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NFL Week 14 - Games To Watch

Jeremy Bergman, Aaron Fischman, Danny Lee, Ryan Nunez |
December 10, 2011 | 7:39 p.m. PST

Sports Staff

Will Cam and his million dollar smile send the Falcons home with a heartbreaking loss this week? (Creative Commons)
Will Cam and his million dollar smile send the Falcons home with a heartbreaking loss this week? (Creative Commons)
There's just four weeks left in the NFL season, and every game is huge.

This week the Neon Tommy sports staff takes on the biggest of the big games, starting with the struggling Atlanta Falcons and their barely alive quest for the playoffs.

All picks are straight up.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

Danny Lee: Panthers 31, Falcons 28 - The Falcons picked off Cam Newton three times in their 31-17 win over Carolina in Week 6. But a Week 13 loss to a Houston team starting its third-string quarterback could signify that the Falcons have reverted back to the inconsistent play that plagued them earlier this season. The Panthers have pieced together back-to-back wins and allowed fewer than 20 points (a noteworthy feat, especially for this defense) in those two outings, so it would not be too shocking if they were to score this mild upset at home.
Jeremy Bergman: Panthers
- Cammy Cam and his Carolina Panthers are currently up there with Green Bay and New England as one of the most exciting offenses in football today. The excitement and improvement brought by Newton hasn’t been seen out of a rookie quarterback since...that’s right, Matt Ryan. But the Pro Bowl Falcons QB is struggling to find his stride and take advantage of a weak, but competitive, NFC Wild Card race. After last week’s loss to T.J. Yates-led Houston, it is clear that the Falcons are not who we thought they were in the pre-season. But Newton is...

Aaron Fischman: Falcons
– This NFC South intra-divisional game could go either way. Led by the rookie Newton, the Panthers have scored significantly more points than many expected this season. Unfortunately, Carolina’s defense has also been atrocious. In recent weeks, the defense has given up fewer points, but then again it did face Curtis Painter (his team was 0-10 at that point) and Josh Johnson (Tampa Bay came into the game with five straight losses). I will take the Falcons in a tightly contested game because I have little faith in the Panthers’ defense. With that said, Newton could win this game by himself. Stay tuned for a great game!

Ryan Nunez: Panthers
- The Falcons are the either the worst good team in the league, or the best terrible team in the league. As crazy as it sounds, I think they are the latter. They let teams hang around and lose games they have no business giving away. This game is one of those. Cam gets his first truly signature win over a division rival and puts a serious cramp on the Falcons playoff hopes.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Miami Dolphins

Lee: Dolphins 23, Eagles 17 - Miami’s been

inspired football ever since it officially pulled out of the “Suck for Luck” sweepstakes. The Dolphins have won four of their last five games, limiting opponents to 14 points or fewer in those four wins. The return of Michael Vick won’t be enough to stop a Miami defense on a tear that must have Head Coach Tony Sparano feeling a little more confident about his job security.
Bergman: Dolphins
- Sir Isaac Newton’s first law of motion reads: an object in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. It is clear that Miami’s arrow is trending upwards while the Dream Team’s is very much pointing south. The Fins have won four of their last five, including a schalacking of the playoff-caliber Raiders and haven’t allowed more than 20 points since Week 6! The Iggles? Well, they’ve lost four of their last five, including last week, when they gave up 31 points to Seattle, the seventh worst scoring offense in the league. Even with Vick (left) back, Philly will not be able to reverse their horrible momentum. Science says so!

Fischman: Eagles – This is another really difficult game to predict. Vick’s return definitely helps the Eagles (Vince Young threw eight interceptions over the last three games), but the Dolphins are on a roll, having won four of their last five (three of those wins were by 20 points or more). However, even with Vick’s propensity to err, his return gives the Eagles a much better arm under center (almost anyone is better than Young) and more of a running threat from the position. I also think it favors the Eagles that they have not played since December 1. A sane person probably would’ve picked the Fins, but who ever said I was that? 

Nunez: Dolphins - Miami has proved that not only were they not "Sucking for Luck," but that they actually have a lot of team pride, in addition to some legitimately talented players. They are also a lot more comfortable with the fact that they are only playing for pride, whereas the Eagles (and their fans) are so delusional that they are clinging to the idea that they can still make the playoffs. All those delusions disappear in a Reggie Bush cloud of dust this week, as the Dolphins officially roll the Eagles on to the scrap heap.

