It’s Week 14 of the NFL season and only four games remain to decide who advances to the playoffs. And who goes is anyone’s guess as 26 teams remain in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLIX.

“Every win is important,” Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told KOMO-TV and KING-TV. “You want to get as many wins as you can and put yourselves in position to make a great run in the playoffs. Our team is dedicated, focused and locked in.”

With four games to go, there are 21 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot.

“We’ve given ourselves the opportunity to play meaningful football in December,” says Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “And in this league, every week is a whole different deal.”

As the calendar turns to December, no team has clinched a spot in the 2014 playoff field. In Week 14, Indianapolis can be the first team to win their division with a win combined with a Houston loss. The Denver Broncos can also secure a playoff berth this week with a victory and some help.

Entering the final month of the regular season, a lot is still to be decided. As Bluto Blutarsky said in “Animal House” “nothing’s over until we say it’s over!”

Some milestones from week 13…

· Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 38 passes (63.2 percent) for 368 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 112.6 passer rating in the Packers’ 26-21 win over New England. Rodgers extended his NFL-record streaks to 360 consecutive passes at home and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception. His last interception at home came nearly two years ago on December 2, 2012.

The game was also the first time Rodgers and New England quarterback Tom Brady faced one another and is only the second time in NFL history that a pair of quarterbacks with at least 200 touchdown passes started against one another for the first time. The other instance was December 14, 1974 between Pro Football Hall of Famers Len Dawson and Fran Tarkenton.

· New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees threw five touchdown passes without an interception in the Saints’ 35-32 win at Pittsburgh. Brees has seven career games with at least five touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most in NFL history.

· Jacksonville overcame a 21-0 deficit to beat the New York Giants 25-24, the largest comeback victory in franchise history. The game marked the fourth time in 2014 that a team has overcome a deficit of at least 21 points to win, tied for the most of any season in NFL history.

Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles led an 11-play, 55-yard drive that culminated with Josh Scobee’s game-winning 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. He is the third rookie starting quarterback to help his team overcome a deficit of at least 21 points to win since at least 1970, joining Matthew Stafford (November 22, 2009) and Vince Young (November 26, 2006).

· Indianapolis scored six touchdowns of at least 30 yards in a 49-27 win against Washington. The Colts are the first team to score at least six touchdowns of 30 yards or more in the same game since Washington (seven) did so on November 27, 1966 against the New York Giants.

Colts Quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns for a 137.0 passer rating and leads the NFL with 4,011 passing yards. He puts himself in some pretty good company as he joins Peyton Manning and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards in two of their first three seasons.

Luck has a career-high 34 touchdown passes and joins Manning and Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas as the only players in franchise history with 30+ touchdown passes in a season.

· Houston defensive end J.J. Watt had three tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown reception in the Texans’ 45-21 win against Tennessee. Watt is the first NFL player with at least three offensive touchdowns (three receiving) and two or more touchdowns on takeaways (one interception return, one fumble return) in a season since Joe Golding of the Boston Yanks in 1948.

Watt is the only player in NFL history with three touchdown catches, an interception-return touchdown and a fumble recovery-touchdown in the same season.

· Minnesota’s special teams shined Sunday in the Twin Cities as they scored two touchdowns on blocked punts in a 31-13 win over Carolina. Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score in the first quarter. Everson Griffen returned a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The Vikings are the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21 at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half.

· St. Louis rookie running back Tre Mason rushed for 117 yards with two touchdowns and had 47 receiving yards with one touchdown in the Rams’ 52-0 win over Oakland. Mason, who had rushing touchdowns of 89 and eight yards and a 35-yard touchdown reception, is the fourth player in NFL history with an 85+ yard TD run and a 35+ yard TD catch in the same game. The other three to accomplish the feat? Jim Spavital (November 5, 1950), Joey Galloway (November 12, 1995) and Chris Johnson (September 20, 2009).

CLUTCH COLT: Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck passed for 370 yards and five touchdowns for a 137.0 rating in the Colts’ 49-27 win over Washington.

Luck has now passed for 12,207 yards in 44 career games and is the third-fastest player to reach 12,000 career passing yards in NFL history.

The fewest games to reach 12,000 passing yards:

PLAYER – TEAM(S) (GAMES)
Kurt Warner – St. Louis, New York Giants and Arizona (42)
Matthew Stafford – Detroit (43)
Andrew Luck – Indianapolis (44)
Marc Bulger – St. Louis (45)
Dan Marino – Miami (46)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (47)

Luck has passed for an NFL-best 4,011 yards through 12 games this season. He has thrown for 4,000 yards for the second time in his career, joining Peyton Manning and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only players to pass for 4,000 yards in two of their first three NFL seasons.

As far as the post season goes… the contenders for teams missing the playoffs got longer as the Jets, Bucs, Titans, Jaguars, Raiders and Tampa Bay are eliminated from any chance of making the 2014 playoff party and will watch the playoffs on TV like everyone else.

Speaking of playoff scenarios (playoffs? PLAYOFFS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?), we have two this weekend and they both involve teams in first place in their respective AFC divisions (Indianapolis – AFC South and Denver – AFC West).

2014 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 14

AFC

Indianapolis at Cleveland:
Indianapolis clinches AFC South division with:
1) Indianapolis win + Houston loss

Denver vs. Buffalo
Denver clinches a playoff spot with:
1) Denver win + Baltimore loss + Pittsburgh loss + Cleveland loss + Kansas City loss + Houston loss or tie OR
2) Denver win + Baltimore loss + Pittsburgh loss + Cleveland loss + Houston loss or tie + San Diego loss + Kansas City tie

As for last week, 11-5 (not bad) for the week. For the season… 123-61. There’s a lot of football left for those that are either in contention or teams that are waiting the season out. Here’s week 14 picks.

