Panthers, Saints Battling for Playoff Positioning As NFL Regular Season Winds Down

Cam NewtonSome of the premier playoff spots are on the line this week, as a number of tiebreakers could be solved.

The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints will meet twice over the final four weeks, which should determine who’ll win the NFC South, while in the AFC, we’ll see the Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals duke it out for the No. 3 seed. Those are two of the best games to watch and bet on this week.

Top Three Must-See Games of the Week:

1. Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

The best game of Week 14 is the one that the NFL flexed to Sunday night in order to offer an even bigger showcase for the NFC South. The Panthers and Saints are both 9-3, and this will be the first of two remaining meetings that will decide the division champion and the team that will get the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs behind the likely top-seeded Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers rely on their defense to win games, but they have a dynamic quarterback in Cam Newton who is not making the big mistakes that have hurt this team in the past. The Saints have yet to lose at home this season, and they’ll need keep that up if they want to secure home-field advantage in the playoffs. They are favored to win by 3 1/2 points.

2. Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers

While the Seahawks sit atop the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers are desperately fighting for a playoff spot. They’re in the lead for the sixth and final spot, but they’re only one game ahead of Arizona and Philadelphia in that competition. The 49ers need to prove themselves against the high-flying Seahawks. This is the game in which San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has to re-establish himself as the same player that flourished in the playoffs last January. In three career outings against Seattle, Kaepernick has a 47.1 quarterback rating with one touchdown and four interceptions, and he’s averaging just 123.7 passing yards per game. Bovada has the 49ers as a three-point favorite.

3. Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals

This is a contest in which the winner will very likely get the third seed in the AFC playoffs and avoid having to face fifth-seeded Kansas City in the wild-card round. Let’s face it: the Chiefs are pretty good, and the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs is likely to be 8-8 or 9-7 at best. The Bengals have defeated the New England Patriots this season, so if they can beat Indy, they would be just one game behind the Patriots in the race for the second seed in the AFC. Home-field advantage would be huge for the Bengals, who are undefeated at Paul Brown Stadium this season. As for the Colts, they are 2-2 in their last four games, with both wins coming against Tennessee. Their two losses — to Arizona and St. Louis — were by a combined score of 78-19.

The Biggest Underdog With a Reasonable Chance to Win is the… St. Louis Rams

The biggest underdog that might be able to win on Sunday is the St. Louis Rams when they visit the Arizona Cardinals. The Rams are a seven-point dog at Bovada this week. Yes, Arizona has turned in a very solid season, but the Cardinals still have an offense with no real threat at running back and an immobile quarterback in Carson Palmer. The Rams feed off their defense, and if they can muzzle the Cards and force a couple of turnovers, they’ll have an excellent shot to win this game.

The Best Suicide Pool Pick of the Week is the… Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens have been solid at home this season (5-1) and this week will host the Minnesota Vikings, who only have one road win. The Vikings are an indoor team going outdoors and will likely have to start backup quarterback Matt Cassel. The Ravens need this game to protect their playoff positioning and should take care of business.

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