Bleacher Report's Expert Consensus Week 14 NFL Picks
The final quarter of the 2020 NFL season has arrived, and the first of four batches of games included in the home stretch is incredibly intriguing from a betting standpoint.
Ten of this weekend's 16 games contain spreads lower than four, and only one game has a spread that would require multiple scores to cover. Six games involve two teams that are .500 or better, and Bleacher Report NFL correspondents Gary Davenport, Brad Gagnon, Kalyn Kahler, Matt Miller, Brent Sobleski and Master Tesfatsion unanimously agree on just a single selection (it's probably one of the last teams you'd expect).
After a super-strong start and a midseason slump, here's where that group stands when it comes to the tall task of picking every game against the spread using midweek lines.
1. Gagnon: 95-94-3 (9-6 last week)
2. Sobleski: 94-95-3 (8-7 last week)
3. Kahler: 91-96-3 (6-9 last week)
4. Miller: 89-94-3 (4-10 last week)
5. Tesfatsion: 89-95-3 (7-7 last week)
6. Davenport: 91-98-3 (8-7 last week)
Consensus picks: 78-84-2 (5-8 last week)
And here are 16 fresh takes for Week 14.
New England Patriots (6-6) at Los Angeles Rams (8-4)
DraftKings Line: Los Angeles -5
The New England Patriots have refused to quit on the 2020 season and are coming off back-to-back wins entering Thursday's Super Bowl LIII rematch with the Los Angeles Rams. But New England is 0-3 in road games against winning teams this season, and the much more talented Rams are coming off an impressive double-digit-point road victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
With that in mind, a slim majority of our writers are laying five points with L.A.
"The Patriots struggle to generate offense," Sobleski said. "They rank bottom three in the passing game and lack the weapons to threaten any defense. But New England sports the league's third-best rushing attack, where quarterback Cam Newton is prominently featured. However, the Rams D is one of the league's best, particularly against the run. These two units should offset one another, while the Rams' third-ranked offense holds more of an advantage over the Patriots defense."
Throw in that the traveling Pats have 14 players listed as questionable on their final injury report compared to just one (kicker Matt Gay) for the Rams, and L.A. is the pick.
Davenport: Los Angeles
Gagnon: New England
Kahler: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Sobleski: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: New England
Consensus: Los Angeles -5
Score Prediction: Rams 26, Patriots 20
Kansas City Chiefs (11-1) at Miami Dolphins (8-4)
DraftKings Line: Kansas City -7
The Miami Dolphins are an NFL-best 9-3 against the spread this season, while the Kansas City Chiefs have failed to cover with small-margin victories in four consecutive games. But a slim majority of our panel believes those trends will be quashed Sunday by a Kansas City cover as a seven-point fave in South Florida.
"The Dolphins are one of the best stories of the 2020 season," Davenport said, "and the Dolphins owe much of their success to the play of their defense. But that defense is about to get its biggest test of the season in Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. Kansas City didn't play especially well last week against Denver, and with the Steelers losing in Week 13, Kansas City is very much in play for the AFC's No. 1 seed. In other words, the Chiefs have multiple reasons to come out firing this week in Miami, and I don't expect this game to be especially close."
Yeah, Miami essentially caught fire in Week 5, but since then, the Dolphins have faced just one team that currently has a winning record. They've been feasting on opponents like the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers, and this will indeed be their biggest challenge of the season.
It's fair to wonder if a team that was rebuilding only a year ago is ready to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs, who may be due for a blowout.
Davenport: Kansas City
Kahler: Kansas City
Miller: Kansas City
Tesfatsion: Kansas City
Consensus: Kansas City -7
Score Prediction: Chiefs 30, Dolphins 21
Tennessee Titans (8-4) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-11)
DraftKings Line: Tennessee -7
Sometimes you have to just throw the trends out the window and keep it simple, stupid.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hung with the Tennessee Titans when the two met earlier this season, and the Jags are at home this time. Four of their last five games have been decided by four or fewer points, they beat Tennessee at home last season, and the Titans are coming off a brutal loss to the Cleveland Browns.
So why spot Jacksonville a full touchdown here? A slim majority of our predictors are doing exactly that with Tennessee -7, likely with the logic that if the Titans can beat the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts by 19-plus points each, a Tennessee team that is significantly better than Jacksonville in almost every respect should be capable of bouncing back with a decisive victory in Week 14.
The Titans have earned the right to be called resilient, and it's hard to imagine a soft Jags defense keeping NFL leading rusher Derrick Henry down for a second week in a row. Henry struggled in the loss to Cleveland, but that was likely an anomaly for a big-game player who compiled 311 rushing yards in his previous two outings.
