NFL's Week 14 Early Game Previews


Photo courtesy of Robert Robinson

New York Jets (3-9) vs. Buffalo Bills (4-8)

Preview

If not for a dropped touchdown by Charles Clay, we may be talking about the Bills in a completely different light. This offense looks completely different with Josh Allen on the field and they should continue to keep rolling with the young signal caller at the helm. This team could rip off some serious wins if they pair Allen’s play with their solid defense, which is second in yards allowed (294.2) and first against the pass (187.2). The Jets are finally getting Sam Darnold back, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop turning the ball over or start scoring any time soon. Darnold is coming off a long layoff and is on the road against a very tough defense. The Jets defense also ranks in the bottom half of almost every important statistical category including total yards, points, and rushing yards.


Players to watch

Josh Allen and his feet will easily be the most fun part of this game to watch. He will open up the running lanes for LeSean McCoy with his feet, and will move around to try to find Zay Jones with his arm. He will need his offensive line to hold up against the likes of New York’s Leonard Williams. The Jets will be getting Sam Darnold for the first time in a few weeks and he has his work cut out for him. Tre’Davious White leads one of the best passing defenses in the league, so Darnold will struggle to find receiver Quincy Enunwa. He may get help from running back Isaiah Crowell, but rookie Trumaine Edmunds may have something to say about that.


Keys to the game

New York Jets

Keep Allen in the pocket

Let the running game control the script

Protect Darnold


Buffalo Bills

Let Allen use his leg

Rely on your defense

Force Darnold into mistakes


Injury list

New York Jets

Robby Anderson, WR - Ankle (Questionable)

Buster Skrine, CB - Shoulder/Hip (Questionable)

Isaiah Crowell, RB - Toe (Questionable)

Jordan Leggett, TE - Knee (Questionable)


Buffalo Bills

Taron Johnson, CB - Shoulder (Out)

Derek Anderson, QB - Concussion (Out)

Jason Croom, TE - Groin (Doubtful)

Isaiah McKenzie, WR - Toe (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Josh Allen, QB (BUF)

LeSean McCoy, RB (BUF)

Isaiah Crowell, RB (NYJ)

Buffalo D/ST

Zay Jones, WR (BUF)

Prediction

The Bills already blew out the Jets a couple of weeks ago in MetLife Stadium with Matt Barkley at the helm. Buffalo is at home and now has their starting quarterback under center. This should be an easy win for the Bills against a Jets team that looks atrocious on both sides of the ball. Darnold will have to play mistake-free football against a great defense after coming off a extended layoff from injury. The Jets defense will not be able to contain Allen and his feet on the road, and this will be an easy win for the blue and red.

Final Score: Bills 24, Jets 13


Written by: George Haraktsis



New York Giants (4-8) vs. Washington Redskins (6-6)

Preview

While Washington’s record puts them just a game behind the Cowboys for 1st place in the division, anyone looking at their roster knows that they aren’t making the playoffs. They have been ravaged by injuries and just don’t have enough talent to win games. The strength of this Redskins team is their defense, but they have allowed a combined 59 points over the past two weeks. The Giants, meanwhile, just scored 30 points against the vaunted Chicago Bears defense and are slowly but surely coming together as a football team. The offensive line has shown significant improvement in recent weeks and their pass rush has come alive, with 8 sacks in the past 2 weeks. The Giants have far more talent and this will be a difficult game for the Redskins to win, even while playing at home.


Players to watch

The Redskins are down to their 3rd string QB, Mark Sanchez. He accumulated just 100 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception on 21 pass attempts. Against a Giants team that is 6th in the NFL with 12 interceptions, Sanchez could struggle. Adrian Peterson had a huge day against the Giants in week 9 with 156 total yards and 2 total touchdowns. He has since slowed down, but showed he’s still spry with a 90-yard touchdown run last week. Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree will play a pivotal part in this game, as he leads the team in interceptions (4) and is 2nd in tackles (78). Odell Beckham Jr. hasn’t had a 100 yard receiving performance in 4 weeks, so it will be interesting to see if he can beat out Josh Norman for some big plays. Saquon Barkley is the key to this Giants offense — Daron Payne, Zach Brown (if playing), and Mason Foster will be tasked with shutting him down.


