If you’re looking for our Thursday night preview (where I picked the Browns to cover) or any other of the first half of the games of the week, head on over to this article. The recap of last night’s game is in the previous post, right below this one on our home page…
If you’re looking for matchup advice and what I think is going to happen in the late games, and Sunday and Monday night picks, you’ve come to the right place. For each game I’ll give you my pick against the spread (taken from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’Em, home team in caps), and then any upgrades or downgrades to players based on who they’re playing, how they’re playing, or if they’re hurting. So after a good start on Thursday night (unless you’re a Browns fan that is), let’s get to the second part of the slate….
Patriots (-7.5) over REDSKINS
Breakdown: The Patriots gave up some dumb points to the Colts right at the end of their matchup with their once rivals, but that was because many of their starters were getting some rest. Now they travel to the nation’s capital to face an up-and-down ‘Skins team. Last week the Jets tore up Washington handing them their 7th loss in their last 8 games. The one game they didn’t lose was an impressive road win over Seattle, but even against the Pats pass defense I don’t like Rex Grossman’s chances so I’ll give the points and take the Pats 35-13.
Upgrades/Downgrades: The Redskins defense is top 10 against the pass (9 in yds allowed), so don’t think the Pats are automatically going to throw the ball all over them. Obviously, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, and Rob Gronkowski are automatic starts. Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez are ok starts if you need them, but I see this game being a good game for BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Shane Vereen even (as a flex play) as the Pats attack the Redskins on the ground… Because they’ll probably be playing from behind and this Pats D even made Dan Orlovsky look decent, Rex Grossman is a QB2 start if you need him, and give Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney slight upgrades as well since Fred Davis‘s season is over due to a drug policy suspension. Roy Helu is a good start too against the Pats D and because he’s so involved in the passing game he’s in for a big point day even though I don’t think the Redskins have much of a shot of winning.
Bucs (-1.5) over Jaguars
Breakdown: Jacksonville isn’t ready for primetime (even though they keep ending up in it) and while I don’t like the Bucs on their 6-game post London losing streak, I still like them better than the Jaguars. Josh Freeman may be back for this one (check back for updates on his status later), but even with Josh Johnson, I’ll take them over Blaine Gabbert. It won’t be pretty, but I’ll say Tampa 24-Jags 16.
Upgrades/Downgrades: While the QB’s may be uninspiring, the running backs are both set up for very nice fantasy days. Jacksonville got beat last week by the Chargers RB for 139 yards so LeGarrette Blount should be set up for a good game provided the Bucs done fall behind and go pass happy like they did last week. An even bigger upgrade should go to Maurice Jones-Drew who matches up against the 29th ranked Bucs run D who’ve been gashed for 141 yards per game on the ground. Drew is the main receiver now for the Jags too so expect him to be their offense and have a huge game against Tampa. Stay away from both passing games unless your situation is desperate.
BRONCOS(-3.5) over Bears
Breakdown: The Tebows continue their roll as they get the hapless Bears rolling into Denver this weekend. The Bears definitely are wounded, without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, but they seem to lack any bite to their offense with Caleb Hanie at the helm. The Broncos D is a great play this weekend and should shut down the Bears who could only muster 3 points at home against the Chiefs last week. I’m seeing a shutout here and I think the Broncos win 17-0.
Upgrades/Downgrades: Tim Tebow may need to take to the air to win this one against the 28th ranked pass defense of the Bears. For that reason I like Eric Decker to bounce back from a slightly down week last week to have a TD and a good amount of yards. Willis McGahee has been absent from practice this week, but he says he’ll be good to go and is always a good play in this offense that’s run, run, and then run some more… On the other side of the ball, I’d avoid all things Bears if possible. Marion Barber III is supposed to take over for Forte and could get a heavy workload with Hanie’s inability to move them through the air. There wasn’t any signs of life from this offense last week at home. This week they’re on the road against a better defense, so I don’t see this as the week they get it turned around. Look elsewhere if possible.
