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Dec 06

NFL 2014 Pick’em: Week 14 Predictions

Welcome to December, where the Pick’em competition may hit its climax. There are 18 games between teams with a winning record over the next three weeks, all which lead up to the Week 17 slate that features all intra-divisional games. We need to make sure we’re picking at our best leading into postseason, when our “four factors” come into play.

Speaking of our “four factors” for winning postseason games, we got to thinking about how to approach these December games. In fitting fashion, we develop a system involving a different four factors to victory. We figure to use a different system than the playoff “four factors” because the context is totally different. It’s best to adjustment to current situation.

Therefore, we’re going to consider the following four factors to pick our winners:

  1. Preseason predictions: So far, our preseason predictions are working great. In fact, we’d like to think that by merely following the game-by-game predictions from August, somebody could have a record and point total above the mean. Therefore, we’ll continue to use it as one factor that acts as part of the foundation for our Pick’em predictions in December.
  2. Home-field advantage: We’ll probably look deeper into this for a feature on Monday, but home teams are truly thriving this season in big games. Since Week 4, the home team owns a 25-11-1 record in games featuring two teams with a winning record. However, home teams are 6-6 in this situation in intra-divisional games. We need to consider this factor in the quality games.
  3. Unit match-ups: It’s the most important factor of all during the regular season. As usual, we go unit by unit looking at the quality stats and recent trends to determine what we envision to be the key match-ups to exploit for each team.
  4. Pick’em consensus: Of course, we need to frame our predictions in the context of the Pick’em competition. If the majority of experts (we’ll see 75 percent or more) are picking one team, we’ll give the favorite the point for this factor. If there’s not a decisive consensus (less than 75 percent) for the favorite, we’ll just go with our gut to determine a “favorite.”

We’ll keep it as simple as this: if a team has more points than the other after using these four factors, we’ll predict that team to win. However, if there’s a 2-2 tie (or even a 1-1 tie) after using these factors, we’ll make a decision in discretion on who to choose. With only a few experts on our backs in the competition, we’ll put together a game plan for the “undeterminded” games to best position ourselves for a good week. For Week 13, we saw a 2-2 tie in three games (Colts at Browns, Ravens at Dolphins and Seahawks at Eagles).

Remember, using the TABRankings as a basis for determining the quality of each game, the week’s games are divided into three groups:

  • Games of the Week (3 points each): Any game with two teams having a combined ranking total of 24 or less. Both teams MUST be within 10 spots of each other. (Thus, the “weakest” match-up will feature the seventh-ranked team and the 17th-ranked team.)
  • Non-GOTW Divisional Games (2 points each): Any divisional battle that isn’t in the aforementioned group.
  • The Rest (1 point each): Any match-up that is neither a Game of the Week or a divisional battle.

Now to the predictions for Week 14.

Games of the Week (3 points each)
(11) Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at (9) Miami Dolphins (7-5)
Here’s the first of three match-ups that came down to a tiebreaker beyond the four factors. Miami earned points for the preseason pick and the home-field advantage. Baltimore earned points for the unit match-ups and pick’em consensus (there was none, but we like the Ravens as the favorite). So now have “the gameplan.” Most of our top competitors are going against us here, but that’s what we want. We feel confident in the Ravens bouncing back against a Dolphins that hasn’t proven itself in a playoff atmosphere.

(8) Buffalo Bills (7-5) at (2) Denver Broncos (9-3)
The Broncos are somewhere around a double-digit favorite at home. We’d honestly the Bills to cover, due to their scoring efficiency and stout pass defense. However, Denver gets the point for each of the four factors. Kyle Orton can’t keep up with Peyton Manning.

(13) Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at (5) Arizona Cardinals (9-3)
In terms of who we thought was the true favorite, we honestly had no choice. It was our only draw with no spread, so to say. However, we originally had the Cardinals winning, and they enjoy a considerable home-field advantage. Expect neither team to reach 20 points, and Arizona finds a way to remain unbeaten in the desert in a close win. The Chiefs will continue to fall apart.

(6) Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at (7) Philadelphia Eagles (9-3)
This game actually had a 2-2 tie in the four factors. Philadelphia earned points for the preseason pick and the home-field advantage, while Seattle earned points for the unit match-ups and the pick’em consensus (after we chose the Seahawks as the favorite). Now comes the “gameplan.” We already went against the grain in one Game of the Week, but we won’t here. Our top two competitors both picked Seattle, and we agree with that path. The Seahawks are a proven playoff team hitting its stride, while the Eagles are still largely unproven against the true playoff contenders. Expect Seattle to beat up Philly provide some lessons for a potential playoff rematch.

