As the sun begins to set on the 2014 NFL season, the impact of each individual game becomes magnified.
For the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, two teams that are no stranger to big games between each other, Sunday night’s affair represents the culmination of 14-weeks of grueling play. A year ago, these two franchises met in Dallas for the NFC East championship. That evening, it was Nick Foles and the Eagles who came out on top by 2 points to capture their first division title since 2010. If Philly wants to defend their division crown, they’ll have to do it to Dallas again. This time at home, with 60,000+ screaming Philadelphians behind them from start-to-finish.
Instead of Foles, it will be Mark Sanchez under center, who makes his sixth start for Chip Kelly’s team. So far, the former USC QB has been a bit of an enigma. He’s shown an ability to carve up mediocre defenses. But, the lack of elite arm strength and a propensity for turnovers has left the Eagles 3-2 in his five starts, so far. If Sanchez is going to lead Philadelphia to victory on Sunday, he’ll need to get help from the likes of LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, both of whom had a large hand in the team’s victory over Dallas on Thanksgiving.
On the other side, you have the Cowboys. Longtime December choke-artists, Dallas will look to reverse the trend that has cursed them almost every season since 2008. To do so, they’ll need DeMarco Murray to break out, something he was unable to do against Philadelphia’s defense last month. Likewise, Tony Romo will need to get rid of the ball quick against Philadelphia’s aggressive defense. He doesn’t have the best December track record. Though, he certainly didn’t look like the Romo of old in Chicago, where Dallas put up 48-points en route to victory last Thursday.
As usual, the Eagles have the edge on special teams, and that could play a pivotal role in their success. A Darren Sproles return or another blocked punt would be a catastrophic blow to a Dallas team that’s already struggling to stop opponents on defense. The Cowboys may be 6-0 on the road. But, this is Philadelphia, and the Eagles have only lost one game at Lincoln Financial Field this season.
All in all, it promises to be another fantastic week of NFL action, and winner of Sunday night’s affair will move one step closer to capturing the NFC East.
Line: Eagles by 3.5
Prediction: Eagles, 31-27
And now, the rest of the NFL action as we continue the bone chilling month of gridiron action that we call December…
Last Week: 10-5
2014 Season: 95-92
Arizona Cardinals (10-3) AT St. Louis Rams (6-7) – Rams by 5.5
Prediction: Rams, 16-10. St. Louis has recorded back-to-back shutouts against the likes of Oakland and Washington, the NFL’s two ugly stepchildren. While they likely won’t be tested too intensely by Drew Stanton, they’ll have a hard time making it three-in-a-row against an Arizona team who has much more to play for than the aforementioned duo of duds.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5) AT Atlanta Falcons (5-8) – Steelers by 2.5
Prediction: Falcons, 30-28. Atlanta hasn’t exactly set the world aflame at the Georgia Dome (3-3). Still, they have something to play for and know that a win at home is critical to their playoff chances. Pittsburgh cannot afford to lose either. But, the Steelers have already proven this season that they play down to their opponents. They’ve also shown an inability to stop the passing game. Good luck against Julio Jones, who is hotter than any receiver in the NFL.
Washington Redskins (3-10) AT New York Giants (4-9) – Giants by 7
Prediction: Giants, 26-16. A once proud rivalry has been reduced to rubble. As the NFC East’s two doormats get set to play each other one final time in 2014, we remember the days of Mark Rypien taking on Phil Simms in the early-90s. Heck, I reckon these two disasters long for the days of Gus Frerotte and Dave Brown, at this point. In the end, the Redskins are just abysmal enough to lock themselves into a top-five pick in next May’s draft.
Miami Dolphins (7-6) AT New England Patriots (10-3) – Patriots by 7.5
Prediction: Patriots, 27-16. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots take on the Miami Dolphins with a chance to clinch the AFC East for the 12th time in the last 14 seasons. Betting against Brady and Belichick at home in December against a warm weather team is like taking a Victoria’s Secret model on a date to an all-you-can-eat buffet. It just doesn’t make much sense.
Oakland Raiders (2-11) AT Kansas City Chiefs (7-6) – Chiefs by 10
Prediction: Chiefs, 21-12. Kansas City hasn’t won since they handed Oakland their first win on Thursday night three weeks ago. It’s rare to see an Andy Reid team swoon so hard for three consecutive games. But, that’s where the Chiefs are at this point. A loss to Oakland would end their playoff chances. As it stands, KC likely has to win out to have any hope at another postseason berth. Oakland should provide a nice cushion as they prepare for the home stretch.
