With each NFL team having now played three quarters of their games, we’re now officially entering the home stretch. This is always the most exciting time of the season, with so many games having playoff implications. Week 14 of the NFL season almost always presents some exciting matchups and this year is no exception. Dallas plays host to Philadelphia in a crucial game that could decide the NFC East. Houston also plays host to Indianapolis, whilst Baltimore travels to Kansas City in other games with huge playoff implications. In another action-packed NFL Sunday, let’s take a look at our best bet on the board in each game.
BUFFALO BILLS VS NEW YORK JETS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), New Era Field
The Bills fought valiantly in Miami last week, ultimately falling 21-17. Josh Allen has emerged as a very capable dual-threat QB, throwing for 231 yards and rushing for a further 135 in the loss. The lack of playmakers has made things difficult on Allen and Co this season and is an area the front office will need to address this off-season. Defensively, the Bills were again excellent. They held the Dolphins under 200 total yards of offense in what was a complete display. Their problem was poor red-zone defence, where they allowed much-maligned QB Ryan Tannehill to throw 3 touchdowns.
New York Jets
The Jets enter this one off 6 consecutive losses, however they were competitive last week in Tennessee. QB Josh McCown continues to struggle, throwing for only 128 yards and an interception on his 30 attempts. Isaiah Crowell was the offensive spark plug in this one, totalling 107 yards from scrimmage. With the offense struggling immensely, the Jets defence has also been put in some tough positions of late. They allowed over 400 yards to the Titans last week, including two fourth-quarter touchdowns as Tennessee completed their comeback.
The Jets have gone over this paltry total in 6 of their last 8 games. Similarly, Josh Allen’s return has given the Bills offence a much-needed boost, as they’ve gone over this total in 3 of their last 4. In a game where I expect some defensive scores, over 38.5 represents solid value. Bills 24-21 Jets.
CLEVELAND BROWNS VS CAROLINA PANTHERS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), FirstEnergy Stadium
The Browns mini resurgence took a brief hiatus last week as they were crushed in Houston. QB Baker Mayfield struggled early, throwing 3 first-half interceptions as the Browns trailed 23-0 at half-time. This also meant that they couldn’t establish rookie RB Nick Chubb and the ground game. On defence, the Browns were gouged to the tune of 187 yards by Houston’s three-headed rushing monster. Their impressive young pass rush did manage 4 sacks on Deshaun Watson, however the Houston offence was in control all afternoon. At 4-7-1, you have to think their faint playoff hopes are now over.
The Panthers enter this one at 6-6 and fighting for their season off the back of 4 straight losses. Cam Newton struggled big time in Tampa Bay last week, throwing for 4 interceptions and taking 4 sacks. RB Christian McCaffrey has been a bright spot for this offence, eclipsing 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his last 5 games. Defensively, the Panthers level has dipped a little bit recently. Whilst they effectively limited the Buccaneers rushing attack, they were carved apart through the air by Jameis Winston. With their season on the line here in Cleveland, I have to think this Panthers team comes out with urgency and rights the ship.
Whilst it is a bit more of a ‘square’ play, the Panthers have their season well and truly on the line here. Not only do I think they’re the more talented team, they also have a huge motivational edge. At only 1-point, I’m confident in a road win and cover for Carolina. Panthers 24-20 Browns.
GREEN BAY PACKERS VS ATLANTA FALCONS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), Lambeau Field
Green Bay Packers
The 4-7-1 Packers effectively had their season ended with an embarrassing home loss to Arizona last week. Aaron Rodgers struggled immensely in this one, averaging only 4.7 yards on his whopping 50 pass attempts. The rushing attack didn’t fare all that well either, with RB Aaron Jones averaging only 3.3 yards per carry. This is one loss that can’t be put on the Packers defence. They allowed Josh Rosen to complete only 11/26 passes for 149 yards in a smothering display. What ultimately proved the difference was a Cardinals rushing attack that averaged over 6 yards per carry and scored 2 touchdowns. With big changes expected this off-season, you have to wonder how hard Green Bay will play the rest of the way.
