AFC North Week 14 Predictions

AFC North Week 14 Predictions
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Welcome to the AFC North predictions page!

Each week, one of our AFC North feature writers will list their picks for that week and be forced to explain why they voted as they did. Keep in mind that these picks are for entertainment purposes only, and in no way should be used to influence gambling or illegal activity, unless you’re smart enough to recognize that we know more than you because we publish things.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) @ Cincinnati Bengals (9-3-1)
December 7th, 2014 1:00pm CBS

In the biggest intra-divisional battle to date, this is nearly a  must-win for the Steelers’ playoff hopes (a loss would most likely leave them 4th or 5th out of eight teams battling for the two wildcard berths), and almost as important to the Bengals as their schedule does not get any easier.

What to watch:

Steelers defensive line: The Steelers know it’s imperative to pressure Andy Dalton and the Bengals running backs, and it starts with their makeshift defensive line that is regrouping after the loss of emotional and physical leader Brett Keisel. Its time for the Steelers youth to step up and prove their worth to the team. The Bengals will most likely counter early with a heavy dose of handoffs setting up big plays down the field.

Bengals wide receivers: The Bengals defense has been the difference in each of their three straight victories heading into this meeting (all on the road), giving up just 12 points a game. Andy Dalton is normally the person to watch when it comes to the Bengals success, or lack of, but Dalton’s issues generally start with poor wide receiver play, whether its a bad route or a dropped pass. Dalton needs to have a short memory and quickly move past these mistakes, but the receivers also have to do their part. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau will most likely scheme to disrupt their routes to force mistakes.

Bottom line:

Both teams have been inconsistent this season, but the Bengals always seem to do just enough to win. The Steelers have also struggled on the road this year . Bengals 27-24

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) @ Miami Dolphins (7-5)
December 7th, 2014 1:00pm CBS

The Ravens travel to Miami in a must-win game for both teams. The loser can just about book their winter vacation as Miami’s next game is in Foxboro, and the Ravens won’t match anyone in a head-to-head tiebreaker, leaving them essentially two games out with three to play.

What to watch:

Ravens pass rush: This game could be eerily similar to last week’s against the Chargers. If the Ravens don’t get pressure on QB Ryan Tannehill, he will dink and dunk on the Ravens weak secondary, running extended and time consuming drives. Tannehill is extremely mobile and  efficient, completing passes at well over a 70% clip in his last nine games. The Dolphins offensive line has been vulnerable, but Tannehill’s mobility has bailed them out often this season. It’s up to the Ravens end pass rushers to earn their money when it counts.

Justin Forsett: If the Ravens want to counter long methodical drives with their own, the running game will be key, starting with Justin Forsett. Miami is strong against the pass, but challenged against the run as the Jets proved last week when they ran for 277 yards at a staggering 5.7 yards per attempt without any threat of a passing attack.

Dolphins pass rush: The easiest way to beat the Ravens is to throw QB Joe Flacco off of his game with quick pressure up the middle while setting the edge. Flacco will most likely be under center, as he is among, if not at the bottom in shotgun snaps, lessening his time to react (although it gives him more offensive options when pressure presents itself). Miami ranks 7th in sacks, led by Cameron Wake..

Bottom line:

Miami is vulnerable to the run, and the Ravens are vulnerable to accurate quarterbacks. Expect a limited number of drives for both teams, so they will have to make the most of them when in the red zone. Ravens 23-20.

Indianapolis (8-4) @ Cleveland Browns (7-5) 
December 7th, 2014 1:00pm CBS

The Browns welcome Indy to their own must-win party in Cleveland.  Similar to the Ravens, they would essentially be two games out with three to play, as they have their own tiebreaker issues with the added bonus of playing a more difficult schedule.

What to watch:

Brian Hoyer: Fair or unfair, all eyes will be on the Browns quarterback, who will most likely be on a short leash after getting pulled last week. If that wasn’t enough pressure, Hoyer will be facing a team ranked 5th in quarterback sacks. Indy does give up some plays through the air, and Hoyer will need to take advantage of the openings if he wants to stay on the field.

Browns running game: Although Indy is basically a top 10 run defense in terms of yards, they are 29th in yards per carry. The Browns will need to take advantage of this matchup early and often to lessen the pressure on their quarterback. Running Back Isaiah Crowell says he will play Sunday, and he and Terrance West will not only have to run well, but also play mistake-free and hold onto the ball.

Browns defensive backfield: Quarterback Andrew Luck is going to get his yards, but its up to the Browns DBs to limit his yards per attempt by keeping receivers within reach. If Luck isn’t making the big plays, the Browns offense won’t have to score 30 to get a win. If they can also manage an interception or two (Luck has 11 this season), they have a good shot at winning this one, especially at home.

Bottom line:

A quarterback controversy is never a good thing for the psyche of the starter, especially when facing a fast reputable pass rush.  Indy 31-21

Author’s picks:

Writer Game Score
Ravenous128 Steelers @ Bengals Bengals 21-17
Ravens @ Dolphins Dolphins 28-16
Indy @ Browns Indy 35-21
Peatwo Steelers @ Bengals Bengals 27-24
Ravens @ Dolphins Ravens 23-20
Indy @ Browns Indy 31-21
DOOOMMEEEEDD Steelers @ Bengals Steelers 31-27
Ravens @ Dolphins Dolphins 24-20
Indy @ Browns Indy 26-17



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