Gregg Rosenthal went 12-3 on his predictions for Week 13 of the 2020 NFL season, bringing his total record to 121-69-1. How will he fare in Week 14? His picks are below.
Sunday, Dec. 13
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34, Minnesota Vikings 26
Tom Brady's struggles have mostly come against top defenses that can disrupt him. That shouldn't be a problem this week. The Vikings' offensive success has mostly come against defenses they could run against. That is unlikely to be an option this week. The Bucs' sprint to the finish before being called The Team No One Wants To Face In The Playoffs starts now.
New York Giants 27, Arizona Cardinals 21
The Giants have won four in a row. The Cardinals have lost three in a row. That trajectory, and the expected return of Daniel Jones, aren't the only things that explain this pick, but it's a start. Arizona needs to be an offense-first team, and its offense is limited, with defenses forcing Kyler Murray to throw or hand off. The Giants' defense, meanwhile, is fourth in EPA per play since Week 9.
Kansas City Chiefs 27, Miami Dolphins 21
Dolphins coach Brian Flores was part of a Patriots staff that slowed down Patrick Mahomes better than most. Miami's defense is built to change looks and disrupt Kansas City's timing enough to keep the Chiefs' red-zone and run-game struggles going. Look for the Dolphins to keep this game interesting, even if their offense is leaning a little too much on guys like Myles Gaskin, Jakeem Grant and Lynn Bowden.
Tennessee Titans 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 27
The Jaguars' defensive improvement since their Week 8 bye, despite an avalanche of injuries, has been one of the most fruitless, inexplicable developments of the season. The Titans' defensive struggles are equally confounding, but more consistent. Expect plenty of points, just like the 33-30 Titans victory in Week 2 that started Jacksonville's 11-game losing streak.
Dallas Cowboys 24, Cincinnati Bengals 21
Being removed from prime time in Week 15 shows where these Cowboys stand. Losing to the Fighting Brandon Allen Bengals would represent a new low, albeit one that could position them for a top-three draft pick. This looks like Zac Taylor's best chance at avoiding another two-win season, and that's the last bit of analysis I can muster for the game I've least wanted to watch in the 2020 season.
Houston Texans 28, Chicago Bears 24
Deshaun Watson heading to Chicago isn't a revenge game as much as a what if game. How many playoff games would Watson have won backed by the Bears' defense of the last four years? Based on the last two weeks and the paltry pass rush provided by Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn lately, that defense may be leaving town soon, along with Mitchell Trubisky.
Carolina Panthers 24, Denver Broncos 23
Another Super Bowl revenge game is clouded, like so much else this season, by COVID-19 complications. Carolina had 10 players on the COVID-reserve list early in the week, but most of its key starters like Curtis Samuel, Shaq Thompson and Derrick Brown came off the list by Friday, which is enough to swing my pick. As 4-8 squads go, the Panthers are elite!
Seattle Seahawks 31, New York Jets 17
Interim head coaches are 3-0 in their first games this season. While Adam Gase remains, perhaps the collective exhale in the Jets' defensive meeting room after Greggggg's departure is worth a few points of happiness. That still won't be enough to fool Russell Wilson, whose recent struggles have come against veteran defenses that can mix coverages in a way the young, talent-poor Jets cornerbacks cannot.
Indianapolis Colts 30, Las Vegas Raiders 27
Gregg Williams blitzed because Derek Carr, even in a fine season, struggles with pressure more than top quarterbacks. The Colts can pressure with just four linemen, and the modest progress shown by the Raiders' defense took a big step back against the Jets. Even though the Colts are tied for first place in the AFC South, this feels like a decisive battle for the AFC's seventh playoff seed.
San Francisco 49ers 24, Washington Football Team 20
The Football Team was always capable of beating a team like the Steelers. Following up such an emotional win with another road victory against a well-coached squad would be as impressive. As much as I'd love to see Alex Smith beat the team he started with, the potential loss of Antonio Gibson would be devastating for the Washington offense. And the trio of Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Raheem Mostert could cause a lot of problems for a Washington defense that relies on sound tackling and red-zone dominance.
New Orleans Saints 27, Philadelphia Eagles 14
Atlanta Falcons 28, Los Angeles Chargers 24
I was waiting for Justin Herbert to look mortal. It's happened over the last month against great defensive coordinators. He doesn't face one this week, but the Falcons have played better team defense since Raheem Morris took over as interim head coach, winning four of five games against teams not from New Orleans.
Green Bay Packers 38, Detroit Lions 27
The Lions' offense was different last week under interim coach Darrell Bevell, playing faster, running less and not worrying about trying to cover for a defense that's going to be dreadful regardless. Aaron Rodgers is different this year, too, getting the ball out in rhythm because there are so many open receivers, rather than trying to improvise and rely on his skill set. The Packers' transformation feels more permanent.
Pittsburgh Steelers 24, Buffalo Bills 21
Based strictly on the eye test, Buffalo's playing better than Pittsburgh lately. The Bills have the better passing game in a pass-first league, and the defense has come around. They look ready to win a big game like this, while the Steelers look tired. But Pittsburgh's station-to-station offense matches up well against a Buffalo squad willing to give up short gains, and the Bills' offensive line worries me against top competition. This week qualifies.
Monday, Dec. 14
Baltimore Ravens 27, Cleveland Browns 24
This might be my favorite game left on the 2020 slate. My heart wants Baker Mayfield's boffo game against Tennessee to be more about his maturation and less about Kevin Stefanski dialing up wide-open first reads against a vulnerable defense. My head says the Ravens' defense will be a far sterner test, with both offenses more dangerous when running and vulnerable when run against. Baltimore needs this game more and has been in this type of game many more times. Experience wins the day.
Los Angeles Rams 20, New England Patriots 17
This is one of the most fascinating matchups left on the schedule, a litmus test for just how resourceful Bill Belichick can get in 2020. The Rams are far more talented and their defense should shut down a ground-and-pound Pats offense that is somehow fifth in yards per drive and EPA per play since Week 8. Look for Belichick to ugly this one up enough to make Rams fans have Super Bowl LIII flashbacks.