We are back for the Pigskin Preview for Week 14 of the NFL! As we enter the final quarter of the season, the true playoff contenders are starting to emerge as the Wild Card races and divisional battles start to heat up! This week, we have three great games, one of which should be an offensive explosion, a battle of two of the top defenses in the NFL. And now, my can’t miss games of the week.
New Orleans Saints (9-3) @ Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
On Thursday Night Football the Saints will go into Atlanta looking to take control of the NFC South after a 31-21 victory over the Panthers secured them sole possession of first place. The Falcons, however, are desperate for a win, after falling to the Vikings 14-9, and are looking to keep pace in a crowded NFC wild-card race.
This matchup will feature two of the best quarterbacks the league has to offer, with former MVP’s Matt Ryan and Drew Bress facing off. Both gunslingers are ranked in the top 10 in passing with over 3,000 yards for the year. These are two very similar offenses led by a high-powered passing attack and a balanced running game.
Bress has relied heavily on wide receiver Michael Thomas, who has 75 catches for the season, and Ryan for has gone to his favorite target, Julio Jones 68 times for over 1,000 yards. Both of these teams have a nice dual-threat running back system as well. Week after week, Alvin Kamara continues to shine carrying the ball and has shown off his pass-catching abilities. The Ingram/Kamara combo is good for an average of 146 yards a game, third best in the NFL. However, Atlanta benefited from the return of injured RB Devonta Freeman and will look to match the Saints with a dangerous duo of their own with Freeman and Tevin Coleman.
This game will ultimately come down to the defense that can make a big turnover, something the Falcons have struggled to do all season ranking 31st in takeaways. If you are a fan of high scoring games, then tune in Thursday night because I believe it is very likely a shootout could break loose in Atlanta. These are two teams who are coming hot and hungry for a win.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 6, 2017
Seattle Seahawks (8-4) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)
When I looked at the slate for Week 14, this stuck out to me like a sore thumb. This should be one of the most competitive contests of the week with two tremendous defenses facing off. The Jaguars hold the #1 ranked defense in the NFL and hold their opponents to only 14.8 points a game. But they are given the tough task of facing MVP-candidate Russell Wilson, who is fresh off a 24-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football.
In the victory, the Seahawks saw an emergence of the run game as Mike Davis ran for 64 yards on 16 carries, which is as good of a production they have gotten from a running back all season. Running the ball has not been such an issue for the Jags as they rank #1 in rushing offense with 149.9 yards a game led by rookie Leonard Fournette. But in the Week 13 beat down of the Colts, Blake Bortles was the star throwing for 309 yards on 28/35 passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Bortles will need a big day to match Russell Wilson who has 29 total touchdowns on the season, 3,256 passing yards (sixth highest in the NFL), along with a team-high 432 rushing yards. Jacksonville will be looking to expose an offensive line that has struggled to protect Wilson all season, allowing 28 sacks on the year. The Jags, who have the most sacks in the NFL, will be sending pass rushers Calais Campbell (12.5 sacks) and Yannick Ngakoue (10 sacks) to make it a long day for Wilson and the Seahawks.
I anticipate this being a very low-scoring defense-heavy game, but will also be one of the most fun and competitive games to watch, and we will find out if Russell Wilson can continue his magic, and steal a win on the road.
Last but not least, Philly and L.A. are by far the obvious choice for the can’t-miss pairing of the week. The Eagles are coming off their first loss since Week 2 and will continue their NFC West tour, by facing the Rams. Besides the obvious of playoff implications and potential seeding the NFC, there are some must-see matchups to watch for.
We have #1 and #2 overall picks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz facing off, who are both taking huge leaps in their sophomore season, and put themselves in the MVP conversation. Also, we see a coaching showdown of the two likely favorites for Coach of the Year, Sean McVay, and Doug Pederson. They have both opened up their team’s offenses, as both teams average 30.1 points a game, which is best in the NFL.
But the biggest question is will Todd Gurley be able to do what no team has done all season and rush the ball on this Eagles defense? The Birds have the #1 defense against the run, only allowing on average of 68.1 on the ground a game. Oh, by the way . . . you will also see a showdown of the two best defensive tackles in the entire league, as Aaron Donald for the Rams, and Fletcher Cox for the Eagles, who is the #1 reason for the Eagles dominance in the run game.
With the Eagles coming off their worst game of the season, in which we saw Wentz have two turnovers including a costly fumble at the goal line, they will look to avoid back-to-back losses.
“He continues to demonstrate, week-in and week-out, how important he is to our offense."
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 6, 2017
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