Few would fault you for rolling with the Jaguars considering the points, the history and the trends, but the gang is leaning toward the superior, experienced Titans with a reasonable spread in this spot.
Consensus: Tennessee -7
Score Prediction: Titans 33, Jaguars 24
Arizona Cardinals (6-6) at New York Giants (5-7)
DraftKings Line: Arizona -2.5
While few would argue that the New York Giants are as talented as the Arizona Cardinals, the reality is New York hasn't lost by more than two points since Week 5 and Arizona hasn't won by more than two points since Week 7.
It's Week 14, people!
That has the majority of the crew wondering why the Cardinals are favored by 2.5 points Sunday in New York.
"On paper, it's hard to see where the Giants will create scoring opportunities," Sobleski admitted. "That's OK, because Joe Judge's defense is carrying the NFC East's top squad. Just this past weekend, New York sacked MVP candidate Russell Wilson five times and allowed only 215 passing yards. Kyler Murray and the Cardinals aren't playing nearly as well on their side of the ball. The reigning NFL Rookie of the Year is coming off arguably his worst performance of the season. Maybe a bounce-back performance is in order, but a cross-country trip with a 1 p.m. ET start certainly won't help."
And it's not as though that Week 13 dud was an aberration for Murray, who has become a far less effective rusher while posting a mere 85.3 passer rating in his last four games.
Plus, don't forget that after rolling with career backup Colt McCoy much of the last two weeks, the G-Men might get improving second-year quarterback Daniel Jones back from a hamstring injury.
In a perfect world, you'd get a full field goal for the Giants here, and do consider that purchase if it's available. Still, don't be surprised if streaking New York wins this thing outright.
Davenport: New York
Gagnon: New York
Kahler: New York
Sobleski: New York
Consensus: New York +2.5
Score Prediction: Giants 24, Cardinals 23
Minnesota Vikings (6-6) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
DraftKings Line: Tampa Bay -6.5
The Minnesota Vikings are suddenly alive in the NFC playoff picture, but they've failed to cover three consecutive spreads and now they're running into a rested Tampa Bay Buccaneers team on the road.
Most of our experts don't like Minnesota's odds in that situation, even as a 6.5-point underdog.
"On a three-game homestand against teams that have won a combined eight games this season, the Vikings outscored said opponents by a grand total of 84-83," Gagnon said. "So I'm not buying into Minnesota on the road against a rested Tampa Bay team. The Buccaneers have struggled this year on short rest, in prime time and against high-quality opponents, but this game falls after their bye on a Sunday afternoon, and Minnesota still has a negative scoring margin on the year."
The Vikings' bread and butter continues to be the Dalvin Cook-oriented running game, but Cook has looked somewhat worn down while less than 100 percent the last couple of weeks, and now that rush offense is going up against the game's top-rated run defense in terms of DVOA.
Wrong place, wrong time.
Davenport: Tampa Bay
Gagnon: Tampa Bay
Miller: Tampa Bay
Tesfatsion: Tampa Bay
Consensus: Tampa Bay -6.5
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 28, Vikings 20
Houston Texans (4-8) at Chicago Bears (5-7)
DraftKings Line: Houston -1
The Houston Texans have little to lose and have been putting up fights on a weekly basis, while it's fair to wonder what the Chicago Bears have left in them after dropping six consecutive games. That being the case, nearly all of our experts are taking Houston in what is essentially a pick'em Sunday at Soldier Field.
"A struggling Matthew Stafford just went over 400 yards against the Bears defense despite being without top receiver Kenny Golladay in Week 13," Gagnon said. "That once-vaunted unit has just three takeaways in its last five games and is suffering with pass-rusher Khalil Mack far from 100 percent. The Houston defense is of course a lot more vulnerable than Chicago's, but I'll take Deshaun Watson over anything the Bears can offer up at quarterback. In fact, that's the spot in which these teams differ the most."
Indeed, Watson is the NFL's third-highest-rated passer behind MVP front-runners Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. He can do a lot more damage than Stafford, while a Texans D that ranks 27th in DVOA might get a break against an even worse Chicago offense.
Does anybody trust Mitchell Trubisky right now?
Consensus: Houston -1
Score Prediction: Texans 27, Bears 17
Denver Broncos (4-8) at Carolina Panthers (4-8)
DraftKings Line: Carolina -3.5
The Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers are both 4-8 straight up and 7-5 against the spread at the season's quarter pole, and there's little reason to believe either team will pull away when they meet Sunday.
