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NFL Picks for Week 14
by John Canton (NFL)
Posted on December 10, 2006, 11:00 AM

John: Welcome to week fourteen of our weekly NFL picks column. The bitter cold and snow has landed here in southern Ontario and that's going to be mean some cold weather football games this weekend. It also means betting under on over/under spreads, but I'd rather not get into all that here. There's lots to cover, so I'll pass it over to the man in the dark shadows for his thoughts as he sings lovingly about the bald bomber Bruce Gradkowski.

drq: That last-second interception by the Philadelphia Eagles Monday night was the difference between a ten win week and a nine win week for yours truly, with my pick falling on the wrong side of that exchange. That's OK, 9-7 isn't really all that shabby... at least, not by my standards. I've pretty well lost sight of the leaderboard by this point, so there's no reason to get worked up about falling another game behind Brett and his insane NFL know-how. I'll just rest easy in the knowledge that my favorite team will at least have the opportunity to lose in the first round of the playoffs again, which is more than I can say for either of my comrades' squads. Oh! Is that a little spite rearing its ugly head, despite my earlier determination against such acts? Well, maybe just a bit. With just a few exceptions, this week's games are rather tame and unspectacular. Of course, everyone's chomping at the bit to see that Dallas / New Orleans game, but personally, I'm a little more interested in the two crucial AFC divisional matchups.

Last Week:
John Canton: 9-7
Brett Berliner: 10-6
drqshadow: 9-7

Brett Berliner: 121-71 (.630)
John Canton: 119-73 (.625)
drqshadow: 107-85 (.557)

Damn you Brett. Extended the lead by one. I can still sniff ya, though!

Cleveland at Pittsburgh 8:00 p.m. (Thursday)
drq: The Browns continue to play tough football, even when all hope appears to be lost. They've been on the wrong side of so many close games this season, one has to imagine that someday they'll start to get a few of the bounces to go their way. The Steelers, meanwhile, are coming off a near-shutout against the Bucs and playing host to the worst record in their division. The big victory against Tampa is easy to overinflate - after all, the Bucs have failed to score an offensive touchdown in five games already this season - and it also wasn't all that long ago that the Browns nearly pulled one over on the Steelers. With several big name players sitting this one out for the black and gold, and a resurgent Browns squad refusing to say quit, all signs are pointing to an upset here. Cleveland: 14 - Pittsburgh: 10

Brett: Yuck. Hard to pick this one - I think the Browns have a legit shot after the emotional win they had last week, and how well Derek Anderson played. But one thing stands out in my mind, by far - QBs always play terribly the first time they play Pittsburgh. The nastiness (I've heard first hand what Steelers will do under piles) and the confusing defense probably will hold Anderson in check. Pittsburgh 24, Cleveland 17

John: The Steelers have a lot of injuries, the Browns are starting Derek Anderson (who?) and this is going to be played in what looks to be some bad weather. This will be an UGLY football game, people. I like the Steelers to win and I'm also betting the under because I think points will be tough to come by. Steelers 17-10

Atlanta at Tampa Bay 1:00 p.m.
drq: I think I'm through picking the Bucs for the remainder of the year. It just completely baffles me, trying to understand how a team can post eleven wins in a season, return with virtually the same roster nine months later, and play as poorly as Tampa has this season. The Falcons have their problems, but they pale in comparison to what's going on with Jon Gruden's boys. Atlanta takes this running away. Atlanta: 34 - Tampa Bay: 14

Brett: Interesting matchup here. I think the Falcons and Bucs are both a little better than their records state - especially Tampa Bay. They looked inept vs. the Steelers and although Atlanta's D isn't quite as good, I think it's relatively strong. My feeling is that the Falcons shouldn't have a problem running all over the old and tired Tampa D on their way to a big day. Atlanta 35, Tampa Bay 17

John: I can't figure either of these teams out, but I just think Tampa's a really poor team and Atlanta should be pretty good. They're just underperforming. Now that the playoff push is really here I think they crank it up, especially in the run game. Falcons in a tight one. Falcons 23-20

Baltimore at Kansas City 1:00 p.m.
drq: Two teams I really haven't been able to get a good feel for this season. Baltimore's defense seems to be back with a vengeance this season, but the Chiefs aren't a team that anybody's been able to stop, regardless of talent level. Add in the re-emergence of Trent Green, who played last week as though he were making up for lost time, and you have a bit of a conundrum. Side with the best defense in the league, or go with Green and Larry Johnson? When the choice comes down to O vs. D, I'll take the D nine times out of ten. Baltimore: 35 - Kansas City: 20

