Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Denver Broncos (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (2-10)

The Broncos have had a tough season. They had the toughest schedule in the league over the first 11 games of the season, including close losses to the Texans, Rams, and Chiefs (twice) and wins over the Chargers, Steelers, and Seahawks. Now that their schedule has gotten easier, they’ve had so many losses that they aren’t the same team. Already without their top-2 offensive linemen, right guard Ron Leary and center Matt Paradis, with injury and starting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, who was traded to the Texans for a draft pick, the Broncos are now without #1 cornerback Chris Harris and #1 wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who have both suffered season ending injuries in the past week.

The Broncos’ opponents this week, the San Francisco 49ers, are one of their easiest opponents all season, but it’s hard to be confident in the Broncos as 3.5-point road favorites given the current state of their roster. With a banged up offensive line and a depleting receiving corps, the Broncos have little talent around quarterback Case Keenum and their defense isn’t nearly as good without their top cornerback Chris Harris. The 49ers have been killed by the turnover margin this season at an NFL worst -20, but turnover margins tend to be unpredictable week-to-week and the 49ers are the kind of team that can easily pull an upset if they can play a turnover neutral game. I have this line calculated at Denver -4, so I’m still taking the Broncos, but this is a no confidence pick.

Denver Broncos 20 San Francisco 49ers 16

Pick against the spread: Denver -3.5

Confidence: None

New York Giants at Washington Redskins: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Giants (4-8) at Washington Redskins (6-6)

A once promising season for the Redskins seems have to be completely derailed in last week’s loss in Philadelphia. The Redskins are still technically in the NFC East race at 6-6, but they lost their second quarterback in the last month to a broken leg, first Alex Smith and then Colt McCoy last week, and are now starting Mark Sanchez, signed off the streets a few weeks ago. Sanchez is not only a limited quarterback, but he has to have a limited understanding of the offense at this point after just a few weeks, compared to McCoy who has been in the offense for 5 seasons. Sanchez did not look good in relief of McCoy last week, completing 13 of 21 for 100 yards and a pick.

All of that being said, I still don’t understand why this line shifted all the way from Redskins -3 to Giants -3.5, here in Washington. That’s the kind of line movement normally reserved for an injury to an above average starting quarterback, which is certainly not what Colt McCoy is. I also don’t understand what the Giants have done to be favored by this many points on the road against a team that still has a solid defense.

The Giants are just 4-8 with an average margin of victory of 3.75 points per game and no wins by more than 5 points. I’m not too excited about betting on Mark Sanchez, but we’re getting too much line value not to put a small bet on the Redskins this week. They could easily ride their defense and running game to victory at home against a mediocre opponent and I like getting 3.5 points to work with if they come up short.

Update: The Giants surprisingly ruled out Odell Beckham Jr. on Saturday, after he suffered a quad injury in yesterday’s practice. The line shifted from +3.5 to +3, but you could argue it should have shifted even more, as the Giants have been about a touchdown worse per game without Odell Beckham in his career. Colt McCoy getting hurt shifted this line 6.5 points, but Beckham being out only shifts this from 3.5 to 3? I don’t want to make this a higher confidence pick because of Mark Sanchez, but I like the Redskins’ chances of winning straight up now too.

Washington Redskins 16 New York Giants 13 Upset Pick +135

Pick against the spread: Washington +3

Confidence: Medium

Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Cincinnati Bengals (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (9-3)

The Chargers have an easy opponent this week, facing a Bengals team that has lost 6 of their last 7 and that is incredibly banged up on both sides of the ball, with starting quarterback Andy Dalton, #1 wide receiver AJ Green, starting tight end Tyler Eifert, starting left tackle Cordy Glenn, key edge rusher Carl Lawson, every down linebacker Vontaze Burfict, and starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick all on the sidelines with various injuries. However, despite the easy opponent, the Chargers are in a very tough spot, having to play their biggest game of the season in 4 days on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game that could easily decide the AFC West.

