It’s Week 14 of the NFL season and only four games remain to decide who advances to the playoffs for a shot at a trip to Super Bowl 50.

For those teams that are fighting for a playoff spot, it’s football’s answer to musical chairs. As long as the music plays

“Hopefully you just try to build off the last game into the next one,” says New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who passed for 390 yards and two touchdowns in the team’s 23-20 overtime win over the Giants in Week 13. “We’ve got to try to capture this momentum and ride it into next week and just continue to play better as a team.”

With four games to go, there are 20 teams either in or within one game of a playoff spot. There’s still hope and while Carolina has already punched their ticket to the post season party, there are others that are fighting for their playoff lives.

“We’re on a good stretch,” says Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson whose Seahawks have won three in a row and five of their past six. Wilson told KING-TV, KIRO-TV and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “But the only thing that matters is next week. That’s just our focus. That’s always been our focus, which is to go 1-0.”

As we approach the final four weeks of the regular season, only two teams – the Carolina Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals – have clinched a spot in the 2015 playoff field. The Panthers, who are 12-0 for the first time in franchise history and have won 16 consecutive regular-season games, secured the NFC South division title last week. Arizona secured its place in the post-season party with their 23-20 win over Minnesota Thursday night and can win the NFC West with a Seattle loss in Baltimore Sunday afternoon.

“We’ve got a good group of young men in our locker room,” says Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. “We have a good group of coaches and great support from our football staff and ownership. But we still have a lot of work left to go. We have four more games in the regular season to play.”

Carolina is the ninth team in the Super Bowl era to start 12-0. Of the previous eight, all eight made the playoffs, six advanced to the Super Bowl and four of those teams won the Super Bowl.

Entering the final four weeks of the regular season, a lot is still to be decided.

FOURTH QUARTER COMEBACKS: If you like comebacks, then week 13 was your early Christmas present. Close contests remain a staple of the 2015 season as eight teams won after trailing in the fourth quarter in Week 13. The last time there was more than eight such fourth-quarter comeback wins in one week was in Week 3 of 2011 (10).

The teams to win after trailing in the fourth quarter in Week 13:
WINNING TEAM, OPPONENT; FINAL SCORE (FOURTH QUARTER DEFICIT OVERCOME; Home teams in CAPS)
Carolina, New Orleans; Carolina 41, NEW ORLEANS 38 (4)
Dallas, Washington; Dallas 19, WASHINGTON 16 (3)
Green Bay; Detroit; Green Bay 27, DETROIT 23 (9)
Kansas City, Oakland; Kansas City 34, OAKLAND 20 (6)
New York Jets, New York Giants; New York Jets 23, NEW YORK GIANTS 20 (OT)(10)
San Francisco, Chicago; San Francisco 26, CHICAGO 20 (7)
Tampa Bay, Atlanta; TAMPA BAY 23, Atlanta 19 (3)
Tennessee, Jacksonville; TENNESSEE 42, Jacksonville 39 (4)

Teams have won after trailing in the fourth quarter 58 times this season, the third-most through Week 13 in NFL history.

The most wins after trailing in the fourth quarter through Week 13:
YEAR – MOST WINS AFTER TRAILING IN FOURTH QUARTER THROUGH WEEK 13
1989 – 60
2012 – 59
2015 – 58
2011 – 54
2009 – 51
2013 – 51

KEEPING IT CLOSE: Through Week 13, there have been 100 games decided by seven points or fewer, the most through the first 13 weeks of a season in NFL history.

The most games decided by seven points or fewer through Week 13:
MOST GAMES DECIDED BY SEVEN POINTS OR FEWER
SEASON THROUGH WEEK 13
2015 – 100
2012 – 97
2013 – 96
2011 – 96
2003 – 96

SCORING HIGHS: NFL teams have combined for 8,864 points in 2015, the second-most points through 13 weeks in NFL history. The previous high was 8,929 points in 2013.

That record total equates to 46.2 points per game. If the current average stays at this pace, it would also rank as the second-highest of any season since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (2013, 46.8 points per game).

FAST STARTERS: Carolina defeated New Orleans 41-38 to improve to 12-0 for the first time in franchise history. The Panthers clinched the NFC South division title and are the first team to qualify for the postseason.

Entering 2015, eight teams started a season 12-0 during the Super Bowl era. Of those eight clubs, all eight made the playoffs, six advanced to the Super Bowl and four of those teams won the Super Bowl.

MONDAY NIGHT MATCHUPS: The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins 19-16 on Monday Night Football. It marked the seventh consecutive week that the Monday Night Football game was decided by eight or fewer points, tying the longest single-season streak in the history of the program (October 7-November 18, 1974).

The seven consecutive Monday Night Football matchups in 2015 decided by eight or fewer points:
DATE – WEEK; FINAL SCORE (Home team in CAPS)
October 26, 2015 – 7; ARIZONA 16, Baltimore 18
November 2, 2015 – 8; CAROLINA 29, Indianapolis 26 (OT)
November 9, 2015 – 9; Chicago 22, SAN DIEGO 19
November 16, 2015 – 10; Houston 10, CINCINNATI 6
November 23, 2015 – 11; NEW ENGLAND 20, Buffalo 13
November 30, 2015 – 12; Baltimore 33, CLEVELAND 27
December 7, 2015 – 13; Dallas 19, WASHINGTON 16

The seven consecutive Monday Night Football matchups in 1974 decided by eight or fewer points:
DATE – WEEK; FINAL SCORE
October 7, 1974 – 4; Miami 21, New York Jets 17
October 14, 1974 – 5; Detroit 17, San Francisco 13
October 21, 1974 – 6; Chicago 10, Green Bay 9
October 28, 1974 – 7; Pittsburgh 24, Atlanta 17
November 4, 1974 – 8; Los Angeles Rams 15, San Francisco 13
November 11, 1974 – 9; Minnesota 28, St. Louis Cardinals 24
November 18, 1974 – 10; Kansas City 42, Denver 34

QB MILESTONES: Below is a sampling of the quarterback milestones that were reached in Week 13:

•New England quarterback Tom Brady passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia. Brady, who now has 423 career touchdown passes, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420) for the third-most touchdown passes in NFL history. Only Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Farve (508) have thrown more touchdown passes.

•New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina. Brees has 110 career touchdown passes in the month of December, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (110) for the third-most touchdown passes during the month in NFL history.

•Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton passed for 220 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a career-best 146.8 passer rating in the Bengals’ 37-3 win at Cleveland. Dalton, who has 3,191 passing yards this season, joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards in each of their first five NFL seasons.

•New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning passed for 297 yards against the New York Jets. Manning, who now has 43,073 career passing yards, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN FOUTS (43,040) for No. 11 on the all-time passing yards list.

•Tennessee rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota passed for 268 yards with three touchdowns for a 118.2 passer rating and added 112 rushing yards with one touchdown in the Titans’ 42-39 win against Jacksonville. Mariota is the only player in NFL history to pass for at least 250 yards with three touchdowns and rush for more than 100 yards in the same game. Mariota has four games this season with at least three touchdown passes, tying Peyton Manning (1998) for the most ever by an NFL rookie.

•San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers passed for 202 yards against Denver. In 12 seasons, Rivers has 40,368 passing yards and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas (40,239) for No. 16 on the all-time passing yards list.

•Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith completed 16 of 22 passes (72.7 percent) for 162 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 123.7 passer rating in the Chiefs’ 34-20 win at Oakland. Smith now has an active streak of 305 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr (294) for the third-longest streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history.

WR MILESTONES: Below is a sampling of the wide receiver milestones that were reached in Week 13:

•Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. had six catches for 149 yards and a touchdown against the New York Jets. Beckham has 169 career receptions and passed Marques Colston (168) for the most by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history. Beckham has eight career games with at least 140 receiving yards, the most ever by any player in his first two NFL seasons.

•Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had eight catches in the Cardinals’ 27-3 win at St. Louis, giving him 1,000 for his career. Fitzgerald became the youngest player all-time to reach the milestone (32 years, 97 days on Sunday). Fitzgerald is tied with Hines Ward (1,000) for 11th on the all-time receptions list.

•Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green had five receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown in the Bengals’ 37-3 victory over Cleveland. Green now has 1,037 receiving yards this season, his fifth consecutive season with at least 1,000, joining Randy Moss (six) as the only players in NFL history with at least five 1,000-yard receiving seasons to begin a career.

•Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones had eight receptions for 93 yards against Tampa Bay. Jones, who leads the league with 102 catches, is the second player in NFL history with at least 100 receptions by his team’s 12th game (Marvin Harrison, 109 receptions through 12 games in 2002).

•New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall had 12 catches for 131 yards and one touchdown in the Jets’ 23-20 overtime win against the New York Giants. Marshall, who leads the Jets with 1,062 receiving yards this season, is the first player in NFL history with a 1,000-yard receiving season with four different teams (Denver, Miami, Chicago and the Jets).

CATCHING ON: Dallas tight end Jason Witten had five receptions for 45 yards in the Cowboys’ 19-16 victory over Washington on Monday Night Football. Witten now has 1,003 career receptions and joined Tony Gonzalez (1,325) as the only tight ends in NFL history to have 1,000 career catches.

The tight ends with the most receptions in NFL history:
PLAYER (TEAMS; RECEPTIONS)
Tony Gonzalez (Atlanta and Kansas City; 1,325)
Jason Witten (Dallas; 1,003)*
Antonio Gates (San Diego; 827)*
Shannon Sharpe (Baltimore and Denver; 815)
Ozzie Newsome (Cleveland; 662)
*Active

Witten (33 years, 215 days old on Monday) also became the youngest tight end in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions.

The youngest players to reach 1,000 career receptions in NFL history:
PLAYER – AGE AT TIME OF 1000TH RECEPTION; CAREER RECEPTIONS
Larry Fitzgerald – 32 years, 97 days; 1,000*
Andre Johnson – 33 years, 163 days; 1,040*
Jason Witten – 33 years, 215 days; 1,003*
Jerry Rice – 34 years, 21 days; 1,594
Marvin Harrison – 34 years, 107 days; 1,102
Tony Gonzalez – 34 years, 197 days; 1,325
Reggie Wayne – 34 years, 331 days; 1,070
*Active

STREAKING SMITH: Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith completed 16 of 22 passes (72.7 percent) for 162 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 123.7 passer rating in the Chiefs’ 34-20 win at Oakland.

Smith now has an active streak of 305 consecutive pass attempts without an interception, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Bart Starr (294) for the third-longest streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history.

The most consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (YEARS; CONSECUTIVE PASS ATTEMPTS WITHOUT AN INTERCEPTION)
Tom Brady – New England (2010-11; 358
Bernie Kosar – Cleveland (1990-91; 308)
Alex Smith – Kansas City (2015; 305)*
Bart Starr – Green Bay (1964-65; 294)
Jeff George – Indianapolis and Atlanta (1993-94; 279)
*Active streak

TOM TERRIFIC: New England quarterback Tom Bradyd passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns against Philadelphia in Week 13. Brady, who now has 423 career touchdown passes, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420) for the third-most touchdown passes in NFL history. Only Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Farve (508) have thrown more touchdown passes.

The quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in NFL history:
PLAYER; YEARS (CAREER TD PASSES)
Peyton Manning; 1998 to present (539)*
Brett Favre; 1991-2010 (508)
Tom Brady; 2000 to present (423)*
Dan Marino; 1983 to 1999 (420)
Drew Brees; 2001 to present (419)*
*Active

CINCINNATI SUCCESS: Since entering the NFL in 2011, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons and can clinch a fifth consecutive postseason berth this weekend. Dalton would join Joe Flacco (five) as the only starting quarterbacks to lead a team to the playoffs in each of his first five NFL seasons.

With a win against Pittsburgh in Week 14, Dalton (50) would also tie Ben Roethlisberger (51) for the third-most wins by a starting quarterback in his first five seasons during the Super Bowl era.

The starting quarterbacks with the most regular-season wins in their first five seasons during the Super Bowl era (since 1966):

QUARTERBACK – TEAM (WINS)
Matt Ryan – Atlanta Falcons (56)
Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens (54)
Ben Roethlisberger – Pittsburgh Steelers (51)
Andy Dalton – Cincinnati Bengals (50)*
Tom Brady – New England Patriots (48)
Dan Marino – Miami Dolphins (48)
*Four games remaining

4,000-YARD PASSERS: New England’s Ton Brady (seven) and San Diego’s Philip Rivers (six) rank third and tied for fourth, respectively, on the all-time list of NFL players with the most 4,000-yard passing seasons.

Brady leads the league with 3,912 passing yards and needs 88 yards at Houston on Sunday Night Football to reach 4,000 passing yards and join PEYTON MANNING (14) and DREW BREES (nine) as the only players with at least eight 4,000-yard seasons.

Rivers (3,713) needs 287 yards against Kansas City to reach the milestone for the seventh time.

The players with the most 4,000-yard passing seasons:
PLAYER – 4,000-YARD SEASONS
Peyton Manning – 14*
Drew Brees – 9*
Tom Brady – 7*
Brett Favre – 6
Dan Marino – 6
Philip Rivers – 6*
*Active

YO, ADRIAN!: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson ranks second among active players with 11,372 career rushing yards and 99 total touchdowns (94 rushing, five receiving).

Peterson, who will play in his 117th career game this week against Arizona on Thursday Night Football, joined Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Emmitt Smith and LaDanian Tomlinson as the only players in NFL history with at least 10,000 rushing yards and 100 total touchdowns in the first 117 games to begin a career.

TURN DOWN FOR WATT: Houston defensive end J.J. Watt leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks. With 1.5 sacks against New England on Sunday Night Football, Watt would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Reggie White (three) as the only players to register at least 15 sacks in three of their first five NFL seasons since the statistic became official in 1982.

Watt led the NFL with 20.5 sacks in 2012 and ranked second with 20.5 sacks in 2014.

The players to record at least 15 sacks in at least two of their first five NFL seasons since 1982:
PLAYER – TEAM (15-SACK SEASONS)
Reggie White – Philadelphia Eagles (3)#
Richard Dent – Chicago Bears (2)#
Kevin Greene – Los Angeles Rams (2)
Andre Tippett – New England Patriots (2)#
J.J. Watt – Houston Texans (2)*
#Pro Football Hall of Famer
*13.5 sacks in 2015

23 & UNDER: Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles ranks second in the AFC and third in the NFL with 27 touchdown passes in 2015, which is already a single-season franchise record. With three touchdown passes on Sunday against Indianapolis, Bortles would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, Matthew Stafford and Daunte Culpepper as the only players in NFL history with at least 30 touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger.

The players with 30+ touchdown passes in a season at age 23 or younger:

PLAYER – TEAM (YEAR, TD PASSES)
Dan Marino – Miami Dolphins (1984, 48)
Matthew Stafford – Detroit Lions (2011, 41)
Daunte Culpepper – Minnesota Vikings (2000, 33)
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars (2015, 27)*
*Through 12 games

CONSECUTIVE 100-CATCH SEASONS: Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown ranks second in the NFL with 93 catches in 2015. With seven catches against Cincinnati on Sunday, Brown would become the sixth player in NFL history with at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons.

Brown led the league with 129 catches last season and ranked second in the NFL with 110 receptions in 2013.

The players with at least three consecutive 100-catch seasons:
PLAYER, YEARS (CONSECUTIVE 100-CATCH SEASONS)
Marvin Harrison, 1999-2002 (4)
Jerry Rice, 1994-1996 (3)
Herman Moore, 1995-1997 (3)
Brandon Marshall, 2007-2009 (3)
Wes Welker, 2007-2009 (3)
Antonio Brown, 2013-2014 (2)*
*93 catches in 2015

STEELER SUCCESS: Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin has an 89-51 (.636) regular-season record since taking the reins in 2007.

With a win on Sunday at Cincinnati, Tomlin would join Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Noll (193) and Bill Cowher (149) as the third head coach in franchise history to reach 90 regular-season wins. Pittsburgh would be the first franchise in NFL history to have three different head coaches reach at least 90 career regular-season wins.

DECEMBER TO REMEMBER: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns against Carolina in Week 13.

Brees has 110 career touchdown passes in the month of December, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (110) for the third-most touchdown passes during the month in NFL history.

The quarterbacks with the most touchdown passes in the month of December in NFL history:

PLAYER – TEAMS (TD PASSES IN DECEMBER)
Peyton Manning – Indianapolis and Denver (134)*
Brett Favre – Green Bay, New York Jets and Minnesota (116)
Drew Brees – San Diego and New Orleans (110)*
Dan Marino – Miami (110)^
Tom Brady – New England (96)*
*Active
^Pro Football Hall of Famer

The NFL season enters the home stretch with four games remaining in the regular season. The final quarter of the season kicks off this week with playoff berths on the line.

