NFL Week 14 Preview and Power Poll Update

The Lions looked grate against the Cheeseheads
The Lions looked grate against the Cheeseheads

Week 13

For the first time since 2003, the Detroit Lions won their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, beating their divisional rivals the Packers by a score of 40-10, taking advantage of the absence of Aaron Rodgers who has yet to return from a shoulder injury sustained five weeks ago.  During that time, Green Bay have lost four and tied one of their fixtures, moving them to a game and a half back of the Lions in the NFC North and unlikely to make the playoffs.  Last Thursday, Matt Flynn started at quarterback, the fourth different player to do so for the Packers this season, when it had taken 22 years for that number to be reached before 2013, as first Brett Favre and then Aaron Rodgers have made the position their own.  Flynn got very little protection from a porous offensive line, but there were problems on both sides of the ball for Green Bay, who could not stop the running game as Reggie Bush and Joique Bell combined for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns in the blowout victory for Detroit, which at least gave me plenty of time to focus on cooking the turkey.

Dallas and Baltimore made it three home victories on Thanksgiving in the NFL, as they beat Oakland and Steelers respectively to both move into playoff contention.  The Cowboys recovered from 21-7 down to beat the Raiders 31-24 and they are remain joint top of the NFC East with the Eagles, who defeated the Cardinals 24-21 on Sunday in Philadelphia.  The Ravens narrow 22-20 win over their fierce rivals Pittsburgh moved them into prime position to claim the sixth seed in the AFC, though at 6-6 they are only ahead of Miami – who beat the Jets 23-3 in week 13 – on head-to-head record.  Following their defeats, the Jets and Steelers are now a game back in the race for the playoffs, along with the Titans who lost 22-14 to the Colts, a victory that all but confirms the AFC South title for Indianapolis.

Maybe in 2016 when it is the Oklahoma City Seahawks, they will be quiet
Maybe in 2016 when the Seahawks are in Oklahoma City with the Sonics, they will be quiet

Seattle became the first team to officially book their place in the postseason, as their 35-7 smothering of New Orleans on Monday night ensured that at worst, they will end up as a wild card – though they are very likely to be the number one seed in the NFC and thus viewers will be subjected to yet more coverage of just how loud it is in CenturyLink Field as the Seahawks fans make their stadium an intimidating place for visiting teams to play and one where the opposing quarterback struggles to make himself heard.  Just remember though, just like seven of the Seattle players who have been suspended over the last could have seasons, the supporters are also using a performance enhancers – as it is the stadium design that helps increase the decibel level.  The Saints have now dropped to 9-3 and, as well as facing a potential return to the Pacific Northwest in the playoffs, they yet not win their division as they are tied with the Carolina Panthers, who won for the 8th time in a row by beating the Buccaneers 27-6 last Sunday.

The race for the number 1 pick in the draft heated up in Week 13, as Houston moved into prime position by throwing away a 17-7 lead to lose 34-31 to the Patriots, who clinched the game in the fourth quarter thanks to two 53-yard field goals by Stephen Gostkowski.  That defeat leaves the Texans with a 2-10 record, the worst in the league after the Falcons and Jaguars won road games against the Bills (though it was actually played in Toronto, not Buffalo) and the Browns respectively.  Washington also slumped to 3-9 after they lost to the Giants 24-17 on Sunday night, a result that means both New York teams have 5-7 records for the season, yet somehow neither is yet out of the playoff race.  Elsewhere last Sunday, Peyton Manning threw five touchdown passes to move to forty-one on the season – nine behind Tom Brady’s record set in 2007 – as the Broncos beat the Chiefs for the second time in three weeks and moved closer to claiming both the number one seed in the AFC; Minnesota nearly tied for the second consecutive week, but kicked a winning field goal with 1:43 left in overtime to defeat the Bears; Cincinnati enjoyed a 17-10 victory in San Diego; and the 49ers look playoff bound after a 23-13 win over the Rams in San Francisco.