Indianapolis (8-4) at Cleveland (7-5), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 706) FirstEnergy Stadium. A pair of AFC contenders meet along the shores of Lake Erie as Indianapolis, in first place in the AFC South, takes on Cleveland, mired in ah three way tie for second in the AFC North, trailing Cincinnati. Indy and Cleveland come into the AFC intradivisional contest from different directions from last week’s play. The Colts can be the first team to clinch a division title with a win and a Houston loss.

The Colts, on top of the AFC South mountain, took a 21-10 lead with them against Washington last Sunday and then proceeded to take the Redskins to task, outscoring them 28-17 in the second half in their 49-27 win. Indy outrushed Washington 126-84 and sacked Case McCoy six times, while Andrew Luck threw five TD passes in the contest (a pair to TE Coby Fleener and a pair to WR Donte Moncrief). The Colts were 5-8 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 23:55, while Washington was 5-15 and 0-2 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 36:05.

“We have incredibly explosive players all over the field,” says Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who leads the league with 4,011 passing yards and put himself in some pretty good company when he joined Peyton Manning and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only players in NFL history with at least 4,000 passing yards in two of their first three seasons.

Cleveland let a 3-0 halftime lead in upstate New York get away from them as they fell to Buffalo 26-10. While they were outrushed by the Bills 106-74, the Browns’ Johnny Manziel made his NFL debut, scoring on an 10-yard run that put the Browns to within 10 at 20-10 with 8:47 left in the contest. Manziel would go 5-8 passing, taking the spot of Brad Hoyer, who was sacked twice and threw a pair of interceptions. The Browns were 3-12 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries along the shores of Lake Erie and held the pigskin for 29:05. Buffalo with the win went 2-15 and 2-2 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 30:55.

The Browns hold a 14-13 lead in the series, which includes contests played when the Colts were in Baltimore and the Browns were in Cleveland and have outscored Indy 548-502. Indy took the last meeting between the clubs in 2012 in the Hoosier State by a final of 17-13, while the Browns’ last win in the series also came in the Hoosier State by 27-19 the year before. Indy’s favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under 50 1/2. The Colts sit two games ahead of the Texans in the AFC South and they want to keep it that way. Cleveland is trying to keep up with Baltimore and Pittsburgh while trying to catch the Bengals. Cleveland makes this one interesting but Indy pulls through on the road and covers the 3 1/2.

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Cincinnati (8-3-1), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 705) Paul Brown Stadium. A pair of AFC North foes meet in the Buckeye State as Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers take on the first-place Cincinnati Bengals in the Queen City.

The Steelers, in a three-way tie for second in the AFC North, hope to get back on track after they fell to Drew Brees and New Orleans 35-32. Pittsburgh trailed the Saints 14-6 at the break but managed to outscore their guests from the Big Easy in the second half 26-21 to make the contest close. New Orleans’ Mark Ingram accounted for 122 of his team’s 143 rushing, while the Steelers tallied 103. Roethlisberger outpassed Brees 435-257 and threw a pair of TDs but was picked off twice, while Brees threw five TD passes for New Orleans.  Pittsburgh was 6-14 on third down conversions (0-1 on fourth) and kept the ball for 33:59, while the Saints kept the pigskin for 26:01, while going 4-10 on third down.

Cincy, the kings of the AFC North mountain, rallied from a 10-7 deficit at the break to take a 14-13 win over Tampa Bay on the Florida Gulf Coast. Andy Dalton and A.J. Green connected on a 13-yard TD pass late in the third quarter to take the lead over the Buccaneers for keeps. Cincinnnati held Tampa Bay, mired in last place in the NFC South, to 75 yards rushing, while they ran for 112. Dalton, despite throwing three interceptions, did manage to throw for 176 and the lone TD pass. Cincinnati went 5-11 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 30:37, while the Bucs were 2-11 on third down tries (0-1 on fourth down) and held the ball for 29:23. “Any time you get a win, it’s big,” Dalton told the Cincinnnati Enquirer and WBNS-TV. “The ultimate goal in this league is to win and we’ll take a win any way we can get it.”

Pittsburgh leads the series 53-34 and have outscored Cincy 1,888-1,529. They met last year, spilt the series last year and won in their home parks. The Bengals won the first meeting in the Buckeye State, taking a 20-10 win at Paul Brown Stadium. Breaking a 10-10 tie at the half, Cincinnati would shut out the Steelers in the second half, scoring their last 10 points unchallenged. The Bengals held Pittsburgh to 44 yards rushing, while rushing for 127 yards of their own and sacked Ben Roethlisberger twice in the win. Cincinnati was 7-17 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 35:34, while the Steelers were 3-12 on third down and held the ball for 24:26.

The Steelers got their revenge in week 15 at Heinz Field, coming out on top 30-20. Despite being outscored by the Bengals in the second half 13-3, Pittsburgh led 27-7 and were never really threatened. This time, it was the Bengals that were held to under 100 yards on the ground, rushing for 57, while Pittsbugh had 106. Third and fourth down tries in the second meeting? Not a lot to write home about (Cincinnati was 4-14 and 3-5, Pittsburgh was 2-10 and 2-2) and the clock was the ally of Pittsburgh, who kept the ball for 31:36, while Cincy had it for 28:24.

In the first contest in week two, while both teams did not match the 44 over/under, scoring only 30, the favored Bengals covered the 7 point spread, winning by 10. Cincinnati was again favored (this time by 2 1/2) but Pittsburgh covered the spread, winning by 10 and the 41 1/2 over/under was covered, with both clubs combining for 50.

The Bengals are favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under is 47 1/2. Both numbers make a lot of sense. Both teams are fighting for a playoff spot and the Bengals are in the drivers’ seat in the AFC North, while Pittsburgh wants to catch the teams that are ahead of them, including the Ravens and Bengals. Cincy takes the win but they may not cover the 3 1/2.

