8-8 this past week. 105-87 overall on the year. I can’t think of a better way to describe my game picks as bleh. At this point, going 9-7 or 10-6 would be a cause for celebration. It’s Week 14, and this week’s slate looks very appetizing. Of course, I’ve said that before in this article, but the rest of the season gives me hope for improving my choices. That goes for the postseason as well.
So without any further ado, let’s try not to be embarrassed!
Belling lines via Caesar’s Sportsbook; lines updated December #5th)
CAROLINA PANTHERS (5-7) vs. ATLANTA FALCONS (3-9) [-3.0]
Breaking news surfaced Tuesday afternoon that the Carolina Panthers fired head coach Ron Rivera after nine seasons. Rivera compiled a 76-63-1 overall record with Carolina, leading them to the Super Bowl in 2015. Despite a lack of success over the past two seasons, Rivera is one of the league’s most respected and well-liked coaches and his defensive acumen would be a boon for any organization. I’d personally love to see him in Dallas or New York for the Giants. He will certainly find success somewhere in 2020. Now onto the game:
Here we have a matchup between two division rivals who are out of the playoff picture, but no matter what happens will almost certainly have new coaches next season. This is the second straight year for Carolina where they have jumped out to a hot start, only to spontaneously combust down the stretch. Kyle Allen, even with his flashes, doesn’t look like the franchise quarterback, and the Panthers will be drafting too late to find one in the 2020 draft most likely. The Falcons on the other hand, despite their little two-game resurgence, have gone back to their defensively awful ways. Despite the putrid Atlanta defense, I trust them more in a shoot-out type of game, and that’s exactly what I expect this one to become. Especially if they get Julio Jones back this week.
THE PICK: Falcons (-3.0)
BALTIMORE RAVENS (10-2) [-6.0] vs. BUFFALO BILLS (9-3)
Sneakily one of the best games on tap for this Sunday, the Buffalo Bills have a chance to make an even bigger statement than the one against Dallas on Thanksgiving when they take on the now Super-Bowl favorite Baltimore Ravens. As mentioned in my Week 13 takeaway article, I’m done trashing Buffalo and I do think with their roster and infrastructure could surprise some teams in the playoffs. As good as their defense is, however, not a single soul has been able to stop this Ravens’ running game as of late. The 49ers came close, but couldn’t finish the deal. Also, as good as Josh Allen has been lately, if there is one spot he could fall back to Earth, it’s against this Ravens’ defensive unit led by Marcus Peters. Buffalo will hang in there, but Baltimore is just so freakin’ good right now.
THE PICK: Ravens (-6.0)
CINCINNATI BENGALS (1-11) vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS (5-7) [-7.5]
Congrats on Zac Taylor and the rest of their Bengals on winning their first game of the season. Not only will they not face the embarrassment of going 0-16, but they’re still in prime position for the #1 pick. The Joe Burrow era is about to commence.
Their cause will certainly be helped this week, as they take on a Cleveland team that should play ticked off after blowing their postseason chances against Pittsburgh last Sunday. You might say, “Hey Zack, why the hell would you trust the Browns in any situation?” To that, I respond…
“THE BENGALS ARE STILL AWFUL!!!!”
I’m not falling for this trap. If the Browns can’t beat this Bengals team with the talent they possess by at least nine points, Freddie Kitchens should be left at the stadium.
THE PICK: Browns (-7.5)
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (3-9) vs. GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-3) [-12.5]
The Redskins are so dysfunctional, they can’t even tank correctly.
Washington has rattled off two consecutive wins against Detroit and Carolina respectfully. Even with news that Dan Snyder is evaluating the future of team president/evil compatriot Bruce Allen, not landing a top-five pick would be disastrous for this team. They should enter the loss column once more this week, taking on a Packers team that just made the Giants’ defense look like a Sun Belt team. Aaron Rodgers always seems to play well in the cold, and going back to Green Bay will only make the 36-year old legend excel even more. This line is very large, but I trust Matt LaFleur to lead his team to a successfully similar game to the Giants one.
