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- Week 14 Predictions: Steelers to Test Patriots

Chris Pokorny December 8, 2007
Chris Pokorny
PFC Owner & Writer

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The Thursday night game between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins didn't have the same hype that the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers had a week ago, but an eerie trend has occurred over the past two weeks: quarterback injuries. Brett Favre went down against the Cowboys two weeks ago, and on Thursday, both Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell were out of the game before halftime. Is this just a coincidence, or does a short week of rest play a factor?

Before I get to the rest of my Week 14 picks, let's take a look at the current playoff seedings, including the results from Thursday's game (parenthetical number represents ranking from last week):

1. New England Patriots (1)
2. Indianapolis Colts (2)
3. Pittsburgh Steelers (3)
4. San Diego Chargers (4)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (5)
6. Cleveland Browns (6)
7. Tennessee Titans (7)
8. Buffalo Bills (9)
9. Denver Broncos (8)
10. Houston Texans (10)
11. Kansas City Chiefs (11)
12. Oakland Raiders (14)
13. Cincinnati Bengals (12)
14. Baltimore Ravens (13)

The six playoff teams remained the same, but the Browns' wildcard advantage is far from safe now. If the Browns and the Titans each win out, the Titans would slip ahead of Cleveland due to a better strength of schedule. The Bills, having a game against Cleveland in two weeks, are also playing for a spot. Most of the teams beyond that have slim hopes, but hope still exists, nonetheless. The Jets were eliminated this week. Although they could end up in a tie with the Browns and Titans, if that were to occur, they'd also be tied with the Bills, whom they've lost to twice this season.

-The Bengals will be eliminated with a loss and a Browns or Titans win.
-The Ravens will be eliminated with a loss or a Browns win.
-The Raiders will be eliminated with a loss or a Titans win.
-The Chiefs will be eliminated with a loss and a Browns or a Titans win.

1. Dallas Cowboys (1)
2. Green Bay Packers (2)
3. Seattle Seahawks (3)
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4)
5. New York Giants (5)
6. Arizona Cardinals (9)
7. Detroit Lions (6)
8. Minnesota Vikings (10)
9. Washington Redskins (8)
10. Carolina Panthers (13)
11. New Orleans Saints (7)
12. Philadelphia Eagles (11)
13. Chicago Bears (12)
14. Atlanta Falcons (14)
15. San Francisco 49ers (15)
16. St. Louis Rams (16)

The NFC wildcard races are so close to decide right now, that it appears as though nobody is officially eliminated yet. The Cardinals leaped ahead of the wildcard teams last week, the the Lions have a slight edge over the Vikings due to a better division record. In terms of the division leaders, the Buccaneers and Seahawks are continuing to battle for the third seed; they keep winning every week.

Let's get to this week's games of the week...



Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots. The Patriots' Week 17 match against the Giants could hypothetically be a "challenge", but not based on the way Eli Manning and the Giants offense has been playing. Therefore, the Steelers have the best shot at taking down a Patriots team that has gritted out two late-game victories the past two weeks. They came especially close to losing to the Ravens several times on Monday Night Football, but like the Patriots have done all season, they found a way to put a win in the record books. Tom Brady's touchdown passes have been down the past two weeks, and going up against the Steelers' top ranked defense in the NFL poses a challenge. The Steelers aren't going to be intimidated by New England's offense, but they will get frustrated if they can't stop them early on. I'd expect the Patriots to try and strike quickly with passes to all of their receivers down the field in the first quarter.

Steelers vs. Patriots
The Steelers want to be the team to end the Patriots' pursuit for perfection.

Ben Roethlisberger has the moxy to rally his team from behind if the Steelers fall behind in a game, but not against the Patriots. They did a better job of protecting him last week, but the offensive line hasn't been able to hold back blitzing defense over the past few weeks. Santonio Holmes hopes to return this week from injury, which would open up the downfield game again for Roethlisberger. However, Hines Ward has come up huge the past two weeks in victory for the Steelers, and Big Ben would be crazy not to throw him the ball often. If the Steelers are going to win, they're going to have to hold the Patriots to around 24 points. As good as they are, I think Brady breaks out again this week in preparation for the "blowout of the century" game next week versus the Jets. Patriots 31, Steelers 24


LaDainian Tomlinson
LaDainian Tomlinson will have to run hard to get by the Titans' Albert Haynesworth.
San Diego Chargers vs. Tennessee Titans. The Chargers don't lose when Tomlinson is rolling. The Titans don't lose when the Haynesworth is plugging the middle of the line. Something has to give in this game, and chances are that the Titans will have the edge in the individual matchup between the two. Other factors will come into play to change this game though, and that involves the Chargers' improved ability to stop the run. Three weeks ago, Maurice-Jones Drew had a mere 33 yards rushing. Two weeks ago, Willis McGahee had 59 yards rushing. Last week, Kolby Smith had 83 yards rushing.

