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Sara Schmidle/Buffalo Bills

Week 14 NFL Game Picks 2020

Last week: 11-4

Overall: 124-67-1


NE (6-6) @ LAR (8-4) | THU 8:20 PM ET | FOX/NFL Network/Amazon

So, it turns out the New England defense just needed some time to gel following a bunch of opt-outs, and they have been excellent over the past month—limiting offenses led by Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson, Kyler Murray, and Justin Herbert to a combined 15.3 points per game. The Rams have become more adaptable from week-to-week since scoring three points in their Super Bowl LIII loss to the Patriots, but the attack usually runs through Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, so it will be interesting to see what kind of game plan Sean McVay comes out with tonight; I would guess Bill Belichick has been prioritizing pass deflections for the defensive line when they can’t get to Jared Goff in order to offset a quick-strike passing attack. For the Los Angeles defense, slowing down Cam Newton, Damien Harris, and the running game will be key, but they should be ready for it knowing that New England’s quarterback has more rushing attempts (23) than completions (21) over the past two weeks. It should be anyone’s game in a slugfest, but I’m going with the home team.

Winner: Los Angeles Rams


MIN (6-6) @ TB (7-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

The Buccaneers come out of the bye with a great opportunity to get the offense going against the bottom-ranked pass defenses of Minnesota (27th), Atlanta (30th), and Detroit (26th), but I would hope they don’t forget about Ronald Jones II and the running game, as more balance should open things up for everyone. This week especially—with Mike Zimmer’s defense likely using a lot of over-the-top coverage to protect his cornerbacks—it’s important that Jones II is a factor, and Chris Godwin needs to be the main target for Tom Brady on intermediate routes. Overall, the Vikings have won five of their past six games, but Kirk Cousins will be facing an aggressive (and rested) Tampa Bay defense on Sunday, and he can’t press if Dalvin Cook is contained against a unit that leads the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game (74.2) and yards per carry (3.3) allowed. The cornerbacks in Todd Bowles’ defense lacking confidence after their last showing (versus Tyreek Hill) is something to be wary of with Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson coming to town, but a victory for the Bucs similar to their 38-10 beatdown of Green Bay after a mini bye in October wouldn’t be a surprise this weekend.

Winner: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


ARI (6-6) @ NYG (5-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

I said last week—in a complimentary fashion—that New York can “bring others down to their level,” and that’s what happened in Seattle with a huge win for Joe Judge’s squad (their fourth in a row). Contrary to what the Twitter “experts” believe, the job general manager Dave Gettleman has done adding talent to all three levels of the defense should be commended, and the group hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in a game since Week 8. Now, they will try to keep Kyler Murray from re-emerging, and having just played Russell Wilson should help as Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham install their game plan. The most difficult aspect to account for when it comes to facing Arizona is Kyler Murray’s running ability, but in the passing game, I like the matchups to slow down DeAndre Hopkins (with James Bradberry) and Christian Kirk (Darnay Holmes), though Kliff Kingsbury could attack Isaac Yiadom if/when he matches up with the top wideouts. Still, Daniel Jones (hamstring) will bring more explosiveness to the Giants assuming he plays, and the current NFC East leader is simply playing better football at this point.

Winner: New York Giants


KC (11-1) @ MIA (8-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

It might be flying under the radar some in a strong week for games with playoff implications, but Chiefs-Dolphins should be a tremendous matchup, and Patrick Mahomes will really be tested versus a Miami defense that you could argue is built to stop Kansas City in the AFC. Aside from having Xavien Howard and Byron Jones on the outside to cover Tyreek Hill, the team also has Eric Rowe and others to match up with Travis Kelce, and the front seven led by Christian Wilkins can cause some disruption (and maybe play some mind games). The main question is whether or not Tua Tagovailoa can go toe-to-toe in a shootout if it’s needed, but he showed promise in a win over the Cardinals doing just that, and Mike Gesicki could have another big game with the Chiefs struggling to defend tight ends. I’m just not sure Tua has enough playmakers to pull off the upset considering the combination of star power and depth that Mahomes has on the other side with guys like Mecole Hardman and Le’Veon Bell not even starting in Andy Reid’s offense.

Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


TEN (8-4) @ JAX (1-11) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

The Titans were nearly upset in their Week 2 win over the Jaguars, and based on how they played defense last week against Cleveland (particularly in coverage), things better be figured out by Sunday. If not, Mike Glennon—who took the Browns and Vikings to the brink in back-to-back starts—has the weapons to put up points, and James Robinson should continue churning out positive yards as Jacksonville’s feature back. To avoid another disappointment, Tennessee needs to feed their own monster runner, and we know the history Derrick Henry has had in late-season matchups against the AFC South foe: 238 yards and four touchdowns in 2018; 159 yards and two touchdowns in 2019. Also, A.J. Brown surely wants to atone for a couple of uncharacteristic fumbles last week, and Corey Davis has quietly been enjoying a full-blown breakout with 67+ yards and/or a score in all but one game this season. The Titans should win if they commit to Henry early and avoid turnovers.