New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee (2-10), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 712) LP Field. A pair of struggling franchises meet in the Music City as the Giants travel to Nashville to take on Tennessee.

The Giants let a 21-3 lead at the half slip out of their graps in Jacksonville last Sunday, losing to the Jaguars 25-24. Jacksonville barely outrushed the G-Men 118-116 and Eli Manning was sacked four times, while the Giants defense sacked rookie QB Blake Bortles seven times. New York was 7-15 on third down tries in the loss in north Florida, keeping the ball for 34:39, while Jacksonville kept the pigskin for 25:21 and went 3-12 on third down tries.

Tennessee never recovered from a 24-0 deficit at half against Houston and fell to the Texans 45-21. The Titans were held to 83 yards rushing, while Houston tallied 99 and both Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker combined to be sacked three times and threw three interceptions. Tennessee on third down tries in the Lone Star State went 3-9 and kept the ball for 26:44, while the Texans kept the ball for 33:16. going 11-17 and 1-1 on third and forurth downs.

Including contests when the Titans played their home games in Houston and known as the Oilers, the series is even at 5-5 and the Giants have outscored Tennessee 203-195. The Titans, however, have won the last four meetings, including taking a 29-10 win in old Giants Stadium in 2010. New York’s last win in the series was all the way back in 1994 in Houston, coming out of the Lone Star State with a 13-10 win. New York is a 1 point favorite and the over/under is 45 1/2. Take a pass on this one (unless you’re a fan of one of these teams) and watch that “Iron Chef” marathon on Food Network (we think Iron Chef Morimoto is cool!). Giants cover the 1 and take the win in the Music City.

St. Louis (5-7) at Washington (3-9), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 713) FedEx Field. St. Louis travels to Landover to take on a struggling Redskins team in Maryland.

St. Louis scored their 52 points against Oakland unchallenged in their 52-0 win last Sunday. The Rams held Oakland to 61 yards on the ground and sacked QBs David Carr and Matt Schaub six times (three times each) and picked them off three times. (St. Louis forced five Oakland turnoers, while playing turnover-free football.) Rams rookie RB Tre Mason ran for 117 yards (St. Louis ran for 172) and QB Shaun Hill threw a pair of TDs without being picked off. CB Trumane Johnson sealed Oakland’s fate in the contest (they led 38-0 at half) when he returned an interception 43 yards for the game’s final scoring play. The Rams were 1-8 on third down conversions and held the ball for 23:04, while Oakland kept the ball for 36:56 and went 4-18 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries.

The Redskins, who had Case McCoy under center at QB for Robert Griffin III, fell behind Indianapolis quickly and could never really recover as they fell to the Colts in the Hoosier State 49-27. TE Coby Fleener and a pair to WR Donte Moncrief burned the Washington secondary for a pair of TDs passes from Andrew Luck in the contest, which saw Washington being outrushed 126-84 and McCoy sacked six times. Washington trailed 21-10 at the half and then were outscored by Indy in the second half 28-17. Indianpolis was 5-8 on third down conversions (they did not attempt a fourth down try), keeping the ball for 23:55, while Washington was 5-15 and 0-2 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 36:05.

Washington holds a 22-10-1 lead in the series, which includes games played when the Redskins were in Boston and the Rams were in Cleveland before moving to Los Angeles and coming back east to St. Louis and Washington has outscored the 786-637. St. Louis won the last meeting in 2012 in St. Louis 31-28, while Washington’s last win also came in the Gateway City the season before, taking a 17-10 victory. The Rams are favored by 3 and the over/under’s 45. Both numbers make sense and both teams want to either make the post-season party or have a say in who does. St. Louis makes it close but Washington sends their fans home happy with the win, even though they may not cover the 3.

Carolina (3-8-1) at New Orleans (5-7), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 711) Mercedes-Benz Superdome. A pair of NFC South foes trying to catch Atlanta meet for the second time in the Big Easy as Carolina and Cam Newton travel to the Big Easy to face New Orleans and Drew Brees.

For the Panthers, it was the special teams unit that did them in against the Vikings, as they had a pair of punts blocked and returned for TDs in the 31-13 loss to Minnesota last Sunday.

First, Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score in the first quarter. Then, as the saying goes “when it rains, it pours,” when Everson Griffen returned a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The pair of blocked punts by the Vikings makes them the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21 at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half. Carolina trailed 28-6 at halftime and could never really get back on track, despite holding the Purple Gang to 92 yards rushing (Carolina tallied 178). Newton was sacked four times in the game but did manage to outshine Teddy Bridgewater in passing yardage by a 194-138 count (Bridgewater had TD passes in the win). Carolina went 7-16 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 35:48, while the Vikings kept the ball in frigid 12-degree weather at kickoff (wind chill? a balmy -7… cold enough for ya?) for 24:12 and was 4-11 on third down tries.

The Saints, tied with Atlanta in the NFC South, held off a late Pittsburgh rally enroute to a 35-32 win at Heinz Field last Sunday. New Orleans led 14-6 at the intermission before being outscored by the Steelers in the second half 26-21. Saints RB Mark Ingram ran for 122 of his team’s 143, while the Steelers had 103 in the contest in western Pennsylvania. Although he was outpassed by Roethlisberger 435-257, Brees did manage to throw five TDs in the win. New Orleans was 4-10 on third down conversions and kept the ball for 26:01, while Pittsburgh went 6-14 and 0-1 on third and fourth downs, keeping the ball for 33:59.

