Week 14 Picks

Posted: 12/11/2016 by levcohen in Football

We have another week of competitive games on tap this week. There’s just one spread of greater than 6.5 points, and that’s Detroit at -7.5 over Chicago. Both primetime games are important, and one of them (New England-Baltimore) is a matchup that always gives us close, exciting games. There are a few games between fringe playoff contenders, and there’s the “Which team has quit on their team more?” bowl of the week in San Fran-New York. Heck, this might even be Cleveland’s last chance to notch a win, as they close the season with three games against good teams. Enjoy this week, because it looks a lot better than what’s in store in Week 15.

*= upset pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5, 7-5) at Buffalo Bills (6-6, 6-6):
Spread: Steelers favored by 3
Over/under: 45.5
My prediction: The Steelers have won three straight games by 10+ points, which isn’t surprising given the opposition they’ve faced in that time. What is surprising, though, is that the offense hasn’t put up more than 28 points since a loss to Dallas. It’s the defense that has stepped up these last three weeks, holding Cleveland, Luck-less Indy, and the Giants to 30 combined points. This is going to be more of a test. Yes, the Bills just lost to Oakland, but they were winning heading into the fourth quarter and their offense now has both Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods back. I think we’re going to see points in this one, even with a chance of snow showers. I just expect Ben Roethlisberger to have one more big play in him than Tyrod Taylor does. Steelers win 24-23.
Bills cover
Over

Denver Broncos (8-4, 8-4) at Tennessee Titans (6-6, 4-7-1):*
Spread: Titans favored by 2
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: I’m very surprised that the Titans are favored in this game. I just don’t think they’re going to be able to move the ball against a Broncos team that needs to keep winning to ensure a playoff spot. And this is the type of game — against an average defense that has struggles at cornerback — that the Broncos’ offense, led by Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, can excel in. DeMarco Murray will get his yards against an average run defense, but the Titans won’t be able to translate those yards into enough points to make the Broncos nervous. Broncos win 24-16.
Broncos cover
Under

Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1, 4-8) at Miami Dolphins (7-5, 6-5-1):
Spread: Cardinals favored by 2.5
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: One thing we learned about the Dolphins last week: their offense isn’t all that much better than it was at the beginning of the year. A bunch of plush matchups may have tricked people, but a 38-6 loss against the Ravens has a way of putting things in perspective. Arizona’s great defense is going to have a field day, with the d-line (led by Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell) racking up hits on Ryan Tannehill and the talented secondary shutting down the passing game. I don’t think the Cardinals will be able to move the ball much, either, but David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald will be good enough to carry the Cardinals to a win. Cardinals win 20-17.
Cardinals cover
Under

San Diego Chargers (5-7, 7-5) at Carolina Panthers (4-8, 3-8-1):*
Spread: Panthers favored by 1
Over/under: 49
My prediction: How are the Panthers 4-8??? How are the Chargers 5-7??? Both of these teams are so talented, and yet neither is playing for more than pride with four weeks still to go in the season. I can talk all about the matchups (Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram against a suspect offensive line, Philip Rivers against a Kuechly-less Panthers, etc.), but I think this really comes down to which team is more motivated to win at this point in the season. I think that’s going to be the Chargers, with Rivers picking apart the Panthers down the seams. Chargers win 24-20.
Chargers cover
Under

Cincinnati Bengals (4-7-1, 3-9) at Cleveland Browns (0-12, 3-9):
Spread: Bengals favored by 5.5
Over/under: 41
My prediction: This is Cleveland’s Super Bowl. They’re going to lose it, because they have very little talent on either side of the ball, but it could be close, especially with a motivated Robert Griffin III starting for them. Am I going to pick them to win? No. To cover? No. The Bengals don’t need A.J. Green or Gio Bernard to win this one. Let’s move on. Bengals win 27-17.
Bengals cover
Over

Chicago Bears (3-9, 4-7-1) at Detroit Lions (8-4, 8-3-1):
Spread: Lions favored by 7.5
Over/under: 42.5
My prediction: I was shocked by the defensive performance from the Lions last week in New Orleans. They totally stifled Drew Brees in the Superdome, and this was a team that entered that game ranked dead-last in DVOA (and exited it ranked 31st). The defense will have a much easier time this week against Matt Barkley. The Lions will win their fifth consecutive game, but remember that last week’s win was their first by more than a score. I still don’t trust them to consistently blow teams out, even at home, where they’re 5-1 straight up and against the spread. Lions win 23-17.
Bears cover
Under

Houston Texans (6-6, 5-6-1) at Indianapolis Colts (6-6, 6-5-1):
Spread: Colts favored by 6.5
Over/under: 47
My prediction: No AFC South team should be favored by this much, unless they’re playing a terrible team. Well, guess what? The Texans are a terrible team. Just as they were once a crappy 6-3 team, now they’re a crappy 6-6 team. Their record is starting to make a little more sense. This is actually a good matchup for the Texans, in that the Colts’ defense is bad enough to give Houston opportunities to move the ball and score points while the defense should be able to put pressure on Andrew Luck. I expect the Texans to keep it close, but they’ll end up losing their fourth straight. Colts win 27-23.
Texans cover
Over

