Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Green Bay Packers (6-6) at Cleveland Browns (0-12)

Typically, it is not a good idea to bet on teams who will be big home underdogs in their next game, as teams tend to struggle before a big home game, going 39-67 ATS since 2014 before being 4.5+ point home underdogs. The early line has the Browns as 6.5 point home underdogs against the Ravens next week. However, the Browns are in desperation mode at 0-12, so I’m not sure if that trend really applies. On the other side, the Packers may see this as an easy win before they get Aaron Rodgers back for the playoff push next week and may not give their best effort as a result.

Even if they do give good effort, I’m not convinced this will be an easy win for the Packers. Brett Hundley is legitimately one of the worst quarterbacks to start for an extended period of time this season. The Packers covered in a near victory as 14-point underdogs in Pittsburgh two weeks ago and beat the Buccaneers last week, but they lost the first down battle 28-15 against the Steelers and 25-16 against the Buccaneers, a mediocre team that they needed overtime to beat at home. In 7 games with Hundley under center, the Packers have won the first down rate battle just once, on the road, in Chicago, which isn’t that impressive.

On the season, the Packers rank just 18th in first down rate differential at -0.61%, despite having Rodgers for the first 5 games of the season. Part of that is because of injuries on defense, but they remain banged up on that side of the field in this one, with starting cornerbacks Kevin King and Davon House out and outside linebacker Nick Perry questionable after missing practice all week. That’s actually only 5 spots ahead of the Browns, who rank 23rd at -2.35%.

The Browns obviously haven’t won any games, but their defense hasn’t been bad and their offense has been putting together some drives. The issue for them has been turnovers as they rank dead last in turnover margin at -19. Turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis, but it hasn’t been for the Browns because they’ve been at a significant disadvantage quarterback wise in every game they’ve played. This week they won’t be, so they could easily play turnover neutral football and pull the upset, especially given how good recently reinstated wide receiver Josh Gordon looked in his debut last week. Even if they don’t win their first game of the season this week, I like their chances of covering this 3.5 point spread, given that 25% of games are decided by a field goal or less.

Cleveland Browns 20 Green Bay Packers 19 Upset Pick +150

Pick against the spread: Cleveland +3.5

Confidence: High

Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Minnesota Vikings (10-2) at Carolina Panthers (8-4)

One of my favorites things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movement, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. That’s definitely the case in this game, as this line has shifted from Carolina -2.5 last week on the early line to Minnesota -3 this week. The Vikings won in Atlanta last week, but Atlanta was missing their top cornerback Desmond Trufant and had another game in 4 days, so that win wasn’t a huge surprise.

The Panthers lost to an undermanned Saints team (Marshon Lattimore, Marcus Williams, Terron Armstead) that also had another game in 4 days, but that game was closer than the final score, as the Panthers botched a punt in their own territory and then extended a New Orleans drive with a personal foul penalty 3 plays later. Had that not happened, the Panthers might have been able to kick a field goal early in the 4th quarter, rather than going for it on 4th and 6 down 14. The Saints only ended up winning the first down rate battle by +0.09%, despite the 10 point win.

The Panthers were also without center Ryan Kalil and tight end Greg Olsen last week, both of whom figure to be back this week. That should be a big boost to this offense. I still have this line at Carolina -1.5, so getting a full field goal with the Panthers at home is a great value. The Vikings are also in a tough spot in their 3rd straight road game. Teams are 77-95 ATS in that spot since 1989. I like the Panthers a lot this week. As long as you can get the full field goal, this is a high confidence pick. I also like the money line at +125.

Carolina Panthers 17 Minnesota Vikings 16 Upset Pick +125

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: High

Chicago Bears at Cincinnati Bengals: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-9) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-7)

The Bears were a capable opponent in the middle of the season, but they’ve had a lot of injuries in recent weeks. They got stud middle linebacker Danny Trevathan back from a 3-game absence last week, but have since lost nose tackle Eddie Goldman, right guard Kyle Long, and outside linebacker Pernell McPhee indefinitely from a team that had already lost outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, tight end Zach Miller, and safety Adrian Amos long-term, all of whom were contributing in the middle of the season.

Fortunately, they get to face a Bengals team that is equally banged up. The Bengals will be missing stud linebacker Vontaze Burfict, cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones, safety Shawn Williams, outside linebacker Nick Vigil, and running back Joe Mixon. On top of that, stud defensive tackle Geno Atkins, middle linebacker Vincent Rey, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard all were significantly limited in practice this week and are listed as questionable. As banged up as the Bears are, the Bengals shouldn’t be favored by more than 4 points against anyone except the Browns, who incidentally are the only team the Bengals have beaten by more than 4 points all season.

The Bengals are also in a terrible spot. Not only are they coming off of a brutal late loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night, a loss that arguably ended their season, but the Bengals also have to turn around and go to Minnesota next week. Given that, they could easily look past the lowly Bengals, who still have enough talent to keep it close with a banged up Cincinnati team. Teams are just 29-55 ATS since 2008 as 6+ point favorites before being 6+ point road underdogs, which the Bengals will likely be in Minnesota next week (+7.5 on the early line). The Bears are worth a small bet at 6 or higher.

