Saturday, December 9, 2017

2017 NFL Week 14 Picks

It wasn't pretty, but my Atlanta pick on Thursday broke my losing streak in prime time games. Let's hope that means my little hot streak (40-20 the last four weeks) will continue. When guessing what the lines would be to see how my feel for the week is, I actually nailed eight of them right on the money, so that either means I'll have a great week or am way overconfident in the favorites. Let's find out!

Last week: 10-6
Season total: 105-87

Vikings -2.5 at Panthers

Minnesota's steady offense should have a much easier time moving the ball against a Carolina squad that has begun to spring leaks in the secondary than Cam Newton will face on the other side. Especially with Devin Funchess banged up and Greg Olsen still working his way back, points will probably be at a premium at home.

Bengals -6.5 versus Bears

Missing Joe Mixon and a bunch of pieces on defense isn't encouraging, but Cincy has been playing well overall in recent weeks. And Chicago's defense has been banged up in its own right, so I'll side with the more experienced offense.

Packers -3.5 at Browns

I can see why some may consider this a trap game for Green Bay with the imminent return of Aaron Rodgers in time for tougher opponents coming up, but with the spread this low, I just can't side with Mr. 1-27, Hue Jackson. Him somehow winning the power struggle over head of football operations Sashi Brown is probably worse than Sam Hinkie's ousting with the 76ers. Even if the roster was lacking in certain areas, Brown has put together enough nice pieces to win more than one game out of 28, and new hire John Dorsey, who was hired suspiciously fast, is set to reap the rewards of the extra draft picks and cap space the franchise has going forward.

49ers +2.5 at Texans

It's overly simplistic to compare Jimmy Garoppolo and Trent Taylor to Tom Brady and either Wes Welker or Julian Edelman, but the GOAT's understudy certainly looked good in his first start with his new club and had quite the connection with his small slot receiver to get the W. Those two and Marquise Goodwin should also be able to take advantage of this Houston defense this week unless JD Clowney can prove to be a one man wrecking crew.

Giants +4.5 versus Cowboys

Sean Lee is back for Dallas, but now they're missing a couple of other pieces on their already questionable defense. Dak Prescott has also had some issues against this New York defense, and with the chance that the Giants will play more inspired ball now that they have an interim coach, I've changed my pick to the home 'dog.

Lions +1.5 at Buccaneers

I guess this line was reflective of Matthew Stafford's banged up hand when it came out on Tuesday, but I won't quibble with it. Now that his injury has improved throughout the week, I'm pretty confident that he'll get the better of Tampa's weak pass defense. Jameis Winston will probably put up points on the other side, as well, but he didn't look quite right in his first start back healthy.

Chiefs -3.5 versus Raiders

Kansas City continued their struggling ways in New York last week, but Oakland didn't exactly look like world beaters at home against the weaker New York team, either. Michael Crabtree and possibly Amari Cooper coming back against a Marcus Peters-less secondary might give the Raiders the edge, but I think the home team puts up more points after the tight loss in the Bay that started this downward spiral.

Colts +3.5 at Bills

I was all set to ride the Buffalo defense at home, but with concerns over Tyrod Taylor's knee, I'm taking the points here. If he's ruled healthy enough to start, I'll probably change this back the other way, but for now I can't trust more than a field goal with Nathan Peterman.

Broncos +0.5 versus Jets

Here it is, Vance Joseph's last stand. The Jets are playing much better, but if Denver can't beat them at home to break their eight game losing streak, rumors of the rookie head coach being one and done might come to fruition.

Titans -2.5 at Cardinals

Finally the Tennessee line is reasonable so that they won't have to rely on a ridiculous Derrick Henry run to get a lucky cover. They're probably not as good as an 8-4 record would indicate, but they certainly have enough talent to win by a field goal against a team led by Blaine Gabbert and missing Adrian Peterson. Former Texas A&M wide receiver turned rookie "tight end" Ricky Seals-Jones could be a handful for an inconsistent pass defense, but he's only played 20.51% of Arizona's snaps during this three game run of production.

Chargers -6.5 versus Redskins

If I had written my usual post last week, I would have expressed my concern about a Los Angeles let down since they provided Cleveland their only win last year, and they did end up not covering the sizable spread. This week is more reasonable, but I'm still not completely confident against a decent Washington squad since there still isn't a reliable home field advantage in their new home. They should pull away against their banged up opponent traveling cross country, but let's just say I'm glad it's only a touchdown they have to win by.

Jaguars -3.5 versus Seahawks

Another coin flip game, and if both of their former Florida State stars on defense, Jalen Ramsey and Telvin Smith, are ruled out, I will definitely switch this to taking the points. I should have done that with Seattle at home last week, but now that they're on the road, I'm leaning towards this week's version of a ferocious defense limiting their offense for real this time.

Eagles +1.5 at Rams

Speaking of that Seattle game last week, Philly had a lot of bounces go against them, so although they're facing another tough NFC West opponent on the road, I like them to bounce back. LA's defense is a little more susceptible to a decent running game, so that could end up being the difference on a day everyone is focusing on comparing last year's top two picks. And for the record, I still think the Rams made the right pick with Jared Goff even as Carson Wentz has made me a fan. I wrote last year how Wentz was in such a better situation, and now that the playing field is more level, their numbers are stunningly similar. Goff, who is 21.5 months younger but also has the benefit of playing with Todd Gurley, has two more completions on seven fewer attempts for 179 more yards, but Wentz has 228 more rushing yards and eight more touchdowns overall. While they've both done an excellent job of taking care of the ball with just five interceptions, Wentz has lost two more fumbles, so it definitely hasn't been as one-sided of a debate as many would seem to believe.

Steelers -5.5 versus Ravens

Baltimore has a better chance of staying in this game than usual thanks to how banged up Pittsburgh's defense is, but after the Steelers had to keep playing in shock of Ryan Shazier's scary injury on Monday, I'm counting on them playing inspired ball for him here. The Ravens are dealing with their own major injury after top corner Jimmy Smith tore his Achilles, so perhaps Martavis Bryant can get something going in the absence of JuJu Smith-Schuster to take some of the load off of Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell.

Patriots -11.5 at Dolphins

It would be nice to have Rob Gronkowski available for this game, but New England has more than enough weapons to beat this overmatched defense for the second time in three weeks as the star tight end rightfully serves his suspension. Gronk was definitely right that a flag should have been thrown on Tre White's interception, but there's no excuse for that retaliation. The good news for the Pats is that Chris Hogan should be back as another receiving threat, and of course, Jay Cutler is the starting quarterback on the other side. Maybe he'll do better than what Matt Moore did a couple of weeks ago, but there's also the chance that the turnovers will be returned for scores this time.

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