By Eric Schmidt

The NFL has entered it’s final month of the regular season. Playoff races are heating up, especially in the NFC, where several teams are trying to position themselves for a wildcard seed. For the first time this season, weather will play a large role in the majority of games played this weekend. With heavy rain forecast and even heavy snowfall impacting one contest, several games should be low scoring affairs this afternoon.

Let’s take a look at the NFL Week 14 Against the Spread picks and predictions-

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins -2.5 47.5

Rookie QB Robert Griffin III has the Redskins poised for a possible playoff run. The Ravens are coming off a tough loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Charlie Batch last week. Baltimore is fighting for the outside shot at a first round bye in the playoffs. Look for a heavy dose of RB Ray Rice this week after he just touched the ball 12 times last week. Baltimore 27-23

Kansas City Chiefs at Cleveland Browns -7 38

The Chiefs are coming off an emotional win last week. After losing five straight to start the season, Cleveland has rebounded with four wins in their last seven games. Heavy rain, poor quarterback play by the Chiefs as well as a tough Browns defense at home spells a Cleveland victory. Browns 23-13

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers -8 40

The Steelers should have Ben Roethlisberger back under center this week. THe Chargers are simply mailing it in for the remainder of the season as reports surfaced this week of the impending firing of head coach Norv Turner. Look for Pittsburgh to get a life from Roethlisberger’s return. Steelers 24-16

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts -5 46.5

The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL this season and find themselves in the mix for a wildcard berth. The Titans have a below average offense and a defensive unit that ranks near the bottom of the NFL. Colts 23-16

New York Jets at Jacksonville Jaguars +3 38

Journeyman QB Chad Henne might have given the Jaguars offense a bump in recent weeks, but he should struggle against the Jets fourth ranked pass defense. The Jaguars will be without the services of their hottest receiver this week, Cecil Shorts. Jets 20-9

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings +3 39

The Bears held a grip on the NFC North division at the start of the season but after losing three of their last four and with mounting injuries find themselves battling for a playoff spot. The Bears will be without LB Brian Urlacher this week and have struggled against the run in recent weeks. Adrian Peterson is running in beast mode and has the NFL world amazed at his speedy recovery from a horrific knee injury last season. Upset pick of the Week: Vikings 20-17 OT.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers +3.5

The Atlanta Falcons have a commanding 11-1 overall record but head coach Mike Smith has to do his best to avoid complacency down the stretch. Atlanta struggled against the Panthers in the Georgia Dome earlier this season. Panthers QB Cam Newton has improved his play in recent weeks, throwing six touchdowns and no interceptions in the last three weeks. Falcons 31-30

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers -7.5 48

Jon Gruden returns to the sidelines this week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No, not as the head coach but as part of a ceremony to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Buccaneers only Super Bowl title.  The Philadelphia Eagles are a mess currently with the Philadelphia Phillies have won a game more recently than the Eagles. In reality, the Eagles are four points away from being a winless team this season. Look for the Buccaneers offense to get a jolt this afternoon. DB Ronde Barber loves to play against the Eagles. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him record a defensive score this afternoon.Buccaneers 31-16

St. Louis Rams at Buffalo Bills -3 42.5

The Buffalo Bills have been one of the biggest disappointments this season. The Bills invested an enormous amount of money in a defensive line which has underachieved all season. A trendy playoff team pick at the start of the season, Buffalo is now just hoping to reach .500 on the season. Bills 23-17

Dallas Cowboys at Cincinnati Bengals -3.5 46

The Cowboys take the field today after learning that DL Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident while teammate LB Josh Brent was driving drunk. Brent remains in jail on intoxicated manslaughter chargers. Another distraction for a team which has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. The Bengals are one of the hottest teams in the league currently as they try to make a late season playoff push. Bengals 31-23

Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers -11 39

The 49ers nearly played the St. Louis Rams to their second tie of the season last week. Second-year QB Colin Kaepernick struggled, re-igniting debate as to whether Alex Smith should be the teams starting quarterback. Miami will be without OL Jake Long and Niners LB Aldon Smith should make it a long afternoon for rookie QB Ryan Tannehill. 49ers 26-9

New Orleans Saints at New York Giants -4.5 53

The Giants are in their typical late season malaise and find themselves now having to hold of divisional opponents while defending their NFC East title. The forecast of heavy rain should slow down both team’s passing attack. Giants 23-20

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks -10 36

Under the leadership of rookie QB Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks are right in the playoff mix. Seattle has yet to lose a game at home this season and against the Cardinals, that trend should continue. Seahawks 23-9

Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers -6.5 48.5

In what will be the first “snow game” in the NFL this season, the Lions come to Green Bay, not having won a game at Lambeau Field since 1991. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is a better bad weather quarterback and the Packers march towards the playoffs continues. Packers 27-16

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