Our NFL Insiders predict Week 14‘s biggest upsets, fantasy flops and sleepers. Plus: Will the Packers sneak into an NFC wild-card spot once Aaron Rodgers returns? What should the Browns do if they end up with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft?


What’s your top upset pick for Week 14?

Dan Graziano, NFL writer: Raiders over Chiefs. We’re going to keep hearing a lot of talk about Arrowhead and how the Chiefs have the advantage in home games. But I was in Kansas City two weeks ago when they lost to Buffalo and couldn’t move the ball. The Chiefs are a dead-in-the-water team, the Raiders already beat them once this year and Oakland smells blood. I say Kansas City is in third place this time next week.

Mina Kimes, senior writer: Seahawks over Jaguars. Seattle’s notoriously weak offensive line facing Jacksonville’s marauding pass-rushers sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Russell Wilson‘s pass protection has actually improved in recent weeks, thanks largely to the addition of veteran left tackle Duane Brown. If the Seahawks’ latest running back, Mike Davis, can build on the strides he made last week against the Eagles, Seattle should be able to outscore Blake Bortles & Co.

Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: Cardinals over Titans. Despite their 8-4 record, the Titans are only 20th in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. That’s a very average team in every way. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are only a little bit behind them at No. 23, and the Arizona defense has improved to sixth in the league. Arizona is No. 4 against the run, which is important against the ground-based Titans offense.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Cardinals over Titans. Tennessee keeps winning close games against teams like the Colts and Browns. Arizona could not get out of its own way during its Week 12 loss to the much more efficient Rams. The Cardinals do seem to play hard, which could be enough at home against Tennessee.

Field Yates, NFL Insider: 49ers over Texans. Galvanized by the play of Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13, I expect the 49ers to continue their better-of-late play against the Texans. The most difficult challenge for San Francisco will be finding a way to neutralize Jadeveon Clowney, who has been incredible this season for Houston.

Aaron Rodgers could return in Week 15. Will the 6-6 Packers sneak into an NFC wild-card spot?

Graziano: I don’t think so. As great a story as that would be — the Packers and Rodgers continuing their streak of reaching the playoffs every year since 2009 — it doesn’t seem likely in this year’s NFC. If the Packers were 6-6 in the AFC, that might be a different story. But jumping over the Panthers, Lions and Falcons seems like too tall a task even for Rodgers. Running the table would get Green Bay to 10-6, but the Packers still have tough road games in Carolina and Detroit, plus a home game against the Vikings. So a 4-0 finish is no sure thing. And even if they did it, 10-6 might not be good enough in this year’s NFC.

Kimes: Probably not. While Green Bay’s early head-to-head victories over Seattle and Dallas could boost its chances, the Packers would still need to run the table — which would be no easy feat, given that they have to play a more balanced Vikings team that will probably still be fighting for the top seed. A Rodgers comeback would be magical, but I’m not sure this defense has what it takes to run the table again.

Schatz: It’s still really unlikely, no matter how well Rodgers plays. The Packers probably need to go 10-6 to get a playoff spot. At 9-7, they would probably run into a problem because of a head-to-head loss to Atlanta. Rodgers playing well isn’t enough; the Packers also need teams such as Atlanta and Seattle to finish poorly.

Sando: Nope. Green Bay will probably finish 8-8 with victories against the Browns and Lions offset by losses to the Panthers and Vikings. I fear the chances of Rodgers getting reinjured against Carolina or Minnesota are higher than the chances of the Packers reaching the postseason in a stacked NFC.

Yates: No, but it’s a fascinating wrinkle all the same. The league is better when Rodgers — arguably the best player on the planet — is on the field, but the Packers are going to need at least two out of three teams not currently in first place in their division (Atlanta, Carolina and Seattle) to flop down the stretch. While 10 wins is in play, a playoff spot feels far-fetched.

Who’s your pick to be the biggest fantasy flop this weekend?

Graziano: Doug Baldwin, WR, Seahawks. I feel like the first place I look every time I get this question is wide receivers against the Jaguars, who are allowing by far the fewest fantasy points per game on average to wide receivers. So I’ll say Baldwin against Jacksonville, which will get after Russell Wilson and likely keep the score low at home.

Kimes: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. The Ravens’ pass defense has been phenomenal, shutting down wide receivers and allowing the second lowest number of fantasy points to quarterbacks. Expect a Le’Veon Bell-heavy game script from Pittsburgh.

Schatz: Todd Gurley II, RB, Rams. The Eagles are the second-best defense in the league against running backs for fantasy purposes, and I doubt the Rams are going to be running out the clock with a big late lead in this one.

Sando: Cam Newton, QB, Panthers. It’s probably going to be a rough game against the Vikings’ defense, which held Newton to 13 fantasy points in Week 3 last season.