THE PICK: Packers (-12.5)
DETROIT LIONS (3-8-1) vs. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (8-4) [-13.0]
Minnesota blew a prime opportunity against Seattle on Monday Night Football, falling to the #6th seed in a loaded NFC. Going against this Lions team should prove very successful, but as of now, this line is too big for this game. First off it’s a divisional game, and we all know how herky-jerky those can get. Second, Dalvin Cook was injured and currently deemed questionable for this contest. Third, David Blough had a stellar debut against the Bears on Thanksgiving despite losing. I still trust the Bears’ D over Minny’s, so I believe that even with Lions rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson on injured reserve, Matt Patricia and company will make this game closer than the line suggests.
THE PICK: Lions (+13.0)
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (10-2) vs. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-2) [-2.5]
What an awesome game. Right now, this would be my pick for the NFC Championship game. These have been the two best teams in the conference overall in my opinion. So who will come out on top?
Despite losing to the Ravens on Sunday, the 49ers should not be disappointed in their performance. The running game was on point, and their defense forced a turnover on Lamar Jackson. The Saints handily took care of Atlanta on Thanksgiving, and Drew Brees looks like he hasn’t skipped a beat. The key for this game will be, you guessed it, the running game. Raheem Mostert assumed lead-back duties and he should have another successful game. Alvin Kamara has been quiet this season, but he paired with Latavius Murray will be the key to exploiting this New Orleans defense. Speaking of Sean Payton’s defense, pressuring Jimmy G and forcing him to throw is imperative.
Despite being on the road, I like Kyle Shanahan and the Niners in this game. They will be more aggressive and hungry to retake their lead in the NFC West.
THE PICK: 49ers (+2.5)
MIAMI DOLPHINS (3-9) vs. NEW YORK JETS (4-8) [-5.5]
The Week 14 #StinkerOfTheWeek!
The Dolphins rallied and were able to spoil the Eagles’ postseason hopes, while Sam Darnold and the Jets bombed against the winless Bengals. I understand how New York is favored in this game, as they have the better record and are home, but five and a half is a joke. Miami has proven that, despite lesser talent, they are a superior coached team and play their tails off every game. This Jets team, despite their record, is the biggest joke in the league in my opinion and I would actually be surprised if they won this game.
THE PICK: Dolphins (+5.5)
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (6-6) vs. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (5-7) [-3.0]
What an odd matchup. These two teams face off once every four years and have only played thirteen times overall. The Colts have been skidding like a moose on ice lately, falling to .500 and losing ground in the AFC Wild Card race. The Buccaneers have looked awesome on the contrary, easily defeating the Jaguars this past week. Both of these squads have veteran, offensive-minded coaches so expect this to be a high-scoring game. The best way for the Colts to defeat Tampa Bay is simple: turn Jameis over multiple times. He only turned it over once against Jacksonville, so Indy will need another two or three tacked onto that. I still like Tampa Bay in this one because it is hard for me to see Indianapolis catch up to them in the scoring department.
THE PICK: Buccaneers (-3.0)
DENVER BRONCOS (4-8) vs. HOUSTON TEXANS (8-4) [-9.0]
Coming off of their largest victory of the season, the Texans welcome the Denver Broncos into town. Deshaun Watson looked stupendous against New England, but he gets another tough task against Justin Simmons and this Denver secondary. Drew Lock, in his debut, didn’t look terrible! If the Broncos have discovered any semblance of an offensive identity these last few weeks, they could really shock some teams. This week may be a bit of a stretch in terms of winning, but I like their chances to cover against a Houston team that’s defense remains a mystery and is coming off a major win.
THE PICK: Broncos (+8.0)
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (4-8) [-3.0] vs. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (4-8)
Not as bad as Dolphins/Jets, but this one fails to encapsulate any interest from me whatsoever. Both teams are bad, but not Bengals/Giants/Redskins level bad. The Chargers keep finding new ways to lose, and this week’s edition consisted of Casey Hayward committing pass interference on a Hail Mary that put Denver in field-goal range. The Jaguars, on the other hand, got blasted by Tampa Bay and have now given the starting QB job back to Gardner Minshew. This season has been a disaster for both teams given the expectations that they had in August. I’m probably a lunatic, but LA has Philip Rivers at least (who looked better against Denver) and their offense is certainly more trustworthy than the Jags.
