NFL picks, Week 14: Never underestimate Aaron Rodgers’ healing powers

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Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers celebrates after overtime of an NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 26-20. | Mike Roemer/AP

The Packers aren’t dead yet.

When Aaron Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone against the Vikings in Week 6, nobody doubted he could return, but it didn’t seem that likely. In 2013, when Rodgers broke his collarbone on a sack by the Bears’ Shea McClellin, it was on the left side. This time it was his right shoulder that was injured.

But you can never underestimate the healing powers and indomitable spirit of Rodgers. Sure enough, his return appears imminent after he participated in practice — albeit as a scout-team player — for the first time this week. And of course, the reports were glowing.

BEST BET

Packers at Browns

Time: Noon. Line: Packers by 3. Total: 40½.

Records (overall/ATS): Packers 6-6/6-6; Browns 0-12/3-9.

‘‘He looks like himself,’’ wide receiver Jordy Nelson told reporters in Green Bay this week.

Rodgers still has to be cleared for contact. But with four weeks to go, it appears likely he’ll return this season, perhaps as early as next week against the Panthers.

That bit of good news is likely to boost the Packers even without Rodgers this week against the winless Browns. In 2013, as the possibility of a Rodgers return became real, the Packers surged, beating the Falcons and Cowboys before losing late to the Steelers in Week 16. Rodgers returned in Week 17 and beat the Bears.

The catch is that even with Rodgers, the Packers face an uphill climb to make the playoffs with the Seahawks (8-4), Panthers (8-4) and Falcons (7-5) all ahead of them. But for now, the prospect of Rodgers returning gives the Packers an emotional lift, that should pay off against a winless team.

Pick: Packers 24, Browns 10.

Bears pick

Bears at Bengals

  • Time: Noon, Fox-32.
  • Line: Bengals by 6. Total: 37½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Bears 3-9/5-6; Bengals 5-7/7-5.
  • Outlook: Bears are motivated with John Fox on the hot seat following a loss to the lowly 49ers. Bengals are on a short week with a tough recovery from an typically emotional and physical game vs. rival Steelers on ‘‘MNF.’’
  • Pick: Bengals 27, Bears 10.

Top plays

49ers at Texans

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Texans by 3.
  • Total: 43½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): 49ers 2-10/6-6; Texans 4-8/7-5.
  • Outlook: Even without producing a touchdown, Jimmy Garoppolo was stellar in his Niners debut vs. a good Bears defense. Though the 49ers are 2-10, they’re actually pretty competitive vs. mediocre teams. Jimmy G makes the difference here.
  • Pick: 49ers 18, Texans 17.

Cowboys at Giants

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Cowboys by 4.
  • Total: 41½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Cowboys 6-6/6-6; Giants 2-10/5-7.
  • Outlook: After a tumultuous week, Giants figure to get a huge emotional boost from the return of Eli Manning to his rightful place as the starting quarterback. That’s a storyline that sounds great on paper, but is unlikely to ensue on the actual field of play.
  • Pick: Cowboys 31, Giants 17.

Eagles at Rams

  • Time: 3:25 p.m., Fox-32.
  • Line: Rams by 2½.
  • Total: 48.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Eagles 10-2/9-3;Rams 9-3/8-4.
  • Outlook: Believe it or not the Rams have the No. 1 seed in the NFC in their sights here. But just as the Rams bounced back from a loss to the Vikings with a win over the Saints, the Eagles figure to respond here after losing to the Seahawks in Seattle last week.
  • Pick: Eagles 27, Rams 17.

Rest of Week 14 games

Lions at Buccaneers

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: OFF. Total: OFF.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Lions 6-6/5-6-1; Buccaneers 4-8/3-8-1.
  • Outlook: Matt Stafford’s status in doubt after his throwing hand was stepped on last week. With the Lions’ playoff hopes on the line, Stafford — who has started 111 straight games — likely to play, but how good will he be?
  • Pick: Buccaneers 19, Lions 16.

Raiders at Chiefs

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Chiefs by 4. Total: 47½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Raiders 6-6/4-7-1; Chiefs 6-6/6-6.
  • Outlook: Chiefs problems continue, with CB Marcus Peters suspended by coach Andy Reid for throwing a penalty flag into the stands. It’ll be tough for the Chiefs to win with Peters out.
  • Pick: Raiders 27, Chiefs 23.

Vikings at Panthers

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: Vikings 3. Total: 41.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Vikings 10-2/9-3; Panthers 8-4/7-5.
  • Outlook: Vikings have won eight straight (7-1 ATS), but could hit a speed bump here against a quality Panthers team that needs it more.
  • Pick: Panthers 18, Vikings 13.

Colts at Bills

  • Time: Noon.
  • Line: OFF. Total: OFF.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Colts 3-9/6-6; Bills 6-6/6-5-1.
  • Outlook: With Tyrod Taylor banged up, Bills could turn back to rookie Nathan Peterman. But their hot-and-cold defense will make the difference against the struggling Colts.
  • Pick: Bills 20, Colts 13.

Jets at Broncos

  • Time: 3:05 p.m.
  • Line: Jets by 1. Total: 41½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Jets 5-7/7-4-1; Broncos 3-9/2-9-1.
  • Outlook: Former Bears QB Josh McCown has a 101.2 rating (18 TDs, 6 INTs) since the Jets’ opener.
  • Pick: McCown 24, Broncos 17.

Titans at Cardinals

  • Time: 3:05 p.m.
  • Line: Titans by 3. Total: 44.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Titans 8-4/5-6-1; Cardinals 5-7/3-8-1.
  • Outlook: Cardinals’ injury-riddled season continues with RB Adrian Peterson (neck) likely out again.
  • Pick: Titans 24, Cardinals 23.

Redskins at Chargers

  • Time: 3:05 p.m., Ch. 2.
  • Line: Chargers by 6. Total: 46.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Redskins 5-7/5-7; Chargers 6-6/6-5-1.
  • Outlook: After finishing last in the AFC West last year, Chargers patiently waited for everyone else to get worse.
  • Pick: Chargers 34, Redskins 24.

Seahawks at Jaguars

  • Time: 3:25 p.m.
  • Line: Jaguars -2½. Total: 40.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Seahawks 8-4/5-6-1; Jaguars 8-4/7-5.
  • Outlook: Upstart Jaguars are one of the few rags-to-riches teams to surge without stellar QB play.
  • Pick: Seahawks 23, Jaguars 17.

Ravens at Steelers

  • Time: 7:30 p.m., Ch. 5.
  • Line: Steelers by 5. Total: 44.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Ravens 7-5/6-5-1; Steelers 10-2/6-6.
  • Outlook: Steelers usually rise to the occasion, but vs. another rival, on a short week after an emotional game …
  • Pick: Steelers 17, Ravens 14.

Patriots at Dolphins

  • Time: 7:30 p.m. Monday, ESPN.
  • Line: Patriots by 11. Total: 47½.
  • Records (overall/ATS): Patriots 10-2/8-4; Dolphins 5-7/4-6-2.
  • Outlook: Patriots have allowed 11.9 points per game in their eight-game winning streak.
  • Pick: Patriots 27, Dolphins 13.

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