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NFL Week 14 predictions

Patriots (9-3) at Redskins (4-8)

1 p.m., Ch. 10

Patriots by 8, 48

This is not a Patriots Super Bowl prediction whatsoever. But there aren't many teams in the AFC who you'd pick against New England in a playoff game right now. The Patriots have continued to adapt their game when necessary despite a lack of depth and talent at some key positions. There's no lack at quarterback, however, and Tom Brady, above, will probably reinforce that today. He needs one touchdown pass to surpass Warren Moon (291) for sixth in NFL history.

Patriots 27, Redskins 17

49ers (10-2) at Cardinals (5-7)

4 p.m.

49ers by 4, 39

Unless coach Jim Harbaugh does something unthinkable — like, say, call a timeout to ice his own kicker in crunch time — you have to believe the 49ers will find a way to win. The fact that it's on the road and they likely will be without injured LB Patrick Willis, above, probably won't matter. A subplot: Arizona has given up 43 sacks, second most in the NFL. Paging Aldon Smith. The Niners' linebacker out of Missouri has 91/2 sacks, second among rookies.

49ers 24, Cardinals 13

Bears (7-5) at Broncos (7-5)

4 p.m.

Broncos by 3½, 35½

Not a good situation for the Bears. Struggling backup QB Caleb Hanie, above, faces the improving Broncos defense and will be without star RB Matt Forte (knee). And we haven't even considered, perhaps, Chicago's most daunting challenge: Tim Tebow. Even if Chicago keeps the game close — no guarantee because it can't seem to score — you have to like Denver's chances in the late going with Tebow, who has five winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Broncos 21, Bears 17

Bills (5-7) at Chargers (5-7)

4:15 p.m.

Chargers by 7, 48

Whether there's any significance to this or not is arguable, but Chargers QB Philip Rivers, above, is sensational in December. As a starter, he's 21-2 with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Chargers are renowned for their late-season surges under coach Norv Turner, but it is questionable whether even a 4-0 record down the stretch can save him — or his team's season. If the Broncos continue their winning ways, the playoffs are probably a pipe dream anyway.

Chargers 24, Bills 20

Raiders (7-5) at Packers (12-0)

4:15 p.m., Ch. 10

Packers by 12, 51½

If the Raiders want a playoff berth, they will have to earn it. They face a tough stretch highlighted by today's game at Lambeau Field. After that, it's the Lions, Chiefs and Chargers. The Packers, meanwhile, are four wins from regular-season perfection. As for today, if you wouldn't take Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, above, over today's version of Oakland QB Carson Palmer, well, we can't help you. Green Bay can join the '98 Broncos as the only champ to start 13-0.

Packers 31, Raiders 21

Rams (2-10) at Seahawks (5-7)

8:30 Monday, ESPN

Seahawks by 10½, 37

No team has given up more sacks than the Rams, and maybe we can attribute this to the disappointing season of QB Sam Bradford, above. His season has gone a little like Josh Freeman's: high expectations quickly turning to frustration. For both, it's largely a product of what's happening (or not happening) around them. Bradford's lack of receivers hasn't helped. Meanwhile, Seattle has won three of four, and QB Tarvaris Jackson is coming off his best game of the season.

Seahawks 26, Rams 16

Giants (6-6) at Cowboys (7-5)

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Cowboys by 4, 50½

You know it's not a banner season for what's perceived as a powerful division when this battle for the NFC East lead is between a .500 team and 7-5 club. Nonetheless, Dallas can put some pressure on New York by taking a two-game lead with three to play. But we're banking on the Giants being more desperate. Cowboys QB Tony Romo, above, still has more to prove when it comes to winning the big games. And the Giants have a much better track record in that regard.

Giants 28, Cowboys 24

Colts (0-12) at Ravens (9-3)

1 p.m.

Ravens by 16½, 41½

Don't let the score of that Colts-Patriots game last week (31-24) deceive you. The Colts trailed 24-3 before making it remotely interesting. As for today, the Ravens have too much to play for to squander this bit of fortune on their schedule. Indy is giving up 100 yards more per game than Baltimore and 144 rushing overall. That should make fantasy owners of Ray Rice, above, think happy thoughts. If he doesn't add to his AFC-high nine touchdowns, we'd be stunned.

Ravens 28, Colts 13

Falcons (7-5) at Panthers (4-8)

1 p.m.

Falcons by 3, 47½

We realize Houston has the NFL's No. 2 defense. But can Atlanta really fancy itself a playoff team while losing to third-string QB T.J. Yates last week? Let's see if it gets back on track against a much less-vaunted defense. The Bucs' inability to reach the end zone against the Panthers last week was disappointing given the 27 points per game they allow. But Atlanta has the firepower to beat Cam Newton, above, in a shootout. And with the way he's playing, it might take that.

Falcons 27, Panthers 24

Texans (9-3) at Bengals (7-5)

1 p.m.

Bengals by 3, 38½

This is, arguably, the toughest game remaining on Houston's schedule. And it will be a good test for QB T.J. Yates, above, who faces a defense that makes moving the ball a chore. The Bengals need this game more than the Texans. The Steelers and Ravens aren't going to concede the AFC North, and the Bengals are in a fight for a wild-card berth. Look for Houston RB Arian Foster to do his usual damage. But with Yates under center, Andy Dalton has a sizable edge.

Bengals 21, Texans 20

Vikings (2-10) at Lions (7-5)

1 p.m.

Lions by 9½, 46½

What a mess the Lions are. First, a guy on the suspended list — DT Ndamukong Suh — still manages to grab headlines with his car wreck under curious circumstances. This while teammates played as if they were intent on stealing the "Bad Boys" nickname their Detroit NBA brethren used to sport. With personal foul after stupid personal foul, the Lions make the Bucs look, well, disciplined. Time for coach Jim Schwartz, above, to right this ship while a wild card is still realistic.

Lions 28, Vikings 17

Eagles (4-8) at Dolphins (4-8)

1 p.m.

Dolphins by 3, 45

These two 4-8 teams could not have arrived at their records in more dissimilar fashion. The Eagles were a Super Bowl favorite but have lost four of five and are circling the drain. The Dolphins began 0-7 before embarrassment kicked in and — with QB Matt Moore — sparked four wins in five weeks. QB Michael Vick, above, returns for the Eagles, but you wonder how much it really matters. Right now, the Eagles can't overcome themselves and continue self-destructing.

Dolphins 23, Eagles 21

Saints (9-3) at Titans (7-5)

1 p.m.

Saints by 3½, 50

We're still not sure how, exactly, the Titans have gotten seven wins, but give them credit. That said, their offense is not dynamic enough to stay on the field with the Saints — at least on paper. New Orleans QB Drew Brees, above, seems intent on beating every team by a couple touchdowns given the recent play of his offense. One angle to watch, however, is the Saints' shoddy run defense against Chris Johnson. It could be a game-changer if Johnson gets going.

Saints 29, Titans 20

Chiefs (5-7) at Jets (7-5)

1 p.m.

Jets by 10½, 36½

Doesn't it seem like the Jets' championship window is closing with light speed? It's hard to envision this team contending for anything meaningful in the postseason given their uninspiring play of late. And, for that matter, they first need to make the postseason, something that's in some jeopardy. Coach Rex Ryan, above, has tempered expectations, saying the goal is "get in the playoffs and see what happens." Well, then, this is a game they need to win.

Jets 24, Chiefs 14

NFL Week 14 predictions 12/10/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 10, 2011 8:08pm]
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