It may not being saying much but Baltimore is playing its best football of the season right now. On Sunday night, they visit division rival, Pittsburgh.
By: Elias McMillan
Last Week: 9-7
Big Five Games of the Week
New Orleans @ Atlanta – You know, I’m a uniform nerd so I have to mention that this week’s color rush match-up features two of the best sets in the league. But I digress. Atlanta had problems scoring points last week against Minnesota’s defense despite having a healthy Devonta Freeman back. This week, they’ll face New Orleans at home and they have an improved defense this season. New Orleans may not be as stout as Minnesota defensively but they can get the job done upfront and in the secondary. The real star of the Saints emergence as a contender is their run game. RB Mark Ingram has been steady and rookie RB Alvin Kamara has been as good as any rookie RB this season. Kamara offers great speed and toughness in the red zone. I don’t think the Falcons defense will be able to bottle the Saints run game. Atlanta will want to protect the home turf in this NFC South matchup but I don’t see them matching New Orleans unless their offense can get it figured out. Prediction: Saints 28 – Falcons 18
Oakland @ Kansas City – Oakland crawled to a victory last week at home against a bad Giants team. That may not seem like much but maybe that can keep that rolling into this week when they face a slumping Chiefs team. Kansas City is falling apart. Last week against the Jets, QB Alex Smith played out of his mind and they still lost. The fact that the Jets were able to put up the points they were able to, its time to realize that Kansas City is a poor defensive team. And even worst, they suspended their best corner for this game. I know the Chiefs are usually good at home but I think the Raiders may have advantage in this one. If David Carr is able to run his offense and hit his receivers down field against a poor secondary, the Raiders should have a great chance at taking this one. Oakland has been a disappointment this season but a win here on the road will put them firmly in the playoff conversation. I think Oakland will step up on the road and Kansas City’s woes will continue. Prediction: Raiders 24 – Chiefs 21
Philadelphia @ Los Angeles Rams – After a loss in Seattle, the Eagles stayed on the west coast in preparation for a matchup on Sunday with the NFC West leading LA Rams. The Eagles will need to come out this week with a little more urgency on offense. The Rams have a tough defense under Wade Phillips. Their whole game is based on limiting the opposing offenses chances to score, as their offense isn’t going to win them any games. The Rams offense will face an uphill battle in this game against a Philadelphia defense that is also pretty decent. I have a hard time believing that the Rams will be able to outscore the Eagles and if they are able to, it will take a tremendous effort from their defense. I think the Eagles are starting to look stale on both sides of the ball. I’m going out a limb and taking the home team in an upset. Prediction: Rams 23 – Eagles 16
Seattle @ Jacksonville – The Seahawks had a classic strong performance last week at home. I didn’t see that coming with all the injuries they are going through right now. QB Russell Wilson is doing a great job at keeping his team competitive and he might be good enough to carry Seattle to the post season. Jacksonville has been as inconsistent this season as Seattle without all the injuries. This should be a great defensive matchup. If I had to trust one offense to make a game deciding play, I’ll go with Wilson over Blake Bortles. I’ll give Bortles some credit as he hasn’t put in a poor performance recently but I think Seattle’s defense will present him with some issues. Prediction: Seahawks 24 – Jaguars 17
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh – I really liked the way Baltimore looked last week at home. Defense continued to play well but the offense finally showed up as well. QB Joe Flacco had his best performance of 2017 and the run game is starting to show some consistency. Pittsburgh is coming off some poor performances despite maintaining their winning streak. They didn’t look great at home against Green Bay and they were down three scores last week in Cincinnati. I think it does mean a lot that they were able to win those games but I’m starting to worry about their defense. And things could get worst before they get better with the injury last week suffered by defensive leader Ryan Shazier. This could be a classic, drag ‘em out, AFC North, Ravens-Steelers game, per usual. Though the Steelers defense is struggling, I don’t think I’m ready to believe that the Ravens are ready to maintain a consistent threat in the passing game yet. Baltimore’s defense is good but Pittsburgh just has better players. Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will give them fits. Flacco has had some big moments at Heinz Field. He will have to be the one to match what Pittsburgh can do offensively on Sunday. I think Pittsburgh will keep it rolling in a tough contest. It won’t get as ugly as it got last week. But who knows. Mike Mitchell might be returning. Prediction: Steelers 29 – Ravens 17
The Rest of Week 14
Colts over Bills – Buffalo failed to upset New England last week and even worst, they suffered through a few injuries in that contest. Indy stinks but they should be able to take full advantage of a banged up Bills team.
Bears over Bengals – Marvin Lewis still has a job? How? Chicago must help put the nail in that coffin. The entire Cincinnati franchise is a joke.
Packers over Browns – Green Bay is keeping hope alive as Aaron Rodgers could be returning soon.
Giants over Cowboys – Here’s an upset. I still feel that the Cowboys will find a way at ended their chances at the playoffs in an embarrassing fashion despite ending their skid last week. The Giants have nothing to lose. They fired their coach. A lot of alumni will be at the stadium this week. And they’ll have Eli Manning to rally behind. The Giants stink but they be extra motivated to put a stake thru Dallas’ playoff hopes. Dak went 11-22 passing last week. I don’t trust that he is back to the form he had last season.
Buccaneers over Lions – Matt Stafford has a hand injury and Detroit’s backup is garbage. I’m taking Famous Jameis to eat the “W”.
Vikings over Panthers – If Cam Newton can beat the Minnesota defense, I would be surprised and very impressed.
Texans over 49ers – Jimmy Garoppolo got a win last week. This week, he’ll face a tougher road test in the Houston defense.
Jets over Broncos – Denver looks awful. How did it get so bad so fast for them? Meanwhile, Todd Bowles is winning games with Josh McCown. What a time.
Cardinals over Titans – I don’t trust the Tennessee defense.
Chargers over Washington – Washington looks like they are ready to fast forward to the offseason. Meanwhile, the LA Chargers are in the middle of a three-team race in the AFC West.
Patriots over Dolphins – New England won’t need Gronk this week. He’ll be fresh next week in Pittsburgh.
Fantasy Football Picks of the Week
QB: David Carr (Raiders) – Kansas City is giving up a lot through the air.
RB: Frank Gore (Colts) – Gore is quietly having a strong season.
WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – How about a vintage Larry Legend performance at home this week and a poor Titans secondary?
TE: Travis Kelce (Chiefs) – Oakland doesn’t have a great secondary. Alex Smith will look to continue last week’s success by looking 87’s way.
DEF: Minnesota – The Vikings defense will be a tough chore even on the road for Cam Newton.