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Insiders predict: NFL week 14 winners

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Mark Brown // Getty Images

Insiders predict: NFL week 14 winners

Week 13 saw the New Orleans Saints clinch the season’s first playoff berth, while five teams—the Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, and New York Giants—joined the Cincinnati Bengals as teams officially eliminated from the postseason. The New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers could have each punched their ticket to the playoffs with a victory (and some help), but both squads suffered their second loss of the season and now, two teams that looked like guaranteed top seeds may fall into wild-card slots. If the season ended today, in fact, the 49ers would be a wild-card team.

This week, six more teams, based on a myriad of scenarios, have an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot. Four AFC teams—the Patriots, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Buffalo Bills, and the Baltimore Ravens, and two NFC teams—the 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks can each find a path in. Conversely, seven teams could be done depending on how things play out. Four AFC teams—the New York Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Denver Broncos, and the Los Angeles Chargers, and three NFC teams—the Washington Redskins, the Carolina Panthers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are on the brink of elimination.

With Week 14 upon us, 75% of the NFL regular season has been played out. It’s now or never for a handful of squads hoping to stay alive. Highlighted below are a few matchups with major implications moving forward.

Cowboys @ Bears: The Bears aren’t dead quite yet, but it’s close. The NFC East has been a dumpster fire the last few weeks, but the Cowboys, at 6-6, remain atop the division. They can’t afford to lose again this week and bank on another Philadelphia faux pas.

Ravens @ Bills: The Ravens claimed the #1 spot in the AFC after the New England Patriots fell last week. They’ll try to continue driving momentum against a Buffalo defense which ranks as one of the best in the league. Both teams have an opportunity to punch their postseason ticket.

49ers @ Saints: This game might be what decides a first-round bye come January. New Orleans has already clinched their division, while San Francisco looks to reclaim the top spot in the NFC West after being unseated by the Seahawks when Seattle bested Minnesota on Monday night.

Chiefs @ Patriots: A potential playoff preview and a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship overtime thriller. It was Tom Brady and Bill Belichick who bested Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid last go-round and went on to earn their sixth title together. This is another matchup where either team could secure a postseason berth.

Seahawks @ Rams: The power has been shifted in the NFC West, and now it’s the Seahawks on top. The Rams have no shot at repeating as division champions again this season, but are holding out hope for a wild-card spot. Hope turns into a Hail Mary prayer without a victory over their red hot division foe.

Insiders predicts are based on the team that is favored to win, which is based on consensus betting odds and spread on MSN.com as of Dec. 4, 2019. Team stats were gathered from NFL.com. Check out the live odds at MSN.com.

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Joe Robbins // Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys (6-6) @ Chicago Bears (6-6)

- Gametime: Thursday, Dec. 5, 8:20 p.m. EST

The Cowboys have lost two games in a row and sit with a .500 record through 12 games this season, yet still lead the NFC East by a full game. After being beaten at home 26-15 on Thanksgiving Day by the Bills, Dallas got some unexpected help in their hunt to win the division when the lowly Dolphins beat the Eagles 37-31. While no team in the NFC East seems competent enough to make a playoff run, the Cowboys are in the pole position and still possess one of the more prolific offenses that can keep them competitive in games against some of the more talented teams in a top-heavy NFC.

This Thursday will provide a great test for Dak Prescott and the league’s top-ranked offense, as they will travel to Soldier Field to face the Bears’ defense which ranks seventh in the league. Chicago also played on Thanksgiving Day, and was victorious thanks to arguably the best game from quarterback Mitchell Trubisky so far this season.

Trailing the Lions late in the fourth quarter, Trubisky led a nine-play, 90-yard drive that was capped off with a 3-yard game-winning touchdown pass to David Montgomery. It was Trubisky’s third touchdown pass of the game, completing an effective performance which saw him rack up 338 passing yards and a 118.1 quarterback rating.

While the Cowboys are slumping, the Bears have won three of their last four to keep their slim playoff chances alive. Expecting another big offensive day from the Bears may not be realistic, as Dallas is a more formidable opponent than Detroit, but given the Cowboys’ recent inconsistencies, this should be a closer game than originally thought on Thursday night.