Another team off a very disappointing season, the Falcons enter this one at 4-8 after losing 4 straight. Matt Ryan had one of his worst displays of the season, throwing for only 131 yards on his 26 attempts. The rushing attack was also severely limited, totalling only 34 yards on 15 carries. Whilst the Falcons defence has largely struggled this season, they did enough to win here. They allowed only 1 offensive touchdown and 159 passing yards on the afternoon. Like Green Bay, this team has little to play for the rest of the way and you have to question their motivation levels here.
Although Green Bay will likely play with more freedom here after Mike McCarthy’s firing, the line value is on Atlanta here. The Packers haven’t beaten what I’d consider a good team all season and I think Vegas is still giving them too much respect. Give me Atlanta and the 6 points here. Packers 27-24 Falcons.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS VS BALTIMORE RAVENS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), Arrowhead Stadium
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs rebounded from their loss to the Rams with a 7-point win in Oakland last week. QB Patrick Mahomes was again excellent, totalling 295 yards and 4 touchdowns on the afternoon. He’ll need to shoulder more of the offensive load going forward after the release of RB Kareem Hunt. Unfortunately, it was another poor game from the inconsistent Chiefs defence. They were gouged in the air by Derek Carr to the tune of 285 yards and 3 scores. The rushing defence didn’t fare much better, allowing over 6 yards per carry and a touchdown. Still in pole position for the AFC’s #1 seed, I expect another strong outing from the Chiefs here.
The Ravens enter this one at 7-5 after winning Lamar Jackson’s third straight start last week. Lamar Jackson has emerged as an excellent rushing QB and has averaged over 80 rushing yards per game in his 3 starts. RB Gus Edwards has also stepped up big time in the absence of Alex Collins, averaging over 100 yards on the ground in each of his 3 starts. The defence was phenomenal in Atlanta last week, holding a high-powered Falcons offence to only 131 yards. With the AFC playoff race very wide open, the Ravens have every chance of taking a wildcard spot but face a tough test here in Kansas City.
Whilst the line keeps moving in their favour, I can’t pass up the Chiefs at home laying less than a touchdown. I think this Chiefs defence matched up well against a Baltimore offence that avoids deep throws. With a huge amount at stake here, I expect a motivated Kansas City team to get the win and the cover. Chiefs 31-20 Ravens.
MIAMI DOLPHINS VS NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), Hard Rock Stadium
The Dolphins rebounded from 4 losses in their last 5 games with a crucial win in Buffalo last week. This was despite a struggling offence that failed to reach 200 total yards. Whilst Ryan Tannehill is an upgrade over Brock Osweiler, he simply needs to perform better for Miami to have a chance here. Defensively, the Dolphins have been inconsistent so far this season. That said, they’ve managed to hold their opponents under 20 points 5 times, all of which have resulted in wins. With their season essentially on the line here, I expect Miami to want revenge for their embarrassing 42-7 loss in New England earlier this season.
New England Patriots
The Patriots make their annual trip to Miami at 9-3 and off their best performance of the season, a convincing 24-10 win over Minnesota. Tom Brady delivered another controlled display, throwing for 311 yards and a touchdown. The rushing attack by committee continues to work well, totalling 160 yards and 2 touchdowns. It was defensively where New England really won this game. They completely shut down the Vikings usually strong passing attack, forcing 2 interceptions and allowing only 183 yards on 44 passing attempts. In pole position for a first-round bye, I expect New England to come out with a sense of urgency here.
