With 4 weeks remaining, this is when we start to see teams make the push for playoffs or start dusting off the golf clubs. So far, only 2 of the 6 divisions have been clinched in both western divisions: Seahawks in the NFC and Broncos in the AFC. Last week, I went a mediocre 8-8, almost doubling my season loss total. My current record is now 31-17. But I am feeling good about this week, so let’s dive in and let you guys know what Sklamberg Seez for Week 14!
Chicago Bears (1-11) at Green Bay Packers (2-10): These two NFC North basement dwellers are very similar, both have struggled this season to win games, and both offenses are much better than their defenses. Thus, if you like lots of scoring and little defense, I suggest you tune into this game. Trubisky and Fort will both have great games for the Bears, while the WR duo of Davante Adams and Tyson Woods will also play well. In the end, the Bears will pull away, as the experience of Trubisky will pay dividends, while the kid Christian Barber will fade in the 4th due to excessive INTs. Bears win 37-30.
Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) at San Francisco 49ers (3-9): The tough season for the Bengals continues, as they go into San Fran. The Niners offense have been decimated by injuries. One way you can tell, their QB, yes their QB, leads the team in rushing yards, and we are in Week 14! However, the Bengals have had their fair share of injuries, as they are without 5 starters, including their star QB Brock Burks. But enough about the injuries, let’s get to the prediction. The glaring stat that I see making a difference is the point differential for the Bengals. On average, they score 13 PPG, while the defense gives up 34 PPG. For that reason, I expect the Niners to take this one at home by good play from their QB and leading rusher Arsenio Sapp. 49ers win 31-13.
Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Oakland Raiders (6-6): In my surprise GOTW, the Bills and Raiders will battle to keep their playoff hopes alive. Both teams are limping into this game, as over their past three games, each team is 1-2. Neither team is exceptional at defending the run, which is something to watch, because both offenses run the ball effectively. For that reason, I am going to pick the team that runs the ball better, and that is the Oakland Raiders. Their RB Sherman Lucas has already rushed for over 1,000 yards, helping take the pressure off Mariota. One thing to note: Mariota has not thrown for over 200 yards in the past 4 games, and his accuracy has been questionable over that same stretch (50/93, 53.7%). So, if Lucas does not run effectively, this will open the door for the Bills. However, I do not expect that to happen, just something to keep an eye on. Raiders win 26-18.
Denver Broncos (11-1) at Kansas City Chiefs (6-6): The newly crowned AFC West Champs will take on a tough KC team. The Broncos took a bit of a hit last week during their win over the Vikings, as they lost RB Devonta Freeman for a few weeks. He is part of a dynamic duo with fellow RB David McIntyre, so they should be able to get through this stretch of games, as Freeman gets healthy for the playoffs. Chiefs QB James Strzelczyk has been playing consistent as always, which is why he will be the key to the game. The lack of a running game for the Chiefs has seemed to get to him lately. He has thrown 8 of his 13 INTs this year in a 4 week stretch (9-12). Moreover, in 3 of those 4 games, the team has rushed for under 40 yards. Thus, I am going to have to pick the Broncos in this one, as it is hard to win games just throwing the ball. Broncos win 34-21.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) at New Orleans Saints (8-4): Well, the 8 game win streak finally ended. Interesting factoid for this week’s prediction: in week 3, the Saints lost 35-31. They then played the Bucs week 4 and won. Last week, they lost 35-31 and now they play the Bucs again. Enough random facts, let’s get down to business. Surprising to some Saints fans, the team is actually playing defense, to go along with a good offense led by QB Bonham. However, don’t discount this Bucs squad. They have won 2 straight, including a thrilling win over the Rams in week 12. The Bucs continue to rely on QB Greenway this season as they have in season past. The lack of an established run game though will be apparent this game, as I see the Saints doing a great job stopping the Bucs QB and the Bucs win streak. Greenway’s one weakness, turning the ball over, will lead to the loss this week. Saints win by the same score as they did in Week 4 24-14.
Arizona Cardinals (2-10) at Los Angeles Rams (4-8): In games the Rams win, they have limited their turnovers. While the sample size is small, in their 4 wins, they average just over 1 turnover at 1.25. Now, the Cardinals are at a whole different level. They have only forced 11 turnovers this season so far. To compare, 13 different players on their team have at least 1 reception or more. That right there shows you how their season is going and how this game will go. The Rams will win this one easy. Rams win 24-9.
Los Angeles Chargers (6-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-8): While this Chargers team is 6-6, the most they have lost by is 12, while their average margin of victory over their 3 game win streak is 18.7. The division is now out of reach for them, but the wild card is not, and this team is getting hot at just the right time. To me, this game resembles a trap game, as they are playing a struggling Dolphins team before two tough games against the Broncos and Steelers. The person to watch in this game is Melvin Gordon. He had a vintage performance a couple weeks ago. Going against this Dolphins defense will be no easy task for Gordon, as they rank 7th in the league in total yards against. I see this being a closer game than most think, as the Chargers team may be looking ahead, rather than focusing on the Dolphins. Chargers win 24-17.
Indianapolis Colts (4-8) at Carolina Panthers (2-10): The Panthers have been Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season. In the first 7 games, their offense averaged 24.4 PPG, but in the past 5 weeks, they have averaged 7.6 PPG. Maybe it was due to the injury to star running back Christian McCaffrey or maybe it was due to some other reason. Either way, this season has been a difficult one for the Panthers. It has been equally difficult for the Colts. Earlier in the season, I might have picked the Panthers, but since their offense has been horrendous as of late, I expect the Colts to be able to out perform the Panthers offense. Colts win 23-7.
