We finally got our biggest twist of the year in Week 13 during an 2021 NFL season full of twists and turns: THE DETROIT LIONS WEREN'T THE FIRST TEAM ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF CONTENTION.
At any point over the past six weeks, if you would have asked me who the first team to get knocked out of the playoff race would be, I would've bet my first born on the the Lions, and I have to say, it's a good thing I didn't bet that, because I'm pretty sure my wife would have killed me for losing our kid in a bet.
As things stand, the Lions are officially still alive in the playoff race after beating the Vikings on Sunday, but one team is no longer alive and that team is the Houston Texans. Houston, you have a problem and your problem is that your football team is horrible.
I think I can say with 100% confidence that I will not be picking the Texans to win a game for the rest of the season, which means I've already spoiled one of my picks for Week 14, because now you know that I'm picking the Texans to lose to the Seahawks. I don't want to spoil anymore of my picks, so let's get the Week 14 picks started right now.
Actually, before we get to the picks, here's a quick reminder that you can check out the weekly picks from every CBSSports.com NFL expert by clicking here. If you don't click over, I won't be offended. However, I will be offended if you don't sign up for CBSSports.com's NFL newsletter, which I pump out four days per week. I also have a newsletter about what it's like to write newsletters, but I won't ask you to subscribe to that one.
As for the football newsletter, if you want to subscribe, all you have to do is click here and enter your email address. It takes 8.6 seconds to sign up and if you're wondering how I know that, it's because I got bored and timed it once. One thing that's not boring is the podcast that I recorded on Monday night with my crazy partners Will Brinson and Ryan Wilson. We spent 45 highly entertaining minutes debating who's going win the AFC East following New England's win over Buffalo. We also talked about the fact that the Patriots won a game DESPITE THROWING JUST THREE PASSES. If you want to listen, and you definitely should, you can do that below.
Alright, I think that's all the self-promotion I have for the week. Let's get to the picks.
NFL Week 14 Picks
Pittsburgh (6-5-1) at Minnesota (5-7)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (Fox/NFL Network/Amazon)
I'll be honest, if you plan on watching this game on Thursday, you probably don't even need to start watching it until the fourth quarter and that's because we all know how the first three quarters are going to play out. As I wrote earlier this season, every Vikings game goes the same way every week: They jump out to an early lead only to blow the lead, but then they usually get the lead back before blowing it again. Half the time, this ends with them losing, but the other half of the time it ends with them winning, which makes their games always entertaining, but nearly impossible to predict.
And right now, it's especially impossible to predict what Minnesota's going to do because the Vikings are the laughing stock of the entire NFL after losing to the Lions on Sunday. I have no idea if the team is going to give up on Mike Zimmer and lose by 40 or if he's going to be able to talk them off the ledge.
If Zimmer's smart, he'll give one short speech this week and it will go something like this, "Guys, we get to play the only other team in the NFL this year that played the Lions and couldn't beat them, so we actually might have a chance to win this game."
Although the Vikings loss to Detroit was embarrassing, the Steelers probably aren't laughing at them and that's because THEY ALSO almost lost to the Lions. If the Lions hadn't missed an overtime field goal back in Week 10, they would have beaten the Steelers, but they did miss, so they ended up with a tie.
I feel like the NFL should really embrace the fact that this game features the only two teams to play the Lions this year and not win. For one, they should let an actual lion handle the coin toss. I have no idea if that's safe or not, but it would definitely be entertaining.
Anyway, both the Steelers and Vikings defenses have actually been surprisingly bad this year. There are only six teams in the NFL giving up more than 130 yards per game on the ground and the Vikings and Steelers are two of those teams, so I feel like this game is going to come down to which offense can take advantage of the other team's defense
The fact that the Vikings have a bad rush defense is good news for Big Ben, because it means the Steelers should be running the ball a lot and I have to think that's what he wants, because there's a good chance he's barely going to be functional playing on three days rest. The fact that the Steelers have a bad rush defense is good news for the Vikings, because it means they should be running a lot in this game, which means it won't be in the hands of Kirk Cousins. Look, I'm not a Kirk Cousins hater, but I will say that he's definitely the last guy you want to rely on in a prime-time game. Remember how bad Andy Dalton used to be in prime time? Well, Cousins is worse. In his past five prime-time starts alone, Cousins is 1-4 and one of those losses came against a Cowboys team led by Cooper Rush earlier this year.
This game feels like a coin flip, but there is one thing that has me leaning Minnesota: The Steelers are 0-3 against the spread in games versus NFC North teams this year and they haven't been much better straight-up (1-1-1). I haven't missed a Steelers pick since Week 3 and I'll be putting that streak on the line by not taking them to win on Thursday night.
The pick: Vikings 23-20 over Steelers
Baltimore (8-4) at Cleveland (6-6)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
If it feels like you just saw these two teams play, that's because you did. Someone in the NFL scheduling department clearly got a little lazy because this game will mark the second time in three weeks that these two teams have met (Week 12 and Week 14). I mean, I'm pretty sure I still have some leftover Thanksgiving turkey in my refrigerator that was in there the last time they played, which reminds me, I should probably go check on that because there is a rather unpleasant odor coming from my fridge.