Winner: Tennessee Titans


DAL (3-9) @ CIN (2-8-1) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX

Even if they run the table to finish 7-9, Dallas would need significant help to win the NFC East over New York or Washington, and getting blown out in each of the past two weeks won’t help the competitiveness of a team that hasn’t shown much fight since Dak Prescott (ankle) went down in Week 5. Defensively, Tuesday night was perhaps a new low by allowing 294 rushing yards to the Ravens, so fixing the run defense needs to be priority No. 1 this week if the Cowboys are going to avoid embarrassment against the 49ers in a couple of weeks (for a game that was flexed out of primetime). Now is the time for Ezekiel Elliott—averaging career-lows in rushing yards per game (65.3), attempts per game (16.6), yards per carry (3.9), and yards per target (4.6)—to get going.

Winner: Dallas Cowboys


HOU (4-8) @ CHI (5-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

The current regime for Chicago looks like it might be on the way out barring an unlikely turnaround to end the year, and the decision to move up for Mitchell Trubisky in the 2017 NFL Draft will obviously be the aspect that most point to when looking back at this era for the franchise. That being said, it’s complete revisionist history to act as if general manager Ryan Pace and the Bears were on an island when it came to their view of the quarterback class when the vast majority in the media also ranked Trubisky over Deshaun Watson. I’m not going to name names (you can look for yourself), but Gil Brandt had the only rankings I could find with Watson in the top ten other than Wolf Sports (we had him as the clear QB1 and tied for top overall prospect)—and even the Hall of Famer had Trubisky (No. 8 overall) ranked ahead of Watson (No. 9 overall). Just something to think about before hitting ‘retweet’ on a post bashing Chicago; there’s a good chance the person writing the tweet didn’t have a very favorable view of Watson (or Patrick Mahomes, for that matter) back in 2017.

Winner: Chicago Bears


DEN (4-8) @ CAR (4-8) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS

We have only seen two games with Joe Brady’s offense at full strength in Carolina—shootout losses to the Raiders (34-30) and Chiefs (33-31)—which unfortunately will remain the case as we hit the middle of December with Christian McCaffrey (quad), D.J. Moore (ankle/COVID-19), and Curtis Samuel (reserve/COVID-19 list) all in doubt for Week 14. The Panthers are used to not having McCaffrey in 2020, but the various injuries have to be frustrating for him after being so involved every week last year; perhaps he’ll be back on the field for a primetime matchup against the Packers next Saturday night. Drew Lock and the Broncos are in a similar spot to Carolina with Courtland Sutton (knee) being a huge missing piece on offense, but for both teams, the final four games could be very important when it comes to evaluating the offense because there are upwards of six potential first-round signal-callers in the pipeline for 2021. Denver cornerback A.J. Bouye (suspension) being done for the year should at least help Teddy Bridgewater get off to a good post-bye start.

Winner: Carolina Panthers


NYJ (0-12) @ SEA (8-4) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS

Teams are 3-0 in games following the firing of a head coach this year, but what kind of impact might the firing of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams have on the Jets? To their credit, New York has played better recently with the team desperately hoping to avoid 0-16, so it had to be heartbreaking for that goal to be ripped away for what was clearly their best shot. The Seahawks being 2-3 over the past five games with close wins during that stretch makes them a more realistic opponent to beat than they were a month ago, but the struggles of New York on the backend might allow Russell Wilson re-ignite as D.K. Metcalf faces overmatched youngsters Bryce Hall and Lamar Jackson. This isn’t a spot that Pete Carroll’s team can sleepwalk into, and they should know it following last week’s loss.

Winner: Seattle Seahawks


IND (8-4) @ LV (7-5) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS

He has been banged up, missed time, and only has 20 receptions in ten games, but Henry Ruggs III has made the most of his opportunities—as displayed on the game-winner last week—with 11.3 yards per target, and his contributions go beyond the box score by helping to open things up for the rest of the offense. Just last week, the vertical threat of Ruggs III was a factor in allowing Darren Waller to go off for a 13/200/2 line, and how Indy’s defense tries to defend Jon Gruden’s offense will be one of the week’s best battles. Not having Josh Jacobs (ankle) again would be an impactful loss, but I think Sunday could be another big day for Nelson Agholor, who was missed on multiple chunk plays in Week 14 and has the route-running ability to create space against Xavier Rhodes or Rock Ya-Sin. Also, the offensive line could be getting Trent Brown back at right tackle to deal with Justin Houston (3.0 sacks last week). I’m worried about the run defense against Jonathan Taylor if the rookie is featured by the Colts, but the Raiders controlled the game in last year’s matchup and will hope to do it again on Sunday.