Brett: Actually, I like this matchup for the Chiefs. Their defense isn't great yet, but McNair is so good at killing a blitzing team that KC's lack of blitzes doesn't necessarily hurt. With Trent Green back and Larry Johnson grinding it out, I think they can beat the Ravens. This is a much bigger game for the Chiefs than it is Baltimore, in all reality. Kansas City 20, Baltimore 13

John: Chiefs at home, blah blah blah. I hear it all the time. I just don't buy them as some great team. The defense has problems. I don't think they'll be able to run that well on the Ravens. LJ might get his 100 yards, but it'll take 30 carries or so, which isn't productive football. I see the Ravens as the better team and I think they bounce back after last week's disaster in Cincy. Should be a good game at least. Ravens 24-20

Indianapolis at Jacksonville 1:00 p.m.
drq: This has been a very tough game, specifically when played in Jacksonville, for both teams in recent years. Indy vs. Jacksonville has been probably the most competitive rivalry to come out of the AFC South since its creation in 2002, and that tradition of tough play and close scores only looks to further itself this weekend. Both teams have looked nigh-unstoppable at times, and downright pedestrian at others. Of the two, I think the Jags are the most suspect... particularly in their pass coverage, which is an area in which you absolutely must succeed to defeat Peyton Manning. I think the Jaguars keep it really close, as they've played very well at home this year, but ultimately the Colts emerge victorious and lay claim to their fourth straight divisional crown. Indianapolis: 24 - Jacksonville: 21

Brett: Okay, so, I'm an idiot and I've been wrong about both Colts/Titans games - that's fine, I'm happy, actually. I like Vince Young and I'm cool with Tennessee. This time, though, I fully maintain that I'm right. Jacksonville is playing surprisingly poor lately. I think they're a better football team than they have showed lately, but Del Rio's team is just having a down year. It is what it is. They aren't good enough, even at home, to beat the Colts. Indianapolis 30, Jacksonville 21

John: Here's why Indy wins this game: Peyton Manning. Yes, I'm going out on a limb there, but the fact is he's had two below Peyton (that's a new phrase) games in a row and he's too good to have three straight like that. Plus, I'm gonna guess that a lot of people like the Jags here. I'm not one of them. I don't believe in them. I like the Colts here thanks to a Vinatieri field goal late in the fourth. Colts 20-17

Minnesota at Detroit 1:00 p.m.
drq: That Vikings / Bears game was probably the single ugliest display of quarterbacking I've ever seen. At one point in, I believe, the second quarter, Grossman had a mighty QB Rating of 0, while Brad Johnson was faring slightly better with a 3.3. That's like middle school JV squad bad. Unfortunately, the Lions appear to be an even worse match for these self-destructive Vikings, and I seriously cannot see any good coming of this matchup. Minny still gets the nod though, because unlike the Lions, they haven't yet been completely eliminated from playoff contention. Minnesota: 13 - Detroit: 7

Brett: When in doubt, always bet against Detroit. A favorite saying of mine. They're bad. Minnesota 21, Detroit 0

John: I have no idea, really. These are probably the two teams I've watched the least all year. Minnesota's got problems all over the place. Detroit is of course Detroit, which means they always got problems. I guess somebody has to win this game. I'll go with the Lions just because they might be able to score. Lions 20-19

New England at Miami 1:00 p.m.
drq: Now that the Dolphins are off of their roll, it would seem that the choice here is obvious. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Patriots lay an egg in this one, with Laurence Maroney questionable, a banged-up secondary and a road game against a team that always loves to spoil their late-season party. I just don't think it's likely. New England: 21 - Miami: 14

Brett: The Pats are just DECIMATED by injuries. They have a lot of really good guys that are or likely will be out on Sunday. I think that has to catch up to them, especially considering Corey Dillon is looking old and their receiving corps is nothing special. I still think they're a good team, but I think the 'Phins, who are playing pretty well, will rise up and shock the world! Miami 24, New England 23

John: I was VERY close to picking the upset here, but no Ronnie Brown means the Dolphins are going to have a tough time moving the ball against this defense. You know who's playing really well for the Pats defense? Asante Samuel. Probably a Pro Bowler this year. He'll probably catch an errant Harrington pass or three. Pats win a gritty game, which is what they always seem to do. Patriots 20-13