“This is the time of the season where we really need our playmakers to make plays,” says Arizona safety Tyrann Mathieu, who was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month in November. “December football is very important. We just have to continue to get better,” he told the Arizona Republic.

Since 2010, the New England Patriots (21-4, .840) own the best record in the month, which also includes regular-season games played in January. The Green Bay Packers (18-6, .750) lead the NFC.

TEAM (WINS-LOSSES, PCT.)
New England Patriots (21-4, .840)
Green Bay Packers (18-6, 750)
Pittsburgh Steelers (18-6, 750)
Seattle Seahawks (18-7, .720)
Carolina Panthers (17-8, 680)
Indianapolis Colts (17-8, 680)

“The games in December are the most important regular-season games by far,” says NFL Network analyst and former NFL head coach Steve Mariucci. “It’s extremely important to win in December and to make a run at the playoffs and show improvement. You want your team to peak in December. It’s important to stay healthy and keep your players fresh. You remember what happens in December.”

With four games remaining, 20 teams are either in or within one game of a playoff spot.

“We’re playing December football now and it’s good to have these games be meaningful,” Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan told WUSA-TV and USA Today. “This is going to be an exciting time.”

Four weeks remain in the NFL regular season and wins are increasingly tough to come by, with every game of vital importance in the race to the playoffs.

“We’ve got to find a way each week to put ourselves in a position to win,” says Denver head coach Gary Kubiak. “And I think we’ve got a tough month heading our way and we better take it one day at a time,” he told the Rocky Mountain News and KUSA-TV.

Eleven of 16 AFC clubs currently have at least five wins and are in the thick of the playoff hunt.

“Everything is still out there in front of us,” says Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano, whose Colts are vying for their third consecutive AFC South title. “All the goals that we set out to reach are still attainable. It all starts this week and all we need to be is 1-0 come Sunday afternoon.”

The road to a Super Bowl championship often begins with a successful run up to the playoffs.

Since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978, the Super Bowl championship teams have posted a combined record of 112-36 (.757) in the final four games of the regular season in their title seasons. Twenty-eight of those 37 Super Bowl winners (75.7 percent) won at least three of their final four regular-season games during that span, and 35 of 37 (94.6 percent) won at least two of their last four contests to finish the regular season.

New England has posted an NFL-best 17-3 (.850) record in the final four games of the regular season since 2010, including a 3-1 record down the stretch last season en route to a Super Bowl XLIX title.

The teams with the best records in the final four games of the regular season since 2010:

TEAM (W-L RECORD, PCT.)
New England Patriots (17-3, .850)
Indianapolis Colts (15-5, 750)
Carolina Panthers (14-6, .700)
Green Bay Packers (14-6, .700)
Pittsburgh Steelers (14-6, .700)
San Diego Chargers (14-6, .700)

Two of the most successful “final four” quarterbacks will hit the road this week, as Tom Brady’s Patriots travel to Houston to face the Texans, who are tied for first place at 6-6 in the AFC South and Philip Rivers’ San Diego Chargers will face the Chiefs in Kansas City.

Rivers is 30-6 (.833) all-time in the final four games of the regular season, the highest winning percentage among quarterbacks since 1970 (minimum 20 starts). Brady ranks second during that span, with a 43-9 (.827) record in such games.

The quarterbacks with the best records in the final four games of the regular season since 1970 (minimum 20 starts):

QUARTERBACK (W-L RECORD, WIN PCT.)
Philip Rivers (30-6, .833)*
Tom Brady (43-9, .827)*
Roger Staubach (24-6, .800)
Joe Montana (35-12, .745)
Steve McNair (28-10, .737)
*Active

2015 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 14

AFC

Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh on Sunday

Cincinnati clinches AFC North division with:

1.Cincinnati win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1.New York Jets loss OR

2.Kansas City loss

New England at Houston on Sunday

New England clinches AFC East division with:
1.​New England win + New England clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over New York Jets OR

2.New England win + New York Jets loss or tie OR

3.New England tie + New York Jets loss OR

4.New England tie + New York Jets tie + New England clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over New York  Jets OR

5.New York Jets loss + New England clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker over New York Jets

(Note: New England clinches at least a tie in strength of victory tiebreaker in scenarios 1, 4 and 5 if two of the following occur: Buffalo win, Pittsburgh win, Miami loss, Cleveland loss)

New England clinches a playoff spot with:

1.New England win OR

2.Pittsburgh loss OR

3.New York Jets loss OR

4.New England tie + Kansas City loss OR

5.New England tie + Pittsburgh tie OR

6.New England tie + New York Jets tie

Denver vs. Oakland on Sunday

Denver clinches AFC West division with:

1.Denver win + Kansas City loss or tie OR

2.Denver tie + Kansas City loss

Denver clinches a playoff spot with:

1.Denver win + New York Jets loss or tie OR

2.Denver win + Pittsburgh loss or tie OR

3.Denver tie + New York Jets loss OR

4.Denver tie + Pittsburgh loss ​

NFC

CLINCHED: Carolina – NFC South

Carolina vs. Atlanta

Carolina clinches a first-round bye with:
1.Carolina win or tie OR

2.Minnesota loss or tie + Green Bay loss or tie

Arizona vs. Minnesota on Thursday

Arizona clinched a playoff spot and clinches NFC West division with:
1.Seattle loss or tie OR

2.Seattle loss

Last week was pretty good… as in 11-5 (for the year, that puts us at 117-61). Nothing’s been decided with the exception of the Panthers clinching a playoff spot and the NFC South last week and Arizona joining the playoff party with their win over Minnesota Thursday night in the desert. For most teams, they control their destinies, while others will have their destinies controled by someone else. Four of this Sunday’s games are rematches from previous weeks, so revenge is a huge factor. It’s a chance for teams that lost previously to play “Dirty Santa” and take back what was taken from them. Week 14 got underway in the desert as Arizona defeated Minnesota 23-20 on Thursday night and concludes in Miami as the Dolphins host the New York Giants on Monday night.

It’s time for Sunday and Monday play in week 14. Here are the picks for the Sunday and Monday contests.

Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 705. They’re only separated by 246 miles along I-85 and they meet in the Tar Heel State as Atlanta treks northward to face off against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

The Falcons, who are looking to end a five-game skid, still find themselves in the thick of the NFC playoff picture with four games left in the regular season. Atlanta wide receiver Julio Jones leads the NFL with 102 receptions and 1,338 receiving yards. Jones is only the second player in NFL history (Marvin Harrison, 2002) to have at least 100 receptions in his team’s first 12 games. Atlanta let a 12-7 lead at Tampa Bay get away from them as the Buccaneers rallied to take a 23-19 comeback win in the Sunshine State. Atlanta found themselves outrushed by Tampa Bay 166-64 but Matt Ryan outpassed rookie QB Jameis Winston 266-227 (each man had a TD pass and an interception) in the NFC South contest. Both clubs did quite well on third down tries in the Sunshine State, with Atlanta going 8 of 15, while Tampa Bay went 6 of 11 and the clock was the ally of Tampa Bay at 31:15 to Atlanta’s 28:45.

“We can’t change anything that’s happened to this point,” Ryan told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “We have to really focus on what we can do to be better moving forward. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told the AJC, WXIA-TV, WSB-TV and WCNN, “The loss (Sunday), that’s as tough as it gets for us. The finish was at hand. For us, finishing is about doing right longer and we didn’t get that done.”

The Panthers have clinched the NFC South for the third consecutive season. With four games remaining, Carolina is looking to clinch the top seed in the NFC and maintain its perfect season. Newton threw five touchdown passes in last week’s 41-38 win at New Orleans, his second five-touchdown performance in the past three weeks. In his career, Newton has posted a 15-4 (.789) record as a starting quarterback in regular-season games played in December/January.

Carolina trailed New Orleans 16-13 at the half before rallying to come away with the 41-38 win over the Saints in the Big Easy last Sunday. The contest featured the first 2-point defensive conversion when rookie LB Stephone Anthony returned a Greg Gano PAT that was blocked back for two points for New Orleans. Carolina would go on to outscore New Orleans 28-22, coming back twice in the second half and taking the lead for good when WR Jerricho Cotchery and Newton connected on a 15 yard TD pass with 65 seconds left. Carolina outrushed New Orleans 175-70, with Newton tossing five TDs, while Drew Brees had three (each man had an interception). The Panthers were 3 of 8 on third down tries but had success on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and kept the ball for 36:34, while the Saints were 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 23:26.

