Friday Five, Week 14

Steelers-Ravens matchup preview: Devin Bush vs. Lamar Jackson | Pittsburgh  Post-Gazette

Week 14 of the NFL Season is here. This is a crucial week for many fantasy players who are trying to make the post-season. For NFL teams, it’s a crucial week as they drive toward the playoffs and many of the Sunday matchups reflect that. As always, I’ll highlight the five I’m most excited to see from the Sunday slate below!

Sunday Early Games:

Baltimore Ravens (8-4) at Cleveland Browns (6-6)
Divisional matchups are always great but this season hasn’t gone as planned for either of these teams. The Ravens have been up-and-down, losing a tough AFC North matchup to the Steelers last week. While still leading the division, the Ravens can ill-afford another divisional loss. The Browns, meanwhile, entered the season with lofty expectations but it’s been a disappointing slog. The Browns sit at 6-6, mired in a glut of AFC teams competing for the final playoff spot. A win will improve their chances while a loss could prove devastating. Needless to say there’s a lot on the line for these divisional foes who met just two weeks ago when the Ravens got the win. Can Cleveland even things up? They’ll have to if they want to see the post-season.

Las Vegas Raiders (6-6) at Kansas City Chiefs (8-4)
This is a tale of divisional foes seemingly headed in the opposite direction. The Chiefs started slow but have piled up wins of late, sitting atop the division and in a good spot in the conference. The Raiders were once the leaders in the AFC West but struggles off the field and on the field have dropped them back to .500. In the crowded AFC West and crowded AFC in general, the Raiders as fading from contention. A loss could put them in a position from which they’d be unable to recover. Will the Chiefs earn the season sweep and more cushion in the division, or will the Raiders climb back toward a possible post-season run?

Dallas Cowboys (8-4) at Washington Football Team (6-6)
Prior to the season I thought both these teams would be playoff contenders, likely battling for the crown in the NFC East. It’s taken them strange paths to get here, but that’s indeed the case as the Cowboys head to the Nation’s Capital for the first of two late-season meetings between these divisional foes. The Cowboys started hot, stumbled a bit but still sit atop the NFC East and in prime position for a home playoff game. Washington struggled early, sitting at 2-6 not long ago before a four-game win streak pushed them to 6-6, squarely in the Wild Card hunt. With two meetings in the last five weeks of the season, Washington even has a chance to repeat as NFC East champs. That puts plenty on the line as these two clash on Sunday.

Sunday Late Games:

San Francisco 49ers (6-6) at Cincinnati Bengals (7-5)
This is a battle of two playoff contenders coming off tough Week 13 losses. The 49ers rode into Week 13 riding high but fell short against the Seattle Seahawks. Worse yet, the 49ers got beaten up, which could leave them short-handed in this contest. The Bengals squared off against the Chargers in a battle of teams contending for the Wild Card. Despite being at home, the Bengals were never really close, falling behind 24-0 before falling 41-22. Now, both teams are hungry for a win to help solidify their position as the playoff approach, with two good young offenses preparing to do battle on the field.

Buffalo Bills (7-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3)
The Bills were a Cinderella story in 2020, winning the AFC East and making it to the AFC Championship game. I thought they’d be in a similar spot in 2021, as they were my pre-season Super Bowl pick. Instead, the Bills have been up-and-down, losing a heart-breaking Monday Night game to the Patriots to find themselves a game and a half down in their own division and barely clinging to a playoff spot. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have been as good as expected. The defending Super Bowl champions are just a game back of Arizona for the league’s best record, cruising in the NFC South and seemingly on their way to a high seed as they begin a playoff defense. Can the Bills get a big win to gain ground in the AFC, or will they slip further behind the Patriots as Tom Brady helps out his former team?

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.

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