49ers (-3.5) over CARDINALS
Breakdown: This game should be a good one. The Cards showed they’re no joke at home by beating the Cowboys last week in OT to win their 4th in their last 5 games. The Niners cruised over the Rams and have full control of the division as they continue their turnaround year. I think San Fran will win since they’ll shut down Beanie Wells and make the Cards one-dimensional. I do think it’ll be close though, something like 24-17.
Upgrades/Downgrades: Beanie Wells has been a beast lately and after chewing up the Rams had a solid game against Dallas. This week though he hits the wall that is the 49ers run defense. This year they’ve allowed a league best 71 yards a game on the ground and even in their loss to the Ravens on Thanksgiving only gave up 59 to Ray Rice, one of the premiere backs in the league. It’s hard to say to bench Wells, but at least downgrade him significantly and look at what other options you might have. Conversely the Cardinals give up almost 120 yards a game on the ground so expect heavy doses of Frank Gore as usual with San Francisco as they ride their workhorse to another victory. Alex Smith had a very good game last week and seems to have developed quite the connection with Michael Crabtree. Braylon Edwards is also slated to make his return adding another weapon to the 49ers arsenal. In the passing game for the Cardinals, Early Doucet has had critical drops and seems to have been passed by Andre Roberts. The go-to guy for Kevin Kolb, as usual, has to be Larry Fitzgerald and since the 9ers will stuff the run I expect plenty of opportunities for Fitz to make catches.
CHARGERS (-6.5) over Bills
Breakdown: The Bills got run over at home by a sick Chris Johnson last week and the Titans beat the Bills 23-17. On the year, they’re 1-5 on the road and they’ve dropped their last 5 in a row. The positive energy at the beginning of the year for Buffalo has cooled as quickly as the weather in up-state New York. The Chargers are hoping their season is taking the exact opposite turn after last week’s laugher over the Jags on Monday Night Football. Chargers’ fans either aren’t worried about this one, or have given up since this one’s going to be blacked out in SoCal, and nobody seems to have noticed. The Chargers return home on a short week, but their offense finally seems to be clicking and the Bills defense won’t be able to stop them as they roll 35-17 over Buffalo.
Upgrades/Downgrades: The Chargers running backs get a nice upgrade as they face a Bills D that gave up 153 yards and 2 TD’s to Chris Johnson last week and 138 yards to the Jets the week before. Look for Ryan Mathews to build on his good game last week with another solid effort and Mike Tolbert to be involved as well. The Chargers passing game should be back to full strength as well with Antonio Gates looking more like himself lately and Malcom Floyd returning from injury last week to put in a solid effort. Philip Rivers should be a good start this week with his full complement of receivers (including both Vincent Jackson and Vincent Brown) available to him… On the other side CJ Spiller makes a good play as a RB2 against the 26th ranked run defense that gave up yards on the ground and through the air to MJD last week. Spiller is getting the touches and looked good last week against Tennessee. Steve Johnson is a WR2 but has been somewhat limited by the ineffectiveness of Ryan Fitzpatrick during the team’s slide.
PACKERS (-11.5) over Raiders
Breakdown: The Pack at home in December is always a good choice, but this even easier with the roll that the current team is on. They were challenged for the first time last week in NYC, but beat the Giants right at the end. This week I don’t see them needing those kind of heroics. The Raiders got hammered by Miami last week on the road and until they get their skill players back healthy (which doesn’t look like this week) it’s going to be impossible to get the offense in rhythm with Carson Palmer. I’ll take the Packers in this one 38-17.
Upgrades/Downgrades: Aaron Rodgers is the most obvious play in the league right now. Figuring out which of his receiver stable will go off is a little tricky, but Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and Jermichael Finley all make excellent starts. Oakland’s defense ranks 28th against the run so if/when the Pak get up big there should be yards to be had for whoever gets in at RB. James Starks hasn’t practiced this week and if he doesn’t go today Coach Mike McCarthy said he won’t play. Ryan Grant is first in line for carries but it was rookie Brandon Saine who looked more dynamic last week. Saine is a sneaky good flex play as is Grant, but I’d take Saine over Grant, but beware John Kuhn will probably vulture and short goal line carries… On Oakland, Michael Bush would appear to be in line for a heavy workload again as Darren McFadden misses another week due to injury. If the Raiders fall behind early and have to take to the air, nobody knows who Carson Palmer will have to throw to since all their receivers are dinged up and in various stages of recovery or regression. Darius Heyward-Bey is your best bet, but is little more than a Hail Mary pick since he’s been so inconsistent from week-to-week. If Denarius Moore can go in practice tomorrow he could be the guy who takes advantage of the beatable Pack secondary and garbage time to put up some serious points, but check back to see if he can even get on the field.
