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(AP Photo/Tim Sharp) Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs will hope to be celebrating a win over New England Patriots this weekend.
Thursday morning quarter back: expect the Bears to maul Patriots
Steven O’Rourke straps on a helmet and pads up for his first NFL preview column. Hut!

Steven O’Rourke begins his weekly column previewing the best gridiron action. If you don’t know what that sentence means, read the dummies’ guide he published yesterday.

WEEK 14 IN the NFL sees an incredible 22 teams remain in the hunt for the playoffs.

While only four teams, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons, can secure their playoff spot this weekend, a loss could see any number of teams left with nothing but dead rubbers for the rest of December.

Key games:

New England Patriots (Wins: 10-Losses: 2) @ Chicago Bears (9-3)

There is a chance that these teams will meet again in the Super Bowl so this game at Soldier Field will give them a chance to evaluate the opposition.

The Patriots, Tom Brady in particular, looked unplayable when they destroyed their divisional rivals the New York Jets on Monday (watch highlights here).

However, they lost to the hapless Cleveland Browns only last month so it depends on whether it’s Brady ‘the hair’ or Brady the quarter back that turns up.

The Bears still can’t seem to protect their QB Jay Cutler properly but should expect the outstanding Devin Hester to turn up the heat on the Patriots special team unit coming off a difficult run of games.

Result: While a win for the Patriots will see them reach the playoffs, a couple of big plays from Hester should see the Bears win this by 3-6 points.

Kansas City Chiefs (8-4) @ San Diego Chargers (6-6)

A win against their AFC West rivals will see the Chiefs take a massive step towards securing a playoff spot. While QB Matt Cassel had surgery to remove his appendix earlier this week he is still expected to play. The procedure has to impact his performance though.

The Chargers will want to bounce back from their second loss to the Oakland Raiders this season. Phillip Rivers is undoubtedly a candidate for the most valuable player (MVP) in the NFL this season and he knows his team must win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

Result: The Chargers are usually flawless at this time of year so should recover from the upset against the Raiders last week. Expect the Chiefs to lose by 6-9 points.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6) @ San Francisco 49ers (4-8)

Despite a breakdown in their relationship earlier this season, 49ers coach Mike Singletary is expected to reinstate Alex Smith at QB as he returns from a shoulder injury.

Despite losing double the number of games they’ve won, the 49ers could still win the NFC West.

The Seahawks come into this game tied for the lead of that division but have blown hot and cold this season. The availability of wider receiver (WR) Mike Williams, recovering from an ankle injury, will have a big impact on the result of this game.

Result: If it was possible, both teams would lose this game. While it could go to overtime (like extra time in football), the Seahawks will probably just sneak it by 3-6 points.

Other Games and predicted winners:

Indianapolis Colts (6-6) @ Tennessee Titans (5-7) – Colts

Cleveland Browns (5-7) @ Buffalo Bills (2-10) – Bills

Atlanta Falcons (10-2) @ Carolina Panthers (1-11) – Falcons

Cincinnati Bengals (2-10) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (9-3) – Steelers

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5) @ Washington Redskins (5-7) – Buccaneers

Green Bay Packers (8-4) @ Detroit Lions (2-10) – Packers

New York Giants (8-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (5-7) – Giants

Oakland Raiders (6-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (7-5) – Jaguars

St Louis Rams (6-6) @ New Orleans Saints (9-3) – Saints

Miami Dolphins (6-6) @ New York Jets (9-3) – Jets

Denver Broncos (3-9) @ Arizona Cardinals (3-9) – Broncos

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (4-8) – Eagles

Baltimore Ravens (8-4) @ Houston Texans (5-7) – Texans

Steven O’Rourke is the offensive coordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club. When not obsessing with football he can be found at 4fortyfour.