They met in Charlotte in week nine and the Saints came away with the 28-10 Thursday night win. After a scoreless first quarter, the Saints took a 14-0 lead with them to the half and never trailed after that, outscoring the Panthers 14-10 in the final 30 minutes of play. New Orleans’ Mark Ingram ran for 100 of his team’s 105 (Carolina had 109), while both Brees and Newton were sacked four times each with one interception. New Orleans went 7-13 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries and kept the ball for 34:53, while Carolina was 6-14, keeping the ball for 24:42. The Saints won by 19, covering the 2 point spread with ease. That was the good news. The bad news? They didn’t cover the 49 over/under, combining for only 38. This time, New Orleans is favored by 8 1/2 and the over/under is 49 1/2. The Saints are trying to keep pace with Atlanta, who they lost to in the Big Peach in week one (Atlanta holds the tiebreaker with both Carolina and New Orleans head to head and the Falcons have one more contest with each team), while the Panthers are trying to at least derail the Falcons (they meet in Atlanta to close out the season). New Orleans completes the sweep of the series at home in the Big Easy, even though Carolina will make things a bit hard for them in the dome.

New York Jets (2-10) at Minnesota (5-7), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 709) TCF Bank Stadium. The struggling Jets travel to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the Twin Cities to take on the Vikings in their temporary home.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! let a 10-3 lead at the half against Miami get away from them last Monday night in the Meadowlands as they fell to the Dolphins 16-13. New York would find themselves outscored in the second half by Miami 13-3 in the second half to send them further into freefall. The one bright spot in the Monday night contest was that GangGreen outrushed Miami 277-74 (with Jets RB Chris Johnson accounting for 105). A 4-yard TD run by Lamar Mitchell and a 26 yard field goal by K Caleb Sturgis erased a 13-6 lead as the teams entered the final 15 minutes of play, along with a pair of Geno Smith sacks did GangGreen in. The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS were 7-15 on third down tries and kept the ball for 32:35, while Miami held the ball for 27:25 and went 5-13 on third down conversions.

The Vikings took advantage of a pair of blocked punts last Sunday against Carolina, coming out on top of the Panthers 31-13. Minnesota got the block party started when Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for a score in the first quarter. Then Eversonn Griffen returned a punt blocked by Jasper Brinkley 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. The pair of blocked punts by the Vikings makes them the first team since the 1975 Detroit Lions (September 21 at Green Bay) to return two blocked punts for touchdowns in a half. Minnesota led 28-6 at halftime and never looked back, even though they were held to 92 yards rushing (Carolina tallied 178). Newton was sacked four times in the game but did manage to outshine Teddy Bridgewater in passing yardage by a 194-138 count (Bridgewater had TD passes in the win). Carolina went 7-16 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 35:48, while the Vikings kept the ball in frigid 12-degree weather at kickoff with a wind chill of a somewhat balmy -7 for 24:12 and was 4-11 on third down tries.

GangGreen leads the series 8-1, have outscored the Purple Gang 226-142 and have won the last seven meetings, including a 29-20 win in the Meadowlands in 2010. Minnesota’s only win in the series came in 1975, when the Vikings played at old Metropolitan Stadium and took a 29-21 win. Minnesota’s favored by 5 1/2 at home and the over/under is 41 1/2. The Jets are going nowhere and the way things are going, Rex Ryan may not be roaming the sidelines much longer. The Vikings are trying to catch the Packers and make it to post-season play. Vikings cover the 5 1/2 and takes the win at home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Tampa Bay (2-10) at Detroit (8-4), 1 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 710) Ford Field. It’s a pair of old NFC North foes meeting in Detroit as the Lions host Tampa Bay in the Motor City. While the Lions are in pursuit of Green Bay in the NFC North, the Buccaneers sit in last place in the NFC South, trailing Atlanta by three games.

Tampa Bay let a 10-7 over Cincinnati out of their grasp and fell to the Bengals 14-13. Despite picking off Cincy QB Andy Dalton three times, the Buccaneers ran for only 75 yards (Cincinnati had 112) and Josh McCown outpassed Dalton 190-176 (Dalton had one TD pass, a 14-yarder to WR A.J. Green). Tampa Bay was 2-11 and 0-1 on third and fourth down conversions, while the Bengals were 5-11 on third down tries (they did not have a fourth down attempt) and the clock was the ally of the Bengals, who held the ball for 30:37 to Tampa Bay’s 29:23.

The Lions made quick work of Chicago last Thursday at Ford Field, taking Da Bears 34-17. After trailing Chicago 14-3 after one quarter, Detroit went on to outscore their Thanksgiving guests from the Windy City 31-3 in the final 45 minutes of play. Lions WR Calvin Johnson (aka Megatron) burned Chicago for 146 yards and a pair of TDs (Matthew Stafford threw 390) and the Lions outrushed Chicago 91-13 and sacked Jay Cutler three times and picked him off twice. Detroit on third and fourth down tries went 5-12 and 1-2, holding the ball for 33:25, while Chicago was 5-12 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 26:35.

Detroit leads the series 29-26 and have outscored the Buccaneers 1,165-960. Tampa Bay won last year’s meeting in the Motor City, taking a 24-21 win (Detroit’s last win also came in the Sunshine State in 2011, taking a 27-20 decison). In that week 12 affair, the Bucs led 17-14 at half and played the Lions pretty even in the final two quarters of play. Despite being held to 22 yards rushing (Detroit had 104) and sacking Matthew Stafford twice, Tampa Bay forced five Lions turnovers in the win. Tampa Bay went 4-14 on third down conversions, holding the ball for 26:38, while the Lions were 8-15 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, holding on to the pigskin for 33:22.

Tampa Bay won by three (Detroit was favored by 9) and did not cover the spread and both clubs missed the 48 1/2, scoring only 45 points. Detroit’s favored by 8 1/2 and the over/under’s 41 1/2. Tampa Bay’s bad but they’re not 8 1/2 bad and there are no teams in the NFC South with a .500 record, even though Atlanta leads it and is unbeaten in divisional play. The Lions are one game better than they were last year and look to improve on what they did in 2013. If you’re a fan of one of these teams, feel free to watch; otherwise, beg the wife/girlfriend/mom/sister/cousin/aunt/grandmother/mother-in-law/significant other to take you shopping. Lions roar at home in the Motor City and could very well cover the 8 1/2.