Giants (+3.5) over COWBOYS
Breakdown: The Cowboys come home after a tough loss to the Cardinals in the desert. They’ll get the struggling Giants who looked to have turned things around last week as they hung right in with the Packers to the very end. The Giants are good when they pressure the QB, but when they can’t get that done they get crushed. These 2 NFC East rivals always seem to play games that come down to the last play of the game, and I think this one will also. Since I get the 3 points with the Giants I’ll take them to cover but the Cowboys to win 24-23.
Upgrades/Downgrades: All the Cowboys are a good start. The Giants defense is shreddable as the Saints and Packers have demonstrated the last few weeks. Tony Romo should be in for a good game and Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten will all celebrate Austin’s return with big games of their own. The Giants rank 28th against the pass (partly due to playing Rodgers, Brees, and Brady already this season) and can be beat through the air. DeMarco Murray is due for a big week after a couple quiet ones and the Giants run defense isn’t anything to write home about either (ranked 23rd). Laurent Robinson continues to deal with his injury and with Miles Austin’s return could see a much-limited roll even if healthy so stay away from him if you can… For the Giants Ahmad Bradshaw should be good to go but the Cowboys are solid against the run so he makes a lowRB2 start since we still can’t be sure what we’re getting from him. One guy we do know what we’ll get from is Victor Cruz who has become a WR1 this year and together with Hakeem Nicks are a dynamic duo for Eli Manning to rack up numbers with. I think they’ll need to score so all the Giants you normally would start make good plays.
SEAHAWKS (-6.5) over Rams
Breakdown: The Rams first team reps in practice have been going to a guy named Tom Brandstater since AJ Feeley and Sam Bradford are both injured and Kellen Clemens was just claimed off waivers. Now, to be fair to Brandstater the Fresno State alum was once listed on the Brocos depth chart ahead of a certain QB who has since made a name for himself, Tim Tebow. On the other hand from Novemeber 9 to December 2 he was out of the NFL entirely and was keeping in shape by throwing passes to his brother-in-law over Thanksgiving (seriously, not making this up). He’ll be leading a Rams offense that in it’s last 5 road games hasa put up 0, 13, 13, 7, and 3 and will be facing a Seattle D that shut down the Eagles last week and will be playing at home in the-stadium-formerly-known-as-QWest-field which is a huge home advantage. Monday Night Football, we apologize that this is the game you get, so tell Jaws and Gruden to bring plenty of extra material, this one’s gettin’ ugly. Seattle in a landslide 33-3.
Upgrades/Downgrades: The one guy who would seem to be in the right position for a huge upgrade is Marshawn Lynch. In fact, going against the last ranked rushing D in the league who allows 157.8 yards a game, the red-hot Lynch is a RB1 and will have a big enough night on Monday to single-handedly carry teams into the next round of their playoffs. Tavaris Jackson should be healthy and ready to go in a good matchup, but I think it’ll be ugly so early he won’t have much chance to throw it. The receiver you want is Golden Tate; he’s already on my list for a breakout season next year after some of the flashes he’s shown this year. If the ‘Hawks get a reliable QB (whether through trade or free agency) Tate will be one of my WR to watch for the coming year. Keeper leagues go get him now. You also want to check your waiver wires for the Seahawks defense; they’re probably one of if not the best defense this week since they’re at home and get the inexperienced Rams QB.
So there you go, that’s all week 14. Make sure you check back for injury updates throughout the week and weekend and we’ll keep you current on who’s in and who’s out for this weekends matchup. Enjoy your Friday!