NFL: Week Sixteen Predictions

Posted: December 18, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

The City of Brotherly Love is anything but loving this week.

lashawn-mccoy-eagles1After the Philadelphia Eagles were dispatched by the Dallas Cowboys 38-27 on Sunday night, the good faith that held the town’s football faithful together began to erode. Following a 9-3 start, the Eagles have lost back-to-back at home, putting their once solid playoff hopes in dire jeopardy. In order to qualify for the postseason, Philadelphia would need to win out and hope that Dallas loses one of their remaining two games.

Now, that remains possible, as the Eagles face two winnable games against Washington and New York down the stretch. Meanwhile, Dallas has to host the very talented Indianapolis Colts on Sunday. However, the Eagles’ defensive failures, coupled with the lack of consistency from QB Mark Sanchez, has put even the most optimistic of Philadelphians on the edge of their seats.

This week, the Eagles take on the Redskins on Saturday afternoon. It’s a game that, despite being a rivalry, shouldn’t be much of a contest. After all, Washington hasn’t won since an October 27th victory over Dallas. The Redskins’ only other two victories in 2014 came against the likes of Jacksonville and Tennessee, two teams tied for the worst record in the NFL. Robert Griffin will be under center for Washington. The former #2 pick hasn’t won a game all season. If Philadelphia can’t take this one, then their season isn’t only over. But, it may be time to reevaluate the Chip Kelly experience, alltogether.

Line: Eagles by 8
Prediction: Eagles, 34-14

And now to the rest of the picks, abbreviated this week:

Last Week: 6-10
2014 Season: 101-102

San Diego Chargers (8-6) AT San Francisco 49ers (7-7) – 49ers by 1

Prediction: Chargers, 21-16

Minnesota Vikings (6-8) AT Miami Dolphins (7-7) – Dolphins by 6.5

Prediction: Dolphins, 27-17

Baltimore Ravens (9-5) AT Houston Texans (7-7) – Ravens by 6

Prediction: Ravens, 29-10

Detroit Lions (10-4) AT Chicago Bears (5-9) – Lions by 9.5

Prediction: Lions, 30-16

Cleveland Browns (7-7) AT Carolina Panthers (5-8-1) – Panthers by 4

Prediction: Browns, 17-14

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) AT New Orleans Saints (6-8) – Saints by 6.5

Prediction: Falcons, 25-22

Green Bay Packers (10-4) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) – Packers by 11.5

Prediction: Packers, 31-20

Kansas City Chiefs (8-6) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5) – Steelers by 3

Prediction: Steelers, 26-24

New England Patriots (11-3) AT New York Jets (3-11) – Patriots by 10.5

Prediction: Patriots, 27-9

New York Giants (5-9) AT St. Louis Rams (6-8) – Rams by 6.5

Prediction: Rams, 26-11

Buffalo Bills (8-6) AT Oakland Raiders (2-12) – Bills by 6.5

Prediction: Bills, 20-17

Indianapolis Colts (10-4) AT Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – Cowboys by 3

Prediction: Colts, 38-24

Seattle Seahawks (10-4) AT Arizona Cardinals (11-3) – Seahawks by 9

Prediction: Seahawks, 17-13

Denver Broncos (11-3) AT Cincinnati Bengals (9-4-1) – Broncos by 3.5

Prediction: Broncos, 29-20

As the sun begins to set on the 2014 NFL season, the impact of each individual game becomes magnified.

chipperFor 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.

MurrayOn 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.

Following perhaps their most impressive of the season, the Philadelphia Eagles have no time to rest on their laurels.

sanchizecarrollThis 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.

connorbarwinThe 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

flaccotannehillPrediction: 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

bradycrazyPrediction: 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.

Below is Skood Sports’ take on the major sports stories of the day for 12/2/2014:

1. Kevin Durant returns to the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight vs. New Orleans

At 5-12, it’s been a tumultuous start to 2014-15 for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The loss of Durant and PG Russell Westbrook for a significant chunk of the season’s first month put them on ice early. But, both superstars are back. Just in time for their visit to Philadelphia to take on the 0-17 Sixers on Friday.