“Our first goal was to win our first game,” says Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly. “We were able to do that. Then we said we would win the next game. We’ve been able to do that. Then we had a big goal and that was to win the division. And we were able to do that. Now we’ve got a couple more goals moving forward and we’ve just got to look at one game at a time.”

The two Southern rivals meet for the 45th time and the Falcons lead the series 24-16 and have outscored Carolina 833-779. Atlanta and Carolian split the two meetings in last year’s action, with each taking wins in the other’s stadiums.

Meeting in Charlotte in week 11, Atlanta led 6-3 at the half and then held off a late Carolina rally that would have given the Panthers the victory to win 19-17. Carolina outrushed Atlanta 106-86 and Newton outpaced Ryan 292-268 (Newton had a pair of TDs with a pair of interceptions) but could have won the contest in regulation but Panthers K Gano’s 62-yard field goal try was blocked. Atlanta on third down tries was 5 of 15 and kept the ball for 31:58, while the Panthers were 3 of 13 (neither club had a fourth down attempt) and kept the ball for 28:02.

Week 17. Atlanta. Winner takes it all, loser goes home. It was Carolina’s turn to get revenge and they did just that, holding the Falcons to a 21-yard field goal by Matt Bryant to win 34-3. Carolina led 24-3 at the half and were never threatened by Atlanta from that moment on. Carolina outrushed Atlanta 194-63 in the Big Peach and Newton threw for 114 yards and one TD, while rushing for another and the Panther defense forced three Atlanta turnovers (two Ryan interceptions and a fumble) and sacked Ryan six times. The Panthers on third down tries in the second meeting, the one that gave them the NFC South title and would be Mike Smith’s last game as Atlanta’s head coach, went 4 of 10 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 31:13, while Atlanta kept the pigskin for 28:47, going 7 of 16 and 1 of 3 on third and fourth down tries.

In the week 11 contest, Carolina was favored by 1 1/2 and Atlanta covered the spread barely, winning by 2. As for the 46 over/under, both clubs missed by 10, scoring 36. The oddsmakers liked Atlanta as 3 1/2 point favorites and Carolina came away winning by 31 points, easily covering that spread. Neither club reached the 47 1/2 over/under, scoring only 37 points in the second contest in the Big Peach. The boys and girls in Vegas like Carolina as 7 point favorites and the over/under comes in at 45. Carolina’s already clinched the NFC South, while Atlanta would like to ruin the Panthers’ party. Sorry, Panthers. The party’s over. The ’73 Dolphins can now breath easy. Atlanta may not cover the 7 but they’re finer in Carolina and comes awway winners in the Tar Heel State.

San Francisco (4-8) at Cleveland (2-10), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 707. A pair of struggling teams meet along the shores of Lake Erie as the 49ers face off against the Cleveland Browns, mired in last place in the AFC North.

San Francisco comes away with a 26-20 overtime win over Chicago at Soldier Field last weekend. Chicago would have won the contest in the final seconds of regulation but Bears K Robbie Gould’s 36-yard field goal sailed wide left. With the contest going into the extra period, both Chicago and San Francisco had the ball once and produced nothing. It was the second possession for the 49ers that found them some luck as Blaine Gabbert and WR Torrey Smith connected on a 71-yard TD pass with 12:50 to play in overtime to take the 6-point win in the Windy City. Chicago did manage to outrush San Francisco 170-121 at Soldier Field last Sunday and Gabbert threw for 196 yards in the contest. Chicago went 8 of 17 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 37:24, while the 49ers held the ball for 24:46, going 7 of 16 on third down.

For Cleveland, if it weren’t for bad luck, they’d have no luck. After their heart-breaking loss to Baltimore in prime time on a Monday night, they went back to work and had no luck against Cincinnati, falling to the Bengals 37-3. The Browns trailed 20-3 at the half and were held to a 47-yard field goal by Travis Coons as time ran out in the first half. Cleveland was held to 68 yards on the ground, while their instate rivals ran for 144, while Andy Dalton threw for 220 yards and a pair of TDs, while Austin Davis was sacked three times and picked off once. The Browns on third down tries went 6 of 13 (0 of 2 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 29:02, while the Bengals were rulers of the clock, keeping the ball for 30:58 and went 5 of 12 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth down tries. For this game and probably the rest of the season, it’s Johnny Manziel under center for the Browns and Cleveland head coach Mike Pettine will have him under a very short leash. Manziel had the starting job won two weeks ago but lied to Pettine about a video that came out with him somewhat under the influence. Manziel was benched for two games and is now back under center with the restrictions in place.

The Browns lead the series 11-7 and have outscored San Francisco 362-318. San Francisco’s last win in the series came in 2011 when they took a 20-10 win at Candlestick Park, while the Browns’ last win in the series came along the shores of Lake Erie, taking a 20-7 win in 2007. Cleveland’s favored by 1 1/2 and the over/under’s 40 1/2. Both teams are struggling but if you’re a fan of either team, by all means, watch this one. Otherwise, you might want to beg the wife/girlfriend/significant other to take you Christmas shopping… or you could watch that “NCIS” marathon on USA Network (yes, the idea of Gibbs, Ziva or McGee headslapping Tony’s kinda cute). Browns fans can’t wait for their misery to end quick enough. 49ers cover the 1 1/2 and win in the Buckeye State.

Seattle (7-5) at Baltimore (4-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 716. It’s salmon vs. crabcakes as Seattle travels to the East coast for an early afternoon matchup in Charm City with the Baltimore Ravens.

Seattle led Minnesota 21-0 at the half in the Twin Cities and never looked back, taking a 38-7 win at TPC Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. The Vikings wound up scoring their only TD in the third quarter when WR Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 101 yards with 38 seconds to put Minnesota on the board and avoid the shutout. Minnesota was held to 31 yards rushing, while Seattle tallied 173 (with rookie RB Thomas Rawls doing his best Marshawn Lynch impression, rushing for 101 yards and a TD). Minnesota QB Teddy Bridgewater (118 yards) did not have a good day under center, tossing an interception and being sacked four times, while Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw for 274 yards and three TDs without turning the ball over. Seattle was 9 of 13 on third down conversions (1 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 35:10, while the Vikings went 2 of 10 on third down tries, 0 of 1 on fourth down and held the pigskin for 24:50

Baltimore fell to Miami 15-13 in the Sunshine State last week in Miami. Although they trailed 15-0 at the half, Baltimore managed to outscore Miami 13-0 in the final 30 minutes of action and had a chance to win in regulation but Jeff Tucker’s 55-yard field goal try sailed wide right. The Ravens were outrushed by Miami 137-94, with Dolphins RB Lamar Miller leading all rushers with 113 yards on 20 carries. Matt Schaub was no Joe Flacco, as he was sacked three times and picked off twice, while throwing for 308 yardd, while Ryan Tannehill needed only 86 yards, tossing his only TD pass to WR DeVante Parker, a 38-yard strike in the second quarter to open the scoring in the contest. Baltimore was 5 of 14 on third down conversions at Sun Life Stadium (0 of 1 on fourth down) and ruled the clock, as kept the ball for 38:09, while Miami held the pigskin for 21:51, while going 4 of 13 on third down tries (Miami did not have a fourth down attempt).

Seattle’s favored by 10 in Charm City and the over/under’s 42. There’s not a lot with this game. The Seahawks are looking to repeat as NFC champions, while the Ravens are just looking to survive. Seattle continues its march toward perhaps another NFC title and win on the road in Charm City.

The series is even at 2-2 with Seattle outscoring Baltimore 114-98. The defending NFC champs won the last two meetings, taking a 22-17 win in the land of grunge, salmon and Starbucks in 2001, while Baltimore’s last win in the series came in 2003 in Charm City, as the Ravens would need overtime to come away 44-41 winners.

Detroit (4-8) at St. Louis (4-8), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 708. A pair of 4-8’s meet in St. Louis as the Lions and Rams look to catch the leaders in their respective divisons.