Keys to the game

New York Giants

Spread the ball around

Shut down Peterson

Keep the pass rush hot


Washington Redskins

Keep running inside

Limit interceptions (Sanchez)

Win the Norman-Odell battle


Injury list

New York Giants

Tae Davis, ILB - Ankle (Questionable)

B.J. Goodson, ILB - Neck/Foot (Questionable)


Washington Redskins

Ryan Anderson, LB - Hamstring (Out)

Tony Bergstrom, OL - Knee/Ankle (Out)

Zach Brown. LB - Illness (Questionable)

Josh Doctson, WR - Hip (Questionable)

Matt Ioannidis, DL - Shin (Questionable)

Chase Roullier, C - Knee (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Saquon Barkley, RB (NYG)

Odell Beckham Jr., WR (NYG)

Adrian Peterson, RB (WAS)

Jordan Reed, TE (WAS)

Giants D/ST

Prediction

The talent disparity is simply too great for the Redskins to overcome. They are bottom 10 in rushing yards allowed per game, which means Saquon Barkley should have a huge game. If the Giants are smart, they will have learned from their mistakes and take advantage of Barkley’s success by utilizing the play action. With an emerging Giants pass rush, Mark Sanchez will have little time to throw the ball and will likely throw into traffic. Top it off with the fact that Washington’s wide receivers have gotten absolutely nothing going all season, and I can’t see the Redskins scoring enough points to win.


Final Score: Giants 27, Redskins 15


Written by: Alexander Amir



New Orleans Saints (10-2) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7)

Preview

For the third straight week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will welcome a team into Raymond James Stadium. The Saints are coming off a flat performance on Thursday night which saw their ten-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. While they’re still the favorite to win the division, their chances of clinching home-field advantage have fallen slightly, so every game from here on out is a must-win. The Bucs, meanwhile, are coming off two straight wins that saw their defense generate 6 interceptions, and they’re still technically alive in the wild card hunt. GIven those statistics, it should make for a fun time in Tampa Bay — let’s just hope the weather doesn’t ruin it.


Players to watch

Drew Brees had his worst performance in a Saints uniform against the Cowboys and will be looking to bounce back quickly against a depleted Bucs secondary. His core weapons of Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Michael Thomas will be critical in keeping the offense going, but the offensive line will also have to play their part. Jameis Winston has played turnover-free football these last two weeks, and while his stat totals might not be as flashy as some fans want, he’s providing the best statistic: wins. Mike Evans has to show up to give Winston some help, along with Peyton Barber and the offensive line, because Cameron Jordan, Sheldon Rankins, and Marcus Davenport will be looking to put #3 in the ground. Kicker Cairo Santos has been perfect so far since coming to Tampa, so maybe he’ll be the answer this team has needed on special teams.


Keys to the game

New Orleans Saints

Get running game going

Keep Brees comfortable

Generate pressure on Jameis

Shut down Mike Evans


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Continue turnover-free play

Take Brees off his game

Stop Kamara and Ingram from imposing their will

Don’t get beat by Michael Thomas


Injury list

New Orleans Saints

Terron Armstead, OT - Pectoral (Out)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Justin Evans, S - Toe (Out)

DeSean Jackson, WR - Thumb (Out)

Isaiah Johnson, S - Concussion (Out)

Carlton Davis, CB - Knee (Doubtful)

Demar Dotson, OT - Knee/Shoulder (Questionable)

Brent Grimes, CB - Knee (Questionable)

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE - Knee (Questionable)

M.J. Stewart, CB - Foot (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Drew Brees, QB (NO)

Alvin Kamara, RB (NO)

Michael Thomas, WR (NO)

Jameis Winston, QB (TB)

Mike Evans, WR (TB)

Prediction

This game could very easily come down to the final drive of the game, which is the ultimate indication of a great contest. The Saints and Bucs went in different directions after that week one shootout but always play each other fiercely. As with any winning streak there’s an anomaly waiting to transpire, and that’s what last Thursday’s flat performance by Drew Brees was. They might have lost home field advantage for the time being, but New Orleans still holds the tiebreaker over the Rams if it comes down to that. The Saints get back on track here in a close win, but the Bucs show their heart again to conclude the three-game homestand.