Despite their early woes, OKC is only 4.5 games out of a playoff spot. So, the return of KD tonight should be enough to see this team rise from the ashes and eventually reach the playoffs yet again.

durantOh, and tonight’s game is being played at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. Is there a worse name for a stadium/arena than that? Besides, I thought Chip Kelly was the smoothie king.

2. New College Football Playoff rankings come out tonight

I’m not huge on the new College Football Playoff. Mostly because four teams is just not enough to truly find the best team in the country. When teams like Ohio State can beat up on Tuskegee University while playing only 1 or 2 ranked teams during their entire schedule, how can they truly be considered an elite program?

If I had to make my choices, the top four would be Alabama, Oregon, FSU, and TCU. But, you know two SEC teams will get into the dance, even though one of them (Mississippi State) won’t even be playing for their conference’s championship.

In other CFB news, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze signed a new 4 year contract worth $4.5 million per season. Is there anything more pathetic than the amount that D-1 coaches are being paid these days? Freeze not only got a $1.5 million raise with this extension. But, it also rips up a previously agreed upon contract just after the first year it took affect.

3. Phillies’ Papelbon puts $6.9 million condo up for sale

papelbonerThere’s no secret that the Philadelphia Phillies want to get younger and shed salary. One way of doing that would be to unload their $13 million closer. But, despite his success on the mound, interest in Jonathan Papelbon has remained dim. Whether it’s his antics off the field; or his declining peripherals on the diamond; Ruben Amaro has found it difficult to find a taker for the veteran right hander.

Despite the fact that Papelbon is in the process of selling his home, I would be surprised if Philadelphia unloaded him this offseason. A more apropos tactic would be to hang onto “Pap” until the trade deadline, when desperate contenders would be more willing to take on the remainder of his salary.

4. Can the Flyers’ ship be righted?

Everyone knew that the Philadelphia 76ers were going to be monumentally bad this season. However, there remained a sliver of hope that the city’s hockey team, the Flyers, would be able to lift the fanbase’s morale out of the doldrums of winter blues.

With the team mired in a four game losing skid, that fairy tale appears to be dwindling fast. At 8-12-3, Philadelphia sits in 5th place in the Metro Division. As predicted, they can’t play a lick of defense. Also on the forecast was the continued decline of former star Vincent Lecavalier. Tonight, Philadelphia has decided to bench the defensively (and now offensively) challenged forward against San Jose.

Philadelphia hasn’t won in 8 consecutive road affairs. Meanwhile, San Jose is one of the worst home teams this season at 3-4-2. Something tells me tonight is the night that Philadelphia gets things turned around (at least for a day).

5. When Nick Foles returns, who starts for Philadelphia Eagles?

Mark Sanchez has been astounding since his emergence as starting quarterback of the Eagles following Nick Foles’ broken collarbone. But, has the “Sanchize’s” performance been good enough to warrant continued playing time after Foles is cleared to play?

Doctors have said that Foles could return within 2-4 weeks. Of course, that’s a flaky timeline. Two weeks would put the 3rd year pro in line to start in Washington in week 16. Four would mean he couldn’t be ready to go until the playoffs. Would Chip Kelly feel comfortable throwing Foles to the wolves in a potential make-or-break playoff game, having not played a down since week 9? Or, would the offensive guru stick with the gunslinger who got him there?

In my opinion, it all depends on when Foles is ready to go. If he can come back against Washington, Kelly should consider going back to the former Arizona Wildcat. It would give Nick at least two weeks to prepare (barring a potential bye week) for a playoff run and would eliminate the controversy of someone losing their job to injury. Granted, Foles wasn’t exactly mimicking his masterful 2013 campaign. But, he’s still this team’s starting quarterback and was, up until a month ago, believed to be their best bet for the future.

Of course, if Sanchez plays like he did on Thanksgiving and is able to beat Seattle and Dallas, all bets are off. Having two quarterbacks you’re comfortable with is a good problem to have, and Chip Kelly will do everything in his power to make sure that the right man for the job is under center when the playoffs begin next month.

