The NFL playoff race is ramping up as SB Nation's panel experts make their Week 14 picks. As many as four teams can clinch a spot in the postseason this week, and several more are jockeying for wild card slots with four weeks left to play.
Thursday Night Football promises to be fun, with the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings dropped to 8-4 after a deflating 38-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at home, but they're still in good position to grab a wild card spot. The Cardinals, at 10-2, can clinch a playoff spot with a win, and would clinch the NFC West with a win and a Seattle Seahawks loss. All eight members of the panel expect Arizona to punch its playoff ticket this week.
The biggest game of Sunday's 1 p.m. ET slate is an AFC North grudge match between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers improved to 7-5 after running the Indianapolis Colts off the field last Sunday night, but they're still behind in the wild card race and don't have any tiebreakers in their favor. Meanwhile, Cincinnati is 10-2 and No. 1 in the AFC, and can clinch the division by simply winning. These teams last met in Week 6 when the Bengals puled out a 16-10 win. Six of the eight panelists expect Cincinnati to complete the season sweep.
Another early divisional game pits the Carolina Panthers (12-0) at home against the Atlanta Falcons (6-6), two teams that could not be heading in more opposite directions. Carolina already won the NFC South and is now chasing home-field advantage and a shot at history. Atlanta lost six of its last seven games and is rapidly fading in the playoff race after starting 5-0. Not surprisingly, the Panthers are a unanimous pick to win.
The Denver Broncos (10-2) can also clinch a division title this week, though they need to win and the Kansas City Chiefs need to lose for that to happen. They will try to take care of business at home against an Oakland Raiders (5-7) team that lost four of their last five and are just about done in the playoff race. Once again, our experts are unanimous in picking Denver this week.
Sunday Night Football features the New England Patriots (10-2) trying to get back on track after a two-game losing streak. They head to NRG Stadium to take on the Houston Texans (6-6), who made an impressive comeback from a 2-5 start to the season but suffered a setback by losing to the Buffalo Bills last week. New England dropped down to the No. 3 seed after its two losses and is still missing key contributors like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. Despite the lack of weapons on offense, all of our human experts took the Patriots to win. The OddsShark computer was the only "expert" to pick Houston.
Here are the complete picks for Week 14 (straight up, not against the spread).
|Week 14||Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||Matt Ufford||PFT Commenter||OddsShark|
|MIN vs ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ||ARZ|
|BUF vs PHI||BUF||BUF||PHI||PHI||BUF||BUF||BUF||PHI|
|SF vs CLE||SF||SF||SF||SF||SF||CLE||CLE||CLE|
|DET vs STL||DET||DET||STL||STL||DET||STL||DET||STL|
|NO vs TB||TB||TB||NO||TB||TB||TB||TB||TB|
|TEN vs NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ||NYJ|
|PIT vs CIN||PIT||CIN||PIT||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN|
|IND vs JAX||JAX||IND||IND||IND||IND||JAX||JAX||JAX|
|SD vs KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC||KC|
|WAS vs CHI||CHI||CHI||CHI||CHI||CHI||CHI||WAS||CHI|
|ATL vs CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR||CAR|
|SEA vs BAL||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA|
|OAK vs DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN|
|DAL vs GB||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB||GB|
|NE vs HOU||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||NE||HOU|
|NYG vs MIA||NYG||NYG||NYG||NYG||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA|
And here are the updated results on the season.
|Ryan Van Bibber||Stephen White||Joel Thorman||David Fucillo||Danny Kelly||Matt Ufford||PFT Commenter||OddsShark|
* * *
SB Nation presents: The best teams from NFL Week 13