Houston (6-6) at Jacksonville (2-10), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 707) EverBank Field. They’re separated by 872 miles along I-10 and they meet again in week 14.

Houston took a 24-0 lead over Tennessee last week and never looked back, coming away with the 45-21 win over the Titans. The Texans defense, led by J.J. Watt, held Tennessee to 83, sacked Tennessee signal callers Zach Mettenberger and Jake Locker three times, while picking them off three times. Houston barely missed the 100-yard barrier, running for 99 in the 24 point win and Texans QB Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six TD passes with no interceptions. Houston not only won the game, they ruled third and fourth down tries as well as the clock, going 11-17 and 1-1 and held the ball for 33:16, while the Titans were 3-9 on third down conversions and held the ball for 26:44.

Jacksonville needed to come from behind against the New York Giants last Sunday in the Sunshine State but managed to come away with a 25-24 win. The Jaguars used an 11-play drive that used 55 yards and 2:58 to take the lead for good when K Scott Scobee connected on a 43-yard field goal with 28 seconds left after they trailed 24-22 late in the contest and 21-3 at half. Jacksonville outrushed Big Blue 118-116, while sacking Eli Manning four times (rookie QB Blake Bortles was sacked seven times). The Jaguars forced three New York fumbles in the 1 point win and went 3-12 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 25:21, while the Giants kept the pigskin for 34:39 and went 7-15 on third down tries.

Houston leads the series 13-11 and has outscored Jacksonville 537-497. Jacksonville swept the series last year, winning in the Sunshine and Lone Star States (Houston’s last win came in 2012, when they beat Jacksonville as part of a season series sweep by a 43-37 overtime final in Houston). They met in week 12 in Houston and it was Jacksonville coming out on top 13-6. The Jaguars led 10-3 at the half and held off a late Houston rally to take the win. Houston was held to 77 yards rushing, while Jacksonville, led by RB Maurice Jones-Drew (84 yards, TD) ran for 118. Although Chad Henne was sacked four times, the Jacksonville signal caller did manage to throw for 239 yards without being intercepted. Jacksonville on third and fourth downs? 7-17 and 1-1, keeping the ball for 33:41. Houston? They had problems on third and fourth down tries (4-15, 0-1) and held the ball for 26:19.

The two teams made the trek up I-10 eastward to Jacksonville and the Jaguars completed the sweep of the series, winning 27-20 two weeks later in week 14. Jacksonville led 17-7 at halftime on Florida’s East Coast and held off the Texans, sealing their fate on a 39-yard field goal by K Josh Scobee with 25 seconds left in the contest. Third and fourth down tries in the second meeting? A little better but since neither team was going to the post-season party in 2013, it was still nothing to write home about, as the Texans were 8-17 and 1-2; Jacksonville was 4-14 on third down and did not attempt a fourth down try. Houston did win the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 35:22 to Jacksonville’s 24:38.

Jacksonville won by 7 in the first meeting in week 12 in Houston (the Texans were favored by 10) and missed the spread and neither team came anywhere near the 43 1/2 over/under, combining for only 19. Two weeks later in Florida, Houston was favored by 3 (Jacksonville covered the spread, winning by 7 on a Thursday night) and both clubs covered the 43 1/2 over/under, scoring 47 points. Houston’s favored by 4 1/2 and the over/under is 42. Houston’s looking to improve its playoff hopes and need to catch Indianapolis for that to happen. Jacksonville? The Jaguars would love nothing more than play spoiler and help the Colts win the AFC South. Houston takes Jacksonville to the woodshed and wins in the Sunshine State, covering the 4 1/2.

Baltimore (7-5) at Miami (7-5), 1 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 708) Sun Life Stadium. Separated by 1108 miles along I-95, Baltimore travels to the Sunshine State to take on the Dolphins in Miami.

The Ravens and Joe Flacco let a 16-10 lead at the half against San Diego slip out of their hands in Charm City last Sunday, falling to the Chargers 34-33. San Diego outscored the Ravens in the second half 24-17 and used an 8-play, 80 yard drive in the final seconds of the contest, which ended when WR Eddie Royal caught a 1 yard TD pass from Philip Rivers with 38 seconds left to play. Baltimore, out of time outs, then had one last chance to take the lead back with just a field goal and got as far as their 33 when QB Joe Flacco threw a 24 yard pass to Kamar Aiken with nine seconds left. Aiken tried to reach the sidelines to get out of bounds to stop the clock but could not and the contest ended. Ravens RB Justin Forsett led all rushers with 106 yards (Baltimore had 125 and held San Diego to 64) and Flacco threw for 225 yards a pair of TDs, while Rivers threw for 383 yards and three TDs, despite being sacked three times. Both the Chargers and Ravens did reasonably well on third down conversions in the game (San Diego was 9-11, while Baltimore went 7-12) and the clock was the ally of Baltimore, who held the ball for 30:11 to San Diego’s 29:49.

Although they were outrushed by the New York Jets last Monday night 277-74 and trailed GangGreen 10-3 at the half, the Dolphins rallied to take the 16-13 win in the Meadowlands. Miami trailed 13-6 after 45 minutes of action before scoring the final 10 points of the game unchallenged when RB Lamar Miller’s 4 yard run and a 26 yard field goal by K Caleb Sturgis closed out the scoring. New York was 7-15 on third down tries and kept the ball for 32:35, while Miami held the ball for 27:25 and went 5-13 on third down conversions.

