Week 14 Picks

Posted: 12/13/2015 by levcohen in Football

Week 14 is the first week of the fantasy playoffs in most leagues, which means that it’s going to be a very nerve-racking week for the millions of fantasy football players around the world. From an NFL standpoint, it also means we’ve officially reached the stretch run of the regular season. Seven teams seem all but certain to make the playoffs, which leaves five spots that are at all up for grabs. The best games of the week look to be Pittsburgh-Cincinnati (always a good rivalry and with real stakes, as the Bengals need to win to maintain a good chance at a BYE and the Steelers would like a win to boost their playoff hopes), New England-Houston on Sunday Night Football (will the Patriots end their two game losing streak? Can the Texans hold serve in the AFC South?), and Philly-Buffalo (LeSean McCoy revenge game, both teams need a win to boost their playoff hopes).

*= upset pick

Buffalo Bills (6-6, 6-5-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7, 5-7):*
Spread: Eagles favored by 1
Over/under: 48
My prediction: This is too easy. The Eagles are coming off an exhilarating win in New England, a game in which they didn’t actually play that well, reaffirming that they aren’t a very good team. With the DeMarco Murray stuff swirling around all week, there’s also now drama with this team, and, oh yeah, there’s also LeSean McCoy. Shady’s pissed at the way he was let go by Chip Kelly, and he’s going to take it out on a run defense that recently got demolished by Doug Martin. I think Philly’s going to need defense and/or special teams help again to have a shot at winning, and that’s just not something you can bank on. Bills win 24-20.
Bills cover
Under

San Francisco 49ers (4-8, 6-6) at Cleveland Browns (2-10, 4-8):*
Spread: Browns favored by 1.5
Over/under: 41.5
My prediction: Is Blaine Gabbert not terrible??? It seems like he might not be terrible! Gabbert’s coming off a great performance (or at least two great plays, a long run for the game-tying touchdown and a long pass for the game-winner) in an upset win over Chicago, and he now gets a plum matchup against the Browns, losers of seven straight. Please don’t watch this game, because these two teams are the worst in football per DVOA. But I still don’t trust Gabbert at all, and with Johnny Manziel returning for the Browns, maybe we’ll see some fight from them. Or maybe not. Niners win 23-20.
Niners cover
Over

Detroit Lions (4-8, 4-8) at St. Louis Rams (4-8, 4-7-1):
Spread: Lions favored by 3
Over/under: 41.5
My prediction: Yeah, stay away from this game too. Not picking the Rams after what I’ve seen from them recently. Lions win 27-13.
Lions cover
Under

New Orleans Saints (4-8, 5-6-1) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6, 7-5):
Spread: Bucs favored by 5.5
Over/under: 51.5
My prediction: Why are all of these games so bad? There might be a bajillion points scored in this game, but I guess the Buccaneers will win as they still have something to play for while the Saints just lost their Super Bowl (a home game against the undefeated Panthers) and their running back Mark Ingram to a shoulder injury. Buccaneers win 35-24.
Buccaneers cover
Over

Tennessee Titans (3-9, 4-7-1) at New York Jets (7-5, 6-5-1):*
Spread: Jets favored by 8
Over/under: 43
My prediction: The Jets might win this game, but I think it’s going to be a lot closer than expected. The Titans are pretty pesky for a 3-9 team, while New York’s offense stalls often. The Titans are great against the run, which will turn the Jets into a pass-heavy offense. And do you really want Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball 40 times? He’s had a good season, but I actually like Tennessee’s chances here, as they’ll shut down Chris Ivory and get enough production from their offense in an ugly game. Titans win 16-14.
Titans cover
Under

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, 7-4-1) at Cincinnati Bengals (10-2, 10-1-1):*
Spread: Bengals favored by 2
Over/under: 49.5
My prediction: Four upsets in six games? Why not? The first meeting between these teams was surprisingly low scoring (a 16-10 Bengals win in Pittsburgh), but that was in Ben Roethlisberger’s return from injury. Big Ben is back and humming on all cylinders now, and I think this is going to be a shootout. And in a shootout, I like Pittsburgh’s chances. Andy Dalton and Co. will have a good game, but not good enough to keep up with the high powered Steelers offense. Steelers win 34-30.
Steelers cover
Over

Indianapolis Colts (6-6, 6-6) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8, 6-5-1):
Spread: Jaguars favored by 1.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: I thought this was going to be another upset pick and was shocked when I saw that the Jaguars were favored. I really like Jacksonville here, as the Colts just got hosed by the Steelers and will still be without Andrew Luck. Blake Bortles isn’t good, but he throws a good deep ball and leads a pretty solid offense. With receiver Allen Hurns back from a concussion, Bortles also now has all of his targets in place. I think the Jags will put up a lot of points, and while they can’t really stop anyone, Matt Hasselbeck will give them a great opportunity to play some solid defense. Jaguars win 26-21.
Jaguars cover
Over