Favorites typically struggle before a short week anyway, going 55-73 ATS since 2012, but that should especially be the case in this one, as I can’t imagine the Chargers aren’t spending some time on the Chiefs this week, with such an easy opponent in front of them this week. On the other side, the Bengals are distraction free, with only a home game against the Raiders on deck. Favorites are just 55-92 ATS since 2014 before being underdogs when their opponent will next be favorites. On top of that, favorites of 10+ are just 63-80 ATS since 2002 before being underdogs.

That being said, I can’t be confident in the Bengals at all, given the talent disparity between these two teams. The Chargers are one of the better teams in the league and I have them calculated as 16-point favorites in this one, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with them as only 14-point favorites. I’m taking the Bengals for pick ‘em purposes because I expect the Chargers to be flat and not give their best effort, but even still the Chargers could win this game by multiple scores.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Cincinnati Bengals 10

Pick against the spread: Cincinnati +14

Confidence: None

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (9-3) at Miami Dolphins (6-6)

When this line was New England -10 on the early line, I was thinking about taking the Dolphins. The Patriots have not nearly been the same team on the road this season and they’ve historically struggled in Miami, including last year, when they lost as 11-point favorites in Miami in this exact same situation, right before a much bigger game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who the Patriots face again next week. There’s obviously a huge talent difference between these two teams, but 10 points seemed like enough cover to play with.

Unfortunately, we’ve lost line value in the last week, with this line shifting to 7.5. It’s not really clear why, as New England beat the Vikings by two touchdowns last week, while the Dolphins almost lost at home to the Bills, but maybe the oddsmakers just realized the line was too high last week. The Dolphins will also be without their top cornerback Xavien Howard with injury, a big loss against a team like the Patriots, but this line doesn’t seem to take that into account.

With that in mind, I’m actually going to flip to the Patriots, even in a tough spot. Five of the Dolphins’ six losses have come by more than a touchdown, while all of their wins have come by 8 points or fewer. They rank 29th in first down rate differential, 24th in point differential, and, while their offense is better with Ryan Tannehill back, he doesn’t appear to be 100% right now. It’s also typically not smart to go against the Patriots late in the season without a good reason, as they are 67-42 ATS in the final 8 games of the regular season with Tom Brady under center. This is a no confidence pick, but the Patriots are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

New England Patriots 24 Miami Dolphins 16

Pick against the spread: New England -7.5

Confidence: None

Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-2)

The Chiefs are in a very tough spot this week, as they have to turn around and play their biggest remaining regular season game next week against the Chargers on Thursday Night Football. Favorites typically struggle before a short week anyway, going 55-73 ATS since 2012, but that should especially be the case in this one, as I can’t imagine the Chiefs aren’t spending some time on the Chargers this week. On the other side, the Ravens are distraction free, with only a home game against the Buccaneers on deck.

I wish I trusted Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson more in this kind of game though. If the Ravens were starting a healthy Joe Flacco, I’d bet them just because I know what to expect from him, but Jackson’s 3-0 record has come against a pretty easy schedule and I just don’t know what to expect from him in a game where he’ll have to be more aggressive as a passer to keep pace with an explosive Kansas City offense.

Kansas City’s defense has not been very good this year, but they could get Eric Berry back this week finally and even against an underwhelming defense it’s easy for young quarterbacks to make mistakes if they feel like they need to keep up with an offensive juggernaut. I’m taking Baltimore and hoping their defense can keep it close against a Kansas City team that probably won’t bring their best effort this week, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on this with the line under a touchdown.

