FOX has the week 14 doubleheader, with most of the country getting Indianapolis at Cleveland early and then Seattle at Philadelphia late. The primary game on CBS is Pittsburgh at Cincinnati, those three games and ten others all serve as warm-ups to Sunday’s main event on NBC as the nine-win Patriots travel to San Diego to face the eight-win Chargers.

 

Remember when earlier this year NBA owner Mark Cuban predicted the imminent demise in popularity of the NFL?

Last week an average of 30,900,000 people watched the game between the Patriots and the Packers. It was the most-watched NFL regular season game since 2007, when the 8-0 Patriots played the 7-0 Colts. The game’s household rating (the percentage of households with televisions tuned to the program) of 19.2 and share (the percentage of homes with televisions on at the time) of 34 were also the highest for CBS in a regular season game since Tebowmania was in full force, and the 10-3 Patriots went to Denver to face a Broncos team that was riding a six-game winning streak; that December 28, 2011 event produced a 19.5 rating and a 36 share.

In the final half hour of the Pats-Packers game viewership peaked with 36,200,000 viewers, a 20.3 rating and a 34 share. To put how popular the game was in perspective, consider this: more Americans watched the New England-Green Bay regular season game than watched any non-NFL championship in any sport this year. All this comes just two weeks after the Patriots posted the second highest numbers in the history of Sunday Night Football in their game against the Colts. The highest rated SNF game ever you ask? That would be the last time the Patriots played the Packers, in 2010.

Now to be fair Cuban did say that the implosion of the NFL would happen in ten years, but right now his prognostication appears to be rather erroneous.

 

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Miami Dolphins (7-5) ★★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein

Ryan Tannehill is playing better, and the Baltimore secondary is vulnerable, allowing 7.8 yards per pass and a 67% completion rate.
Pick • Dolphins 31, Ravens 28
Ravens +3½
over 45½

 

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-3-1) ★★★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts, Jenny Dell

Ben Roethlisberger has cooled off since throwing twelve touchdown passes in weeks 8 and 9. The Bengals just won three consecutive road games, something that virtually never happens in the NFL, allowing just 12 points per game in that span, and have quietly won five of their last six games.
Pick • Bengals 27, Steelers 24
Steelers +3½
over 47½

 

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (7-5) ★★★★
Early game on FOX (AFC game cross-flexed away from CBS)
Announcing crew: Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, Pam Oliver

I’m curious to see how the Indy defense performs today; in their last two games against teams with winning records the Colts allowed 93 points. Cleveland may not be an NFL juggernaut, but Josh Gordon is very capable of having a big day if Brian Hoyer can return to the form he showed earlier in the season. The problem is the Browns are still at least a year away; Cleveland is simply not as talented as Indy.
Pick • Colts 34, Browns 24
Colts -3½
over 50

 

Houston Texans (6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) ★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Brian Anderson, Adam Archuleta

Even though Bill O’Brien was not in Houston in 2013, you can be sure that he has reminded the Texans that they lost to Jacksonville twice last year. Arian Foster returns for Houston this week, and the texans have been taking care of business against bad teams like Jacksonville all year.
Pick • Texans 24, Jaguars 13
Texans -5½
under 42½

 

New York Giants (3-9) at Tennessee Titans (2-10)
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Thom Brennaman, David Diehl, Laura Okmin

Tennessee has lost six in a row, but the Giants own an even worse record of ineptitude; they’ve lost seven straight since defeating the Falcons in week 5. Zach Mettenberger had to leave with an injury thanks to the woeful Tennessee offensive line; I’ll go with the G-Men over a less than 100% rookie or Jake locker.
Pick • Giants 31, Titans 20
Giants -1
over 45½

 

Carolina Panthers (3-8-1) at New Orleans Saints (5-7) ★★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

Carolina is in a strange spot: with only three wins they are in a position to acquire a top draft pick, yet at the same time they are also in contention to win the division title and make the playoffs. The Saints should be able to to exploit a soft Carolina defense, but New Orleans has not played well enough – even at home – to warrant a double digit point spread.
Pick • Saints 28, Panthers 20
Panthers +10
under 49½

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-10) at Detroit Lions (8-4) ★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Dick Stockton, Brady Quinn, Kristina Pink

