If Week 14 is anything like Week 13, than football fans are in for a real treat. With playoff berths on the line, every NFL team in hunt is giving its best shot. Can Seattle continue its momentum with a crucial road win in Jacksonville? Can Alvin Kamara be stopped?
All of that and more in our five bold predictions.
Eli Manning lights up the Dallas Cowboys
It’s been a strange couple of weeks for Manning, who has endured the worst full season of his potential Hall of Fame career. Now that he has been renamed the starter for Sunday’s home game against Dallas though, we can expect at least a brief reprieve from the atrocity that has been the Giants offense. If there is anything worth playing for as a Giant right now, it’s to wreck the Cowboys’ season. And that’s exactly what an upset would do to 6-6 Dallas. Assuming NFL sack leader DeMarcus Lawrence (13.5 total) doesn’t go all Lawrence Taylor on Big Blue’s offensive line – which granted, is a sizable assumption – Manning will relish the opportunity to eat up the league’s 21st ranked passing defense.
2. Matt Ryan goes ham on the New Orleans Saints
After a three-game Falcons winning streak in which Ryan amassed seven touchdowns and just one interception while posting a 110.5 passer rating, the 32-year-old was shut out of the end zone in last week’s 14-9 loss to Minnesota. New Orleans meanwhile, is rolling, having won eight of nine games and hoping to secure the NFC’s second seed. Credit rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who is fast becoming a superstar cover man. And yet, Ryan – or as the kids call him, “Matty Ice” – is a gamer. Julio Jones is prime for a monstrous bounce back game (he caught just two balls for 24 yards last week), and the impressive tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman (1,539 combined yards) in the backfield should accelerate the play-action game.
3. Jacksonville’s defense hushes the Russell Wilson MVP chatter
Wilson has been a one-man Houdini act this season for the Seahawks, and he comes off a very impressive Act 12 win over Philadelphia. Only Carson Wentz has more touchdowns (29 to Wilson and Tom Brady’s 26), and only Cam Newton (515 to Wilson’s 432) has more rushing yards from the quarterback position. In essence, no player in pro football is more important to his team. The playoff-bound Jaguars however, possess an elite defense across the board, including a deadly pass rusher in Calais Campbell, whose 12 sacks rank fourth in the league. (He also has three forced fumbles.) Both teams are 8-4, but the Seahawks are a notoriously slow starting team, and Jacksonville is a hike from the Pacific Northwest. Seattle’s own stellar defense will keep things close, but Wilson will be without a pocket for much of this game and his numbers will suffer dramatically.
4. Alvin Kamara comes back down to Earth
The third round running back is a shoe-in for Offensive Rookie of the Year, thanks to his NFL-record 8.4 yards per touch (by a running back), topping names like Marshall Faulk and Jamaal Charles. He also has 11 touchdowns on just 145 touches. Atlanta however, has one of the most athletic and fastest defenses in the league, led by ball hawkers in thumper Keane Neal (eight plus tackles in seven of eight games) and speedster Deion Jones (10th in combined tackles). Moreover, head coach Dan Quinn is as good as it gets in preparing his defense for someone as dynamic as Kamara. New Orleans is a heavy screen team and the Tennessee product may get loose once or twice, but the lack of a home run will downsize his meteoric numbers. Bottom line: The Falcons defense will come to play.
5. Miami Dolphins upset the New England Patriots
Winners of nine straight, the Pats are rolling, with Tom Brady and his league high 3,632 yards possibly earning him a third MVP award. Miami however, always plays New England tough at home, and the loss of suspended Rob Gronkowski cannot be overstated. The Dolphins have a stout pass rush featuring the unblockable duo of Ndamukong Suh (50.5 career sacks) and Patriot killer Cameron Wake (10.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 29 solo tackles and eight assist in 16 career games versus New England). I believe both will get home on Brady – or at least hurry him – and the result will be a Dolphins upset on Monday Night.
– – – – – – –
Follow Jordan Schultz on Twitter @Schultz_Report
More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Steelers S Mike Mitchell goes on prolific ‘flag football’ rant, takes on ESPN’s Matt Hasselbeck
• Archie Manning: Eli could retire after this year
• Report: NFL Hall of Fame QB Warren Moon accused of sexual harassment
• Steelers kicker thinks Bengals tried to hurt him before game-winning field goal