There are just four weeks left in the 2017 NFL Season. Week 14 brings us some huge NFC matchups while AFC leaders New England (without suspended TE Rob Gronkowski) and Pittsburgh look to continue their great seasons with wins this week before next week’s huge showdown.
It’s also a big week for fantasy football players because those of us in 12-team leagues have playoff matchups this week unless your team is on a bye or eliminated. It gets difficult because you can rely on a guy like QB Russell Wilson all year, yet here he is playing at Jacksonville (the toughest possible matchup for a QB) and you must decide if you want to play him or go with some average QB with a better matchup. Full disclosure: I did seven teams because I’m a degenerate and five made the playoffs, so all is well for now, but the next few weeks will lead to a lot of yelling at the TV. Tough decisions, my friends.
Last Week’s Results:
13-3 Straight Up (126-66 Season, .656)
11-5 Point Spread (99-91-2 Season, .516)
I’m in two big pick ‘em pools with friends, both straight up. I’m in 7th in one of them and 10th in another. Both have over 50 people in them. Pretty good year picking games. Let’s bring it home strong in this final month.
Note: The point spreads I use come from VegasInsider. All times listed are in the Eastern Time zone.
New Orleans (9-3) -1.5 @ Atlanta (7-5) [8:30pm THU]
Both teams have good running back duos with the Saints being led by RBs Mark Ingram and phenomenal rookie Alvin Kamara while the Falcons have Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. A big reason why the Saints are 9-3 is because of that run game taking the pressure off QB Drew Brees. The Falcons used to have a home field advantage, but this year they are just 3-3 at home and I think the Saints run game is going to overpower them. It’s a huge game that the Falcons need to stay alive in the playoff race. I just think the Saints are the better all-around team right now.
The Pick: New Orleans 27-23
Indianapolis (3-9) @ Buffalo (6-6) -3.5 [1:00pm SUN]
It’s not known if Bills QB Tyrod Taylor will start after hurting his knee last week. Whether Taylor plays or not (I don’t think he will), I expect 25+ touches for Bills RB LeSean McCoy and the Bills defense is good enough to stop the Colts in what should be a cold weather game. The Colts may not win another game as they look ahead to next year.
The Pick: Buffalo 20-13
Oakland (6-6) @ Kansas City (6-6) -4 [1:00pm SUN]
Both teams have had disappointing seasons considering where they were last year and how the Chiefs started 5-0 this year only to win just one of their last seven games. The Raiders come into this game as winners of four of five with RB Marshawn Lynch totaling 231 yards from scrimmage with 2 TDs in the last two weeks. The Chiefs are the better team on paper, but the games aren’t played on paper and whatever is going on with them is causing them to lose close games. I’ll take the Raiders on the road.
The Pick: Oakland 26-24
Detroit (6-6) @ Tampa Bay (4-8) -1.5 [1:00pm SUN]
The Lions need this to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. In order to get that victory, they need to throw a lot with their 6th ranked passing offense led by QB Matthew Stafford against an awful Buccaneers pass defense ranked 31st. After the Lions gave up 44 points to the Ravens last week and a Bucs offense that showed some signs of life with QB Jameis Winston playing well last week, I’m going with the home Bucs to win. Bonus prediction: Both teams will have new head coaches next year.
The Pick: Tampa Bay 31-24
Green Bay (6-6) -6 @ Cleveland (0-12) [1:00pm SUN]
The story here is that the Packers are hanging around in the playoff race with superstar QB Aaron Rodgers potentially returning to the lineup next week. If the Packers win this game and Rodgers does return, they would have to win @ CAR, vs. MIN and @ DET just to get to 10-6 to possibly make the playoffs. It won’t be easy. As for the Browns, they are still inept, but I am happy WR Josh Gordon made it back onto the field and hopefully he can have a successful career. Make the most of that second (or third) chance. I’ll take the Packers here in a game that the Browns have a shot, but they’ll come up short.
The Pick: Green Bay 20-17
Minnesota (10-2) -2.5 @ Carolina (8-4) [1:00pm SUN]
Tough game to pick. The Vikings are coming into this game with eight straight wins. What’s been most impressive is how their defense shut down the Rams three weeks ago by allowing just 7 points and last week they held the Falcons to just 9 points. It’s tough to score on these guys. The Vikings are second against the run (77.7 yards per game) and 10th against the pass (211.4 YPG). Meanwhile, the Panthers are 4th against the run (88.6 YPG) and 7th against the pass (209 YPG). This feels like a low scoring kind of game.
