More December football and more snow this week! Weather could impact a few games, including Green Bay for the second straight week, as the Packers try to extend their winning streak and make a push for the postseason. More importantly though (not really), will the Browns get their first win of the season in a wintry Cleveland in Robert Griffin III’s return?
Last week: 10-5
OAK (10-2) @ KC (9-3) | THU 8:25 PM ET | NBC/NFL NETWORK/TWITTER
Thursday night’s matchup between the Raiders and Chiefs could very well be the most important game of the season. Oakland has won six in a row since losing to Kansas City 26-10 in their first meeting, and are right with New England for the #1 seed in the AFC with four weeks to go. Just one game behind the Raiders and Patriots, the Chiefs can move to 10-3 with a win tonight and would have a season sweep over the Raiders. The winner of this one is likely going to end up as a top-two seed in the AFC. Temperature around kickoff is expected to be a frigid 23 degrees, so whoever can run the ball better and not turn it over will probably be the winner. Despite being a California team in the cold, I like Latavius Murray and the Raiders offensive line to get it done.
Winner: Oakland Raiders
PIT (7-5) @ BUF (6-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Light snow is possible for this Sunday in Buffalo, but it shouldn’t have a huge impact with both teams used to cold weather. The Steelers would take control of the NFC North if they can win this week and New England can take care of Baltimore on Monday night. The Bills are still in the playoff race for a wild card spot, but there was a lot of noise this week about Tyrod Taylor’s future, which is unfair; Tyrod has played well with no offensive weapons outside of a banged up Sammy Watkins. I’m pretty sure Rex Ryan’s defense is the reason Oakland scored 38 points last week. This week, Pittsburgh’s offense will be too much for Buffalo, especially now that Ladarius Green has emerged as another threat alongside AB84 and L-Bell.
Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers
DEN (8-4) @ TEN (6-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Rookie Paxton Lynch did not look good in last week’s win over the Jaguars, throwing just over 100 yards on 12/24 passing. Hopefully for the Broncos, Trevor Siemian (foot) will be back this week, because starting an unpolished rookie on the road against Titans defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau is not an ideal spot. Either way, Denver needs to get the running game if they are going to repeat as Super Bowl Champions, and signing Gary Kubiak’s old pal Justin Forsett could be a nice spark with rookie Devontae Booker struggling. The Titans just had their bye week and it probably came at a great time for their veteran players, including DeMarco Murray, who looked a little worn out in recent weeks. Still, I think Derrick Henry could be the key for the Titans making a run at the AFC South.
Winner: Tennessee Titans
WAS (6-5-1) @ PHI (5-7) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
There’s a lot that can be said about the Philadelphia Eagles, and it seems pretty clear they will go no where as long as Jeffrey Lurie owns the team and Howie Roseman is running the front office. Carson Wentz might not have a lot of help, but there are legitimate question marks about his play; after starting the season 3-0 and throwing for five touchdowns with zero interceptions, Wentz has thrown just seven touchdowns with 11 interceptions over the past nine games. One of those former quarterbacks on the Eagles coaching staff better figure things out. The Redskins need to get a win here, as basically half the conference is in contention for a wild card spot. A few weeks ago, this looked like a tough game in Philadelphia, but it now seems like the Eagles will let opposing teams walk right over them.