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Ronald Martinez // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Dallas Cowboys

- Favored to win: Dallas Cowboys
- Spread: -2.5
- Odds: -152

- Dallas Cowboys team stats:
- Offense: 432.8 yards per game (#1 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 305.2 ypg (#1)
--- Rushing offense: 127.6 ypg (#8)
- Defense: 321.6 yards per game (#8 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 215.2 ypg (#8)
--- Rushing defense: 106.4 ypg (#16)

- Chicago Bears team stats:
- Offense: 281.8 yards per game (#29 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 202.4 ypg (#28)
--- Rushing offense: 79.3 ypg (#28)
- Defense: 319.7 yards per game (#7 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 222.2 ypg (#9)
--- Rushing defense: 97.5 ypg (#7)

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Grant Halverson // Getty Images

Carolina Panthers (5-7) @ Atlanta Falcons (3-9)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

It seems like the wheels have completely come off the wagon for the Panthers 2019 season, who Tuesday fired long-time head coach Ron Rivera. Originally boosted by a four-game winning streak when backup quarterback Kyle Allen took over for the injured Cam Newton, Carolina has since lost five of its last six, including a 29-21 home defeat at the hands of Washington, one of the league’s worst teams. It was the ground game that sunk the Panthers on Sunday, as they were gashed for 248 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Conversely, Carolina failed to establish their own attack with the usually-prolific Christian McCaffrey, who was held to just 44 rushing yards on 14 carries and kept relatively in check in the passing game with 58 yards on his seven receptions.

Now, they will try to end their losing skid by traveling to Atlanta to face their division rivals. The Falcons are coming off two straight division losses, most recently a 26-18 defeat at the hands of the Saints. But three weeks prior, in the first meeting between these two teams this season, the Falcons’ defense dominated Allen and the Panthers, intercepting him four times and registering five sacks. Atlanta won in blowout fashion, 29-3.

That performance came after a shocking 26-9 win over the Saints the week prior and while that two-game stretch of excellent defense from the Falcons may seem like a distant memory, the recent struggles of the Panthers leave little reason to believe that they can turn things around to salvage the remainder of their season.

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Todd Kirkland // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Atlanta Falcons

- Favored to win: Atlanta Falcons
- Spread: -3
- Odds: -166

- Carolina Panthers team stats:
- Offense: 341.2 yards per game (#21 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 220.8 ypg (#21)
--- Rushing offense: 120.5 ypg (#12)
- Defense: 366.7 yards per game (#22 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 229.2 ypg (#14)
--- Rushing defense: 137.5 ypg (#29)

- Atlanta Falcons team stats:
- Offense: 369.4 yards per game (#11 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 295.2 ypg (#2)
--- Rushing offense: 74.2 ypg (#30)
- Defense: 368.2 yards per game (#23 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 259.5 ypg (#26)
--- Rushing defense: 108.7 ypg (#17)

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Patrick Smith // Getty Images

Baltimore Ravens (10-2) @ Buffalo Bills (9-3)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

After passing their first test against a dominant defense with flying colors, beating the Patriots 37-20 in early November, Lamar Jackson and the Ravens defeated yet another one of the league’s best defenses and best teams by edging the 49ers 20-17 in Baltimore last Sunday. Though Jackson’s passing numbers were far from what many have grown accustomed to during his potentially MVP-worthy 2019 campaign, his 101 rushing yards to go along with a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown were enough to guide the Ravens to a franchise-record eighth straight win and to a 10-2 record through 12 games.

Now, with wins over the league’s first and second-ranked defenses under his belt, Jackson will travel to Buffalo to face the NFL’s third-best defense in a matchup of two playoff contenders. The Bills made a statement of their own in Week 13, traveling to Dallas and beating the Cowboys 26-15 on Thanksgiving. They did so by holding the league’s best offense to just two scores, while also intercepting Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott and sacking him four times.

While the Bills have proven they can stop good offenses, Jackson and the Ravens have proven to be an entirely different animal this season. And with Baltimore being the hottest team in football, they are road favorites this week, despite coming off of a narrow victory over San Francisco in what was the first game since Week 6 that they didn’t cover the spread.

The Bills, winners of three in a row, are home underdogs for the first time since Week 4 when they lost to the Patriots which has been the difference in them being in position for an AFC wild-card berth as opposed to the AFC East title.