Final Score: Saints 28, Buccaneers 24


Written by: Joe Carlino



New England Patriots (9-3) vs. Miami Dolphins (6-6)

Preview

The Patriots are coming off of their second straight win in a 24-10 drubbing of the Minnesota Vikings. Their offense is scoring 27.6 points per game and they have a defense allowing 21.6 points per game on the year. They have used their passing game to torch teams this year, but do not count out a running game that has come to life recently. As for the Dolphins, the numbers actually favor them in this matchup. Tom Brady is actually 7-9 against the Dolphins in Miami compared to 15-1 in Foxboro. Tannehill is 3-0 in his past three home games against New England, with seven touchdowns to one interception. History tells us that the Dolphins should come out on top on this one, but Miami’s recent woes might prevent that.


Players to watch

Tom Brady will have to shake that Miami rust and rely on receivers like Josh Gordon and Rob Gronkowski, with cornerback Xavien Howard either out or ailing. The Patriots will only be able to establish the pass if the play action is working, and that only works if Sony Michel is going. Michel has looked great as of recently, but Kiko Alonso and Jordan Phillips will try to stop him. Tannehill will try to regain some of that magic he has been able to conjure against New England before, but the Patriots who have allowed 11.5 points in their last four victories will be tough. The QB will need help from Kenyan Drake, who had 193 total yards in their last bout, but Kyle Van Noy and Tre Flowers will put an end to that.


Keys to the game

New England Patriots

Establish the run early

Use play action once the run is establish to open up game

Protect Brady

Stifle Tannehill and make the running game beat you


Miami Dolphins

Control the clock

Generate interior pressure against Brady

Shut down Michel

Don’t overthink easy decisions


Injury list

New England Patriots

Dwayne Allen, TE - Knee (Questionable)

Stephon Gilmore, CB - Ankle (Questionable)


Miami Dolphins

Jake Brendel, C - Knee (Out)

Xavien Howard, CB - Knee (Out)

Danny Amendola, WR - Knee (Questionable)

Travis Swanson, C - Ankle (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Tom Brady, QB (NE)

Rob Gronkowski, TE (NE)

Sony Michel, RB (NE)

Ryan Tannehill, QB (MIA)

Kenyan Drake, RB (MIA)

Prediction

New England will not lose this contest, and it will not even be close. The Patriots are just a flat out better team than the Dolphins in all facets of the game. Their defense is rolling, their running game has looked sharp, and Brady is slowly but surely looking like his old self. The Dolphins just barely squeaked out a win against the Bills and have been struggling to find an identity on offense all year. I don’t see them magically finding one in Week 14 against the Patriots. With New England having the chance to secure the AFC East in this one, they will not let this slip. This should be an easy win.


Final Score: Patriots 31, Dolphins 17


Written by: George Haraktsis



Baltimore Ravens (7-5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)


Preview

This matchup features arguably the most dangerous offense in the league against the statistically best defense in the NFL. Kansas City comes into this one after just surviving an upset bid against the Oakland Raiders. Baltimore is enjoying a three-game winning streak and is just a ½ game back in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers. With that being said, this game is very important for both teams as the Chiefs try to keep home field advantage in the AFC while the Ravens look to play catch-up and stay in the playoff picture.


Players to watch

For the Chiefs, eyes will be on running back Spencer Ware. Last week was Ware’s first start in 2018 after the release of Kareem Hunt. Ware got off to a slow start, finishing with only 47 yards on 14 carries, but he did find the end zone once. This week, he will be facing the third best run defense in the league which has only allowed 87.2 yards per game on the ground. For Baltimore, rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson has gotten off to a 2-0 start to his career as a starting quarterback and has been a force in the run game as well. It will be up to outside linebackers Dee Ford and Justin Houston to get some pressure on Jackson and keep him inside the pocket.


Keys to the game

Baltimore Ravens

Put pressure on Mahomes

Establish the run

Limit turnovers


Kansas City Chiefs

Get Ware going

Capitalize on big plays

Contain Lamar Jackson


Injury list

Baltimore Ravens

Marlon Humphrey, CB - Groin (Questionable)

Tavon Young, CB - Groin (Questionable)

Anthony Levine, DB - Ankle (Questionable)

Joe Flacco, QB - Hip (Questionable)

Tony Jefferson, SS - Ankle (Doubtful)

James Hurst, T - Back (Questionable)

Alex Lewis, G - Shoulder (Questionable)

Tim Williams, LB - Ankle (Questionable)


Kansas City Chiefs

Demetrius Harris, TE - Illness (Questionable)

Sammy Watkins, WR - Foot (Doubtful)

Eric Berry, SS - Heel (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Patrick Mahomes, QB (KC)

Tyreek Hill, WR (KC)

Lamar Jackson, QB (BAL)

Travis Kelce, TE (KC)

Spencer Ware, RB (KC)

Prediction

I see this game being very close for at least three quarters. Baltimore’s outstanding defense and the athleticism of Jackson will keep them in this game. Unfortunately, that will not be enough to beat the Chiefs. Kansas City’s offensive attack will take over late in the game and prove to be too good for the Ravens to contain. The Chiefs win this game by two scores and increase their lead at the top of the AFC.


