Bleacher Report's Expert Week 14 NFL Picks
For Week 14, seven out of 13 NFL games feature division battles, which means bettors should be cautious with heavy favorites because familiarity between opponents oftentimes results in close scores. With those contests in mind, our crew had to carefully sort through a matchup with a quarterback change (because of injury) and a spread that just doesn’t make sense.
NFL analysts Gary Davenport, Brent Sobleski, Kris Knox and Maurice Moton, editor Wes O'Donnell and B/R Betting host of "Winners Only Wednesdays" Greg Ivory spent extra time with the upcoming slate of picks as they maneuvered through some intriguing lines. As a group, they only backed two underdogs, but individual panelists provided strong reasons to fade a few more favorites.
Before we dive into our selections, check out O’Donnell, who’s cracked 100 wins atop the leaderboard. Here are the expert standings through Week 13 with last week’s results in parentheses.
1. O'Donnell: 102-87-6 (10-5)
T-2. Davenport: 96-93-6 (5-10)
T-2. Moton: 96-93-6 (6-9)
4. Ivory: 92-97-6 (10-5)
5 Sobleski: 89-100-6 (7-8)
6. Knox: 88-101-6 (10-5)
Consensus picks: 90-80-6 (6-5)
Lines are from DraftKings as of Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 4 p.m. ET. Check DraftKings for the latest odds info. Information on public betting trends is courtesy of the Action Network. ATS records are provided by TeamRankings.
Las Vegas Raiders (5-7) at Los Angeles Rams (3-9)
Editor's Note: Rams defeated the Raiders 17-16 on Thursday night.
DraftKings Line: Raiders -6
On a hot streak, the Las Vegas Raiders have won three consecutive games just in time for a Thursday night prime-time matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, who injected some uncertainty into this matchup.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles claimed Baker Mayfield off waivers. According to a source who texted ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Rams’ new quarterback has “a shot” to play in this game.
Whether it’s Mayfield, Bryce Perkins or John Wolford, who’s dealing with neck soreness, under center in place of Matthew Stafford, the Rams offense will likely struggle to move the ball through the air without wideouts Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson II. Last week, Wolford threw for 178 yards and two interceptions while the team rushed for 171 yards and a couple of scores.
In a unanimous decision, our crew picked the Raiders, and Moton provided some context behind the selection.
“The Raiders have the clear upper hand against the Rams, whose best bet to compete with the ninth-ranked scoring offense is to muddy up the game on the ground. Mayfield has a short turnaround with his new club. Wolford and Perkins have thrown for two touchdowns and five interceptions combined. The Silver and Black can potentially take advantage of a one-dimensional offense that’s turned the ball over four times in the last two games without Stafford.
“Furthermore, over the last two weeks, Vegas has forced three turnovers, and Chandler Jones has come alive as a pass-rusher, logging three sacks against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13.
“While wideout Davante Adams and running back Josh Jacobs continue to rack up yards and touchdowns for the Silver and Black’s offense, the defense can limit an injury-riddled Rams squad’s scoring opportunities to stay ahead by a little more than a touchdown.”
Consensus: Raiders -6
Score Prediction: Raiders 27, Rams 17
Cleveland Browns (5-7) at Cincinnati Bengals (8-4)
DraftKings Line: Bengals -6
Since the Cleveland Browns thumped the Cincinnati Bengals 32-13 on Halloween, the reigning AFC champions have rattled off four consecutive wins, and they welcomed back wideout Ja’Marr Chase, who missed the first meeting between these division rivals with a hip injury.
By the way, Joe Mixon cleared concussion protocol Wednesday. Back from a two-game absence, he'll provide a significant boost for the Bengals, who will likely try to exploit the Browns’ 22nd-ranked run defense in a balanced offensive attack.
Most of our crew expects the Bengals to avenge their October loss to the Browns with win by more than a touchdown, but Sobleski went into the recent history of this AFC North matchup and took Cleveland to cover the spread.
“Two factors play in the Browns’ favor to, at the very least, cover the spread, if not win outright against their cross-state rivals. First, Cleveland simply matches up well against Cincinnati. In fact, the Browns have won five straight in this divisional rivalry, which includes every game since Joe Burrow became Cincinnati's starting quarterback. During the four games in which Nick Chubb played, he averaged 105 rushing yards per contest. Myles Garrett has seven sacks during Cleveland's winning streak.