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Baltimore Ravens

- Favored to win: Baltimore Ravens
- Spread: -5.5
- Odds: -247

- Baltimore Ravens team stats:
- Offense: 420.8 yards per game (#2 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 212.9 ypg (#25)
--- Rushing offense: 207.8 ypg (#1)
- Defense: 323.4 yards per game (#9 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 228.5 ypg (#13)
--- Rushing defense: 94.9 ypg (#6)

- Buffalo Bills team stats:
- Offense: 353.0 yards per game (#17 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 215.1 ypg (#23)
--- Rushing offense: 137.9 ypg (#5)
- Defense: 300.1 yards per game (#3 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 195.8 ypg (#3)
--- Rushing defense: 104.2 ypg (#14)

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Kirk Irwin // Getty Images

Cincinnati Bengals (1-11) @ Cleveland Browns (5-7)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

With Andy Dalton back under center, the Bengals finally got their first win of the season in Week 13, toppling the Jets 22-6. Dalton was benched as Cincinnati tumbled to an 0-8 record, and Ryan Finley was given a chance to try and reverse the team’s fortunes for the next three games. But with that experiment failing, first-year head coach Zac Taylor reinstated Dalton as the starter, who rewarded him with his first victory as an NFL head coach.

The Bengals still have the league’s worst record, meaning they are in pole position to finish the season with the top draft choice of 2020, barring any sort of late-season hot streak. The Browns have five wins, but are third in the AFC North and are likely pondering similar things as the Bengals in terms of their long-term future. Head coach Freddie Kitchens has come under fire for the t-shirt he wore ahead of their 20-13 loss to the Steelers last week, referencing their on-field scuffle two weeks prior. Whether or not Baker Mayfield is the long-awaited answer at quarterback is another big picture question some Browns’ faithful are asking, seeing as he has regressed from a promising rookie campaign, already matching his interception total from last season (14) while only throwing 15 touchdowns thus far. He finished last season with 27, and had a quarterback rating of 93.7 compared to this season’s 79.9.

Even with all of their problems, the Browns are still the more complete team with far more talent. Dalton’s return to the Cincinnati lineup may have provided a one-game boost against the Jets, who have their fair share of problems, but against a familiar opponent on the road, a two-game winning streak for the Bengals seems unlikely to come by and one of the larger upsets of the week.

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Justin K. Aller // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Cleveland Browns

- Favored to win: Cleveland Browns
- Spread: -8.5
- Odds: -386

- Cincinnati Bengals team stats:
- Offense: 301.0 yards per game (#26 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 223.0 ypg (#19)
--- Rushing offense: 78.0 ypg (#29)
- Defense: 405.0 yards per game (#31 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 247.4 ypg (#21)
--- Rushing defense: 157.6 ypg (#32)

- Cleveland Browns team stats:
- Offense: 347.9 yards per game (#18 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 225.2 ypg (#17)
--- Rushing offense: 122.7 ypg (#10)
- Defense: 337.2 yards per game (#15 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 213.2 ypg (#6)
--- Rushing defense: 124.0 ypg (#26)

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Rob Carr // Getty Images

Washington Redskins (3-9) @ Green Bay Packers (9-3)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

After a faith-shaking beatdown suffered at the hands of the 49ers, the Packers rebounded from their third loss of the season exactly as they had hoped, beating the Giants 31-13 in a snow-covered MetLife Stadium in Week 13. Aaron Rodgers made quick work of a depleted New York secondary, throwing four touchdowns, including two to his favorite target Davante Adams. The Green Bay defense also got back to what they had done well for most of the season; causing turnovers. They intercepted Giants’ starter Daniel Jones three times, and the offense capitalized with scoring drives off of two of those takeaways.

The win helped the Packers improve to 9-3 on the season, and brought their record to 3-0 when coming off of losses. They received a gift from the Seahawks on Monday night, as Seattle defeated Minnesota to give Green Bay sole possession of first in the NFC North title race. Now, a home game in the elements against a 3-9 Washington team seems like another gift for the Packers in their playoff quest.

Green Bay controls its own destiny in terms of an NFC North crown, while also still contending for a first-round bye in the playoffs. Washington, on the other hand, is trying to salvage what is left of a disappointing season and has done a decent job as of late, ripping off consecutive wins over the Lions and Panthers. Their Week 13 win over Carolina saw running backs Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson dominate, racking up 228 rushing yards and three touchdowns between them. Panthers coach Ron Rivera was fired in the wake of that loss, and he joined former Redskins coach Jay Gruden as a fellow in-season firing. Under interim coach Bill Callahan, Washington is 3-4.

An opportunistic Packers defense, coupled with the fact that Washington struggles to stop the run, could mean that breakout running back Aaron Jones could help the Packers control this game from start to finish.

