Note: All times Eastern.
Ten Random Thoughts
Score: 31-24, Steelers
The last time these two met, Ben Roethlisberger was coming back from the first of three separate injuries this season. Roethlisberger, who historically hasn’t played well in his first game back after an injury, has been on fire as of late. He’s putting up yards like it’s 2014 all over again, and he seems to have taken his connections with Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and even Markus Wheaton to a whole, new level. Oh, and he is 10-2 lifetime (including playoffs) in Cincinnati.
Score: 30-20, Panthers
Any other season, this might be a good game, even if the playoff fates of both teams were the same, because these two always play tight games. This time, though, I’d be surprised, when they open the charter flight doors from Atlanta, if the Falcons even bother getting off and showing up at the game. You know, since they haven’t bothered to do exactly that in two months.
Score: 17-14, Browns
Johnny Manziel is out of the doghouse this week, but one has to wonder if that is more pragmatism than Andy Pettine’s magnanimity, given that the only other option is Austin Davis -- whose one start this season resulted in a 35-point loss to the Bengals last week. Pettine says Manziel is on an exceptionally short leash. Manziel says he was forced to learn a very hard lesson. In a game featuring two of the worst teams in the NFL, expect to hear this storyline at least 943 times during the broadcast. That’s because the commentators aren’t supposed to spend three hours laughing at what’s going on on the field.
Score: 20-16, Jaguars
Don’t laugh. This game is going to be far more competitive than you might think. The Jaguars have been pretty decent at home this year, and only lost to the Colts by three in Indianapolis. Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is nursing a rib injury but is expected to start anyway. That’s good, because the game might at least be entertaining with him on the field. His backup is Charlie Whitehurst, whose excellent hair and beard gave him half of his current nickname, "Clipboard Jesus". His inability to get on the field except when the general, all the lieutenants and even the corporals are dead gave him the other half.
Score: 30-21, Chiefs
If the Chiefs are going to lose anymore games this season, this is probably the one where it would be most likely to happen -- and this is just a few weeks after the Chiefs beat the Chargers by 30 in San Diego. That, alone, should tell you all you need to know about how tough their remaining schedule is.
Score: 33-17, Bills
This game presents one of the more entertaining storylines of the year, because LeSean McCoy will be returning to Philly for the first time since being traded away for a young, but oft-injured, linebacker. McCoy would later go on to hint that he felt the move was racially motivated, a position from which he has not backed down. In fact, he already has stated that he will not allow Kelly to shake his hand. I imagine Kelly’s response will be something along the lines of, "who cares? At least we managed to beat the Patriots." The only problem with that: the Eagles scored more on special teams and defense than they did on offense against the Patriots. You can’t count on that sort of production.
Saints @ Buccaneers (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Score: 23-20, Buccaneers
Is this the same Tampa Bay team that lost to the lowly Titans in week one, 42-14? Yes, and their improvement has been a result of Jameis Winston proving a lot of naysayers -- myself included -- quite wrong. He’s showing a passion and dedication to the game that he never showed in college, and has gotten markedly better as a result. And this week, they play the Saints, who have shown signs of life once since October.
Score: 17-13, Packers
The Cowboys will take on the Packers for the first time since Green Bay bounced Dallas from the playoffs in January, in a game which exacerbated the league’s glaring inability to define what constitutes a catch. Unfortunately, while the scoring may still be equally close, the likelihood of it featuring two adept offenses is slim to none. Heck, they may not be able to field one solid offense between them.
Patriots @ Texans (Sunday, 8:30 p.m.)
Score: 24-21, Texans
By week four, this game looked like a laugher. By week fourteen, though, this could end up having major playoff implications -- for both teams. The Texans are now breathing down the Colts’ necks in the "At Least We Don’t Suck as Bad as the NFC East" division, also known as the AFC South. A win over the Patriots would be a huge boost in both their playoff chances and their morale. The Patriots, meanwhile, have not managed to win a game without Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. The latter will be down for at least several more weeks, and Gronkowski has still not practiced this week. The Patriots have already fallen to the number three seed in the AFC, and could fall even further if they don’t get their stars back soon.
Score: 19-14, Giants
Remember when Monday night games were generally one of the marquee matchups of the week? I guess you really can’t go back.
All the Rest
Score: 38-17, Cardinals
Score: 33-16, Seahawks
Score: 14-10, Redskins
Titans @ Jets (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.)
Score: 27-13, Jets
Score: 24-6, Lions
Score: 28-21, Broncos