NFL Talkboard: week 14
Plenty to talk about in the NFL this week as we steam toward the playoffs, but one of the most intriguing stories, in my opinion, to come out this week was related to a game that is still a good 10 months away. The League announced on Wednesday that , meaning 9.30am on the East Coast of the US.
Some mooted that this was another step in the league’s plan to see if a London franchise could be viable. Perhaps, but the more immediate thought that crossed my mind was that this was simply a clever move to dominate the Sunday TV schedule more than they already do. Fans on the east coast (and maybe even one or two early risers on the west coast) will be able to watch four games that day, back-to-back-to-back-to-back.
Of course, it also plays well to the fans who will actually be attending. People travel to the International Series games from all over the UK, and some of them even from across Europe. The opportunity to leave Wembley and catch a train or plane home the same day will appeal.
Anyway, certainly interested to hear more takes on this. Let me know what you think in the comments section below. In the meantime, I need to say congratulations to Cameldancer, elarkin, Tait80 and thedarrenhudson for correctly predicting the results of all six games in our Pick Six competition last week. And I am going to pat myself on the back for doing the same as well.
Before we get into this week’s games, here’s a reminder to join Hunter Felt and myself for seven hours of from 1pm ET/6pm GMT on Sunday. We’ll also be back on Tuesday with our look back over all the weekend’s action.
So, without further ado:
Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets (Sunday 1pm ET/6pm GMT)
Oh, how the Jets would love to get back to their old win-one-lose-one routine. New York were 5-4 going into their week 10 bye, but since then have lost three straight, their playoff hopes receding rapidly amid defeats to Buffalo, Baltimore and Miami. Head coach Rex Ryan stated early in the week that he would stick with rookie quarterback Geno Smith, despite yanking the player at half-time during the loss to the Dolphins. Smith has thrown just one touchdown and 11 interceptions in his last six games. And yet it is hard to feel good about picking this 4-8 Raiders ream to win on the road, playing in the 1pm time slot after travelling west to east. I will do it anyway, but I am certainly not confident about it.
Raiders to win
Detroit Lions @ Philadelphia Eagles (Sunday 1pm ET/6pm GMT)
Chip Kelly has been delighting the media all week with his colourful press conferences, telling reporters that Nick Foles would be his starting quarterback for “the next thousand years” and launching into discussions about why . But the Eagles head coach knows his team have a serious challenge coming up this Sunday. Foles has been almost flawless since taking over from Michael Vick, but the pressure will be on him to put up big numbers in what could well become a shoot-out with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. For Detroit, turnovers will be critical. They have given up 17 in the last five games, and will not get away with making those same mistakes here.
Eagles to win
Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers (Sunday 1pm ET/6pm GMT)
Will Miami wide receiver Mike Wallace show his former employers what they are missing this weekend in Pittsburgh? Will the Steelers benefit from the extra rest afforded to them from playing on Thanksgiving? Most importantly, will during Miami’s kick returns? On paper these teams match up very closely, with the only big difference being that Miami has an extra mark in the win column. Homefield advantage should help Pittsburgh to change that on Sunday.
Steelers to win
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers (Sunday 4.25pm ET/9.25pm GMT)
The Seahawks put on a show on Monday Night Football, obliterating the in what was supposed to be a much more closely contested battle for control of the NFC. They did much the same to San Francisco when they came to visit back in September, but the 49ers are playing better now than they were back then, and most importantly will be playing at home this time around. With Michael Crabtree coming back into the offense, San Francisco finally have options in the passing game, and might just be able to find some chinks in the armour of a defense that is coming off a short week.
49ers to win
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (Sunday 8.30pm ET/Monday 1.30am GMT)
From fighting for the conference’s top seed, now the Saints find themselves in a battle just to cling on to first place in the NFC South. After a run of eight straight victories, Carolina sit level with the Saints at 9-3. Two head-to-head match-ups in the next three weeks will go a long way to deciding which team walks off with the division crown – and likely also which one will get a first-round bye. After being held to just seven points by Seattle, this is another stiff test for the Saints against a Panthers defense that is giving up just 13.1 points per game. But New Orleans have not lost a home game with Sean Payton calling plays since week 17 of the 2010 season (). Even on a short week, I am not ready to go against them.
Saints to win
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears (Monday 8.40pm ET/Tuesday 1.40am GMT)
This is traditionally the time of year when the wheels start to come off for Dallas. Tony Romo has an 11-15 career record in December, and owner Jerry Jones has acknowledged this week that performing better in the final month of the regular season was one of the Cowboys’ stated goals for 2013. They are facing Chicago at the right time, the Bears stumbling to six defeats in their last nine games, including an overtime loss to stragglers Minnesota in their last game. The return of linebacker Sean Lee will provide a timely boost for the Cowboys’ defense against opponents who may run the ball a lot at a frosty Soldier Field. Just a hunch, really, but I like Dallas to land an important win on the road.
Cowboys to win
And the rest
Here are the rest of this week's games. These are not included in the Pick Six, but feel free to post your winners for these as well. If you do so then please keep them separate from your Pick Six predictions, as it will make life a lot easier when adding up your scores.
1pm ET/6pm GMT
Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals
Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers
Cleveland Browns @ New England Patriots
Buffalo Bills @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kansas City Chiefs @ Washington
Minnesota Vikings @ Baltimore Ravens
4.05pm ET/9.05pm GMT
Tennessee Titans @ Denver Broncos
4.25pm ET/9.25pm GMT
St Louis Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants @ San Diego Chargers