coooAfter a brief hiatus due to travel, a family emergency and an acid flashback, the TPS Report is back to regular NFL sports betting programming this week and hungry as ever. (Joking about the acid, I think.) NFL’s Week 14 kicked off with an NFC South showdown where sharp money was on the Atlanta Falcons in a desperation game.
As everyone competing in a fantasy football playoffs game knows, someone in every league is very upset (or very not upset) by the early injury to Rookie of the Year candidate, New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Karama. That certainly impacted the Saints offense, while last year’s MVP, Falcons QB Matt Ryan was far from MVP form as he tossed interceptions on three consecutive possessions, usually a pretty good recipe for a loss. But the Falcons defense clamped down in the fourth quarter and they managed to gut out a 20-17 win, keeping Atlanta alive in the playoffs hunt. Sharp money prevailed. There’s 15 games to roll through so let’s get right to it.
NFL Week 14 Picks, Projections, Eagles-Rams NFC Clash; Seahawks-Jaguars Intrigue; Eli Manning is Back; Chargers Keep Charging; Vikings Down Panthers
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Cleveland Browns: Back in Week 10 I swore off the Browns — who are covering at about a 25% rate since Hue Jackson took over — for the the remainder of the season. That’s definitely not something a professional bettor would do but I’m not a “pro,” so I get to spare myself the torture of relying on a DeShone Kizer fourth-quarter touchdown pass. I mention this because sharp money is once again on the lowly Browns, who are still seeking their first actual win of the season. After the return (finally) of No. 1 WR caliber receiver Josh Gordon, they just might get it against a team limping along until Aaron Rodgers can return, possibly next week.
Gordon is a real difference maker who found some success last week against a stingy Chargers secondary — at least much as Kizer’s shortcomings would allow (11 targets, four catches for 85 yards). Meanwhile the Brownies are capable of slowing run games, so if they can bottle up Packers RB Jamaal Williams, it may be up to Brett Hundley to find Davante Adams or former fantasy football stud WR Jordy Nelson. Remember that guy? Like I said I’m unwilling to actually bet on Cleveland but maybe, maybe, they get an actual win and cover this week. Score projection: Packers 22, Browns 21
Oakland Raiders (+4) at Kansas City Chiefs: Boy, how did we get here? When the trees still had leaves it looked as though the Chiefs were headed toward a first-round playoffs bye. Those days are over but at least the Chiefs found its offense again in a 31-point outburst at the Jets in Week 13 — in just 17 minutes of offense (Jets controlled the ball for nearly 43 minutes). Chiefs head coach Andy Reid just suspended top cornerback Marcus Peters for this week as a result of his flag-throwing incident at New York and behavioral issues in general. Point is that a bad KC defense is down another top player, but can the sputtering Raiders take advantage? The Chiefs D has been sieve-like against the rush and pass, so if Derek Carr is going to snap back to form, now would be a good time as both teams are still alive in the AFC West at 6-6. The Chiefs typically tighten up on defense at home, or at least the raucous Arrowhead crowd makes its presence felt. In a divisional game where playoffs lives are on the line, I’m inclined to take the points… but speaking of points, the total is a manageable 48.5 right now in what could be a defense-less shootout. I’d look over and lean Chiefs. Score projection: Chiefs 30, Raiders 24
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Minnesota Vikings (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers: This “spot” says Carolina off a road loss and Minnesota off eight straight wins — and seven straight covers! Streaks are made to end. But hot damn, the Vikings are a solid football team on both sides and Carolina is going have a hard time moving the ball through design or improvisation. Per Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar, the Vikings have allowed a league-low 56 rushing yards to quarterbacks, so Cam Newton probably won’t find the running space he’s accustomed to seeing. The Panthers play pretty stingy defense but the Vikings’ offense is the second most efficient in passing and has found a nice rushing balance of power-and-quickness with Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon. Plus Panthers outside linebacker Shaq Thompson is out (foot) and Thomas Davis (hamstring) was limited last week and isn’t 100%, although, who is? Reasonably talented home dogs are nice but I can’t find much reason to expect a Panthers win here. Score projection: Vikings 21, Panthers 14
San Francisco 49ers (+2.5) at Houston Texans: Jimmmmmy G! Jimmy G! Coming off a road win at Chicago in Garoppolo’s first start for the team, the Niners take the show to Houston for another spin against a pretty porous secondary. The Niners aren’t blessed with much talent at skill positions but they they may be able to get Carlos Hyde going, and Garoppolo can take some deep shots to the speedy Marquise Goodwin. Texans QB Tom Savage may as well throw the ball DeAndre Hopkins’ way 20 times against a pair of bottom-feeding Niners cornerbacks. Hopkins may feast but the Texans offense overall continues to sputter as they long for next season and a healthy Deshaun Watson. I think that with an apparent franchise QB in place for San Fran, and the enthusiasm around that and a solid head new coach (Kyle Shanahan), they stand a good chance to win outright. Score projection: 49ers 24, Houston 23
