NFL Week 14 Recap: Battles to come in AFC, NFC South?

nfl week 14 recap

It had been a wild NFL season heading into Week 14, but after a weekend where Brock Purdy and the 49ers dominated Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, it feels like almost anything could happen the rest of the way.

Granted, the 49ers have been the markedly better team throughout the season, but the quarterback who was Mr. Irrelevant in the most recent NFL Draft besting the GOAT? Purdy did it in memorable fashion, accounting for three total touchdowns in an efficient 16 of 21 performance, and while the 49ers lost Deebo Samuel to what appeared to be a serious knee injury, Sunday was a strong indication that San Francisco will still be a factor come playoff time even after the loss of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Sunday’s outcomes opened a variety of other possibilities: Tampa Bay’s loss, which came ahead of a matchup with Cincinnati, opens up the NFC South to the field, Jacksonville’s decisive victory over Tennessee creates the possibility that their Week 18 matchup is for the AFC South, and losses by the Giants, Seahawks, Dolphins, and Jets opened the door for an improbable December Wild Card run on either side of the bracket.

We’ll get into the DraftKings odds for all of this, but before we do, be sure to sign up for The Oracle’s picks today! College Bowl Season starts up this Friday, and with the NHL and NBA in swing, you’ll get plenty of action to supplement your NFL picks! Now, on to the fallout from Sunday.

Battles in the South?

Tampa Bay didn’t just lose on Sunday – they looked terrible doing it.

The Buccaneers are now 6-7, one game ahead of the Panthers and Falcons, and two ahead of the Saints. With a -30 point differential through 13 games, it’s become almost impossible to imagine that Tom Brady’s latest magical run is ahead of him.

The Bucs get the Bengals this week, while the Panthers play a winnable game against a Steelers team that could be starting Mitchell Trubisky, who threw three picks in a relief performance Sunday, and the Falcons and Saints face off against each other. Last week’s Giants-Commanders game was the latest reminder nobody has to win that game, but regardless of the outcome, Tampa Bay will be hurting if they lose to Cincinnati. Their best-case scenario is that three teams are a game behind them, and the worst-case is they end the weekend in a three-way tie.

Tampa Bay is -300 to win the NFC South on DraftKings, with Carolina at +350, the Falcons at +1200, and the Saints at +3000. The fact that Atlanta is starting rookie Desmond Ridder for the first time this week plays into the gap between Carolina and Atlanta, as does the fact that the Panthers are picking up steam after winning three of their last four. It might be fool’s gold to predict a Sam Darnold-led playoff run after the way Carolina unraveled last season, but the Buccaneers are no longer the same team, while the Panthers seem to have found a formula for their roster. With a matchup between the Panthers and Buccaneers remaining and arguments on either side for strength of schedule, it’s worth taking Carolina at +350 for the NFC South if you like them to win the game in Tampa Bay.

A battle in the AFC South is a longer shot to happen, but Jacksonville opened the door to run down Tennessee on Sunday. The Jaguars face the Cowboys, Jets, and Texans before their Week 18 matchup with the Titans, while Tennessee faces the Chargers, Texans, and Cowboys. Jacksonville needs to make up a game in that stretch for the Week 18 matchup to count, but with the way the Titans are fading, it’s not out of the question.

As of now, the AFC South is off the board at DraftKings, but the Jaguars are +350 to make the playoffs. They could do that as a Wild Card, but if you’re banking on the Titans to finish 1-3, you’ll want to target Jacksonville as the AFC South winner if you can find odds in the +450 to +500 range.

Seahawks, Giants, Commanders Unraveling?

We could add the Vikings to this list, but with ten wins banked, the Vikings are going to the NFL Playoffs.

The Seahawks, Giants, and Commanders, who all have seven wins, may not be as lucky. The Giants and Commanders also have a tie, which would put them into the sixth and seventh NFC seeds over Seattle, but there’s a lot that could change in the season’s final four weeks.

Seattle plays the 49ers and Chiefs in the next two weeks, a stretch that is likely to leave them at 7-8. Washington and New York face off again this week, so one of them will probably get an eighth win, but then the Commanders finish with the 49ers, Browns, and Cowboys, while the Giants get the Vikings, Colts, and Eagles. The Commanders might be favored against the Browns if Deshaun Watson can’t get the Cleveland offense going, and if the Giants get a Gardner Minshew-led Eagles in Week 18, they won’t face a juggernaut, but both teams also seem more than capable of losing three of their last four to close the season.

If that happens, the door opens up for the Lions, Packers, and perhaps the Cardinals, pending the results of tonight’s Arizona-New England game. That would be unwelcome news for the current teams atop the NFC pecking order, because while the Seahawks, Giants, and Commanders all have the arrow pointed down, Detroit, Green Bay, and Arizona are all on the verge of getting their full complement of players back on offense, and if any of them finish hot, they will be a less welcome opponent than Seattle, New York, or Washington.

The Packers are +900 to make the playoffs, while the Lions are +300. With Detroit needing to win three of four against the Jets, Panthers, Bears, and Packers to make it in, the +300 odds on the Lions to make the playoffs are looking like a solid bet. And if you like the Packers, who are down to +900 after opening the weekend with some predictions putting their playoff odds at 5%, the time to bet is now, not after Green Bay plays the Baker Mayfield-led Rams or the fading Miami Dolphins.

Losses by Dolphins, Jets Open Up AFC Wild Card

Ankle or no, it’s difficult to explain what has happened to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa over the last two weeks.

Heading into their matchup with the 49ers, the Dolphins were 8-0 in games where Tagovailoa finished as their leading passer, and the third-year quarterback was making a case in the MVP conversation. Tagovailoa was certainly affected by the San Francisco pass rush at times, but that was far from the full story – Tua was consistently missing wide-open receivers down the field throughout the game. On any other day for Tagovailoa this season, Miami probably would have hung at least 30 on the 49ers’ defense.

Then Sunday Night happened. In some ways, Tagovailoa’s ball placement wasn’t as bad as it was a week before, but the Chargers did a good job of contesting Miami’s routes over the middle of the field, and a combination of misses, breakups, and drops led to a 3/15 first half. Things seemed like they couldn’t get worse, though they did, as Tagovailoa missed his first two passes of the second half to bottom out at 3/17 for 15 yards before he mercifully hit Tyreek Hill on a sixty-yard bomb for a touchdown to get something going after their only “successful” offense play when a Jeff Wilson fumble squirted out of the pile to Hill, who was in the open field and able to go into punt return mode after his recovery.

This performance from Miami came against a Chargers defense that has struggled to stop, or even slow, the vast majority of opponents this season, so not only does it open the door for the Chargers or Patriots to reel in the Dolphins, it creates all sorts of questions about what the heck Miami is going to get on offense next week in a visit to Buffalo. With the field closing fast, the Dolphins, who are currently 7.5-point underdogs in next week’s contest, need to get things back in gear quickly, or their phenomenal start to the season is going to be a distant memory when the offseason rolls around.

The Chargers, who hold the 7th seed over the Jets by tiebreaker, are now -200 to make the playoffs, while the 6th-seeded Dolphins are -300. The seven-win Jets are +140, the six-win (pending Monday Night) Patriots +275, and the Jaguars at the head of the four 5-win teams at +350. Given the injuries Jets quarterback Mike White battled through on Sunday, and New England’s dismal performance against Buffalo, the Chargers are looking like the soundest bet. Los Angeles has fooled us before, but Justin Herbert was rolling last night, and the Chargers finish with the Titans, Colts, Rams, and Broncos, as manageable a slate as there is in the NFL.

What’s Next

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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.