What did the Titans rush for in their three game losing streak? Against Jacksonville, LenDale White had 12 yards rushing. Against Denver, he had 42 yards rushing. Against the Bengals, he had 27 yards rushing (and Chris Brown had 28 yards rushing). In the win against Houston last week, White was up to 60 yards rushing, but Brown also provided 42 yards to combine for the century mark. As important as Haynesworth is to the Titans' defense, establishing the ground game is just as important for their offense. They did it early in the season, but overall against tougher run defenses, they haven't been able to get it done down the stretch. Chargers 21, Titans 16


Arizona Cardinals vs. Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals need a win either way, but will they be playing for a wildcard spot or the division lead? The Cardinals already hold one victory over the Seahawks this season, and another win would give them the definitive tiebreaker over them at the end of the season. After a mediocre 4-4 start to the season, the Seahawks have really come around thanks to their passing game. However, they had no business winning last week against the Eagles (although Lofa Tatupu deserves all the credit in the world at the same time). Seattle needs to channel all of the momentum they've built up into this game, because a win would guarantee them the division title.

The Cardinals suffered heartbreak by losing to the 49ers twice this season, but two wins over the Seahawks would make up for it. Last week's win over the Browns may not have been the most deserving, but if it helps them reach the postseason, they'll take it. The problem for the Cardinals comes on offense this week though, where they may be without both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. As hot as Kurt Warner has been the past month or so, without either of his top weapons readily available, the Cardinals won't be able to put up a fair fight against the Seahawks on the road. Seahawks 24, Cardinals 19


Miami Dolphins vs. Buffalo Bills. Not only did the Dolphins blow their best chance of beating a team last week against the Jets, they were blown out of the water. John Beck hasn't done a single positive thing since taking over at quarterback; his three interceptions, zero touchdowns, and three lost fumbles are nothing to brag about. The Bills were able to pull out a surprising road victory over the Redskins last week in Trent Edwards' return game as the team's starting quarterback. His numbers aren't good overall -- one touchdown to five interceptions -- but his record stands at 4-1 as the team's starting quarterback. Marshawn Lynch is scheduled to return this week, and the only way the Dolphins can win a game is if the opposing team has the worst game of their lives. Even then, a win would be almost out of the question for Miami. Bills 20, Dolphins 7

St. Louis Rams vs. Cincinnati Bengals. The Rams have won three out of their past four games to improve to 3-9 on the season, while the Bengals went back to ineptness against the Steelers this past Sunday night against the Steelers. Carson Palmer was unusually ineffective, completing just 38% of his passes. His throws were high, out of bounds, or hitting the ground often, despite the constant short fields the Steelers provided them with. That should change this week against the Rams' defense, one that Palmer should be able to exploit in the same ways he did against the Titans two weeks ago. The Rams could have made this a shootout, but with quarterbacks Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte both out, I can't expect Brock Berlin to win in his first ever start. Bengals 34, Rams 17

Jon Kitna
The Lions' hopes for a ten-win season will be shattered when the lose to the Cowboys this week.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions. Terrence Newman told the media that he wouldn't be afraid of a fine if he hit Jon Kitna this week against the Cowboys. Newman later stated it was a joke, but that's not the type of publicity the Cowboys want with everything going their way. They've been able to shut Terrell Owens up -- they don't want to worry about other players mouthing off. What was a serious quote was when Kitna stated that the Lions would get ten wins prior to the season starting. After a promising start, the Lions are in a situation where ten wins will be impossible with just one more loss. With receiver Roy Williams out and the Cowboys' offense rolling, Kitna's comment won't hold true. Cowboys 40, Lions 20

Oakland Raiders vs. Green Bay Packers. Brett Favre is going to start this week after suffering a shoulder and elbow injury in last week's game against the Cowboys. He's had extra time to rest, and so have the team's defensive specialists. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila will be ready to provide the pass rush the team desperately missed against Romo and company, and cornerback Charles Woodson hopes to be healthy enough to face his former team. The last thing you can bank on is seeing Russell play quarterback this week though. Josh McCown is going to get the start, and if the Packers' pass rush is fierce, Lane Kiffin will fear anything negative happening to his young quarterback. Also, Russell has never played in a cold atmosphere as a quarterback. The Raiders' winning streak will come to an end by plenty. Packers 31, Raiders 14

Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Houston Texans. When you're a backup quarterback, one week's performance can be significantly different than the next week's performance. That has to be playing into the mind of head coach Jon Gruden; he was able to get away with McCown for one week, but for two weeks in a row? Jeff Garcia is a game-time decision, and the Texans will be starting backup Sage Rosenfels at quarterback. If the Buccaneers' defense is confident they can clamp down on the Texans' offense -- as they should -- then starting Garcia and limiting his throws might be the best decision. Not only would it prevent mistakes, like McCown's pick six last week against the Saints, the Buccaneers wouldn't have any excuses or second-guesses if they suffered defeat. Bank on Garcia starting, and winning. Buccaneers 23, Texans 13

Carolina Panthers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars. I like obsessing about facts that may lead to a seemingly improbably situation, so here I go. The Panthers, despite losing five in a row before their win last week over the Falcons, are only one game back in the NFC wildcard race. After the dismal quarterback situation the Panthers have had this year, the last thing anyone could expect, or still expect, is for them to make the postseason. The Jaguars can't afford to let last week's loss to the Colts hold them back though. While their wildcard chances seem solid, an "upset" could see both the Titans and the Browns fall into a three-way tie for two spots. Jacksonville's ground game should be too much for Carolina to handle. Jaguars 27, Panthers 17

