The playoff race is thinning out as we enter Week 14. The Lions and Packers are clinging to wild card hopes and the Vikings can clinch the NFC North this week. Let’s take a look at the matchups.
Packers at Browns
The Browns are 0-12 and just fired their GM while hiring former Packer front office man John Dorsey. Will that be enough motivation for the Browns besides avoiding an 0-16 season. This is the last Packers game (6-6) without Aaron Rodgers as he is set to come back in Week 15 against Carolina. Hundley plays well on the road. The Packers beat Tampa Bay last week with good defense and running game to stay alive.
Rookie QB Dashone Kizer is awful but improved some recently as a rookie. Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman are back at WR for the Browns and are legit threats at WR. David Njoku has talent as a rookie tight end as well. Cleveland could have a decent day against the struggling Packers defense. Isiah Crowell and Duke Johnson will need success running the ball to help support Kizer on the day.
Jamaal Williams had a big day against Tampa Bay and Aaron Jones is back following a knee injury. Jones is having a good rookie season and had the winning 20 yard rushing TD in overtime last week. They are a good rookie combination but the Browns are stout in run defense. If the Browns can shut down the Packers rushing attack, Cleveland has a chance to limit the Packers offense with Hundley. Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Lance Kendricks must step up and help Brett Hundley this week. Cleveland can be beat through the air and Hundley must take advantage.
The Packers are motivated to stay in the race for their savior returning. Green Bay wins on the road 27-17.
Lions at Buccaneers
Detroit (6-6) is beaten up badly and must win out to have a shot at the playoffs. Matt Stafford (98.2 rating) has a third throwing hand injury in 7 seasons in the playoff stretch. We’ll see if Stafford can keep this good QB rating with the injury.
The Lions need a healthy Stafford to pick apart Tampa’s defense (96.1 QB rating allowed). Tampa Bay (4-8) is having a tough year on defense but Robert Ayers and Gerald McCoy (5 sacks) can bring a pass rush. Vernon Hargreaves and TJ Ward might not play for Tampa Bay which hurts their secondary. Brent Grimes is a good player to watch in a battle with Marvin Jones (821 yards and 8 TDs) or Golden Tate (767 yards and 3 TDs).
Tampa Bay is struggling in pass rush but Detroit has major injuries on the offensive line. Travis Swanson, TJ Lang and Rick Wagner all might miss this game which would be a huge blow to Stafford’s protection. Stafford needs protection to find his weapons and unleash the deep ball. Marvin Jones is having a good year but Golden Tate has disappeared some lately. Kenny Golladay is a legit deep threat and Eric Ebron has been playing well since the trade deadline passed.
The Lions rushing attack has been terrible and Ameer Abdullah missed the game last week. Rookie Tion Green showed some flashes with 4.6 YPC against Baltimore. Look for a lot of Green and Theo Riddick if Abdullah can’t play again. The Buccaneers allow 4.3 YPC on the ground so Detroit has a shot to run the ball in Tampa this week.
Jameis Winston is having a decent year with a 90.1 rating with 12 TDs and 6 interceptions but Tampa Bay is struggling to run the ball. Doug Martin should be back from a concussion but only has 3.2 YPC on the season. It’s a down year for Martin as he only seems to be good every other year.
Mike Evans (735 yards and 4 TDs), Desean Jackson (616 and 3 TDs) and Cameron Brate (481 yards and 6 TDs) are legit threats. Rookie TE OJ Howard has over 300 yards and 4 TDs too. Darius Slay must have a big day against Evans and Detroit must limit the deep ball against Jackson better than they did Mike Wallace last week.
Detroit is really struggling to rush the passer. Ziggy Ansah and Cornelius Washington could miss this game to make matter worse along with Ngata and Hyder on IR. Detroit is very thin on the defensive line and it will be up to Dwight Freeney and Anthony Zettel along with smart blitzes to pressure Winston. If Winston gets too much time, he has plenty of weapons to make Detroit pay.
Detroit needs this game but will be on the road and very banged up. Tampa Bay’s defense is struggling and Detroit must have a big day offensively and limit Tampa Bay’s weapons.
Vikings at Panthers
The Vikings are 10-2 and can clinch the North with a win this week. Minnesota won on the road in Atlanta last week and get another big test at Carolina in Week 14. Case Keenum cooled off a bit at Atlanta but is still playing well with excellent protection. Carolina’s front 7 will be a huge test for the Vikings offensive line. Kuechly and Thomas Davis at LB can shut down the underneath passing game and the Vikings rushing attack.
Thielen and Diggs must win their matchups and help Keenum. Cam Newton is a beast rusher (515 yards at 5.8 YPC) still and is improving his passing attack lately (83 passer rating). Devin Funchess (703 yards and 6 TDs) has stepped up this year with Benjamin traded and Greg Olsen is back for the Panthers at tight end. Rookie Christian McCaffery is a legit receiving threat with over 500 receiving yards. Russel Shephard and Ed Dickson don’t offer much in the passing game but Dickson has one huge game against the Lions this season.
Jonathan Stewart 3.2 YPC and Christian McCaffery (3.5 YPC) have really struggled running the ball and the Vikings defense is very stout against the run. Cam is the Panthers best hope for a running game on Sunday.
This should be a great low scoring defensive battle. Look for the Vikings to edge the Panthers with a few big plays from Thielen and Diggs. Minnesota will win this game 17-14.
Bears at Bengals
The Bears (3-9) are done. This game is only for draft position as the Bengals are 5-7.
The Falcons beating the Saints on Thursday made life harder for Detroit and Green Bay. Carolina and Seattle need to finish at best 2-2 now for the Lions and Packers to have a shot. Root for the Jaguars to beat Seattle and the Vikings to beat Carolina.
The Falcons still could go 1-2 down the stretch for 7 losses but they play the Panthers and we might need a Panthers loss that week if Carolina goes 2-1 in their next 3 games. Carolina losing to Minnesota and Green Bay in Carolina is a good option still to get the Panthers to 6 losses. It should be a wild finish. Let’s see if Green Bay and Detroit can stay alive and if Minnesota can clinch plus help the other North teams in the wild card race. Getcha popcorn ready.