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Elsa // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Green Bay Packers

- Favored to win: Green Bay Packers
- Spread: -12.5
- Odds: -777

- Washington Redskins team stats:
- Offense: 262.4 yards per game (#32 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 163.0 ypg (#32)
--- Rushing offense: 99.4 ypg (#20)
- Defense: 361.4 yards per game (#19 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 229.8 ypg (#15)
--- Rushing defense: 131.6 ypg (#27)

- Green Bay Packers team stats:
- Offense: 340.0 yards per game (#22 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 238.6 ypg (#14)
--- Rushing offense: 101.4 ypg (#19)
- Defense: 376.8 yards per game (#28 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 253.8 ypg (#22)
--- Rushing defense: 123.0 ypg (#25)

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Gregory Shamus // Getty Images

Detroit Lions (3-8-1) @ Minnesota Vikings (8-4)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

The Vikings’ hopes of winning the NFC North took a big hit on Monday night when they fell to the Seahawks in a wildly entertaining 37-30 showdown. With the loss, they fell a game behind the Packers in the divisional race, and Green Bay currently holds the tiebreaker having won their early-season matchup. While still in position for a wild card berth, the loss also puts them just a game ahead of the Los Angeles Rams in that race.

Running back Dalvin Cook, who scored a touchdown on Monday night before being forced out of the game with a shoulder injury, is listed as questionable for this meeting with the Lions, but insists that he will be good to go come game day. Head coach Mike Zimmer seemed to echo that sentiment, saying that Cook looks fine after further evaluation.

Needless to say, this is a game the Vikings must-have. They welcome the Lions, losers of five in a row, to U.S. Bank Stadium. Detroit most recently fell victim to the Bears 24-20 on Thanksgiving in quarterback David Blough’s first-career start. Blough burst on to the national stage quickly, throwing a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay on his second attempt and first completion. He would throw one more touchdown and also had the Lions in position to try and win the game on their final possession. Trailing the Bears 24-20, he led a 12-play drive that ended with an interception on 4th and 22 with 29 seconds remaining in the game.

With Matthew Stafford still out with a back injury and Jeff Driskel placed on season-ending injured reserve with a hamstring issue, Blough should be on track to start the first road game of his career on Sunday. The fact that it comes against a talented Vikings team that needs a win to remain in good standing in a crowded NFC playoff picture means that his second start may not go off quite as well as his first.

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Hannah Foslien // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Minnesota Vikings

- Favored to win: Minnesota Vikings
- Spread: -12.5
- Odds: -659

- Detroit Lions team stats:
- Offense: 377.2 yards per game (#7 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 271.7 ypg (#7)
--- Rushing offense: 105.6 ypg (#18)
- Defense: 398.1 yards per game (#29 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 280.1 ypg (#30)
--- Rushing defense: 118.0 ypg (#23)

- Minnesota Vikings team stats:
- Offense: 376.6 yards per game (#8 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 239.5 ypg (#13)
--- Rushing offense: 137.1 ypg (#6)
- Defense: 347.4 yards per game (#16 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 242.9 ypg (#20)
--- Rushing defense: 104.5 ypg (#15)

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Brian Bahr // Getty

San Francisco 49ers (10-2) @ New Orleans Saints (10-2)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

One of the most important NFC matchups of the season—it’s a shame it won’t be played in primetime. The San Francisco 49ers bring their 10-2 record into New Orleans to battle the current #1 seed in the conference. The Saints unseated the Niners for the top spot in the playoff picture after their Thanksgiving Thursday victory over the Atlanta Falcons and a San Francisco loss to the Ravens in Baltimore. The Saints, with a few extra days of preparation, will attempt to earn their fourth-straight victory and hand the 49ers a third loss in five outings.

The Niners are in the thick of an unspeakably tough gauntlet which included the Seahawks, Packers, Ravens, and now Saints and then Seahawks again in Week 17. Last week, the vaunted 49ers defense wasn’t enough to slow down MVP front-runner Lamar Jackson and a stampeding Ravens team en route to a 20-17 victory and an eight-game winning streak.

The Saints were the first team this season to claim a postseason berth—their 26-18 win over Atlanta meant they will wear the NFC South crown for the third-straight season. San Francisco’s #1 defense against the pass will be tasked with stopping Michael Thomas, who leads the NFL in receiving yards (1,290) and receptions (110).

A win for either team means they will control their own destiny for the rest of the way. The top seed in the NFC might be at stake this week.