Yates: Devin Funchess, WR, Panthers. I’ll follow Sando’s lead here and note that the Vikings’ defense is particularly stingy, with Xavier Rhodes as one of the game’s best cornerbacks. The “Rhodes Closed” mantra is well-founded: following a 253-yard effort in Week 12, Julio Jones was limited — in large part by Rhodes — to just two catches for 24 yards in Week 13. Manage expectations for Funchess.

Cleveland has a two-game lead for the No. 1 draft pick in 2018. What should the Browns do with it?

Graziano: I think their best bet is to trade down, pick up some extra picks and then watch as the quarterback who gets taken in that spot becomes a Rookie of the Year and/or MVP candidate for the team with which they made the trade. Haha. No, of course I’m kidding. Cleveland’s top three options are: (1) take a quarterback; (2) take a quarterback; (3) take a dang quarterback.

Kimes: I don’t hate the idea of spending some of their hefty cap space on a free agent, but I don’t love the options. The Browns should draft a quarterback and then, with Hue Jackson likely headed out the door, pick up a coach who can shepherd the rookie the way Sean McVay has guided Jared Goff. (Easier said than done, I know.)

Schatz: If the Browns feel there’s a player at another position worth the No. 1 pick, I have no problem with them waiting until the Houston pick (at No. 10) to take a quarterback. But Cleveland has to take a quarterback with one of the two picks. And who else would be worth that No. 1 pick anyway? Bradley Chubb to bookend with Myles Garrett, maybe? The analytical Browns are not taking Saquon Barkley at No. 1.

Sando: My three-step plan would include: (1) offering the pick to the Bengals for AJ McCarron without communicating the offer to the league office; (2) Investing part of Brock Osweiler‘s salary offset in an ESPN Insider subscription; or (3) using the first pick for whichever quarterback appears most frequently atop the Insider mock drafts.

Yates: Take. A. Quarterback.

Pick a fringe fantasy player who should be started in Week 14.

Graziano: Frank Gore, RB, Colts. The only team that hasn’t been able to run the ball against the Bills the past four to five weeks is Kansas City, which is having all kinds of problems. I know the Colts haven’t shown much, and that it’s the playoffs and you would hope to have better options. But if you’re somehow stuck at running back and Gore is on your bench, this matchup says you might be able to steal some points.

Kimes: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jets. The refs have to let him score a touchdown at some point, right? If he does, it’ll likely be against Denver, whose disappointing defense has allowed eight scores (tied for third worst in the NFL) to the position this season.

Schatz: Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers. Detroit is ranked 31st in DVOA against tight ends.

Sando: Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks. Davis and Seattle face a Jaguars defense that is much better against the pass than it is against the run. Davis looked very good in limited work against the Eagles. He could get opportunities against Jacksonville.

Yates: Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets. It used to be that facing the Broncos’ defense was a nonstarter for any borderline fantasy players, but the Denver defense has simply not been as dominant of late while Kearse has been red-hot. He has more than 100 yards in each game and 16 total catches in the past two weeks. His quarterback, Josh McCown, has been really, really good this season.

Who’s the one noncontender no team wants to play in the last four games?

Graziano: The Cowboys, and I’m speaking specifically to the two contenders the Cowboys will face in the final two weeks of the season. Ezekiel Elliott will return from suspension in Week 16, when the Cowboys host the Seahawks, and that will make them awfully tough to play for a Seattle team that could be fighting for its playoff chances. The Cowboys play the Eagles in Week 17, and while Philly obviously has the NFC East all but wrapped up, the Eagles could need that game for seeding, and having Elliott on the field will make Dallas awfully tough.

Kimes: The Bengals, and not just because of the brutal display we saw on Monday night. Despite having a losing record, Cincinnati has a better point differential than ostensible contenders like Oakland and Green Bay. The Bengals are a tough out.

Schatz: The Bengals. Really it depends on if you consider the Elliott-return Cowboys (Weeks 16-17) or the Rodgers-return Packers (Weeks 15-17) “contenders” or not. Otherwise, Cincinnati is the best “noncontender” in the NFL right now according to Football Outsiders DVOA ratings.

Sando: The Dolphins, because they’ve been putting the hurt on opposing quarterbacks, win or lose. Miami roughed up Tom Brady two weeks ago and really got after Trevor Siemian last week. Even if the Patriots win big at Miami in Week 14, there’s a good chance Brady will emerge with more bumps and bruises than usual.

Yates: The Jets are a terrific story, posting five wins already this season. And they’ve been competitive in virtually every game this year. Since Week 3, the Jets are 5-5, though all five of those losses came by a one-score margin. Head coach Todd Bowles, his staff and the entire roster deserve loads of credit.



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