N.Y. Giants at Carolina 1:00 p.m.
drq: Are both of these teams really going to finish out of the playoffs this season? With the logjam in the middle of the NFC and both teams' recent slides, that possibility is about as real as it's ever going to get without committing to an answer. Eli Manning played a strong game against the Cowboys last week, a team that gave his brother some problems last month, but the effort was for naught at the end of the day. The Panthers had a similar predicament against the Eagles last week, losing a game in the closing moments, a game that they had every opportunity to, and more than likely should have, won. These teams are both completely in disarray, and I have no faith in either to even reach the post-season, let alone make any noise. I think the Giants are the more talented, which usually means they're in for the biggest let-down, but when neither team really wants to win, that's the difference. New York Giants: 28 - Carolina: 20

Brett: Neither team is playing very well, to be fair, but one team has a great coach that never lets his guys quit, and the other has Tom Coughlin, who is choking so very, very much. Coughlin is so gone at the end of the year. The Giants are done. Carolina 24, N.Y. Giants 21

John: I love it when I pick against Carolina and get it right. It's been happening a lot lately. Of course I've also picked the Giants a bunch only to see them lose a lot too. So now my two adversaries meet head on. The Panthers have problems running the ball, Jake "INT" Delhomme may be out and the defense has troubles against the pass due to injuries in the secondary. The concussion that knocked out star MLB Dan Morgan is really hurting them too. If you can contain the front four you can win. I think the Giants have enough to do that. Giants 23-20

Oakland at Cincinnati 1:00 p.m.
drq: Should be MUCH closer than you'd think. Oakland's been the laughingstock of the league this year, sometimes deservedly so, but they've been playing teams close in the second half of the season, and their defense is starting to come on very strong. If they can derail the Palmer-to-Johnson connection, which is a serious possibility, the weakness of the Bengals' D should allow them to keep pace throughout the game. I won't go so far as to call for a flat-out victory by the silver and black, but don't go writing this game off as a sure thing, either. I like the Raiders to cover, but the Bengals to ultimately emerge victorious. Cincinnati: 21 - Oakland: 17

Brett: Yikes. This could be a really good one, huh? I think the Raiders haven't quit, though, and there's something to be said for that (besides Randy Moss, he quit 4 years ago). The Raiders don't have 0 chance, and they have been playing well on defense, but I don't see them in this one for too long. Cincinnati 28, Oakland 10

John: The Raiders are showing spunk and their defense isn't THAT horrible, I guess. Still, I don't believe in them at all and as long as Art Shell is coaching that's going to hold true for me. I just can't see Cincy losing at home in a game like this. They need it way too much to even have a letdown. The Bengals defense is on fire, pitching two straight shutouts. Can they make it three in a row? No, but it'll be close. Bengals 27-3

Philadelphia at Washington 1:00 p.m.
drq: Part of me thinks Jeff Garcia's performance on Monday night was a fluke, and that he'll revert back to the form his displayed in Detroit and Cleveland soon enough. Another part of me realizes that he was a Pro Bowler before he was a sad sack, and he might just be the '05 Brad Johnson of this season. Taking over for the franchise QB after an injury, succeeding beyond anyone's wildest expectations, earning the starting spot by the following season's kickoff... it could happen. I seriously doubt we'll get any kind of an indication as to which way he's headed after this game, though. The Redskins offer no resistance, and the Eagles stay alive for another week. Philadelphia: 24 - Washington: 13

Brett: Honestly? This is a really intriguing game. Neither team is playing great, but I really like Jason Campbell and I think the Eagles have some life back in them after the game last week. I think Washington, playing at home, will get Campbell's first big win. Kid can play. Washington 20, Philadelphia 19

John: I just don't like the Skins at all. I'm still laughing at how they spent all that money on former Ram Adam Archuleta to make him the highest paid safety in the history of the NFL (think about that for a second) and he doesn't even play because he played so poorly early in the year. They got problems. I think the Eagles can beat them thanks to Brian Westrbook doing his thang and Jeff Garcia not turning the ball over. Eagles 30-26

Tennessee at Houston 1:00 p.m.
drq: The Titans are quickly becoming the team that nobody wants to play, with Vince Young developing into an adept ringleader and Travis Henry beginning to emerge as a true rushing threat. The Texans, on the other hand, have been regressing over the past few weeks. David Carr, who began the year sparkling, has had some major struggles of late, and seems to be in danger of losing his starting position if things don't improve in a hurry. I don't see this game helping his cause any. The Texans have hung tight in the games they've won thanks to the play of their defense, but I don't like any D's chances against Young, who's been making something out of nothing more and more frequently as the weeks go by. The Titans win it. Tennessee: 17 - Houston: 10

Brett: This is the week that Vince Young loses. Why? Because I'm predicting a victory by the Titans and I'm bad at predicting - just not as bad as John and Q. I think the Titans are playing too well to be derailed by a Houston team that's surprised, but isn't quite there. Can you imagine them with Adrian Peterson, though? Wow. Tennessee 20, Houston 10