The reason I’m leaning towards the Panthers is because they have more to play for. The Vikings are tied for first in the NFC, but their division is pretty much locked up and they are going into a tough environment. The key for the Vikings is getting the RB duo of Latavius Murray and Jerrick McKinnon going because if they have a big day (like the Saints RBs against the Panthers last week) then it’s a win. I just feel like the Panthers will shut them down and they usually do a good job of covering WRs. This game will be all about Panthers QB Cam Newton. They need this W big time. Newton needs a big game converting the big throws while also getting 50+ rushing yards and TD or two. Call me a Cam believer because I’m going Panthers at home.
The Pick: Carolina 23-17
Chicago (3-9) @ Cincinnati (5-7) -6 [1:00pm SUN]
Bad game with two awful teams, but the Bengals have a lot more talent on offense. I’m glad that WR AJ Green is being utilized well. He could have a big game here. The Bears offense is painful to watch. Get some healthy wide receivers next year, fellas.
The Pick: Cincinnati 24-13
Dallas (6-6) -4.5 @ NY Giants (2-10) [1:00pm SUN]
The story going into this is whether the Giants can come together for their third win after coach Ben McAdoo and GM Jerry Reese were fired. The Cowboys are not a great team, but the Giants just lack talent on both sides of the ball right now. I’ll go with the Cowboys with more to play for because they are in must-win mode and I was impressed by their 38-14 thumping of Washington last week. I think QB Dak Prescott will make enough big throws to win. Good for the Giants putting Eli Manning back in at starting QB too. It’s the right call.
The Pick: Dallas 27-17
San Francisco (2-10) @ Houston (4-8) -3 [1:00pm SUN]
The Texans are 1-4 since amazing rookie QB Deshaun Watson was lost for the season and replaced by mediocre backup QB Tom “not the Macho Man” Savage. I only care about this game for fantasy football playoff purposes because WR DeAndre Hopkins is awesome. I’ll go Texans because they have a top ten defense against the run and pass while their offense should do enough (thanks to Hopkins) against the Niners problematic defense.
The Pick: Houston 30-24
Washington (5-7) @ LA Chargers (6-6) -6 [4:05pm SUN]
I thought the Chargers would crush the Browns last week, but they didn’t. They still won 19-10 and are in a three-way tie for first in the lowly AFC West. I’m glad Keenan Allen is back to having a monster year with 77 catches for 1,032 receiving yards and 5 TDs. He’s the key to that offense. Washington isn’t that bad against the pass (13th), but if they focus on Allen too much then the Chargers will likely lean on RB Melvin Gordon, who could have a huge day against the 22nd ranked Washington defense. I like the Chargers to win big at home for their fourth straight win.
The Pick: LA Chargers 31-20
NY Jets (5-7) -1 @ Denver (3-9) [4:05pm SUN]
The Broncos have lost eight straight. Their defense is fifth against the run in yards and fourth against the pass, yet they’ve given over 35 points in three of their last five games. This is not a formidable defense anymore in part because of how bad their offense is. The Jets have their issues, but they can pass the ball with QB Josh McCown coming off a big game and I like the WR duo of Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse. Neither team is going anywhere this year, but the Jets are better. The Broncos may not win another game this year.
The Pick: NY Jets 27-23
Tennessee (8-4) -3 @ Arizona (5-7) [4:05pm SUN]
Tennessee comes into this game as winners in six of their last seven games, yet people don’t really talk about them as a threat to the top dogs in the AFC (New England and Pittsburgh). That’s because they aren’t an exciting team. Three of their last four wins were by four points or less because they play an old school, boring style where they run the ball (please play RB Derrick Henry more!) and don’t take a lot of deep shots with QB Marcus Mariota. Since I’m not that impressed by the Titans and there’s unfamiliarity with their opponent, I’m going with a home upset by the Cardinals because their run defense is pretty good and I think they can have success passing the ball. Just a gut feeling.