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Kevin C. Cox // Getty Images

Insiders predict: New Orleans Saints

- Favored to win: New Orleans Saints
- Spread: -2.5
- Odds: -144

- San Francisco 49ers team stats:
- Offense: 378.0 yards per game (#6 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 230.0 ypg (#16)
--- Rushing offense: 148.0 ypg (#2)
- Defense: 250.9 yards per game (#1 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 134.2 ypg (#1)
--- Rushing defense: 116.7 ypg (#22)

- New Orleans Saints team stats:
- Offense: 361.4 yards per game (#13 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 254.1 ypg (#9)
--- Rushing offense: 107.3 ypg (#17)
- Defense: 323.5 yards per game (#10 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 234.9 ypg (#17)
--- Rushing defense: 88.6 ypg (#3)

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Mark Brown // Getty Images

Miami Dolphins (3-9) @ New York Jets (4-8)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

This AFC East cellar matchup is interesting solely because of 2020 NFL Draft positioning. The Miami Dolphins pulled off an improbable win over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, while the New York Jets fell short to a Cincinnati Bengals team that was previously winless. As things currently sit the Dolphins would select at #4, while the Jets would select at #8.

After starting the season 0-7, the Dolphins, winners of three of their last five, have actually played a decent brand of football. And with the season officially lost, they’ve gotten a bit inventive as evidenced by a touchdown-scoring trick play that included their punter/holder passing the ball to their kicker. Why not, right? Head coach Brian Flores’ job looks to be safe until next season as the organization should understand that even a marginal amount of success can be touted considering the roster he’s been saddled with.

The Jets had their three-game winning streak halted last week in embarrassing fashion—they were held without a touchdown or a single trip to the red zone. The Dolphins earned their first victory of the season over the Jets a few weeks back. Can they sweep the season series, or will New York get their revenge?

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Eric Espada // Getty Images

Insiders predict: New York Jets

- Favored to win: New York Jets
- Spread: -5
- Odds: -236

- Miami Dolphins team stats:
- Offense: 276.9 yards per game (#30 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 214.2 ypg (#24)
--- Rushing offense: 62.8 ypg (#32)
- Defense: 399.7 yards per game (#30 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 256.2 ypg (#23)
--- Rushing defense: 143.5 ypg (#31)

- New York Jets team stats:
- Offense: 262.8 yards per game (#31 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 190.2 ypg (#30)
--- Rushing offense: 72.6 ypg (#31)
- Defense: 317.4 yards per game (#6 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 242.2 ypg (#19)
--- Rushing defense: 75.2 ypg (#1)

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Joe Robbins // Getty Images

Indianapolis Colts (6-6) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

The Indianapolis Colts took a massive hit last week after a 31-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans, who now sit above them in both the wild-card and the AFC South standings. The Colts have dropped back-to-back games to division rivals and will need some help if they are to earn an entry into the postseason. Additionally, Indy has lost four of five and has fallen from first in the division to third. Injuries have plagued the Colts, who played without Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, Pro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron, and top running back Marlon Mack, and also lost receiver Chester Rogers and safety Kenny Moore II in the game.

The Buccaneers, despite their record, have been an exciting team to watch this season...largely because of all fireworks that occur when they take the field. The Bucs have scored 340 points, fourth-most in the league, and given up 346 points, third-most in the league. Quarterback Jameis Winston ranks second in total passing yards (3,659) and first in interceptions (20).

After losing four-straight, Tampa has won three of four and is playing some of its best football of the season. Likely too little, too late, though—it would take a miracle for the Bucs to sneak in. The Colts’ chances are slightly better, but they can’t afford to lose this game in Tampa Bay.

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Sam Greenwood // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

- Favored to win: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Spread: -3
- Odds: -152

- Indianapolis Colts team stats:
- Offense: 343.8 yards per game (#19 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 204.8 ypg (#26)
--- Rushing offense: 139.0 ypg (#4)
- Defense: 328.7 yards per game (#13 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 226.9 ypg (#12)
--- Rushing defense: 101.8 ypg (#9)

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers team stats:
- Offense: 380.4 yards per game (#5 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 284.2 ypg (#4)
--- Rushing offense: 96.2 ypg (#22)
- Defense: 358.1 yards per game (#17 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 281.8 ypg (#31)
--- Rushing defense: 76.2 ypg (#2)

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Matthew Stockman // Getty Images

Denver Broncos (4-8) @ Houston Texans (8-4)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 1 p.m. EST

After an impressive victory over the New England Patriots Sunday, the Houston Texans have entered the conversation for a potential first-round bye in the AFC playoffs. Deshaun Watson played inspired in the 28-22 win over New England, tossing three touchdowns and catching a fourth on a trick play that took the Pats defense by surprise. Houston sits a game above the surging Tennessee Titans in the AFC South and still plays their division foe two times in the final three games of the season. The Texans, who are heavily favored, cannot get caught looking ahead.