Sure, the Panthers are at home coming off their bye, but Carolina's roster could be quite shorthanded, and the Broncos performed well against the defending champions last week. Considering that Carolina has just one win since Week 5, the majority of our writers figure it's too risky to give up a field goal and a hook with the Panthers in this spot.
"The Broncos didn't get a win in Week 13," Davenport said, "but the team did manage to give the Chiefs a run for their money in Arrowhead. The Panthers, on the other hand, are coming off a bye and may (or may not) get Christian McCaffrey back, but a COVID-19 outbreak has put the status of several other starters in jeopardy for Week 14. Frankly, I don't have much confidence in either of these teams at this point in the season. So in what has the makings of a close one, give me the points—especially with the hook in play."
And while Broncos quarterback Drew Lock is the league's lowest-rated qualified passer, a Carolina pass D that ranks 26th in DVOA could allow Lock and Co. to stick around following an encouraging effort in Kansas City.
Besides, the Broncos represent a nice public fade.
Consensus: Denver +3.5
Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Broncos 21
Dallas Cowboys (3-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (2-9-1)
DraftKings Line: Dallas -3.5
It takes a real messy game for the struggling Dallas Cowboys to not only be favored by more than a field goal but also to be a unanimous selection. But that's the case with Dallas traveling to Ohio to play the Cincinnati Bengals on short rest Sunday afternoon.
"This game features a pair of teams who can't wait for the season to end after they both lost their starting quarterbacks to season-ending injuries," Davenport said. "The kicker here is that the Cowboys have still been able to field a marginally competent offensive football team, while the Bengals have ground to a screeching halt on that side of the ball. It becomes substantially more difficult to win football games when you can't score points, so it's not hard to lay the field goal-plus with the road team here."
Already without rookie No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow under center, Cincinnati also lost left tackle Jonah Williams to a knee injury last week. With the line in complete disarray and Burrow and top back Joe Mixon both out, it's hard to back a Bengals team that has averaged just 10.8 points per game the last four weeks.
Has Dallas been much more competitive? No, but Andy Dalton and Ezekiel Elliott are competent offensive players, and the Cowboys technically have something to play for.
That said, we wouldn't fault you for sitting this one out, or at least paying to kill that hook.
Consensus: Dallas -3.5
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Bengals 17
Washington Football Team (5-7) at San Francisco 49ers (5-7)
DraftKings Line: San Francisco -3.5
"I can't figure out why oddsmakers and/or the public are giving so much love to a San Francisco 49ers team that appears to have almost nothing left in the tank," Gagnon said. "The depleted 49ers play the division-rival Los Angeles Rams tough regardless, but they have just one win against a team not named the Rams since the start of October.
"San Francisco's last five losses have all come by double-digit margins, while all four of Washington's victories during a recent 4-2 stretch have come by at least six points, and three have come by 11-plus. If the WFT can outscore the formerly undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers 20-3 in one half, it can take care of business against an opponent with a losing record that has been gutted by injuries."
The 49ers will again be playing a "home game" in division-rival Arizona's stadium because of COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County. That also could be doing a number on a team that continues to be without its quarterback, its superstar tight end and pretty much all of its world-famous defensive line.
But the risk of a Washington letdown on short rest after an exhilarating victory over Pittsburgh could explain why this is not a unanimous vote.
Kahler: San Francisco
Tesfatsion: San Francisco
Consensus: Washington +3.5
Score Prediction: Washington 21, San Francisco 20
New York Jets (0-12) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
DraftKings Line: Seattle -13.5
The New York Jets aren't getting blown out as often as they were earlier this season, while the Seattle Seahawks haven't "blown out" an opponent since defeating the Atlanta Falcons by 13 points in Week 1. Not exactly a runaway victory.
But the majority of our writers figure it's finally time for Seattle to make a statement with a home game against a Jets team that just humiliated itself with a last-second loss that resulted in the firing of its defensive coordinator.
Sure, Seattle just lost to the Giants, but Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson usually bounces back from poor performances (like when he threw three picks against the Cardinals in Week 7 or when he posted a season-low passer rating of 57.0 against the Rams in Week 10) with really damn good ones (he threw four touchdown passes in Week 8 and posted a 119.8 rating in Week 11).
