It’s Week 14 and despite all the bad to mediocre football we’ve seen this season, so far only one team, the Carolina Panthers, has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. The three-win Patriots and the three-win Cardinals are circling the drain not far behind but for now, they’re alive. This week will see more jockeying for playoff position as apparently no team wants to win the AFC and the NFC has four strong teams but a considerable drop-off after that.
College bowl season doesn’t start until next weekend so unless we’re picking the outcome of the Army-Navy game, those picking this week are stuck trying to find five NFL games they like. Judging by how we’ve been picking in this contest lately, it might be wise to go back to the original unit as we went a combined 6-9 ATS last week.
With Kevin and I still in plus money, we may have to put our celebrity guests in time out until someone has a lucrative week, something only five of you have been able to accomplish so far this season. Kudos to Croshere, J-Dub, DrealEmcee, Swoops and TJ for getting the job done.
This week, we invite back Brother Bill. Big week for William. Not only at 4-6 does he stand to get into the positive with a sharp week but also surpass his younger brother for bragging rights in the contest. Good luck, sir.
Speaking of luck, let’s try mine, shall we?
$50 on Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-2 ½)
Have I told you about my Dallas Cowboys future yet? I can’t believe it as I’ve been telling everyone. I don’t want to jinx it (any more than I already have) but I still have faith in America’s team, far more than most. Dak Prescott is playing the best football of his career, Dallas’ offense is loaded, and their defense is top five in both yards and points allowed per game. This weekend, they invite the Philadelphia Eagles to town who have had the misfortunate of playing the Chiefs, Bills and Niners in back-to-back-to-back weeks. Of course, they won two of those three but looked atrocious against San Francisco. No rest for the weary as they play in Dallas Sunday night against a team that looks to gain ground on their NFC East rival. The Eagles are vulnerable against the pass and that’s exactly what Dak’s been succeeding at lately. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns and 1 pick in his last four games, all of which were wins. In fact, their last loss came in Philly by only five points. They’ll exact revenge this weekend against an Eagles team that needs to schedule a patsy quickly. They’re not getting one this week. Dallas covers the 2 ½.
$40 on Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+ 2) at Atlanta Falcons
It’s never a good idea to put all your marbles on your favorite team but this week, I’m going to. It wasn’t long ago that the Buc were surprising everyone. They started the season 3-1, then lost a game we figured they would to Detroit. Then came Atlanta. The sixth week of the season, in the driver’s seat for the division, the Buccaneers inexplicably lost at home to the Falcons 16-13. Despite them losing another game to the Texans that they probably should have won, it’s the home loss to the Falcons that bothers this team more than any other. Fortunately for the Bucs, they have a shot at redemption. A win over the division-leading Falcons puts Tampa back in the driver’s seat. The Falcons are relatively non-descript offensively, however, defensively they’re in the top ten so I expect another physical contest. The Bucs will have to string together drives, which has not been their forte either this season. We’ve seen them do it, just not consistently enough to their fan base’s liking. The Bucs know their earlier match-up is the one that got away. This locker room still seems to be responding to Todd Bowles and they know what’s at stake. I’m getting 2 ½ and I’m taking it with the hopes, and expectations, that the Bucs go up to Atlanta and beat a team they should have swept. Bucs plus.
$30 on Buffalo Bills (+3) at Kansas City Chiefs
Something is wrong with the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s easy to speculate about the curse of Taylor Swift but last time I checked, she’s not the one dropping passes all over Arrowhead. We tend to forget that their offensive coordinator extraordinaire left for Washington and ever since that departure, the Chiefs simply haven’t been the same. Remember at the beginning of the season where we would have bet our mortgages on the Chiefs, Bills, or Bengals winning the AFC. At this point, it’s wise to refinance. While the Jags and Chiefs are all but shoo-in to make the post-season, the Bills are currently the 11th seed at 6-6. They have failed to live up to expectations and this week travel to said Arrowhead where the Chiefs are notoriously difficult to play. Fortunately for Buffalo, these are not the same old Chiefs. They’ve lost three of their last five and look closer to falling apart than they do putting Humpty back together again. I’m not going to say this is a must-win for Buffalo but with seven AFC teams with either a 7-5 or 6-6 record, a win sure would help. The Bills are coming off a bye and a heartbreaking loss to the Eagles the week before that. I can’t imagine them not taking the week off to do some serious soul-searching. With games remaining against the Cowboys, Chargers and Dolphins, the Bills are officially in win now mode. Accordingly, I’ll take the Bills plus the three as I expect them to pull off the upset or at least leave it all on the field trying.
