NFL Week 14: Picks & Power Rankings
Derek Carr is the NFL MVP.
I just got through watching my Rams offense not score for almost 60 minutes on Sunday and understandably, needed a little football break for about an hour afterward.
The Bills-Raiders game was being shown in the Los Angeles market in the afternoon and when I flipped it on, Buffalo had just scored to take a 24-9 lead. I smirked a bit, because I still enjoy seeing a victorious and confident Rex Ryan. And quite frankly, the Bills were due to beat a good team at some point, right?
Within a matter of minutes, Carr and the Raiders erased the deficit and were up by 14. That’s 29 unanswered points. And while Carr’s stat line wasn’t amazing (19 of 35, 2 TDs), he’s unquestionably the fuel that makes this offense explode.
The Raiders aren’t just winning, they’re fun to watch. They’ve got panache. They’re the anti-Rams.
So, I ask you: Who would you put ahead of Carr in the MVP race? Matthew Stafford? OK, maybe, but you can’t deny the Raiders are better than the Lions. Ezekiel Elliott? Sure, but he’s a rookie and he’s going to split the Dallas votes with Dak Prescott.
Tom Brady? Shutup. No Tom Brady. He was suspended four games – fair or not – and even then, he hasn’t been as dynamic as Carr.
So, if the MVP vote was up to me (it isn’t), and if the vote was to take place right now (it wouldn’t), here’s my ballot:
1. Derek Carr
2. Matthew Stafford
3. Ezekiel Elliott
4. Tom Brady
5. Johnny Hekker
Oh, you have a problem with a punter on this list? Have you seen him kick the ball? He’s amazing! And Bill Belichick can’t stop raving about him, so that has to count for something.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Anyway, let’s move on. With four weeks remaining in the regular season, let’s break down our Playoff Contender Power Rankings.
1. (Last week: 2) Cowboys – I had my doubts about Dallas’ defense last week. I’m not saying those fears have been completely assuaged, but I feel confident that Rod Marinelli’s group can do enough to keep teams at bay, all the way to the Super Bowl.
2. Patriots (1) – They beat the Rams, but it’s plain to see that there are no home-run hitters on this offense. And while New England’s defense looked great in Week 13, let’s see what happens when they face an offense that can actually score.
3. Raiders (4) – Love everything about them. They can hit big plays, grind it on the ground and even come up with timely defensive stops. This team is Hollywood. Too bad they’re in Oakland.
4. Chiefs (5) – Are they dynamic on offense? No. Does that matter? No, again. Kansas City’s defense will keep the Chiefs in every game and sitting at 9-3, they’re in position to really shake things up in the AFC.
5. Seahawks (3) – They blew out the Panthers at home, but lost Earl Thomas in the process. What he means to this defense can’t be overstated. It’s a crushing loss and one that could cost them a Super Bowl berth, especially if they end up in Jerry World for a playoff game.
6. Broncos (6) – Paxton Lynch was good enough to get Denver past the Jaguars, but they’ll be in trouble if he sees regular playing time going forward. Fingers crossed Trevor Siemian will be good to go.
7. Lions – Matthew Stafford keeps winning and I’m sure somewhere, Calvin Johnson is squirming. It’s nice when you don’t feel pressure to throw every other pass to Megatron. The results prove that.
8. Ravens (8) – Loved that impressive performance at home vs. the Dolphins, but I’m not going to overreact. Now, if they get past the Patriots on Monday night, they’ll really have something going.
9. Steelers (15) – I had this team much lower last week. I gave them a big bump, but not because I was really impressed by a win over the Giants. I just hate the teams below them more.
10. Falcons (9) – I don’t want to be down on the Falcons. They have a lot of talent, but that loss at home against the Chiefs was a bummer. But don’t worry, they’ve got games coming against the Rams, Niners and Panthers over the next three weeks. They could be moving up in these rankings very soon.
11. Dolphins (7) – I know, they just lost one game, but the old stinkbomb Dolphins made an appearance during that trip to Baltimore. That worries me, even though they have very winnable games coming up. They need to prove their worth before I go all in with them.
12. Buccaneers (16) – Yes, the Baby Bucs. Jameis Winston and Co. followed an impressive win over the Seahawks with a tough victory on the road vs. the Chargers. And their defense has really shown up lately and is among the more underrated units in the league.
