NFL Week 14 Picks

As soon as the cold weather rolls in, it’s like clockwork — games become so much more meaningful. And wins are more difficult to come by, as we witnessed last weekend. This is a tricky time of of the season because we’ve grown into our opinions about teams and we believe certain things because we’ve watched, well, a lot of football. But if you’ve really watched a lot of football, you’ll know that now is when we learn the most about teams. For example, we want to trust the Bears because they were 8-3 going into Met Life Stadium last weekend. But a back-up QB, a feisty opponent, and few untimely mistakes are a recipe for disaster. You could same similar things about the Colts who got shut down and shutout by Jacksonville, the Panthers who lost in Tampa Bay, and the Browns who probably missed out on any slim hopes of making the playoffs by losing to Houston.

My point is many teams we are tricked into believing in during the early months of the season, turn out to deceive us in December. Teams have to learn how to win, they need to endure a full season before they’re ready to really take the next steps. Yes, the Bears are not bad — heck. they’ll probably with the division and be a 3 seed. But don’t be surprised if they encounter bumps along the way. Look at the Rams from last year. They dominated until December, slowed down a bit, dropped a couple games, and then exited the playoffs at home to underachieving Falcons team. There’s a process to getting good — and some of these teams are in the middle of experiencing it.

All that to say — IT’S HARD TO PICK GAMES IN THE NFL!!! But let’s give it another shot after a so-so Week 13. I was 9-7 both straight up and against the spread. For the year, I’m 84-84-8 ATS and 115-60 straight up. Let’s get to Week 14.

Plop Down and Get Comfy

Baltimore (+7) at Kansas City

The Ravens are rolling with Lamar Jackson. In his three starts, Baltimore is 3-0, has rushed for over 700 yards, and controlled the clock in dominating fashion — holding the ball for nearly 40 minutes last Sunday in Atlanta. That stat is interesting because the Chiefs don’t typically care if they have long, drawn out possessions — they’re very happy with quick-hit strikes, chunk plays, and efficient scoring drives. The Ravens might be successful in doing what they want offensively against the Chiefs, but it might not matter if the defense gives up points. Kansas City has faced the second-fewest third downs this year. Baltimore’s defense must force Pat Mahomes into as many third downs as possible, limit his yardage on first and second downs, and make him turn the ball over. If that happens, the Ravens should be able to gobble up yards on a weak KC defense. Ravens, 24-20

Philadelphia at Dallas (-4)

The Philadelphia offense should have trouble moving the ball against a stout Cowboys defense. Look for Amari Cooper and Cole Beasely to exploit the depleted Eagles secondary — and then use Zeke to pound through the holes that will create. I can see the Eagles throwing the whole playbook at Dallas, as they try and make one last push for the division. But it’s going to be tough, and I’m sick of waiting for the Eagles of last year to emerge. Cowboys, 24-17

Rams (-3) at Chicago

The Rams have shown that they can get “gotten” on the road — and yes, I know they’ve only lost one game all season, but they were slow to get up on the Lions last weekend, the Seahawks have battled them to within one score in both games, and they beat the Broncos in Denver by a field goal. The Bears defense will try their best to disrupt Sean McVay’s offensive plans — and they probably will find some level of success in doing so. But can Chicago’s offense hang around long enough? Something tells me Mitchell Trubisky is going to get to know Aaron Donald real well Sunday night. Rams, 24-17

Minnesota at Seattle (-3.5)

One of these teams has heart. The other does not. It’s that simple. Seahawks, 24-20

Keep the TV On

Indianapolis (+5) at Houston

This 9-game winning streak the Texans have been on all started in Indy when Frank Reich opted to go for it on fourth down from near midfield in overtime. Now, the Colts come in wishing that had ended in a tie, as they now face what amounts to a must-win game in Houston, against a team with a hot QB and a running game that has been on-point. That said, the Colts are second in the league converting third downs (48.2%) while the Texans are 15th at less than 40%. That’s a stat that could factor in to what should be a close division grinder. Colts, 31-24

