As we head out of the season’s final turn into the stretch run there are three games in Week 14 that will have major a effect in the AFC postseason seeding. We’ll go into each of those games in detail.
This season has been the roughest for Nostrathomas since he went into the prediction business. He’ll have to up his game over the final four weeks or risk finishing below .500 against the spread for the first time ever. Picking straight-up has been strong but can always be better.
Heading into Week 14 the numbers against the spread sits at 56-67-1 and straight-up is 80-42. Now let’s dive into an exciting week of NFL football.
Games of the Week
With the heavy playoff implications I’m going to put all three AFC showdowns into this category.
Kansas City Chiefs vs Miami Dolphins +7 (1PM ET; Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL)
Kansas City is No. 3 in this week’s Football from A to Z power rankings and the Dolphins are sixth.
The Chiefs have a big inter-conference bout coming up next week against the New Orleans Saints but can’t let themselves get distracted by that. They’re currently tied with Pittsburgh for the top seed in the AFC. Miami is currently fighting the Buffalo Bills for the top spot in the AFC East while also keeping themselves rooted in position for a Wild Card spot.
Kansas City is first in the league in points per play and points per drive but are a facing a defense that is first in points per play allowed and second in points per drive allowed. Patrick Mahomes is second in the league in passer rating while the Dolphins defense is third in passer rating allowed.
Kansas City has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL but their Achilles heel is their defensive front. The problem is, Miami only has Myles Gaskin at running back to try and exploit that weakness.
The Chiefs are 4-1 against teams that are currently over .500 while Miami is 1-2. As for betting trends, the Dolphins have covered the spread in seven of their last eight and nine of their last 11 games. For Kansas City, they’ve failed to cover in their last four games and are 3-3 against the spread on the road.
Kansas City is too strong for the Dolphins youngsters to match-up with when postseason positioning is on the line. Still, the Dolphins are a team on the rise and the Chiefs won’t be beating them by just throwing their helmets on the field.
Take the Kansas City Chiefs to win but look for the Miami Dolphins to keep the final within a touchdown.
Kansas City Chiefs 30 Miami Dolphins 25
Pittsburgh Steelers +2 vs Buffalo Bills (Sunday Night Football, Bills Stadium, Buffalo, NY)
It’s not often that you see a team that went into the previous week’s action undefeated come into the following week as the underdog. Pittsburgh opened as -2.5 but public money has been coming in heavy on the Bills all week. The game has been bet to the point where the Steelers are now getting two points as underdogs.
For the Bills, they’ve won five of their last six games and have a one game lead in the AFC East. Buffalo has developed a strong passing game with Josh Allen at the quarterback controls but are going up against one of the best pass defenses in the game.
Pittsburgh is second in the league in both hurries and quarterback knockdowns. Their defense also leads the NFL in interceptions.
Public betters appear to be overreacting to last week’s results. Buffalo dominated a San Francisco 49ers team last week that was relocated to Arizona for their home games. The Steelers, through no fault of their own, were playing on a Monday after a Wednesday afternoon game.
The Bills are a team on the rise in a division that has been dominated for two decades by the New England Patriots but they need a running game to reach Pittsburgh’s level as a postseason contender. In the meantime, the Steelers have a Super Bowl caliber defense. They’ve also had a regular week of work and football players are creatures of habit.
Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Buffalo Bills 23
Baltimore Ravens -2.5 vs Cleveland Browns (Monday Night Football, FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH)
The Cleveland Browns have a two game lead on the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North with four games left to play.
Cleveland has won four straight games since their bye week. For the Ravens, they were able to pull out of a three game dive last week on Tuesday night football with a 34-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Browns jumped out to a 38-7 first half lead last week against the Tennessee Titans before nearly giving it all back in a 41-35 victory. That’s been Cleveland’s problem all season. Their defense is 22nd in the league in points allowed.
Both teams rely heavily on their ground games to move their offenses. The Ravens have the better all-around defense.
Baltimore Ravens 26 Cleveland Browns 23
Houston Texans -1.5 vs Chicago Bears (1PM ET; Soldier Field, Chicago, IL)
This game features two teams heading in opposite directions in the final month of the season. Houston had won four out of five games before losing to the playoff bound Indianapolis Colts last week. The Bears are in free fall. They lost four straight games heading into their bye week and have dropped two more after their week off.
Chicago was embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers but their worst loss of the season was last week against the Detroit Lions. The Bears gave away a 10 point lead in the final five minutes of the game to lose 34-30.
The two teams are fairly evenly matched statistically except for one position that is the most important on the field, quarterback. His team may be one of the biggest disappointments of the season but Deshaun Watson is still playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Bears continue their free fall this week because of that.
Houston Texans 30 Chicago Bears 17
Green Bay Packers -8 vs Detroit Lions (4:25PM ET; Ford Field, Detroit, MI)
Detroit looked revived last week while playing their first game for new head coach Darrell Bevell. They rode two late touchdowns to escape from Soldier Field with a 34-30 victory last week. This week, the Lions host the current No. 2 seed in the NFC playoff picture.