Non-GOTW Divisional Games (2 points each)
(20) Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at (12) Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1)
We like the Steelers because of two factors. First, the Bengals struggle at home against Pittsburgh. Note that Marvin Lewis owns a 2-10 record as head coach at home against Steelers. And as we already noted, the home-field advantage in this situation in cancelled out by the divisional familiarity. Second, the Bengals struggle in big games while the Steelers thrive in big games. Pittsburgh continues to play down to its competition this season, but the team also picked up wins against Indianapolis and Baltimore when the season was on the brink. Expect that a split will have to be earned by Cincinnati winning in Pittsburgh in Week 17.

(26) Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at (19) New Orleans Saints (5-7)
Have the Saints finally turned their season around to become a contender? We like the match-ups here for the Saints to start a winning streak, and so do the experts. It’s actually a unanimous choice for the Saints.

(14) Houston Texans (6-6) at (30) Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10)
We think this game is tougher to predict than most would expect. What will be the game-changing difference, though, is scoring efficiency. Houston ranks 6th in the NFL with plus-3.77 Net Yards per Point Scored. Jacksonville ranks 30th with negative-5.39 Net Yards per Point Scored. Both defenses will do well, but the Texans defense is better at converting turnovers to points while the Jaguars offense is worse at limit the damaging mistakes. There will one or two Jacksonville mistakes that ultimately allows Houston to win.

The Rest (1 point each)
(18) Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at (24) Chicago Bears (5-7)
We correctly predicted the Thursday Night Football game.

(21) St. Louis Rams (5-7) at (28) Washington Redskins (3-9)
The Rams found stability through their quarterback changes. The other team hasn’t. It might be ironic to some, considering Jeff Fisher’s history of working with quarterbacks after Steve McNair. The Titans never recovered from the rocky end to the Fisher relation with Vince Young. However, Fisher’s professionalism proves to work for his team. We can’t say the something with certainty for Jay Gruden.

(25) New York Giants (3-9) at (27) Tennessee Titans (2-10)
The Giants continue to outplay weak opponents, but they just let last week’s game get out of their grasp. Two fumbles returned for touchdowns did them no favors. We expect New York to exploit the match-up advantages it has over Tennessee and close this one.

(29) New York Jets (2-10) at (23) Minnesota Vikings (5-7)
Although the expert consensus heavily favors the Vikings, we think the Jets have a legitimate chance at getting the victory. Minnesota isn’t well-suited to exploit the most favorable match-ups against the Jets. However, what ultimately separates these teams is scoring efficiency. The Jets rank last in the NFL with negative-7.56 Net Yards per Point Scored. The Vikings rank 16th with plus-0.52 Net Yards per Point Scored. There will be some mistake that allows Minnesota to win a close one.

(4) Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at (17) Cleveland Browns (7-5) **Upset of the Week**
Here’s another game with a 2-2 tie in our four factors. Cleveland gets points for the preseason pick and the home-field advantage. Indianapolis gets points for the unit match-ups and the Pick’em consensus. Now, for the gameplan. This game would’ve been a Game of the Week, if not for the 13-rank difference between the two teams. However, that opens up a chance for us to find an upset special. We need to roll the dice somewhere, and we think this is our only good spot.

(31) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) at (10) Detroit Lions (8-4) **Lock of the Week**
Besides the Falcons-Packers game, this is the only logical choice for the lock. While the Lions suffered an epic collapse last year, which could put some doubt into this one, we’d like to remind our viewers that the Buccaneers own a 1-7 record after teams with a losing record. If you own this bad of a record despite playing weak opponents most of the season, you’re not going to play well against the big boys. If Detroit has an ugly loss in its future, we’ll wait for another week.

(15) San Francisco 49ers (7-5) at (32) Oakland Raiders (2-10)
The 49ers are spending much of this season on the brink. They handled the 1-2 start quite well. They handled falling to 4-4 quite well. Does falling to 7-5 mean they’re on the brink again? Normally that’s not the case, but it certainly is for the NFC Wild Card hunt. San Francisco faces a must win, so this experienced team should be able to handle its business.

(1) New England Patriots (9-3) at (16) San Diego Chargers (8-4)
For all the Game of the Week feel for this Sunday night affair, our rankings don’t agree with that assessment. Neither do our four factors, frankly. Besides San Diego’s home-field advantage, the Patriots are the considerable favorite. Philip Rivers turns his game up in December, but his Chargers have struggled against Bill Belichick. We expect the latter trend to continue.

(22) Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at (3) Green Bay Packers (9-3)
We’re saving the Packers for the lock for another week. Yet, they are more or less a lock here. The Packers are nearly unstoppable at home, and they face a weak Falcons defense in primetime.

2 comments

  1. Buck Anderson

    where are the pre-season picks listed? thanks!

    1. tabm1327

      My posts from before September are still being re-constructed. I’m working on getting that all up soon. I’m still in the process of getting the website fully launched! Thanks for bearing with me.

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