Updated Power Poll

Once again, to find the math behind my standings, click on this link to get the details

Couple of notes on this week’s poll:

  • The Broncos moved top of the standings despite the Seahawks- who were joint top last week – beating the Saints, as the overall record of the teams Denver has beaten is slightly better.  On the plus side, I hear it can get pretty loud in Seattle…
  • St. Louis is virtually out of playoff contention, yet rank above Detroit – mainly because of the Lions’ losses to Tampa Bay and the Rams victory over Indianapolis – who are favorites to take the NFC North title.
  • In the AFC, the Ravens currently sit in the sixth seed position, yet are a lowly joint 21st in the poll; while the team in the second wild card in the NFC are the 49ers, who are ranked 8th.
  • Houston may have the worst record in the league, but the bottom placed side in my poll is Washington due to the fact that the Texans schedule has been harder and their 10 losses have included defeats to the Seahawks, 49ers, Chiefs and Patriots.

Last week’s standings in brackets

1. (3) Denver Broncos

2. (=1) Seattle Seahawks

3. (=1) New Orleans Saints

4. (4) New England Patriots

5. (7) Carolina Panthers

6. (5) Kansas City Chiefs

7. (6) Indianapolis Colts

8. (8) San Francisco 49ers

9. (10) Cincinnati Bengals

10. (9) Arizona Cardinals

11. (11) Dallas Cowboys

12. (13) Miami Dolphins

13. (14) Philadelphia Eagles

14. (12) St. Louis Rams

15. (=15) Detroit Lions

16. (=15) New York Jets

17. (22) New York Giants

18. (=15) Chicago Bears

= (=15) Tennessee Titans

= (20) San Diego Chargers

21. (21) Green Bay Packers

= (=23) Baltimore Ravens

23. (19) Buffalo Bills

24. (=23) Pittsburgh Steelers

25. (25) Tampa Bay Buccaneers

26. (28) Atlanta Falcons

27. (26) Cleveland Browns

28. (27) Oakland Raiders

29. (29) Jacksonville Jaguars

30. (32) Minnesota Vikings

= (31) Houston Texans

32. (30) Washington

The Saints and Panthers seek to get the upper in the NFC South
The Saints and Panthers seek to get the upper in the NFC South

Week 14

The biggest matchup of week 14 sees the Panthers and Saints, who are tied on 9-3 at the top of the NFC South, face each other in New Orleans on Sunday night; while earlier in the day, the Seahawks can clinch the NFC West if they beat the 49ers in San Francisco.  Aaron Rodgers has not yet been cleared to play, but could well return for the Packers as they face the Falcons in Green Bay, but even if they can beat Atlanta, they will also be hoping that the Lions do not win in Philadelphia and the Cowboys can defeat the Bears in Chicago on Monday night.  The number three seed in the AFC is up for grabs in Cincinnati when the Bengals face the Colts, who lead their divisions by two and three games respectively; while the number one pick in the 2014 draft is at stake in the Thursday night fixture between the Texans and Jaguars.  Elsewhere, Eli Manning returns to San Diego – who he said he would not play for before they drafted him in 2004, but they then immediately traded him to the Giants for Phil Rivers and a couple of picks – to face the Chargers; Baltimore host Minnesota; the Chiefs will try to end their run of defeats – which stands at three after a 9-0 start – when they play in Washington; the Broncos take on the Titans in Denver; the Steelers play the Dolphins; and the Patriots have a home game against the Browns.  The other games see the Jets take on the Raiders; the Bills head to Tampa Bay; and the Cardinals face the Rams.

Predictions

Last week, 7-9; Season, 97-95

Home teams in bold

Jaguars +2.5 over Texans

Falcons +4.5 over Packers

Buccaneers -2.5 over Bills

Bengals -5.5 over Colts

Patriots -12.5 over Browns

Eagles -2.5 over Lions

Chiefs +3.5 over Washington

Raiders +2.5 over Jets

Dolphins +3.5 over Steelers

Ravens -7.5 over Vikings

Broncos -12.5 over Titans

Rams +6.5 over Cardinals

Chargers -3.5 over Giants

49ers -2.5 over Seahawks

Saints -3.5 over Panthers

Cowboys -1.5 over Bears

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