2016 NFL Week 14 Bettor’s Guide (Audio Embedded)
Sometimes, you just need to go with your gut and make picks based upon your assessments and run with it. We failed to do this in Week 13, and paid the price as a result. We figured the Broncos would be in a low-scoring dogfight with the Jaguars, particularly with Paxton Lynch in for Trevor Siemian, and the game pretty much went as expected. We fully believed the Chiefs would beat the Falcons on the road, and although it required a good bit of serendipity to pull it off, this wasn’t exactly a surreptitious claim, given that the Chiefs have shown to be clutch all season. We THOUGHT the Lions would keep it close in New Orleans, but in the gut, we believed they were actually going to win, but did not handicap it as such.
The point spread in the Giants/Steelers game was a red flag that there was going to be some subterfuge in that game, and it was. Consequently, we did not handicap that game with that in mind, and we missed.
Week 14: Thursday Night Football: OAK +3.5 (Did Not Cover), OAK (Money Line Did Not Hit)
Denver Broncos vs. Tennessee Titans
My Call: DEN +1
Over/Under: Under 43.5
This game should pretty much play out like the Broncos/Jaguars game, although the Titans defense can be exploited. Trevor Siemian appears to be on track to return as starter for Denver, which will help a bit. In the end, expect Denver’s defense (although MLB Brandon Marshall is out for this game) to close out the game late if it is close — as it likely will be.
San Diego Chargers vs. Carolina Panthers
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, North Carolina
My Call: SD +1.5
Over/Under: Over 48.5
This is one of those odd games that you really stay away from. The Bolts play a ton of close, nail-biting games that end on the final drive most of the time, and the Panthers have mostly done the same. Luke Kuechly will return for this game for Carolina, but the spread is what it is for a reason: the Panthers are technically slight home dogs in this one. Best to avoid this one at all costs, particularly in parlays.
San Diego 31
Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts
Lucas Oil Stadium
My Call: HOU +6.5
Over/Under: Over 46
The Colts are feeling good about themselves after thrashing a Jets team that everyone can clearly see has quit on its coach and its season, and have gone into full “protect my business interests” mode. They have five starters pronounced out for this game, and the Texans are looking to maintain pace after losing three straight. The Texans have a good defense. The Colts do not.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns
My Call: CIN -5.5
Over/Under: Under 42
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Buffalo Bills
New Era Field
Orchard Park, New York
My Call: BUF +3
Over/Under: Over 46
The spread tells you a lot. Last week, the Giants were getting six points at Heinz Field. The Bills are effectively six point home dogs here (home team has a built-in three points). Given that the Steelers are jockeying for their division, and Baltimore does not play until Monday night, the Bills better beware of similar treatment from the officials that the Giants got last week. The Bills’ only shot to making the playoffs is the wild card, and a loss here all but eliminates them from playoff contention. With those types of stakes, the most you can expect is a close game, but can you take the Bills straight up?
Arizona Cardinals vs. Miami Dolphins
Hard Rock Stadium
Miami Gardens, Florida
My Call: ARZ -2
Over/Under: Under 43
Back to back tough defenses for the Fins to face. Their playoff hopes are on the line, and the Cards are basically playing spoilers the rest of this season. Miami came out playing a soft zone against Baltimore, and Joe Flacco carved them up. What do you think Carson Palmer will do?
Chicago Bears vs. Detroit Lions
My Call: DET -7.5
Over/Under: Under 43
Don’t go getting confident in betting on the Lions. They still have this element where they are prone to posting a stinker, as they did the last time they faced these Bears. This time, however, they are at home and rolling. They could practically bury the Packers and Vikings with a win in this game, as Green Bay (in particular) has a tough game with Seattle. The Lions will almost certainly win, but that spread is formidable; even if the Bears stink.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
My Call: JAX +3
Over/Under: Under 39.5
This will be one ugly game. Harrison Smith is out for the Vikes. The Jags should FINALLY get off the schneid.
Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Lincoln Financial Field
My Call: WSH -2.5
Over/Under: Over 46.5
The Skins’ playoff hopes took a big hit (they are basically fans of whoever the Cards play, and they also must win this game to own the tiebreaker against Philadelphia, so that they do not leap them for a potential second wild card, should Atlanta or Tampa blow it) in the desert last week. Jordan Reed is questionable, but sounds as though he will try and tough it out. Pretty much anyone with the surname “Matthews” or any variation of the spelling seems to be injury prone. Does anyone notice this?
Both Ryan Mathews and Jordan Matthews (as well as Tyrann Mathieu, for that matter, for the Cards) are questionable. For now, that does not sound as though they are out Sunday, but stay tuned. Matthews is the only semi-reliable wide receiver on the Eagles roster, and the Eagles struggled in the previous match up with Washington as is, when the Eagles were actually playing well. Additionally, Dorial Green-Beckham is banged up with an abdomen, but is questionable, and on track to play.
That loss to Washington began the slide that the Eagles have found themselves mired within ever since.
New York Jets vs. San Francisco 49ers
Santa Clara, California
My Call: SF -2.5
Over/Under: Under 43.5
The Jets have quit and are going west. Even when the Jets had good teams, they do not travel well to the west coast.
NY Jets 10
San Francisco 23
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Raymond James Stadium
My Call: TB -2.5
Over/Under: Under 51
The Saints aren’t a good road team at all. We have long known this. They looked bad at home against Detroit. Tampa is rolling, although they will be without Cecil Shorts for the rest of the season. Jameis Winston had developed a nice rapport with Shorts, but Freddie Martino has stepped in, while they have devised an increased role for Jacquizz Rodgers alongside Doug Martin. The Bucs defense has played admirably well over the second half of the season thus far; coinciding with a four-game winning streak. Kenny Vaccaro dropped his appeal and will miss the final four games of the regular season. The Saints are already bad enough on defense, and their secondary now has another hole.
If this game were in New Orleans — which they will be in two weeks — we might be more inclined to take New Orleans, but when Jameis Winston has “that look” going, you cannot bet against his team.
New Orleans 16
Tampa Bay 27
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
Green Bay, Wisconsin
AMERICA’S GAME OF THE WEEK
My Call: SEA -3
Over/Under: Over 45.5
Earl Thomas’ injury is big, no doubt, but it doesn’t make Seattle demonstrably beatable, as a result. In kind, they have gotten that much better on offense now that they are getting healthy on that side of the ball. Green Bay cannot stop Seattle’s offense, although it will be cold on Sunday. Seattle can get stops against Green Bay.
Watch out for the officials, though.
Green Bay 20
Atlanta Falcons vs. Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
My Call: ATL -6
Over/Under: Over 45
The Rams do not have enough on offense.
Los Angeles 17
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Football Giants
East Rutherford, New Jersey
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: NYG +3.5
Over/Under: Over 47
Let’s address the spread, because this makes the Giants veritable touchdown underdogs at home. Keep that in mind as you process this match up.
The Giants left plenty of points on the board with unforced turnovers against Dallas in the Week 1 match up. Generally speaking, Dallas’ defense is merely suitable enough to hold up because their offense dominates the football in most games. The Giants shut down Ezekiel Elliott in Week 1, and while they should still relatively hold him in check in this game, Jason Pierre-Paul’s freak injury sustained on the atrocious playing surface in Pittsburgh puts the Giants’ run defense in the hands of Kerry Wynn and Owamagbe Odighizuwa at left end. Romeo Okwara is in line for an expanded role, and has shown to be quick off the ball and a decent pass rusher, when they moved Olivier Vernon to the left side. Vernon will likely be on the left side a good bit, as they plays the run very well, and to also get away from Tyron Smith, who enveloped him on just about every snap in Week 1. Doug Free is known to be a turnstile, and the Giants can exploit that side of Dallas’ offense.
