In the blink of an eye, it's Week 14, and suddenly opportunities for many NFL teams to get into the playoff picture are becoming fewer and fewer.
The race for six postseason slots in each conference is close to coming to an end, which means that the competition will only heat up down the stretch as teams jockey for positioning. With so many teams mired in mediocrity in the first half of the season, there are plenty of squads that have a chance at squeaking into the playoff picture.
Despite the high stakes resulting in some surprise outcomes, count on these few teams to cover the spread and notch a victory.
|Away Team||Home Team||Spread||Pick (ATS)|
|Houston Texans||Jacksonville Jaguars||HOU -3.5||HOU|
|Kansas City Chiefs||Washington Redskins||KC -3||KC|
|Minnesota Vikings||Baltimore Ravens||BAL -6.5||BAL|
|Cleveland Browns||New England Patriots||NE -10||CLE|
|Oakland Raiders||New York Jets||NYJ -2.5||NYJ|
|Indianapolis Colts||Cincinnati Bengals||CIN -6||IND|
|Atlanta Falcons||Green Bay Packers||N/A||N/A|
|Detroit Lions||Philadelphia Eagles||PHI -2.5||DET|
|Miami Dolphins||Pittsburgh Steelers||PIT -3||PIT|
|Buffalo Bills||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB -2.5||TB|
|Tennessee Titans||Denver Broncos||DEN -12||TEN|
|St. Louis Rams||Arizona Cardinals||ARI -6||STL|
|New York Giants||San Diego Chargers||SD -3||NYG|
|Seattle Seahawks||San Francisco 49ers||SF -2.5||SEA|
|New Orleans Saints||Carolina Panthers||NO -3||NO|
|Dallas Cowboys||Chicago Bears||CHI -1||DAL|
Spreads via ScoresAndOdds.com
Kansas City Chiefs (-3) over Washington Redskins
A trip to the nation's capital is just what the doctor ordered for the struggling Chiefs.
After starting out a perfect 9-0, Andy Reid and company are suddenly in the midst of a three-game losing streak largely thanks to two games in three weeks against the Denver Broncos.
Kansas City travels to Washington to find a team in a similar, albeit mounds more painful, situation regarding recent stumbles. The Redskins have lost four straight and five of their last six, while continuing to make average opposing quarterbacks into stars.
Alex Smith typically isn't a downfield threat, but he'll enjoy the opportunity to be one against a Washington defense that will have to overcommit to stop the run and will be left hanging on the hopes of a woeful secondary.
And even if the 'Skins find a way to keep Kansas City relatively quiet on offense, don't expect enough scoring from Robert Griffin III and this struggling Washington offense to keep it close.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) over Miami Dolphins
The Steelers have dominated this week's storylines for all of the wrong reasons, despite coming within a failed two-point conversion of going to overtime at Baltimore on Thanksgiving.
Had Ben Roethlisberger led his team to a win there, it would've been Pittsburgh's fourth straight win and gotten it to .500 after starting the year off 0-4. Now at 5-7, a home contest against the Dolphins is a must-win because eight losses isn't going to get you into the playoffs. Plus, Miami is 6-6 and some of the biggest competition for that final AFC wild-card slot.
Pittsburgh couldn't run the ball against anyone early in the season, but Le'Veon Bell has become reliable for about 100 all-purpose yards per game. That will continue against a Miami defense that gives up more than 120 yards per game on the ground.
The Steelers' midseason surge won't be watered down by the Baltimore loss, as this team is certainly hungry to get back on the field and prove its worth as a playoff contender.
After all, 9-7 may make the playoffs in the mediocre AFC.
New Orleans Saints (-3) over Carolina Panthers
What better way for New Orleans to wash out the bad taste in its mouth from that Seattle loss than an inspiring home win over its best divisional foe?
After getting demolished on Monday Night Football this past weekend by the Seahawks, the Saints return home to the Superdome, where they never lose. Literally. They're a perfect 6-0 there this season.
The Seahawks were able to hit the Saints with a couple of gut punches by lighting it up through the air, and that really doesn't fit to the Panthers' strengths. Cam Newton's offense averages fewer than 200 yards passing per game this season—good for 27th in the league.
Carolina's offense is a lot like San Francisco's. Each has a young, playmaking, mobile quarterback with a formidable run game and very few weapons on the outside. That matches up well for New Orleans, who beat the Niners 23-20 when they visited the Superdome in Week 11.
The Panthers defense is one of the better units in the NFL, but Drew Brees is as good as they come, and it's nearly impossible to bank on him having a second straight poor game.