NFL Week 14 is here, with playoff spots and so much more at stake. From Super Bowl contenders battling for that exclusive first-round bye to young players seeing this week as an opportunity to prove themselves, there will be plenty for fans to enjoy.
It all begins on Thursday Night Football, a matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings. This game could have both 2022 NFL Draft and playoff implications. It feels fitting since both these teams will likely finish with records that deny them a top-12 pick and prevent them from making the playoffs.
As for Sunday’s action, there are plenty of matchups to keep an eye on. It’s also a safe bet that we’ll witness at least one upset and fans will be treated to a thrilling shootout.
Let’s dive into our NFL Week 14 bold predictions.
Alexander Mattison goes off for 100-plus yards, proves he can be RB1
The Minnesota Vikings offense is better when Dalvin Cook is on the field, that can’t be denied. But when the All-Pro running back is sidelined by injuries, a theme during his NFL career, Alexander Mattison always steps into the featured role and thrives. Facing Pittsburgh’s defense, this will be a great opportunity for Mattison to prove he can be an RB1 for multiple teams.
The Steelers can’t stop the run. Of their last eight opponents faced, seven eclipsed 100-plus rushing yards. But that only gives you a small taste of the success running backs are enjoying vs. Pittsburgh. In November, teams averaged 180.5 rushing yards per game and 5.6 yards per rush against the Steelers. Keep in mind, all of that came before a matchup with the Baltimore Ravens.
Mattison just ripped a hole through the Detroit Lions and that team is statistically better against the run than Pittsburgh. On a short week with Adam Thielen out, Minnesota will commit to the run game. On a primetime stage, Mattison can prove he is a high-end starter worth trading for in 2022.
Tom Brady, Josh Allen combine for 50-plus points in thrilling shootout
We’re looking forward to fireworks when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills take the field. While both teams are regarded highly in our NFL defense rankings, there are some critical factors that give this matchup a real possibility of becoming a shootout.
Todd Bowles loves sending extra pass rushers, it’s a staple of his defensive philosophy. Entering Week 13, Tampa Bay led the NFL in blitz rate (38.8%) and it marks the second consecutive year this defense leads in blitzes. But quarterback Josh Allen, despite his recent struggles, handles blitzes better than almost anyone. He leads the NFL in touchdowns when blitzed (10), ranks third in passing yards (844) and is second in passer rating (83.6) against the blitz. Against a banged-up Buccaneers’ secondary, Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley will make plays and Allen will find them.
This is also a good matchup for Tom Brady. Buffalo just lost cornerback Tre’Davious White to a torn ACL, taking away the guy who would match up with Mike Evans. The Bills could use Jordan Poyer or Micah Hyde to help against Rob Gronkowski, but they must also account for Chris Godwin. There are just too many weapons to contain and that should lead to Brady and Allen blowing past 55 total points.
Jacksonville Jaguars upset Tennessee Titans
Take a look at most NFL power rankings and the Titans are a top-10 team. But that is entirely a reflection of how they performed when healthy. With A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry and Julio Jones on injured reserve, this offense is rough on the eyes. That’s one of the reasons Jacksonville could put them on upset alert.
Injuries are almost entirely to blame for this upset pick, because they are hitting Tennessee on the defensive side as well. Missing multiple starters, the Titans surrendered 394 total yards to the New England Patriots with 36 points allowed. That’s not to say Jacksonville has any shot of repeating those numbers, but Trevor Lawrence certainly has the talent to attack some holes in the Titans’ secondary. In what should be a low-scoring battle, the Jaguars could stun everyone.
Saquon Barkley breaks through in NFL Week 14
We haven’t seen the best version of Saquon Barkley in years. While he had a 23-yard run vs. the Miami Dolphins and a 32-yard scamper a week prior, the explosive plays have largely vanished. It’s largely the result of bad play-calling, a porous offensive line and horrid quarterback play. But the stars might align for Barkley in NFL Week 14.
The Los Angeles Chargers have allowed nine different opponents to rush for 100-plus yards this season, including seven games with 140-plus rushing yards. While they did do a better job on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, holding Joe Mixon to 2.4 ypr on 19 attempts, Cincinnati still racked 356 total yards.
New York isn’t winning this game, it’s just not happening. But against a soft front seven, Barkley could deliver 90-plus scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Let’s just hope it’s a sign of things to come in 2022.
Arizona Cardinals throttle Rams on Monday Night Football
The Week 4 meeting between the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams showed there was a gap between these two Super Bowl contenders. But after J.J. Watt went down and Los Angeles brought in Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller, many believed these teams would flip in the NFC West. Monday Night Football will demonstrate why that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Los Angeles has a problem, it can’t anyone who isn’t lined up against Jalen Ramsey. The Rams aren’t going to allow Ramsey to shadow DeAndre Hopkins either, so the All-Pro receiver who is getting healthy could have some big-play opportunities.
Kyler Murray is going to feast against the Rams’ blitz-heavy defense (28.8% blitz rate), buying time with his legs and finding his playmakers for 20-plus yard gains. It will be complemented by Arizona’s defense getting pressure on Matthew Stafford, forcing a pair of takeaways and coming away with a double-digit victory.