FOX Sports South walks the plank of potential embarrassment by chronicling seven bold predictions for NFL Week 14 -- traditionally the first week of the fantasy playoffs -- an ambitious gallery that could be way off the mark come Monday night. There's no fear of failure here, though. Just educated guesses. (Photos: Mike Dinovo/Ron Chenoy/Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
Repeat The Feat
BOLD PREDICTION #1: The Bears will handle the Cowboys by 17-plus points -- again ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Since Week 8, opposing offenses have averaged 392 yards against the Cowobys. 2) In that span, the Dallas offense has tallied 17 or fewer points three times. 3) Bears QB Jay Cutler should be motivated to match Josh McCown's 348-yard, four-TD effort against the Cowboys last year. Many Chicago fans wanted the franchise to keep McCown then -- and boot Cutler. 4) Of the previous six seasons (2008-13), the Cowboys are 9-15 in December. That gloomy figure includes the Bears' 45-28 home rout last year. 5) Matt Forte (above), who crushed the Cowboys for 175 total yards/1 TD last season, has rolled for 100 total yards and/or one TD seven times since Week 4. 6) The Bears (5-7) need a victory here. This is their de facto Super Bowl.
Return Of A Jedi
BOLD PREDICTION #2: Fleet-footed Dexter McCluster will produce Tennessee's first punt-return TD of the year ... BACKSTORY: The Titans are one of 21 teams to be without at least one kick- or punt-return touchdown. REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) With the Chiefs last season, McCluster tallied two punt-return scores -- including an 89-yard gem against the Giants (Tennessee's Week 14 foe), where he backpedaled to field the ball, spun away from the initial defender and then sidestepped three more would-be tacklers while sprinting to the end zone. 2) The offensively challenged Titans, who have averaged only 18 points since Week 6, could use a special-teams spark to end their six-game slide.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY SportsMatthew Emmons
A Drastic Reduction
BOLD PREDICTION #3: Ryan Fitzpatrick will toss five fewer TDs than last week ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) The Texans QB deserves kudos for his six touchdowns against the Titans -- while singlehandedly boosting the fantasy profile of DeAndre Hopkins (nine catches, 238 yards, two TDs) to absurdly high levels. (It can only go down from here.) 2) Of the six previous times he has tossed four or more TDs in a single game (excluding Week 13), Fitzpatrick has had deflating averages of 177 yards passing/1 TD in his next start. 3) The Jaguars (Houston's Week 14 foe) didn't allow a single 300-yard passing day for October/November. 4) In that eight-game span, Jacksonville has surrendered only nine passing TDs.
BOLD PREDICTION #4: Frank Gore will score twice against the rival Raiders ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) The Raiders currently possess the NFL's 27th-ranked rush defense (131 yards per game). In fact, that '131' figure also stands as Oakland's average rushing yards allowed since Week 9. 2) Citing the last 50 months (dating back to October 2010), Gore has posted multiple TDs three times -- and each occurrence came on the road (Atlanta, Tennessee, London). 3) Prior to scorching the Raiders for 164 total yards and three TDs last week, Rams rookie Tre Mason had just one career touchdown. 4) Gore, who only had 11 touches against the Seahawks last week, should be primed for a redemptive Sunday.
USA TODAY SportsKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
First Time For Everything
BOLD PREDICTION #5: Carolina's Jerricho Cotchery will break through with his first score of the season ... BACKSTORY: Cotchery (34 catches, 453 yards) has been a disappointment with the Panthers, on the heels of his 10-TD campaign with the Jets in 2013. On paper, going from Geno Smith to Cam Newton seemed like a massive upgrade. REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Among 2014 wideouts, Cotchery has collected the second-most receiving targets (63) without scoring a touchdown -- second only to Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe. 2) Earlier against the Saints (the Panthers' Week 14 foe), Cotchery tallied his second-highest receiving-yardage output of the season -- 59. 3) In their last three games, the Saints have allowed six receiving touchdowns. 4) Cotchery's long overdue for some end-zone paydirt, even if last year's 10-spot was a statistical anomaly.
The New Desert Fox
BOLD PREDICTION #6: Jamaal Charles will collect at least 160 total yards against the stingy-against-the-run Cardinals ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Of his last eight meetings with NFC foes, Charles holds supreme per-game tallies of 134 total yards/1.1 TDs. 2) The Chiefs, losers of two straight, need to step up their commitment to Charles, who garnered only 14 touches last week. 3) Steven Jackson demystified that defense on Sunday, becoming the first tailback to rush for 100 yards against Arizona this season. 4) Since Week 4, spanning nine games, Charles has absurdly racked up 1,275 yards and 12 scores -- for per-outing averages of 142 total yards/1.3 TDs. 5) Citing his last complete game indoors (September 2012), Charles burned the Saints for 288 total yards (233 rushing) and one TD.
BOLD PREDICTION #7: Ravens-Dolphins will end up as the weekend's highest-scoring game ... REASONS TO BELIEVE: 1) Baltimore tailback Justin Forsett (right) has amassed 425 total yards and four TDs in his last three games (two Ravens wins). 2) Tailback Lamar Miller (left) has tallied 98 total yards and/or one TD in all five Miami home games. 3) QBs Joe Flacco (Ravens) and Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) are both decent bets for 4,000 yards passing/26 TDs. 4) Since Week 4, Baltimore and Miami have racked up 27-plus points five times apiece. 5) The Ravens -- the NFL's 31st-ranked pass defense -- have surrendered staggering airborne averages of 331 yards and 3.3 TDs in their last four outings ... and that includes a 179-yard clunker from Titans rookie QB Zach Mettenberger. (Photos: Ron Chenoy/Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)