Winner: Washington Redskins
ARI (5-6-1) @ MIA (7-5) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Miami doesn’t look ready to be a contender after getting destroyed by the Ravens last week. They are still a respectable 7-5 and right in contention for a wild card spot, but last week looked like the Dolphins team from earlier in the season when Adam Gase was benching and cutting guys. It was just one game though, so they can’t be written off yet. Arizona is a veteran team that has Super Bowl aspirations, but they’re going to have to win some tough games, including this week in Miami, next week at home versus New Orleans, and Christmas Eve in Seattle. I don’t think Bruce Arians and his guys will go down quietly, as they just got a huge win over the Redskins last Sunday. David Johnson will carry them to victory again this week.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
MIN (6-6) @ JAC (2-10) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Minnesota almost snapped the Cowboys 10-game winning streak last Thursday night after Sam Bradford led them downfield to go down 17-15, but a blown call by the refs on the two-point conversion ended the game. I feel like that’s about the 100th time I’ve written that this season, but that’s because it’s happened far too much; the NFL needs full-time officials. The Vikings would have the #6 seed right now if they won, but instead are fighting with a bunch of other teams for a playoff spot. At least they have a very winnable game against Blake Bortles and the Jaguars this Sunday. A win could actually mean the return of Adrian Peterson for Minnesota in Week 15.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
HOU (6-6) @ IND (6-6) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
First-place in the AFC South is on the line for the the Colts and Texans, as Houston has lost three in a row and Indianapolis has won three out of four. In their first meeting, Houston was down 23-9 before scoring 14 straight points late in the 4th quarter to tie it up and win in overtime. The Colts basically shut down DeAndre Hopkins and the offense throughout the night, but the soft coverage allowed the Texans back in the game. Indy won’t make the same mistake twice, and will have an easier time offensively, as cornerback Jonathan Joseph (ribs) will be out and Jadeveon Clowney could be limited.
Winner: Indianapolis Colts
SD (5-7) @ CAR (4-8) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | FOX
Another late-game mistake by Philip Rivers cost the Chargers last week in their 28-21 loss to Tampa Bay, and they probably need to go 4-0 down the stretch to make the playoffs now, including games against the Raiders and Chiefs. Fortunately, both games are at home (Raiders in Week 15, Chiefs in Week 17), and they also get to play the Browns. First, though, they need to get through the Panthers this Sunday. Ron Rivera has taken criticism for his decision to bench Cam Newton (for one play) on Sunday Night Football for a dress-code violation, but coming from someone who has defended Newton in the past: rules are rules. Just because Newton is the reigning MVP doesn’t mean he can violate team rules and not suffer the consequences. Would Tom Brady disrespect Bill Belichick by not following the team’s dress-code? No, and if Cam wants to be as successful as Tom Brady, he should concentrate more on playing and less on what he’s going to wear.
Winner: San Diego Chargers
CIN (4-7-1) @ CLE (0-12) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
After going a combined 0-12 in September, October, and November, the Browns are undefeated this month going into their December 11th matchup with the Bengals. Now, they haven’t played yet in December because they had a Week 13 bye, but it’s important to stay positive. Seriously though, RGIII makes his return from his Week 1 shoulder injury and could be the spark the Browns need to get a win, and this could be their best chance. At home versus Cincinnati is the most winnable game left for Cleveland on the schedule. I think they’ll have some tricks up their sleeve for the Bengals as they pull out all the stops to get a win on a snowy Cleveland afternoon.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
CHI (3-9) @ DET (8-4) | SUN 1:00 PM ET | CBS
Chicago will go from the snow last week to the dome this week, as the NFC North leading Lions host the last-place Bears. Detroit actually lost 17-14 in their first meeting this season, and a big reason being that it was Bears rookie Jordan Howard’s first NFL start, and he controlled the game with 23 carries for 111 yards. Howard just rushed for 117 yards and three scores in last week’s win, so Detroit needs to put all focus on stopping him and making Matt Barkley beat them. Drew Brees at home couldn’t do it last week versus the Lions, so it’s unlikely Barkley does, though he did look pretty good in the snow in Week 13.