Weekly NFL Playoff Predictions

(These playoff seeding predictions are based upon projections for all remaining games. Top six teams make the playoffs. Tiebreakers determined by ESPN Playoff Machine)

AFC

1. New England Patriots  – 12-4
2. Denver Broncos – 12-4
3. Indianapolis Colts – 12-4
4. Cincinnati Bengals – 10-5-1
5. Kansas City Chiefs – 10-6
6. Baltimore Ravens – 10-6
7. San Diego Chargers – 9-7
8. Pittsburgh Steelers – 9-7
9. Miami Dolphins – 9-7
10. Buffalo Bills – 9-7
11. Houston Texans – 9-7
12. Cleveland Browns – 8-8

NFC

1. Green Bay Packers – 13-3
2. Philadelphia Eagles – 12-4
3. Arizona Cardinals – 11-5
4. Atlanta Falcons – 7-9
5. Seattle Seahawks – 11-5
6. Detroit Lions – 10-6
7. Dallas Cowboys – 10-6
8. San Francisco 49ers – 10-6

Thanksgiving: 1-2
2014 Season: 79-80

Washington Redskins (3-8) AT Indianapolis Colts (7-4) – Colts by 10

andrewluckPrediction: Colts, 27-14. Indianapolis continues to get tomato can opponents late in the season. Washington going back to Colt McCoy likely signaled the end of RG3’s career there. Too bad it won’t make much of a difference for the Redskins against a far superior Indianapolis roster.

Tennessee Titans (2-9) AT Houston Texans (5-6) – Texans by 7

Prediction: Texans, 20-17. Houston’s Ryan Mallett is banged up but expected to play. Meanwhile, first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney continues to miss time with a knee injury. If Houston is to keep their thin playoff hopes alive, a win against the lowly Titans is a necessity. I doubt the Texans have what it takes offensively to blow out Tennessee. But, JJ Watt and their defense should be up for the task.

Cleveland Browns (7-4) AT Buffalo Bills (6-5) – Bills by 3.5

Prediction: Bills, 24-20. This Rust Belt battle is critical to both team’s playoff hopes. If Buffalo wins, they could put themselves in fine position for a late postseason run. Cleveland has taken things down-to-the-wire over the last few weeks, and this affair should be no different. The emotional lift of returning home to play in front of their home town crowd should be enough to carry the Bills to victory.

San Diego Chargers (7-4) AT Baltimore Ravens (7-4) – Ravens by 6.5

Prediction: Ravens, 23-20. The Chargers are one of those teams that continuously underwhelms when it matters most. I feel like they should be an easy cover here against an inconsistent Ravens team. But, the Chargers’ offense has not shown the consistency necessary to win tough road games. I’ll take the Ravens to squeak by.

New York Giants (3-8) AT Jacksonville Jaguars (1-10) – Giants by 3.5

Prediction: Giants, 28-20. It seems like ages ago that the Giants were 3-3 and everyone was buying into the hype. Now, five consecutive losses later, the Giants find their first winnable game in awhile. Whether or not they actually win will depend on Eli Manning’s ball security. But, Tom Coughlin doesn’t want his career to end with eight straight losses. I’ve got to think that the Giants will win one of these days.

Cincinnati Bengals (7-3-1) AT Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9) – Bengals by 4

Prediction: Bengals, 34-17. Every week, there’s one spread that just doesn’t make sense. This week, the playoff contending Bengals are barely favored against a Buccaneers team that is breaking new boundaries of futility. Andy Dalton may not be Mr. Clutch. But, road games in Tampa Bay are his specialty. No pressure, no hype, no problems for the Bengals.

Oakland Raiders (1-10) AT St. Louis Rams (4-7) – Rams by 6.5

Prediction: Rams, 20-10. In a matchup of two former (and perhaps future) inhabitants of Los Angeles, the Rams should have no problem with the Raiders. Even if the latter is coming off their first victory of the season. St. Louis saw their young receivers improve during last week’s loss to San Diego. Expect Shaun Hill to come up with just enough to overcome Derek Carr at home.