$20 on Detroit Lions (-3) at Chicago Bears
I’m not quite sure what Chicago has left to play for at this point in the season? Pride? What for? They’re already stockpiling draft picks and if they’re not salivating over the opportunity to land Marvin Harrison, Jr., they need to fire their GM immediately. In a quarterback-rich draft, depending on where the Bears pick, they should have Harrison in their sights. He’s exactly what this team needs. Minnesota and Cincinnati have both proven that landing an uber-talented wide receiver like Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase can immediately change the trajectory of your franchise. Harrison, Jr. appears to be that kind of player. The Bears, at 4-8, have no business winning any more games. Meanwhile, Detroit, who they play this weekend is the better team and still has playoff seeding to shoot for. A win this weekend, combined with a Philly loss and San Fran win leaves four teams log-jammed atop the NFC at 10-3. The Lions don’t want to have to travel to those places. Here’s your stat for the day: The Detroit Lions haven’t hosted a playoff game since 1993. A win in Chicago this weekend would be the first step in ensuring they break that unenviable streak. Lions need the win plus Bears don’t equals Detroit covering the three on the road.
$10 on Houston Texans/New York Jets Under 39
CJ Stroud is your offensive rookie of the year. Write that down in ink. D’Amico Ryans is your NFL Coach of the Year. I don’t think you’ll find much debate about either of those two outcomes. The Houston Texans are the most surprising young team in a league full of parity. This week, however, they travel to New York to face one of the league’s best defenses. The Jets are an absolute mockery. They have scored 58 points in their last six games. They’re like watching a movie without a plot, yet you can’t turn away because you want to see how bad it gets. Somehow, this defense still finds a reason to wake up every morning despite its counterpart’s inability to muster a point. As difficult as it is to bet on the Jets’ brand of unwatchable football, the real key here lay in the numbers that Houston has been putting up lately. They’ve scored 22 or less in their last three games. Two of those were wins, which tells us that Houston’s defense is no slouch either although you could pretty much throw out a paper mache wall and stop the Jets from moving the ball. This over/under opened at 39 so I jumped on it hard. It’s already down to 33 which means, if you were paying attention, you could have found yourself a very playable five-number middle. It’ll be fun to see Stroud tap dance his way around the Jets defense, especially with no Tank Dell. I take that back. This game won’t be fun to watch at all. Give me Houston/Jets under 39.
Brother Bills’s Picks for the Week (Career: 4-6, -$20)
$50 – Kansas City Chiefs -1.5 vs Buffalo Bills
Chris Berman used to say that “nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills”. Is this the game where Buffalo rights the ship, and gets back into the playoff picture? It is not. I’ll take the Chiefs at home -1.5.
$40 – Cincinnati Bengals +1 vs Indianapolis Colts
Jake Browning was 32/37 for 354 yards last week at Jacksonville. I predict continued success at home vs. Indy and Gardner Minshew. Give me Cincy +1.
$30 – Cleveland Browns -3 vs Jacksonville Jaguars
No Lawrence, no Kirk…no thanks. Cleveland wins and covers at home. The AFC North continues to be full of teams over .500, like my Steelers, but they’re all mediocre, except Baltimore. Give me Cleveland -3.
$20 – Philadelphia Eagles +3.5 at Dallas Cowboys
I’m just not sold on the Cowboys. Nice record, but no signature win. Maybe they get it Sunday night, maybe not, and they may not cover. Give me the team with the best record in the league and 3.5 points.