Winner: Detroit Lions
NYJ (3-9) @ SF (1-11) | SUN 4:05 PM ET | CBS
The Jets had an embarrassing performance on Monday Night Football versus the Colts, as they were down 14-0 after one quarter, 24-3 at the half, and 34-3 after the 3rd quarter before eventually switching quarterbacks (for good) and losing 41-10. It would be very disappointing to see Todd Bowles fired after the season, as he is not the problem. As I said before the season when Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker publicly complained about Ryan Fitzpatrick not being signed, the culture was a huge issue for the Jets; they should have never let the players hold the front office hostage by complaining to get a mediocre (at-best) quarterback re-signed. Moving on, whether you like it or not, Chip Kelly is here to stay in the NFL. If given the time, I have no doubts that he will turn San Francisco around. If you watched Kelly's press conferences this week, it’s easy to see why his players will continue to play hard for him in a one-win season.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
NO (5-7) @ TB (7-5) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
The Saints’ loss at home last week to the Lions had to be frustrating for Saints fans; Drew Brees threw for zero touchdowns and they scored just 13 points at the Superdome. New Orleans was down throughout, but it was mostly a close game, as they were down 13-6 at the half, and Sean Payton still abandoned the running game (Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower combined for nine carries). This feels like a big bounce back game for the Saints. Tampa Bay has some great wins this season, including in Kansas City and at home versus Seattle, but I don’t see them holding onto a playoff spot. The return game for the Bucs could get a boost with former-Eagle Josh Huff being promoted from the practice squad, though.
Winner: New Orleans Saints
ATL (7-5) @ LA (4-8) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Tough loss for the Falcons last Sunday after they took and lost the lead in a matter of seconds when Eric Berry returned their two-point conversation attempt back for a Chiefs score. Atlanta is now 7-5 and tied with the Bucs in the division, but they are the better team; the Falcons have been in every game this season, and would be 8-4 if not for the blown no-call in Seattle back in October (again, the league needs full-time officials). Now, Los Angeles… I’m not really sure what’s going on there. Jeff Fisher apparently had “no idea” that GM Les Snead was extended when asked about it by reporters. Really? Sounds like things are going really smoothly out in LA. Has the first overall pick ever been traded before his second season started? Because that’s what Jared Goff needs.
Winner: Atlanta Falcons
SEA (8-3-1) @ GB (6-6) | SUN 4:25 PM ET | FOX
Snow is in the forecast for the second straight week in Green Bay, but it might be done falling before the game starts. Still, the atmosphere will be awesome at Lambeau Field in what will feel like a playoff game. The Packers are 1-3 versus Russell Wilson’s Seahawks, including January 2015’s miraculous overtime loss when Seattle recovered an onside kick. The three losses, though, were all in Seattle, as Aaron Rodgers took down the Seahawks last season at home, and that was without Jordy Nelson. Jordy will give Richard Sherman or whoever fits this Sunday. I have the Packers at home in a great game.
Winner: Green Bay Packers
DAL (11-1) @ NYG (8-4) | SUN 8:30 PM ET | NBC
If not for Terrance Williams making a late-game mistake in Week 1, the Cowboys could very well be 12-0 right now. Instead, they are 11-1 and the Giants are the only team in the league that can say they beat Dallas this season. New York looks like they’re in a good spot for the postseason, but as I said last week, I think a collapse is coming. Dak Prescott was an untested rookie in Week 1, and he’s now in the MVP conversation in Week 14. The Giants are going to see a whole different team on Sunday night, and will be without Jason Pierre-Paul against the wall that is the Cowboys offensive line. Dallas will probably have locked-up the #1 seed in the NFC by Monday.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
BAL (7-5) @ NE (10-2) | MON 8:30 PM ET | ESPN
Capping off what should be a great week of football will be a heated game in New England between the Patriots and Ravens. Baltimore has the league’s #1 defense, but that will not phase Tom Brady at Gillette Stadium. Brady is 6-0 with a 12:3 touchdown-interception ratio for his career in home games against the #1 defense in the NFL. The Ravens should be confident after obliterating the red-hot Miami Dolphins last week, but the Dolphins won’t be on the other side of the field on Monday night. With a 5-1 career record against Baltimore, Brady will do what needs to be done to move to 11-2—and possibly sole-possession of the #1 spot in the AFC heading into Week 15.
Winner: New England Patriots