San Diego Chargers (3-9, 4-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-5, 7-5):
Spread: Chiefs favored by 10.5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: This game screams trap. The Chiefs have to be pretty happy with themselves right now after six straight wins and with everyone saying they’re a Super Bowl contender. Meanwhile, the Chargers are one of the most injury-riddled teams in NFL history. They’ve lost all of their top receivers, most of their top defensive players, a couple of offensive linemen, both tight ends for part of the season, a running back, and now Philip Rivers has the flu. All of that means that San Diego might be the worst team in football, and that means this is bound to be a close game. This is an Andy Reid-coached team, after all. Chiefs win 21-17.
Chargers cover
Under

Washington Redskins (5-7, 5-7) at Chicago Bears (5-7, 7-5):
Spread: Bears favored by 3.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: This is another game between two below-average teams, and another tossup. The Redskins looked awful on Monday Night Football against the Tony Romo-less Cowboys, losing 19-16 at home. They clearly aren’t a good football team. I think the Bears are better, as their loss to the Niners, while bad, came after a nice 5-3 stretch. Bears win 27-17.
Bears cover
Over

Atlanta Falcons (6-6, 4-8) at Carolina Panthers (12-0, 9-3):- Lock
Spread: Panthers favored by 7.5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: This is a great matchup for the Panthers, and it’s one they’ll get again in two weeks. The Falcons stink; they’ve played by far the easiest schedule in football this year and somehow have still lost six of their past seven after starting 5-0. Matt Ryan has regressed, and his top target, Julio Jones, will have to face Josh Norman, the best corner in football right now. Meanwhile, Devonta Freeman has to face a Panthers’ run defense that’s allowed 31 yards per game over the last five. On the other side of the ball, Greg Olsen, the focal point of Carolina’s offense, has a great matchup, as does Jonathan Stewart, as the Falcons have given up 345 yards on the ground over the last few weeks. Should be an easy Panthers win. Carolina wins 34-10.
Panthers cover
Under

Seattle Seahawks (7-5, 5-6-1) at Baltimore Ravens (4-8, 3-7-2):
Spread: Seahawks favored by 10.5
Over/under: 41.5
My prediction: This spread is really, really high. Probably too high. But this is the second time Jimmy Clausen, formerly of the Bears, has played the Seahawks this year. The first time, he went 9/17 for 63 yards as the Bears had just 146 total yards and lost 26-0. Now that the Seahawks’ offense is really humming, I don’t think I can pick the Ravens to even keep it close. Seahawks win 31-13.
Seahawks cover
Over

Oakland Raiders (5-7, 6-6) at Denver Broncos (10-2, 7-5):
Spread: Broncos favored by 6.5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: This spread seems a bit low. The Broncos have three straight wins with Brock Oswiler at quarterback, while the Raiders have lost four of five and have turned back into, well, the Raiders. The Raiders will struggle to put up points against the Broncos, who have the best defense in football. Oswiler won’t put up huge numbers, but he’ll game-manage Denver to victory again, which is all he really needs to do. Broncos win 23-13.
Broncos cover
Under

Dallas Cowboys (4-8, 4-8) at Green Bay Packers (8-4, 7-5):
Spread: Packers favored by 5.5
Over/under: 43
My prediction: Again, this spread seems low. Look, I know the Packers aren’t good right now. At all. But their playing the Cowboys, who improved to 1-7 without Tony Romo by the skin of their teeth… against the Redskins, who, even now, are clearly worse than the Packers. I don’t think Aaron Rodgers will get fully on track against a solid Dallas defense, which is why I’m hesitant to take the Packers in a rout. But I think it’s more likely than not that the Packers win by at least a touchdown. Packers win 24-13.
Packers cover
Under

New England Patriots (10-2, 5-5-2) at Houston Texans (6-6, 6-6):
Spread: Patriots favored by 5
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: The Patriots won’t lose a third consecutive game. They just won’t. Rob Gronkowski has a chance of playing tonight, but I think the Pats win either way. Tom Brady is just too good, especially coming off of a lose or (gasp) back-to-back losses. Patriots win 27-20.
Patriots cover
Over

New York Giants (5-7, 6-5-1) at Miami Dolphins (5-7, 4-8):
Spread: Giants favored by 2
Over/under: 46.5
My prediction: Meh. Another pretty bad Monday Night Football matchup. Neither of these teams is very good, but the Dolphins are much worse. I think this could be a pretty high scoring game, as the Dolphins and Giants rank 25th and 27th in defensive DVOA respectively. Odell Beckham will probably go off again, but so could Lamar Miller and/or receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker for the Dolphins. Giants win 28-20.
Giants cover
Over

Upset picks:
Steelers over Bengals
Bills over Eagles
Niners over Browns
Titans over Jets

Lock of the week:
Panthers over Falcons

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