We had a wild and entertaining, yet somewhat normal Week 14 to this point. And we have just the one regular Monday night game left this week. As we play the first round of the fantasy playoffs for most leagues, and the NFL looks toward its own playoffs, there was plenty to take in. Below are a few takeaways from what we’ve seen so far in Week 14, then we’ll consider tonight’s crucial AFC North battle.
The Cardinals Aren’t Dead Yet
After a stretch of games that left many, myself included, questioning whether the Cardinals have what it takes to make the playoffs, they posted a solid road win on Sunday. The Giants came into the game 5-7, yet atop the NFC East and fresh off a beat down of the Seahawks in Seattle. Yet, Arizona’s offense and defense came to play and got a 26-7 win, putting them back in the driver’s seat for the final seed in the NFC playoffs. It was a big win, and with Dan Arnold and Kenyan Drake scoring again, the Cardinals are continuing to develop weapons outside of DeAndre Hopkins. The team will need that if they want to finish strong and make the field of seven in the NFC.
Chicago’s Offense Finally Showed Up
The Bears started 5-1, but the offense didn’t always look that great. They then lost six straight to slump to 5-7 on the season. But along the way, the past few weeks, Mitch Trubisky, David Montgomery and the Bears offense has looked a little better. A 36-7 win over the Texans yesterday snapped the losing streak and looked good. Trubisky tossed three TDs and Montgomery rushed for over 100 yards. It’s probably too little, too late, and it is the Texans, but it’s fair to wonder if this hot end to the season will change the future and off-season for Chicago or Trubisky.
Jalen Hurts Lifts the Eagles
He didn’t set the world on fire, but Hurts was solid in his first start. Despite facing a tough defense, Hurts threw for 167 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 106 yards, and better yet the Eagles beat the Saints 24-21. The Eagles still have a LONG way to go if they want to win the East, now sitting 1.5 games back of Washington and a half game back of the Giants. But Hurts played well, gave the team a lift and has opened a Pandora’s Box for the team moving forward. This will be a long off-season in Philadelphia.
And now, on to Monday Night Football.
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Cleveland Browns (9-3)
This is a battle of playoff hopefuls. One of the teams seems all but locked in and riding a hot streak. The other has been up-and-down and is desperate for a win to climb back into the playoff picture. If you’d said the more secure team was the Browns heading into this season, most wouldn’t have believed it. But Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield have played well, and the Browns are already 9-3, sitting atop the Wild Card standings and now just 1.5 games back of the division-leading Steelers. The Ravens, meanwhile, are just 7-5 and currently on the outside looking in. The Ravens won the first meeting of these teams on opening day, but since that time the fortunes of both teams have reversed. With a win, the Browns will move within a game of the Steelers, who they still play one more time this season. The Ravens, meanwhile, need to keep winning to make their late season playoff push. And yet, the visiting Ravens are 1.5-point favorites. The home team Browns still get no respect, which will likely fuel their desire to win tonight.
In terms of fantasy, for the visiting Ravens Lamar Jackson is a solid play. The team figures to use three running backs—Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins—with Dobbins being the one I have the highest hopes for if you need to take a big swing. Among pass catchers, Mark Andrews is back and I like him as a play at tight end. Marquise Brown has had a couple strong games thanks to big touchdown passes, and that could continue tonight, but I don’t feel like it’s a solid bet. It’s a Hail Mary shot.
For the Browns, Chubb is a great play. Kareem Hunt has been down of late and feels more like an RB3/Flex. In the passing game, Mayfield has been solid of late, and is a decent QB2 play. Jarvis Landry has also come on of late and has flex appeal.
Prediction: I think the Browns win at home to move to 10-3 on the season.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.