A mediocre Tampa Bay pass defense that is allowing a 31st-ranked 68% of the passes they face to be completed goes on the road against Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. One sign of a bad team is inability to finish, and the Bucs have blown leads in four of their last five games – including double-digit leads in back-to-back games. The Bucs should find another creative way to lose Sunday.
Pick • Lions 24, Bucs 16
Bucs +10½
under 41½

 

St. Louis Rams (5-7) at Washington (3-9) ★★★
Early game on FOX
Announcing crew: Sam Rosen, Kirk Morrison, Peter Schrager

Washington has lost four straight, has a quarterback controversy, and faces a team that won by 52 points last week. The Rams’ pass rush covers up some deficiencies in their pass coverage, and Tre Mason should be able to run against the Skins.
Pick • Rams 24, Skins 17
Rams -3
under 44½

 

New York Jets(2-10) at Minnesota Vikings (5-7) ★★
Early game on CBS
Announcing crew: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Chris Fischer

The dysfunctional Jets will once again keep the ball out of Geno Smith’s hands and pound the rock. Last week the Jets ran the ball 49 times while Geno threw only 13 passes, and there is no reason to expect anything different Sunday. The Vikings have allowed an average of 167 yards rushing in their last two games, and are giving up 4.4 yards per carry on the season. Minnesota benefited from two blocked punts for touchdowns last week; it may be a bit much to ask for that kind of assistance again. On the other hand, the Jets can usually be counted on to find a way to lose.
Pick • Vikings 17, Jets 13
Jets +6
under 40½

 

Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Denver Broncos (9-3) ★★★★
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon, Scott Kaplan

John Fox has finally figured out that he needs a running game and not rely so heavily on 38-year old Peyton Manning, who has lost some velocity on his passes. Buffalo was just 1-for-5 in the red zone last week, and rank 30th in the NFL with touchdowns on just 40.9% of their red zone attempts this year. That type of inefficiency won’t result in a win against a potent offense on the road.
Pick • Broncos 27, Bills 19
Bills +10½
under 48½

 

Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-3) ★★★★
Late game on CBS
Announcing crew: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green, Evan Washburn

While many in the media have jumped off the Arizona bandwagon after a couple of tough road losses, the Cardinals are still undefeated at home this year. Arizona has scored only 35 points in their last three games and will be without RB Andre Ellington due to a hip injury. Kansas City has lost two in a row as well – including a loss to the one-win Raiders – and have scored more than 24 points just once since defeating the Patriots early in the season.
Pick • Cardinals 17, Chiefs 13
Cardinals +1
under 40½

 

San Francisco 49ers (7-5) at Oakland Raiders (1-11) ★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Chris Myers, Ronde Barber, Jennifer Hale

Colin Kaepernick has struggled mightily due to some very questionable decisions on when and where to throw the ball. The perfect cure is a very short road trip against the NFL’s worst team: the Raiders are tied with the Jets for a league-low eight takeaways, and have the worst turnover differential at minus-18.
Pick • Niners 23, Raiders 10
Niners -9½
under 41½

 

Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (9-3) ★★★★★
Late game on FOX
Announcing crew: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews

Seattle has shown that they can win on the road in recent years, and I have more faith in Russell Wilson than Mark Sanchez. After winning back-to-back 19-3 games against San Francisco and Arizona, the Seahawks are looking like the team that won it all last year.
Pick • Seahawks 24, Eagles 20
Seahawks +1½
under 48½

New England Patriots (9-3) at San Diego Chargers (8-4) ★★★★★
Sunday night game on NBC
Announcing crew: Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michelle Tafoya

While this is not generating the hype that last week’s Pats-Packers game did, this is an excellent matchup between two very good teams. I would expect New England to focus on Philip Rivers’ four targets (Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Eddie Royal and TE Antonio Gates), which could result in RB Ryan Mathews having a big game. The Patriots are in a more difficult spot than many Pats fans think, playing an 8-4 team on the back end of a long road trip. Even so, I think Bill Belichick will come up with a new wrinkle to eek out a close win.
Pick • Patriots 27, Chargers 24
Chargers +4
under 53½

Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at Green Bay Packers (9-3) ★★★
Monday night game on ESPN
Announcing crew: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters

Even if Green Bay has a bit of a letdown after last week’s win against the Patriiots, they should still have no problem slicing through an Atlanta defense that is allowing 403 yards and 25 points per game.
Pick • Packers 35, Falcons 21
Falcons +13½
under 56½

 

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