John: I'm sure the Texans players will have fun in this one as they get booed by the home crowd because they see what kind of potentially great player that Vince Young is becoming. Throw in the fact that the guy is from Houston and I really like the Titans here. They're playing good ball. The Texans defense is actually okay of late, but the offense is sputtering and thatís why I like the Titans here. Titans 20-7

Green Bay at San Francisco 4:05 p.m.
drq: I was nearly moved to make a snide comment here, but then I realized that I've probably used up my yearly allotment of those for the Packers. The Niners are on their way down after cresting against Seattle a few weeks back, and Green Bay should be able to hang with them. I just can't give them the nod, though. I think San Fran has the Pack slightly outclassed across the board. San Francisco: 20 - Green Bay: 17

Brett: You know, one of these late season games, you have to give to the Pack, because of the Favre factor. Never count him out. I just think, with San Fran not completely out of the playoff race, and needing to build upon what they've established already, they are going to be playing with more urgency than Green Bay. Alex Smith is coming along not so poorly, huh? San Francisco 35, Green Bay 21

John: Can't say I care too much or have any sort of insight on this one. I do like the Niners at home. Two hundred yard game from Frank Gore, maybe? For fantasy league purposes I sure hope so. 49ers 33-16

Seattle at Arizona 4:05 p.m.
drq: Seattle didn't look good last weekend, while the Cardinals were busying themselves with a road victory against a divisional rival. That should worry you, if you're a Hawks fan, because they're about as close to fully healthy as they're going to get this season, and the playoffs are right around the corner. There's no questioning the Cardinals' ability to score points, and I like the way their defense plays against the pass, but I don't think they have an answer to Shaun Alexander, who I see having a huge week. Seattle: 31 - Arizona: 14

Brett: Hmm, this game is an interesting one, too. I want to see how the Cards close - it could be the difference between Denny Green keeping and losing his job. I think Leinart should be able to help the Cards move the ball, but I don't think, in the long run, that they can keep up with a healthy Alexander and Hasselbeck. Should be a fun shootout, though. Seattle 42, Arizona 35

John: The Seahawks look fully back to me. The defense is playing great ball right now. They're an underrated group because they've really carried the team in the absence of their two offensive stars. Now that Hass and Alexander are back they should be able to pick it up offensively. Against a Cards team that has troubles on defense that shouldn't be an issue. I like the Seahawks comfortably here. Seahawks 31-17

Buffalo at N.Y. Jets 4:15 p.m.
drq: The Bills are riding a wave of "almost" momentum, following near-misses against Indianapolis and San Diego, paired with narrow victories against the Jaguars and Chargers. Each of their last four games have been decided by a field goal or less, which means they're playing competitive ball. Meanwhile, the Jets have been playing in some lopsided affairs, creaming Houston and Green Bay, but failing to put up a single point against the Bears, which points to some inconsistency and miscommunication. The last time these two met, it ended with an eight point Jets victory. This time, I think they pad that margin by a little bit. The Bills are due for a letdown. New York Jets: 21 - Buffalo: 10

Brett: Hey, I called it last week, the Bills. They're getting there. They need an upgrade on the OL and one at signal caller (not saying Losman can't be the guy, he's just got to take a major step next year), but I could see them in the playoffs. That young secondary is nuts. The Jets are one of the best coached teams in all of football, but they lack talent and playmakers (especially on defense), and they aren't quite there yet. Buffalo 21, N.Y. Jets 14

John: I like the Jets now. I caught some of their first quarter outburst against the Packers and I was impressed by them. They don't miss tackles, they don't turn the ball over and they play hard every single play. That's a sign of good coaching. Pennington's playing well, the no-name rushing attack is doing fine and I think their defense is more than good enough to handle the erratic Bills offense. I think this is a comfortable win for the better team at home. Jets 31-14

Denver at San Diego 4:15 p.m.
drq: So Jay Cutler wasn't the quick fix everyone was expecting him to be, surprise surprise. The Broncos are a tough squad, and while they do have their problems, there are dozens of positions I'd have tried to fix before I turned my eye to the quarterback position. This is a game that I'd give serious thought to, were Jake Plummer behind center, but on the arm of Jay Cutler and the backs of that soft offensive line... I don't think their chances are good. LT reaches the TD record this week, and the Chargers take a tight grip on their division with just a few games left to play. San Diego: 24 - Denver: 14

