NFL Betting Predictions: Week 14 Opening Line Report and Picks
If you bet the Tennessee Titans on the spread each week, you are now officially obligated to have a giant man crush on running back Derrick Henry, the former Heisman winner from Alabama. He has single-handedly turned an ATS loss into a victory twice - but really screwed up both times.
In Week 6, the Titans were -7.5 against the visiting Colts on a Monday night. Tennessee took a 29-22 lead on a Marcus Mariota 53-yard TD pass to Taywan Taylor with 5:29 to go. That was still the score with under a minute left and looking like an ATS loss. On third-and-5 from the Titans' 28, Henry then broke off a 72-yard TD run. Titans win 36-22 but in reality Henry should have just fallen down after getting the first and the game was over.
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This past Sunday, the Titans were -7.5 against visiting Houston. The Titans picked off Houston QB Tom Savage in the end zone with about a minute left while up 17-13. Game over, no cover. But on third-and-5 from the Tennessee 25 with 46 seconds to go. Henry broke a 75-yard TD run when in reality he should have just fallen down after getting the first. Then, Coach Mike Mularkey made an even bigger mistake. Up 23-13, he attempted the extra point. Why was that wrong? If the Texans block that and return it for a 2-point score, it's a one-possession game. Unlikely, sure, but Mularkey should have his team taken a knee on the PAT.
And there's Bears coach John Fox, who deserves to be fired on Monday simply for losing at home to the awful San Francisco 49ers, 15-14; Chicago is now 0-7 SU under Fox as a favorite. The mistake Fox made was when the 49ers had second-and-goal at the Chicago 3 with 1:34 left after the Bears had taken their final timeout. Chicago led 14-12 and obviously the Niners were already in chip-shot field goal range. The Bears defense should have simply spread apart like the Moses and the Red Sea when San Francisco handed off to Carlos Hyde on that second-and-goal. Then the Niners have an 19-14 lead, presuming the converted PAT, but it's still a one-possession game. Instead, Fox let the 49ers run down the clock, and they won on a Robbie Gould 24-yard field goal with four seconds left - the same Robbie Gould the Bears decided was no longer good enough to play for them in 2016. Fox said he thought there was a good chance his club could block the field-goal try. Yeah, right.
Here are some Week 14 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday night's game (Saints-Falcons), my in-depth Sunday matchup (probably Packers-Browns) or the Monday night game (Patriots-Dolphins) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Raiders-Chiefs (-3.5, 47.5): The most interesting - and probably worst - division in the NFL is the AFC West as Oakland, Kansas City and the LA Chargers are all tied for first at 6-6. Of course, the Chiefs were the last team to lose in the league this year, while the Raiders were 2-4 at one point and the Chargers 0-4. Kansas City's collapse continued Sunday with a 38-31 loss at the Jets. You can't blame QB Alex Smith for that one as he threw for 366 yards and four scores. You can blame the defense, which has been a problem all year (Eric Berry's season-ending injury in Week 1 changed everything) and also throw some blame on Bennie Logan. The Jets had kicked a 21-yard field goal to go up three with 3:55 left. Except, Logan was called for a personal foul for hitting long snapper Thomas Hennessy on the play. That gave the Jets the ball at the 1 and a first down. Josh McCown would score on a sneak with 2:15 left. Oakland beat the Giants 24-17 behind Marshawn Lynch's first 100-yard rushing game as a Raider. They played without WR Michael Crabtree due to suspension, but at least that was reduced to one game on appeal so he'll return for this one. The Raiders beat the Chiefs in Week 7, 31-30, in a totally wild ending. The Pick: Oakland.
Seahawks at Jaguars (-3, TBA): This screams trap game for Seattle, which got a huge win Sunday night over the high-flying Eagles, 24-10. Russell Wilson had three more touchdown passes as Seattle ended a two-game home streak and as a rare home dog. One of Wilson's TD passes was to tight end Jimmy Graham, who now has a TD catch in four straight games and nine in the past seven. Seattle did catch one break here, though, in that this was flexed from that dreaded 10 a.m. Pacific time start to 4:25 p.m. ET. Jacksonville remains tied atop the AFC South with Tennessee following a 30-10 home win over the Colts. Blake Bortles actually looked like an NFL quarterback for a day, throwing for 309 yards and two scores. Leonard Fournette rushed for a TD, although he did suffer an ankle injury so you'll want to monitor that. He did play through it Sunday. It will be fun to see the NFL's best pass-rushing team in the Jaguars (league-leading 44 sacks) try to corral the elusive Wilson. The Pick: Jacksonville.
Cowboys at Giants (+6, 41): Will Ben McAdoo be the New York coach by Sunday? There is plenty of chatter that McAdoo could be fired on Monday, both because his team sucks but also the handling of the Eli Manning situation last week. Playing their first game without Eli in 13 years, the Giants predictably lost 24-17 in Oakland. Geno Smith was respectable in Manning's place in throwing for 212 yards and a score but did lose two fumbles. But why on earth was Eli the backup and rookie Davis Webb inactive? How terrible would it have been for Manning to have to take the field if Smith got hurt!? Webb, who at least has promise, should be starting this game, but I'll presume for now it's Smith again. The last time the Giants started 2-10 was 1976. That was the last time they officially fired a coach before the end of a season. Dallas kept its playoff hopes alive with a 38-14 win over the Redskins last Thursday to end a three-game skid in which the Cowboys totaled 22 points. Alfred Morris was the star of that win with 127 yards and a score on 27 carries. He looked a bit like the suspended Ezekiel Elliott, who serves game No. 5 of his six-game suspension here. Dallas beat the Giants 19-3 in Week 1. Elliott had 140 yards from scrimmage. New York had only 233 yards in what foreshadowed the rest of its season. The Pick: Dallas.
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