Last week’s Cheat Sheet predicted a Jaguars win over the Broncos. I pushed the chips to the center of the table. Blake Bortles, as has been the case with the Jaguars all season, just couldn’t give me enough for the victory. Let’s get at it for Week 14.
Week 13 record: 9-6
Overall record: 116-74-2
Thearon W. HendersonGetty Images
Week 14 trivia question
The last time the Chargers finished in fourth place in the AFC West in consecutive years were the 2000 and 2001 seasons. Who were the Week 1 starting quarterbacks for those squads? (Answer below the picks.)
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Thursday night: Raiders at Chiefs
Watching the Raiders each and every week, you get the feeling this could very well be a team of destiny; one that’s just special enough to take this magical run and turn it into a magical Super Bowl season. A loss Thursday night does not discount that. I just like Kansas City in this one. The Chiefs are playing great football, too, that stadium will be nuts, and the Raiders losing now might not be the worst thing in the world as they head toward a final three-game stretch and the playoffs. Alex Smith may be a “game manager”, whatever that is, but I’d take it. The guy just wins.
The pick: Chiefs 22, Raiders 16
Sunday: Steelers at Bills
Must win for the Bills, and in recent years these have been losses. This one, on paper, seems like a good situation. Home game. Bad weather. Crowd should be frosty (and frothy). But the Steelers have won five straight over Buffalo, and they’ve outscored the Bills 117-56 in those five outings. The last time the Bills beat the Steelers (1999), Kordell Stewart and Doug Flutie were the quarterbacks. If the Bills are a playoff team, they win this game. I’m just not sure I see it.
The pick: Steelers 30, Bills 20
Jason Bridge-USA TODAY SportsJason Bridge
Sunday: Broncos at Titans
Denver hasn’t looked the part the past few weeks, but the Broncos are still very much alive in the AFC West. Marcus Mariota has two or more touchdowns in eight straight games, but I think it comes to an end Sunday. The No Fly Zone made the most of Blake Bortles’ few mistakes, and Mariota usually has one or two per game. Mariota has never thrown a red-zone interception (32 touchdowns, zero picks), but he hasn’t faced defensive backs like these guys. Denver, in a must win, will show a champion’s mentality. Sounds cliché, but sometimes that’s just how it goes.
The pick: Broncos 20, Titans 16
Getty ImagesDustin Bradford
Sunday: Redskins at Eagles
The Eagles are going through some issues right now. The wide receivers certainly aren’t the best group in the league, the team failed to show up for last week’s game against Cincinnati and the defense just got torched by Cody Core, Alex Ericson and Rex Burkhead. What’s going to happen when they see the high-flying Redskins? If Washington can’t get this win Sunday, the Redskins might want to start thinking about next year, too.
The pick: Redskins 34, Eagles 20
Sunday: Cardinals at Dolphins
Can we take a moment to appreciate what David Johnson is doing this season? He’s only the second player in NFL history to have 100-plus scrimmage yards in his first 12 games of a season (Edgerrin James being the other), he leads the league in total touchdowns, and he now has a receiving touchdown in four straight games. This is historic stuff. The reigning NFC Offensive Player of the Week should have another big game Sunday in Florida. The Dolphins need a win in the worst way possible. I like the Cards.
The pick: Cardinals 34, Dolphins 19
Sunday: Vikings at Jaguars
If the Vikings were looking to “get right” after a tough loss last Thursday, they found no better destination on the NFL circuit than Jacksonville this season. The Jags just can’t get over the hump, and with Jacksonville already eliminated from playoff contention, already in the books for a sixth straight season of 10 or more losses and already on pace to have the worst turnover margin in the team’s history I just don’t see it suddenly pulling it all together and beating anyone this weekend. The Vikings played Dallas tough. There’s too much pride in that locker room to go away quietly into the NFC North night these final few weeks.
The pick: Vikings 24, Jaguars 20
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportsBrace Hemmelgarn
Sunday: Texans at Colts
My upset special of the week! The Colts looked like Super Bowl contenders Monday night in New Jersey, and the Texans can’t seem to get out of their own way in road games. And yet, I love the Texans to complete the season sweep of the Colts this weekend. If Houston is going to win the AFC South, it will require wins Sunday in Indianapolis and in Week 17 at Tennessee. The Texans are one of five teams in the league to still not score 30 points in a game this season, but I think they do this weekend. Indianapolis’ defense — stout Monday night — will be without its heart and soul in D'Qwell Jackson, who was suspended for the final four weeks of the season. I’ll take the Texans in a must-have-it game.