Cincinnati Bengals 20 Chicago Bears 16

Pick against the spread: Chicago +6.5

Confidence: Medium

Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Washington Redskins (5-7) at Los Angeles Chargers (6-6)

The Redskins are only 5-7, but they’ve also faced the 2nd toughest strength of schedule in the NFL thus far. Unfortunately for them, their schedule doesn’t get much easier this week. The Chargers are only 6-6, but they rank 10th in point differential at +56 and 7th in first down rate differential at +4.28%. The Redskins have had some success against top level teams this season though, with wins in Los Angeles against the Rams and in Seattle against the Seahawks and a near win in New Orleans against the Saints.

They lost by 24 in Dallas last week, but that was on a Thursday night and the game was closer than the final score. That loss also puts them in a good spot, as road underdogs tend to cover in their 2nd of two road games off of a loss. Teams are 121-78 ATS in that spot since 2008. That’s because teams typically do better in their second of two road games, as opposed to a single road game sandwiched between two home games, but lines don’t really adjust for that. Teams are 256-274 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.89 points per game, as opposed to 379-523 straight up in a road game that’s sandwiched between two home games, getting outscored by an average of 2.94 points per game, a difference of about 2 points.

On top of that, the Redskins are also in a much better spot than the Chargers because, while the Chargers have a game that could decide the division next week in Kansas City, the Redskins have one of their easier games of the season next week, at home against the Arizona Cardinals. The Redskins are expected to be 6 point favorites in that game, according to the early line, while the Chargers are expected to be 2 point underdogs in Kansas City.

Underdogs are 67-41 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs and underdogs of 6+ are 44-33 ATS since 2008 before being favorites of 6+ the following week. Both of those trends are in play here. With a tough upcoming game, the Chargers could overlook the Redskins a little bit, while the Redskins should be completely focused. The Chargers also draw very few home fans in Los Angeles and have very little homefield advantage as a result, so the Redskins have a very good shot to give them a tough game. They are worth a small bet at +6.

Los Angeles Chargers 23 Washington Redskins 20

Pick against the spread: Washington +6

Confidence: Medium

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Philadelphia Eagles (10-2) at Los Angeles Rams (9-3)

Last week, the Eagles were 5.5 point favorites in Seattle. It seemed like too many points to me, especially given Seattle’s track record in night games against teams from the Eastern Time Zone. I kept that pick as a low confidence pick though, because I was hesitant to bet against the Eagles, who had been covering the spread all season (9-2 ATS before last week). In hindsight that was definitely a mistake, as the Eagles were a little overvalued last week, while the Seahawks were definitely undervalued, as they continue to play well despite injuries.

The good news is the Eagles’ loss last week is giving us significant line value with them as they are now 1.5 point underdogs in Los Angeles against the Rams, after being 2.5 point favorites on the early line last week. Despite the Eagles’ loss in Seattle, I still have this line calculated at Philadelphia -3. The Eagles lost that game by 14, but that game was closer than the final score, as the Eagles finished with 25 first downs to 20 for the Seahawks. If they had played that game 100 times, I feel like it would have gone 50/50. This week, the Eagles don’t have to play at night, which is tough for teams from the Eastern Time Zone to do, and they get a slightly easier opponent.

The Rams are obviously a good team, but I don’t totally buy them as a top level team like the Seahawks yet and I definitely don’t buy them as a top level team like the Eagles, who rank #1 in both my roster rankings and in first down rate differential. The Rams rank 8th in first down rate differential and 9th in my roster rankings without top receiver Robert Woods. The Rams also lost at home to the Seahawks earlier this year (and the Redskins) and could easily lose at home here to the Eagles.

Speaking of the Rams’ home loss to the Seahawks, the Rams have that rematch next week, a game that could easily decide the division. The Eagles, meanwhile, go to New York to face the 2-10 Giants. I’m not saying the Rams are going to look past the Eagles, but the Eagles are a safer bet to be completely focused for this game. Underdogs are 67-41 ATS since 2014 before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs. On top of that, teams are 42-24 ATS since 2012 before being 7+ point road favorites, which the Eagles will be in New York next week. The Eagles should win this by at least a field goal. They are my Pick of the Week.

Philadelphia Eagles 24 Los Angeles Rams 20 Upset Pick +110

Pick against the spread: Philadelphia +1.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-2)

Steelers/Ravens is one of the biggest divisional rivalries in the NFL, but the Steelers could still have one eye on next week’s game this week, as they host the New England Patriots in a game that could easily be for the one-seed in the AFC. The Ravens, meanwhile, should have completely focused for this huge divisional game, as they have one of their easiest games of the season next week in Cleveland, where they are 6.5 point favorites on the early line. The Steelers, by comparison, are 2.5 point home underdogs against the Patriots on the early line.