"Secondly, Deshaun Watson can't possibly play any worse than he did in his return after an 11-game suspension, as well as sitting out all of last season. Eventually, the three-time Pro Bowl signal-caller will shake off some of the rust and start playing better. The Bengals are currently ranked 16th against the pass.”
Consensus: Bengals -6
Score Prediction: Bengals 30, Browns 20
New York Jets (7-5) at Buffalo Bills (9-3)
DraftKings Line: Bills -9.5
Similar to the matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, the better team (record-wise) in this division rivalry could avenge a midseason defeat.
The Bills’ Week 9 loss to the New York Jets started a two-game skid, but Buffalo has recovered to win three consecutive games. Meanwhile, Gang Green has alternated wins and losses since Week 7.
New York beat Buffalo 20-17 with quarterback Zach Wilson, whom the Jets benched for Mike White after Week 11. The former has elevated the team’s passing attack, but he turned the ball over twice against the Minnesota Vikings last week.
Despite the Jets’ upgrade at quarterback, Knox thinks the Bills will get the best of White in consecutive years.
“This seems like a ridiculously large line, considering that the Jets won the first meeting this year. However, I think we see the Bills dominate in a manner similar to last Thursday's game against the New England Patriots.
“Mike White is playing better right now than Zach Wilson has all season, but New York may have to reevaluate its quarterback situation after this one. His two interceptions against the Vikings were backbreaking, and I think we'll see more against Buffalo (he had four in last year's matchup).
"The Bills, meanwhile, should be laser-focused now that they're in control of the AFC's No. 1 seed. With Buffalo discovering something in James Cook and rediscovering Isaiah McKenzie over the last couple of weeks (11 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown), I don't think the Bills offense makes the same mistakes it did in Week 9.”
Consensus: Jets +9.5
Score Prediction: Bills 26, Jets 21
Philadelphia Eagles (11-1) at New York Giants (7-4-1)
DraftKings Line: Eagles -7
The New York Giants have a daunting late-season schedule as they prepare to play against an NFC East opponent for the third consecutive week with two more in-division contests remaining on their 17-game slate. Big Blue will also go on the road to square off with the Minnesota Vikings (10-2) in Week 16.
With two losses and a tie in their previous three outings, the Giants need a win to keep up with a division that features teams with winning records from top to bottom, which raises the stakes in a matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles, who have the league’s best record.
Moton thinks the Eagles have started to peak at the right time while the Giants’ top playmaker goes through a rough stretch. He expects Philadelphia to overwhelm an overachieving division rival.
“Though the Giants have their backs against the wall, the Eagles have a lot on the line as they try to stay in position for a first-round playoff bye as the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Unfortunately for Big Blue, Philadelphia played like the NFL’s best team when it dominated the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans at home 35-10.
“Aside from running back Saquon Barkley and wideout Darius Slayton, who’s probably a No. 2 or No. 3 wide receiver on most rosters, the Giants don’t have the offensive firepower to keep pace with the Eagles’ second-ranked scoring attack.
“By the way, Barkley’s rushing production has tapered off over the past few weeks. He hasn’t eclipsed 63 yards on the ground in any of his last three outings, which is a troubling trend for the Giants offense.”
Consensus: Eagles -7
Score Prediction: Eagles 28, Giants 20
Minnesota Vikings (10-2) at Detroit Lions (5-7)
DraftKings Line: Lions -2.5
Here’s where oddsmakers may have confused bettors. The Minnesota Vikings have twice as many wins as the Detroit Lions, but the better team is the road underdog.
In fairness to the Lions, they only lost by four points to Minnesota on the road, and they’ve made strides since the first meeting with their NFC North rival.
As for the Vikings, they narrowly beat the New York Jets (27-22), who scored one touchdown on six red-zone trips last week. Knox feels confident that Detroit’s sixth-ranked scoring offense will expose Minnesota’s vulnerable defense, which led him to side with the Lions for the win.
“It may be hard to believe that the Lions are favored here, but that's where we are in Week 14. Detroit has won four of its last five and gave Buffalo everything it could handle on Thanksgiving. I expect the Lions to keep the momentum rolling.
