This is it. The moment we have all been waiting for. Crunch time. Time to seperate the winners from the losers, the contenders from the pretenders, and the playoff teams from the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans and such. There a few very intriguing match ups this week in the NFL. When the 49ers get to host their bitter rival Seahawks today a playoff spot could be on the line but that isn't the only NFC battle that will have big playoff implications as the Lions head to Philly to battle the eagles while the Panthers put their 8 game win streak on the line in the Superdome vs. Drew Brees' Saints. Of course the Bills are now playing in a relatively meaningless game - it is December after all. (Whomp Whomp!) All of this and more in Six One Three's NFL Week 14 Preview.
BILLS @ BUCCANEERS
- "We just invent ways to loss games." - That was the post game comments from one Bills executive following Buffalo's OT loss to Atlanta in Toronto last Sunday afternoon. That sums it up. The Bills now sit at 4 - 8 and are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race. Another season of highs and lows, lots of positives heading into next season but also lots of questions. Offensive consistency and good luck once again seem to have eluded the Bills this season. Hats off to the defense, especially Mario Williams, Kiko Alonso, and DC Mike Pettine. Without the stellar play of the Bills defense all season the Bills would likely be worse off than the Vikings or Texaxns. Looking ahead Buffalo, EJ Manuel, and Doug Marrone can use this week to develop for next season. EJ needs to improve his ability to read defenses as well as make pre-snap adjustments - while Doug Marrone needs to identify areas of concern/interest for next seasons team. The Bills need to use this game to get their young WR's involved in the offense and get some much needed game experience. Marquis Goodwin, TJ Graham, Robert Woods, and even rookie TE Chris Gregg need to get targets today.
- Who are these Buccaneers and what did they do to the other team from Tampa? All of a sudden Greg Schiano has a team that plays hard, doesn't make dumb mistakes, and wins games (occasionally). This is terrible news for a demoralized Bills team. Coming off a loss that essentially ended their season the Bills may be easy targets for a re energized Bucs team. The trouble is QB Mike Glennon still is a rookie and the Bills defense leads the league in sacks. Glennon may need to make some quick decisions to avoid Mario and his henchmen - but ultimately he should be able to do enough. Vincent Jackson is listed as questionable heading into the game - he likely will be a primary concern for Buffalo's defense if he suits up. Good news for Bucs fans - that high priced secondary your team put together over the off season is finally playing (almost) to their ability. Revis is getting healthier each week while Dashon Goldson & Mark Barron are likely the most feared tackling safety tandem in the league. EJ Manuel will need to grow up in a hurry this week.
- Pretty evenly matched teams - both have good defenses with rookie QB's, both eliminated from playoffs, both looking ahead to next season. Home field advantage pays off. Bucs Win! (Who Cares!)
- Players to watch: Marquis Goodwin, Chris Gregg, Vincent Jackson
LIONS @ EAGLES
- Nick Foles has everybody fooled right now. All of a sudden this guys is the best QB in football? Slow down folks. This game will help determine what kind of player Foles truely is. Let's see how he handles himself in a must win game when all eyes are on him and now that expectations are getting bigger by the day. As opposing defenses focus most of their scheme on stopping matchup nightmares, Shady McCoy and Desean Jacskon, Nick Foles is okay going to his BFF's Brent Celek, Riley Cooper, and Zach Ertz.
- The Lions. What the hell? The NFC North was there for the taking a few weeks ago as the Bears and the Packers lost their QB's. What did Detroit do about it? Good question. Consistently inconsistent seems to be the same ol story in MoTown. The need to wake up fast this week as a refreshed Eagles team is ready to soar to the post season. Stafford and Calvin Johnson will have to keep pace with the Eagles high flying offense which should be fun for fantasy fans but hard on the stomach for fans of either prospective playoff team.
- Although this is likely the week where Nick Foles returns to reality - and that the Lions actually step up to their level of competition - the Eagles will still win. Lions are too inconsistent, Stafford throws too many picks, Reggie gets hurt or fumbles too much, and the defense can't seem to finish anybody. In what should be one of the highest scoring games of the week - the city of Brotherly Love should be able to celebrate an Eagles victory.
- Players to watch: Nick Foles, Zach Ertz, Reggie Bush
PANTHERS @ SAINTS
- The Panthers are about to take control of the NFC South? Are you serious? Well they have to get through the Saints at home in the Superdome first but they control their own destiny. Most people (myself included) probably assume this is the week "Riverboat Ron" and his Panthers return to the loss column. It has to stop somewhere right? Wrong. The Panthers have a formula for playoff success. A strong ground game, a dominant defense, and an elite QB capable of extending/creating plays outside the pocket. If this team can get in - NFC beware. (***) Cam may be the most difficult QB for opposing DC's to gameplan for, while the play of Carolina's defensive line has been fantastic pretty much all season. Look for Jonathan Stewart and Mike "Tank" Tolbert to continue to move the chains enough for Cam to find openings to throw to Olsen, Lafell, Ginn, and Steve Smith.
- The Saints may like to hit the reset button after last week. Ouch. Are they that bad? Are the Seahawks that good? No, and no. The NFL is a match up based league. Right now the Seahawks are built to match up with the strong aerial attacks of the NFC - the Saints, the Packers, the Falcons, and the Lions etc. Their intimidating secondary causes fits for other teams passing games therefore taking them out of their comfort zone which is what happened last week. The good news is the Panthers are built to stop the run, and play physical defense. Saints likely will try and spread them out and expose them in coverage. Brees should have a much easier time this week finding holes in the Panthers secondary at home in the Superdome compared to being on the road in Seattle last week. However don't be surprised if there are some lingering affects from the blow out loss last week and the Saints take a few possessions to get their rhythm back on offense.
- What a difference a few weeks makes. A month ago most people who looked at this match up likely would've quickly circled the Saints to win. Now with all things considered this should be the game of the week. The NFC South division crown basically on the line. Whats on the line? A home field playoff game and a potential bye for the winner, a potential playoff snub or a long path to the Superbowl on the road as the Wildcard. Saints get back on track thanks to Payton and Brees carving up the Panthers secondary.
- *** BOLD PREDICTION: Carolina makes playoffs and upsets Seattle at home***)
- Players to watch: Tedd Ginn, Mike Tolbert, Kenny Stills