Final Score: Chiefs 31, Ravens 21


Written by: Ryan Lippert




Indianapolis Colts (6-6) vs. Houston Texans (9-3)

Preview

The Colts and Texans face off in an AFC South divisional matchup that has big playoff implications on the line. Indianapolis will be looking to bounce back after falling to the Jaguars, and with a win on Sunday they could put themselves in position to possibly win the division. Houston is riding a 9-game winning streak, and if they make it 10 they will pretty much wrap up the AFC South division title. The Colts lost in an overtime thriller the last time they faced the Texans, so they will be looking to get revenge. The Texans have been playing well on both sides of the ball, and they could be a problem for not only Indy but the entire AFC when then playoffs come around.


Players to watch

T.Y. Hilton has had his best performances against Texans, and him lighting it up could create a tough time for Houston. Indianapolis safety Malik Hooker will be needed to control the back end of the defense and prevent the Texan receivers from finding any open holes to exploit the Indy defense. Deshaun Watson has been playing great but he still is scrambling for his life. If Houston wants to make a deep playoff run, then they have to find ways to give Watson more time. J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney were a force in the previous matchup, but the Indianapolis’ offensive line has improved. That will be a matchup to pay attention to on Sunday.


Keys to the game

Indianapolis Colts

Protect Luck

Contain Watson

Feed T.Y.


Houston Texans

Establish the run

Pressure Luck

No costly turnovers


Injury list

Indianapolis Colts

Mo Allie-Cox, TE - Calf (Out)

Dontrelle Inman, WR - Shoulder (Out)

Ryan Kelly, C - Knee (Out)

Mike Mitchell, S - Calf (Out)

Denico Autry, DL - Back (Questionable)

Nate Hairston, CB - Ankle (Questionable)

T.Y. Hilton, WR - Shoulder (Questionable)

Margus Hunt, DT - Knee (Questionable)

Chris Milton, CB - Hamstring (Questionable)


Houston Texans

Zach Fulton, OG/C - Hand (Out)

Keke Coutee, WR - Hamstring (Questionable)

Johnathan Joseph, CB - Neck/Shoulder (Questionable)

Brennan Scarlett, OLB - Ankle (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

DeAndre Hopkins, WR (HOU)

T.Y. Hilton, WR (IND)

Lamar Miller, RB (HOU)

Eric Ebron, TE (IND)

Deshaun Watson, QB (HOU)

Prediction

The Colts have to win this game to keep their playoff hopes alive and will be looking to even the season series. I expect Indy to come out swinging early. Houston will keep themselves in the game in what could turn out to be a thriller. This should be a high-scoring affair which should please any fantasy owners that have a vested interest in this matchup. This comes down to who has the ball last, and it will be Andrew Luck leading Indy to a crucial December victory to end the Houston’s winning streak.


Final Score: Colts 31, Texans 28


Written by: Cody Manning



Atlanta Falcons (4-8) vs. Green Bay Packers (4-7-1)

Preview

This game is a matchup between teams that nobody expected to be multiple games under .500 by this point in the season. However, there is no doubt that the main storyline is that this is the first game in nearly 13 seasons that Mike McCarthy will not be on the sidelines with the Packers. Many will be wondering how the team, and especially Aaron Rodgers (who many believe McCarthy lost the support of during this season), plays without their longtime head coach. On the other side, the Falcons are currently riding a four-game losing streak. Their running game has been virtually nonexistent during that time, with the team only gaining about 200 yards rushing during that stretch, adding to the team’s last-ranked rushing offense. It will be interesting to see which of these disappointing teams will rise to the challenge for this game where the main reward will be pride.