Speaking of the NFL scheduling department, I feel like someone there must really hate the Ravens because they are definitely getting the short end of the stick here. The Browns have basically had three weeks to prepare for Baltimore while the Ravens will just get a few days.
How are the Browns getting three weeks you ask? Well, this is their second game in a row against Baltimore. They played the Ravens in Week 12, then had a bye in Week 13 and will now be playing them again in Week 14, which means the Browns have basically been prepping for Baltimore since the day after their Week 11 game ended, which was on Nov. 22.
All schedules have disadvantages & advantages, but the NFL sure gave Cleveland an upper hand in an important divisional battle:— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) November 27, 2021
WK 12 at Ravens vs Browns
WK 13 bye at Steelers
WK 14 vs Ravens at Browns
This is the first time in 30 years that a team has gotten to play two straight games against the same team. The last time it happened, the Ravens didn't even exist, and for that matter, neither did Baker Mayfield and that's because he wasn't even born yet.
I'm not sure what the Browns did during their bye week, but I'm guessing they threw Mayfield in an ice bath and let him sit there for 12 straight days. There's no one in the NFL who needed a week off more than Mayfield, who is dealing with so many injuries that if I didn't know any better, I would have though he got in a car crash with a tractor.
The one thing about this game is that it's a dream matchup for anyone who hates the forward pass. In the modern NFL, conventional wisdom says that you need to be able to throw the ball forward to win, but these two teams have both thrown conventional wisdom out the window this year. The Browns and the Ravens have two of the top-four rushing attacks in the NFL and the crazy part is that they've rushed for the EXACT same amount of yardage this season (1,765).
That being said, I have no idea what either of these offenses are going to look like this week and that's because they've both been bad lately. As a matter of fact, it has been MORE THAN A MONTH since either of these teams scored 20 points in a game, so it kind of feels like the first team to 20 is going to win and I'm going to say that team is going to be the Browns, but only because I think the Ravens defense is going to struggle a little bit in their first game without Marlon Humphrey.
The pick: Browns 20-17 over Ravens
Dallas (8-4) at Washington (6-6)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
I think the NFL forgot that these two teams were playing this week, because that's the only way to explain how an NFC East showdown got stuck in the early window on Sunday. For as long as I can remember, the NFL has been forcing horrible NFC East games upon us in prime time, but the one time I WANT to watch an NFC East game in prime time, the league instead decides to have it kick off at 1 p.m. and it will likely only be shown to 3% of the country, which means I'm going to have steal my brother's DirecTV password. Just kidding, I have my own.
Does the NFL know it's allowed to flex games? How are we stuck with Bears-Packers on "Sunday Night Football" this week when THIS GAME was available? I think even Bears fans would rather watch this game on Sunday night.
Between the Browns getting two straight games against the Ravens and Washington-Dallas being at 1 p.m., it hasn't been a good week for the NFL schedule maker. I'm thinking that going forward, the NFL should ask me to vet the schedule before releasing it every year.
Anyway, if you would have asked me five weeks ago who I thought was going to win this game, I probably would've picked the Cowboys by seven touchdowns. I'm not sure why you would have asked me about this game back then, but just play along. After eight weeks of play, Washington was 2-6 and it looked like they were going to duke it out with the Giants for the title of worst team in the NFC East. As for the Cowboys, they were 6-1 after eight weeks and they looked like they were going to run away with the division, but then November happened.
During that month, Washington went 3-0, making them the only NFC team to go undefeated in November. Overall, Washington is now on a four-game winning streak, which is the longest in the NFC and the fourth-longest in the NFL. Usually, that would be enough to convince me to pick them and I probably would this week if they weren't facing Dak Prescott.
If there' s one team Dak has absolutely owned in his career, it's Washington. Since his rookie year, he's 7-1 against them and he's won those seven games by an average of 13.7 points. And if you look at the one thing this Washington defense doesn't do well, they can't stop the pass. They're giving up more than 263.9 yards per game through air this year, which is the third-worst number in the NFL. Dak might throw for 700 yards.
The pick: Cowboys 30-23 over Washington
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Buffalo (7-5) at Tampa Bay (9-3)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
I'm not sure if the NFL has an equivalent of the Washington Generals always losing to the Harlem Globetrotters, but if they do, it's probably the Buffalo Bills against Tom Brady. Over the course of Brady's career, he has faced the Bills 35 times and in those 35 games, he's gone 32-3, which is the most wins that any quarterback has against another team in NFL history.
The Bills media guide might say that the Pegula family owns the team, but in reality, we all know it's Tom Brady.
In theory, I should be all over the Buccaneers here. However, I'm horrible with theories: I still don't understand string theory, I fell asleep once trying to comprehend quantum theory and the only theory I somewhat understand is chaos theory, which says the Bills should actually have a chance to win, or maybe it doesn't say that, I'm not sure. Like I said, I'm bad with theories. However, I do kind of like the Bills here, even after watching them lose on Monday night.
