), but they’ll face 2016 NFL MVP Matt Ryan and his squad twice over the final four weeks of the season, so despite being out of the playoffs right now, Atlanta still controls their own destiny in the division. Rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore returning after a two-game absence will help the defense, but Julio Jones isn’t going to be contained like he was last week against Xaiver Rhodes. As for Alvin Kamara, the other star rookie for the Saints, I think Dan Quinn’s defense will keep him in front of them, as the Falcons are the only team in the league to not allow a 50-yard play this season. This should be a fun, high-scoring game.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
IND (3-9) @ BUF (6-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
It might sound crazy, but along with Marshon Lattimore, Bills rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White has a chance to be an All-Pro in his first year in the league. Before being on the receiving end of a WWE move from Rob Gronkowski in Week 13, White was able to intercept Tom Brady and hold Brandin Cooks to 17 yards in the loss, and he’s challenged the best of the week each and every week. He should be tasked with defending T.Y. Hilton on Sunday, but the weather could make things a little easier, as a snowstorm is set to hit Buffalo this weekend. Indianapolis should give the banged-up Bills a game, but I trust Sean McDermott’s team more than a three-win club that plays their home games in a dome.
Winner: Buffalo Bills
DAL (6-6) @ NYG (2-10) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
I thought Dallas was done after their loss on Thanksgiving to the Chargers, but they came alive against the Redskins last Thursday night, and the wild-card race could get really interesting down the stretch, especially if the games still matter when Ezekiel Elliott returns. The Cowboys offensive line really opened up running lanes in Week 13, and despite facing a weakened Washington team, it was probably the most dominant the unit has been in 2017. I don’t think New York will be a cakewalk, though, as interim head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will have his guys playing hard, even if that means shaking up who’s on the field. Still, I’m taking Dallas.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
DET (6-6) @ TB (4-8) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Losing two-straight games has really hurt Detroit’s standing in the NFC, but the damage done to Matthew Stafford with ankle and hand injuries since Thanksgiving could be even more impactful for the final four games of the year. Without a healthy Stafford, the Lions don’t have the running game or defense to be able to stay afloat in the playoff race, and while the league’s highest-paid player will be out there on Sunday, his effectiveness is a real concern. If there’s any good news, it’s that Detroit matches up well with the Buccaneers, as Stafford’s talented receivers should be able to beat the disappointing cornerbacks for Tampa Bay, and even after Peyton Barber broke out with a 100-yard game, the Bucs don’t have a great running game. I expect Darius Slay to shadow Mike Evans—who hasn’t scored since Week 7—and he could get frustrated after being limited to 33 yards in last week’s overtime loss.
Winner: Detroit Lions
OAK (6-6) @ KC (6-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Hosting the Raiders in a pivotal matchup this Sunday, Andy Reid and the Chiefs should be commended for suspending cornerback Marcus Peters after he threw an official’s flag in the stands and went to the locker room early in Week 13. The talented cornerback might not be worth the long-term headache, but that’s a discussion they will have in the offseason. In the meantime, Darrelle Revis should play close to a full compliment of snaps after making his team debut but sitting out the second half against his former team, and he gets a chance to lineup at left cornerback—where he spent most of his career when he wasn’t shadowing guys—with Peters inactive. Oakland will get Michael Crabtree back after a one-game suspension, and Amari Cooper passed the concussion protocol, but is still uncertain to go with an ankle injury. Cooper put up 211 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs earlier this year in a thrilling primetime win, but after Alex Smith and the offense got back on track last week, I like Kansas City to snap their four-game losing streak.
Winner: Kansas City Chiefs
SF (2-10) @ HOU (4-8) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
The 49ers and Texans might not have many wins this year, but looking ahead to 2018, they are two of the top turnaround candidates, as they both have the structure in place to be playoff contenders in my opinion. Chip Kelly would have built a winner in the Bay Area if given the opportunity, but general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have promising futures in their respective roles. Also, whether they keep Jimmy Garoppolo, trade him for someone else, trade him for picks to draft someone, or sign an established signal-caller, they will have their guy at quarterback next season. For the Texans, Bill O’Brien is the right coach and Deshaun Watson is the right quarterback, so if health cooperates, they should not only be AFC South contenders, but also Super Bowl contenders for years to come. This week, I like Houston to play hard like they have all year to get their fifth win.