Now, he's likely in a bad mood coming off his second-lowest-rated game of the season, and it's hard to imagine a Jets pass defense that ranks dead last in DVOA keeping up with Wilson, DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Davenport: New York
Gagnon: New York
Consensus: Seattle -13.5
Score Prediction: Seattle 34, New York 17
Indianapolis Colts (8-4) at Las Vegas Raiders (7-5)
DraftKings Line: Indianapolis -3
Are the Indianapolis Colts a Super Bowl contender or an average team that occasionally flashes? Are the Las Vegas Raiders a playoff-caliber squad as they appeared to be in the first three months of the season or are they crashing back to earth after consecutive embarrassing performances against the lowly Falcons and lowlier Jets?
The questions swirling around both of these teams make it appropriate that it's one of just two split decisions this week.
"The Colts are a hard team to get an accurate read on," Davenport admitted. "Put too much faith in Indy, and the team lays an egg. Count them out as a legit contender, and the Colts come out and win emphatically over a good team. It's really quite annoying. But while I'm not sure exactly how good the Colts are, I am sure they are better than a Raiders team that should have lost to the winless Jets last Sunday. I'll lay the points on the road."
But three of his colleagues aren't willing to do that after Indianapolis was blown out by Tennessee before barely surviving against Houston. Who knows if Indy's inconsistent offense can take advantage of a vulnerable Raiders run defense that was carved up last week by Ty Johnson and Josh Adams (who and who?), and who knows if the Raiders are falling off a cliff or simply stumbling en route to the playoffs.
Miller: Las Vegas
Sobleski: Las Vegas
Tesfatsion: Las Vegas
Score Prediction: Colts 27, Raiders 24
Green Bay Packers (9-3) at Detroit Lions (5-7)
DraftKings Line: Green Bay -7.5
The Green Bay Packers have laid some eggs this season, but when they win, they often do so convincingly. Green Bay is 8-4 against the spread and has six 14-plus-point victories under its belt, with two of those coming in the last two weeks.
So while it's always scary to lay a touchdown plus a hook in a divisional game, the vast majority of our experts are backing the Pack as a robust road favorite Sunday against the inconsistent Detroit Lions.
"This spread could be a field goal higher and I'd still be all over the Packers," Davenport said. "Yes, the Lions came back against Chicago last week, but the Bears, um, stink. The Packers are arguably the NFC's hottest team, and I don't see how Detroit's terrible defense will be able to slow down Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams even a little. With the NFC's top seed in play for Green Bay, no quarter will be given Sunday in Motown. It may take two garbage-time touchdowns to get the Lions within 20 in this one."
But in keeping with this week's trends, there's no unanimous consensus here. Gagnon saw some fire and fight in the Lions as they kicked off the post-Matt Patricia era last week and believes they'll be just as inspired as they battle for a wild-card spot. And while the Packers did smash the Lions by 21 points earlier this season, they trailed 14-3 in that game and they failed to beat the Lions by more than a touchdown in each of their previous 10 meetings.
So tread carefully and consider buying this back to seven points if possible, but don't totally shy away from taking a red-hot Green Bay team against an opponent with the worst defensive DVOA in the NFL.
Davenport: Green Bay
Kahler: Green Bay
Miller: Green Bay
Sobleski: Green Bay
Tesfatsion: Green Bay
Consensus: Green Bay -7.5
Score Prediction: Packers 34, Lions 21
New Orleans Saints (10-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1)
DraftKings Line: New Orleans -6.5
It would have been one thing if you jumped on the Philadelphia Eagles when they were getting more than a touchdown at home against an opponent that is likely to again be without its future Hall of Fame quarterback. But Philadelphia has finally officially benched NFL interception leader Carson Wentz and this line has dropped to 6.5, which isn't enough for the vast majority of our pickers.
"The Saints aren't exactly piling up style points with Taysom Hill at quarterback," Davenport said, "but they have been piling up the wins. The Eagles, meanwhile, are in complete free-fall. In an attempt to stop the bleeding, Philly is going to start rookie Jalen Hurts under center Sunday, and he did provide a spark in Green Bay last week. But the reality is we're talking about a player making his first career start against one of the league's better defenses behind one of the worst lines in the NFL. The size of this spread is a minor concern given the Saints' run-first approach of late, but I just can't get behind the reeling Eagles for less than a touchdown."
For what it's worth on that note, four of the Saints' last five wins have come by at least 14 points. They aren't as explosive without Brees, but the defense has surrendered just 8.8 points per game during that aforementioned five-game run. And while Taysom Hill could always bomb in place of Brees offensively, New Orleans might only need Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray to do most of the work against a D that was gashed last week by Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.
Oh, and Hill's legs could be a difference-maker as well against Philadelphia considering how poorly that defense has fared against running quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Daniel Jones this season.