Miami leads the series 5-4 and have outscored the Ravens 169-157. Baltimore has won the last four contests with the Dolphins (including a playoff win in 2008) and won last year’s meeting in the Sunshine State (Miami’s last win over Baltimore came in 2007 by a 22-16 overtime final in Miami). The Ravens erased a 13-16 deficit at the half and came away with a 26-23 win, outscoring the Dolphins 20-10 in the final 30 minutes of play and took the lead for good on a 44 yard field goal by K Justin Tucker with 1:42 left to play. Baltimore outrushed Miami 133-22 and sacked Ryan Tannehill six times in the come-from-behind win. Third downs tries went like this… Baltimore was 6-16, Miami was 3-16 (1-1 on fourth down) and the clock was on the side of the Ravens at 36:16 to Miami’s 23:44.

Miami was favored by 3 and the over/under was 43. Baltimore BARELY covered the spread, winning by 3 and both teams covered the over/under with 49 points. This time? Miami’s favored by 3 and the over/under is a bit higher this time at 45. It’s possible these two could meet in the post-season but this is the regular season. Miami wins at home in the Sunshine State and covers the 3.

Buffalo (7-5) at Denver (9-3), 4:05 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 715) Sports Authority Field. A vastly improved Buffalo Bills team travels westward to take on Peyton Manning and the AFC West-leading Broncos in the Mile High City.

The Bills wound up being 7-5 for the first time since 2000 with their 26-10 win at home in Orchard Park against Cleveland. Buffalo erased a 3-0 lead at the half and never looked back, outscoring Cleveland 26-7 in the final 30 minutes of play and outrushing the Browns 106-74. Buffalo on third and fourth down conversions went 2-15 and 2-2 and held the ball for 30:55, while the Browns were 3-12 and 0-1 on third and fourth down, keeping the ball for 29:05.

Denver took a 20-7 halftime lead at Kansas City last Sunday night and made life miserable for the Chiefs, as they came away with a 29-16 win. Kansas City was outrushed by the defending AFC champions 214-41 (with Broncos RB C.J. Anderson leading all rushers with 168 yards) and Manning threw a pair of TDs in the AFC West contest. Denver, who forced three Chiefs turnovers, went 9-21 and 2-2 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 38:47, while Kansas City was 1-9 and 1-2 on third and fourth down and kept the ball for 21:13.

Buffalo leads the series 19-15-1, have outscored Denver 838-771 and are winners of the last two contests, including a 40-14 win in Orchard Park in 2011, while Denver last beat the Bills 15-14 in Buffalo in 2007. Denver’s favored by 10 and the over/under’s 49. Buffalo’s a lot better than what they were last year but the Broncos are the defending AFC champions. Denver wins this one in the Mile High City, even though they might not cover the 10.

Kansas City (7-5) at Arizona (9-3), 4:05 p.m. (CBS and DirecTV 714) University of Phoenix Stadium. A pair of contenders with losses under their belts meet in the desert as the Chiefs, trying to catch Denver, take on the Arizona Cardinals, who have the Seattle Seahawks in their rear-view mirrors.

Kansas City struggled against Peyton Manning and Denver last Sunday night at Arrowhead, falling to the Broncos 29-16. Kansas City trailed 20-7 at half and could never recover in the AFC West contest. Kansas City turned the ball over three times and was outrushed by Denver 214-41 and Broncos RB C.J. Anderson ran amok, rushing for 168 yards in the 13 point loss. The Chiefs were 1-9 on third down conversions (1-2 on fourth down) and held the ball for 21:13, while the Broncos were 9-21 (2-2 on fourth) on third down tries, keeping the ball for 38:47.

Arizona also struggled in their last contest, falling to Atlanta 29-18 in the Big Peach. Arizona was held to 35 yards rushing (Atlanta had 142, with RB Stephen Jackson accounting for 101 of those yards) and turned the ball over three times. The Desert Angry Birds were 1-7 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 22:57, while Atlanta was 7-16 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 37:03.

Including contests when both teams were in the Show-Me State when the Cardinals were in St. Louis, the Chiefs lead the series 8-2-1, have outscored the Desert Angry Birds 273-153 and have won the last three meetings, including a 31-13 win in Kansas City in 2010 (Arizona’s last win over the Chiefs came in 2001 in Arizona by a final of 24-16). The Cards are favored by 1 and the over/under is 41. Both teams are looking to bounce back from bad losses last week. Arizona, who could get WR Larry Fitzgerald back, makes this one close but Kansas City takes the win on the road and covers the 1.

Seattle (8-4) at Philadelphia (9-3), 4:25 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 717) Lincoln Financial Field. The defending Super Bowl champs travel east to the City of Brotherly Love to take on the first-place Eagles. Starbucks meets cheesesteak in the late aftenoon NFC affair at Lincoln Financial Field. The Seahawks and Eagles are both coming off Thanksgiving Day victories.
After two consecutive division wins – both by the score of 19-3 – the Seahawks enter the final month in control in the NFC West. If Seattle wins out, which includes a Week 16 matchup against the 9-3 Arizona Cardinals – who can also clinch the division by winning out – the Seahawks will take home the division crown for the second consecutive year.
“You just want to keep winning, one game at a time,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson told KOMO-TV and KING TV. “Go 1-0 every week and have a championship mindset. You just want to keep building, one week at a time.”  Seattle led 13-0 at the half against their NFC West rivals and took advantange of four Stephen Hauschka field goals (longest was 46 yards) and a 13 yard TD pass to RB Robert Turbin from Russell Wilson for the game’s only TD. Marshawn Lynch ran for 104 of Seattle’s 157 rushing yards, while the Seahawks held San Francisco to 64 and sacked 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick four times and picked him off twice. Seattle went 5-14 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries last Thursday in Santa Clara, keeping the ball for 35:19, while the 49ers (who turned the ball over three times) went 4-11 on third down tries and held the ball for 24:41.

