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Johnny Manziel Won’t Start & Other Things To Know About NFL Week 14

Johnny Manziel
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All NFL playoff spots are still available as the league heads into its final four weeks of the 2014 season. Here’s a preview of Week 14’s most interesting storylines:

The AFC North Is The Bengals’ To Lose

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati | Paul Brown Stadium; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Andy Dalton
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After winning three straight games, Cincinnati (8-3-1) controls its own fate in the tight AFC North race. The Bengals face the Steelers twice in the last four weeks, meaning both games are crucial for both teams. Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton must be more consistent for his team to capture its second straight division title (and for fans and fantasy owners to stop calling for his head).

Pittsburgh (7-5) has played very well against good teams, yet they have lost to the terrible Bucs, Jets and Saints. The Steelers need Le’Veon Bell to exploit the Bengals’ suspect rushing defense — and keep the leaky Pittsburgh secondary off the field.

Brian Hoyer Will Start, But Johnny Manziel Is The Browns’ Future

Indianapolis at Cleveland | FirstEnergy Stadium; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Johnny Manziel
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The Browns are at a crossroads. Cleveland (7-5) is one of a dozen AFC teams very much alive for the conference’s six playoff berths, but is Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel the best quarterback to get them into the postseason? Well, while Hoyer is the safer choice and will start this week, Manziel is the future of the franchise.

Because they are in position to make the playoffs, the Browns are taking the safe route. However, Cleveland didn’t draft Manziel in the first round thinking he’d never make an impact. He may not guarantee the Browns anything but headlines, but the team deserves a few of those after its terrible recent history. Regardless, Indianapolis (8-4) has a weak secondary, which has already been victimized often this season. If Hoyer falters, expect a quick hook in favor of Johnny Football.

The Eagles-Seahawks Game Is Pivotal

Seattle at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox

Marshawn Lynch
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Philadelphia (9-3) has been one of the NFC’s strongest teams, but the Eagles have lost to the Niners, Cardinals and Packers. If Seattle (8-4) continues its recent dominant streak with a road win this Sunday, Philly’s few defeats might cost them a playoff bye or home field advantage.

The Seahawks will likely use running back Marsahwn Lynch to attack the Eagles’ defense — and keep Chip Kelly’s offense on the sidelines. Still, Philadelphia is undefeated at home this season, and West Coast teams don’t fare well when they play on Eastern Standard Time.

Jim Harbaugh Comes Back To Oakland. Hmmm.

San Francisco at Oakland | O.co Coliseum; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox

Jim Harbaugh
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San Francisco (7-5) gets a much-needed break this week. The Niners head across the bay to face dismal Oakland (1-11), which couldn’t have looked worse in a 52-0 loss to the Rams last week. The embarrassing rout underlined that Raiders’ interim head coach Tony Sparano isn’t the long-term answer for the ever-struggling AFC franchise.

How about Jim Harbaugh? Reports indicate that he could be out of San Francisco at the end of the season. Harbaugh was the quarterbacks coach in Oakland in 2002 and 2003, the last time the Raiders were great. Given the mess the Silver & Black have become, Harbaugh would be better off practically anywhere else. If he likes a challenge, there may not be a bigger one in the NFL.

The Chargers Can Prove They Are Contenders

New England at San Diego | Qualcomm Stadium; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Philip Rivers
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The Chargers are a game ahead of a crowded field of 7-5 teams in the AFC — and a game behind the powerful Broncos in the West. San Diego (8-4) doesn’t get much respect in its division or its conference. Heck, quarterback Philip Rivers is among the league’s best-rated passers and he’s never mentioned among the elite at his position.

If Rivers and the Chargers want to step up to the next level, they need to beat New England (9-3) at home this week. Fresh off a tough road loss to the Packers last week, the Patriots might be vulnerable enough for San Diego to pick up a signature win. It’s easier said than done, though; Pats’ QB Tom Brady shows up for every game expecting to win.

Other Games

Thursday, Dec. 4
Dallas at Chicago | Soldier Field; 8:25 p.m. on NFL Network

Sunday, Dec. 7
Carolina at New Orleans | Mercedes-Benz Superdome; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
St. Louis at Washington | FedEx Field; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
NY Giants at Tennessee | LP Field; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
NY Jets at Minnesota | TCF Bank Stadium; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Baltimore at Miami | Sun Life Stadium; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Tampa Bay at Detroit | Ford Field; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Houston at Jacksonville | EverBank Field; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Buffalo at Denver | Sports Authority Field at Mile High; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Kansas City at Arizona | U of Phoenix Stadium; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Monday, Dec. 8
Atlanta at Green Bay | Lambeau Field; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

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