Week 14 NFL Picks: Underdogs That Will Cover the Spread

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2012

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 02:  Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers carries the ball cduring the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 2, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Week 14 in the NFL is upon us, and with it come a number of tasty potential wagers.

Underdogs have been profitable all season long, winning at a high clip and rewarding bettors who are crafty enough to bet good value.

Even though it's sexier to take the league's best teams, it's wiser to occasionally roll the dice on a bad team getting a lot of points. It's scary, but it's worth the risk.

Let's take a look at three underdogs who could make you money this weekend.


Kansas City Chiefs (+7) @ Cleveland Browns

I get that the Browns are woefully underrated. And I get, just as much as the folks at Football Outsiders do, that the Chiefs are historically bad.

But Cleveland shouldn't be laying a touchdown to anybody. Like, anybody.

Their four wins this season have come by an average of five points each. And two have come against teams (San Diego and Oakland) that aren't discernibly better than the Chiefs.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, have been sneaky good against the spread as of late. They've covered in three out of four weeks––in large part because Vegas keeps disrespecting them. This week is no different.

Even on the road in Cleveland, Brady Quinn should be able to plod the Chiefs' offense along. He's hardly been Aaron Rodgers, but he's been a massive improvement over Matt Cassel. Last week against Carolina, he completed 19-of-23 passes, a stat line Cassel couldn't even achieve in his dreams.

Take the Chiefs and the points, then watch and enjoy as Brandon Weeden makes you money.


Tennessee Titans (+5.5) @ Indianapolis Colts

Is Indianapolis the worst 8-4 team ever? The numbers suggest they might be.

Despite their bang-up record, the Colts rank 27th in Football Outsiders' team efficiency rankings. Or, to put it more bluntly, the Colts rank sixth-worst in the NFL.

And while they have been markedly better at home, they've still yet to prove themselves capable of laying this many points. Of their five home wins, only one (Week 12 against Buffalo) came by more than 5.5 points––a stat that hardly inspires confidence in bettors.

It'd be a lot easier to pick against the Colts if it didn't mean you had to bet on the inconsistent Titans. But even if Jake Locker hardly inspires confidence, it's tough to ignore the numbers here.

Take the points.


Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers (+3.5)

 The Colts may or may not be the worst 8-4 team ever. But Atlanta is almost certainly the worst 11-1 team the league's ever seen.

They've eked out a number of close games, despite playing one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. Accordingly, Football Outsiders ranks them 14th in weighted team efficiency. That's hardly where a conference leader (and one that sports a multiple-game lead, at that) is expected to place.

On the other side of the ball, Carolina is one of the better 3-9 teams the league has ever seen. They've played a number of close games against quality teams, their only undoing being coach Ron Rivera's late-game incompetence.

They're 0-7 in games decided by six or fewer points, but there's a silver lining in Carolina. Check out this tasty number Aaron Schatz––founder of Football Outsiders––relayed on the B.S. Report podcast:

From 1990 to 2011, there were seven different teams that were 0-5, or worse, in less-than-a-touchdown games through Week 13. In the last four weeks, those same teams were 8-2 in less-than-a-touchdown games.

One of those less-than-a-touchdown losses for Carolina came against the Falcons in Atlanta. That game, for those who recall, is one the Panthers easily could have, and probably should have, won.

Don't just expect a cover in this one; look for the Panthers to win outright.