New Orleans Saints (4-7) AT Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4) – Steelers by 5

petersonPrediction: Steelers, 26-23. The Steelers are one of those teams that tends to play up or down to their competition. Their losses to New York and Tampa Bay this season are examples of that. Meanwhile, the Saints remain somehow right in the thick of things in the NFC South. I’d think that Pittsburgh’s run game is the difference in this matchup. But, that they’ll keep the Saints in it until the very end.

Carolina Panthers (3-7-1) AT Minnesota Vikings (4-7) – Vikings by 2.5

Prediction: Vikings, 26-24. The Carolina Panthers are just a mesmerizing team. They still have the core of a defense that ranked up near the top last year. But, that unit is now teetering near the bottom of the NFL. Cam Newton, meanwhile, has no weapons to work with outside of Kelvin Benjamin and the injuries are beginning to mount up. Minnesota isn’t looking much better. But, the HFA factor should be enough to give them a narrow win in this clunker.

Arizona Cardinals (9-2) AT Atlanta Falcons (4-7) – Cardinals by 2.5

Prediction: Cardinals, 17-13. Hammer the under on this one. Arizona can’t seem to get out of their own way offensively with Drew Stanton under center. Meanwhile, the Falcons are 0-7 outside of the NFC South. Arizona’s defense is still stout, and I would never bet on Matt Ryan to dissect a unit this profound.

New England Patriots (9-2) AT Green Bay Packers (8-3) – Packers by 3

brayrodgersPrediction: Packers, 28-19. Boston’s overconfidence this weekend is another example of classic Patriot fans. As their fanbase charts their Super Bowl parade, the New England Patriots face their stiffest competition yet. Something tells me they’ll be calling for Brady’s head like they were two weeks ago when New England gets flattened by the buzzsaw that is the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau.

Denver Broncos (8-3) AT Kansas City Chiefs (7-4) – Broncos by 1.5

Prediction: Chiefs, 27-24. I’ve gone back-and-forth on this one for awhile. Kansas City is a tough out at home, and they have to be fuming following their Thursday night loss to Oakland. Denver, meanwhile, has looked incredibly beatable over the last few weeks. This is the Chiefs’ chance to put themselves in position for a division title. Something tells me that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Miami Dolphins (6-5) AT New York Jets (2-9) – Dolphins by 7

Prediction: Dolphins, 28-13. The Geno Smith experiment resumes, as the 2nd year QB replaces Michael Vick under center for the Jets. That’s unlikely to help New York very much down the stretch, as the Rex Ryan farewell tour returns to New Jersey for a primetime matchup with Miami. Ryan Tannehill and Co. blew a golden opportunity last weekend against Denver. They won’t have much of a problem with the lowly Jets.

The home stretch begins with a battle in Big D.

boykinanddezFor the first time since 1989, the Philadelphia Eagles will duel with their wretched rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on Thanksgiving. The Bounty Bowl, as it’s become known over time, further fueled a century’s worth of hate between these two bitter nemesis. Tomorrow, that storied battle will continue, with new faces joining familiar ones on both sides of the war.

Tony Romo is back. As is DeMarco Murray (the NFL’s leading rusher), Dez Bryant, and head coach Jason Garrett. But, it’s newcomers like OG Zach Martin that have propelled Dallas to a tie atop the NFC East. For the Cowboys, the season’s final 5 games aren’t about merely making the playoffs. It’s about ushering out two decades worth of failure. Since 1997, Dallas has won just one postseason game. That level of mediocrity, especially for America’s Team, has left a sour taste in the mouths of owner Jerry Jones and the Dallas fanbase.

