As we get closer to Christmas, the playoff picture in the NFL couldn't be more wide open. The Jets, Texans, and Jaguars are the only teams in the AFC that seem to be eliminated with six teams within one game of the playoffs. The NFC has six teams separated by one game for the final playoff spot. As usual, the Giants and Bears are playing musical quarterback, and the Lions are on the clock. It's December, and the weather is changing; I like teams who play defense and can run the football, in which the Patriots gave a whole new meaning too, winning a game in Buffalo throwing the ball only three times. Week 14...
Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
A few weeks ago, the Raiders seemed dead in the water after an ugly home loss to Cincinnati; they picked up the pieces on Thanksgiving Day in an impressive overtime win in Dallas, only to come home and lose to Washington on a last-second field goal. It has been that kind of up and down season for the Raiders, but at 6-6 find themselves right in the playoff mix in the AFC.
The Chiefs are winners of five in a row, and look every bit the Super Bowl contender we thought they were surprisingly; it's been the defense who has led the way giving up a little over 11 points a game during the win streak. The Chiefs beat the Raiders soundly in Las Vegas a few weeks ago, so the 10 point spread is warranted here. This is a long-lasting rivalry, and the two teams hate each other, so we should get the Raiders' best effort.
BET: Raiders +10.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team
This is a must-win game for the WFT, already two games behind Dallas in the division, so a loss here would be devastating to their playoff push. WFT has won four games in a row while only giving up 15 points to the Raiders and Seahawks the last two games, without all-pro defensive end Chase Young who is lost for the year. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has been scrappy, if not spectacular, during the win streak; he seems to do just enough to keep drives alive and put up enough points to squeak out wins every week. Dallas has a few extra days after playing on Thursday night, and they get their head coach Mike McCarthy back after he missed a game due to virus protocols. The boys are as healthy as they have been in weeks, with Amari Cooper set to return. Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard are banged up, but both will play. Dallas can really put themselves in the driver's seat with a win here, the few extra days helps, and Dallas takes another step towards that division crown.
BET: Dallas -4.5.
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If there is a team in the NFL that does not want a home playoff game, it's the Bills. They are not set up for cold weather at all. It was painfully obvious on Monday night in freezing temperatures and terrible winds, the Bills couldn't run the ball and continued to throw the ball. Josh Allen is their whole offense, and when you can neutralize him by defense or weather, you probably will beat Buffalo. At 7-5, they are still in the mix but winning their division may be the only way into the playoffs. Tampa is just rolling along on their way to almost certainly a home playoff game or two; Brady seems to be shifting into playoff gear with three straight wins. If Tampa is thin, it's at the secondary position where they have had several injuries and can't seem to find any help in the back half of the defense, they are still a top defense against the run, but Buffalo doesn't run the ball anyway. The Bills need a bounce-back game in a big way here; we still don't know if they are a Super Bowl contender or just beat up on bad teams. The weather will be quarterback-friendly, and the Bills have won by a margin of almost 26 points off a loss this season.
BET: Bills +3.5
Season record 23-14.