THE PICK: Chargers (-3.0)
TENNESSEE TITANS (7-5) [-2.5] vs. OAKLAND RAIDERS (6-6)
This game is actually one of the more difficult ones to pick this season. While I’m a big fan of this Tennessee team with Ryan Tannehill at the helm, I’m always expecting a letdown. It can come in the form of the Raiders, a team that after looking like they can make a run at the AFC Wild Card, have gotten decimated the past two weeks. Both of these teams have Pro-Bowl caliber running backs that will need to be heavily relied upon, but I trust the Titans defense slightly more in this one. If they blow it, I wouldn’t be surprised given the history of this franchise.
THE PICK: Titans (-2.5)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (8-4) vs. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-2) [-3.0]
Mahomes and Brady meet again. Which KC pass-rusher will be offsides this game?
In all seriousness, this is an important game for both teams. The Chiefs would be giddy to hand the Patriots a second consecutive loss and contend for a bye in the playoffs. New England, on the other hand, needs to play more consistent offensively in order to take down this Chiefs game. Mahomes has had his two lowest yardage games of his career the last two weeks, and the Patriots defense will try and shut him down. This game may not be as high scoring as previous iterations of these matchups, but it should still be a tight one that I see the Patriots slightly coming up on top of. The playoffs will be different, however.
THE PICK: Patriots (-3.0)
PITTSBURGH STEELERS (7-5) [-2.5] vs. ARIZONA CARDINALS (3-8-1)
Duck Hodges, man. How can you not love him?
The rookie out of Samford put a dagger in the hearts of all Browns fans when he and the Steelers beat them last Sunday and knocked them out of the playoff hunt barring a miracle. James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster aren’t expected back this week, but other players on the Steelers have stepped up. Rookie running back Benny Snell looked solid against the Browns, and James Washington has evolved into a big-play threat as a receiver. Their defense has remained the team’s biggest asset, and they’ll be licking their chops against this Arizona team. Kyler Murray has shown promise, but he has been far too inconsistent and the running game is still being sorted out. The Cards only chance is if Duck has a game that would make Mason Rudolph look like Joe Montana, but more likely it will be the Pittsburgh D putting them through hell all game.
THE PICK: Steelers (-2.5)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (10-2) vs. LOS ANGELES RAMS (7-5) – EVEN
These two NFC West foes met in Week 5, and the Seahawks were able to squeak out a 30-29 victory. Two months later, Seattle is in position for a first-round bye while LA needs to win out and hope Minnesota stumbles along the way. Jared Goff looked fantastic against Arizona, throwing for 424 and two scores. Albeit the Cardinals aren’t anywhere close to Seattle defensively, it was certainly a step in the right direction. With a now fully healthy receiving corps and Todd Gurley at his disposal, it’s put up or shut up time for the Rams. It’s hard to bet against Russell Wilson, especially seeing how Seattle has played in primetime recently, but I like the Rams to be motivated and make a statement that they are still factors in the NFC playoff race.
THE PICK: Rams (EVEN)
NEW YORK GIANTS (2-10) vs. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (5-7) [-9.5]
ESPN is probably thrilled about this Monday Night affair… NOT!
The Daniel Jones aura has worn off for the Giants, as the rookie has struggled mightily the past two weeks. Now there are reports that Danny Dimes has a high-ankle sprain and Peyton’s younger sibling will be starting… where’s my barf bag? Pat Shurmur and defensive coordinator James Bettcher are helping clean out each other’s offices, and this team is simply a complete mess. The Eagles are a mess as well, but slightly more competent. Out of all of my preseason predictions, choosing Philly to win 12 (!!!) games was the most blasphemous one. Still, Carson Wentz hasn’t looked awful recently, and even he should have his way with the G-Men. #TheChaseForYoung is alive and well for the Big Blue.
THE PICK: Eagles (-9.5)