Danny O’Neil’s Week 14 NFL picks: Saying there’s a chance

Dec 10, 2015, 10:57 AM | Updated: 11:05 am
The Seahawks need to win out, and have the Cardinals lose out, to win the NFC West championship. (A...
The Seahawks need to win out, and have the Cardinals lose out, to win the NFC West championship. (AP)

Three victories in three weeks have not only solidified the Seahawks’ wild-card positioning.

They’ve fanned the embers of a long-shot chance at winning the NFC West. That’s the reason that Seattle fans should be pulling for the Vikings on Thursday night in Arizona just four days after the Seahawks’ 31-point victory in Minnesota.

If the Seahawks win their next three remaining games, and the Cardinals lose home games to Minnesota and Green Bay then Seattle could claim the division by winning in Arizona in the regular-season finale.

So you’re saying there’s a chance? Yep. But the possibilities get much more remote if Arizona were to beat Minnesota on Thursday. With that, here’s a look ahead to the week that will be.

Minnesota at Arizona

We’re going to see if Minnesota is actually a contender this year or if the Vikings are a year away. Not only does Minnesota have a short week to shake off a 31-point loss at home to Seattle, but the Vikings were missing four defensive starters by the end of that game as linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith left the game in the first quarter with injuries. Seattle is now pulling for the Vikings as an Arizona victory all but clinches a division title for the Cardinals. Minnesota coming back to win on the road with an undermanned defense on a short week is too much to ask, though.

Pick: Cardinals 31, Vikings 23

Buffalo at Philadelphia

Turns out the Eagles were only mostly dead. After giving up a total of 90 points in back-to-back losses, Philadelphia was resuscitated in a victory over the AFC-leading New England Patriots. All of a sudden Philadelphia has gone from a team staring at the possibility of a coaching change to one that is tied for the lead in the god-awful NFC East. The Bills might be the most beat-up team in the NFL this week.

Pick: Eagles 24, Bills 20

San Francisco at Cleveland

Worse than Blaine Gabbert? Well, Colin Kaepernick started the first eight games for the 49ers. The offense scored 10 touchdowns in those eight games, he had a passer rating of 78.8 and the team was 2-6. In the past four games with Gabbert, the offense has scored seven touchdowns, Gabbert has a passer rating of 89.4 and the team is 2-2. Yes. Kaepernick is worse than Gabbert, and the Browns would snap up Kaepernick before you could say, “Johnny Manziel hasn’t grown up enough.”

Pick: 49ers 17, Browns 9

Detroit at St. Louis

If anyone is looking for the Rams, they’re belly up in the tank. That makes the third consecutive year in which St. Louis was considered a potential playoff contender with all its young talent only to wind up skidding into a ditch. The Rams have lost five consecutive games, tied with the Falcons for the longest active losing streak in the NFC. And as bad as that sounds, the Rams are even worse. They’ve scored a total of three fourth-quarter points in those five games.

Pick: Lions 27, Rams 16

New Orleans at Tampa Bay

The Saints are allowing a league-high 31.7 points. The Bucs aren’t that far behind giving up 25. The difference is that New Orleans is also last in the league in yards allowed, which tells you that defense is every bit as bad as it looks, while the Bucs rank No. 9 in yards allowed. Tampa Bay is making a move on the outside in the wild-card chase in the NFC though it should be noted they’ve lost seven of their past eight games against the Saints.

Pick: Bucs 29, Saints 27

Tennessee at New York Jets

There are five teams in the league to have scored more than 40 points in multiple games this season: Carolina, Arizona, New England, Pittsburgh and Tennessee. Which one of those doesn’t belong? Why it’s the Titans, whose nine losses are the same number of defeats those other four teams have combined. What makes it even weirder? The Titans have scored 14 or fewer points in seven games this season, which is tied with St. Louis for the most piddling performances in the league. Expect this to be another of Tennessee’s famines.

