Things are getting quite interesting in the NFL, and the last four weeks (as usual) will determine a lot. Here’s the most meaningful games in week 14.
Thursday Night Football: Raiders @ Chiefs
This game will likely determine the winner of the best division in all of football. The 10-2 Raiders currently hold a one-game lead over the 9-3 Chiefs in the AFC West, and both teams are absolutely rolling right now. The Chiefs have won 10 of their last 11 home games; they’ve only lost three regular season games in their last 20 played. The Raiders are on a six-game winning streak, and they’ve secured their first winning season since going 11-5 and losing in the Super Bowl in 2002.
Despite both teams playing lights out, they both still have flaws.
The Chiefs, led by QB Alex Smith, are known to be conservative on offense, but nearly flawless in terms of efficiency. They lead the league in takeaways, but rarely turn the ball over. They’re only 22nd in yards per game, but 15th in points per game.
The Raiders are in the top 5 in both points scored and yards recorded, but they’re also in the bottom 10 in both points and yards allowed against them. While they’ve discovered ways to create turnovers recently, they are still visibly exploitable on defense.
This is a tough matchup for both teams. The Raiders are traveling to Kansas City on short rest, while the Chiefs are coming off back-to-back road wins (one being in OT on SNF), and are traveling back home to face yet another elite offense (beat Falcons Sunday by one point).
I think we’d all rather this game be played on Sunday, but for a change, it’s a really good Thursday night matchup. I think the Chiefs win to tie the division, but the Raiders have exceeded expectations all season long. Should be a good one…
Seahawks @ Packers (4:25 p.m.)
“What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers? Should they fire their head coach? Is Rodgers passed his prime? Why doesn’t he talk to his family?” These questions were basically played on loop in the midst of the Pack’s four-game losing streak, but they say “winning cures all” for a reason.
The Packers have now won two straight and find themselves in the thick of the NFC playoff picture. At 6-6 and with the Lions in control of the NFC North, they likely have to win out to secure a wildcard spot. Sunday will likely be their toughest matchup against a Seahawks team that just dominated the Panthers on primetime Sunday night.
The Seahawks, though, took a big loss during their rout of the Panthers. All-world safety Earl Thomas broke his leg and is out for the year, and that surely diminishes their dominant defense. I expect a really good game between two tank franchises that know how to play in December. This should be the best game of Sunday, unless the Giants show up later that night…
Sunday Night Football: Cowboys @ Giants
The Giants are coming off a disappointing loss to the Steelers on Sunday, but have a great chance to prove their legitimacy against the best team in the league. The Cowboys come in winning 11 straight. Their last and only loss of the season? To the Giants on opening day.
The Cowboys clinched a playoff spot Sunday, but can clinch the division with a win Sunday night. The Giants, now 8-4, need a win to get back on track. These two teams always play in classic showdowns, and I expect no different Sunday night with so much on the line.
I personally don’t think the Giants are very good. Seven of their eight wins were decided by one possession, and their only two-score win was against the winless Browns. I’m not impressed, but if they beat the Cowboys Sunday night, that would change a lot of people’s minds. I don’t forsee it happening, especially with JPP missing from the Giants defensive line. I say the Boys wrap the division up on Sunday night for some revenge, and the Giants find themselves in a December free fall.
Other Notable Games
Redskins @ Eagles
- The Redskins need a win to stay alive in the playoff hunt, while the Eagles will surely try to spoil any chance of that happening.
Cardinals @ Dolphins
- Must-win games for both teams trying desperately to stay alive in the playoff hunt in their respective conferences.
Broncos @ Titans
- The Broncos have struggled as of late, while the Titans have been inconsistent all year. Both are still alive, and, you guessed it: this game will determine a lot in terms of their playoff admirations.
Saints @ Bucs
- The Saints are likely done after losing at home Sunday to the Lions, while the Bucs seem to be hitting on all cylinders at the right time. They need a win to keep momentum going, but Drew Brees will be on a mission to ruin that.
Ravens @ Patriots
- This game won’t have too much of an affect on the playoff picture, but these two teams don’t like each other. This is a classic battle between two storied franchises that historically play well in December; a nice Monday night game to cap off what should be an interesting Sunday.