Behind Le Sean McCoy’s 159 rushing yards and one touchdown in the win over Dallas, the Eagles took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East. With four games remaining, Philadelphia is in control of the division. McCoy surpassed the 1,000-yard rushing mark (1,018) and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin reached the 1,000-yard receiving mark (1,088) with 108 yards against the Cowboys. Philly in their 33-10 win over their NFC East rivals scored on four of their first five possessions and never looked back. The Eagles outrushed Dallas 256-93 and forced three Cowboys turnovers (two Tony Romo interceptions and a fumble), while going 8-15 on third down tries (Dallas was 4-12 and 0-1 on third and fourth downs) and held the ball for 30:25 to Dallas’ 29:35.

Philly holds a slim 7-6 lead in the series and the defending Super Bowl champs have outscored Philly 273-257. Seattle won the last meeting in 2011 in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks 31-14, while Philly’s last win in the series also came in the Pacific Northwest, with the Eagles coming out on top 26-7 in 2008. The oddsmakers like the Eagles as a 1 point favorite with a 49 over/under. This one’s almost “Drill Worthy” but not quite. Still, it’s not a bad game to watch. Eagles cover the 1 in the City of Brotherly Love, although Seattle will not make it easy for them.

San Francisco (7-5) at Oakland (1-11), 4:25 p.m. (FOX and DirecTV 716) O.co Coliseum. They share the same bay and are 11 miles apart from each other and meet for only the 13th time in their histories. They both lost last week and while the 49ers are looking to stay in the playoff hunt, the Raiders look to at least salvage a somewhat dismal season.

San Francisco and Colin Kaepernick (who was sacked four times and threw two interceptions) could never get on track last Thursday evening at home against the defending Super Bowl champions, falling to Seattle 19-3. The 49ers trailed 13-0 at half before Seattle pulled further away to take the win at Santa Clara. San Francisco turned the ball over three times and were held to 64 yards, while the Seahawks ran for 157, with Marshawn Lynch leading all rushers with 104. Seattle was 5-14 and 0-1 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 35:19, while the 49ers were 4-11 on third down and held the ball for 24:41.

After their win over Kansas City at home two weeks ago, the Raiders digressed into their former selves, losing in St. Louis 52-0. That’s not a misprint. 52-0. Oakland, who turned the ball over five times, trailed 38-0 at halftime and could never recover from that deficit and were held to 61 yards rushing, while the Rams and rookie RB Tre Manson ran for 172 yards (Manson had 117 of his own) and Raider QBs David Carr and Matt Schaub were sacked three times each. The Silver and Black went 4-18 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries but won the time of possession battle, keeping the ball for 36:56, while the Rams had it for 23:04 and went 1-8 on third down conversions.

The series? Even at 6-6 and San Francisco has outscored the Silver and Black 278-216. San Francisco won the last meeting in 2010 at old Candlestick Park, taking a 17-9 win, while the Raiders’ last victory over their Bay-area neighbor came in 2000, also at Candlestick in overtime by a final of 34-28. The 49ers are favored by 7 1/2 and the over/under’s 41 1/2. The 49ers are looking to push their way to the playoffs, while the Raiders are just trying to “survive, baby.” You might want to pass on this one (unless you’re a fan of either team). Otherwise, we suggest that “Law & Order: SVU” marathon on USA (yes, we think that Benson slapping the cuffs on someone is really sexy!). San Francisco crosses the bay and comes back home with the win and covers the 7 1/2.

New England (9-3) at San Diego (8-4), 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) Qualcomm Stadium. Two teams in the thick of the AFC playoff race will meet on Sunday night. At 9-3, the Patriots lead the AFC East and are in control for home-field advantage. The 8-4 Chargers are currently the top Wild Card team and sit just one game behind Denver for the top spot in the AFC West. San Diego is in control for a playoff berth.

The Patriots had their seven-game winning streak snapped last week at Green Bay but are still in good position heading into December. By winning out, New England will clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC and secure a first-round bye for the fifth consecutive season. The Pats were outrushed by Green Bay 130-84 and played turnover-free football, while going 4-10 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 23:25, while the Packers were 10-17 on third down conversions, holding the ball for 36:35.

The Chargers improved to 8-4 with a crucial 34-33 come-from-behind win at Baltimore. Trailing by 10 points (30-20) with 6:13 remaining, quarterback Philip Rivers led San Diego back. He capped the rally with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Eddie Royal with 38 seconds left in the game. San Diego trailed 16-10 at the half in Charm City before outscoring the Ravens 24-17 in the final 30 minutes of play. The Bolts were outrushed by Baltimore 125-64 (Ravens RB Justin Forsett led all rushers with 106 yards) but Rivers threw for 383 yards and three TDs in the win, while Joe Flacco threw for a pair of TDs and 225 yards.

“These are the kind of games you have to win to get into the postseason,” says Rivers. “And these are the kind of games you’ve got to win if you do get in.”

Both clubs did quite well on third down tries (San Diego was 9-11, Baltimore was 7-12) and the Ravens ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:11, while San Diego held it for 29:49.

Including contests that were played when the Patriots played their home games at Fenway Park and the Chargers were in Los Angeles, New England leads the series 20-14-2 and has outscored San Diego 860-720. New England won the last meeting between the two clubs in 2011 in Foxboro by a 35-21 final, while San Diego’s last win in the series was a 30-10 win on the Left Coast in 2008. New England is favored by 3 1/2 and the over/under is 51 1/2.

On Sunday night, New England’s 20-16 (2-0 last year), while the Bolts are one game below .500 at 16-17 (0-1 in 2013). It’s Brady vs. Rivers. These are two pretty good if not great QBs taking the field Sunday night, which means you might want to tape “The Good Wife” this week. It also makes this one “Drill Worthy.” (For those of you that know what The Drill is, you are excused. Everyone else, pay attention. We don’t want any rookie mistakes here, k?)

