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Week 14 Previews

Detroit (4-8) at St. Louis (4-8)

The Detroit Lions (4-8) travel to St. Louis for a matchup with the Rams (4-8) in Week 14. The Lions try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive with a win and some help (Ravens over Seattle, Panthers over Falcons and Saints over Bucs). The game will be at 1 PM on FOX.

Ram Not So Tough

The Rams offense is a mess and their OC Frank Cignetti was fired this week. The Rams passing game is terrible as they turn to Case Keenum over Nick Foles. The Rams are scoring only 15.8 PPG (31st) due to a terrible passing offense (56% and 6 YPA). Kenny Britt (445 yards and 1 Td), Tavon Austin (367 yards and 4 TDs) and Jared Cook (401 yards and 0 tds) are not very good weapons. They have some talent but don’t produce. Austin is dangerous on punt returns.

Todd Gurley had a great first four games and has 4.8 YPC on the season. However, the last five games, Gurley did not crack 4 YPC due to stacked boxes.

The Lions defense has been much better after the bye. Detroit shut down the Packers, Raiders and Eagles and did well against Green Bay at Ford Field last week. A fluke Hail Mary and fumble for TD gave the Packers 14 extra points for 27 on the day. Detroit is strong in run defense and much improved against the pass. Blitzing and pressuring Keenum is the key to rattling the young QB.

The Lions must rebound from this emotional loss and take it out on the Rams offense. Ziggy Ansah (12.5 sacks) and Devin Taylor (5 sacks) can bring some pressure. The Lions have been excellent in run defense in 8 of 12 games this season and all four games since the bye.

The Lions’ secondary has transformed with new players in Lawson, Diggs and Abdul Quddus. The linebackers can cover again with Whitehead in coverage next to Josh Bynes. Detroit should be able to shut down the Rams if they can shut down Gurley. The Chiefs, Cardinals and Vikings had success running against the Detroit. If Detroit can avoid a big day from Gurley like in those four games, the Rams can be held to under 17 points.

Stafford Superstar

Stafford has been excellent since the bye with 9 TDs and 1 interception. The Lions have avoided turnovers and the offense has vaulted from 31st to 22nd in the league. Stafford should have another big day if he is protected an average amount.

The Lions run game has been better since the bye and the Lions hope to have another average day at 4 YPC to take some pressure off Stafford and the Rams pass rush. The Rams allow an average 4 YPC and Detroit could have some success. The Lions will need Michael Ola to return from his knee injury to help at right tackle in the run game. Waddle and Lucas just can’t block this year.

The Rams defense is dealing with some injuries to Robert Quin (IR), Alec Ogletree (IR), TJ McDonald (IR) and Janoris Jenkins (concussion). If the Lions can protect Stafford from Chris Long, Aaron Donald and Nick Fairley, Stafford should continue his second half success. The Rams defense is tough allowing only 21.4 PPG (12th) but they lost a lot of firepower. The Rams have trouble defending RBs and TEs so Abdullah, Riddick, Ebron could have a big day in the passing game.

The Lions should win this game if they can get over an emotional letdown from Thursday, contain Gurley and avoid the dreaded turnover bonanza from the first 8 weeks.

Washington (5-7) at Chicago (5-7)

The Bears fell at home to the 49ers last but still have playoff hopes with help. The Bears can help themselves by beating the Redskins who share the same record. The game will be 1 PM ET on Fox at Soldier Field.

The Bears have a struggling offense despite an improved Jay Cutler (90.1 QB rating). Martellus Bennett has been added to IR which will hurt the Bears. Chicago has protected Cutler but has some run game issues (3.8 YPC). The good news for the Bears, Washington allows 4.6 YPC (29th) and 90.3 QB rating (20th). Chicago should have a good day on offense with Jeffrey, Forte, Royal and Wilson to support Cutler.

The Redskins lost their top CB in Chris Culliver and top defensive linemen in Stephen Paea recently. Washington allows an average 23.8 PPG (17th) which could get worse with their injuries. The Bears should have a productive day offensively but should watch out for OLB Ryan Kerrigan (6.5 sacks).

The Bears defense has been much improved the last 4-5 weeks. The secondary is playing well with young players and they generate more pass rush led by Pernell McPhee.  McPhee is doubtufl which may really hurt the Bears defense. Washington is 26th with 3.7 YPC running the ball with Matt Jones and Alfred Morris. The Bears have rush defense issues and this will be a matchup of weakness on weakness.

Kirk Cousins is quietly having a solid year for the Redskins. Kirk Cousins has thrown for 68.6% completion at 7.1 YPA with 17 TDs and 10 interceptions on the season. DeSean Jackson is back and a threat despite is bone headed punt return fumble on Monday night. Jordan Reed is a dangerous tight end with 574 yards and 6 TDs. Pierre Garcon is a solid WR with 562 yards and 3 TDS. The Bears coverage must bring their A game on Sunday to limit the Redskins passing attack.

This should be a close game. Both teams struggle some offensively but are average to below average defensively.

Atlanta (6-6) at Carolina (12-0)

The Falcons are reeling after a 5-0 start and travel to Carolina for a 1 PM ET game on FOX. Atlanta has turned the ball over 22 times and Carolina leads the league with 29 turnovers forced. The Panthers have a very good run game and score 31.1 PPG without Kelvin Benjamin. Greg Olsen is a very good threat at tight end and Ted Ginn has 525 yards and 6 TDs somehow. Newton has 25 passing TDS and 7 rushing TDs fueling the fire for MVP despite his completion percentage (58.4 %) and 10 interceptions. Stewart has 914 yards and 5 TDs but at only 3.9 YPC pace. The Falcons are 12th in the league allowing only 21.4 PPG defensively which will help them hang in this game.

Carolina’s defense is 9th allowing 20.3 PPG with 29 turnovers forced. The Falcons may have some trouble scoring on Sunday but have a puncher’s chance.

Matt Ryan is having a down year with 17 TDs and 13 ints for an 87.9 rating. Devonta Freeman can run the ball to take the pressure off of Ryan and Carolina is 10th best in stopping the run.

Atlanta scores an average 23.3 PPG (14th) and has the ever dangerous Julio Jones. The Jones versus Josh Norman matchup is the biggest matchup of the game. Atlanta must win to keep pace in the wild card race. Carolina is looking to move closer to clinching a bye. Division games are typically close, but Carolina should win by double digits if they force many turnovers against the turnover prone Falcons.