Giants' Defense
The New York Giants hope to continue putting opposing quarterbacks to the ground this week against the Philadelphia Eagles.
New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles. Call this one of the toughest games of the week to pick, but it's not because it's a match-up between two division rivals. The Giants, despite their fourth-quarter heroics last week against the Bears, have played horrible over the past three weeks. The Eagles have played very well since Donovan McNabb hit the sidelines with an injury, except for one thing: A.J. Feeley's interceptions. That has taken the Eagles out of the playoff race, unofficially. McNabb returns this week, seeking revenge for earlier in the season when he was sacked 13 times in one game by the Giants. If the Eagles had shown consistency under McNabb this season, I'd pick them, but they haven't. The Giants will get to McNabb again, proving to be the difference maker in a close game. Giants 23, Eagles 20

Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers. Since when did the Vikings become an offensive juggernaut? After being shut out by the Green Bay Packers nearly a month ago, the Vikings have turned things up a notch. Without Adrian Peterson, they won twice in impressive fashion against the Raiders and the Giants. Then, last week, they were even more impressive in the return of Peterson with a more pure offensive effort against the Detroit Lions. The 49ers' offense can't do anything without Frank Gore being able to run the football. Gore has no shot to run against Minnesota's top-ranked run defense, and Peterson and Taylor should continue their rout on opposing defenses en route to a possible playoff spot. Vikings 31, 49ers 10

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Denver Broncos. This may have looked like a nice, competitive AFC West matchup late in the season prior to the season starting, but now it's merely a battle of underachievers. The Chiefs' offense has had problems all season long, particularly in their past five games. Even the return of Damon Huard to the lineup last week couldn't cure any of the offense's misfortunes. The Broncos have a 5-7 record, and while they are still alive, things aren't looking good for them. With Travis Henry and Javon Walker playing for their second consecutive weeks though, along with playing at home, the Broncos are more than capable of putting together another one of their "good" victories (like they had against the Steelers). Broncos 24, Chiefs 17

Cleveland Browns vs. New York Jets. The Browns have shown the potential to strike quick, but the thing they need to improve on if they want to be a playoff team is scoring early in games on the road. They fell behind to the Raiders earlier this season on the road, and they fell behind last week against the Cardinals. They were in position to tie or win both games on the final play, but things just barely missed going their way on both occasions. The Jets have won two of their past three games, but Cleveland's ready to bring out their big plays early this week, setting up the Jamal Lewis for later in the game rather than earlier in the game. Browns 35, Jets 21


Indianapolis Colts vs. Baltimore Ravens. The Colts went in to Baltimore last year in January in what was one of Peyton Manning's finest games as a quarterback. You couldn't tell it by looking at the stat sheet -- you had to see it for yourself. The atmosphere was as intimidating as you could get, but the Colts came through with a series of field goals from Adam Vinatieri. The Ravens aren't as sharp defensively this year, and Manning is finding the appropriate receivers more often as the weeks go by with Marvin Harrison on the sidelines. Kyle Boller and the Ravens had a very admirable effort against the New England Patriots last week, but I have the feeling that that sucked a lot of energy out of them. Colts 28, Ravens 10


New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons. The Saints had a shot at obtaining a wildcard spot, but they blew that last week by deciding to botch a trick play when they had the lead late in a game. On top of that, Reggie Bush is likely out for the remainder of the season after not living up to his second-year expectations. The Falcons were just as thin as the Panthers have been at quarterback last week when they pulled Chris Redman off the bench to throw a touchdown pass to...Tim Dwight. Roll back the clock. The Saints still have firepower potential without Bush, and they were in position to pull out a big win last week until the poor play call. New Orleans wins on a less exciting Monday nighter. Saints 17, Falcons 13


I'm rolling out the red carpet in terms of using my high-powered teams in the survivor pool. Two weeks ago, the Steelers won 3-0, and last week, the Patriots won 27-24. I guess I'm picking dangerous times to play the top teams, but in the end, they resulted in wins. This week, I'm going with the Green Bay Packers to take down the Oakland Raiders. Even if Favre isn't at the top of his game, Ryan Grant and the defense will pick him up.

This Week: 1-0
Predictions Record to Date: 123-70 (I don't like this record...too low.)
Last Week: 8-8 (Mediocrity in a 16-game week is unacceptable.)
Survivor Streak: Won 4 (Min over Atl, Den over Oak, Car over Atl, [NYJ over Buf], Ari over StL, Cle over Mia, Cin over NYJ, NYG over Mia, [SD over Min], Sea over SF, Ind over KC, Pit over Mia, and NE over Bal.)
Survivor Record: 11-2

The AFC playoff race should remain the same as it is this week, but the NFC has the potential to at least build a one-game lead between some of the teams. Close playoff races make for better games though, at least when it comes down to the final playoff spot.

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