Kansas City Chiefs 27 Baltimore Ravens 23

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +6.5

Confidence: Low

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Detroit Lions (4-8) at Arizona Cardinals (3-9)

I’ve picked against the Lions a lot recently, but that’s because they’ve been playing a lot of teams with winning records and they historically have not done well against teams with winning records in the Matt Stafford era. That changes this week, with the Lions facing the 3-9 Cardinals, the first team they’ve faced since week 4 with a losing record. Since 2014, they are 19-12 ATS against teams with a losing record and they went 17-4 straight up against non-playoff teams between 2016 and 2017. I like their chances of continuing that this week.

The Lions’ offense has taken a lot of hits as the season has gone on, with right guard TJ Lang, wide receiver Marvin Jones, and running back Kerryon Johnson sidelined with injuries and slot receiver Golden Tate now in Philadelphia, but their defense has gotten significantly better as the season has gone on. It hasn’t been that noticeable because of their tough schedule, but defensive end Ezekiel Ansah is back healthy and playing well, defensive tackle Damon Harrison has provided a big boost against the run since being acquiring from the Giants, and young defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand have gotten more playing time and have played well.

That should be more noticeable this week against an Arizona team that is arguably the worst in the league. They pulled the stunning upset in Green Bay last week, but those kind of upset victories tend to be flukes more than anything, as teams are just 15-30 ATS over the past 30 years after a win as 13+ point underdogs. That win also came at a cost, as starting wide receiver Christian Kirk went down for the season with a foot injury, joining left tackle DJ Humphries, right guard Justin Pugh, and top linebacker Josh Bynes as recent injury casualties. The Cardinals rank dead last in first down rate differential at -7.77% and are even worse without those four. I like the Lions a lot in a game in which they basically just need to win to cover. This is a smaller bet at -3.

Detroit Lions 20 Arizona Cardinals 13

Pick against the spread: Detroit -2.5

Confidence: High

Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers: 2018 Week 14 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-8) at Green Bay Packers (4-7-1)

I picked the Falcons last week as 1-point home favorites against the Ravens because the Falcons were getting stud middle linebacker Deion Jones back from injury and the line didn’t seem to reflect that. The Falcons lost that game 26-16, but the defense was not the reason, as they allowed a first down rate of just 33.77%, after leading the league in first down rate allowed at 43.02% through the first 11 games of the season. The Falcons actually won the first down rate by 4.01%, but lost because they went 2-9 on 3rd down and 0-1 on 4th down.

As well as the Falcons’ offense has played this season, that’s unlikely to continue, so I think this team is still a little underrated. They have a top-10 offense (8th in first down rate at 39.44%) and their defense is more respectable with Jones back in the lineup. They’re also in a great spot this week. While they get to face the Cardinals next week, a game that should provide no distractions for the Falcons this week, the Packers have a rivalry game with the Bears in Chicago that they could be looking ahead to. Underdogs like the Falcons are 92-55 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs.

All of this sounds like I’m going to be betting on the Falcons, but I’m not because the Packers have a significant talent advantage and may finally stop underachieving this week, after bottoming out with a home loss to the Cardinals that got Mike McCarthy fired. The Packers have consistently ranked high in my roster rankings and still rank 4th this week, despite injuries to key players like Bryan Bulaga and Mike Daniels, but are just 4-7-1 on the season. In past years, their issue has been defense, but they rank 15th in first down rate allowed at 35.83% and have standouts like Kenny Clark, Blake Martinez, and Jaire Alexander that are playing at Pro-Bowl levels.

The offense has been the bigger problem this season, as they rank just 18th in first down rate at 36.13%, despite having Aaron Rodgers under center for most of the season. Rodgers has had some young receivers this season, but he also has a legitimate #1 option in Davante Adams, a starting running back that is averaging 5.73 yards per carry, and a good pass protecting offensive line. He also has Randall Cobb back from injury as of last week and tight end Jimmy Graham still playing reasonably well despite a thumb injury. If this offense finally breaks through this week, the Packers could cover this 5-point line with ease, so I’m keeping this to a low confidence pick.

Green Bay Packers 31 Atlanta Falcons 27

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +5

Confidence: Low