Underdogs tend to cover before being favorites when their opponent will next be underdogs, going 67-41 ATS in that spot since 2014. On top of that, teams tend to cover before being big road favorites, as they tend to not have any upcoming distractions. Teams are 79-58 ATS since 2012 before being road favorites of 5 or more. All that being said, we are getting no line value with the Ravens at +5 in this game in Pittsburgh. This line was 7 a week ago on the early line, but has shifted significantly since.

It’s no surprise why, given the brutal season ending spine injury stud middle linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered in last week’s win over the Bengals, as well as the one-game suspension given to talented Pittsburgh rookie wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for a late hit on Vontaze Burfict, but the Ravens lost top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a torn achilles in their win over the Lions last week and he’s more important to the Ravens than Shazier or Smith-Schuster is to the Steelers. Prior to going down, Smith was one of the top cornerbacks in the entire NFL and a huge part of a Baltimore defense that ranks 2nd in first down rate allowed.

The Steelers are also missing top cornerback Joe Haden and right tackle Marcus Gilbert with suspension and injury respectively and have not played as well in recent weeks as a result. However, they are still a step up in class from the teams the Ravens usually beat, especially at home. Four of Baltimore’s seven victories this season have come against backup quarterbacks (Tom Savage, EJ Manuel, Matt Moore, Brett Hundley) and another came against the Deshone Kizer led Browns.

Their only two remotely impressive victories came against the Bengals week 1 and last week against the Lions, neither of whom compare to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, even as banged up as they are. They could still keep this within 5 points, as about 33% of games are decided by 5 points or less, but I can’t be confident in them at +5 because we aren’t getting any line value with them at all. I still have this line calculated at -7, before situational trends are factored in. I’d need at least 6 to consider placing a bet on the Ravens this week

Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Baltimore Ravens 16

Pick against the spread: Baltimore +5

Confidence: Low

New York Jets at Denver Broncos: 2017 Week 14 NFL Pick

New York Jets (5-7) at Denver Broncos (3-9)

One of my favorites things to do as a bettor is go against significant week-to-week line movements, as they tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play. The Broncos were 3 point favorites here at home against the Jets on the early line and now they are 1.5 point underdogs, a huge swing, considering about 1 in 4 games are decided by a field goal or less. That line movement comes as a result of the Jets’ home upset victory over the Chiefs and the Broncos’ big road loss in Miami.

Given the way the Chiefs have been playing in recent weeks though, beating them on your homefield isn’t a huge accomplishment and the Broncos’ loss in Miami, while definitely concerning, was closer than the final score suggested and it came without stud cornerback Aqib Talib, who returns from his one-game suspension this week. Even without Talib last week, the Broncos had a good defensive showing, holding the Dolphins to 15 first downs and a 28.13% first down rate.

They are not the same defense they’ve been in recent years without Wade Phillips, but they still have a talented secondary and a strong pass rush and are clearly the better of the two defenses in this game. They rank 10th in first down rate allowed, allowing opponents to move the chains at just a 32.64% rate on the season. Their offense clearly holds them back, as they rank 30th in first down rate, moving the chains at a mere 29.61% rate. As a result, they rank 25th in first down rate differential at -3.03%. That being said, 25th isn’t horrible and it suggests they aren’t quite as bad as their record. On their current 8-game losing streak, they’ve actually won the first down rate battle 3 times, against the Giants, Bengals, and Chiefs.

They’ve had serious problems with the turnover margin, as they are -16 on the season, 2nd worst only to the Browns, but turnover margin tends to be inconsistent on a week-to-week basis. Their quarterback situation is so bad that they will probably continue throwing a lot of interceptions, but their talented defense only has 11 takeaways through 12 games, tied for 2nd fewest in the league, and that can definitely improve going forward. The Broncos have also faced a pretty tough schedule overall. This home game against the Jets is arguably their easiest game so far.

Given that, it doesn’t make sense that the Jets are favored. The Jets have had some success at home this season, beating the Dolphins, Jaguars, Bills, and Chiefs and playing close against the Falcons, Patriots, and Panthers, but they have not been a good road team. Their one road win came in Cleveland by 3 in a game the Browns could have easily won had they not continually squandered red zone opportunities. The Jets have losses in Tampa Bay and Miami, two comparable teams to the Broncos, and big losses in Buffalo and Oakland. On the season, they rank just one spot higher than the Broncos in first down rate differential, ranking 24th at -2.44%, despite an easier schedule. I still have this line calculated at -3, so we’re getting significant line value with the home underdog here.

The Jets are also in a terrible spot, as they are coming off of a huge home victory and play one of their toughest games of the season in New Orleans next week. They could easily look past the Broncos a little bit. Teams cover at just a 45% rate historically after a home upset victory and teams are 50-82 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, which the Jets likely will be next week against the Saints. The Broncos, meanwhile, turn around and have an easy game in Indianapolis, although it is on a short week on Thursday Night Football. This is just a medium confidence pick because I don’t trust any of the Broncos’ quarterbacks, but the Jets are in such a bad spot and this is too much line value to pass on.

Denver Broncos 19 New York Jets 16 Upset Pick +105

Pick against the spread: Denver +1.5

Confidence: Medium