Pick: Jets 23, Titans 13

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati

Cincinnati has allowed only one of its last six opponents to score multiple touchdowns while the Steelers have scored 30 or more points in four successive games. To make it even more interesting, the Bengals haven’t beaten the Steelers twice in a season since 2009 and Cincinnati can clinch the NFC North by completing the sweep on Sunday.

Pick: Steelers 31, Bengals 27

Seattle at Baltimore

The Ravens have not only lost quarterback Joe Flacco, receiver Steve Smith and defensive Terrell Suggs to injury this season, but they had six starters listed on the injury report on Wednesday. Every game they’ve played this season has been decided by eight points or fewer, and they’ve had six games decided on the final play. The reward for all that hard luck: Baltimore faces a Seattle team that has found its stride.

Pick: Seahawks 27, Ravens 13

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

Indianapolis was already missing Andrew Luck because of a lacerated kidney. Then backup Matt Hasselbeck was treated like a piñata in Pittsburgh, prompting an appearance from Charlie Whitehurst. The Colts have won six in a row against the Jaguars, but Indianapolis’ pocket is going to be picked in Jacksonville. Repeatedly.

Pick: Jaguars 34, Colts 32

San Diego at Kansas City

The Chiefs have won six in a row, longest active winning streak in the AFC, and quarterback Alex Smith has thrown 305 consecutive passes without being picked off. That’s the third longest streak of any player in NFL history. The Chargers, meanwhile, have been held to a single field goal in two of their past three games.

Pick: Chiefs 26, Chargers 20

Washington at Chicago

The Bears have a penchant for playing close games, seven of their last nine having been decided by four points or fewer. The Epithets are wildly unpredictable. They scored 47 points one week, beating the Saints by 33, and then gave up 44 points the next week when they lost to Carolina by 28. One thing’s for certain, though: When the game’s over, you’ll still be wondering whether either of these teams is any good.

Pick: Bears 24, Epithets 23

Atlanta at Carolina

The Panthers have won 16 consecutive regular-season games (the longest active streak in the NFL), they’ve clinched the division title and are a win away from securing a first-round bye in the playoffs with three weeks to play. The Falcons have lost five in a row, tied for the longest active losing streak in the NFC. The Falcons have also lost four of their past five games to Carolina, which means the only thing Atlanta has going for it is the appearance that it doesn’t appear to have much of a chance at all.

Pick: Panthers 37, Falcons 20

Oakland at Denver

The Broncos have beaten the Raiders eight straight times, a regular drumming reminiscent of the days when Mike Shanahan would get biannual satisfaction defeating Al Davis, who had once fired him as Raiders coach. Except now it’s Brock Osweiler at quarterback and not John Elway. Or Peyton Manning. The 6-foot-7 former basketball player comes to earth this weekend.

Pick: Raiders 20, Broncos 17

Dallas at Green Bay

The Cowboys have won one game without Tony Romo this season. That’s also how many games they’re back in the division. God love the NFC East, but Dallas and its snowball’s chance are going to take a hit this week.

Pick: Packers 23, Cowboys 12

New England at Houston

Texans coach Bill O’Brien used to be on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England, and here’s betting that no one on Sunday’s broadcast mentions the truly peculiar fact that none of Belichick’s assistants have ever experienced all that much success once leaving the Patriots. It’s almost like it’s harder for coaches to win once they leave the auspices of a franchise the NFL has now twice found to have cheated. It’s true for coaches like Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels. It’s true for an executive like Scott Pioli, too. And O’Brien hasn’t been bad in Houston. The Texans were a surprising 9-7 last season and are currently 6-6 and very much alive in the AFC South. Still, it’s interesting.

Pick: Patriots 27, Texans 23

New York Giants at Miami

Of course the least interesting game on this week’s schedule is the one that’s plopped down on Monday night. Instead of a test of strengths, we’re going to watch a battle to see who’s worse: Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill or the Giants secondary? New York is allowing the most passing yards in the league and it’s not even close. They’re giving up 314.5 passing yards, which is 27.2 yards more than any other team in the league. Yuck.

Pick: Dolphins 34, Giants 26

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