New Orleans (-8) at Tampa Bay

The Saints finally defeated a divisional opponent by double digits when they got all over the Falcons on Thanksgiving night. The Bucs can score and Jameis Winston has been more careful not turning the ball over the past couple weeks. Will that trend continue in a shootout when his team gets behind? Hmmm. Saints, 38-27

Atlanta (+6) at Green Bay

The Packers and Aaron Rodgers are going to play their best game of the year. After the game, reporters will ask if it had anything to do with Mike McCarthy not being there, and of course, they’ll say it didn’t. Liars. Packers, 31-27

Flip Around

Carolina at Cleveland (+1.5)

This season got sideways in a hurry for Ron Rivera and the Panthers. It’s never a good omen when the HC has to fire a bunch of assistants mid-season and take over playcalling. Who would have thought 6 weeks ago that it’d be the Browns that look like the less dysfunctional team of the two? Browns, 29-24

New England (-7.5) at Miami

Miami is not good, and the Patriots’ run game should make hay. Also, the Patriots are looking to avenge last season’s MNF loss in South Beach, and the defense looks like it is rounding into typical December form. Patriots, 27-17

Occasionally Check the Game

Pittsburgh at Oakland (+11)

The Steelers have not traveled well over the past few years — and by that I mean that the offense has a propensity for sputtering and Big Ben turns the ball over. Also, James Connor is out with an ankle sprain so that’ll be worth monitoring over the final month of the regular season. Pittsburgh can’t afford any slip-ups — Lamar and the Ravens are closing in. Steelers, 31-24

Giants at Washington (+3.5)

The Giants are playing themselves right out of a top 5 pick with all this winning they’ve been doing lately. And this weekend presents a juicy matchup for Eli and the boys as they head into a game against a beat up Redskins team, who is watching the playoffs slip from their hands. Giants, 23-20

Turn the Channel and Don’t Bother

Jacksonville at Tennessee (-4)

No way the Jags show up in back-to-back weeks, right? And let’s be honest, it’s not like their offense did a single thing last Sunday against the Colts. The Titans are fighting for their playoff lives — they can’t slip here. Titans, 20-10

Jets at Buffalo (-3.5)

Josh Allen is garnering more love in the media thanks to his legs more than his arm. Expect more of the same this week with a Jets team that can start looking to 2019. Say what you will, Buffalo plays hard every week and shows signs of life with their rookie QB. Bills, 20-12

Cincinnati (+14) at Chargers 

This has all the makings of a trap game — Chargers riding high after a huge win in Pittsburgh on national television, taking on a no-name quarterback who’s missing his number one wideout. I’d take the Bengals, confidently, to cover except for one thing: The Curse of Hue. But all the ingredients are there!!! I’m probably going to regret this one. Chargers, 27-16

Denver at San Francisco (+5.5)

Don’t put me in the “I-believe-in-Denver” boat. Denver’s defense has been fine but not great, and their offense hinges upon an undrafted rookie running back. The 49ers might not be the team to get them, but someone will. People are acting like the Broncos are the favorites to make the playoffs in the AFC. Broncos, 23-20

Detroit (-2.5) at Arizona

We’ve been treated to some awful games over the last few weeks —
Giants-Niners, Niners-Bucs, Cards-Niners. But this one might be the worst of the bunch. Both defenses are capable of playing a decent enough game — the Cardinals just held the Packers to 17 points in Lambeau and the Rams were stuck in the teens for most of the game last Sunday at Detroit. Arizona ranks dead last in yards per play at 4.4 and in passing yards. With David Johnson in their backfield, they’re 31st in rushing yards. The Lions aren’t a ton better — 24th and 25th, respectively, in yards per play and rushing yards. First downs should be at a premium. Lions, 19-16


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