After you go to the 9:30 mass on Sunday (the 4:30 vigil mass on Saturday counts as a mass attended, people! Don’t make us send the nuns after you!), head to your favorite store (a trip to Wal Mart, Target, K-Mart or Costco counts) and get the vittles and the beverages (soda, beer, wine, coffee, et al… if you live in a state that allows the purchase of the items in question) and invite the co-workers, the neighbors (including that really cute kindergarden teacher that knows what to do with a cover-2 defense) and your cousin Connie (remember her? She’s the one that’s been married twice that’s just turned 55 and dates a 40-year old ex-Marine, who’s now a football coach at the high school in your town. She’s also the one that ate an entire Oreo cheesecake, two bags of Cool Ranch Doritos, two bacon cheeseburgers with blue cheese and chugged two 2-liter Cokes at your Super Bowl party last year and didn’t gain a pound. You look at her and say to yourself, “what the hell?”

Both teams would like nothing more than to dethrone King Peyton and the Broncos. New England holds the tiebreaker with Denver and Denver has a 1-0 lead on the Chargers with one more meeting in San Diego coming up next week. San Diego makes this one tougher for the Pats but New England prevails in San Diego and covers the 3 1/2.

Atlanta (5-7) at Green Bay (9-3), 8:30 p.m. Monday (ESPN) Lambeau Field. A pair of divison leaders close out week 14 in the land of beer, bratwurst and cheese as Atlanta travesl to Green Bay to take on the Packers.

The Falcons enter the final month tied with New Orleans for the top spot in the NFC South. Atlanta, with a Week 16 matchup with the Saints still on the schedule in the Big Easy, is in control of the division. Last week, the Falcons knocked off Arizona 29-18 behind a 10-catch, 189-yard performance from wide receiver Julio Jones, who also scored a touchdown. The win over the Desert Angry Birds was the first outside of the NFC South and Stephen Jackson’s 101 yards rushing made him the first Falcons RB to rush for over 100 yards since Michael Turner (102) did it against Dallas in the Big Peach November 4 of 2012.

Atlanta led the Desert Angry Birds 20-10 at halftime and never looked back, holding off a pair of Cardinal rallies that would have made things a lot closer. Falcons K Matt Bryant connected on four field goals in the contest in the Big Peach and Ryan threw for 361 yards and a pair of TDs (including one to Jones) and no interceptions. Atlanta outrushed Arizona 142-35 and went 7-16 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 37:03, while Arizona held the ball for 22:57 and went 1-7 on third down tries.

Up next for the first-place Falcons? A trip to chilly Green Bay where the Packers are 6-0 this season, outscoring opponents 245-106. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown 360 consecutive pass attempts and 31 touchdown passes in a row at home without an interception, both NFL records. When he takes the field on Sunday, Rodgers will have gone more than two years since his last interception at Lambeau Field (December 2, 2012 against Minnesota; the Packers won that game 23-14).

Last week, the Packers defeated New England 26-21 and enter the final stretch in sole possession of first place in the NFC North. By winning out, Green Bay will guarantee itself the division title and a first-round bye. Green Bay led the Brady-led Patriots 23-14 at the half and then held New England off in the second half to take the 5 point win. The Packers outrushed New England 130-84 and both Brady and Rodgers threw a pair of TDs in the contest. Green Bay was 10-17 on third down conversions and held the ball for 36:35, while New England went 4-10 and 1-1 on third and fourth down tries, keeping the ball for 23:25.

“We’re happy about the win,” Rodgers told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “But we have some big goals. Everything is still in front of us.”

Green Bay has excelled at Lambeau Field this season, starting 6-0 at home for the second time in the last 12 seasons (2011) and the fifth time since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (1996-97, 2002). The Packers are one of five teams undefeated at home this season (Arizona, Denver, Philadelphia, New England). Since the 1990s, Atlanta-Green Bay clashes have proven memorable.
In 1994, the Packers defeated the Falcons in the final NFL game in Milwaukee (December 18). QB Brett Favre’s lunging, 9-yard TD scramble on the game’s final play sealed the 21-17 victory. (Farve started his career as a Falcon before moving to Green Bay)

Green Bay leads the series 14-12, have outscored Atlanta 617-516 and are winners of the last two meetings with the Falcons, including a 22-21 come-from-behind win at Lambeau last season in week 14 (Atlanta’s last win against Green Bay came in 2010 in the Big Peach by a final of 20-17). Green Bay trailed 21-10 at the half in the near-frozen tundra (temperature at kickoff was 1 above with a -9 wind chill), with Atlanta’s Sean Weatherspoon intercepting backup QB Matt Flynn and taking it back 71 yards for a TD with 23 seconds left before halftime. A pair of Mason Crosby field goals and a TD pass to Andrew Quarless would close out the scoring in the second half and give Green Bay the lead for keeps. Green Bay outrushed Atlanta 112-83 in the come-from-behind win in the land of beer, bratwurst and cheese and forced a pair of Atlanta turnovers in the win. Atlanta was 6-13 and 0-1 on third and fourth down tries and held the ball for 26:28, while Green Bay kept the pigskin for 33:32, going 7-15 on third down conversions.

In the week 14 affair in Green Bay, even though the Packers won, they missed the 3 point spread, winning by one and both teams barely missed the 45 over/under by 2. As far as MNF goes, the Falcons are 10-26 (0-2 in 2013), while the Packers are 28-31-1 (0-1 in 2013). The Packers are an 11 1/2 point favorite and the over/under’s 56. It is possible the two teams could reach the over/under by halftime. The 11 1/2’s a bit high. This one might be closer than that. Atlanta pulls the upset in the Dairy State Monday night, even though they might not cover the 11 1/2.

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