"The first meeting was extremely close, and Detroit is playing a much better brand of ball now. I can't say the same about the Vikings, though at 10-2, they're obviously still very good. But I think their 31st-ranked total defense will be much more problematic in the rematch. I fully expect a shootout here, with Detroit winning on a final-drive score.”
Bettors should keep an eye on the Vikings injury report. Defensive end Danielle Hunter, cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Harrison Smith are dealing with an illness. Minnesota's 21st-ranked scoring unit needs all three defenders healthy in a matchup with the Lions' high-scoring offense.
Consensus: Vikings +2.5
Score Prediction: Vikings 31, Lions 28
Houston Texans (1-10-1) at Dallas Cowboys (9-3)
DraftKings Line: Cowboys -16.5
In a battle between the two Texas pro football teams, the surging Dallas Cowboys will host the lowly one-win Houston Texans.
You’ll find it difficult to find anyone who’s willing to give the Texans a chance to win this game, but the oddsmakers made it difficult to bet with a massive spread. Beware of a backdoor cover if the Cowboys take their foot off the gas pedal in the second half.
With the exception of Sobleski, our panel took Dallas, and Moton explained why bettors should back the Cowboys despite a grand canyon-like line in their favor.
“Typically, you should take the points with a massive three-possession line in pro football, but the Cowboys have won four games by 18 or more points this season,” he said. “They’ve dominated lesser opponents, and the NFC East club just beat the Indianapolis Colts 54-19 last Sunday.
“Meanwhile, the Texans have lost their previous three games by 13 or more points. We can safely say that it’s not a stretch of our imagination to think they can lose in an embarrassing blowout to a Cowboys squad that fields the third-ranked scoring offense and defense."
Consensus: Cowboys -16.5
Score Prediction: Cowboys 38, Texans 16
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-8) at Tennessee Titans (7-5)
DraftKings Line: Titans -4
In a shocking move, the Tennessee Titans fired general manager Jon Robinson Tuesday. Some people have pointed to Philadelphia Eagles wideout A.J. Brown’s Week 13 performance against his former team (eight receptions for 119 yards and two touchdowns) as the final straw for the ousted front-office executive.
Whatever the case, the Titans have some turmoil that could impact the product on the field. Does head coach Mike Vrabel feel some pressure? Just like Robinson, he signed an extension this past offseason. Will Tennessee approach this game in a different manner to stop a two-game skid?
The Titans must figure out how to reignite their run game. Derrick Henry hasn’t eclipsed 87 rushing yards in a contest since Week 9, and he’s only scored two touchdowns (one passing and one rushing) in that stretch.
While five of our experts believe the well-coached Titans find their way back into the win column by a comfortable margin, Sobleski thinks the Jaguars can take advantage of a team that’s headed in the wrong direction.
“The Titans may be leading the underwhelming AFC South by a solid three games, but the club’s leadership isn't happy with how the team is performing. Surprisingly, the organization fired general manager Jon Robinson this week after giving him a contract extension this past February. According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Titans brass "wasn't happy" with the direction of the roster.
“One way or the other, this contest will serve as a statement game. Either the Titans will rally after a shocking organizational shift, or the Jags will prove Tennessee's decision-makers correct when it comes to the team's roster. Let's go with the latter actually happening since the Jaguars are talented. Besides, Doug Pederson's squad tends to put quality outings together every other weekend.”
Consensus: Titans -4
Score Prediction: Titans 27, Jaguars 21
Baltimore Ravens (8-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (5-7)
DraftKings Line: Steelers -2.5
The Pittsburgh Steelers come into this matchup as slight favorites because oddsmakers factored in the unlikelihood that Lamar Jackson plays in this game.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Jackson sprained his PCL last week. Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh told reporters that his starting quarterback is “less likely” to play Sunday, which means Tyler Huntley will draw his first start of the season after playing three quarters against the Denver Broncos in Week 13. The backup signal-caller went 27-of-32 passing for 187 yards and an interception and rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown.
In his decision to pick the Ravens, Moton doesn’t see a major drop-off between how Jackson has played in recent weeks and what Huntley can do under center.
“Before Jackson suffered a knee injury in Week 13, he struggled to move the ball through the air, throwing for just two touchdowns and an interception in three games between Weeks 9 and 12. In two of those contests, the Ravens signal-caller completed less than 55 percent of his passes. Huntley can certainly top those passing numbers while forcing Steelers defenders to account for him as a ball-carrier.