For the Denver Broncos, it might be the dawn of the Drew Lock era. The rookie QB earned a victory in his debut last week—a 23-20 nail-biter over the Los Angeles Chargers. Lock wasn’t spectacular—18 of 28 with 134 yards passing, two touchdowns, and an interception—but he eluded a Chargers come-from-behind victory and helped get the Broncos in position for a game-winning field goal.

With minimal tape on Lock for the Texans to study, Denver might actually benefit from the rookie’s limited time on the field. For Houston to stay in first-round bye contention, they’ll need to win every game from here on out. Despite an 8-4 record, the Texans are yet to string together more than two consecutive wins this season. A win over the Broncos would be three straight.

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Matthew Stockman // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Houston Texans

- Favored to win: Houston Texans
- Spread: -9.5
- Odds: -433

- Denver Broncos team stats:
- Offense: 295.8 yards per game (#27 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 187.4 ypg (#31)
--- Rushing offense: 108.3 ypg (#16)
- Defense: 324.2 yards per game (#11 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 210.6 ypg (#5)
--- Rushing defense: 113.7 ypg (#20)

- Houston Texans team stats:
- Offense: 372.8 yards per game (#9 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 243.0 ypg (#12)
--- Rushing offense: 129.8 ypg (#7)
- Defense: 374.0 yards per game (#27 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 262.9 ypg (#28)
--- Rushing defense: 111.1 ypg (#19)

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Sam Greenwood // Getty Images

Los Angeles Chargers (4-8) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 4:05 p.m. EST

Disappointing seasons for both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars as both teams expected to contend for the playoffs at season’s start. The Chargers, who feel better than their record indicates, have been on the wrong side of almost every close game they’ve played this season. Each of L.A.’s eight losses have come by no more than one score. Last week’s creative way to lose included a pass interference call that gave the Denver Broncos 37 yards in the final seconds of regulation to set up a 53-yard Brandon McManus game-winning field goal.

The Jaguars have lost each three of quarterback Nick Foles’ starts since the four-year, $88 million dollar man returned from injury, so head coach Doug Marrone and staff have elected to return to rookie backup quarterback Gardner Minshew II for Week 14. While no playoff hopes remain for Jacksonville, Marrone hopes Minshew’s “mobility and elusiveness” can spark the listless team over the remaining four games.

Whichever team loses this game will be officially eliminated, but even a victory doesn’t guarantee either team will be safe.

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Matthew Stockman // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Los Angeles Chargers

- Favored to win: Los Angeles Chargers
- Spread: -3
- Odds: -179

- Los Angeles Chargers team stats:
- Offense: 363.2 yards per game (#12 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 274.2 ypg (#6)
--- Rushing offense: 89.1 ypg (#27)
- Defense: 309.2 yards per game (#4 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 199.3 ypg (#4)
--- Rushing defense: 109.9 ypg (#18)

- Jacksonville Jaguars team stats:
- Offense: 359.4 yards per game (#15 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 246.0 ypg (#11)
--- Rushing offense: 113.4 ypg (#15)
- Defense: 360.4 yards per game (#18 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 223.8 ypg (#11)
--- Rushing defense: 136.6 ypg (#28)

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Wesley Hitt // Getty Images

Tennessee Titans (7-5) @ Oakland Raiders (6-6)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 4:25 p.m. EST

Both of these teams still have a shot at the postseason, but the Raiders’ outlook is much more bleak than the Titans’. Tennessee improved its chances last week with a monstrous 31-17 victory over division rival Indianapolis and is now riding a three-game winning streak. Since the Titans made the switch from quarterback Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill, they’ve won five of six and now control their own destiny over the last four games of the season. Tennessee faces division-leading Houston Texans Week 15 and Week 17, which means an AFC South crown is still in play. The Titans have now separated themselves from the Colts by one game and are tied with Pittsburgh at 7-5 for the last remaining wild-card berth (Pittsburgh owns the tiebreaker).

The Raiders all but kissed their postseason chances goodbye after they were trounced by AFC West rival Kansas City last week. The 40-9 loss drops them two games behind K.C. in the division and behind the Bills, Steelers, and Titans in the wild-card standings. Oakland emerged as an unlikely contender after a three-game winning streak brought them to 6-4, but have been outscored 74-12 in their last two appearances.

The Raiders can expect a heavy dose of workhorse running back Derrick Henry, who over the last three weeks has rushed for a whopping 496 yards.