Minnesota Vikings (6-6, 7-5) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10, 5-7):
Spread: Vikings favored by 3.5
Over/under: 39
My prediction: Crappy game. Don’t watch it. After Week 5, these teams were 5-0 and 2-3. Since then, they’re a combined 1-11. That pretty much sums up the way I expect this game to go. Vikings win 17-10.
Vikings cover
Under

Washington Redskins (6-5-1, 8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7, 5-7):
Spread: Redskins favored by 2.5
Over/under: 47.5
My prediction: Yeah, I’m not picking the Eagles again. Carson Wentz just doesn’t have enough support for him to keep the Eagles in games in which their defense gives up a lot of points, and this could be another one of those games. The Redskins gave this defense a lot of trouble the first time they played, and they have the talent to do it again. Philly’s defensive weakness is their cornerbacks, and Washington has great wide receivers who can take advantage of that weakness. It’s a big-play offense against a defense that’s given up a lot of big plays of late. Look for Kirk Cousins, DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, and a returning Jordan Reed to roll all over the Eagles. Redskins win 31-20.
Redskins cover
Over

New York Jets (3-9, 5-7) at San Francisco 49ers (1-11, 2-9-1):
Spread: Niners favored by 3
Over/under: 43.5
My prediction: Second straight game in which the 1-11 Niners have been favored. It didn’t work out too well last week, when they went to Chicago and lost by 20 in their 11st straight defeat. This week could be a different story. They’re playing at home against a Jets team that totally quit on its coach last week in a 41-10 loss to the Colts. The Jets are starting Bryce Petty, who isn’t very good at football. Neither is Colin Kaepernick, but at least he has the ability to make some explosive plays against a horrific secondary. Niners win 21-14.
Niners cover
Under

New Orleans Saints (5-7, 7-5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5, 7-5):*
Spread: Buccaneers favored by 2
Over/under: 51
My prediction: I still just don’t trust the Buccaneers. Or maybe it’s just that I have too much faith in the Saints’ passing game. I’ve been really impressed with Tampa’s last three performances (wins over KC, Seattle, and San Diego), but the Saints seem to alternate stinkers with huge offensive performances, and the Bucs showed enough holes in their secondary against the Chargers to convince me that they won’t be able to slow down a Saints explosion. Saints win 35-28.
Saints cover
Over

Atlanta Falcons (7-5, 7-5) at Los Angeles Rams (4-8, 4-7-1):
Spread: Falcons favored by 6
Over/under: 45
My prediction: This is the type of game I’d be scared of if I were a Falcons fan. The Rams aren’t very good, but they have a solid defense and have given up just 44 points in their last three home games. They can get pressure on Matt Ryan and force him into some of the same mistakes that he made last week against the Chiefs. It’s hard to overlook that this is a matchup between the #1 and #32 DVOA offenses, but I think the Rams could keep it close. Falcons win 24-20.
Rams cover
Under

Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1, 6-6) at Green Bay Packers (6-6, 6-5-1):*
Spread: Seahawks favored by 3
Over/under: 45
My prediction: This is a game I’m really excited for. It’s going to be snowy in Lambeau, and it’s going to be a great chance to see whether the Seahawks are legitimate contenders without Earl Thomas. If they are, they should go into Green Bay and beat the Packers, who are much less talented, especially on the defensive side of the ball. If not, they could struggle in inclement weather against a desperate team that will likely be 2.5 games out of the division lead by the time this game kicks off. And while I think the Seahawks will round into form, I don’t think they’re there yet. I’d pick them to win if not for the weather, but they’re now going to be forced to run against a team with a great run defense, and I don’t think their run game is good enough to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and a desperate Green Bay team. Packers win 27-23.
Packers cover
Over

Dallas Cowboys (11-1, 10-2) at New York Giants (8-4, 6-5-1):- Lock
Spread: Cowboys favored by 4
Over/under: 47
My prediction: Last week confirmed what some people have thought all along: the Giants aren’t very good. They won six games in a row against inferior opposition, but I always said that we wouldn’t really know what this team is until we saw them play Pittsburgh. Well, they played Pittsburgh, and they played terribly. Now they face an even better opponent, albeit one they handed its only loss in Week 1. It’s not Week 1 anymore, though, and the Cowboys should have their way. How about this for a stat: Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t lost a road game since his freshman year… of high school. Odell Beckham will make a few nice plays, but the problem is that the Giants have no other place to generate offense. Cowboys win 26-17.
Cowboys cover
Under

Baltimore Ravens (7-5, 5-7) at New England Patriots (10-2, 9-3):*
Spread: Patriots favored by 6.5
Over/under: 45
My prediction: The Ravens looooove playing the Patriots. They always play close games against New England, and since 2004 they’re 2-4 at Gillette Stadium without a loss by more than six points. They’re playing really well right now, and the Patriots simply aren’t. New England should struggle to move the ball against Baltimore’s #2 DVOA defense, while Joe Flacco always plays well against the Patriots and should find holes in their secondary. The Ravens need this win more, especially if the Steelers win today. I think they can pull it off in sub-freezing temperatures that certainly play to their strengths. Ravens win 21-16.
Ravens cover
Under

Upset picks:
Ravens over Patriots
Packers over Seahawks
Saints over Buccaneers
Chargers over Panthers
Broncos over Titans

Lock:
Cowboys over Giants

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