Detroit led Green Bay 17-0 at the half at Ford Field last Thursday night and let that lead get away from them as Green Bay at the last second took a 27-23 win from the Lions, thanks to a facemask penalty that gave the Packers an untimed down and allowed Aaron Rodgers and TE Richard Rodgers connected on a 61-yard desparation toss as the clock struck :00. Green Bay outscored Detroit 27-6 in the second half to take the win and gain revenge from their loss at Lambeau. Detroit outrushed Green Bay 101-67 but Rodgers outpaced Matthew Stafford 273-220, with each man throwing three TDs in the contest. Green Bay on third down tries went 3 of 12 and found success in their only fourth down try, keeping the ball for 26:56, while Detroit held the pigskin for 33:04, going 6 of 16 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

The Rams were held to a 35-yard field goal by Zane Hocker in the third quarter, falling to Arizona 27-3 win in St. Louis last Sunday. Arizona held St. Louis to 66 yards, while the Desert Angry Birds rushed for 175 in the great indoors of Edward Jones Dome and QB Carson Palmer threw for 356 yards and a pair of TDs in the contest. Arizona was 7 of 16 on third down tries (0 of 1 on fourth down) and kept the ball for 39:47, while the Rams kept the pigskin for 20:13, going 1 of 12 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth downs.

New Orleans (4-8) at Tampa Bay (6-6), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 709. A pair of NFC South foes meet in the Sunshine State as Tampa Bay hosts the New Orleans Saints in a week two rematch.

New Orleans led Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers 16-13 at the half in the Big Easy before the Panthers found themselves rallying to come away with the 41-38 win over the Saints in the Big Easy last Sunday. The contest, which had six lead changes, featured the first 2-point defensive conversion when rookie LB Stephone Anthony returned a Greg Gano PAT that was blocked back for two points for New Orleans. Carolina would go on to outscore New Orleans 28-22, coming back twice in the second half and taking the lead for good when WR Jerricho Cotchery and Newton connected on a 15 yard TD pass with 65 seconds left. Carolina outrushed New Orleans 175-70, with Newton tossing five TDs, while Drew Brees had three (each man had an interception). The Panthers were 3 of 8 on third down tries but had success on fourth down, going 2 of 2 and kept the ball for 36:34, while the Saints were 3 of 10 and 0 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions, keeping the ball for 23:26.

Trailing Atlanta 12-7, Tampa Bay rallied to take a 23-19 comeback win over the Falcons in the Sunshine State. Tampa Bay outrushed the Falcons 166-64, while Matt Ryan outpassed rookie QB Jameis Winston 266-227 (each man had a TD pass and an interception) in the NFC South contest. Both clubs did quite well on third down tries in the Sunshine State, with Atlanta going 8 of 15, while Tampa Bay went 6 of 11 and the clock was the ally of Tampa Bay at 31:15 to Atlanta’s 28:45.

They met in week two in the Big Easy and Tampa Bay took a 26-19 win over Brees and the Saints in the Superdome. The Bucs led 10-7 at the intermission and never looked back, outrushing New Orleans in the first meeting 139-104. Both Brees and Winston would be sack targets (Brees was sacked four times, while Winston was sacked three) and Tampa Bay forced three New Orleans turnovers in the 7-point win. Tampa Bay was 5 of 14 on third down conversions in the Big Easy (they did not have a fourth down try) and held on to the ball for 28:32, while the Saints kept the pigskin for 31:28, going 7 of 14 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

New Orleans was favored by 9 1/2 in the Big Easy in the week two matchup and Tampa Bay won by 7, failing to cover the spread. The two clubs barely missed the 46 1/2 over/under, scoring 45 points. The Bucs are favored in the Sunshine State by 4 1/2 and the over/under is 50 1/2. It’s possible that the 50 1/2 could happen. The 4 1/2… that’s being a bit nice. History does have a way of repeating itself and the Saints have been struggling of late. Tampa Bay does the one thing they haven’t done since 2005 and that’s sweep New Orleans. Saints make it interesting but Tampa Bay wins at home in the Sunshine State and could cover the 4 1/2 in the process.

Washington (5-7) at Chicago (5-7), 1 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 706. A pair of contending teams coming off tough losses at home last week meet in the Windy City Sunday afternoon.

Washington trailed NFC East rival Dallas last Monday night and needed to rally late in their prime time contest at FedEx Field, only to fall to Dallas 19-16 in Landover. Washington trailed 16-9 with 40 seconds left in regulation when WR DeSean Jackson, who had fumlbed on a punt return earlier, caught a 27-yard TD pass from QB Kirk Cousins to tie the contest at 16-16. That tie did not last very long as Dallas would get the ball back and march down the field, ending Washington’s hopes of taking first place in the NFC East to themselves with a 54-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 9 seconds left. Washington then got the kickoff and tried several laterals and could not find any success, ending the contest. Dallas outrushed the ‘Skins 97-73, while Cowboys backup QB Matt Cassel outpace Cousins 222-219 (Cousins was sacked three times in the game). Washington was 6 of 18 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 32:47, while Dallas was 1 of 9 on third down (neither club had a fouth down attempt) and held on to the ball for 27:13.

Da Bears had victory snatched away from them at Soldier Field last Sunday against San Francisco, falling to the 49ers 26-20. Chicago would have won the contest in the final seconds of regulation but Bears K Robbie Gould’s 36-yard field goal sailed wide left. With the contest going into the extra period, both Chicago and San Francisco had the ball once and produced nothing. It was the second possession for the 49ers that found them some luck as Blaine Gabbert and WR Torrey Smith connected on a 71-yard TD pass with 12:50 to play in overtime to take the 6-point win in the Windy City. Chicago did manage to outrush San Francisco 170-121 at Soldier Field last Sunday and Gabbert threw for 196 yards in the contest. Chicago went 8 of 17 on third down tries, keeping the ball for 37:24, while the 49ers held the ball for 24:46, going 7 of 16 on third down.

Including contests that took place when the Redskins were in Boston and known as the Braves and Da Bears played in a little ballpark called Wrigley Field, Chicago leads the series 20-20-1 and they have outscored the ‘Skins 834-739. They last met in 2013 in Landover and Washington survived, taking a 45-41 win at FedEx Field. Chicago’s last win in the series came in 2001, also in Landover, as Da Bears came out on top 20-15. In 1940, the teams met in the NFL Championship Game and it was a game that Washington fans that are still alive would rather forget, as the Bears mauled Washington 73-0. The game was the first to air on network radio for the first time ever and the voice behind the mike? A young man named Red Barber.

Da Bears are favored by 3 in the Windy City and the over/under’s 44. Chicago needs to win to keep up with Green Bay in the NFC North (or as Chris Berman calls it the NFC Norris), while Washington is looking for some revenge from the 1940 beating and keeping the top spot in the crazy NFC East. “Hail To The Redskins?” Nope. Sorry, it’ll be more like “Hell! It’s the Redskins” in the Windy City. Da Bears won’t score 73 at Solider Field Sunday but they’ll cover the 3 and take the win.

Buffalo (6-6) at Philadelphia (5-7), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 715. It’s Buffalo wings vs. Cheesesteak as the Eagles host the Buffalo Bills in the City of Brotherly Love.

Both teams enter the contest at Lincoln Finanacial Field with wins under their belts from last week’s play. Buffalo took Houston to task in upstate New York, coming away 30-21 winner. The Bills led Houston 21-13 at the half and outscored the Texans in the second half to take the win. LeSean McCoy returns to Philly with 112 of his team’s 187 yards in the game (Houston ran for 126) and Bills QB Tyrod Taylor threw for 211 yards and three TDs without an interception. Meanwhile, Texans QB Blaine Hoyer threw for 293 yards with three TDs but was picked off once and sacked twice. Buffalo was 8 of 16 on third down conversions in upstate New York, keeping the ball for 28:07, while the Texans ruled the clock, holding the pigskin for 31:53 and going 7 of 15 and 0 for 1 on third and fourth down tries.

The Eagles broke a 14-14 tie with the defending Super Bowl champs and left Foxboro 35-28 winners. Philadelphia outscored Tom  Brady and the Pats in the second half 21-14 and held the Pats to 103 yards rushing, while they tallied 128. Although Brady did manage to throw for 312 yards (Brady also had a pass reception for 36 yards) and three TDs, the Eagles did sack him three times and picked him off twice at Gillette Stadium last Sunday afternoon. Philly was 6 of 14 on third down conversions in Foxboro, keeping the ball for 25:44, while the defending Super Bowl champs ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:16 and went 7 of 17 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions. “We take each week as an individual season,” says Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “Our total focus and concentration is now just on Buffalo. We’ll highlight what we did well but we also have a lot of mistakes we have to continue to correct. That’s part of what the weekly process is about. Our focus is on the Bills right now.”

The series? Tied 6-6 and the Bills have outscored Philly 225-222. The Bills took a 31-24 win in upstate New York in 2011, while Philly’s last win in the series came in the City of Brotherly Love in 2007 by a final of 17-9. The Eagles are 1 point underdogs at Lincoln Financial and the over/under is 47. Both clubs are looking to catch the leaders in their respective divisions and the schedules for both the rest of the way don’t get any easier. It’s wings vs. cheesesteak and cheesesteak wins this one. Eagles cover the 1 and win at home.