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Wesley Hitt // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Tennessee Titans

- Favored to win: Tennessee Titans
- Spread: -2.5
- Odds: -145

- Tennessee Titans team stats:
- Offense: 329.8 yards per game (#24 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 204.3 ypg (#27)
--- Rushing offense: 125.4 ypg (#9)
- Defense: 362.1 yards per game (#21 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 260.1 ypg (#27)
--- Rushing defense: 102.0 ypg (#10)

- Oakland Raiders team stats:
- Offense: 354.8 yards per game (#16 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 232.1 ypg (#15)
--- Rushing offense: 122.7 ypg (#10)
- Defense: 361.8 yards per game (#20 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 258.2 ypg (#24)
--- Rushing defense: 103.6 ypg (#11)

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Maddie Meyer // Getty Images

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) @ New England Patriots (10-2)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 4:25 p.m. EST

One of the week’s best contests features Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes II in a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship Game. With a victory, the Pats can secure their spot in the playoffs, while the Chiefs can do the same with a victory paired with an Oakland Raiders loss. Both teams fully expect to be competing when the competition is pared-down in January, but this matchup will have an impact on seeding in the AFC.

First things first, the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, who need to rebound in a major way after allowing as many passing touchdowns (4) as they had all season to that point in a 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans. Houston led 28-9 with less than 10 minutes of game left in the fourth quarter, but a New England comeback attempt fell short.

The Kansas City Chiefs have strung together two victories and have separated themselves in the AFC West. Their 40-9 victory last week over the next closest team, the Oakland Raiders, puts the Chiefs in a favorable spot to win the conference’s weakest division.

Expect to see New England lean on a tactic that worked when these teams met last season—pounding the run. In two matchups last season, New England totaled 349 yards and seven touchdowns on 86 rushes. Kansas City enters Sunday’s game 30th in run defense.

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Tim Warner // Getty Images

Insiders predict: New England Patriots

- Favored to win: New England Patriots
- Spread: -3
- Odds: -170

- Kansas City Chiefs team stats:
- Offense: 384.7 yards per game (#4 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 290.2 ypg (#3)
--- Rushing offense: 94.5 ypg (#24)
- Defense: 372.1 yards per game (#25 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 230.8 ypg (#16)
--- Rushing defense: 141.3 ypg (#30)

- New England Patriots team stats:
- Offense: 360.8 yards per game (#14 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 264.4 ypg (#8)
--- Rushing offense: 96.3 ypg (#21)
- Defense: 258.0 yards per game (#2 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 163.5 ypg (#2)
--- Rushing defense: 94.5 ypg (#5)

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Jared Wickerham // Getty Images

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-8-1)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 4:25 p.m. EST

The Pittsburgh Steelers, who started the season 0-3, have scratched and clawed their way to 7-5 and are in a fight to maintain their grasp on the sixth and final wild-card spot in the AFC. They’ll need to put away the Arizona Cardinals this week to guarantee their safety for another week.

This game could feature an interesting battle of rookie quarterbacks. If Mike Tomlin continues with Devlin Hodges as the starter in a favor of Mason Rudolph, it will be the winner of the 2018 Heisman Trophy, Kyler Murray, taking on the 2018 winner of the Heisman Trophy equivalent in the NCAA FCS. Hodges was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Steelers and promoted to the active roster after a season-ending injury to veteran QB Ben Roethlisberger. After poor play by backup QB Mason Rudolph, Hodges has made the most of his opportunity. The rookie earned a 20-13 victory over the Browns Sunday and helped his squad exact revenge on Cleveland team who bested Rudolph just a few weeks prior.

Arizona has nothing to play for but pride as they’ve been eliminated from the playoffs. While they’ve shown flashes of impressive play at times this season, the Cardinals gave way to the meat of their schedule and have now dropped five-straight games. They can play spoiler this week, though. Oddsmakers predict this game will be closer than a field goal.