$10 – Houston Texans -3.5 at New York Jets
CJ Stroud, my fellow Buckeye. Give me Houston -3.5
$50: Green Bay Packers (-4.5) at New York Giants
I’ve seen the early career statistical comparisons between Aaron Rodgers and Jordan Love for weeks now, but I didn’t see the “it factor” on the field. That is, until the last few weeks. Love has looked good. Really good actually. He’s spreading the ball around. He’s making big time plays. Mistakes are limited. The Packers are alive in the playoff picture. This includes big time wins over the Lions and Chiefs. As for the Giants, it’s been an up and down season, but mostly down. Tommy DeVito is the story and being embraced in The Big Apple. But the key matchup will be Saquon Barkley facing Green Bay’s 30th ranked run defense. Barkley remains the key weapon on New York’s offense. He will be the focus and right now, I trust what Jordan Love and the Green Bay offense is doing. Packers cover on the road.
$40: Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns (+3)
The early bird gets the worm, as they say. Cleveland opened as a three-point underdog and as a late update to this pick, the Browns are now 2 1/2 point favorites. It comes with an obvious risk, that being the health of Jags QB Trevor Lawrence (ankle). The injury didn’t look good on the field last week, but Lawrence fought his way off the field and is currently listed as questionable. But here’s my thinking. Even if Lawrence plays, he won’t nearly be as mobile. Facing one of the most aggressive and talented defensive fronts, well… that’s going to be a problem. C.J. Beathard would step in if Lawrence doesn’t suit up. Beathard was 9-for-10 in limited time against the Bengals last week, but was sacked twice. Cleveland has home field and have fought adversity through injuries all season. Browns cover at home.
$30: Detroit Lions (-3) at Chicago Bears
What am I missing? The Lions are in the mix for the conference’s top seed, while the Bears are eyeing up the top of the NFL Draft (with multiple picks, thanks Panthers). The Lions took the first matchup in Detroit a few weeks ago (31-26), so maybe that’s part of it. Chicago does have home field and sports the league’s top run defense (79.0 ypg allowed). Justin Fields ran for over 100 yards two weeks back, so Detroit has likely game planned a way to keep his feet in check. Detroit ranks 5th against the run, so it’s not like the Lions haven’t fared well against opposing run games this season. Overall, I trust Dan Campbell and the talent that the Lions have. Lions cover on the road.
$20: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (UNDER 38 points)
Saints fans are frustrated and rightfully so. The division is very winnable and its hometown Saints have been uninspiring on the field. Carolina, meanwhile, is a hot mess – just don’t bring that up to David Tepper. The result is… what’s that smell? Oh yes, a barnburner. The Saints have nine players sporting a questionable tag this week, including QB Derek Carr (concussion), QB/TE Taysom Hill, DE Cameron Jordan, WR Rashid Shaheed, WR Chris Olave, and TE Juwan Johnson. You get the idea. That’s a lot of key players, and while most could play, the team is banged up. The Panthers, meanwhile, simply can’t score. Over the last six games, the Panthers have scored 79 points. That’s an average of around 13 points a game. Let’s assume they hit that average. That leaves the Saints – with that banged up offense – scoring 24 and we’d still land on the under. I’ll let the stats do the talking. Give me the under in Panthers-Saints.
$10: Denver Broncos (+3) at Los Angeles Chargers
In my head, Vegas has a three-point line set for the Chargers in every game this season, without even looking at the opponents. It’s what the Chargers do. They lose close games. Six of L.A’s games have been decided by four points or less (five of them losses). Reports are stating that L.A. could give more carries to Joshua Kelley, as the struggles continue for Austin Ekeler. Denver’s win streak is over, following its road defeat at the hands of the Texans. Denver does rank last in run defense on the season and L.A. ranks in the bottom ten in rushing offense. Something has to give there. In the end, I don’t feel like going deep-dive on analysis with this one. Sean Payton > Brandon Staley and the Broncos have been on a strong stretch and have more to play for. Staley remains on the hot seat. Broncos cover on the road.