We’re going to keep this week’s intro short and sweet, as your favorite weary traveler/sports blogger just got back from New York City for seeing about a girl.
The climate was cold, the food was fabulous, and the company was extraordinary.
I’ll go easy on my counterpart for going 0-5 ATS last week unless he does it again, in which case we shall unleash the hounds. This week, we welcome back semi-frequent contributor Rising Storms who looks to keep our guest picks hot streak alive.
Here are our standings to date… and our picks.
$50 on Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers (+3 ½)
Everyone’s high on the Dolphins right now, as they should be but we’re forgetting the Chargers are very much alive in the playoff hunt. Tua’s banged up and Mike Williams returns, both of which bode well for the Bolts. This is a late-night, home game for L.A. which means the flighty L.A. fan base might even attend, assuming there’s no conflicting awards show for them to smack each other. I’m taking the Chargers plus the points in what Vegas likes to be the highest scoring game of the weekend. I’m inclined to agree.
$40 on New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-9 ½)
The Buffalo Bills are laying ten points against a team in the middle of a quarterback controversy. Even with the loss of Von Miller, the Bills defense will have us talking about Zach Wilson again. The Bills remain undeterred in their quest to regain America’s confidence. That quest continues successfully as the Bills maul the Jets in Buffalo. I’m smelling a 35-13 sort of score here so give me the Bills minus the line.
$30 on Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks (- 3 ½)
This has all the makings of a trap game, but I’ll bite. I’m not quite sure why the potentially-playoff bound Seahawks are at home and only laying a field goal against a Panthers team that’s probably looking for draft position. Panthers haven’t won a road game this season. I’m not sure what it is they’re playing for. The ‘Hawks are very much alive in the NFC playoff hunt and are a top-five scoring offense in the NFL. I don’t see how the Panthers can keep up. Take Seattle and lay.
$20 on Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+ 3 ½) at San Francisco 49ers
No Jimmy Garoppolo means the Niners look to Brock Purdy to carry them into the post-season. Their offense isn’t overly quarterback-intensive, and their defense is lights out which, as a Buccaneers fans, frightens me for the likes of Tom Brady. But the GOAT’s been able to dump the ball off in the face of fierce pass rush. This game looks to be a bruiser at the line of scrimmage, but the Bucs defense might do enough against a guy making his first start to force him into some bad looks, taking the pressure off a Bucs offense that has struggled. I’ll take the Bucs plus the three and a half.
$10 on Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (+7)
Everyone, for good reason, is high on the one-loss Eagles. The once-hot Giants have cooled off a bit but this weekend they welcome their division rival. If the G-Men want any shot at a post-season berth, this is a game they must win. They’re getting a lofty seven this weekend that I am inclined to take. Look for the Giants to control enough clock and tempo to prove this Eagles team is perhaps more flawed that most of us think.
THE WIFE HATES SPORTS WEEK FOURTEEN
$50: Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
If I’m going to feature Nate Bargatze, then I should also back his teams, right? Thankfully, Vanderbilt isn’t playing this week (sorry, Nate). The Titans, however, are at home – and facing the division rival Jags, a team that Tennessee has beaten in nine of its last ten attempts. Yes, this Jacksonville team is more competitive than in recent seasons. Treylon Burks has also been ruled out for the Titans, leaving a huge gap in the WR group for Tennessee. The Titans rank 3rd against the run and should limit the Jacksonville run game. Then, if Derrick Henry posts big numbers, Tennessee wins big. Titans cover at home.
$40: Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) at Denver Broncos
The Broncos tend to fare better at home versus division rivals. I’m going to ignore that considering the Patrick Mahomes presence on one side, and then looking at Russell Wilson on the other side. Wilson posted a QB rating of 100 or above from 2018-2021. This year, his QB rating is 83.5. Wilson has completed 60.3% of his passes, his lowest mark since 2017 (61.3%). Russell has just 8 TD passes and it’s Week 14. The Denver offense has zero get up and go. They operate like Bargatze’s description of common core math. The defense has a lot of fight, but not enough to handle Kansas City. Chiefs cover on the road.
