Three-quarters of the 2012 NFL season is in the books, meaning time is running out for bettors to pad their pockets with the glaring missteps of the oddsmakers.
As the season wears along, these opportunities become less frequent, with underlying stats and matchups beginning to cement teams' fates. Nevertheless, these oddsmakers are (assumedly) humans like the rest of us, so they make mistakes.
Sometimes it's not recognizing a team in pure tank mode and others it's as simple as failing to account for past meetings between the squads. Either way, if the sportsbooks want to give away free money, who are we to pass it up?
With that in mind, here is a look at the best bets for Week 14 NFL action.
(Note: The winning team is in italics, and all odds are courtesy of Bovada.)
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-10)
Ryan Lindley may be out of the lineup for the Cardinals on Sunday, but that doesn't mean his replacement, John Skelton, is some saving grace. Remember, it was Skelton's atrocious play that made Ken Whisenhunt start a completely unproven sixth-round pick in the first place.
The third-year signal caller has thrown for just 1,058 yards and two touchdowns against five interceptions in six games played this season. With the Cardinals offense struggling mightily in recent weeks, it's highly unlikely that Skelton will inject lifeblood into his teammates.
What's more, there's the undeniable fact that the Seahawks are simply better at CenturyLink Field than they are on the road. At home, Seattle has wins over the Patriots, Bears and Packers (kind of). On the road, the team has losses to the Cardinals, Lions and Rams, three teams that won't be playing come January.
Obviously, Brandon Browner's absence will loom large and leave the Seattle defense in a state of limbo. But considering that Arizona's talent deficiencies are becoming more glaring by the week and the Seahawks' excellent play at home, it would take a two-touchdown spread to make me hesitate.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 10
Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7.5)
The Buccaneers finish out their schedule with three games against playoff-contending NFC squads, so it's imperative that they come out victorious on Sunday.
At 6-6, Tampa has put itself up against the wall in the playoff race the past two weeks with losses to the Falcons and Broncos. Last week's loss to Denver was particularly disconcerting, as the 31-23 final score was not indicative how much the Buccaneers got dominated.
Luckily, Greg Schiano's group gets a massive reprieve this week. The Eagles have lost eight straight games and are in the midst of a midseason roster and coaching staff purge.
Nick Foles will continue to start at quarterback, and though he's not been Lindley-esque, the rookie has shown a penchant for wet-behind-the-ears mistakes. Considering the Bucs defense has given up the most passing yards in the NFL this season, facing a rookie quarterback could be just the remedy for that problem.
More importantly, the Eagles' best offensive facet (the rushing game) should be mitigated by Tampa's top-ranked run defense. With the Bucs offense firing on cylinders as well, it's nearly impossible to find a matchup where Philadelphia can come out on top.
All Tampa needs is eight points for a cover. Something tells this contest will be lucky to stay a two-score game.
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Eagles 16
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (+3)
Losers of three of their last four games, you can literally see the wheels falling off the Bears' bandwagon. After playing a relatively weak schedule to start the season, the teeth of Chicago's slate came out over the last quarter, and the team has seemingly regressed.
That may be the case. But it also ignores one important fact: The Bears' one victory in the past four weeks was an utter evisceration of this same Vikings team.
In that contest, Chicago dominated from the opening whistle—especially on the defensive side of the ball. Though Adrian Peterson went over the 100-yard mark, the Bears forced Christian Ponder into a starring role for the Minnesota offense.
The second-year quarterback threw the ball 43 times, but gained just 159 yards, good for 3.7 yards per attempt. Ponder's struggles helped the Bears force short possessions, which undoubtedly led to them possessing the ball for nearly 40 minutes.
With Percy Harvin now out for the season, there's little reason to expect a different result. Peterson can run rampant all he wants, but until there's some competency at quarterback, the Vikings won't consistently put points on the board.
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Vikings 10
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