Tennessee (3-9) at New York Jets (7-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 714. The struggling Titans travel to upstate New Jersey for a contest in the Meadowlands with GangGreen.

Marcus Mariota was a one-man wrecking crew for the Titans, rushing for 112 yards and a TD and throwing for 268 and four TD passes in their 42-39 win over Jacksonville last Sunday. Tennessee led 21-12 at the half but nearly gave the home fans a scare as Jacksonville managed to make the contest in the Volunteer State closer than Titans fans would have liked, outscoring Tennessee in the final 30 minutes of action 27-21, narrowing the gap when WR Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles connected on a 7-yard TD toss with 6:28 left in regulation. Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota not only threw for 268 yards and three TDs, he also ran for 112 and had a rushing TD of his own (Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 210-81), while Blake Bortles threw for 322 yards and five TDs. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries (Jacksonville was 10 of 14, Tennessee was 8 of 13), with the Jaguars going 0 for 1 in the game’s only fourth down attempt and time was on the side of Tennessee, who kept the ball for 33:34 to Jacksonville’s 26:26.

The J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! trailed their fellow Met Life Stadium tenants 20-10 at the half and rallied in the second half and overtime to win 23-20 over the New York Giants. Outscoring Big Blue in the second half 13-0, GangGreen tied the contest 20-20 when WR Brandon Marshall caught a 9 yard TD pass from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with 27 seconds left in regulation and then won the contest in the overtime with a 31-yard field goal by Randy Bullock to take the win. Neither club came close to the 100-yard barrier with the Jets rushing for 90, while Big Blue had 74. On the passing side, it was Fitzpatrick outpacing Eli Manning in the air, with 390 yards and a pair of TDs to Manning’s 297 (Manning had an interception in the contest). Third and fourth down tries in the Meadowlands? Not a lot to write home about (GangGreen was 6 of 15, 1 of 1 on fourth down; Big Blue was 4 of 15 and 1 of 2) but GangGreen did rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:31 to the Giants’ 29:56.

Including contests that were played when GangGreen was known as the Titans, playing their home games at Shea Stadium and Tennessee played their home games in Houston as the Oilers, the Titans lead the series 23-18-1, outscoring the Jets 997-882. They met last year in Nashville and the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! were 16-11 winners (Tennessee’s last win over GangGreen also came in the Music City in 2013, taking a 38-13 win in that affair). Leading 5-3 at the half in the week 15 contest, GangGreen managed to outscore Tennessee 13-6 in the final 30 minutes of action. New York outrushed Tennessee 114-89 and forced a Tennessee fumble, while playing turnover-free football of their own. GangGreen went 2 of 13 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth down conversions in the Music City, while the Titans were 6 of 16 and 0 of 1 in the same column, while the J-E-T-S! JETS! JETS! JETS! ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 30:03 to Tennessee’s 29:5.

GangGreen covered the 1-point spread with their 5-point win, while neither team came anywhere close to the 42 1/2 over/under, scoring only 27 points in the Volunteer State. GangGreen’s favored by 7 and the over/under’s 43 1/2. Even with Mariota, the Titans have been struggling and hanging on to their slim post-season hopes by a thread thinner than the underwear on a Victoria’s Secret model. GangGreen may not cover the 7 but they win in upstate New Jersey.

Pittsburgh (7-5) at Cincinnati (10-2), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 710. A pair of AFC North foes meet in Cincinnnati for a week eight rematch as the Bengals and Andy Dalton host the Pittsburgh Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Steelers have won three of their past four and are averaging 529 total net yards per game during that span. Pittsburgh has gained at least 450 yards in each of its past four games, tied for the longest such streak in NFL history. In his past three games, Roethlisberger has passed for 1,199 yards (399.7 per game) and eight touchdowns.

“We’re just taking it one week at a time,” says Pittsburgh wide receiver Antonio Brown, who leads the AFC in receptions (93) and receiving yards (1,310). “I’m looking forward to playing Cincinnati and our games in the next four weeks.” The Steelers got themselves back on track after taking apart Indianapolis at Heinz Field 45-10 last Sunday night. Pittsburgh led 21-10 at the half and then proceeded to shut out the Colts in the second half 24-0. RB DeAngelo Williams was the second coming of LeVeon Bell, rushing for 134 of his team’s 158, while his team’s defense held the Colts to 54 and picked off Matt Hasselbeck twice. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, threw for 364 yards with four TDs without a sack or an interception in the blowout in western Pennsylvania. As far as third down tries… the Steelers were 8 of 13, keeping the ball for 32:50, while the Colts were 3 of 14 and 1 of 3 on fourth down conversions (Pittsburgh did not have an attempt on fourth down), holding the ball for 27:10.

Cincinnati leads the AFC North with a 10-2 record and is currently tied with Denver and New England for the best record in the conference. Dalton, who had a career-best 146.8 passer rating in last week’s win at Cleveland, has 3,191 passing yards this season and joined Peyton Manning as the only players in NFL history with at least 3,000 passing yards in each of their first five NFL seasons. The Bengals took Cleveland to the woodshed 37-3 in upstate Ohio. Cincy led 20-3 at the half and held the Browns to a 47-yard field goal by Travis Coons as time ran out in the first half. Cleveland was held to 68 yards on the ground, while their instate rivals ran for 144, while Andy Dalton threw for 220 yards and a pair of TDs, while Austin Davis was sacked three times and picked off once. The Browns on third down tries went 6 of 13 (0 of 2 on fourth down) and held on to the ball for 29:02, while the Bengals were rulers of the clock, keeping the ball for 30:58 and went 5 of 12 and 2 of 3 on third and fourth down tries.

“It’s always one game at a time,” Dalton told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “But we understand the Steelers are our next game. We just have to have a good week of preparation and put ourselves in a good position to play well on Sunday.”

They met in week eight in the Steel City and Cincinnati rallied from a 7-6 deficit at the half to come away from Heinz Field 16-10 winners. The Steelers did hold Cincinnati to 78 yards rushing, while they rushed for 116. Both Dalton and Roethlisbeger threw a TD, while combining for five interceptions (Roethlisberger had three, Dalton with two) and each was sacked three  times. Neither club had a fourth down conversion and both struggled on third down conversions (Cincinnati 4 of 15, Pittsburgh 3 of 11) and time was on the side of the Steelers, who kept the ball for 30:09, while the Bengals kept it for 29:51.

In the week eight affair in the Steel City, the Bengals covered the 3-point spread, winning by 6. That was the good news. The bad news? Neither club reached the 48 1/2 over/under, as they combined for only 26 points. This time, the oddsmakers like the Bengals again, this time making them 3 point favorites and the over/under coming in at 47. Cincinnati sits in the top spot in the AFC North, while the Steelers are looking to get a spot in the post-season party and would like payback in downstate Ohio. History, parrots, television shows and small children have one thing in common. They tend to repeat themselves and such will be the case in the Buckeye State. Bengals prove that the first win was not a fluke and win at home and cover the 3.

Indianapolis (6-6) at Jacksonville (4-8), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 712. A pair of AFC South foes meet again, this time in north Florida, as the Colts look to stay atop the divison, while the Jaguars look to keep the nine lives of their playoff hopes alive.

Jacksonville limps back home to EverBank Field after their 42-39 loss at Tennessee last Sunday. Although they trailed 21-12 at the half, Jacksonville managed to make the contest in the Volunteer State closer than Titans fans would have liked, outscoring Tennessee in the final 30 minutes of action 27-21, narrowing the gap when WR Allen Robinson and Blake Bortles connected on a 7-yard TD toss with 6:28 left in regulation. Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota not only threw for 268 yards and three TDs, he also ran for 112 and had a rushing TD of his own (Tennessee outrushed Jacksonville 210-81), while Blake Bortles threw for 322 yards and five TDs. Both clubs did reasonably well on third down tries (Jacksonville was 10 of 14, Tennessee was 8 of 13), with the Jaguars going 0 for 1 in the game’s only fourth down attempt and time was on the side of Tennessee, who kept the ball for 33:34 to Jacksonville’s 26:26.

