NFL Football Predictions: Week 14 Opening Line Report and Picks
by Alan Matthews - 12/2/2014
How unusual is it that we enter Week 14 of the season and not only has a single division title not been clinched yet but no club has even locked up a playoff spot? That could change this week. The Colts can lock up the AFC South with a win in Cleveland and a Houston loss in Jacksonville. Denver, meanwhile, will clinch a playoff spot with a win and losses by Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cleveland plus a few other results involving the Chiefs, Texans and/or Chargers.
Green Bay's exciting win over New England on Sunday has the Packers as the +350 Super Bowl favorites at Bovada, with the Patriots right behind at +375. I think anyone who watched that game would list Packers-Patriots as a pick'em on a neutral field in a Super Bowl rematch. The Broncos are +425, and surging Seattle, a team I guarantee you no one wants to play now, is up to +650. Two weeks ago the Seahawks were three games behind Arizona in the NFC West. Wouldn't shock me to see the teams tied by Sunday night.
This week I will preview Thursday's Cowboys-Bears game, Sunday's Steelers-Bengals matchup and Monday night's Falcons-Packers first-place showdown. Thus, I won't touch on those here. Here are a few Week 14 opening lines at WagerWeb that caught my eye.
Indianapolis at Cleveland (+4, 49.5): As of this writing, Cleveland coach Mike Pettine hasn't announced his starting quarterback for this game, but I will be stunned if Pettine doesn't hand over the keys to the team to rookie Johnny Manziel. Kudos to Brian Hoyer for leading the Browns to seven wins, but he has really struggled in the past four games. He has thrown just one touchdown compared to six interceptions, completing just 53.1 percent of his passes. Manziel replaced him late in Sunday's loss to Buffalo when the game was pretty much out of hand and was 5-for-8 for 63 yards with a 10-yard rushing touchdown. Some might argue you don't start a rookie while you are still in playoff contention, and I get that. However, Hoyer is a free agent after the season, and the Indy defense isn't all that tough. Plus, obviously Manziel brings a running threat that Hoyer doesn't. I don't think Cleveland wins this game regardless, but I bet the Browns take some heavy action if it's Manziel. The pick: Colts.
Kansas City at Arizona (-1.5, 40.5): Don't laugh, but it wouldn't shock me if 9-3 Arizona misses the playoffs. Drew Stanton is reminding everyone that he is indeed Drew Stanton. The Cards have been handled easily the past two weeks by the Seahawks and Falcons, and Stanton is completing less than 60 percent of his passes with one touchdown and three picks in those two. Plus, the Cardinals lost stud safety Tyrann Mathieu for at least three weeks to a thumb injury and may not have starting running back Andre Ellington this week. The Chiefs have lost two straight and can't afford to drop to 7-6. That top-ranked pass defense should give Stanton problems. The pick: Chiefs and big on "under".
Seattle at Philadelphia (-1.5, 48.5): Here come the Super Bowl champs. Don't look now but that Seahawks defense is where it ended last season: No. 1 overall in yards allowed. It has allowed just six combined points the past two weeks in matching 19-3 wins over very good Cardinals and 49ers teams. The return of linebacker Bobby Wagner has changed everything. The Eagles, meanwhile, are fourth in scoring, averaging 31.2 points per game, and fourth in average yards per game, at 416. The running game was tremendous in the Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas. However, do you trust Mark Sanchez against the Seattle defense? I don't. The pick: Seattle. It helps the Seahawks' body clocks a lot that this game is at 4:25 p.m. ET instead of 1 p.m.
San Francisco at Oakland (+7.5, 40.5): How is this line not double digits? The 49ers don't have to travel and are going to play desperate with a 7-5 record and off their ugly Thanksgiving loss at home to Seattle. OK, maybe the oddsmakers think the Niners are looking ahead to Week 15's trip to Seattle. But the Raiders clearly were on empty in Week 13's 52-0 loss in St. Louis. They are happy to have gotten that one win, and I expect the Raiders to be blown out the rest of the season. There will be plenty of stories this week about the Niners trading Coach Jim Harbaugh to Oakland after this season -- especially if San Francisco misses the playoffs. The pick: San Francisco and under.
New England at San Diego (+3.5, 51): Bit surprised at this line. Instead of flying home following Sunday's loss in Green Bay, the Patriots flew out to San Diego and will spend the week practicing out there for this excellent Sunday night matchup. That's smart. San Diego has won three straight close games and became the first West Coast team ever to win in Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday in a 34-33 thriller. The Ravens blew a 10-point lead with less than four minutes remaining. Philip Rivers hit Eddie Royal on the game-winning one-yard score with 38 seconds left. This game has huge divisional implications. The Bolts are only a game behind Denver in the AFC West and host the Broncos next week. The Patriots are two ahead of Miami (and Buffalo), but obviously a loss here and Dolphins win Sunday vs. Baltimore would make next week's Dolphins at Patriots matchup for the AFC East lead. The pick: Take the points as the Patriots probably win by a field goal. They haven't lost back-to-back games since early in the 2012 season.
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