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Week 14 picks include Bengals-Texans, Saints-Titans, Giants-Cowboys


NFL Week 14
 
Last week: 11-5 (.688); Season: 127-65 (.661)
 
Sunday, Dec. 11
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Indianapolis Colts (0-12) at Baltimore Ravens (9-3)
I remember covering the Colts-Ravens playoff game in Baltimore a few years ago, when Steve McNair could get nothing done for the Ravens, Peyton Manning did just enough for Indy, Adam Vinatieri had his biggest game as a Colt, and fans in the stands saw Jimmy Irsay in the press box and shook angry fists at him for his family moving the team to Indiana. Doubt there will be similar emotion this weekend. Maybe derisive laughter, but not shaking of fists.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX)Atlanta Falcons (7-5) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)
When the Panthers were preparing for the draft last year, I remember GM Marty Hurney telling me how Carolina had to enter the arms race with the rest of the division. The Saints had Drew Brees, the Bucs Josh Freeman and the Falcons Matt Ryan -- who Hurney couldn't stop talking about. So here are the Falcons with everything to play for and the Panthers playing for pride, and here is Cam Newton, Hurney's choice, with a shot to knock the Falcons' playoff chances for a loop. Who'd have thought Newton would be a peer with the quarterbacks in the division so soon?
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Houston Texans (9-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
Very tough game to call. In fact, talking to Arian Foster the other day about Texans QB T.J. Yates, he very nearly sold me that Yates could pull off Houston's third straight win with a third-string quarterback. But this is a game Cincinnati needs much more than Houston. And the last time they played, the two stars for Houston were Matt Schaub with four TD passes and Andre Johnson with eight catches. We won't see Schaub Sunday, and I don't expect we'll see Johnson. But we will see a quarterback from the Houston suburb of Katy -- Andy Dalton.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX)Minnesota Vikings (2-10) at Detroit Lions (7-5)
Vikings: 16-3 in their last 19 against Detroit. Lions: 2-0 in their last two with Vikings. The tide is turning, and will continue to do so here, mostly because the Minnesota secondary is simply not competitive. By the way, don't you think it must be weird for Ndamukong Suh to sit home (I assume in Oregon) and watch this game on TV?
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX)Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8) at Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9)
Josh Freeman returns (most likely) to face a secondary he should be able to shred. And he'd better, because the Bucs' defense is going to give up some points, even to a team with terrible quarterback play.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX)Philadelphia Eagles (4-8) at Miami Dolphins (4-8)
Mike Vick is back, and the Eagles will play a feisty game. But Miami hasn't played a bad game in two months. Average score of the Dolphins' last seven games: Miami, 24-13. Now, how wild would it be if I told you before the season that Matt Moore would beat Vick to give Miami a better record than Philadelphia after 14 weeks?
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)Kansas City Chiefs (5-7) at New York Jets (7-5)
The last time they played, three years ago, Brett Favre threw a last-minute touchdown to Laveranues Coles to win. I can't see such heroics being necessary this time, though Kansas City's D could outplay Rex's. The only problem is that Tyler Palko's the other quarterback.
 
1 p.m. ET (FOX)New Orleans Saints (9-3) at Tennessee Titans (7-5)
Hard not to love the Saints right now, and hard to think they're not destined for the Wild Card round barring the 49ers losing a game they shouldn't down the stretch. I can see the Saints running the table (at Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina) and, at 13-3, creaming someone in the first round of the playoffs. By the way, this is an obscure stat, but it says everything about the ability of Drew Brees and the chemistry of Brees and coach Sean Payton: Brees has 20 or more completions in an NFL-record 32 straight games.
 
1 p.m. ET (CBS)New England Patriots (9-3) at Washington Redskins (4-8)
Maybe the Patriots don't need wide receivers to win. Just throw it to Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez all day. And one point about Washington, in the lust to fire the Shanahans and start over: Whatever you think of the job Mike and Kyle Shanahan have done (and, obviously, it hasn't been good), it strikes me as dumb that they'd get whacked just before the Redskins take their quarterback of the future, which these two men were hired to shepherd.
 
4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)Chicago Bears (7-5) at Denver Broncos (7-5)
So much about this game would have been different if Jay Cutler were playing in it. Like, the outcome. As it is, Tim Tebow's the pick to win his seventh game in eight starts.
 
4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)San Francisco 49ers (10-2) at Arizona Cardinals (5-7)
No Patrick Willis? No problem. Well, not exactly. But the Niners will figure out a way, and NaVorro Bowman will show what a great player he is, as the Niners survive on the road without their hamstrung defensive leader.
 
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS)Oakland Raiders (7-5) at Green Bay Packers (12-0)
Jacoby Ford, Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore. Those three men stand in the way of the Raiders making this a great football game, because they're likely to be sidelined again as the Broncos threaten to pass Oakland by. In other news, the Packers quietly will advance to 13-0, and Mike McCarthy will quietly decline to discuss whether Green Bay will go all-in to finish 16-0.
 
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS)Buffalo Bills (5-7) at San Diego Chargers (5-7)
Philip Rivers, reborn. Chargers playoff hopes, reborn. But for San Diego to have a prayer of making up two games in the last four weeks, a couple of things are going to have to happen. One: The Chargers will have to survive a rougher slate (Buffalo, Baltimore, at Detroit, at Oakland) than Oakland or Denver has. Two: Norv Turner's got to find a Tim Tebow voodoo doll.
 
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)New York Giants (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
This is the first of four playoff games for the Giants. Could they lose one and still win the NFC East? Yes, but that's where it gets complicated. I'll tell you what's strange about the NFC East race: The Giants are in it, they're on a four-game losing streak, and they're 3-6 in conference games. The reason I like them here? Ahmad Bradshaw's return gives them a chance to NOT have Eli Manning need a 375-yard game for New York to win.
 
Monday, Dec. 12
 
8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)St. Louis Rams (2-10) at Seattle Seahawks (5-7)
With the Eastern Seaboard watching Chevy Chase and that wacky squirrel wreaking havoc on the Griswold family Christmas, Tarvaris Jackson gets the Seahawks to 6-7 behind a patchwork offensive line in a game only Ron Jaworski could love.
 
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