Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Houston Texans (9-3)
The Indianapolis Colts snapped their 5-game win streak last week in a 6-0 loss to the Cody Kessler-led Jaguars. Andrew Luck was sacked three times and failed to throw a touchdown pass last week—but despite the goose egg, the Colts enter week 14 as the NFL’s 8th highest scoring team at 27.1 points per game. The Texans, on the other hand, own the league’s longest winning streak at 9 games after another solid performance at home against the Browns. The Texans’ offense has been very conservative in this 9-game win streak, with the defense and running game leading the charge.
If the Texans win this game and the Titan’s lose Thursday night against the Jaguars, the AFC South race will officially be over and Houston will be playing for playoff seeding. The Colts need a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, as they currently sit a game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the 6th seed in the AFC. In the first matchup between these two teams, the Texans stole a victory in overtime to start their impressive win streak. Now at home, the Texans will look to put pressure on Andrew Luck, who hasn’t been sacked many times in recent weeks due to improved offensive line play paired with excellent scheming by head coach Frank Reich. Marlon Mack has provided a big boost to the Colts’ offense since returning from injury, however, this Houston defense hasn’t given up 100 yards to an opposing rusher all season.
The Texans will once again look to establish the run with a combination of Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue and potentially D’Onta Foreman—who was recently active off the physically unable to perform list after tearing his Achilles tendon over one year ago. Miller ranks 6th in the NFL in rushing with 876 yards, matching his total production from the 2017 campaign. The key to this game will be the turnover battle. I am expecting a closely contested game for four quarters between the two best teams in the AFC South.
Los Angeles Rams (11-1) at Chicago Bears (8-4)
The Bears are facing a touch matchup at home this week against arguably the NFL’s best team. At 11-1 the Rams have already clinched the NFC West and are looking to secure a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bears hold a two-game lead over the Vikings in the NFC North, and a win against a strong NFC opponent will show us if this Bears team is the real deal. The good news for the Bears is that Mitchell Trubisky should be back under center after missing the past two games with a shoulder injury.
Chicago needs to establish the run game early if they want to have a chance against this Rams team that can score in a heartbeat. Jordan Howard has struggled this season, managing just 3.4 yards per attempt on 178 carries. Meanwhile, Tarik Cohen (4.3) and Trubisky (7.1) have had more success on the ground. Trubisky’s ability to run has proven to be a valuable asset to this Bear’s offense—look for him to have another solid day rushing against the Rams.
The Rams are facing one of the better defenses in the NFL this week, featuring players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller—all of whom have made play after play for the Bears this season. Despite the defense they’re up against, the Rams are scoring well over 30 points per game, and will find ways to score as they do every week. If the Bears offense can get rolling early, however, this could be an exciting game.
Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
The Seattle Seahawks have won big games against NFC opponents such as the Panthers and Packers this season, and will look to add another game to the win column against a Vikings team also shooting for a Wildcard spot or even the NFC North title.
After making Kirk Cousins the highest paid quarterback in the NFL, the Vikings find themselves barely holding on to the 6th seed in the NFC heading into the final quarter of the season. Despite the success of Stephon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Vikings have failed to protect Cousins or establish Dalvin Cook in the run game. Cook has just 312 yards and not a single score through week 14. Seattle’s defense is beatable through the air, so expect much of the same for this Minnesota offense.
Inversely, the Seahawks are the NFL’s best team on the ground—rushing for nearly 150 yards per game. The trio of Chris Carson, Mike Davis and rookie Rashaad Penny has combined for nearly 1,500 yards on the season, excluding Russell Wilson’s 245 yards on the ground. Without a doubt, Seattle will look to control this game at the line of scrimmage against a solid Vikings’ defense. Keep an eye on the pass rushing duo of Jarran Reed and Frank Clark—who have 6.5 and 10 sacks on the season, respectively.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
Another key NFC matchup in week 14, the Eagles and Cowboys are fighting for the East this week in Dallas. The Cowboys are making the Amari Cooper trade look very good, while the Eagles have won two straight division games against the Giants and Redskins. Having dropped their first game against Dallas, the Eagles must win this game to stay alive in the NFC East race. A win for the Cowboys makes it very difficult for the Redskins or Eagles to keep up.
Despite ranking 6th in the league in rushing—the Cowboys offense ranks 25th in total yards and 24th in scoring. Their defense, on the other hand, ranks 2nd in scoring (18.6) and 5th in yards allowed. Against an Eagles team in which Zach Ertz has been the only consistent offensive threat, the Cowboys are in a very good position to start closing the door on their division rivals. Led by rookie Leighton Vander Esch, look for this game to be more of a defensive battle between the defending champs and America’s team.