Against Philadelphia, the Cowboys may face their stiffest test all season long. That’s because the much maligned defensive unit has not had the opportunity to do battle with an offense as dynamic as the Eagles’ can be.The best offense the Cowboys have faced this year might be New Orleans, and even that is stretching it considering the Saints’ performance this year. The Cowboys’ wins all come at the expense of teams with bottom 15 passing games. Something that they won’t have the luxury of facing on Thursday.

romo2It’s not as though Dallas can rely on home field advantage getting them by, either. All three of Dallas’ defeats this season have come at AT&T Stadium, including losses in their last two games. The Cowboys may have put up 30+ points six times this year. But, 2/3 of those performances came away from The Lone Star State. For some reason, the Cowboys are being painted by the media as a true contender. Despite the fact that their futility at home has been clear. Upcoming home games against playoff contenders Philadelphia and Indianapolis will do little to remedy the problem.

On the other side, you have the Eagles. Philadelphia’s road woes have been well documented. The Eagles’ last road effort (if you can even call it that), resulted in a blowout defeat at the hands of the Packers. All three of Chip Kelly’s losses this season have come away from The City of Brotherly Love. Granted, two of those three losses came by four or fewer points.

Offensively, the Eagles will rely on the three-headed monster of McCoy, Sproles, and Polk to set up the play action pass for Mark Sanchez. The former New York Jets QB has been efficient for the Eagles. Even if his turnover ratio continues to be consistently disappointing, the Eagles have proven throughout 2014 that they can still escape thanks to a takeaway hungry defense and the best special teams in the NFL. I’d expect a few “Romo Specials” against a hungry Philly D and some fireworks from the special teams, as well. After all, Dallas has some of the worst return and coverage units in the NFL.

All in all, it’s an exciting time at the top of the NFC East and the winner of Thursday’s affair will have a leg up on the loser for the division crown and a home playoff game. For Philadelphia, a victory on Thanksgiving would put them one game up and 3-0 in the division with a home battle against Dallas looming in two weeks. It’s not a must win for either. But, tomorrow’s action will have a large role in the eventual fate of both teams.

Line: Cowboys by 3.5
Prediction: Eagles, 27-23

And now to the rest of Thursday’s action:

Last Week: 7-8
2014 Season: 78-78

Chicago Bears (5-6) AT Detroit Lions (7-4) – Lions by 7

Matthew+Stafford+Chicago+Bears+v+Detroit+Lions+obgu7EAHgmRlPrediction: Lions, 20-14. The spread’s a little large for my liking considering that Detroit hasn’t scored a touchdown in three weeks. It’s a must win game for both, really. Chicago will be virtually eliminated if they lose again. Meanwhile, Detroit returns home after going through the gauntlet of facing the best teams in each conference in back-to-back weeks (Arizona and New England) on road. Matt Stafford’s inconsistency will continue to show. But, it’s the Lions who will escape Ford Field with a much-needed win.

Seattle Seahawks (7-4) AT San Francisco 49ers (7-4) – 49ers by 1

Prediction: 49ers, 17-14. The first rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game pits two Western Division opponents battling for their playoff lives. Each of these teams would love a split in their home-and-home series. But, even that might not be enough to get both into the playoffs in a crowded NFC. Seattle on the road is a much different animal than at home (2-3 record). The 49ers’ defense, meanwhile, is now healthy. I reckon they’re on a similar level to Seattle’s at this point. If Colin Kaepernick can exercise the demons that have haunted him since last January, he and the 49ers will be inching their way back to the playoffs soon enough.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks

Total and complete domination.

fletcherThat’s what we saw on Sunday in Green Bay. The Philadelphia Eagles, leaders of the NFC East, were utterly eviscerated by Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in front of a packed Lambeau Field crowd, 53-20. This game was never even close. The Packers, with their four Super Bowl titles, made the Eagles’ defense look like the NFL equivalent of the Bad News Bears. The offense, hampered by turnovers, wasn’t much better. At one point, I was pretty sure Chip Kelly’s head was going to explode.

But, this is the NFL. If one focuses too much on the failures of the past, the future will turn too dim to see.