Winner: Houston Texans
GB (6-6) @ CLE (0-12) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Cleveland surprised a lot of people when they fired executive vice president Sashi Brown and announced Hue Jackson would remain the team’s head coach in 2018, and you can count me in the group. Brown’s biggest flaw was that he didn’t get a quarterback and traded away picks that turned out to be Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, but whoever gets the task of leading the personnel side of the Browns will be very lucky, as they are flush with young talent, draft picks, and cap space. Also, in regards to Sashi Brown, how do we know he wasn’t targeting this offseason for the team to get basically whoever they want at the quarterback position? That’s what it looks like he set things up for, and I think he might eventually be viewed in the way Sam Hinkie is/was by Sixers fans. It’s almost unbelievable that Hue Jackson is keeping his job with a 1-27 record, and I would bet that most scouts would agree that the players chosen over the past two years for Cleveland have overwhelmingly panned out. Anyway, for Week 14, it would be a major letdown if Green Bay didn’t get a win before Aaron Rodgers’ hopeful return next Sunday.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
CHI (3-9) @ CIN (5-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Monday night’s loss to the rival Steelers had to be absolutely draining for Cincinnati, as they were up 17-0 in a physical, vengeance-filled game before losing 23-20. It wasn’t quite as deflating as their playoff defeat a couple years ago because there were no huge mistakes, but it could affect the Bengals down the stretch in what sounds like the end of the Marvin Lewis era. In Chicago, could it be the end of the John Fox era, too? The Bears have played hard all year, but it’s difficult to ignore the fact that general manager Ryan Pace didn’t even let his head coach know about the plan to trade up for Mitchell Trubisky until it actually happened on draft night. Perhaps the final four games against the Bengals, Lions, Browns, and Vikings will be a significant factor, and I like them to get off to a good start by feeding Jordan Howard.
Winner: Chicago Bears
MIN (10-2) @ CAR (8-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
One of a handful of great games in Week 14 is Vikings-Panthers, as Minnesota will look to win their ninth-straight game and potentially put Carolina on the outside looking in for the NFC playoff picture, but Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly will look to defend their home field and knock Mike Zimmer’s team off the top spot in the conference. For me, this is the hardest pick of the week, but the recent defensive struggles for the Panthers have me leaning towards Minnesota. It’s worth noting that last year with the Rams, Case Keenum had a nice game with 296 yards, one touchdown, and one interception against Ron Rivera’s defense, and he has much more talent and better coaching around him this season. If Carolina is to win, I think Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen need to have big days with Devin Funchess set to be shadowed by Xavier Rhodes.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
WAS (5-7) @ LAC (6-6) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
After avoiding a slipup against the winless Browns last week, Los Angeles was able to tie the Chiefs and Raiders for first place in the AFC West. As long as they aren’t looking ahead (Week 15 @ KC, Week 17 v OAK), the Chargers should be able to handle business against the Redskins, as Jay Gruden’s team is banged up on defense, and the offensive playmakers continue to be the most inconsistent and frustrating group in the NFL. Kirk Cousins would like to have a big day against a player he looked up to in Philip Rivers, but I just don’t see where the Redskins have an advantage in this one.
Winner: Los Angeles Chargers
NYJ (5-7) @ DEN (3-9) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
I said last week that I’m not sure how much patience John Elway would have with head coach Vance Joseph overseeing such a dramatic defensive collapse, and an embarrassing loss to Miami probably has that patience wearing dangerously thin. Perhaps Elway could get Todd Bowles in the offseason if the Jets are dumb enough to fire him, but New York’s star defensive lineman Leonard Williams probably wouldn’t be too happy with that decision. I can’t remember a team that everyone thought would have the first-overall pick still being in the playoff race by the time December rolls around, and they should stay in it with another win.