Winner: Las Vegas Raiders


WAS (5-7) @ SF (5-7) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX

Alex Smith being cleared to resume playing football earlier this year was an amazing feat by itself, and all he’s done since then—return to the field, complete a pass, make his first start for Washington, get a win, and most recently beat the undefeated Steelers—only makes the comeback even more legendary. As just stated for Henry Ruggs III, the numbers don’t tell close to the whole story for Smith, who also brings leadership to the team and has made clutch plays to go 3-1 since taking over for Kyle Allen (ankle).  The veteran previously faced the team that drafted him with the Chiefs back in 2014, but it will be another cool milestone for Smith to return to San Francisco again (even without fans), and the game has playoff implications for both sides in a widening NFC race. Somehow, the Niners’ win over the Rams just a couple of weeks ago feels like it could have been a couple of months ago, and they need to figure out the ground game if they want to make a run; that will be easier said than done against Washington’s defensive front.

Winner: Washington Football Team


NO (10-2) @ PHI (3-8-1) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX

The Saints and their top-ranked defense will have something to say about it, but I think Philadelphia is making the right move by turning to Jalen Hurts, and the rookie—based on how Carson Wentz has played all year—is already more accurate, more mobile, and more decisive than the former No. 2 overall pick at this point. Remember, New Orleans previously allowed Justin Herbert to throw for four scores against them on Monday night in a near upset victory for Los Angeles, so it’s not like Hurts will be taking on the ’85 Bears for his first career start, especially if the Saints don’t have Janoris Jenkins (knee) or Patrick Robinson (hamstring) in the lineup. Of course, Hurts isn’t the only mobile quarterback in this week’s matchup, and to supplement his growing comfortability as a passer, Taysom Hill is also a runaway train in the open field at 221 pounds, which could be an issue for Philadelphia if he gets in space. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles won, but they haven’t shown enough to pick over the hottest team in the league seeking a tenth consecutive victory.

Winner: New Orleans Saints


ATL (4-8) @ LAC (3-9) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX



Winner: Atlanta Falcons


GB (9-3) @ DET (5-7) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX

Detroit opening up the offense in the first game of the post-Matt Patricia era led to a season-high in passing yards (402) for Matthew Stafford, and the aggressive mindset is something they’ll probably have the rest of the way under interim head coach Darrell Bevell. If nothing else, that should lead to added excitement, but Stafford can’t turn a green light into recklessness this week by forcing the ball into coverage against Jaire Alexander, so the complementary weapons behind Marvin Jones need to make plays again to attack the weaknesses of Green Bay’s defense. Maybe the re-energized team will come out fired up to stop Aaron Rodgers, but Aaron Jones and the running backs went for over 300 total yards against the Lions back in Week 2, and that was with Davante Adams leaving early due to a hamstring injury. The Packers still have the No. 1 seed well within reach in a race with New Orleans.

Winner: Green Bay Packers


PIT (11-1) @ BUF (9-3) | SUN 8:20 PM ET | NBC

The stretch of four primetime games for Buffalo (if you include a Saturday evening on NFL Network next week) started about as well as anyone could have hoped, and perhaps the best passing performance of Josh Allen’s young career has him right back in the MVP conversation with 25% of the regular season still to go. The Bills dominating through the air against the 49ers was extra impressive because it was the first time they’ve looked like an unquestionably elite offense without John Brown (ankle), and Devin Singletary playing 85% of the offensive snaps for just the second time this year is something—in my opinion—that should continue to help make up for the lost explosiveness that “Smokey” usually brings. Pittsburgh will be the toughest draw yet for Allen, but if he puts the ball wherever he wants, it will be another great night. On defense, the Bills got a boost with linebacker Matt Milano healthy (they are now 6-0 when he plays), but the cornerback depth will be tested by the Steelers’ wideout-centric offense; the heavy hitters in Sean McDermott’s defense will try to make sure the recent drops continue for the group. Like I said last week, it’s crazy to say Pittsburgh is overrated with Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger, but they aren’t at their best right now, and Buffalo seems to be ready for the big stage.

Winner: Buffalo Bills


BAL (7-5) @ CLE (9-3) | MON 8:15 PM ET | ESPN

After being destroyed in the season opener by the Ravens, 38-6, I probably would have laughed if you said Cleveland would be 9-3—and two games ahead of Baltimore in the AFC North—ahead of their next matchup, but that’s the case, and they are favored on Monday night. The turnaround has been largely centered around Nick Chubb (99.9 rushing yards per game; 6.0 yards per carry), and I would think Kevin Stefanski knows his best player will need more than the 11 touches he saw in their Week 1 loss. For his career, Chubb is averaging 5.2 yards per carry versus the normally stout defense of the Ravens, and this week would be a time for him to be fully unleashed with 25+ touches, which hasn’t happened yet this season. Baltimore is also built around the running game, and phasing out Mark Ingram (11 snaps last week) is the best way to maximize their upside by featuring J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards as the primary ball-carriers. I have gone back-and-forth with the pick and am not fully sold on either team, but the Browns get the edge with the expectation that Chubb will be fed.

Winner: Cleveland Browns


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