New Orleans @ Tennessee

Lee: Saints 34, Titans 28 - Riding a four-game winning streak, New Orleans seems to be peaking at the right moment, and its

offense has tallied 80 points in the last two contests. Meanwhile, Titans running back Chris Johnson appears to have found his old form, coming off two consecutive games of 150-plus yards rushing. There could be plenty of points on the board when this is all said and done, but in the end, the Saints will continue their roll and add even more cushion to that NFC South lead.
Bergman: Titans - You hear that? Probably not. That’s the Titans creeping up on the Texans in the AFC South, only two games back of the lead. The Titans have been very quiet and under-the-radar this year due to an ineffective Johnson (right) and increased press coverage on the Texans’ surprising success and the Colts’ equally-surprising ineptitude. But don’t lump this club in with the embarrassingly mediocre Jaguars. The Titans are for real and they are coming for the AFC Soutb title behind a now healthy and determined Johnson, who has rushed for 473 yards in Tennessee’s last three wins. Who dat who just beat them Saints?

Fischman: Saints – Drew Brees is red hot. So is Chris Johnson. After receiving a gigantic contract prior to the start of the season, Johnson disappointed during the first half of the year, but has rushed for 130 yards or more in three of his last four games. But I still don’t see how the Titans can keep up with the Saints, offensively. I’m going with the Saints.

Nunez: Saints - This game looks like a total trap game. Now that Peyton Manning is on the pine, Brees is the new "Greatest Show on Turf" title holder, but he's also the guy who has major issues going outdoors and facing tough defenses. That said, the Titans haven't really shown an ability to run up the score or come from behind. They will be down all day, which means a heavy dose of Hasselbeck, which equals an automatic loss against good teams. Period.

Houston @ Cincinnati

Lee: Bengals 20, Texans 13 - Houston’s defense is allowing the fewest yards per game in the league, so that should take some of the pressure off QB T.J. Yates to light up the stat sheet. But having to go without receiver Andre Johnson due to a strained hamstring only hampers an already depleted Texans passing attack.
Bergman: Bengals - Points will be at a premium in this possible playoff preview. Houston and Cincinnati’s total defenses rank second and sixth in the NFL respectively. Both teams sport rookie QBs, one a starter by design and one by multiple freak injuries. This may be the toughest game of the day to pick, but I give the edge to Cincy simply because of the quarterback play. At the end

of the day, the Andy and A.J. connection by itself will be much more effective than Houston’s entire passing game. It’ll be close, but the Bengals finally get back on track behind the Red Rocket.

Fischman: Bengals
– Even with its top two quarterbacks sidelined, Houston always has a chance to win, given its strong defense and impressive running game. Even so, with Johnson (left) now out with a strained left hamstring, I expect the Bengals to bounce back and win a close one. Cincy is coming off a miserable showing against Pittsburgh last week, in which it lost 35-7.

Nunez: Bengals - With Andre Johnson on the bench once again, Yates' magic finally runs out. He simply will not have the time in the pocket, or the talent at wideout to get the job done. Yates' difficulties aside, this game will be one of the most exciting barnburners of the week and will come down to Dalton to A.J. Green in the last two minutes.

NY Giants @ Dallas

Lee: Giants 28, Cowboys 24 - After a valiant showing against the undefeated Packers in Week 13, the Giants control their own destiny in the NFC East race as two of their final four games are against the division-leading Cowboys. And Dallas might even help them out a little, considering its recent history of meltdowns. A loss here to follow a setback against the lowly Cardinals last week could be disastrous for the Cowboys’ psyche during this final stretch.

Bergman: Cowboys - Including the crushing playoff upset in 2008, the Giants have won five of the last seven against Jerry’s Boys, but Dallas has won the most recent matchup. Both teams are in some trouble - the G-Men have lost four straight and, although they are relatively hot of late, the Cowboys have gone down to the wire - or into overtime - in their last three games against equally mediocre teams in Washington, Miami, and Arizona. Still, these two NFC East rivals sit atop the division with a chance to take the driver’s seat with a win on Sunday Night Football. I flip-flopped a lot on this one, but I just cannot see the Giants getting out of their recent slump. Unlike the critics, I fully trust Tony Romo to splice New York’s D with Dez and Demarco and lead the Cowboys to an NFC East title.

Fischman: Giants
- With the Eagles and Redskins essentially out of the hunt for the NL East crown, the Cowboys lead the division with a record of 7-5 with the Giants just one game behind. And the Cowboys and Giants play each other four times over the next two weeks. Despite the Giants’ four consecutive losses, I think they have a great chance of pulling off the upset and earning their first win in over a month. I still can’t believe the Giants’ last win came November 6 against New England.

Nunez: Cowboys - On the surface, this game looks like the Cowboys are due to get skunked on their own home field but if you look a little deeper you will see a pissed off defense that is out for blood. In addition, the Boys know what Eli and the Giants are all about and that doesn't bode well for the mistake-prone Manning. Because Ahmad Bradshaw and the running game just aren't right, look for Eli to throw multiple picks, be on his back most of the day and to give away the game when all the chips are on the table.

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