Winner: New York Jets
TEN (8-4) @ ARI (5-7) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
A lot of people probably aren’t sold on the Titans based on their 40-17 loss to the Steelers in primetime, but besides that, they are 3-1 against teams above .500 (Jacksonville, Seattle, and Baltimore), and have more wins against teams with a winning record than anyone other than Minnesota. That’s pretty remarkable, especially considering Marcus Mariota has been injured and hasn’t played his best football so far this season. I expect the 24-year-old quarterback to get hot down the stretch, and Tennessee could surprise some people come January if that’s the case. Even on the road, they should be ready for Arizona after the Cardinals upset the Jaguars for them in Week 12.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
PHI (10-2) @ LAR (9-3) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
This is probably the most exciting game this week, as it will give football fans their first matchup between the top-two picks of the 2016 NFL Draft when Jared Goff and Carson Wentz meet on the field for the first time. Of course, they won’t actually be on the field simultaneously, but seeing two of the best young signal-callers in the NFL—with both offenses leading the league in points per game—oppose each other will be awesome. Philadelphia is looking to avoid an 0-2 trip out west, while the Rams have a first-round bye in their sights with Seattle on their tails, so a lot is on the line this Sunday. There aren’t a ton of weaknesses to point to for either team, but I have more faith in Sean McVay featuring his best playmakers (Todd Gurley and Sammy Watkins) than I do in Doug Pederson getting Jay Ajayi and Nelson Agholor touches.
Winner: Los Angeles Rams
SEA (8-4) @ JAC (8-4) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Despite being underdogs, Seattle picked up a convincing home win over the NFL-best Eagles last Sunday night, and they should be confident for the rest of the season with Russell Wilson leading them. Even without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, opposing teams probably won’t be lining up to face the Seahawks in the postseason, as having an elite player at the most important position in sports gives them a chance against anyone. Plus, Byron Maxwell has helped stabilize the secondary in Sherman’s place, and the run defense has been the best in the league since the bye week. We should see a defensive battle this week when they travel to Jacksonville, so it could come down to whoever creates the most chaos on that side of the ball. I think Seattle’s game plan will be pretty obvious—stop the run against Leonard Fournette and make Blake Bortles beat them—but that doesn’t mean the Jags will be able to have success against it.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks
BAL (7-5) @ PIT (10-2) | SUN 8:30 PM ET | NBC
Ben Roethlisberger said the Steelers-Ravens rivalry has more respect than the Steelers-Bengals rivalry, and no one would know better than him. Even before his comments last week, I always thought Pittsburgh had classier—and better—matchups with Baltimore, as it’s hard to call something a great rivalry when one team has lost nine-of-ten like Cincinnati. Despite the recent overall success for Big Ben and company, John Harbaugh’s team actually has had the upper hand this decade with a 10-7 record against Mike Tomlin, including 1-1 in the postseason, but the Steelers have won two in a row, including last year’s memorable Christmas game. I like them to make it three in a row at home, but an upset by Baltimore with Joe Flacco rounding into playoff form after his best game of the season is certainly possible.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
NE (10-2) @ MIA (5-7) | MON 8:30 PM ET | ESPN
If there ever was a time for Miami to blow someone out to gain confidence, it’s probably right before they face New England. I don’t have any problem with head coach Adam Gase attempting a successful onside kick up 33-9 last week, and whether true or not, he says it had nothing to do with Broncos GM John Elway, but instead to show his team they need to play for 60 minutes. That is exactly what he will need from his team against the Patriots, and Bill Belichick probably respects the no-nonsense attitude from the young head coach. That said, even with Rob Gronkowski out, I don’t see the Dolphins pulling off an upset on Monday night, and this is all you need to know about the focus of Belichick’s team as they prepare for another Super Bowl run.
Question to Bill Belichick: "With all you have accomplished in your coaching career, what is left that you still want to accomplish?"
Belichick's answer: "I'd like to go out and have a good practice today. That would be at the top of the list right now."
— Shane Parrish (@farnamstreet) December 5, 2017
Winner: New England Patriots