NFL Betting Predictions: Week 14 Opening Line Report and Picks
In January 2017 when the Los Angeles Rams stunned the NFL world by hiring 30-year-old Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay as the team's new head coach, it was a move expected to fail spectacularly.
Instead, it has changed the modern NFL.
McVay's brilliant offensive mind turned Jared Goff from rookie bust into MVP candidate and Todd Gurley into the league's best all-around running back. The Rams went 11-5 last year and currently are among the Super Bowl favorites at 11-1. They are also the most entertaining team to watch west of Kansas City. You need entertainment to succeed in Los Angeles.
The NFL is a copycat league, so general managers around the NFL were looking for the next McVay to supercharge their boring offense. The Chicago Bears believe they found their McVay in 40-year-old Matt Nagy, who was the 2017 coordinator of that other most entertaining offense in the league this year, the Chiefs.
Chicago entered this season with many comparing the Bears to the 2017 Rams. Rookie head coach with a great offensive mind. Top 2 draft pick at quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, who struggled mightily as a rookie. A rising defense with a very accomplished coordinator (Wade Phillips for L.A. and Vic Fangio for Chicago).
It's rare that things work out that symbiotically in the NFL, but it appears to have done so with the Bears taking a huge leap forward and Super Bowl contenders themselves. McVay was the 2017 NFL Coach of the Year and Nagy is a favorite for this year.
In one of the marquee matchups of Week 14, the Bears host the Rams on Sunday night. It was flexed a few weeks ago from a 1 p.m. ET start, replacing Steelers-Raiders. Now we see if a great defense can actually beat a great offense in the modern-day NFL. Nagy has done a great job with the Chicago offense and it's way better than last year, but this team still wins on the other side of the ball. I give the Bears zero shot to win a playoff game in L.A. or New Orleans, but if they could somehow steal home-field advantage (doubtful) and get one of those high-powered teams in the cold of Chicago in January? Now that's a possible win. Any realistic chances of landing at least the No. 2 seed probably vanished with Sunday's loss at the Giants, though.
Another storyline here is Khalil Mack, who has turned that Chicago defense into something different. The Rams actually made a big offer to the Raiders for Mack as well, and it's just mind blowing to imagine him on that defense with Aaron Donald, who leads the NFL in sacks after two more Sunday in a win over Detroit. L.A.'s thinking was it would use Mack for one year, give him a raise but then trade him at the end of the season to recoup some of what it gave up for him. The Rams, who apparently offered the Raiders a first- and a third-round pick for Mack (Bears gave up two first-rounders), wouldn't have been able to afford Mack and Donald after 2018. That's how all-in this franchise is for the Super Bowl this season.
Here are some Week 14 early lines that caught my eye. I won't touch on Thursday's game (Jaguars-Titans), my in-depth Sunday matchup (likely Colts-Texans) or the Monday night game (Vikings-Seahawks) as I will be previewing them here individually.
Steelers at Raiders (+11.5, 49.5): Think of how many legendary games the Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders have played - No. 1 on that list would be Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception on Dec. 23, 1972, to win that epic playoff game in the Steel City. The teams met in the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (1972-76) when it was the best rivalry in the AFC. We bring this up because this should be the last time the Steelers and "Oakland" Raiders face off with the Silver and Black moving to Vegas in 2020 (at least that's the plan). The only AFC West team that Pittsburgh faces next year is whichever club finishes in the same position in the division as the Steelers. The Raiders are finishing last and the Steelers certainly aren't. The last meeting was in 2015. Incidentally, expect Oakland to be a big suitor for Pittsburgh holdout running back Le'Veon Bell this winter. Entering Week 13, a Bovada special had the Raiders as +600 second-favorites to land Bell behind the Jets (+300). The pick: Raiders.
Panthers at Browns (+1, 47.5): Matchup of former No. 1 overall picks and Heisman winners in Carolina QB Cam Newton and Cleveland counterpart Baker Mayfield. Could Panthers head coach Ron Rivera be in some trouble? That would have been laughable a month ago, but the Cats lost their fourth in a row Sunday, 24-17 in Tampa. Newton threw for 300 yards and two scores but was picked four times (most since rookie season). To make matters worse, Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen injured his foot and is expected to miss the rest of the season. Probably good news if Christian McCaffrey is on your fantasy team as he'll be used even more now. He had nine catches on Sunday and his 80 on the year are most by any running back through 12 team games of any season since at least 1950. The Browns' two-game winning streak was snapped Sunday in a 29-13 loss in Houston. Mayfield threw for 397 and a score but was picked three times (all in first half leading to 13 Texans points). Cleveland attempted just nine rushing plays - all by rookie Nick Chubb (31 yards). The pick: Browns.
Falcons at Packers (-6, 47): Looked to be a marquee matchup entering the year, but instead it's two of the biggest disappointments in the league. Green Bay was shocked 20-17 at home by Arizona on Sunday. Mason Crosby missed a 49-yard field goal as time expired. Aaron Rodgers threw it 50 times and completed 31 but for only 233 yards. The only quarterback to complete 30 passes in a game and throw for less yards this season was the forgettable Nathan Peterman, since released by the Bills. Green Bay closed as a 13.5-point favorite. It was the Packers' third-largest upset loss in the Super Bowl era and the worst since 1967, when they were -20 and lost to the Vikings. So one could argue that Coach Mike McCarthy deserved to get fired, which he was. Offensive coordinator and ex-Dolphins coach Joe Philbin will take over on an interim basis, but there's almost no chance he gets the full-time gig. The Atlanta offense has gone missing in a four-game skid as it was held to 16 points in Sunday's loss to Baltimore. Matt Ryan, so good early in the year, threw for only 131 yards. It was the fewest passing yards in a game he played from start to finish in his 11-year career. Coach Dan Quinn is reportedly safe, but offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian might not be. The pick: Packers.
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