The Pick: Arizona 28-24
Philadelphia (10-2) @ LA Rams (9-3) -2.5 [4:25pm SUN]
The quarterbacks will get the headlines here with 2016 #1 overall pick Jared Goff leading the Rams and #2 pick Carson Wentz leading the Eagles. Both teams traded up to get those guys and both of them look very smart for doing it. Wentz is having the better year in terms of TDs (30 to 20), but in terms of QB Rating, Wentz is at 102.0 and Goff is at 98.4, so it’s close. I think both guys are going to have a lot of Pro Bowl berths between them.
The key to beating the Rams is running the ball since the Rams are 27th against the run (122.8 YPG). The Eagles have a great rushing offense at 143.3 YPG with a three-headed RB monster with LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. Last week, the Seahawks held the Eagles to just 10 points because they shut down the road. I think the Rams will focus on that and do well. Maybe it’s the Rams fan in me, but I have to support my team here. I feel like Goff will have success throwing deep off the play action while RB Todd Gurley will steal the headlines from the QBs and have a massive game mainly as a receiving back.
Each team is averaging an identical 31.9 points per game, which is tied for first in the NFL. I expect a shootout with the Rams winning on a late FG by K Greg Zeurlein in walk-off fashion.
The Pick: LA Rams 34-31
Seattle (8-4) @ Jacksonville (8-4) -3 [4:25pm SUN]
This is the worst possible matchup for the Seahawks right now. On the road against the number one pass defense (the Jags give up just 167.1 YPG) when the Seahawks have trouble running is a tough spot for them. Yes, QB Russell Wilson is playing at an amazingly high level right now and may be the MVP, but I think the Jags will shut them down. They can get pressure against the Seahawks below average OLine and then cover the speedy WRs well. Look for the Jags to play conservatively on offense with QB Blake Bortles (who is not as bad as he used to be, but still below average) feeding RB Leonard Fournette a lot and they’ll use the play action leading to big pass plays. I predict a home win for the Jags thanks to that impressive defense of theirs.
The Pick: Jacksonville 24-17
Baltimore (7-5) @ Pittsburgh (10-2) -5.5 [8:30pm SUN]
This is the Steelers fourth straight primetime game. Safe to say the NFL has a huge crush on them. Anyway, they have won seven straight with the last two wins coming on field goals in the last minute. In other words, they are not dominant victories by any means, but their star duo of RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown are having monster years again. It’s just hard to stop that offense. The Ravens come into this on a hot streak of their own with three straight wins and the defense looking great. I think they’re going to miss star CB Jimmy Smith, who is out for the year with a torn Achilles. That means it will be tough to cover Brown. I like the Steelers at home in what should be a very physical game between two rivals that don’t like each other. There’s just more talent on the Steelers side of the ball.
The Pick: Pittsburgh 27-20
New England (10-2) -11 @ Miami (5-7) [8:30pm MON]
That’s a big road spread, but it’s the right call because the Patriots have won eight straight and the in their last four, the closest margin of victory was 18 points. In other words, they are crushing people. It’s not just about QB Tom Brady either, who at 40 years old may win the MVP award again. I like the RB duo of Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead a lot because they are both threats running or passing. The big story with the Pats is that their defense has turned it around. It was a weakness, but now they are shutting teams down. I’m sure Miami will be motivated in a prime-time home game. The problem is they just don’t match up. Close game until the half and then the Pats will pull away.
By the way, I think TE Rob Gronkowski should have been suspended two games for his cheap shot last week. One game isn’t enough, but that’s all he will miss.
The Pick: New England 31-17
My Fave Five Bets Of The Week
Solid 3-2 performance last week by going with the hot Rams and Jaguars while going against the falling Broncos proved to be wise. I missed on the Chargers covering and didn’t expect the Ravens to score so much in beating the Lions.
Last week: 3-2 (Season 33-30-2)
Here are my five favorite bets for this week.
@ LA Chargers -6 Washington
NY Jets -1 @ Denver – The betting against the Broncos strategy is working.
Philadelphia @ LA Rams OVER 49
@ Cincinnati -6 Chicago
@ Cleveland +6 Green Bay – Rare to bet on the Browns, but I feel like they will keep it close.
That’s all for this week. I’ll be back for more next week. Enjoy the games.