$30: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-5.5)
The Bengals are starting to click and play like the Bengals of last year. Cincinnati is becoming scary like the Cape Fear Serpentarium (which no longer exists, but see Bargatze’s original bit on it). Controversial QB Deshaun Watson has shown tons of rust in his return. For me, it comes down to Burrow and Cincinnati’s 4th ranked passing offense. Cleveland ranks in the middle of the pack against the pass. Overall, I trust a Cincinnati team trending up and playing at home. Bengals cover at home.
$20: Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys (-17)
Lines this large in the NFL scare me. Apparently they don’t scare me enough, as here I am. It’s simple really. The Cowboys offense is clicking and the Texans look like a team destined for the first pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Houston is 3rd to last in turnover differential (-6), 28th in total defense, and last in rushing defense. To add to it, assuming the Texans need to score to keep with Dallas, Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins are both out and Dallas ranks 2nd in the NFL against the pass. Defensively, bright spot Derek Stingley Jr. is out for the Texans. There’ll be a lot of unknown faces for the Texans, which makes me think of Bargatze’s airport bit regarding his name. Cowboys cover at home.
$10: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2)
Perhaps taking one of the most heated rivalries in the NFL isn’t a great idea. That goes double considering my gut thought was to take the Ravens. Diving deeper, I found that the Steelers have actually won four straight games in this rivalry. Tyler Huntley is likely starting over Lamar Jackson again. He was far from stellar in a one-point win over the hapless Broncos. Last year, Huntley was 2-5 filling in as the Ravens starter. That includes a two interception, 141 yard passing performance against the Steelers. Playing at home, I like Pittsburgh in this situation, considering they are the healthier team overall. Steelers cover at home.
CELEBRITY GUEST WEEK FOURTEEN: RISING STORMS (Last season’s record: 4-1, $70)
It’s a rainy, miserable night here in the ATL but it’s warm and dry at Casa de Storms, a magical place where the whiskey flows like wine, where the women flock like the salmon of Capistrano. It’s week 14, which means that once again it’s my turn to pick for the Chump. So, with cocktail firmly in hand, here goes…
Raiders (-5.5) at Rams: No Matt Stafford, no Aaron Donald, no….chance for the defending champs at home. The Raiders seem to be finding their groove, which doesn’t bode well for the depleted Rams. Raiders win and cover.
Vikings at Lions (-1.5): At first glance, one might instinctively pick the Vikings on the road. However, there has never been a less intimidating 10-1 division leader than the 2022 Minnesota Vikings. The Lions boast a surprisingly potent offense, while the Vikes have the absolute worst pass defense in the league. The Lions roar, and make easy work of the Vikings.
Texans(+17) at Cowboys: If I had smoked a giant joint of Colorado’s finest, I might pick the Texans here straight up. As it turns out, I do, in fact, have giant Doobie, but I’ve never been so baked that I’d believe Houston stands a chance of winning outright. However, 17 is a ridiculous amount of points to give, and I think Dallas is pretty overrated. Big D wins, but Houston covers…barely.
Jets(+9.5) at Bills: Now that the Jets seem to have a QB with Mike F’ing White, they may indeed become the proverbial “team nobody wants to see” come playoff time. Having said that, the Bills are, on paper anyways, a better team than their AFC East brethren. I like the Bills, but I’m not buying -9.5. Bills Mafia for the win, but Fireman Ed’s boys cover.
Eagles(-6.5) at Giants: I won’t lie, as a life long Eagles fan, it’s odd to sit here in December with only one loss, and a fluky one at the hands of a ref, at that. It’s pick your poison with this version of the Iggles. One week, they’ll put 300+ yards on the ground, the next Jalen will pass for near 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. This week, I expect the Birds to run right at the 31st ranked rush defense, and probably not stop til they hit the Vince Lombardi rest area on the Turnpike. And, Philly’s defense knocked Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay, potentially, and just followed it up by completely bottling up Derrick Henry and Tennessee’s powerful ground attack. Up next, Daniel Jones and Saquon. I’m taking the Birds to dog walk the Giants.
As for the rest of week 14: King Henry and the Titans recover from their thumping in Philly to take care of the Jags, the Chiefs unload on Russell and the Broncos, the Seahawks should have little issue dispatching the suddenly Baker Mayfield-less Panthers, the Chargers take out the ‘Phins, and, both last and least, the University of Phoenix stadium implodes and takes both the Pats and Cards with it, and nobody really cares.