Players to watch

There is no doubt that all eyes will be on Aaron Rodgers this weekend to see how his performance changes now that McCarthy is out as head coach. In order to win this game, he will need to perform at the high level that we are used to seeing from him, and find Davante Adams down the field to take advantage of that vulnerable Falcons secondary. On the other side of the ball, safety Damontae Kazee, easily the team’s interception leader, will need to play his best and rally the secondary to stop the Packers’ passing attack. For the Falcons offense, Matt Ryan will obviously need to play better than he has during the team’s current four-game losing streak. While he hasn’t been terrible during that stretch, he still needs to improve to compensate for the team’s other inadequacies. Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith will need to elevate their play to take some of the pressure off of Ryan.


Keys to the game

Atlanta Falcons

Keep Rodgers in the pocket

Tight coverage on the receiving corps

Create a balanced offense with the run


Green Bay Packers

Limit Atlanta’s vertical passing game

Keep up the connection between Rodgers and Adams

Create pressure on Matt Ryan


Injury list

Atlanta Falcons

Logan Paulsen, TE - Knee/Ankle (Out)

Matt Bryant, K - Back (Questionable)


Green Bay Packers

Raven Greene, S - Ankle (Out)

Bryan Bulaga, OT - Knee/Illness (Questionable)

Bryon Bell, OG/OT - Knee (Questionable)

Hunter Bradley, LS - Ankle (Questionable)

Bashaud Breeland, CB - Groin (Questionable)

Kentrell Brice, S - Ankle/Concussion (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Davante Adams, WR (GB)

Matt Ryan, QB (ATL)

Aaron Rodgers, QB (GB)

Julio Jones, WR (ATL)

Calvin Ridley, WR (ATL)

Prediction

Despite the records, this game will be a hard-fought match fitting for December football. Both teams be playing for pride. While it is concerning that the Packers interim head coach is their former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin (who was arguably partially responsible for their offensive woes), I do believe that the absence of McCarthy will spark something in the Packers, and Rodgers in particular. They will take advantage of Atlanta’s 25th-ranked passing defense, and Rodgers will return to his usual form. The Falcons will have a tougher time against the Packers’ 5th-ranked passing defense, and I don’t foresee their running game improving significantly either. I anticipate a Packers victory for a much-needed morale boost.


Final Score: Packers 28, Falcons 21


Written by: Phillip Salmo



Carolina Panthers (6-6) vs. Cleveland Browns (4-7-1)

Preview

The Panthers head into Cleveland with a somber mood on Sunday after having lost their last four games. Carolina desperately needs a win this if they are going to stay in the playoff hunt. They still have two games against the New Orleans Saints’, so this is a must win games. The Cleveland Browns are looking to take another step forward at home this week.


Players to watch

If the Carolina Panthers are going to have success, Cam Newton will have to play well. He has been careless with the football over the past few weeks, and the Panthers have had to rely on Christian McCaffrey way more than usual. McCaffrey has quietly turned in one of the best seasons of any running back at this point, and he has an opportunity to turn in another solid performance this week. For the Browns, Baker Mayfield will need to get in a rhythm early. With David Njoku questionable, Jarvis Landry may be asked to be Baker’s target across the middle of the field. The Browns should continue to feed Nick Chubb the ball as well.


Keys to the game

Carolina Panthers

Get D.J. Moore involved early

Establish the run with McCaffrey

Don’t give up chunk plays in the secondary


Cleveland Browns

Stop the run in a Nickel defense

Get Baket going

Stay disciplined versus Cam


Injury list

Carolina Panthers

Graham Gano, K- Knee (Out)

Colin Jones, S- Illness (Questionable)


Cleveland Browns

Austin Corbett, OL- Foot (Out)

Phillip Gaines, DB- Knee (Questionable)

Larry Ogunjobi, DL- Bicep (Questionable)

J.C. Tretter, OL- Ankle (Questionable)

Denzel Ward, DB- Concussion (Out)

Pharaoh Brown, TE - Shoulder (Questionable)


Top 5 Fantasy Players

Christian McCaffrey, RB (CAR)

Baker Mayfield, QB (CLE)

Nick Chubb, RB (CLE)

Cam Newton, QB (CAR)

Jarvis Landry, WR (CLE)

Prediction

At the end of the day, the Carolina Panthers’ season may be over. I do not trust the Panthers to come into Cleveland and get a victory after their dismal performance last week. The Browns are not ready to win consistently, but their effort on the field has not waned. Cleveland picks up a big victory on Sunday, and the Panthers will see their season go to waste after a 6-2 start.


Final Score: Browns 31, Panthers 24


Written by: Jake Leicht