Indianapolis Colts (no line) at Buffalo Bills: Raise your hand if you’re ready for more of the Nathan Peterman experience! As of Friday morning we don’t know if Tyrod Taylor (knee) will be ready; he’s a game-time decision, so stay tuned. The static line for the Westgate Las Vegas SuperContest has Buffalo favored by 3. The Colts are pretty bad on both sides of the ball but have shown signs of competence at times, same for QB Jacoby Brissett who’s been decent for a backup but simply holds the ball too long and absorbs too many drive-killing sacks. But it could be Frank Gore Time against a putrid Bills rushing defense, and probably it’ll be LeSean McCoy Time for Buffalo regardless of which QB starts, but definitely if it’s the rookie Peterman. In other news, there’s an opportunity for Buffalo-area folks to pick up some extra cash for the holidays, plus a ticket to a game! Check it out:
The Bills Mafia may be drunk but I’m sure they can move some snow. Score projection: Bills 23, Colts 21
Detroit Lions (no line) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: No line here as of Friday morning because Matthew Stafford’s status is unclear after he suffered a hand injury against the Ravens last week. It looks as though he’ll be good to go and he’ll have a much more enjoyable Sunday against a Buccaneers team with a nonexistent pass rush and a barely-there secondary (pass defense ranked 31st per Football Outsiders). I think the line here will be around PK or -1 either way, and in either case I’ll be looking at the Lions. It’s concerning that starting guard, tackle and center Thomas Lang (foot), Richard Wagner (ankle), and Travis Swanson are limited or not practicing… but if there’s one team that can’t take advantage it’s the Bucs. The Lions defense isn’t exactly bulletproof either and the Bucs can pile up some yards, maybe even rushing yards with Peyton Barber in what may be a bit of a shootout. But I’m leaning to the overall better team (not a good team but a better one). Score projection: Lions 27, Bucs 23
Chicago Bears (+6.5) at Cincinnati Bengals: In a game that screams “Nah, I don’t feel like watching this one” we’ve got a couple of sluggish offenses and decent defenses and two head coaches probably on the way out (Marvin Lewis and John Fox). The Bengals are coming off a short week after playing an extremely physical game against Pittsburgh in which they lost star LB Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and rookie running back Joe Mixon (concussion). This is a pretty beat-up Bengals squad but the offense can definitely still exploit the Bears via A.J. Green and the shifty Gio Bernard. The Bears offense has been pretty terrible this season, now averaging a league-worst 24.75 yards per offensive drive, as rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky averages just 14 yards passing per possession, no thanks to limited receiving options. In my estimation this adds up to a cold, low scoring game (total 38.5) that I won’t be watching or wagering on. Score projection: Bengals 21, Bears 17
Dallas Cowboys (-4) at New York Giants: What a strange couple weeks in a brutally disappointing season for the Giants. Eli Manning is back under center after having his 210 consecutive games started streak snapped by a benching for Geno Smith that lasted one game. Unfortunately for Eli, the offensive line still stinks and they have no running game, but we could see a “Hey, the head coach and GM got fired!” performance/celebration and that’s the best thing New York has going for it. Things haven’t been peachy for the Cowboys either, as their playoffs hopes are hanging by a thread and this week they have some good/bad injury news as star linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) will be back but starting cornerback Orlando Scandrick (back) will be absent. The G-Men have been hemorrhaging yardage (expect seven catches and 80 yards from Jason Witten) and will have a hard time slowing down even an Ezekiel Elliott-less running game… alas, this a strange spot where I think we see a pretty inspired Giants performance out of respect for Eli and hatred for their division rival. Score projection: Cowboys 26, Giants 24
Tennessee Titans (-3) at Arizona Cardinals: This line had been around 2.5, but coinciding with news that Cardinals top DB Patrick Peterson is probably out, it’s now at 3. The visiting Titans are a very underwhelming 8-4 team while the Cardinals are… well, they’re starting Blaine Gabbert at quarterback. Arizona can stuff the run, which is great against a run-first team like the Titans, but they become more susceptible on the back end without Peterson. That said, Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been far from accurate or good this season, and the Cardinals (3-8-1 against the spread) tend to play better at home; remember just a couple weeks ago they hung 27 points and 20 first downs on a top Jaguars defense in a 27-24 victory. This Titans team is a quintessential one-and-done if they make the playoffs and I’m not buying them here. Score projection: Cardinals 24, Titans 23
New York Jets (-1) at Denver Broncos: So the Denver Broncos have now lost eight games in a row and opponents have outscored them by a whopping 133 points in those contests. It’s pretty incredible that New York is favored at Mile High and to hear Jets fans singing Josh McCown’s praises on local sports radio, but here we are and that’s how bad the Broncos quarterback situation as become. I think next week we might see a cardboard cutout of Peyton Manning under center. Anyhow, the Jets have really tightened the screws with their rushing defense in recent weeks so this is an uphill battle for the Broncos’ offense. “I’m kind of out of sync at times,” Broncos starter Trevor Siemian said this week. “In times I haven’t played well, there hasn’t been a real rhythm with me and that trickles all the way through the offense.” It’s trickled down to the defense, too, which has bended and actually allowed a lot of passing touchdowns. For the Jets, difference-maker WR Robby Anderson returned to practice in full on Friday. This is not a game I’m running to bet but in pool play, lean New York. Score projection: Jets 24, Broncos 20
