NFL Week 14 Key Matchups


Let's dig into some of this Sunday's top NFL Week 14 showdowns:

BALTIMORE (9-3) at WASHINGTON (6-6) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
This Beltway Battle suddenly has two teams heading in opposite directions with the host Redskins entering this tilt on a three-game SU and ATS winning streak and it's not all just about Robert Griffin III, you know. Rookie RB Alfred Morris - who now has rushed for 1,106 yards this year - must prove he can out-tough D-linemen Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody who tip the scales between 'em at some 700 pounds of beef. Game plan for this Baltimore offense that has been held to 13, 16 and 20 points the past three weeks? Make sure RB Ray Rice gets a minimum of 30 "touches" here after just 12 carries and 1 single reception in last Sunday's 23-20 loss to Pittsburgh. Or is this too much to ask, Mr. Harbaugh?

DALLAS (6-6) at CINCINNATI (7-5) -1 p.m. ET, Fox
Don't look now but the Cincy Bengals have won/covered four in a row and QB Andy Dalton has thrown just two interceptions in these wins against the NY Giants, Kansas City, Oakland and San Diego. (note both picks came last week in the 20-13 victory at the Chargers). In fact, Dalton is clicking his heels that the Bengals' ground game "is back" after RB Benjarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 118 yards on 25 pops last Sunday. Now, if Green-Ellis can navigate his way through a battered Dallas LB corps, the Bengals could be breathing easier in terms of an AFC wild card berth.

CHICAGO (8-4) at MINNESOTA (6-6) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The Bears have lost three of their last four games with the lone win the past month coming in a 28-10 triumph over these Vikings just two weeks ago and just consider that Chicago WR Brandon Marshall has caught a grand total of 22 passes the past two weeks! Now, Marshall - who nabbed 10 passes for 165 yards in last week's heartbreak OT loss to Seattle - hopes the rebuilt Bears O-line can hold it together against a Minnesota pass rush that didn't generate a single sack last week in Green Bay. Go figure!

ATLANTA (11-1) at CAROLINA (3-9) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Two key stats from that first matchup this year between the Falcons and Panthers: In Atlanta's come-from-behind 30-28 non-cover win back in Week 4, the Panthers sacked Falcs' QB Matt Ryan seven times - really! - and Atlanta wide-out Roddy White snagged eight balls worth 169 yards including that heroic 59-yard bomb that set up the game-winning field goal. If Ryan gets dusted a handful-or-more times here - and if White's kept more under wraps - than the 3 ½-point home dogs could get their revenge.

NEW ORLEANS (5-7) at NEW YORK GIANTS (7-5) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Memo to the defending Super Bowl champion Giants: You better get your offense on track or it'll be too late to salvage this here-and-now 2012 season. The Giants have scored just 16, 13 and 20 points in three of their last four games - all losses! - and in last Monday Night's game against the 'Skins there was Tom Coughlin's crew pounding out three separate double-digit play drives in the first half and yet the end result was three Lawerence Tynes field goal and one Eli Manning-to-Martellus Bennett scoring strike. Now, with the NFL's worst defense in town - the Saints have surrendered 28-or-more points six times this year - the G-men will have no further excuses.

On Sunday Night, it's ...
DETROIT (4-8) at GREEN BAY (8-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The Packers already copped a 24-20 win against the Lions back in Week 11 action when defensive back M.D. Jennings raced 72 yards with a "pick six" to turn the beat around in that NFC North showdown and now the Green Bay defense - with or without hamstrung LB Clay Matthews - will be looking for more turnovers after getting two INTs and a fumble in that first go-round with the Motowners.


The Denver Broncos have drawn"first blood" here in NFL Week 14 action - okay, so QB Peyton Manning and mates were not exactly overly efficient in the red zone in Thursday Night's 26-13 win/cover at 10-point underdog Oakland but mission accomplished for the AFC West champs who go to 10-3 on the year and thus put that immediate pressure on the likes of Houston (11-1), New England (9-3) and Baltimore (9-3) - all of whom are leading their divisions these days but also hoping to claim a first-weekend playoff bye.

We'll have lots to say about the uber-important Monday Night Football game between the Texans at the Patriots in our Monday edition of Jim Sez but let's spend a few moments here on the Ravens:

BALTIMORE (9-3) at WASHINGTON (6-6) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
The Ravens could be in party heaven at the end of this December day with a win and losses by Cincinnati and Pittsburgh - that would give Baltimore the AFC North crown - but no doubt they must come up with answers for read-option QB Robert Griffin III here one week after allowing 138 yards in the final quarter of that 23-20 home loss versus the archrival Steelers.

Did that one take a lot of juice from Baltimore's engine? We'll see.

One major key is stepping up production in the ground ... isn't it a bit much to fathom that a RB Ray Rice-led attack currently ranks a lowly 22nd in the NFL in rushing offense (just 102.4 yards per game) and now they challenge a Redskins defense ranks fourth in the league in rush defense (91.5 ypg).

Spread Notes - The Ravens are 5-6-1 against the odds this year but note Baltimore's a solid 11-7 spreadwise when playing NFC opponents under fifth-year head coach John Harbaugh. The 'Skins, meanwhile, ride into this neighborhood showdown on a three-game spread winning streak and you have to go back to the 2009 season to find the last time Washington covered four-or-more games in succession (see five-game spread winning streak under than-boss Jim Zorn).



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