“Furthermore, against the Broncos’ third-ranked pass defense, Huntley built a quick connection with tight end Mark Andrews (four receptions for 53 yards) and wideout Demarcus Robinson (seven catches for 41 yards) in relief duty. He’s good enough to make some plays with his arm in a matchup with the Steelers’ 28th-ranked pass defense and mimic some of what Jackson does with his legs to move the chains and extend plays.
“Baltimore wins outright or losses by a one or two points because of a failed two-point conversion in a tight road battle.”
Consensus: Steelers -2.5
Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Ravens 17
Kansas City Chiefs (9-3) at Denver Broncos (3-9)
DraftKings Line: Chiefs -9.5
In Week 13, the Kansas City Chiefs hit a bump in the road; they lost 27-24 to the Cincinnati Bengals, who have beaten them three times in a row. Fortunately for the AFC West leaders, they’ll face the worst team in their division.
At 3-9, on a four-game losing streak, the Denver Broncos have fallen way below expectations in quarterback Russell Wilson’s first year with the club. He’s played nothing like the nine-time Pro Bowler who helped lead the Seattle Seahawks to eight playoff appearances.
In 11 games, Wilson has thrown eight touchdown passes and five interceptions with a 60.1 percent completion rate. In conjunction with his struggles, the Broncos have scored the fewest points leaguewide.
How will the Broncos keep pace with the Chiefs’ No. 1-ranked offense in points and yards to cover a 9.5-point spread? Our panel doesn’t have an answer for that, which is why they all backed Kansas City. Moton provided the specifics for the group’s pick.
“Patrick Mahomes may not post gaudy numbers against the league’s No. 3 pass defense, but the Chiefs have run the ball well in recent weeks, rushing for 117-plus yards in four consecutive games before their upcoming contest with the Broncos’ 19th-ranked run defense. With a mix of intermediate passes to tight end Travis Kelce in the seams coupled with timely runs up the gut of Denver’s defense, the Chiefs will pull away from the low-scoring Broncos in the second-half.”
Consensus: Chiefs -9.5
Score Prediction: Chiefs 27, Broncos 14
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (8-4)
DraftKings Line: 49ers -3
Last week, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a foot injury that will not require surgery, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, so he could make a comeback in the postseason if the team advances past the NFC Wild Card Round. In the meantime, rookie seventh-rounder Brock Purdy will start under center.
Obviously, Garoppolo’s injury has scared some bettors away from the 49ers. As of Wednesday, 52 percent of the public has sided with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Among our panel, Moton is the lone wolf who backed San Francisco.
“San Francisco isn’t the popular pick with Purdy under center, but head coach Kyle Shanahan will find eight different ways to run the ball, which is the bread and butter of his offense. As a result, the 49ers’ switch from Garoppolo to Purdy isn’t a devastating blow to their offensive attack.
“Purdy doesn’t have Garoppolo’s experience or polish, but he played a lot of football at Iowa State, starting for four years at the Big 12 collegiate program. The former Cyclone may be equipped to make a handful of plays in a run-heavy offense that will feature Christian McCaffrey, undrafted rookie Jordan Mason and possibly wideout Deebo Samuel on the ground.
“Because of the Buccaneers’ inconsistent run defense, which ranks 18th and 19th in yards allowed per game and yards allowed per carry, respectively, the 49ers can grind out a low-scoring 16-10 win (or something close) with their dominant defense that’s surrendered the fewest points and yards going into Week 14.”
Consensus: Buccaneers +3
Score Prediction: 49ers 16, Bucs 14
Carolina Panthers (4-8) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
DraftKings Line: Seahawks -4
Believe it or not, the Carolina Panthers still have a legitimate chance to win the NFC South title. They’re only two games behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a decisive 21-3 win over them.
With an upset victory over the Seattle Seahawks, Carolina can move into a second-place tie with the Atlanta Falcons in the division. The Panthers may have a poor record, but they’re 5-1 against the spread in their last six outings, and the club may have found its winning formula.
In Week 12, the Panthers inserted quarterback Sam Darnold into the starting lineup against the Denver Broncos, and he threw for 164 yards and a touchdown while D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard ran for 178 yards combined. Carolina beat Denver handily 23-10.