The Colts need to get back on track after their 45-10 drubbing at the hands of Pittsburgh last Sunday night at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh led from start to finish, leading 21-10 at the half and then proceeded to shut out the Colts in the second half 24-0. RB DeAngelo Williams was the second coming of LeVeon Bell, rushing for 134 of his team’s 158, while his team’s defense held the Colts to 54 and picked off Matt Hasselbeck twice. Roethlisberger, meanwhile, threw for 364 yards with four TDs without a sack or an interception in the blowout in western Pennsylvania. As far as third down tries… the Steelers were 8 of 13, keeping the ball for 32:50, while the Colts were 3 of 14 and 1 of 3 on fourth down conversions (Pittsburgh did not have an attempt on fourth down), holding the ball for 27:10.

They met in week four in the Hoosier State and the Colts needed overtime to take a 16-13 win at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indy trailed 13-10 at the half before Adam Vinatieri kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:27 in regulation to tie things up and then sent the home fans happy as he connected on a 27-yarder with 4:36 in the extra period. Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon ran for 105 yards, while Jacksonville held Indy to 60 yards, rushing for 142. As for the QB’s… both Blake Bortles and Matt Hasselbeck, stepping in for Andrew Luck (kidney) threw a TD pass without an interception in the contest. Jacksonville was 7 pf 18 on third down tries and kept the ball for 36:10, while Indy kept the pigskin for 34:14, going 7 of 15 on third down (neither club had a fourth down try). Indy was favored by 9 in the week four contest in the Hoosier State but did not cover the spread, winning by three. As for the 47 1/2 over/under? Safe and sound, as both clubs combined for only 26 points. Going with the Colts to complete the sweep and put Jaguar fans out of their misery.

San Diego (3-9) at Kansas City (7-5), 1 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 713. They met in week 11 on the West Coast. This time, the struggling Chargers travel to the great Midwest for a matchup against their AFC rivals at Arrowhead.

The Bolts were held to a 23-yard field goal by Brad McMannus and fell to Denver at Qualcomm 17-3. San Diego found themselves limited to 93 yards rushing, while the victorious Broncos rushed for 134 in the 14-point win on the West Coast. Brock Osweiler and WR Demaryius Thomas connected for the contest’s only offensive TD, a 3-yard strike to open the scoring in the contest. Denver led by that 17-3 score at the half and the two teams played scoreless football in the final 30 minutes of play. Denver went 6 of 13 on third down conversions at Qualcomm, holding the ball for 32:57, while San Diego was 5 of 14, 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs, keeping the pigskin for 27:03.

The Chiefs return to Arrowhead after a 34-20 win over Oakland last Sunday at O.co Coliseum. Kansas City erased a 14-7 halftime deficit, as they would outscore the Silver and Black in the second half 27-13 in the second half and took the lead for keeps when WR Jeremy Maclin and QB Alex Smith connected on their second TD pass of the contest, that one going for 13 yards with 7:57. They would put the nail in Oakland’s coffin when S Tyvon Branch picked Raiders singal caller David Carr off and returned the ball 38 yards with 3:14 left in the contest. Oakland did manage to outrush Kansas City 99-89, with Carr throwing for 283 yards, a pair of TDs and three interceptions, while Smith threw for 162 yards and a pair of TDs (both men were sacked four times). Kansas City on third down tries was 3 of 8, while holding the ball for 25:32 in the 14-point win. Oakland on the afternoon was 6 of 14, 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries (the Chiefs did not attempt a fourth down conversion) and ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:28.

They met in week 11 at Qualcomm and the Chiefs manhandled San Diego 33-3, holding the Chargers to a 52-yard field goal by Josh Lambo and taking a 12-3 lead with them to the intermission. Kansas City would go on to shutout the Bolts 21-0 in the final 30 minutes of action, rushing for 153 yards and holding San Diego to 52. Both Rivers and Smith were sacked three times in the lopside contest on the West Coast, with Rivers throwing the only interception in the contest. The Chiefs went 5 of 12 on third down tries but found success in their only fourth down try in the contest, holding the ball for 33:28, while San Diego was 4 of 13 and 0 of 1 third and fourth down-wise, keeping the ball for 26:32.

The Chiefs’ 30 point win at Qualcomm allowed them to cover the 3 point spread easily but the 44 1/2 over/under was safe, as both AFC West clubs combined for 36 points. The oddsmakers like the Chiefs again, this time as 10 point favorites at Arrowhead with a 46 1/2 over/under. San Diego’s bad but not 10 points bad. Still, they’re in last place in the AFC West and the Chiefs would love nothing more than to put the Chargers out of their misery. Chiefs may not cover the 10 but they win at home and sweep the series.

Oakland (5-7) at Denver (10-2), 4:05 p.m. on CBS and DirecTV 716. They met in week five in Oakland. They meet again in Denver. The AFC West-leading Broncos host Oakland in a week five rematch.

Oakland let a a 14-7 halftime lead get away from them, as they were outscored by Kansas City in the second half 27-13 in the second half to lose 34-20 in Oakland. Kansas City would go on to take the lead for keeps when WR Jeremy Maclin and QB Alex Smith connected on their second TD pass of the contest, that one going for 13 yards with 7:57 and then saw their hopes of winning die as Kansas City’s S Tyvon Branch picked Raiders singal caller David Carr off and returned the ball 38 yards with 3:14 left in the contest. Oakland outrushed Kansas City 99-89, with Carr throwing for 283 yards, a pair of TDs and three interceptions, while Smith threw for 162 yards and a pair of TDs (both men were sacked four times). Kansas City on third down tries was 3 of 8, while holding the ball for 25:32 in the 14-point win. Oakland on the afternoon was 6 of 14, 0 of 2 on third and fourth down tries (the Chiefs did not attempt a fourth down conversion) and ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:28.

Denver took San Diego to the woodshed last Sunday at Qualcomm 17-3. The Broncos held San Diego to 93 yards rushing, while they rushed for 134 in the 14-point win on the West Coast. Brock Osweiler and WR Demaryius Thomas connected for the contest’s only offensive TD, a 3-yard strike to open the scoring in the contest. Denver led by that 17-3 score at the half and the two teams played scoreless football in the final 30 minutes of play. Denver went 6 of 13 on third down conversions at Qualcomm, holding the ball for 32:57, while San Diego was 5 of 14, 0 of 2 on third and fourth downs, keeping the pigskin for 27:03

Oakland led 7-3 at halftime O.co Coliseum in week five, before the Broncos, with Peyton Manning under center at the time, outscored the Silver and Black in the second half 13-3 for the 16-10 win. Broncos K Brandon McMannus would give his team the lead for the first time and for keeps as he connected on a 52-yard field goal late in the third quarter and S Chris Harris would add a TD in the fourth when he picked Carr off and ran it back 74 yards to make it 16-7. Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski would make it a 6-point game with a 52-yarder of his own with 1:40 left in regulation but Denver would get the ball back and run out the clock for the win in regulation. Although he did throw a pair of interceptions, Peyton Manning outpaced Carr, throwing for 266 yards in the contest (Carr had 249 with a TD and an interception). Denver went 2 of 13 on third down tries (they did not have a fourth down try) and kept the ball for 25:51, while the Raiders ruled the clock, keeping the ball for 34:09 and was 7 of 16 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions.

Denver won by 6, barely missing the 6 1/2 spread and the 45 over/under was safe and sound, as both teams combined for only 26 points. This time, even without Peyton under center, the oddsmakers like Denver as an 8 point favorite with a 44 over/under. History repeats itself. Denver may not cover the 8 but they win at home in the Mile High City.

Dallas (4-8) at Green Bay (8-4), 4:25 p.m. on FOX and DirecTV 717. It’s a late afternoon contest at Lambeau as Dallas, struggling to keep up in the NFC East, travel to the land of beer, cheese and bratwurst to face the Green Bay Packers, sitting atop the NFC North.

Dallas led 16-9 over Washington last Monday night and needed to rally late in their prime time contest at FedEx Field, coming away 19-16 winners in Landover. Dallas led 16-9 with 40 seconds left in regulation when WR DeSean Jackson, who had fumlbed on a punt return earlier, caught a 27-yard TD pass from QB Kirk Cousins to tie the contest at 16-16. That tie did not last very long as Dallas would get the ball back and march down the field, ending Washington’s hopes of taking first place in the NFC East to themselves with a 54-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 9 seconds left. Washington then got the kickoff and tried several laterals and could not find any success, ending the contest. Dallas outrushed the ‘Skins 97-73, while Cowboys backup QB Matt Cassel outpace Cousins 222-219 (Cousins was sacked three times in the game). Washington was 6 of 18 on third down conversions, keeping the ball for 32:47, while Dallas was 1 of 9 on third down and kept the ball for 27:13 (neither club had a fouth down attempt).

