Heading into this week, we have six teams fighting for five spots in the NFC playoffs (while three undeserving squads try and lose the least to take the NFC South crown) and nine teams battling for just three AFC spots. Every game matters from here on out, and I'll be sure to carry that same mindset with each and every pick.
I had my best week of picking last week, going 14-2; I even successfully called the Raiders' upset of the imploding 49ers. The only two blemishes on my week 14? The Saints' losing their unprecedented fourth straight home game and the Cardinals holding the Chiefs scoreless in the second half to complete an unforeseen comeback. Here's to keeping the good picks rolling the rest of the season.
Rams 19, Cardinals 13 (Thursday Night Football)
After jumping out ahead of the rest of its NFC competition with the best record in football, Arizona had back-to-back poor offensive showings and dropped two straight, and narrowly avoided a third consecutive loss last week against the Chiefs. Along the way, they've lost starting quarterback Carson Palmer and running back Andre Ellington, who was leading an already unfruitful running game. While their defense is arguably the league's best this year, St. Louis's may not be too far behind. Shaun Hill has done an acceptable job leading the offense, and Tre Mason has given the Rams a spark out of the backfield. The only way I see the Cardinals leaving St. Louis with a win is if the game is of the 6-3 or 9-6 variety.
Falcons 30, Steelers 26
This is one of the multiple instances this week where both teams virtually need the game. Both Atlanta and Pittsburgh control their own destiny, and both would win their respective divisions if they win out. Unfortunately for one of them, they won't have that luxury after Sunday. The Steelers were able to outplay a Bengals team that they are better than, but the Falcons impressed me when they went outdoors to Lambeau Field and went up and down the field constantly in the second half and lost by six to the Packers in a Monday-night shootout. Now they'll host a team in their dome in what may end up being another back-and-forth contest.
Giants 27, Redskins 17
We still don't know which Redskins quarterback we're going to see under center Sunday. Colt McCoy might be out with a sprained neck, and Washington doesn't know if they'd go with Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins if McCoy isn't able to play. So how can I pick the Redskins when they don't even know which of their sub-par signal-callers is going to play Sunday? Not to mention the Giants have found a sustainable offense the past few weeks - at least one that's sustainable against bad teams... which the Redskins are.
Patriots 30, Dolphins 23
What better time for New England to meet their division rivals than the week they can effectively kill Miami's playoff hopes? Plus the Patriots have the bad taste of their week-one loss to the Dolphins they want to get out of their mouth. Oh yeah, and they can lock up their sixth-straight AFC East title, too.
Chiefs 26, Raiders 17
Look out world: The Oakland Raiders are on fire. Coming off their road upset in San Francisco, Oakland has won two of their last three. And who did the other victory come against? The Kansas City Chiefs squad they play again this Sunday. However, that Kansas City Chiefs squad is trying to earn a playoff spot.
Colts 31, Texans 24
Indianapolis can secure a division title with a win Sunday, while Houston could pull itself within a game of the division lead and even closer to a playoff spot if they come out on top. Their Thursday-night encounter was close and competitive, as should be their game this week. And just like their first matchup, expect the Colts to triumph again.
Ravens 34, Jaguars 16
Baltimore has been fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot in the competitive AFC, but if they can't beat Jacksonville at home Sunday, the Ravens don't deserve to go to the playoffs.
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