The pick: Texans 34, Colts 27
Sunday: Chargers at Panthers
I think everyone’s over the Cam Newton tie story, and quite truly, I think the Panthers use the story line as a reason to block distractions and focus on a five-win team coming into their building. Teams that start 5-8 have made the playoffs just 1 percent of the time since 1990. I don’t think Carolina gets into that hole. The Panthers — led by Newton — find a way.
The pick: Panthers 36, Chargers 27
Sunday: Bengals at Browns
The Browns are 31st in the league in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense and third-down defense, and 32nd in sacks. I watched a Bengals team light up the sky last week versus the Eagles. Trust me, the Bengals aren't going to take their foot off the pedal and let Hue Jackson — their old offensive coordinator — catch them napping. The Bengals — albeit a long shot — still believe they’re alive and well in the playoff chase. They’ll handle their business.
The pick: Bengals 33, Browns 22
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Sunday: Bears at Lions
Matt Barkley has played well, but playoff teams win home games they need to win in Detroit. The Lions have not won five straight games since 2011. I think they get there this weekend, but a three-week stretch that includes the Giants, Cowboys and Packers is up ahead.
The pick: Lions 24, Bears 20
Crystal LoGiudiceCrystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor
Sunday: Jets at 49ers
I’m not sure what either fan base wants in this one, but I do know both coaches will have their teams coached up. It's been an emotional few days for 49ers coach Chip Kelly with the passing of his father, and I think he comes away with a "W" on Sunday. Jets fans thought the nadir was Monday night. I can see this one going poorly, too.
The pick: 49ers 23, Jets 17
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sunday: Saints at Buccaneers
I’ll be on the sideline for FOX on this broadcast and can’t wait to see how the Tampa Bay fans welcome back their conquering heroes after yet another cross-country flight and win on the West Coast. The last time Tampa Bay was in first place this late into the season Jon Gruden was the head coach and Jeff Garcia — Jeff Garcia! — was the quarterback. The Buccaneers are getting contributions from unlikely sources, and their team is galvanized. It feels like something real. And with Dallas next week on Sunday night, the Bucs need to take care of their business in this one. I believe they do.
The pick: Buccaneers 29, Saints 23
Kevin C. Cox
Sunday: Falcons at Rams
Weird few weeks for the Los Angeles Rams. Heck, weird season. Todd Gurley never got going, the Jeff Fisher contract extension was never formally announced by the team (only confirmed), and there’s the whole Eric Dickerson thing still lingering. It’d be great to get a win. I just don’t see that happening. The Falcons still believes they can win the NFC South, and why shouldn’t they?
The pick: Falcons 20, Rams 14
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Sunday: Seahawks at Packers
There are a lot of great games this weekend, but this might be the most intriguing of all. I like the Packers, at home in December, in an absolute must win. Green Bay has beaten Seattle the past four times they’ve played in Lambeau, and without Earl Thomas I can see Aaron Rodgers having one of those days. The Seahawks still lead the Cardinals by three games in the NFC West standings. This is do or die for the Packers. The stakes are too high to lay an egg. Give me Green Bay.
The pick: Packers 24, Seahawks 20
Sunday night: Cowboys at Giants
The Jason Pierre-Paul injury news is not merely a bottom-line ticker deal. This is huge. And I think it starts rearing its head Sunday night in the worst of fashions. In addition to being an expert pass rusher, the Week 11 NFC Defensive Player of the Week is also one of the better run defenders in the game. JPP also happenesto be one of just four Giants on the roster who was on that 2011 Super Bowl team. There are big losses (Gronk; Jordan Reed). Then, there are losses like this. I don’t know if the Giants can beat Dallas without Pierre-Paul. Desperation game or not.
The pick: Cowboys 27, Giants 20
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Monday night: Ravens at Patriots
Alright, I’m convinced. Baltimore is for real. I had my doubts until I saw the Ravens absolutely smack around and destroy the Dolphins last week. I foolishly picked Miami to win that one. Monday night? I am really compelled to take Baltimore here. The Ravens have won multiple playoff games in Foxborough, Joe Flacco has gotten the best of Tom Brady in the past and Terrell Suggs would love nothing more than to notch a few more sacks of TB12. Baltimore is hot, is beginning to have that 2013 swagger and knows the time is now with the Steelers streaking. Nothing against New England; I just think the Ravens find a way to do what most deem impossible. They’ll win.
The pick: Ravens 24, Patriots 19
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Week 14 Cheat Sheet trivia answer
The Chargers’ starting quarterbacks in Week 1 of the 2000 and 2001 season were Ryan Leaf (a 9-6 loss to New Orleans) and Doug Flutie (a 30-3 win over Washington).