13. Giants (11) – Worst 8-4 team in the league.
14. Redskins (10) – The Redskins have a lot to be happy about. But not enough. I have a feeling Washington will be on the outside looking in when the playoffs arrive.
15. Titans (13) – They got penalized for being on a bye. And now they get the Broncos at home. They might be even lower come next week.
16. Colts (n/a) – They’re here because they play in the putrid AFC South and have a shot at the division title. They did look good on Monday vs. the Jets, but who wouldn’t?
17. Bills (14) – Rex Ryan is probably still watching that film from the Raiders game and wondering what the hell happened. Buffalo hasn’t beat a good team all season.
18. Vikings (17) – Just, ugh.
19. Packers (n/a) – They’re back at .500. I can’t think of anything else to say about them. I don’t buy their chances.
20. exans (18) – I hate this team.
Honorable mentions: Chargers, Saints, Eagles.
Make golf plans: Cardinals, Jets, Bengals, Browns, Jaguars, Rams, 49ers, Bears, Panthers.
Now that we’ve got the rankings out of the way, let’s see what’s cooking this week.
5 SEXY MATCHUPS
Raiders at Chiefs
This is the game of the week, and we’re getting in on a Thursday night. It’s a shame that a tilt with so much riding on the result has to be played with teams on short rest, but at least everyone is dealing with the same hand.
Now, I’m high as a kite on the Raiders. I love everything about them, but I sense a slip coming and it’s this week. The Chiefs handled the Silver and Black fairly easily in Oakland earlier this season and Kansas City’s defense is even stronger now. With the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium playing a factor, the Chiefs will make the AFC West race a nail-biter down the stretch.
Seahawks at Packers
These two teams have quite the history. From the Fail Mary to that NFC Championship game two seasons back, we’ve been given many hours of free entertainment.
This won’t be one of those games. The Packers can’t really run the ball, have trouble moving the ball through the air and their defense isn’t great. Even with all of Seattle’s holes, the Seahawks will take this one on the road. And I don’t think it will be that close.
Cowboys at Giants
The last time Dallas lost was Week 1 and that was against New York at home. And while the Cowboys have gone on to greater things, the Giants have managed to stay in the thick of things by (barely) beating a bunch of garbage teams.
And now, Big Blue won’t have Jason Pierre-Paul on Sunday and for a while after because of his surgery to repair a sports hernia. The Cowboys are going to get some vengeance here.
Ravens at Patriots
This is Baltimore’s time. The Patriots are ripe for a loss and the Ravens have traditionally played New England tough. This is the type of game Joe Flacco excels in.
I’m going with the upset here.
Broncos at Titans
Is this a stretch as a sexy matchup? Maybe. But this game will have a big impact on the AFC playoff race and to me, that’s worth your attention.
Now, who will win? Broncos QB Trevor Siemian is out of the walking boot as he recovers from a foot injury and has been able to practice with the team. I’m going to assume he plays. That should be enough for Denver to escape with a close win.
5 MATCHUPS THAT ARE MILDLY INTERESTING
Steelers at Bills: This is the time of year the Steelers shake off their midseason blahs to make a run to the postseason. They’ll get another win here.
Redskins at Eagles: Carson Wentz looks like a rookie again, but he gets to face a Redskins team playing their third straight road game. That’s brutal. However, I still think Washington takes this one.
Cardinals at Dolphins: Miami gets a chance to shake off that ugly Week 13. The Dolphins will get it done at home.
Texans at Colts: I guess. Two .500 teams fighting it out for first place in a bad division. I’ll go with the home team while holding my nose.
Saints at Buccaneers: I want to see the Bucs continue their rise. They should be able to do that in front of their home crowd with a defense that can get after the passer.
6 MATCHUPS THAT ARE A COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME
Vikings at Jaguars – Pick: Vikings
Chargers at Panthers – Pick: Chargers
Bengals at Browns – Pick: Browns (Yes, really)
Bears at Lions – Pick: Lions
Jets at 49ers – Pick: Jets
Falcons at Rams – Pick: Falcons
Currently a Mobile Editor at Yahoo, Saraf spent 5.5 years (Oct. 2010 - Feb. 2016) working for FOX Sports as an NFL Editor and Writer. Prior to that, Saraf worked for CBS Interactive for 4.5 years (May 2006 - Oct. 2010) as a Staff Editor.