Week 13’s NFL City of Champion staff picks results:
Shetler – 9-6 (110-65-1)
Weiss – 8-7 (110-65-1)
Gajtka – 7-8 (107-68-1)
Harding – 9-6 (102-73-1)
Here are the staff’s picks for Week 14 of the NFL regular season.
San Diego at Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Steelers managed to travel to Baltimore and possibly saved their season by Charlie Batch’s solid performance. This week the Steelers get Ben Roethlisberger back in the line-up and are looking to make a statement against the struggling Chargers. They will play without corner Ike Taylor and Cortez Allen will replace him. Allen will look for a big game against the turnover king Philip Rivers. Rivers has 6 TDs, 5 INTs and 5 fumbles in his last 4 games. He has 18 TDs to 15 INTs on the season. The Chargers will also have 3 new starting lineman who have never met before in this game.
Steelers: Shetler, Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
St. Louis at Buffalo
The Buffalo Bills continue to pound the ball with solid performances from CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson. Last week the duo combined for 232 yards against the Jaguars. Buffalo still has an outside shot at a playoff game, but will need to win out most likely. St. Louis has struggled in defending the run on a consistent basis, but will need a big week to stop the surging Bills. St. Louis once again took the 49ers to the final minute of overtime before kicking the game winning field goal after the two tied just three weeks prior.
Bills: Shetler, Harding, Weiss
Dallas at Cincinnati
Both teams are trying to make a playoff push and this game will be pivotal. The Cowboys will welcome back DeMarco Murray to aid their running game. BenJarvis Green-Ellis is the first Bengals running back to have three consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Corey Dillon in 1999. The Bengals have surged due to solid defensive play and Andy Dalton being efficient. The Cowboys have been a rollercoaster team this season. Much of the ups and downs are because of Tony Romo’s inconsistency. Romo broke Troy Aikman’s franchise TD record last week against the Eagles.
Bengals: Shetler, Harding, Weiss
Kansas City at Cleveland
The Chiefs are coming off an emotionally charged victor after the tragedy they suffered last week. Romeo Crennel said time heals all wounds, but this is still very fresh in the Chiefs mind. Brady Quinn will try to lead the team on the road against the franchise that drafted him. The Browns are still struggling to find their identity. Bradon Weeden is coming off a career high 364 yard passing game against the Raiders last week, but still has more INTs than TDs (2).
Browns: Shetler, Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Rookie of the Year candidate Andrew Luck continues to find ways to win and put his team in the wildcard hunt. The Colts are currently in the 1st wildcard spot and could control their own destiny at this point. Luck’s last minute drive ended in a game winning touchdown for a 35-33 victory over the Lions. Luck will try to stretch the field against the Titans depleted secondary. Perhaps the Titans biggest problem will be stopping the Colts pass rush. Jake Locker was sacked six times last week and now lost David Stewart RT and Steve Hutchinson LG.
Colts: Shetler, Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
Chicago at Minnesota
Minnesota can put a damper on Chicago’s playoff plans if they can pull the upset. The Vikings would still trail the Bears by one game with a win, but the Bears still have to play the Packers and Lions one more time. This game could swing the NFC Wildcard into a frenzy. The Bears will have to play Adrian Peterson without their heart in Brian Urlacher. Chicago is already beat up, but now will be without Urlacher for the remainder of the regular season. The Bears are already banged up in the secondary and the blow to the LB unit might put them on a big slide.
Bears: Shetler, Gajtka, Weiss
Philadelphia at Tampa Bay
Two weeks ago the Bucs were on a 4 game run and in a great position for a playoff spot. Now they have lost their last two and have a tough finish and will still need help to get in. This would seem like the week that Tampa Bay can right the ship against a terrible Philadelphia defense. Head Coach Andy Reid decided his team needed more change as he fired defensive line coach Jim Washburn. My theory is players always play harder after the firing of a coach. Therefore, I expect the Eagles d-line to step up this week. If Philly can stop the Bucs big run game they have a chance to snap their 8-game losing streak.
Bucs: Shetler, Gajtka, Weiss
Baltimore at Washington
Both teams are coming off big games against division rivals. Things in Baltimore soured when Pittsburgh won 23-20 on a game-ending field goal. Washington on the other hand hung on for a 17-16 win over the Giants. The Ravens are still 9-3 and almost guaranteed a playoff spot. The Redskins are 6-6 and clawing behind the leadership of RGIII for a wildcard. Ray Lewis returned to practice for the Ravens on Wednesday after tearing his triceps just 7 weeks ago. The Ravens may be without Terrell Suggs as he has a biceps injury, but is a game time decision. RGIII broke the rookie rushing for a QB last week, previously set by Cam Newton last season.
