Three Games to Watch, Week 14

Wondering what to do with time spent not watching the Packers? Need a reason to flip channels during commercials? Andrew Garda is here with three games worth keeping an eye on this Sunday.

We’re creeping towards the end of another NFO regular season and the games are getting more meaningful thanks to more divisional games at this point in the season. I remember when divisional games were often done by Week 15 or so, but now we have a ton of those games right until the end.

Of course, that doesn’t leave any margin for error on the part of teams on the bubble or fighting for division titles, playoff seeding or bye weeks. Green Bay has a big game against Dallas (and are one of my four games to watch this week on my podcast) and they have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the Minnesota Vikings who “Norv Turnered” themselves out of a potential upset in Arizona on Thursday.

What to do when you aren’t watching the Packers? I have three other games you should keep an eye on right here.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

In all likelihood the Bengals will win the AFC North easily. Aside from Pittsburgh, they face San Francisco and Baltimore with a tough game against Denver in between. The Steelers see Denver next week and have Cleveland and Baltimore after, but at best they pace the Bengals barring an epic collapse.

Still, this game has tremendous meaning for both teams.

Cincinnati has the top seed in the AFC right now, which also gives them home field throughout the playoffs if they can hold onto it. With Denver facing Oakland this week, and New England heading to Houston, if the Bengals lose, they could find themselves dropping as far down as the third spot.

Pittsburgh is some tie breakers away from a Wild Card spot with the Jets and Chiefs ahead of them (though with the same record). The Jets have what should be an easy game against Tennessee, while the Chiefs face a depleted San Diego team which is now quarterbacked by a flu-ridden Philip Rivers.

Losing the game, while not the end of the world, makes things much harder on the Steelers.

On the field, how can the Bengals stop Antonio Brown? Now that Ben Roethlisberger seems healthy, Brown has been on fire and when he is covered, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton and DeAngelo Williams (on the ground) pick up the slack. The Bengals defense is good but will be tested.

As will the Steelers’ defense. It has been good the last few weeks, but Andy Dalton has been very solid this season and AJ Green is being helped out by a breakout season from tight end Tyler Eifert.

The Bengals should win this one at home, but the AFC North is anything but predictable.

 

Seattle Seahawks at Baltimore Ravens

This should be an easy win for the Seahawks, who are on a three-game win streak and seem to have finally figured out how to play football again. I’ll say it: this team looks better without Jimmy Graham than they do with him. They’ve gotten back to basics and look more like the dominant force they were the last two seasons.

Right now, the Packers face the Seahawks in the Wild Card round. It’s unlikely Green Bay will catch either Arizona or Carolina, so they will be playing that weekend. With the Vikings losing Thursday, the Seahawks could leap over Minnesota for the fifth seed. If I’m the Packers, I’m fine with that. Let someone else take on a team who is looking like one of the more dangerous ones in the NFL.

Of course, it’s unlikely whatever trash floats up from the NFC East can beat the Hawks anyway, but you never know and at worst, you get Seattle at home either way.

New England Patriots at Houston Texans

At a holiday party on Saturday, I ended up in a conversation about football (shocker, I know) and the talk turned to the Patriots. Did I think Bill Belichick was serious when he compared JJ Watt to Lawrence Taylor?

Belichick is very tight with public praise, so yes, I think he was genuine in his praise but “The Hoodie” is never without agenda. I would not be shocked if he was getting into Watt’s head and hoping Watt would push himself to do too much and struggle because of it.

Rob Gronkowski made the trip to Houston and Belichick has said he doesn’t take players who will not see the field on trips. He said why travel and interrupt rehab and exhaust yourself with air travel?

Mind you, they have a chartered plane so this isn’t exactly flying the red eye on Southwest, right? Is Belichick trolling Houston, making them prep for a guy who won’t play? I wouldn’t be confident with him in my fantasy football lineup, that’s for sure.

It would be very much like Belichick to do that. On the other hand, the offense sure looked like they desperately needed Gronk last week in the loss to the Eagles.

Speaking of which, how angry do you think the Patriots will be coming into this game? I wouldn’t want to be Houston, that’s for sure.

By the way, JJ Watt has a broken hand and that will limit his tackling, even if he can still bring pressure with the best of them. Pressure Tom Brady and good things usually happen.

As we mentioned above, New England has the same record as Cincinnati and Denver and is still looking to climb back into a bye, if not home field advantage. This is a huge game for them from that standpoint, especially with what should be easy wins against Tennessee and Miami, with a very winnable game against the Jets on December 27.

A win here could put them back into a bye, if not on top.

Meanwhile, Houston has to win to stay in the Wild Card hunt, though they could still win the putrid AFC South. The Colts should win in Jacksonville but I would not at all be shocked if they lost. Then they face Houston again next week, with games against Miami and Tennessee to finish out.

Houston will see Tennessee and Jacksonville in Weeks 16 and 17 respectively. So if they can pick a game up on Indianapolis, they could steal the division depending on next week.

A win here would be huge. The question is, will it be too steep a hill to climb against the Patriots?

 

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Comments (6)

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DrealynWilliams's picture

December 13, 2015 at 12:00 am

I'm in Houston and I'm rooting for the Texans badly. I'm even contemplating going to the game. I really dislike the Patriots.

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wimiller's picture

December 13, 2015 at 02:55 am

i wish the pack had more patriots in them. that is a coach and a staff that takes cast offs and schemes them up, coaching absolutely at the highest level. i mean really, like the Pack, they have a high end QB and even when he went down for a year they were 10-6, and an all world TE, and a great slot who is out, but what else? but otherwise their wideouts look no better than ours. and on D? i mean they prove that football more than any game is about coaching.

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croatpackfan's picture

December 13, 2015 at 05:25 am

I prefer Packers way - NO CHEATING!

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sheppercheeser's picture

December 13, 2015 at 03:46 am

Don't wanna sound like a hater, but I'd love for JJ/Houston to beat Brady, Belichick and company.

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egbertsouse's picture

December 13, 2015 at 09:19 am

Bellicheat will find some way to scheme JJ out of the game. As opposed to McCarthy who would just put Barclay on him one-on-one and cross his fingers.

Bellicheat always looks for ways to take the opposing team's best players out of the game.

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ray nichkee's picture

December 13, 2015 at 09:46 am

They don't call him bellicheat for nothing. I like the admiration Bill had for McCarthy after getting beat last year. I can see him in his hoodie saying "come to the dark side mike, you will never lose again."

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