Brett: Okay, so, let's be fair - Cutler didn't exactly excel last week. But I wouldn't get too down on him, Broncos fans. I don't love the kid, but it's a bit early to declare him as cooked. He didn't have the time that Philip Rivers had to prepare, and it shows. I think Denver's season is pretty much over, though - it is what it is. The Chargers are going to be ELEVEN AND TWO after this week. Impressive. San Diego 30, Denver 17

John: Goodbye Denver. Thanks for trying to look like a playoff team all year, but you're just not good enough. The running game isn't what it was and while the defense is godly at times you've been exposed too often to actually carry the team. The Chargers are just too hot right now to not like them here. Chargers 26-13

New Orleans at Dallas 8:15 p.m.
drq: Two of the bigger stories of this season - the Saints, going worst to first in the South and riding high on their young studs, and the Cowboys, turning the corner after benching Drew Bledsoe and embracing the rookie QB. At a glance, I think the Saints are actually the more talented team. Tony Romo's had a fantastic start, but he does have flaws and eventually his inexperience is going to cost Dallas a tight game. It might not be this week, it might not be next, it might not even be until next year, but eventually this kid is going to come down to Earth. Meanwhile, Drew Brees has quietly lit up the scoreboard with surprising regularity, Reggie Bush has discovered his will to win, and Deuce McCallister has been rock steady. I think the Cowboys' defense gets exposed by Brees early, then Bush late, as the Saints march to a surprising win on the road. New Orleans: 34 - Dallas: 31

Brett: Game of the week right here. I think Tony Romo is pretty good, but he isn't Jesus yet. He's beatable. He makes all his plays on the rollouts, so if you can take that away (and good teams can), he will have some trouble. NO's good, well-coached defense and great defensive line will contain him, and he'll be back to mere mortal status. 4 TDs for Reggie? Nah. Two will be plenty. New Orleans 28, Dallas 24

John: I hate Dallas. If you've read these picks all year then you know that. However, I like this matchup for them because I think their defense is playing really well, especially at home. I also think the Saints will have problems containing the Cowboys WR's, who should give them fits by getting open all night. I'm not sure about Romo. Last week he wasn't great, yet at the time when they needed him to make the big play he threw a perfect bomb to Witten. That's all you can ask of your QB. Make the plays when we need you. That's what he's done. So has Brees. I just like Dallas as a team more. Especially that defense. They might be fast enough to contain Bush and friends. Even though I don't like them, I'm picking the Cowboys here. Cowboys 27-20

Chicago at St. Louis 8:30pm (Monday)
drq: The Bears have been making a horrifying number of mistakes on offense, and I doubt that trend will do anything but continue in St. Louis this weekend, but I just don't see the Rams as the kind of team that's going to be able to make them pay for those missteps. This Bears team is in serious trouble if they don't get their act together in a hurry, because they aren't going to keep meeting teams like the Rams, Vikings, Cardinals and Dolphins, who will gladly let them off the hook and allow them to stay in the game after a sorry, turnover-riddled effort. I'm sticking with the Bears, but I don't think they take it running away. Chicago: 17 - St. Louis: 10

Brett: Okay, so I like Scott Linehan and I'm a Rams fan, so I want them to do well. I also think Grossman is a bum. I think the Rams have a chance to win this game, but that nasty Bears defense is going to bottle them up, and likely, my fantasy team, too. Ow. Chicago 17, St. Louis 10

John: Look, the Rams are my favorite team in any sport so what I'm about to say is spoken with true love: This team fucking blows. Seriously. The run defense is horrible like usual. The offensive line is so decimated that I'm starting to applaud passes where Marc Bulger isn't hit, regardless of whether the pass is complete or not. The Bears are exactly the type of team to kill the Rams because they are physical as hell and they can run the ball all day. Everybody will talk about Grossman, but I doubt he even attempts 15 passes. They won't need him to. I waited all year for my Rams to get a national game and this is that game? Ugh. It's going to be ugly. Bears 30-13

JC vs. The Spread
I'll use the line that TheGreek.com provides and I'll pick four games that I think you should bet on for the week.

Last week: 2-2 - I'm okay with that, but I'm hoping for at least three this time.
Season: 26-23-3

NY Jets (-3.5) over Buffalo
I think the Jets are the better team and the Bills just aren't that good on the road.

Tennessee (-1) over Houston
Maybe I'm wrong, but I think the Titans will comfortably win this one.

San Francisco (-4.5) over Green Bay
Too much Frank Gore.

Chicago (-6.5) over St. Louis
Hurts to do it, but I like the line. My Rams just suck. Pass a tissue. I think I'm gonna cry.

Until next week (when we post the column before the Thursday game again), for Drqshadow and Brett Berliner this is John Canton saying enjoy the games. You know we will.

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