Green Bay trailed Detroit 17-0 at the half at Ford Field last Thursday night and then chipped away at that lead and came back in the final second to win 27-23 at Ford Field. Green Bay found their last second magic against the Lions, thanks to a facemask penalty that gave the Packers an untimed down and allowed Aaron Rodgers and TE Richard Rodgers connected on a 61-yard desparation toss as the clock struck :00. Green Bay outscored Detroit 27-6 in the second half to take the win and gain revenge from their loss at Lambeau. Detroit outrushed Green Bay 101-67 but Rodgers outpaced Matthew Stafford 273-220, with each man throwing three TDs in the contest. Green Bay on third down tries went 3 of 12 and found success in their only fourth down try, keeping the ball for 26:56, while Detroit held the pigskin for 33:04, going 6 of 16 and 1 of 1 on third and fourth downs.

Green Bay leads the series 13-12 and have outscored Dallas 576-538. Green Bay’s last win in the regular season over Dallas came in 2013 in the Lone Star State by a final of 37-36, while Dallas’ last win in the series came in 2008 at Lambeau by a 27-16 count. They did meet in the 2014 campaign but it was the post-season, the NFC Divisional Game to be specific. Dallas led 21-20 at the end of three quarters before Green Bay took the lead back and for keeps, taking a 26-21 win to advance to the NFC Championship Game at Seattle. It was the Rodgers-Rodgers connection in the fourth quarter that would give Green Bay the lead for the first time when they connected on a 13-yard TD pass with 9:10 left in regulation. Dallas would eventually get one last chance for their chance to face Seattle when Tony Romo and WR Dez Bryant connected on what they thought was a 37-yard pass to Green Bay’s 1-yard line. Green Bay challenged the call, saying that Bryant did not catch the pass cleanly and won the challenge. The Packers got the ball back, ran out the clock and ruined Dallas’ hopes of advancing to the NFC Championship game in the Pacific Northwest.

Green Bay in the playoff game that took place in chilly 24 degree weather were favored by 6 but won by 5 and the two team combined for 47 points, missing the 53 over/under. Green Bay in this meeting in the late afternoon in upstate Wisconsin is favored by 7 with a 43 1/2 over/under. Dallas is struggling to catch up in the NFC East, while the Packers know that they will still be in first place in the NFC North, even with a loss (Minnesota lost Thursday night 23-20 to Arizona). Dallas will make this interesting and even with their 4-8 record, this one is more than “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! If we do, it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OVER!), 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 56 last June and dates a 41-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?”

Dallas makes this one a close contest with Green Bay but the Packers take care of business at Lambeau and take the win in the land of cheese, beer and bratwurst.

New England (10-2) at Houston (6-6), 8:30 p.m. on NBC. It’s Clam chowder vs. Texas brisket as Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs, with two losses in as many weeks, travel to the Lone Star State for a primetime Sunday night meeting with J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.

“We’ve got an important game coming up and we’ve got to just play better football,” Brady told the Boston Globe. “That’s what it comes down to. Each of these games is important. We’re in a decent spot. If you want to win consistently, you’ve got to do things well consistently. And we just haven’t been playing winning football the last two weeks.”

The defending Super Bowl champs enter the Sunday night contest in somewhat of a foul mood, after losing their second contest in as many weeks, a 35-28 loss to Philadelphia at Foxoboro. The two teams went to the half tied at 14-14 before Philadelphia outscored Tom  Brady and the Pats in the second half 21-14 and held the Pats to 103 yards rushing, while they tallied 128. Although Brady did manage to throw for 312 yards (Brady also had a pass reception for 36 yards) and three TDs, the Eagles did sack him three times and picked him off twice at Gillette Stadium last Sunday afternoon. Philly was 6 of 14 on third down conversions in Foxboro, keeping the ball for 25:44, while the defending Super Bowl champs ruled the clock, holding the ball for 34:16 and went 7 of 17 and 1 of 2 on third and fourth down conversions.

The Texans found themselves taken to the woodshed last Sunday in Orchard Park last Sunday, losing to Buffalo 30-21 winner. Houston trailed 21-13 at the half and were outscored by Buffalo in the 9-point loss. LeSean McCoy returns to Philly with 112 of his team’s 187 yards in the game (Houston ran for 126) and Bills QB Tyrod Taylor threw for 211 yards and three TDs without an interception. Meanwhile, Texans QB Blaine Hoyer threw for 293 yards with three TDs but was picked off once and sacked twice. Buffalo was 8 of 16 on third down conversions in upstate New York, keeping the ball for 28:07, while the Texans ruled the clock, holding the pigskin for 31:53 and going 7 of 15 and 0 for 1 on third and fourth down tries.

Watt leads the NFL with 13.5 sacks, including 9.5 sacks in his past six games. In just his fifth season, Watt has totaled 70.5 career sacks. Offensively, Texans wide receiver De Andre Hopkins ranks second in the AFC in both receptions (86) and receiving yards (1,169).

“It’s all still right in front of us,” Texans linebacker Brian Cushing told the Houston Chronicle, KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV. “We control our own destiny right now. We just have to worry about the next game. The most important thing is to get the job done and win.”

The defending champs hold a 4-1 lead over the Texans in the regular season, outscoring the Texans 166-106 and have won the last two meetings, including a 34-31 win in 2013 in the Lone Star State. The Pats are favored by 3 and the over/under’s 44 1/2. Houston makes this one close but New England bounces back from their 2-game losing streak and takes this one, even though they may not cover the 3.

New York Giants (5-7) at Miami (5-7), 8:30 p.m. Monday on ESPN. Eli Manning and the New York Giants travel south to face off against Ryan Tannehill and the Miami Dolphins as a pair of contenders close out play in week 14 in prime time in the Sunshine State.

The G-Men let a 20-10 halftime lead over their fellow Met Life Stadium tenants get away from them last Sunday as the Jets would rally in the second half and overtime to fall 23-20. The Jets outscoring Big Blue in the second half 13-0, tying the contest 20-20 when WR Brandon Marshall caught a 9 yard TD pass from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick with 27 seconds left in regulation and then won the contest in the overtime with a 31-yard field goal by Randy Bullock to take the win. Neither club came close to the 100-yard barrier with the Jets rushing for 90, while Big Blue had 74. Fitzpatrick outpaced Manning in the air, with 390 yards and a pair of TDs to Manning’s 297 (Manning had an interception in the contest). Third and fourth down tries in the Meadowlands? Not a lot to write home about (GangGreen was 6 of 15, 1 of 1 on fourth down; Big Blue was 4 of 15 and 1 of 2) but GangGreen did rule the clock, keeping the ball for 38:31 to the Giants’ 29:56.

Miami held off a late Baltimore rally last Sunday at Sun Life Stadium, coming away 15-13 winners over Baltimore. Although they led 15-0 at the half after a scoreless first quarter, Baltimore managed to outscore Miami 13-0 in the final 30 minutes of action and had a chance to win in regulation but Jeff Tucker’s 55-yard field goal try sailed wide right. Miami outrushed Baltimore 137-94, with Dolphins RB Lamar Miller leading all rushers with 113 yards on 20 carries. Matt Schaub was no Joe Flacco, as he was sacked three times and picked off twice, while throwing for 308 yardd, while Ryan Tannehill needed only 86 yards, tossing his only TD pass to WR DeVante Parker, a 38-yard strike in the second quarter to open the scoring in the contest. Baltimore was 5 of 14 on third down conversions at Sun Life Stadium (0 of 1 on fourth down) and ruled the clock, as kept the ball for 38:09, while Miami held the pigskin for 21:51, while going 4 of 13 on third down tries (Miami did not have a fourth down attempt).

The Giants lead the series 5-2, have outscored Miami 112-97 and have won the last two meetings, including a 20-17 win in 2011 in the Meadowlands, while Miami’s last win in the series came in 2003, also in the Meadowlands, when they left upstate New Jersey 23-10 winners. The Giants are favored by 1 and the over/under’s 47 1/2 in the Monday night affair in the Sunshine State. Miami’s 41-40 on Monday night and won their only contest last year, while the Giants are 22-35-1 under the lights, going 0-2 in their only contests in 2014. New York’s looking to be back on top in the NFC East, while the Dolphins would like to have a chance to knock New England off the top of the AFC East mountain. There have been some pretty good Monday night games of late and this one might be one of them. Although Big Blue makes it close, Miami takes this one at home and covers the 1.

Advertisements