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NFL Match-Up Mania: Week 14

Thanksgiving Day put us Americans all in the traditional food coma and forced to watch the Packers get devoured by the Lions, the Cowboys round up the Raiders and the Steelers lose their heads falling to the Ravens.  But worry not, gridiron goers, this dispatch of The Student of the Game’s Week 14 Match-Up Mania has samplings that get you running to a TV faster than Pittsburgh Coach Mike Tomlin dodging a kick returner.

Seahawks vs. Niners

In Week 2, this pairing of NFL upstart QBs and solid defenses week went from featuring 2 similar teams and ended up as 2 teams far apart in a Seahawks blowout win.  This lopsided affair serves as a metaphor for their playoff placement in the current season.  The teams are similar in prowess and playing style, yet with the Seahawks having scraped by in closes to attain double digit wins (not counting Monday night, of course) while the Niners seem to be on the bottom of their close contests.

San Francisco’s QB Colin Kaepernick received some helpful that Seattle’s CB Brandon Browner is out due to a substance abuse suspension as well as star WR Michael Crabtree returning from injury.  On the other side, QB Russell Wilson may still be without WR Percy Harvin whose recovery is not as complete as a 52 yard punt return vs. the Vikings implied.

With the past Monday’s result against the NFC rival Saints, the ‘Hawks can ill afford to lose ground while the 49ers are in the same state fighting for their postseason lives in the Wild Card race.

This game will again fall to whoever shows success in balanced execution on offense.  This means the key for both of these elite defenses is to stop either RBs Frank Gore or Marshawn Lynch.  Since the Niners have been unsuccessful in slowing Lynch in the past 3 outings, I see them losing despite Seattle traveling to Candlestick.

Panthers vs. Saints

This game is the NFC South’s answer to the top of the AFC West’s rivalry of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos.  The Panthers and their defense testing and by being tested by the offense of the New Orleans Saints while the Saints endure the reverse.  The difference between these top teams is the NFC leaders have had a much tougher road having to face the NFC West instead of the other teams of the AFC West.

LB Luke Kuchely has been making headlines has a defense force for Carolina as only a sophomore, but even the elite of the NFL struggle to contain TE Jimmy Graham without allowing the Saints to run all over the field or vice versa.

But with New Orleans struggles stoping the run, it seems Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan will stuff the box with a run happy team like the Panthers featuring RBs DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, and Jonathan Stewart as well as one of the best running QBs in the league in Cam Newton.  But then that didn’t work all that well against Seattle, did it?  Newton finding a still productive WR in Steve Smith and the league’s most under rated TE Greg Olson in the air will be necessary to guarantee victory via balanced offense.

Although QB Drew Brees and company faced the Seahawks Monday Night, they’ll be hosting Cam and company in NOLA’s football shrine, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  It is with this in mind they I give the slight edge to New Orleans.  But once the Saints come marching in prime time on Sunday, I believe that the Panthers will show us an effort where they are stars who begin to shine.

Honorable Mention

Cowboys vs. Bears

Both these teams have gone from in command to in crisis within their respective divisions.  QB Josh McCown did well filling in for the Bears, but whether he or starter Jay Cutler play this game, they should have little trouble putting up points on a team that allowed Oakland to put up 24 on Thanksgiving Day.

Sure, in fairness, the Raiders did score 7 of those points off of a special teams mistake by Dallas during the opening kick, but I’m not convinced the Cowboys go mistake free in this game they need badly for the playoff picture.  But then, who sees the Bears being perfect in their performance?  Watch this one closely because I think whoever prevails here does so late in the 4th quarter.   It is with that in mind the I see Chicago getting the ‘W’ over QB Tony Romo and a notoriously “clutch-challenged” Cowboy crew.


Kyle Nash — @TheSoTG on Twitter

Founder and host of The Student of the Game show

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Kyle NashThe Student of the Game
Host of the Student of The Game Podcast Monday @ 7:30pm EST
Writer for NGSC Sports
Narrator of Sport Symposium on NGSC Sports YouTube Channel.

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