Week 14 Edition
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*Note – DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average: It’s Football Outsiders’ primary efficiency statistic and I believe it to be the best and most predictive measure of assessing the strength of NFL teams
**Note – All betting odds courtesy of Vegas Insider
***Note – Public betting refers to the amount of wagers taken on the spread
Records Entering Week 14
Straight Up: 134-58 (.698) Last Week: 12-4 (.750) Total: 298-159-2 (.651)
Spread: 110-73-9 (.596) Last Week: 10-6 (.625) Total: 260-182-17 (.585)
Over/Under: 105-83-4 (.557) Last Week: 8-8 (.500) Total: 247-208-4 (.543)
Locks: 18-4 (.818) Last Week: 1-0 (1.000) Total: 50-10 (.833)
Best Bets: 50-31 (.617) Last Week: 4-0 (1.000) Total: 179-131-1 (.577)
*Note: Total records date back to 2016 season.
Prediction for TNF: NEW ORLEANS 27, Atlanta 20
CAPITAL Letters indicate pick with spread
*Aster-risk denotes LOCK
Minnesota Vikings (10-2) vs Carolina Panthers (8-4)
Spread: MIN -2.5 Over/Under: 40.5
DVOA: MIN (7) > CAR (10)
Public Betting: MIN 62%
You have to give Minnesota credit: despite losing their starting quarterback and running back, they’ve managed to go 10-2 through twelve weeks while playing the NFL’s fourth-hardest schedule. But the Vikings’ eight-game winning streak has to end at some point, right? After all, five of their eight wins over this streak have come by one-possession or fewer. Carolina’s defense, which ranks 8th against the pass and 5th against the run according to Football Outsiders, is nearly as good as Minnesota’s, so I’ll take the home team in a relatively low-scoring game.
CAROLINA 23, Minnesota 14
Detroit Lions (6-6) vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-8)
Spread: TBD *(line has not opened due to Matthew Stafford’s injury)
DVOA: DET (17) > TB (25)
Public Betting: TBD
Asked whether Matthew Stafford will start against Tampa Bay after injuring his hand last week, Jim Caldwell said, “we’ll see.” That doesn’t inspire much confidence, Jim! I’ll take the ‘Bucs. (Note — I’m reserving the right to change this pick depending on Stafford’s final status).
TAMPA BAY 30, Detroit 17
*Update: Stafford will start — revised prediction: DETROIT 30, Tampa Bay 17
Chicago Bears (3-9) vs Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)
Spread: CIN -6.5 Over/Under: 38.5
DVOA: CHI (27) < CIN (16)
Public Betting: CIN 70%
Football Outsiders only gives the Bengals a 1.6% chance to make the playoffs. But I think their odds are better than that: after all, an 8-8 team could be the 6th seed in the AFC. Nonetheless, Cincinnati better take care of business against a mediocre Chicago team if it wants to make the postseason. It could be a struggle, though, because Cincy will be without linebacker Vontaze Burfict and running back Joe Mixon.
Cincinnati 23, CHICAGO 17
Indianapolis Colts (3-9) vs Buffalo Bills (6-6)
Spread: TBD (line has not opened due to Tyrod Taylor’s injury)
DVOA: IND (26) < BUF (24)
Public Betting: TBD
Tough call because Tyrod Taylor is a game-time decision due to a knee injury suffered last week. But I guess I’ll assume that Taylor will play, so I’ll take Buffalo.
BUFFALO 26, Indianapolis 19
*Update: Tyrod Taylor will not start — revised prediction now that Nathan Peterman is starting: INDIANAPOLIS 26, Buffalo 19
Green Bay Packers (6-6) vs Cleveland Browns (0-12)
Spread: GB -3 Over/Under: 40.5
DVOA: GB (14) > CLE (29)
Public Betting: GB 75%
…Never bet on the Browns.
GREEN BAY 23, Cleveland 16
San Francisco 49ers (2-10) vs Houston Texans (4-8)
Spread: HOU -2.5 Over/Under: 44.5
DVOA: SF (28) < HOU (22)
Public Betting: HOU 59%
The 49ers (1-5 in one-score games) are not quite as bad as their record would indicate, and there is little doubt that Jimmy Garoppolo gives them a better chance to win. But I’ll side with the Texans, who are at home and getting a few key players, like wide receiver Will Fuller, back from injury.
HOUSTON 21, San Francisco 17
Dallas Cowboys (6-6) vs New York Giants (2-10)
Spread: DAL -3.5 Over/Under: 41.5
DVOA: DAL (12) < NYG (30)
Public Betting: DAL 61%
Upset special of the week. I bet Eli Manning will be motivated to show that he didn’t deserve to get benched by the recently departed Ben McAdoo. And I bet the Giants’ defense — who, let’s not forget, has given Dak Prescott fits in his three starts against the G-Men — will also play more inspired now that McAdoo is gone. Sean Lee’s return to the Dallas defense gives me brief pause when making this pick, but I’ll still take the Giants to spoil the Cowboys’ playoff hopes.
NEW YORK 24, Dallas 16
Oakland Raiders (6-6) vs Kansas City Chiefs (6-6)
Spread: KC -4 Over/Under: 48.5
DVOA: OAK (19) < KC (15)
Public Betting: KC 54%
I’m tempted to take the Raiders because Kansas City is in free fall. But as bad as the Chiefs’ defense has been recently, Oakland is allowing 2.15 points per drive (29th in the NFL). Combined with the fact that this game is at Arrowhead, I’ll take KC because at least Alex Smith and company seemed to right the ship against the Jets last week by piling up close to 500 yards of offense.
