Here are my Week 14 picks with confidence level selections. The picks with a confidence level of 1-5 will be available for all NFL Pickwatch readers.
The picks with a 6+ confidence level, a group of selections that have netted a 129-50-1 record over the past two seasons (including a 46-22-1 mark this year), will be available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.
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Now let’s get to this week’s picks!
Pittsburgh Steelers at Minnesota Vikings
KC’s pick: Minnesota | Confidence level: 2
This game will come down whether Pittsburgh can turn this game into a shootout, which is defined as when both teams score 24 or more points in a game. Mike Zimmer does all he can to keep the Vikings out of these types of contests, both from a philosophical perspective and because Minnesota is 2-5 in shootouts this season. The good news for the Vikings is they are 3-2 when they don’t get into that type of matchup. Pittsburgh has a preference to avoid shootouts as well, as they have only been in two of them this year, so the Vikings will get to play their preferred style of game and should win this one because of this.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
KC’s pick: Carolina | Confidence level: 4
The main story headed into this contest is how terrible the Panthers offense is, as that platoon has been so bad that Cam Newton was benched in Week 12 and offensive coordinator Joe Brady was fired shortly after. That could be an issue except that Atlanta ranks dead last in offensive expected points added since Week 10 (per TruMedia). Part of that is injury related, and the Falcons now have Cordarrelle Patterson back in the lineup, but Carolina still has more offensive firepower and has a notable edge on defense, so the Panthers are the selection.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
KC’s pick: Baltimore | Confidence level: 3
These are two teams that have major offensive issues, as Baltimore has scored fewer than 20 points in four straight games and Cleveland has tallied 17 or less in six of the past seven. The Ravens look to be the team with an easier path to turn things around, as the Browns have allowed 500 rushing yards over the past three games. Baltimore has some defensive issues of its own, especially in coverage, but the Ravens have allowed 69.3 rushing yards per game over the past four contests and Cleveland has no aerial attack to speak of. It’s a tossup type of game but add those elements together and Baltimore is the percentage play.
New Orleans Saints at New York Jets
KC’s pick: New Orleans | Confidence level: 2
The season started with so much promise for the Saints, as they began this year with a 5-2 mark, but five straight losses and an offensive collapse following Jameis Winston’s injury a few weeks back have combined to make this a potential nightmare campaign. New York is talent challenged on both sides of the ball at the best of times, but injuries have simply wrecked their defense and given this club some of the worst pass defense metrics in the league. The problem for the New Orleans is Taysom Hill has the dreaded mallet finger and may not be able to throw well to the Saints subpar wideouts, but there is a saving grace for Sean Payton in that the Jets also just gave up 185 rushing yards to the Eagles. Combine these trends and it could be a close game, but one that New Orleans has a better chance of winning.
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team
KC’s pick: Washington | Confidence level: 2
Don’t sell Washington’s chances of winning the NFC East short, as the Football Team has won four straight games, still has two battles against Dallas, and is projected to have a 14 percent chance of divisional supremacy per the New York Times Playoff Predictor model. Washington’s ground game has been much better following the bye, as Antonio Gibson’s shin ailment healed up and they now have tallied 100+ rushing yards in three straight. Dallas could also have trouble moving the ball on the ground, as Washington has given up 76 or fewer rushing yards in three out of four. The Cowboys are dealing with their own injuries, as Ezekiel Elliott has a banged-up knee and is now battling a foot injury. Add in the Cowboys' pass coverage issues and the game being in Washington and the Football Team is the upset pick in this matchup.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
KC’s pick: Arizona | Confidence level: 3
The Rams couldn’t have asked for a better matchup last week to get them out of their three-game losing streak, as they obliterated Jacksonville by a 37-7 score that was every bit the four quarters of destruction that the final tally indicates. That could provide Los Angeles with a false sense of security, however, as the Rams gave up 28 or more points in each of those three losses that preceded the win over the Jaguars. Arizona is getting back up to speed on offense now that Kyler Murray has returned from his ankle injury. The Cardinals also get back Chase Edmonds this week and should get a better performance from DeAndre Hopkins, as his subpar numbers against Chicago in Week 13 were largely the result of inclement weather. Combine that additional talent with the game being in Arizona and the Rams recurring inconsistencies and this pick lands in the Cardinals column.
Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos
KC’s pick: Denver | Confidence level: 4
One must feel fantastic for Dan Campbell and his team, as the Lions have shown more spirit than maybe any other team in the league this year. Detroit is also playing much better on defense, as the Lions have allowed 16 or fewer points in three of the past four. The problem for Detroit is that Denver’s defense has been superb of late, as the Broncos held the Chiefs, Chargers, and Cowboys to a total of 51 points in their three matchups over the past month. Facing that caliber of defense on the road with Jared Goff as its quarterback doesn’t provide much assurance that the Lions can run off a second consecutive win, so take Denver in this one.
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals
KC’s pick: San Francisco | Confidence level: 3
Don’t read too much into the loss against Seattle, as the Seahawks are to the 49ers what Ohio State was to Michigan until this year, having won 15 of the last 17 in that series. Instead, note that San Francisco ranks third in points per drive over the past four weeks and tied for fourth in defensive expected points added since Week 10. Cincinnati is a hard team to figure out, as they crushed the Raiders and Steelers in Weeks 11-12 yet got blown out by Cleveland and the Chargers on the bookends of those games and lost to the Jets in Week 8. One key edge for San Francisco is their 4-2 road record, as that indicates they can play at a high level in hostile environments, so the 49ers land this selection.
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
KC’s pick: Tampa Bay | Confidence level: 1
This is one of the best games of the year, but that comes with a caveat that each of these teams has some notable flaws. In Buffalo’s case, they have turned the ball over 12 times in the past five games, have given up 200+ rushing yards in two of the past three games, and just cannot get consistent production out of their ground attack. In Tampa Bay’s case, their banged-up secondary has finally gotten healthy, but the trio of Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Carlton Davis have not been playing to their talent level. That should help Josh Allen find Stefon Diggs for a few big plays, but the loss of Tre’Davious White means the Bills will be at a notable disadvantage in facing Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and the revitalized Rob Gronkowski. That triumvirate will provide the Buccaneers with more big play potential than Diggs and that’s enough to make Tampa Bay the preferred option.
KC’s 6+ confidence level picks, a group of selections that have gone 129-50-1 over the past two seasons (including a 46-22-1 mark this year), are available exclusively to Pickwatch Pro subscribers.