The Panthers have rushed for 145-plus yards in half of their games, which bodes well for a matchup against the Seahawks’ 31st-ranked run defense, and that's why Moton took Carolina to cover the spread.
“The Panthers could slow down the game with their ground attack and a tough defense that’s allowed 15 points or fewer in each of the team’s last three outings. Even if Foreman doesn't play because of a foot injury, Hubbard can carry the majority load. Carolina is built to keep the score close. Against Seattle, the Los Angeles Rams racked up 171 rushing yards with the 30th-ranked ground attack and lost by four points (27-23).
“Moreover, Geno Smith may not have a complementary run game in this contest, which may allow Panthers pass-rushers to tee off on him in the pocket. The Seahawks have multiple question marks in their backfield with Kenneth Walker III (ankle), DeeJay Dallas (ankle) and Travis Homer (knee) uncertain to play because of an injury or an ailment.”
Consensus: Seahawks -4
Score Prediction: Seahawks 26, Panthers 20
Miami Dolphins (8-4) at Los Angles Chargers (6-6)
DraftKings Line: Dolphins -3.5
The Los Angeles Chargers have stumbled over the past month, and they would drop below .500 if the Miami Dolphins deliver a knockout blow in the Week 14 prime-time Sunday night spot.
The Chargers have already lost a couple of Sunday Night Football showdowns by six- and three-point margins to the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively. In order to climb back into the postseason picture, they’ll have to stack wins against playoff-caliber opponents. Los Angeles has six victories—all against teams with losing records.
As a group, we don’t see how the Chargers buck their tendency to shrink against stiff competition, especially with a weak run defense that’s allowed at least 154 yards in six consecutive outings. Running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. may feast on Los Angeles’ soft interior defense.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, Tua Tagovailoa will play through an ankle injury that will limit him at practices, but Davenport has a concern about the oft-injured Dolphins quarterback and broke away from the consensus to take the points with Los Angeles.
“It has been a very Chargers-esque season in L.A., which is to say that expectation and hope have turned into disappointment with a heaping dollop of injuries thrown in for seasoning. With that said, the Dolphins may have been exposed a little in a lopsided Week 13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and Tua Tagovailoa tweaked his ankle late in that game. This showdown between Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert has the makings of one of Week 14's better games and a close, back-and-forth affair, so give me the home underdog getting over a field goal.”
Consensus: Dolphins -3.5
Score Prediction: Dolphins 33, Chargers 28
New England Patriots (6-6) at Arizona Cardinals (4-8)
DraftKings Line: Patriots -2
On the surface, it seems as though the New England Patriots miss their former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who took the Las Vegas Raiders head-coaching job. Last year, the AFC East club fielded the sixth-ranked scoring offense, now the unit lists 20th in points per game.
Perhaps the Patriots’ matchup with the Arizona Cardinals’ 31st-ranked scoring defense helps them jump-start their offensive attack and quell chatter about Mac Jones’ second-year regression.
As for the Cardinals, they’re missing something, and it starts with their offense. Yes, for the first time this season, they could have their top-three wideouts on the field together if Rondale Moore shakes off a groin injury that sidelined him two weeks ago.
However, quarterback Kyler Murray openly criticized the team’s schematic approach after a 25-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12. The quarterback’s colorful statement sounded like a direct shot at head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who could be on the hot seat because of Arizona’s step back from a playoff team to a bottom-tier club currently positioned for a top-eight 2023 draft pick.
Our experts came to a consensus on every game except this one because, as Davenport alluded to in his analysis, these teams have been up and down (Patriots) or a major disappointment (Cardinals). He chose to fade an Arizona squad that’s 1-5 on its home turf (it lost one designated home game in Mexico City), which sounds like a good reason to fade the host in this matchup.
“This isn't an easy game to get a bead on, as neither the Patriots nor the Cardinals have done much to inspire confidence in recent weeks. Like the Cardinals, the Pats also had extra time to prepare for this matchup. Nevertheless, New England has the better defense, and Arizona flatly refuses to win games at home. I hope that Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury's desert palace is a rental, because after a fifth loss in six games the odds of him keeping his job into 2023 are going to be remote.”
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Cardinals 21
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