NFL Week 14: Overcoming The Odds – 3 games to watch

Richard Graves

Richard Graves

Presenter, Writer and Broadcaster

NFL Week 10: Overcoming The Odds - 3 Games to Watch

Indianapolis Colts @ Cincinnati Bengals (Bengals +1)

This is a sneaky good game in the week 14 schedule. The Colts, with Gardner Minshew at QB are riding a 4 game winning streak. While the Bengals, with Jake Browning at QB are coming off the back of a dramatic overtime win in Jacksonville on Monday night.

Indianapolis are only 1 game outside of first place in the AFC South. The Bengals are 1 game outside of the playoffs. It’s a fascinating matchup and one that might better suit Cincinnati on home turf.

Despite winning, the Colts gave up 177 yards on the ground against Tennessee. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins was a problem in the passing game. Well, here comes Joe Mixon and Ja’Marr Chase, on the back of big games.

Without lead running back, Jonathan Taylor, the Colts struggled to move the ball on the ground – and it’s questionable whether he’s able to play with a hand injury this week. However, both Alec Pierce and Michael Pittman went over 100 yards in the passing game and that’s where the offense enjoyed success. It’s a formula that could work again when you consider the Bengals pass defense ranks a lowly 27th in the NFL but they are 8th in takeaways – and you do always worry that Minshew’s play has a risk/reward element to it. (10 Tds/7 Ints).

While Indianapolis have found ways to win games, look at their opponents – Carolina, New England, Tampa and Tennessee. The Bengals are a step up in class and buoyed by that performance on Monday night. To be 1 point underdogs, in a game where Jonathan Taylor may not be good to go is something an insult and I expect to the Bengals to prove it.

PICK: Cincinnati Bengals +1

 

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs (Chiefs -2.5)

Over the past few years this has been a heavyweight contest in the AFC. This week, there’s just a sniff of desperation about it. 2 teams desperate to win! Buffalo because they need to turn around a record that has seen them lose 4 of their last 6 – and their post season hopes are in serious jeopardy.

Kansas City because concerns about their offense are now nearing full blown panic proportions. They’ve lost 3 of their last 6 – only once scoring more than 21 points in that stretch and now lead the AFC West by just 2 games over the Broncos.

The Bills situation is something of a head scratcher. Defensively, they ranks 5th in takeaways (20) and points allowed (18.9 ppg) but 20th in defending the run. Offensively, they rank in the top 5 overall, passing and points scored (27.3ppg). They can run the ball as well this year – they have the 10th best run game, averaging 122 yards per game.

But it’s the run defense which maybe a problem when you consider that Isiah Pocheco lines up in the Chiefs backfield and Jerrick McKinnon may return this week. Align with that, the fact that the Bills are still trying to overcome the season long losses of Tre White and Matt Milano and that it’s Patrick Mahomes at QB for the Chiefs…

As long as Mahomes is back there, Kansas City have an advantage – especially against a depleted defense. In their favour, Buffalo are coming off a bye week. They’ve won at Arrowhead previously and it holds no fear and yet, the Bills have found ways to lose this season.

Andy Reid teams don’t lose back to back games, and I don’t expect the Chiefs to lose this.

PICK: Kansas City Chiefs -2.5

 

Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys (Cowboys -3.5)

Write the Philadelphia Eagles off at your peril. All season long, pundits have been criticising the style in which they play, the margin of victors they’ve enjoyed but still, here we are in week 14 and they hold the best record in football.

Yes, they lost last weekend to the San Franciso 49ers and shipped 42 points in the process but just look at the run of the games they’ve got after Dallas this weekend – at Seattle, 2 games against the Giants and a home game against the Cardinals. This week they added to their defense with the signing of veteran linebacker, Shaquille Leonard. This team is going to be just fine.

Let’s not forget they’ve already beaten the Cowboys this year. They hung 28 points on them a month ago. They’ve got a better conference record than the Cowboys as well and add into that mix, they hold the 4th best run defense. On offense, they rank 9th overall, 8th when running the ball and they have the 4th best scoring offense (27.4ppg). There’s no need for the hysteria we saw in some quarters on Monday morning following the 49ers game BUT there might be come next Monday morning…

We’re not even hiding it this week – take the Dallas Cowboys! Dallas are 14-0 when playing at home in a run which stetches back to September last season. In the 6 games since their bye, Dak Prescott has thrown 20 TDs and only 2 interceptions – in NFL history, he’s just the 9th QB to do that in a 6 games span in a single season. 6 of those 9 went on to be named the NFL MVP. He’s completing over 70 percent of his passes this season.

As a team, Dallas are scoring 41 points per game at home this year (best in the NFL) while allowing just 15.8ppg. They have a 3rd down conversion rate of 53 percent (best in the NFL). Let’s not forget in the first month of this season, this was a team whose strength was thought to be on defense – DaRon Bland leading the league in interceptions (8 – 5 returned for for a TD), Micah Parsons has more QB pressures than anyone else in the league.

So yes, Philly are at the end of the toughest stretch of their schedule. Their defense looks to be out on it’s feet against San Francisco and this is a game the Cowboys simply must have. At a place where they are at their best and knowing that a win, by virtue of a better divisional record, would put them in 1st place in the NFC East

PICK: Dallas Cowboys -3.5

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