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Justin Berl // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Pittsburgh Steelers

- Favored to win: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Spread: -3
- Odds: -149

- Pittsburgh Steelers team stats:
- Offense: 291.3 yards per game (#28 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 200.5 ypg (#29)
--- Rushing offense: 90.8 ypg (#26)
- Defense: 317.2 yards per game (#5 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 213.5 ypg (#7)
--- Rushing defense: 103.7 ypg (#12)

- Arizona Cardinals team stats:
- Offense: 331.8 yards per game (#23 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 217.7 ypg (#22)
--- Rushing offense: 114.1 ypg (#14)
- Defense: 426.3 yards per game (#32 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 307.5 ypg (#32)
--- Rushing defense: 118.8 ypg (#24)

 

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Alika Jenner // Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks (10-2) @ Los Angeles Rams (7-5)

- Gametime: Sunday, Dec. 8, 8:20 p.m. EST

With their victory Monday night, the Seattle Seahawks jumped from the fifth seed in the NFC up to the second seed and into the driver’s seat for a first-round bye. Seattle trailed 17-10 at half, but rattled off 17 unanswered points in the third quarter and added 10 more in the fourth, going on to beat the Minnesota Vikings 37-30. Seattle used big performances from running backs Rashaad Penny, who had a rushing and receiving touchdown, and Chris Carson, who rushed for 102 yards and added a touchdown of his own.

It might seem counterintuitive for a playoff-hopeful to root for a team ahead of them in their division, but Seattle’s victory was the best-case scenario for a Los Angeles Rams team chasing the Vikings for the final wild-card spot. L.A. is now just a game behind the Vikings with four games left on the schedule. The Rams rebounded last week after an embarrassing 45-6 Week 12 loss to the Baltimore Ravens with 34-7 pounding of the Arizona Cardinals. Jared Goff, who entered the game having thrown zero touchdowns and five interceptions over his last three outings, threw for 424 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

This matchup will complete the season series between these two. The first game ended in dramatic fashion when kicker Greg Zuerlein missed a go-ahead field goal at the end of regulation resulting in a 30-29 Seattle victory. Expect another close contest—the last three games between the Rams and Seahawks have been decided by less than 10 combined points.

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Corey Perrine // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Seattle Seahawks

- Favored to win: Seattle Seahawks
- Spread: -1
- Odds: -112

- Seattle Seahawks team stats:
- Offense: 390.2 yards per game (#3 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 246.6 ypg (#10)
--- Rushing offense: 143.7 ypg (#3)
- Defense: 368.9 yards per game (#24 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 269.3 ypg (#29)
--- Rushing defense: 99.6 ypg (#8)

- Los Angeles Rams team stats:
- Offense: 369.6 yards per game (#10 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 275.4 ypg (#5)
--- Rushing offense: 94.2 ypg (#25)
- Defense: 327.0 yards per game (#12 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 222.8 ypg (#10)
--- Rushing defense: 104.2 ypg (#13)

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Elsa // Getty Images

New York Giants (2-10) @ Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)

- Gametime: Monday, Dec. 9, 8:15 p.m. EST

Seven losses with four games left in the regular season isn’t anywhere a team expects to be while still contending for a division title, but when the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys are 6-6, that’s where the Philadelphia Eagles find themselves despite their three-game losing streak. Luckily for Philly, the New York Giants have served as a “get right” game for many of their opponents this season. The Giants are in complete disarray having lost eight in a row, and after last week’s 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers, are officially eliminated from the playoffs.

The Eagles have been abysmal over the last few weeks, but losses to the Patriots and Seahawks aren’t shocking. Losing 37-31 to the Miami Dolphins, who are officially eliminated from the playoffs even after their Week 13 victory...not as excusable. Philadelphia surrendered a 14-point second-half lead and allowed 409 total yards to an offense ranked 30th in the league.

The Eagles continue to hang around, though, because of the lackluster play from the Cowboys. Dallas has lost two straight and are floundering, but will technically remain in first place in the NFC East even with a loss and Philadelphia victory Week 14—the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker after a 37-18 win earlier this season. The Eagles battle the Cowboys again in the second-to-last game of the regular season—a game that could have major divisional implications—but they’ll need to get past the Giants first.

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Eric Espada // Getty Images

Insiders predict: Philadelphia Eagles

- Favored to win: Philadelphia Eagles
- Spread: -9
- Odds: -400

- New York Giants team stats:
- Offense: 316.7 yards per game (#25 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 221.2 ypg (#20)
--- Rushing offense: 95.5 ypg (#23)
- Defense: 372.8 yards per game (#26 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 258.6 ypg (#25)
--- Rushing defense: 114.2 ypg (#21)

- Philadelphia Eagles team stats:
- Offense: 342.3 yards per game (#20 in the league)
--- Passing offense: 223.6 ypg (#18)
--- Rushing offense: 118.8 ypg (#13)
- Defense: 332.7 yards per game (#14 in the league)
--- Passing defense: 241.7 ypg (#18)
--- Rushing defense: 91.0 ypg (#4)

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