The one reason I like the Bills is because they've actually been surprisingly good against Brady since hiring Sean McDermott in 2017. Although the Patriots went 6-0 against the Bills in that period (2017-19), they were mostly winning because of Bill Belichick's defensive game plans, not because of Brady. In those six games, Brady threw more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four) while averaging just 225.5 yards per game.
Belichick always figures out a way to shut down Buffalo's offense and he did it again on Monday. As for Brady, he always seems to struggle against McDermott's defense and I'm expecting that to continue this week.
The biggest upside for the Bills going into this game is that the Tampa area is not expecting 60 mph gale force winds this week, which means I think the Bills offense might actually light up the scoreboard after only scoring 10 points on Monday. There is definitely a chance the Bills get blown out after imploding against the Patriots, but I'm going to assume that's not going to happen.
The pick: Bills 30-27 over Buccaneers.
L.A. Rams (8-4) at Arizona (10-2)
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
When two division rivals play each other for the second time in a season, I usually throw the results of the first game out the window, but I'm in a room that doesn't have any windows right now, so I can't do that, which is probably for the best, because I think that first game gives us a small hint of what's going to happen this time around.
In that first game, the Rams couldn't stop Arizona's rushing attack, they couldn't stop Kyler Murray and now that I'm thinking about it, I don't really think they stopped anyone in a Cardinals uniform. Also, Matthew Stafford threw an interception on the Rams' second possession and the wheels fell off the wagon for Los Angeles after that.
Since that loss to the Cardinals in Week 4, the Rams are 5-3, but there's kind of huge catch there: They're 5-0 against teams that are currently under .500 and 0-3 against teams that are .500 or better. The five teams they've beaten since Week 4 have a combined record of 13-46-1.
If you've followed Stafford's career, you may have noticed that he almost always struggles against good teams and unfortunately for him, the Cardinals are a good team. Also, when I say struggle, I mean he's 9-70 against teams with a winning record and he's never beaten a team that's at least five games above .500 when he faces them. The Cardinals have a winning record and they're at least five games above .500, which makes this feel like a horrible matchup for Stafford.
The Cards have Kyler Murray back, they're going to be at full strength and I'm still not convinced that Stafford has what it takes to beat a good team late in the season. In the first meeting between these two teams, the Cards beat the Rams 37-20 and although I think it will be slightly closer this time around, I think Arizona still wins... unless Kliff Kingsbury quits midweek to take the coaching job at Oklahoma. However, Oklahoma has already hired a new coach, so I'm going to go ahead and assume that's not going to happen.
The pick: Cardinals 37-27 over Rams
NFL Week 14 picks: All the rest
Titans 27-13 over Jaguars
Chiefs 31-20 over Raiders
Saints 20-16 over Jets
Falcons 24-17 over Panthers
Seahawks 24-16 over Texans
Broncos 34-20 over Lions
Bengals 27-24 over 49ers
Chargers 33-23 over Giants
Packers 30-20 over Bears
BYES: Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, Eagles
Best pick: Last week, I predicted that the Steelers would upset the Ravens and guess what happened? The Steelers upset the Ravens. Now, did I know that a Ben Roethlisberger retirement story was going to leak out the night before the game? Of course I did. That's classic Big Ben: You leak out a retirement story and then watch as it inspires your team to a win. He does this at least once a season.
I won't be surprised at all if Ben leaks a story about Mike Tomlin possibly retiring between now and Thursday night.
Worst pick: Last week, I literally spent two paragraphs explaining why you should never pick against the Chargers in odd weeks and apparently, I don't know what an odd number is, because I picked against them anyway even though their game against the Bengals was in Week 13. If you need a quick refresher, the Chargers are now 6-0 this season in odd numbered weeks and are averaging 34.3 points per game.
It's Week 13, so we obviously should have all seen this coming from the Chargers— John Breech (@johnbreech) December 5, 2021
Chargers in odd week games this season: 5-0 with an average 33.0 points per game.
Chargers in even week games this season: 1-5 with an average of 18 points per game. pic.twitter.com/kd86hIGBSX
I'm not sure if I'm allowed to do this, but I'm going to go ahead and pre-pick them for wins in both Week 15 and Week 17.
Finally, if you guys have ever wondered which teams I'm actually good at picking, here's a quick look:
Teams I'm 10-2 picking this year: Texans, Rams, Steelers (9-2-1), Colts (11-2)
Longest current streak of picking a team's games correctly: Steelers (9-0-1 since Week 3)
Teams I've been the worst at picking this year: Washington (3-9), Saints (4-8).
Longest active streak of picking a team's games wrong: Panthers (0-3 over their past three games)
Straight up in Week 13: 10-4
SU overall: 118-75-1
Against the spread in Week 13: 6-8
ATS overall: 93-98-3
Exact score predictions: 3
Exact score, wrong winner: 2