Houston Texans (7-6) AT Indianapolis Colts (9-4) – Colts by 7
Prediction: Colts, 34-24. Any hope that Houston has of making the playoffs hinge on this one game. A win in Indianapolis would put the Texans right in the thick of the wild card race, while also giving them an outside shot at eclipsing the Colts for the division title. While the Texans have looked solid against the league’s doormats (two of whom are in their division), they haven’t been able to challenge the league’s elite. I doubt they’ll have many answers for Indy and Andrew Luck on Sunday.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) AT Baltimore Ravens (8-5) – Ravens by 14
Prediction: Ravens, 28-13. Another team in the thick of the playoff race, Baltimore can take a giant step towards a division title by taking care of business at home against Jacksonville.
Green Bay Packers (10-3) AT Buffalo Bills (7-6) – Packers by 6
Prediction: Packers, 24-20. Green Bay hasn’t looked as dominant on the road as they have at Lambeau Field. They’re also coming off a short week. That’s the only thing giving me a little faith in Buffalo. Still, the Packers have Aaron Rodgers and the Bills have Kyle Orton. Enough said.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-11) AT Carolina Panthers (4-8-1) – Panthers by 3.5
Prediction: Buccaneers, 20-17. With no Cam Newton, the Panthers have no chance at winning the dilapidated NFC South. Meanwhile, the 2-11 Bucs have captured both of their wins on the road.
Cincinnati Bengals (8-4-1) AT Cleveland Browns (7-6) – Browns by 1.5
Prediction: Browns, 26-23. These AFC North games tend to be nailbiters. That shouldn’t change on Sunday, when Johnny Manziel makes his first career start for the Browns, who are clinging to their playoff lives. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s loss to Pittsburgh last week has weakened their stance atop the division. A loss to the Browns would put the Ravens or Steelers on top and throw Cincinnati into a tailspin. Don’t count out the Browns, who have extra motivation after Marvin Lewis called Manziel (6’0) a “midget” during a press conference this week.
New York Jets (2-11) AT Tennessee Titans (2-11) – Jets by 3
Prediction: Titans, 21-16. Anyone that has to watch this game due to NFC broadcasting rules should consider legal action. Two of the worst teams in the league will do battle from The Music City. Honestly, does anyone want to win this game? The loser puts themselves in a better position draft pick wise. So, maybe it’s the case where the loser is really the winner, and vice-versa? I suppose the only real losers are fans of either team, in the end.
Denver Broncos (10-3) AT San Diego Chargers (8-5) – Broncos by 4.5
Prediction: Chargers, 31-30. In my upset pick of the week, I’ll take Philip Rivers and the Chargers to upset the Broncos. A win on Sunday would put San Diego in the driver’s seat for a wild card spot. It would also pretty much cement Denver into the #2 seed. A victory over Denver would be just the momentum builder San Diego would need heading into the postseason.
Minnesota Vikings (6-7) AT Detroit Lions (9-4) – Lions by 8
Prediction: Lions, 28-14. Detroit’s offense has been wildly inconsistent this season. But, the team has been outright nasty at home (6-1) and the defense continues to play well. That’s not a good mix for a Vikings team that isn’t doing much offensively away from Minneapolis.
San Francisco 49ers (7-6) AT Seattle Seahawks (9-4) – Seahawks by 10
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-10. On one hand, San Francisco’s playoff lives are on the line. Similarly, Jim Harbaugh’s job may be on the line. On the other, the likelihood that Harbaugh has already checked out grows by the day, and Seattle is playing better defensively than anyone else in the NFL right now. That doesn’t bode well for a 49ers team that is coming off a loss to the Oakland Raiders.
New Orleans Saints (5-8) AT Chicago Bears (5-8) – Saints by 3
Prediction: Bears, 28-24. Monday Night Football continues to be an absolute eyesore for the NFL. All the great matchups this week and we get stuck watching two massive underachievers battle each other for mediocrity’s reign. Somehow, someway, the Saints will find a way to blow this one and keep the NFC South a cataclysmic disaster.