Following perhaps their most impressive of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles have no time to rest on their laurels.
This Sunday, the defending champions come to town, as the City of Brotherly Love plays host to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks (8-4). After a subpar start to their title defense, Seattle’s defense has heated up. Like Terrance Knighton at a buffet line, the Seahawks are tearing through teams with reckless abandon. Like the Eagles, Seattle put together an impressive 19-3 victory on Thanksgiving. This came on the heels of a 19-3 triumph vs. Arizona a week prior.
At 8-4, the Seahawks still have division championship hopes, especially with the Cardinals’ recent swoon. A win on Sunday in Philadelphia would put Seattle much closer to that goal. Three divisional matchups to end the season will help them in their quest to gain home field advantage, a critical aspect of their championship defense considering their mediocre road performance.
Three of Seattle’s four losses this season have come away from the Pacific Northwest. Which lends credibility to the idea that Philadelphia could actually come out of this affair victorious. Also suggesting success is the fact that Seattle has allowed over 100+ yards of team total rushing in four games this season. All four of those instances resulted in defeat.
The last few weeks, Shady McCoy and Darren Sproles have led the Eagles’ running game back to fruition. If Philadelphia has any hopes of walking away from Lincoln Financial Field at 9-3, they’ll need that duo to come to play. Mark Sanchez has been impressive. But, the thought of “The Sanchize” having to throw 35+ times on The Legion of Boom brings nausea to this writer’s gut.
In the end, the Eagles are going to need Sanchez to limit the turnovers that have plagued him throughout his career. While most believe this game is a lost cause for Philadelphia; the strengths and weaknesses of both teams suggest otherwise. All season, the Eagles’ defense has been solid against the run but weak against the pass. Seattle, meanwhile, comes into this one with the top ranked rushing offense and the 29th ranked passing offense. Philadelphia already proved it could limit the NFL’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray. Who’s to say that the same story won’t be written Sunday when Marshawn Lynch attempts to wreak havoc on the Philadelphia front-seven?
It’s a tale of two cities, both with championship aspirations in 2014-15. For the Eagles, that championship dream will be
deeply affected by their success on Sunday. At 6-0 in Philadelphia, home field advantage is critical to Chip Kelly’s success come playoff time. The same could be said for Seattle, who comes into this affair 3-3 away from Washington. This is the toughest game I’ve had to pick all season, and it could go either way (as evidenced by the one point spread). In the end, I’ve got to believe that the Eagles keep their undefeated home record alive by sending the streaking Seahawks back to Seattle with their feathers between their legs.
Line: Eagles by 1
Prediction: Eagles, 24-22
And now on to the rest of the picks for this exciting week 14:
Last Week: 6-7
2014 Season: 85-87
Dallas Cowboys (8-4) AT Chicago Bears (5-7) – Cowboys by 4
Prediction: Cowboys, 27-24. Typically, I’d find any way not to take the Cowboys in December. But, this game is probably the exception. Chicago’s season is over, and they really don’t bring much to the table other than talent laden roster with no poise, character, or determination. Even Dallas’ best effort to lose this one probably won’t be enough. Still, I’ll take Da Bears to cover, barely.
Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) AT Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) – Bengals by 3.5
Prediction: Steelers, 23-20. Pittsburgh might have the best shot at triumphing over the lowly Bengals for this division’s championship as they still get to play Cincinnati twice down the stretch. While the Steelers weren’t exactly enthralling in their narrow loss to New Orleans last week, the Bengals were even less inspiring, beating out the brutal Buccaneers thanks to a 12-man call late when Tampa had a chance to win the game with a field goal. Andy Dalton will find some way to blow this one, I just know it.
St. Louis Rams (5-7) AT Washington Redskins (3-9) – Rams by 3
Prediction: Rams, 27-20. The Rams seem like the world’s greatest 5-7 team. The opposite could be said for Washington, whose offense might be a bit more consistent with Colt McCoy under center. But, the Redskins’ defense remains a dumpster fire. Even on the road, I’ll take St. Louis to continue the NFC West’s dominance of the NFC East. Watch out for Tre Mason, who ran wild on the Raiders last week, to continue his spectacular freshman season.
New York Giants (3-9) AT Tennessee Titans (2-10) – Giants by 1.5
Prediction: Giants, 25-22. It’s the first annual Toilet Bowl between two teams who find more ways to beat themselves week after week. The Giants looked impressive in the first halves of each of their last two affairs, only to go down in flames like only an Eli Manning led team could. Meanwhile, there’s really nothing positive to say about the Titans, who look like they’ve just about packed it up and are booking January tee times. Ken Whisenhunt, who was hired just last winter, looks like he’s going to be another classic one-and-done coach for a Tennessee franchise that hasn’t made the postseason since George W. Bush was in office.
Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) AT New Orleans Saints (5-7) – Saints by 10
Prediction: Saints, 30-24. Speaking of dumpster fires, check out the 2014 Carolina Panthers. If this team looked more old and decrepit, they’d be starring in Life Alert commercials at 2:00 AM. Cam Newton should actually consider that career change, because his performance as a QB this season has been uninspiring to say the least. Meanwhile, you have the Saints. A big victory in Pittsburgh on Sunday was enough to put them in the driver’s seat in the NFC South. If New Orleans can win out, they take the crown. Not saying that will happen. But, a victory over a free falling Carolina squad should be expected. Even if that 10-point spread is a bit too large for my tastes.
New York Jets (2-10) AT Minnesota Vikings (5-7) – Vikings by 6
Prediction: Vikings, 26-7. Buzz, your girlfriend! Woof! There are some really ugly games this week. The Jets’ passing game is a joke. Rex Ryan is already fielding broadcasting offers. I’ve got to go with Teddy Bridgewater’s Vikings merely by default.
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) AT Miami Dolphins (7-5) – Dolphins by 2.5
Prediction: Ravens, 24-17. This is more like it. A battle between two teams battling for the last two wild card spots in the AFC. Miami wasn’t exactly awe inspiring last week in their 16-13 victory over the Jets. But, they return home for week 14, which should put a bit of a pep in their step. On the other hand, you have the Ravens flying south for the winter coming off a brutal, last second loss to the Chargers. It’s a relative must win for both, and I’ll take the experienced Ravens to overcome the oft-choking Dolphins in a good one.
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) AT Cleveland Browns (7-5) – Colts by 4
Prediction: Browns, 27-24. This just seems like the type of game that this year’s Browns will come out on top of. At 3-2, the Colts haven’t exactly been special on the road this season. In a cold, knock down, drag out December affair, I’ll take the team with the better running game, which right now is clearly Cleveland. Brian Hoyer also has a career to save, with the footsteps of Johnny Manziel getting louder by the play in his rearview mirror.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) AT Detroit Lions (8-4) – Lions by 10
Prediction: Lions, 34-14. I’ve been picking against the Buccaneers for weeks and they continue to let me down by playing solid defense and limiting their opponents due to turnovers. Which makes me think I’ll regret the decision to go with Detroit -10 here. But, the Lions’ offense is dynamic enough that Tampa Bay should have no shot at keeping up. One or two Josh McCown turnovers will help, as well.
Houston Texans (6-6) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) – Texans by 6.5
Prediction: Texans, 27-20. Don’t expect any more six touchdown performances by Ryan Fitzpatrick. But, the goliath that is JJ Watt could go in for yet another touchdown this week against a Jaguars defense that, while improved, is still wet behind the ears.
Buffalo Bills (7-5) AT Denver Broncos (9-3) – Broncos by 10
Prediction: Broncos, 28-14. I want to pick the Bills to cover. I really do. Then, I looked at the QB matchup. Peyton Manning (at home, mind you) against Kyle Orton. Puke city. Take Denver minus the points and win yourself a few bucks this Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) AT Arizona Cardinals (9-3) – Pick ‘em
Prediction: Chiefs, 20-10. Talk about two mudslides colliding. Both of these teams have lost two-in-a-row and have seen their playoff hopes take a serious turn for the worst. Kansas City is probably more desperate in a crowded AFC wild card field. They also have the better running game and QB. The Cardinals are in danger of missing the playoffs after starting the season 9-1.
San Francisco 49ers (7-5) AT Oakland Raiders (1-11) – 49ers by 9
Prediction: 49ers, 23-10. Not even the woeful 49ers’ offense can find a way to blow this one, right? For Oakland, the question is whether or not they’ll take Marcus Mariota with the #1 overall pick; or should they stick with Derek Carr?
New England Patriots (9-3) AT San Diego Chargers (7-5) – Patriots by 4
Prediction: Patriots, 34-21. If there were ever a more secure feeling, it’s almost got to be that of a Patriots’ fan this week, right? I mean…Bill Belichick and Tom Brady coming off a loss? That’s about as much of a sure thing as Bobby Boucher showing up at halftime and the Mud Dogs winning the Bourbon Bowl. Take New England now. Thank me later.
Atlanta Falcons (5-7) AT Green Bay Packers (9-3) – Packers by 13
Prediction: Packers, 30-20. While I also think a Green Bay victory at home in this one is a guarantee. I’m not so secure on the 13-point spread. After all, the Falcons, despite their deficiencies, are in the playoff race. Green Bay is also coming off an emotionally hard fought victory over New England. A let down seems possible. Still, the Packers’ sheer talent level dwarfs that of Atlanta, and that’s hard to turn a blind eye to.