Washington Redskins (+6) at Los Angeles Chargers: I’ve been on the Redskins-are-underrated bandwagon for most of the season but I’m stepping off. The injuries at every position group have really become insurmountable, in particular the recent loss of all-purpose running back Chris Thompson. Kirk Cousins has done a fine job given the circumstances, but he’s been getting sacked a ton and won’t have much time on Sunday with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram bearing down. Plus the Chargers’ formidable secondary won’t offer Cousins many windows. Los Angeles can improve to 7-6 and continue its improbable path toward the playoffs with a win here. Wideout Keenan Allen has been on an absolute tear and RB Melvin Gordon should stack yardage against a cratering Redskins rushing defense. I’m not sure what kind of impact these wildfires in Los Angeles will have on the team but it has to be a minor distraction at least. This isn’t my favorite game on the board but I think the Chargers roll. Score projection: Chargers 30, Redskins 17
Seattle Seahawks (+2.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars: Well this is going to be quite an interesting thing. Shiny green and teal-ish colors on both sides and a pair of 8-4 squads jockeying for a playoffs spot. For once we get to talk about the Seahawks offensive line and note that it’s improved, but Sacksonville poses a major test for any offense/offensive line. We can count on some usual Russell Wilson wizardry but I suppose a bit less against the top-rated passing defense. The Jags’ liability (aside from its biggest one, Blake Bortles) had been its rushing defense, which has stiffened a bit since they acquired DT Marcell Dareus from Buffalo. We’ll find out what it’s made of as Seattle’s turnstile backfield may have found something again in running back Mike Davis. Elsewhere, Jacksonville may be missing a couple key defensive cogs in DB Jalen Ramsey (hamstring) and LB Telvin Smith (concussion). As for Bortles and the offense, they’ve done enough but haven’t been tested by many quality, veteran defenses. If this line trends to 3, I’d grab that. Score projection: Seahawks 20, Jaguars 16
Philadelphia Eagles (+2) at Los Angeles Rams: Welcome to the DVOA Bowl! That refers to the meeting of the top two teams ranked by Football Outsiders’ metrics. These two NFC leaders are neck-in-neck thanks to excellent play in all three phases. Philly has hung on the West Coast after getting humbled by Seattle in Seattle (although the offense was effective), while the Rams have won two straight over the Saints and Cardinals. As noted by Hribar, sophomore QBs Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, drafted 1 and 2 in ‘16, are ranked 1 and 2 in yards per completion (YPC) this year with 13 and 12.4 respectively. Of course, that yardage mostly came against lesser defenses than they’ll see here. Philly has turned to a running back by big committee approach and face a Rams defense that is much more vulnerable on the soil than through the air. I suppose the 26-20 Saints win is the Rams’ signature W to this point but if they take care of business here, this would be it. I’m more interested in watching than wagering but lean Philadelphia and the points. Score projection: Eagles 24, Rams 23
Sunday Night Football
Baltimore Ravens (+5) at Pittsburgh Steelers: It’s been a rough week for Pittsburgh. First and foremost, the devastating spinal injury to linebacker Ryan Shazier. That’s definitely taking a mental and emotional toll on the team, plus they’re playing on a short week after Monday Night Football in what was a very physical contest. Baltimore comes to town at 7-5 (straight up) and desperately needs another win to remain in the playoffs picture, a task made more difficult due to the loss of top cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles). But Baltimore presents another brutally physical opponent for the Steelers offense. As ever, the Ravens just need the offense to do enough and play the field position game instead of turning the ball over. I think we’re going to see some John Harbaugh trickery, a couple wheel routes from Danny Woodhead and a successful longball to WR Mike Wallace in a “revenge game.” However it unfolds, I think it’s close and a Ravens cover. Score projection: Steelers 21, Ravens 20
Monday Night Football
New England Patriots (-11) at Miami Dolphins: No matter how high oddsmakers make the line, the betting public is going to hammer the Patriots. And what kind of case can you make for the Dolphins to cover or even score 17 points here? Running back Kenyan Drake is pretty decent, I guess? The absence of Rob Gronkowski (suspension, buffoonery) doesn’t help New England but they’ll just turn the Rubik’s cube to Danny Amendola, and good luck to Miami covering Brandin Cooks and New England’s committee of receiving-adept running backs. The Patriots are driving toward a bye and possibly home-field advantage with a clash against Pittsburgh on the horizon Week 15. They won’t be (completely) overlooking Miami but perhaps they step off the gas a bit in the fourth quarter? I don’t have the stomach or the faith to take Miami and the points. If you do, slug some Pepto Bismol first. Score projection: Patriots 30, Dolphins 16
You ready? Let’s do it.
Happy Week 14 to you all. Before you place any wagers, check the weather and check for any key injuries/inactives on Sunday. Also, check your bias. Hit me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, concerns, questions, compliments or dad jokes.