Redskins: Harding, Gajtka
Ravens: Shetler, Weiss
Atlanta at Carolina
The Falcons have clinched the NFC South with the win last week and are now 2 wins away from home field advantage and a bye in the first round. Matt Ryan and co would like the first round to get rested and prepared for any opponent. The Falcons haven’t won a playoff game since 2004, perhaps the only thing missing from Ryan’s resume. The Panthers had the tough task of playing Kansas City last week, a game they lost 27-21. Cam Newton has been stuck in a bit of a slump, but the lack of players around him will have to change next season.
Falcons: Shetler, Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
New York Jets at Jacksonville
The Jets continue to fight for a playoff spot after Rex Ryan was quoted saying that they were still in it with a 5-7 record before the win over the Cardinals last week. Things got even more interesting in New York when Ryan benched starter Mark Sanchez. With Tim Tebow out with a rib injury, Ryan turned to second year Greg McElroy. McElroy, of course, led the Jets on the only touchdown drive of the game for either team to win 7-6. For some reason Sanchez will start again this week. The Jaguars defense has been better in the passing game, but gave up 232 yards to Buffalo last week. Jacksonville can’t win if they don’t for Sanchez to throw.
Jets: Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
Miami at San Francisco
Many folks are blaming Colin Kaepernick for the loss in St. Louis last week. Blaming Colin for the botched option play is not the answer. Play calling has to be different with the game at hand and your defense has played as well as it did. Kaepernick will get the start again this week to the surprise of many. He went 21 for 32 for 208 yards and added another 84 on the ground. He gives San Fran much more upside than Alex Smith. Rookie Ryan Tannehill ranks ahead of only Mark Sanchez in QB rating. He has 7TDs to 12 INTs on the season. With the 49ers stellar run defense this game will be on Tannehill.
49ers: Shetler, Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
Arizona at Seattle
The Cardinals offensive line continues to struggle and this could be their most challenging week yet. This isn’t their first run at the Seahawks, but now they are on the road in a very loud atmosphere. These two squared off in the first week of the season, Russell Wilson’s first career start. In the same game John Skelton got the start before being injured and Kevin Kolb took over. Kolb led the Cardinals to a 20-16 victory despite the replacement referee’s giving Seattle a 4th timeout. Arizona went on to win the next 3 and open the season 4-0. Now they are 4-8 and trying to survive. The Seahawks are making a nice playoff push and have done it by hammering the run game as usual.
Seattle: Shetler, Harding, Gajtka, Weiss
New Orleans at New York Giants
Both teams in this game believe they have to win out for different reasons. Giants feel they need to win out to ensure they win the NFC East. They had a 2.5 game lead before losing to Washington last week and dropped to a 1 game lead in the division. The Saints (5-7) believe they have to win out to make the playoffs in a wildcard spot. Drew Brees has struggled the last two weeks as he has thrown 7 INTs in his last two weeks. Brees knows in order to right the ship it will come on his shoulders. Eli Manning faces a similar problem. While he hasn’t thrown the INTs that Brees has, he knows his inconsistent play is the cause of many of the Giants struggles.
Giants: Shetler, Gajtka, Weiss
Detroit at Green Bay
The Packers are now tied for the lead in the NFC North and can control their own destiny at this point. Green Bay’s offensive line has been inconsistent causing MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers to hurry many of his throws. Detroit’s defensive line features a few big name players that are capable of quite of a big pass rush. If The Packers can give Rodgers time he may just put up some of his biggest numbers yet. The Lions gave up 372 yards last week to Rookie Andrew Luck in a 35-33 loss to the Colts. The Lions continue to skid despite averaging 416 yards of offense per game.
Packers: Shetler, Harding, Weiss
Houston at New England
Many reporters are calling this the biggest game in the Houston Texans franchise history. Its week 14 of the regular season and both teams have clinched a playoff spot. The big part about the game has to be on Houston’s running game. Arian Foster is having another solid year as well as Houston’s passing game. New England’s defense has improved, but is still skeptical to some degree. The Patriots offense has continued to win games for their team on the arm of Tom Brady. This game will likely decide the number one seed in the AFC for playoffs.
Patriots: Shetler, Harding
Texans: Gajtka, Weiss