The Packers are first in the NFL in points scored while Detroit is 31st in points allowed. That isn’t the only reason to be betting Green Bay in this game.
Again, you can’t overreact to the previous week. The Lions took advantage of a Chicago team that crumbled under late game pressure last week. The Packers can dominate on the ground with Aaron Jones and
Green Bay Packers 31 Detroit Lions 20
New Orleans Saints -7 vs Philadelphia Eagles (4:25PM ET; Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA)
Taysom hill is starting again for New Orleans while Jalen Hurts will be getting the start for the Eagles. Hurts will be facing a defense that is improving by the week.
Hill is quarterbacking a team that likely could be relied on to win, even with Hurts as a starter.
New Orleans Saints 27 Philadelphia Eagles 17
Best of the Rest
Tennessee Titans -7.5 vs Jacksonville Jaguars (1PM ET; TIAA Bank Stadium, Jacksonville, FL)
Derrick Henry only received 16 touches for Tennessee last week in their loss to the Browns. He should get a lot more this week against a team that surrenders an average of 4.7 yards per attempt. For the Jaguars, they have a runner in James Robinson who will challenge Tennessee’s weakness along their defensive front.
Jacksonville may have only succeeded in winning their opener this season but have played a lot of good teams close. Still, the Titans are trying to keep pace with Indianapolis for the AFC South title. This won’t be as close a game as the one these two teams played in Week 2
Tennessee Titans 29 Jacksonville Jaguars 20
Minnesota Vikings vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers -6.5 (1PM ET; Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL)
Minnesota has fought their way back into a playoff spot after a 1-5 start and travel to Tampa to face the team in front of them in the Wild Card race. The Buccaneers are on a two game losing streak but both of those losses were to teams who are currently Super Bowl contenders.
Tampa Bay has the best rushing defense in the NFL which means the Vikings will be relying on Kirk Cousins to move the ball. Fortunately for the Vikings, he’s been doing that very well during their hot streak.
Still, the Buccaneers have been statistically superior to Minnesota all season and are coming off of a late season bye week. Nostrathomas is taking Tampa Bay to win and cover at home.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 32 Minnesota Vikings 24
Denver Broncos vs Carolina Panthers -3.5 (1PM ET; Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC)
The Panthers are getting Christian McCaffrey back in the lineup this week. That should be enough to push Carolina to a victory over the offensively challenged Broncos.
Carolina Panthers 23 Denver Broncos 18
Arizona Cardinals -3 vs New York Giants (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
This is a tough game to predict. The Cardinals have been the better team all season but are in a four losses in five games slide. For New York, they’ve won four in a row including an impressive win last week over the Seattle Seahawks.
As much as Nostrathomas wants to pull the trigger on the Giants today, he can’t go against his measurements that track all NFL teams from Week 1 to today. He’s taking the Cardinals to win and cover.
Arizona Cardinals 27 New York Giants 19
New York Jets +14 vs Seattle Seahawks (4:05 PM ET; Lumen Field, Seattle, WA)
The Jets launched Gregg Williams last week after one of the stupidest defensive calls of the season. With the Jets leading 28-24 and 16 seconds left in the game the Raiders had no timeouts left with the ball on the New York 46 yard line. Instead of defensive backs guarding the goal line and flooding deep zones he called for an all-out blitz. Derek Carr hit the “gimmee” touchdown pass the Henry Ruggs and the Jets had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Seahawks lost to the Giants last week but they’re not a team that’s going to lose to the other New York team for a second straight week. However, they’re not playing well enough to trust them to cover a 14 point spread. Take Seattle to win and the Jets to cover.
Seattle Seahawks 26 New York Jets 15
Indianapolis Colts -3 vs Las Vegas Raiders (4:05PM ET; Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV)
The Colts are making a convincing playoff run with three wins in their last four games. Las Vegas is making a convincing playoff slide. Take Indianapolis to win and cover.
Indianapolis Colts 27 Las Vegas Raiders 22
Washington Football Team +3 vs San Francisco 49ers (4:25PM ET; State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ)
Last week, The Football team capped their three game winning streak by handing the undefeated Steelers their first loss of the season. Alex Smith has been all the quarterback that Ron Rivera was looking for this season.
San Francisco has surprised at times this season but between injuries and relocation of their home games, that’s a lot to overcome against a team with a strong defense and a genuine chance at the postseason.
Washington Football Team 28 San Francisco 49ers 24
Games of the Weak
Dallas Cowboys -3.5 vs Cincinnati Bengals (1PM ET; Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati, OH)
The Cowboys are a terrible team but Andy Dalton will get more out of them than Brandon Allen will get out of his.
Dallas Cowboys 25 Cincinnati Bengals 19
Atlanta Falcons -2 vs Los Angeles Chargers (4:25PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)
Quarterback of the future against a quarterback of the past. Atlanta has two losses to the Saints in their last five games, other than that they’ve been playing well under interim head coach Raheem Morris.
The Chargers will continue their death march to the end of the season under future ex-head coach Anthony Lynn.
Atlanta Falcons 26 Los Angeles Chargers 23