Kansas City 24, OAKLAND 23
Washington Redskins (5-7) vs Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)
Spread: LAC -6.5 Over/Under: 46.5
DVOA: WSH (18) < LAC (11)
Public Betting: LAC 56%
Since Week 6, the Chargers rank in the top ten of both offensive and defensive DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. Translation: they’ve righted the ship after an 0-4 start. LA’s offense, which ranks 4th in yards per drive this season, should find ways to score against a Washington defense that is only 21st against the pass. Kirk Cousins and company should keep it close, though. The ‘Skins have held their own on the road against the likes of New Orleans, Seattle, and the LA Rams.
Los Angeles 26, WASHINGTON 20
New York Jets (5-7) vs Denver Broncos (3-9)
Spread: NYJ -1 Over/Under: 41.5
DVOA: NYJ (23) < DEN (32)
Public Betting: NYJ 70%
Hard to believe Denver is the worst team in the NFL according to Football Outsiders, right? Well, the numbers don’t lie: The Broncos’ offense has the second most giveaways in the NFL, ranks 29th in yards per play, and has scored over 20 points just once since Week 2 — and their defense hasn’t been able to pick up the slack either, as Denver has allowed the 2nd most points per game in the league (26.2)
So for those reasons…I’m going to take them to finally get off the schneid against the Jets. New York may be the better team, but it pays to be a contrarian from a betting perspective, and I have a hard time grappling with Josh McCown and the Jets getting points on the road the Mile High.
DENVER 20, New York 18
Tennessee Titans (8-4) vs Arizona Cardinals (5-7)
Spread: TEN -3 Over/Under: 43.5
DVOA: TEN (21) < ARZ (20)
Public Betting: ARZ 56%
Tennessee is nowhere near as good as its record indicates, as it ranks just 21st in DVOA. In fact, that puts them behind Arizona, who ranks 20th despite losing both David Johnson and Carson Palmer to season-ending injuries. I’ll take the Cardinals to beat an overrated Titans team.
ARIZONA 27, Tennessee 20
Seattle Seahawks (8-4) vs Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4)
Spread: JAC -2.5 Over/Under: 40.5
DVOA: SEA (8) > JAC (9)
Public Betting: SEA 73%
The Seahawks often struggle when they play at 1:00 on the East coast, so they benefit immensely from this game being pushed to the 4:25 window. Moreover, I don’t expect Blake Bortles and the Jaguars’ mediocre passing offense to challenge a Seattle defense that continues to rank in the top seven of opponent yards per play even after losing Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Since Jacksonville might also be without safety Jalen Ramsey and linebacker Telvin Smith — two of its more valuable defensive starters — I think Russell Wilson will continue to further his MVP case and lead the Seahawks to a commanding victory.
SEATTLE 27, Jacksonville 17
Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) vs Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
Spread: LAR -2 Over/Under: 48
DVOA: PHI (1) > LAR (2)
Public Betting: PHI 68%
The Eagles are the slightly better team, as they rank a tick higher in both total offense (4th vs 8th) and total defense (3rd vs 4th) over the Rams. And while Philadelphia has benefitted from playing the NFL’s 2nd-easiest schedule, LA has struggled against better competition too, as it is just 2-2 against teams with over .500 records. So something has to give in this matchup! But I’ll take Philly because I think its terrific front-seven can force Jared Goff into at least one mistake. Seeing how few people have showed up to Rams home games this year, I also don’t think home-field advantage will factor into this contest, either.
PHILADELPHIA 31, Los Angeles 24
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)
Spread: PIT -4.5 Over/Under: 43.5
DVOA: BAL (6) < PIT (5)
Public Betting: BAL 52%
I’m not sure how the Steelers will respond emotionally after Ryan Shazier’s spinal cord injury, and that puts them in a difficult position considering they’re playing a Baltimore team that quietly ranks as one of the better teams in the NFL thanks to its elite defense and special teams. Pittsburgh has also looked shaky in recent weeks, as it needed to rally from double-digit deficits to beat both the Packers and Bengals. Baltimore’s defense should keep Le’Veon Bell and a relatively limited Antonio Brown (toe injury) in check, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Flacco, who’s known for his signature road performances, pitched a gem. I’ll take Baltimore in an upset.
BALTIMORE 19, Pittsburgh 17
New England Patriots (10-2) vs Miami Dolphins (5-7)
Spread: NE -11 Over/Under: 47.5
DVOA: NE (4) > MIA (31)
Public Betting: NE 78%
The Patriots have historically struggled in Miami during the Brady/Belichick era. Plus, they’ll be without Rob Gronkowski (suspension). So is New England on upset alert? No, probably not. Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White continue to be the unsung heroes of this Patriots team, as New England quietly ranks as the 6th most efficient rushing attack in football. With their defense continuing to stifle opponents in the red zone — they rank 1st in red zone scoring defense since Week 10 — the Pats will make due without Gronkowski and roll to another double-digit victory.
NEW ENGLAND 31, Miami 17
And lastly, here are my Best Bets for Week Fourteen…
- CHICAGO (+6.5) over Cincinnati
- NEW YORK (+3.5) over Dallas
- OAKLAND (+4) over Kansas City
- TEASER: Oakland vs Kansas City UNDER 54 & WASHINGTON (+13) over Los Angeles
- DENVER (+1) over New York
- ARIZONA (+3) over Tennessee
- SEATTLE (+2.5) over Jacksonville
- PHILADELPHIA (+2) over Los Angeles
- BALTIMORE (+4.5) over Pittsburgh
- TEASER: Baltimore vs Pittsburgh UNDER 50 & NEW ENGLAND (-5.5) over Miami