An Uneducated Take: Week 14

Down to the wire in the NFL

by Three Point Stance Contributor Zack Couch | @ZackCouch

We’re into the last month of the season and there’s a lot to cover.  Updated power rankings, ignoring the NFC East, update on the AFC Wild Card race, and the clusterfuck that is the top of the NFC.  I had one of the worst weeks of the year as I went 2-4 in picks, bringing my season record to 32-26.  Maybe I can finish above 500…

Ravens-Niners in the Rain
On a cold and wet Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, we saw two of the best teams in the league go head to head for what was the best game of the week.  Not a ton of scoring in this one as Baltimore prevailed in a close 20-17 game.  

If you’re a Niner fan, you may want to take a moral victory in this one, but you shouldn’t.  San Francisco had every chance in the world to win this one but couldn’t get the job done.  They had limited Lamar’s aerial production. They were getting favorable calls, but they just couldn’t win a game that was their’s for the taking.

Meanwhile, Jackson led the Ravens down the field for the game winning field goal as time expired. That last drive was one of the more impressive things I have seen from him all year.  Six minutes to go in the game and he bleeds the entire clock.  This game served as another reason why Lamar might be the MVP.

AFC Playoff Update
Cleveland was essentially eliminated after losing to the Steelers on Sunday.  They are currently sitting in 10th place being 2 games back of Pittsburgh and also losing the tiebreak on winning percentage in conference games.  It feels like a huge longshot for them at the moment.

Tennessee’s win over Indianapolis went a long way for the Titans and they are tied with Pittsburgh for the 6th spot. Pittsburgh would get in due to the better conference record at the moment, but also with that win, it means they are only 1 game back of Houston and they still get them two more times. Other than Baltimore, I’m not sure there’s a team more on fire right now than the Titans in the AFC.

After Buffalo’s Thanksgiving Day win over the Cowboys, the Bills are almost a lock to get the Wild Card, but what’s even better for them is that they are only one game back of the Patriots. 

Kansas City’s win over Oakland essentially ensures they will win the AFC West.  At this point, we just need to find out if they can somehow work their way into a first round bye.

Houston’s win over New England seemed a bit anti-climactic to me due to the fact that it seemed almost a certain win for Watson and company.

NFC Clusterfuck
The Niners loss to Baltimore dropped them from the 1 seed down to the 5 seed.  Seattle moved to the 2 seed and the Saints now occupy the 1 seed. With four games to go, there are only 2 games that separate the top 3 seeds and the two wild card spots, and if you go down further, the Rams are one game out of the Wild Card and Chicago sits 2 games out.  Now, it is extremely unlikely that Chicago can get in there, with their upcoming 4 games against Dallas, Green Bay, KC, and Minnesota, but hey, miracles do happen.

The team that might be in the best position at the moment to muscle their way into a first round bye might be Green Bay, with games against Washington, Chicago, Minnesota, and Detroit down the stretch.  At worst, they will finish 12-4, but a 13-3 isn’t out of the question.

New Orleans final four games have them hosting the Niners and Colts over the next two weeks before finishing on the road against Tennessee and Carolina.  They could easily lose two of these games which could drop them to hosting a game in Wild Card Weekend.

Seattle has a tough road forward as they get the Rams in LA on Sunday, followed by a 1:00pm start against the Panthers back east, and then finishing up by hosting the Cardinals and San Francisco. If there is a team that is due an off week, it is them.

San Francisco’s December schedule has them against the Saints this weekend, followed by two games at home against the Falcons and Rams, before finishing with the Seahawks at the end of the season.  It’s quite possible that the game against Seattle will be the one that decides the top seed in the NFC.  Lots of exciting stuff all around.

And the NFC East, I don’t care.  An 8-8 team will win that division which will leave a 9-7 team grumbling.

December Power Rankings
#1 – Baltimore Ravens (10-2): It’s hard not to put this team at #1.  Especially when you have wins against New England, San Francisco, Houston, and Seattle.
#2 – Seattle Seahawks (10-2): They are now in control of the NFC West with the tiebreaker and have the best shot at being the #1 seed.
#3 – San Francisco 49ers (10-2): No team has better losses than the 49ers.  Remainder of the season is a big question mark.
#4 – New Orleans Saints (10-2): They are the first team to clinch a division and things are looking great for them.
#5 – Houston Texans (8-4): This might be hyperbole to have them this high, but after wins against Indy and New England, this team looks to be set to make a run.
#6 – Kansas City Chiefs (8-4): They’re healthy and could be set to make a run…
#7 – Green Bay Packers (9-3): While not ideal for the Packers, they are still in good shape.
#8 – New England Patriots (10-2): This team seems to be on a downward trajectory, but if they get any late season wide receiver signings (Dez? Another chance with AB?), they could become lethal again.
#9 – Minnesota Vikings (8-4): The loss to Seattle wasn’t the worst in the world and they could bounce back.
Tied for #10 – Buffalo Bills (9-3) and Tennessee Titans (7-5).  The Bills seem to continue to win despite not being that impressive of a team and Tennessee might be peaking at the right time after a 2-4 start.

Week 14 Look Ahead
Week 14 does not disappoint in regards to matchups that should shake up things in the playoff hunt.

Chicago hosts Dallas on Thursday night and I got to think that Dallas will finally win one of these.  I take the Cowboys -3.

Baltimore makes a trip to Buffalo in what should be an interesting game.  I’m taking the Ravens -5.5.

49ers and Saints matchup down in New Orleans.  Saints are a 2.5 point favorite but I just don’t see them winning this one. Take San Fran on the money line.

Titans and Raiders matchup out in Oakland and I’m taking Tennessee -2.5.

Kansas City visits New England in a rematch of the AFC Title game and I imagine this one should be a lot of fun.  Pats sit as a 3 point favorite and I am guaranteeing Kansas City wins this one outright.

Seattle makes a trip to LA to take on the Rams in what should be a great game on Sunday night.  I’m taking the Rams +1.

And lastly, a game that doesn’t have much playoff significance but could be a lot of fun.  Normally I don’t pick the over/under in a game, but Indy travels to Tampa Bay and it sits at 47. I think both teams will clear that easily.

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