This weekend, the Eagles get the good fortune of what some would call a “tomato can” opponent. That is, someone that the Eagles should fully dent, ding, and dismantle. That’s because the Tennessee Titans come to town for a 1:00 PM start at Lincoln Financial Field. The Titans, far from their glory days of Steve McNair and Eddie George, come into this week’s affair with a 2-8 record. Their defense can’t stop the run (though we heard that about Green Bay, as well) and the offense is led by a sixth round rookie. Anything less than a blowout victory will likely result in the city of Philadelphia’s immediate destruction. I kid the City of Brotherly Love. After all, if they didn’t burn the city to the ground after the 2002 NFC Championship Game, then nothing will send them to Vancouver type levels of despair.

hi-res-ee235b0914cb5dcc07dac48060263c45_crop_northStill, the psyche of the Philadelphia fanbase is teetering on edge. They know what daunting tasks lay ahead of their team. Following their matchup with Tennessee, the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys twice and the defending champion Seattle Seahawks all in the course of 17-days. That’s a whole lot of talent that Philadelphia has to regroup for. Thankfully, two of those games will be played at home, where the Eagles are a perfect 5-0 this season.

Philadelphia should have no problem for Tennessee. While the Titans looked decent in losing 27-24 to Pittsburgh on Monday; it’s well documented that the Steelers play down to their opponents (losses to Tampa Bay and New York). Zach Mettenberger will make a plethora of mistakes, and those problems are undoubtedly going to lead to Eagles points. Expect a solid, bounce back performance from Philadelphia.

It’s what comes after this Sunday that Philadelphia fans are worried about.

Line: Eagles by 11
Prediction: Eagles, 41-17.

Let’s see if I can recover…

Last Week: 4-10
Best Pick: Bengals over Saints, 33-24
2014 Season: 71-70

Kansas City Chiefs (7-3) AT Oakland Raiders (0-10) – Chiefs by 7.5

Prediction: Chiefs, 24-7. Am I dreaming with the spread being this low. If I were a gambler (ahem), I’d be putting a solid amount of money on KC here. I know Thursday night is fluky. But, it’s the 0-10 Raiders against a Chiefs team that just beat the Seahawks. I know it’s a short week and there’s a chance for a letdown. But, this is still a big rivalry and the black hole is just that, sucking all the talent out of the Raiders. Chiefs and this is my stone cold mortal lock.

Cleveland Browns (6-4) AT Atlanta Falcons (4-6) – Falcons by 3.5

Prediction: Falcons, 20-17. I don’t love the half-point here. Falcons are a very good home team, even though their 2-2 record wouldn’t suggest it. Meanwhile, Cleveland just lost to Houston and Ryan Mallett on Sunday. The Browns are the more complete team. But, they’re still from Cleveland. It would be a real Browns move to continue the second half swoon by putting the suddenly soaring Falcons closer to respectability (and keep their hold on first place in the NFC South).

Detroit Lions (7-3) AT New England Patriots (8-2) – Patriots by 7

RobGrnkPrediction: Patriots, 21-17. People in New England are sleeping on the Lions similarly to the way teams would sleep on the Browns. Detroit doesn’t exactly have the greatest of track records, and I don’t think they go into Foxboro and beat the Patriots. However, I do like their defense, primarily the defensive line. New England’s line had trouble at times last week and has been average most of the year. Most of Detroit’s games seem to go down to the wire. So, why should this be any different.

Green Bay Packers (7-3) AT Minnesota Vikings (4-6) – Packers by 10

Prediction: Packers, 27-16. Green Bay at home is a little different than Green Bay on the road. Still, the Vikings’ offense hasn’t gelled this season. That’s not surprising considering the fact that they lost their best player (Adrian Peterson) and have gotten subpar QB play (Matt Cassel, Teddy Bridgewater). That won’t chance against the Packers, who are suddenly very close to being in first place and grabbing a potential bye week in the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) AT Indianapolis Colts (6-4) – Colts by 14

Prediction: Colts, 30-13. Jacksonville comes into this one 0-5 on the road and winless in the AFC South. The Jaguars haven’t been dumpster fires over the last few weeks. But, their offense has scored more than 17-points only twice all season. I don’t really see that changing against a Colts team that got embarrassed at times by the Patriots last week. Andrew Luck will have a huge day, as usual.

Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1) AT Houston Texans (5-5) – Texans by 1.5

Prediction: Bengals, 24-20. Really? The Texans are the favorites in this game? Cincinnati is the much better team and this game is at 1:00 PM, so Andy Dalton won’t wet his pants. Ryan Mallett had a nice debut against the Browns. But, he’ll find Cleveland’s Ohio neighbors to be less kind.

 New York Jets (2-8) AT Buffalo Bills (5-5) – Bills by 4

Prediction: Bills, 23-17. The location, date, and time of this game is subject to change. The torrential snowstorm in the Niagara area being the reason for that. However, little makes me think that the lowly Jets can go on the road (0-4 this season) and beat a Bills team clinging to their playoff lives.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8) AT Chicago Bears (4-6) – Bears by 6

Prediction: Bears, 27-17. Chicago’s offense finally showed glimpses of their former success last week. If they hope to make a run at the playoffs, the Bears will need that to continue for Jay Cutler. If they want to beat the Buccaneers, the Bears probably just have to show up on Sunday. Granted, both of Tampa’s wins have come on the road this season. But, I think last weekend’s blowout of Washington was probably the pinnacle of their 2014 campaign.

Arizona Cardinals (9-1) AT Seattle Seahawks (6-4) – Seahawks by 7

Prediction: Seahawks, 23-20. This spread seems entirely one-sided considering the records and trajectory of each team coming into this weekend. Granted, Seattle has been thoroughly predictable (4-1 at home, 2-3 on the road). But, it’s Arizona that continues to shock the world, winning games even without Carson Palmer’s leadership. I think they’ll have trouble coming out of Seattle with a victory for the second straight season. But, covering a way too large 7 point spread shouldn’t be a problem.

St. Louis Rams (4-6) AT San Diego Chargers (6-4) – Chargers by 4.5

Prediction: Chargers, 16-10. San Diego’s offense hasn’t exactly been awe-inspiring of late. They’re also facing a Rams defense that limited Peyton Manning and the Broncos to 7 points last week. But, that was at home, and St. Louis is a much better team when they’re playing inside the dome. Philip Rivers and the Chargers know this is a critical game if they hope to grab an AFC Wild Card. They’ll hold on.

Miami Dolphins (6-4) AT Denver Broncos (7-3) – Broncos by 7.5

Denver Broncos v St. Louis RamsPrediction: Broncos, 30-20. I know that Denver hasn’t looked very good their last three weeks (1-2 over that span). But, they return home in week 12, where they haven’t lost all season. Miami, meanwhile, has been a solid road team this season. I think they’ll manage to keep this one close enough to make it a worthwhile watch. But, Peyton and Co. are just too powerful on offense.

Washington Redskins (3-7) AT San Francisco 49ers (6-4) – San Francisco by 9.5

Prediction: 49ers, 26-14. The Redskins are an absolute mess. Infighting and inconsistency has Jay Gruden’s seat getting warmer by the day. 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is used to that feeling. Though, with a win, his team will be right in the thick of the wild card race. Expect the 49ers’ solid defense to limit the hapless Redskins all evening.

Dallas Cowboys (7-3) AT New York Giants (3-7) – Cowboys by 3.5

Prediction: Cowboys, 27-23. This spread is pretty low. But, it’s a divisional game on the road in the cold. Dallas has had some problems with those in the past. I don’t think the Cowboys will be tripped up on Sunday by a reeling Giants team. But, their real problems begin four days later, when they have to return home on short, short rest to take on the Eagles for the lead in the NFC East.

Baltimore Ravens (6-4) AT New Orleans Saints (4-6) – Saints by 3

Prediction: Ravens, 25-23. This is the third consecutive game that New Orleans has been favored at home despite their pathetic performances there. I reckon that trend will continue. The Ravens are coming off of their bye and should be refreshed. Expect a big day from Joe Flacco, who has quietly put together a solid campaign.