Week 14 of the 2011 NFL season kicks off Thursday evening with the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. For the San Francisco 49ers, the action gets going on Sunday as they travel to Arizona to face the 5-7 Cardinals. The 49ers are favored and looking to improve to 11-2 as they try and secure the number two seed and accompanying first round bye.
The 49ers cannot clinch this weekend, but they are in a position to put some space between themselves and the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints. Although the Cowboys are technically still alive, trailing by three games with four to go is not exactly an ideal situation. It basically comes down to San Francisco and New Orleans.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals: The 49ers are four point favorites in their rematch following the 49ers 23-7 victory in San Francisco three weeks ago. This game features two significant changes from that first game. QB Kevin Kolb is back in the lineup for the Cardinals and 49ers LB Patrick Willis will likely sit this one out with a hamstring strain. Crazy things can happen in Arizona, but I think the 49ers will be able to take care of business against the Cardinals questionable offense. PICK: 49ers
New Orleans Saints @ Tennessee Titans: The Saints have been on a roll lately, but they have found more success at home than on the road. The Titans are an inconsistent team, although they have won two straight against Tampa Bay and Buffalo. The Saints are a big step up, but my gut says there is an upset in this game. This probably means the Saints win by 40, but I'll go with my gut. PICK: Saints
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys do still have a very outside shot at getting the number two seed. They host the Giants in the first of two monster divisional games between these two rivals. The Cowboys were stunned in Arizona after rolling off four straight wins. While they are 7-5, their only quality win came against the 49ers. Nonetheless, I don't think the Giants can bring the needed consistency on the road. I think Eli makes a mistake that costs his team. PICK: Cowboys
St. Louis Rams @ Seattle Seahawks: This has no bearing on the two seed, but does have bearing on the worst Monday Night Football matchup in quite some time. The league cannot flex MNF games, so we're stuck with a game based on to 7-9 teams from a year ago. The Seahawks are actually playing some solid football lately and have a very outside shot at the wild card. PICK: Seahawks