Minnesota showed how to stifle Cole Beasley and Jason Witten, and while the Giants don’t QUITE have that ability (Minnesota’s linebackers are superior), the Giants have played well when they are swarming toward the ball, versus covering the seams, which has been the lone way teams have repeatedly exploited the Giants defense. Jason Witten cannot run like Ladarius Green (and, if 40 times are to be believed, no tight end can), but when Dallas needs a clutch third down conversion, they typically look to Witten and Beasley. Dez Bryant will be held in check by the combination of Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, as usual, but Landon Collins and Andrew Adams are the keys to the Giants defense in coverage. Both have shown to be late to instinctively react to downfield plays in zone coverage. Collins is fantastic in the box and in man coverage, but he still has issues in zone, as he showed against Ladarius Green last week. The Giants might be looking to use some three safety alignments, or a bit more nickel/cover 1 looks at times, although Nat Berhe is out with concussion symptoms again. Eric Pinkins could actually play in this game, and the guy can really run.
Nevertheless, regardless of the accolades the Dallas offense gets and their overall record, this game will come down to what Giants offense shows up in this game. Giants offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Ben McAdoo has had the offense stuck in neutral for most of the season. It is almost as if his philosophy is to play as conservatively as possible and ride the defense, which has been top notch in meaningful metrics all season. But this is not an excuse for the atrocious output from this offense all season. Dallas’ defense is not equipped to slow the Giants offense when it is clicking, whereas the Giants can get stops against Dallas. If you believe the Giants will finally play up to their talent and ability, you take the Giants and the points. If you believe that Ben McAdoo just does not get it and the team will continue to flutter offensively, then you take Dallas straight up.
NY Giants 26
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
My Call: BAL +7
Over/Under: Under 45
The Ravens have the Patriots’ number. Even when they haven’t beaten New England, they had self-inflicted wounds that cost them the games.
Baltimore’s defense is light years better than the Patriots’. New England has padded their defensive stats against the likes of the Jets, Bills, Dolphins, shorthanded Bengals, Rams, Browns and no one assails their soft schedule. They don’t have much of a pass rush at all, and they aren’t good in coverage the linebacker level. That places a lot of stress on the Patriots’ secondary. And the Ravens will send Mike Wallace and Steve Smith (along with Breshad Perriman) at that secondary, pushing them back, as the Patriots must honor the speed of Wallace and Perriman, allowing Dennis Pitta room to operate underneath. Will Joe Flacco take care of the football? That is a huge question.
New England will miss Rob Gronkowski more than some are willing to admit. People love to reflexively say “Oh Belichick and McDaniels will adjust, whatever, they’ll be their normal selves” but this is not true. If you watch Patriots games, they play games with the numbers in the opposing defense’s box. Teams that attempt to play coverage and have a light box in nickel and dime looks, or use a two-deep shell get a good dose of LeGarrette Blount. If they stack the box, Brady will raise up and quickly fire the ball out to Julian Edelman and James White or Dion Lewis. The only time Tom Brady even passes downfield is when he has a single high safety look, or off the Patriots’ bread and butter, which is a stretch play action bootleg where Brady makes a hard fake and hits someone downfield against what effectively becomes a single high look, as the strong safety (unless they are disciplined, as Baltimore is) bites on the fake.
That “someone” is almost always Rob Gronkowski. Do you really trust Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell? Especially with Jimmy Smith healthy and manning his normal right side? Tavon Young has played well on the left side, and Eric Weddle is huge in this game. Lardarius Webb will have some responsibilities on Edelman, but do not expect the Patriots to have a good time in moving the football in this game. You can expect that.
What you cannot expect is whether you will get the Joe Flacco vs. Miami or the Joe Flacco who couldn’t move the ball against a Jets defense that escorts everyone’s offense to the end zone with their embarrassing secondary? Given Flacco’s past against New England, we’ll be willing to bet that it will be somewhere in the middle, which very well may be enough.
New England 20