Davenport: New Orleans
Gagnon: New Orleans
Kahler: New Orleans
Miller: New Orleans
Sobleski: New Orleans
Consensus: New Orleans -6.5
Score Prediction: Saints 28, Eagles 17
Atlanta Falcons (4-8) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-9)
DraftKings Line: Atlanta -2.5
Oh boy, is it ever fitting that we have a deadlock for a matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers that might be the least attractive game of the year from a betting standpoint. Neither Atlanta nor Los Angeles has proved to be remotely trustworthy this season, and that's nothing new for both teams.
Neither has anything to play for, neither is consistent, both have coaching question marks, and it's hard to quantify home-field advantage considering the Chargers lost 45-0 in an empty SoFi Stadium just a week ago.
Gagnon on the Bolts: "The 4-8 Falcons have no business laying points on the road against a talented Chargers team, and Justin Herbert should be able to bounce back against a bad Atlanta pass defense. But I wouldn't spend a dollar on Los Angeles without at least buying half a point back to be safe. This is a game to watch for strictly comedic purposes."
Davenport on Atlanta: "At this point, there is a non-zero chance the Falcons' main goal in 2020 is to make me look as ridiculous as possible. Pick 'em to win, they get squished. Pick 'em to lose, they win by 30. And for what it's worth, the Chargers are better than the team we saw get blasted at home by the Patriots in Week 13. But Atlanta should have no problem moving the ball against the L.A. defense, and the Chargers lose close games better than any team in the league. I regret it already, but give me the Falcons here."
Gagnon: Los Angeles
Miller: Los Angeles
Tesfatsion: Los Angeles
Score Prediction: Falcons 26, Chargers 23
Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) at Buffalo Bills (9-3)
DraftKings Line: Buffalo -2.5
This crew is usually pretty high on the Pittsburgh Steelers. They've picked them to cover in 10 of their 12 games this season, but the group agrees almost unanimously that the Buffalo Bills aren't getting enough respect as a mere 2.5-point home favorite over Pittsburgh on Sunday night.
"The Steelers have not played anywhere close to the level their record indicates as of late," Sobleski said. "Previously, Pittsburgh padded its schedule against the Cowboys, Bengals and Jaguars. Yet it struggled against a depleted Ravens club before falling to the inferior Washington Football Team. The Steelers have plenty of issues throughout their roster, and the Bills offense continues to pick opposing defenses apart because of a great scheme and Josh Allen playing at a near-MVP level. Three games in 12 days should severely tax the AFC North's top squad."
In other words, after not losing for nearly a calendar year, our experts have them losing twice in a seven-day span. And while that's a risky proposition, so would be betting against the Bills' fiery offense considering the state of Pittsburgh's injured D.
The Steelers' sloppy, one-dimensional offense has also struggled lately, with veteran quarterback Ben Roethlisberger posting a mere 84.2 passer rating in his last three starts. Dropped passes are a big factor there, but that's not always something that can be fixed overnight. On short rest against a talented defense that started slowly but has come on of late, Big Ben and Co. could be in trouble.
Consensus: Buffalo -2.5
Score Prediction: Bills 24, Steelers 20
Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Cleveland Browns (9-3)
DraftKings Line: Baltimore -1.5
Ever since the Baltimore Ravens smashed the Cleveland Browns 38-6 in Week 1, Cleveland has gone 9-2 while Baltimore has posted a mere 6-5 record. Now, at home and on extra rest, the Browns are getting a point-and-a-half from the Ravens.
While this game feels a lot like a toss-up, a small majority of our participating writers are leaning in Cleveland's direction.
"I was originally on Baltimore here and am apparently the swing vote, so my jump to the Browns requires an explanation," Gagnon said. "I saw some value in Baltimore when this line dropped from the field-goal range last week, and I'm still concerned about the fact that the Ravens have outscored the Browns 69-21 in their last two meetings.
"But I didn't like what I saw from Baltimore despite a one-sided win Tuesday night, and the Browns present a much larger challenge than the Cowboys, especially if top corner Denzel Ward is able to return from a calf injury. Throw in that the Ravens are likely tired and on the road, and I could see Cleveland making a statement with a prime-time victory over a team that just hasn't been crisp for about a month now."
Cleveland wasn't in the same shape when it was defeated handily by Baltimore late last year and was adjusting to a lot of changes following a scaled-back offseason in Week 1 this year. And the Browns dominated the Ravens earlier in 2019, so it's not as though we don't have evidence of Cleveland hanging in against Baltimore.
Still, this is as close as you'll get to a hung jury.
Tesfatsion: No pick
Consensus: Cleveland +1.5
Score Prediction: Browns 25, Ravens 23
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