We’re into the final quarter of the season. Playoff spots are starting to come into focus and emotions are running high.
Here are your can’t-miss week 14 matchups:
Patriots at Rams: Thursday, 12.10 8:20 pm ET
A replay of the lowest scoring Super Bowl of all time? Sounds terrible. Count me in.
What to watch for: I kid, I kid. The Rams were an offensive juggernaut when New England clamped down on them in the big game. Now the Rams are the defensive nightmare unit, and New England’s offense is questionable at best. That being said, after upsets of the Ravens and Cardinals and a 45-0 shellacking of the Chargers, New England appears to be finding their stride. The Rams looked convincing in their win over Arizona to take control in the NFC West, but they’ll want to be careful not to stumble down the stretch. As for New England, some uneven play has them on the very edge of the bubble, so they’ll need to win at least three of the final four to stand a chance at a wildcard slot. But don’t be fooled. This one is all about Sean McVay trying to exorcize the demons of a failed Super Bowl run and Belichick wanting to hold on to the coaching crown.
Chiefs at Dolphins: Sunday, 12.13 1:00 ET
Are the Dolphins for real? We’re going to find out really quickly.
What to watch for: Despite the fact that the Dolphins have been statistically better with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, Tua has brought a winning attitude and some swagger to South Beach. They haven’t looked consistent, though. Miami has won three of their four meetings with the NFC West, but aside from that, the Fins have struggled mightily against winning teams. Five of their nine wins have come at the expense of the four worst teams in the league, Jets (2x), Jags, Bengals and Chargers, who have only six total wins among them. Stifling Jared Goff and Kyler Murray is one thing. Shutting down Patrick Mahomes will be another.
Steelers at Bills: Sunday, 12.13 8:20 ET
There are three teams that stand a legitimate chance to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. Two of them play in this game.
What to watch for: Barring some intense playoff upsets, the Chiefs, Bills or Steelers will be headed to Tampa Bay early next year, so what can we learn in this one? I have a sneaking suspicion that Pittsburgh was preparing for this one instead of Washington, leading to a classic trap game. That and the return of running back James Conner from the Covid-19 list should be good for the Steelers. What favors the Bills? Plenty. They’ve navigated a far more difficult schedule than the Steelers this year, with Buffalo tied for fifth-hardest in the league and Pittsburgh having the second easiest. If Buffalo wants to put the clamps down and stake their claim atop the AFC East and among the Super Bowl contenders, this is the moment.
Ravens at Browns: Monday, 12.14 8:15 pm ET
AFC North grudge match. I’m here for this.
What to watch for: I love the all-around curmudgeonly temperament of the AFC North. I am also deeply curious as to which of these teams has staying power. A win by Cleveland would all but lock up the first wildcard slot in the AFC, but I just don’t trust them, even after the win over Tennessee. There’s just something not right about a 9-3 team that has a worse point differential than six teams that are at or below .500. Cleveland has beaten five losing teams by a single score or less. Either they’re too nice, or they just aren’t the total package. Baltimore has shown us that they need to play from the front, that’s their weakness and it’s also how Cleveland got the better of the Titans. But Baltimore won the first meeting between these two in a blowout, 38-6. Let’s see how this one unfolds.
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Image Source: Associated Press Images