Dallas Cowboys (6-6) at New York Giants (8-4): This is an intriguing matchup because we have the prolific Giant offense going up against a very good Cowboys defense. After being out several weeks with an injury, QB Davis Webb returned to the lineup and has been lighting it up since he returned. In his 2 games back, he has thrown 7 TDs with only 3 INTs to along with a 75% throwing accuracy and over 700 yards passing. He has given the Giants a boost of energy, which the Cowboys are still waiting for, as they have been without Switzer, Elliot and Byard for portions of the season. Due to how well Webb has played recently, I see the Giants doing enough against this tough Cowboys defense, but the real difference maker will be Landon Collins. He has underperformed this season after a stellar 14 INT season last year. He is due for a big game, and I think he plays very well. Giants win 24-20.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-9) at Washington Redskins (6-6): The up and down season for the Redskins continues, as they take on the Eagles who may have found some life at this point of the season. They are 2-2 in their past four games, can they improve the 2-2 record to 3-2? I do not see this happening, as the Redskins have alternated wins and losses since their week 7 game, and due to this trend, they will win this one. But I see them winning because the Eagles have struggled to move the ball offensively. And while the Redskins do not have an elite defense, they are good enough to stop this team. Redskins win 20-16.
Atlanta Falcons (6-5-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4): The Jaguars now find themselves in a battle for the division with the Texans, while the Falcons are in a battle for a wild card spot, with a chance at the division. So, both teams will come out firing. The one question I have, is which Brody Denton will come to play, the good or the bad. His TD/INT ratio in wins or the tie is 15:3, while in losses, his ratio is 6:10. The one thing going for the Falcons is that they have a balanced offense attack, so if Denton does have a bad game, they still have a chance. However, the Falcons do not have MVP candidate Leonard Fournette in the backfield, and I think he will be the difference maker this game. He will rush for multiple TDs and keep his team in the division lead. Jaguars win 31-24.
New York Jets (10-2) at New England Patriots (6-6): In the rematch of an MBL live earlier in the season, the Jets will travel to Foxsborough to take on the Pats. With QB Daniel Powell and later RB DeShaunta Bussey out due to injury, we learned that these two are vital to the success of the team. Without them, the Jets did get a big win in Cleveland, but then struggled at home against the Texans. But, they are getting both of them back and healthy this week against Patriots team looking to make the playoffs. However, I do not see the home team being able to defend their turf, as they are second to last in rushing yards allowed and they have allowed their opponents to score 20+ points in their past 9 games. That is putting a lot of pressure on QB Calvin Skinner and the rest of the offense. The pressure will be too much today, as they will succumb to the Jets once again. Jets win 42-24.
Detroit Lions (10-2) at Minnesota Vikings (9-3): The NFC North will be decided in the next 4 weeks, as these two teams face off twice in that span. And, unfortunately for the Vikings, they are trending in the wrong direction at the worst possible time. A team that was once 8-0 is now 9-3. However, the Lions are surging at the best possible time, winners of 5 straight. The top offense in the league is the main reason they are on this streak, as they are averaging 38.6 PPG during this stretch. MVP Candidate Aaron Rodgers will be surgical with his passing attack, slicing up the Vikings defense, giving them their 3rd straight loss, putting their hopes of winning the division in serious doubt. Lions win 38-27.
Baltimore Ravens (5-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2): After a surprising 0-5 start to the season for the Ravens, they are surprising people again, going 5-2 in their next 7 games. Their defense has been playing great during this stretch, but now they have the tough task of facing former MVP Matthew Stafford and the Steelers offense. Stafford has done a great job spreading the ball around, as three of his receivers have over 30 catches and at least 6 TDs. Plus, their stout defense does a great job to get their offense great starting field position. In their first matchup, Stafford torched the Ravens secondary, while Luck and the Ravens offense struggled to do much of anything. I see a similar outcome in this game, as the good play for the Ravens defense will come to an end. Steelers win 29-16.
Seattle Seahawks (10-2) at Cleveland Browns (11-1): In a candidate for GOTW, the NFC West champs will take on the leaders of the AFC North. This is a potential Super Bowl preview and should be a good one. This will be the toughest test for Kizer, Bradford and the rest of the Seahawks offense, as the Browns boast the league’s best defense stats wise (I bet the Steelers defense would have something to say about that title)! The Browns are coming off a blowout win over the Bengals, so they will be feeling well, but this good feeling for the former Super Bowl champs will come to an end. RB Deric Bradford will avenge his less than stellar performance last week, and play better. The Seahawks offensive line will establish control over the talented Browns front 7 and lead them to a tight victory. Seahawks win 21-17.
Houston Texans (7-4-1) at Tennessee Titans (5-7): Two divisional foes meet in this showdown in Nashville. The Texans are coming off of a thrilling win over the Jets, keeping the pressure on the divisional leader Jacksonville Jaguars. When you think of the Texans, you think of Clowney and Watt sacking the QB continuously, but that has not been the case this season. Combined they have an underwhelming 31 tackles, 8 sacks and only 2 forced fumbles. Although they have struggled, LE Bernard Kirksey is having himself a great season. After playing very little last season, he already has 12 sacks this season. He will be a player to watch in this game, as the Titans offensive line has done a good job protecting Jameis Winston this season. The Titans player to watch will be Deron Enunwa. Unlike their opponent, the Texans struggle to protect the passer, as Girault has been sacked 40 times compared to Winston’s 21. Enunwa has been a force to be reckoned with this season and will continue to play dominant in this one. He will be the difference maker, as the Titans get the victory and sweep the season series against the Texans. Titans win 27-21.