The Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers kicked off Week 14 in rather impressive fashion by playing an absolute thriller on Thursday Night Football. The two playoff hopefuls combined for 64 points and provided entertainment to a national audience in abundance. Mike Zimmer's Vikings jumped out to an astonishing 29-0 lead before the Steelers came alive, reeling off 21 consecutive points while bringing the game back to life in the process.
The remainder of Week 14 has several crucial matchups on its schedule. The Cleveland Browns host their AFC North rival Baltimore Ravens in a contest that could rightfully be labeled as pivotal for both sides. The outcome will have wide-ranging implications on the playoff picture in the cluttered AFC. Sunday's afternoon showdown between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Buffalo Bills is ever-important for both and will see the Bills attempt to exorcise their Tom Brady-related demons. Monday's loss to Brady's former team, the New England Patriots, has placed the Bills in a surprising and rather precarious situation as the conference's seventh and final seed in the playoffs.
As we continue to salivate over this weekend's slate of games, we've compiled three bold predictions for the action ahead.
BROWNS GET MUCH-NEEDED WIN OVER RAVENS, WIN COMFORTABLY
When the Browns were last on the field, they suffered a six-point defeat to the same Ravens team they'll encounter this weekend. Cleveland's bye week provided Kevin Stefanski's staff with the ample time necessary to process their latest failure.
Cleveland enters Sunday's contest with their literal backs against the wall, as a defeat to their heated rivals would plummet their 2021 postseason hopes. The Ravens, meanwhile, are searching to avenge last weekend's shocking last-second one-point defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns are the hungrier team, and they have plenty of bulletin board material following their Week 12 loss to Baltimore. Divisional games are often closely contested, and we anticipate a solid showing from Cleveland in front of a rambunctious home crowd at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Ravens may be 8-4, but they've been struggling to maintain their early-season offensive success as of late, and haven't scored more than 19 points since Week 9. Opposing defenses have slowed down Lamar Jackson as of late by blitzing him with an abundance of Cover 0 looks, and until the Ravens showcase the ability to counter-punch, they'll continue to encounter difficulties. Take the Browns comfortably, as a double-digit victory seems well within the realm of possibility.
ELIJAH MOORE TOPS 100 RECEIVING YARDS VS. SAINTS
Robert Saleh's Jets have unfortunately suffered a slew of injuries to various key offensive starters throughout 2021, such as quarterback Zach Wilson and left tackle Mekhi Becton. It hasn't been all bad though, as rookie receiver Elijah Moore has been absolutely outstanding. The former Ole Miss standout has recorded five touchdown receptions in his last five showings. Moore has been virtually unstoppable over that timeframe, and the Jets are rightfully feeding him the ball. Moore has seen an astounding 45 targets in those five contests, including a season-high 12 targets in last weekend's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Corey Davis' season-ending injury all but confirms that Moore will continue to serve as New York's No. 1 receiver down the stretch.
Several offensive rookies have taken the league by storm in 2021, but few have matched Moore's form. He'll encounter a below-average Saints secondary that's giving up 250 passing yards per game. Moore has topped 100 receiving yards just once this season, but he's fully capable of surpassing those totals on Sunday. Moore is an ultra-talented athlete that continues to trend in the right direction. Jets fans should be incredibly excited about his sky-high potential.
FALCONS WIN IN CAROLINA
The Panthers thoroughly embarrassed themselves in Week 12, having been blown out to the tune of 33-10 by a surging Miami Dolphins team. Starting quarterback Cam Newton put forth one of the all-time worst performances we've ever seen from a signal-caller, completing just 5-of-21 passing attempts for 92 yards and two interceptions. Newton's ability to impact the game with his legs was also compromised, as he gained a measly five rushing yards via three attempts. To make matters worse, Carolina has now officially lost superstar running back Christian McCaffrey for the season and is breaking in a new offensive coordinator and play-caller following the shocking firing of Joe Brady.
Carolina and Atlanta both enter this contest at 5-7, and a defeat for either would all but end their postseason hopes. The Falcons have undeniably had their struggles in 2021 too, but have been a more competitive and feisty unit than Matt Rhule's Panthers can claim to be. Carolina is considered a slight favorite on almost every oddsmaking website you can find, but we thoroughly believe the Falcons will exit Bank of America Stadium with a massive victory on Sunday.