Although the Patriots have historically struggled in Miami, I believe they have the significant talent edge in this one. They are locked in a battle with Houston for the #2 seed, so I expect a motivated effort here. With a backdoor cover in play, Patriots Halftime/Fulltime is the best value on the board. Patriots 27-14 Dolphins.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS VS NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), Raymond James Stadium
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The resurgent Buccaneers enter this one at 5-7 off consecutive home wins over San Francisco and Carolina. This is in large part due to the improved play of QB Jameis Winston, who has completed 70% of his passes and thrown 4 touchdowns to 0 interceptions over the stretch. The much-maligned Buccaneers defence has also improved significantly of late, allowing just 26 points over the last 2 weeks. They did an excellent job against Carolina last week, forcing 4 interceptions to overcome the division rival Panthers. Having shocked New Orleans on the road in the season opener, the Bucs will be after a similar result here.
New Orleans Saints
After 10 consecutive wins, the Saints enter this one off an uncharacteristic loss in Dallas last week. QB Drew Brees had one of the worst displays of his career, throwing for only 127 yards and an interception on 4.5 yards per attempt. The usually strong RB duo of Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram also struggled to get going, combining for only 63 rushing yards. On a positive note, the Saints defence has looked significantly better of late. After conceding only 13 points to Dallas last week, they haven’t allowed more than 17 points in any of their last 4. Needing to keep pace with the 11-1 Rams, I’m expecting a bounce-back performance from the Saints this week.
Prediction: Under 58
Saints and Buccaneer totals have trended towards the under in recent weeks and I don’t believe the market has fully caught up. On Tampa’s slower grass, it will prove difficult to score as many points as on the New Orleans turf. This total is ultimately 4-6 points too high. Saints 30-24 Buccaneers.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS VS NEW YORK GIANTS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), FedEx Field
The Redskins enter this one in dire straits, having lost their last 3 games and top 2 Quarterbacks. Mark “The Sanchize” Sanchez is set to start this week after struggling to fill in for Colt McCoy, averaging under 5 yards per attempt and throwing an interception. Washington will need to lean on Adrian Peterson here, who had a throwback 90-yard touchdown last week. Defensively, the Redskins have been put in some very tough spots by their anaemic offence as they’ve waned of late. This was one of the better units in the NFL to start the season and I expect a resurgent performance here against the G-Men.
New York Giants
The 4-8 Giants make the short trip to Washington in their best form of the season, having won 3 of their last 4 games. This is in large part due to the excellent performances of rookie RB Saquon Barkley, who’s rushed for over 100 yards in each of his last 3. Odell Beckham showed that he could be the answer to New York’s QB issues, throwing a 49-yard touchdown on his lone pass last week. The Giants defence has also been much improved of late. They forced 5 fumbles and hauled in two interceptions as they effectively limited Bears QB Chase Daniel. Against a struggling Redskins offence, the Giants have every chance to go into Washington and pull off a road win.
Whilst I liked New York at the +1 opener, the 4.5-point line move means that the value is on Washington. At 6-6, they still have playoff hopes and I expect them to be motivated for this one. In what should be a low-scoring game, I’m comfortable taking the Redskins through the key number of 3.
HOUSTON TEXANS VS INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Monday, December 10, 5am (AEDT), FedEx Field
The Texans enter this crucial AFC South rivalry match at 9-3 off the back of 9 straight wins. QB Deshaun Watson is having an excellent sophomore campaign, completing 66% of his passes for 21 touchdowns to only 9 interceptions. RB duo Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue have both been excellent of late, combining for over 150 yards in each of the last 2 games. The Texans defence continues to be the catalyst behind this winning streak and they haven’t allowed over 23 points in 8 straight games. They were excellent against Cleveland last week, forcing 4 turnovers and allowing only 13 points. Against this typically strong Colts offence, this will be the matchup that likely decides the game.
The Colts enter this one at 6-6 after their 5-game winning streak was ended by a brutal 6-0 defeat in Jacksonville last week. Andrew Luck struggled mightily, averaging only 4.8 yards on his 52 passing attempts. The rushing attack didn’t fare much better, totalling only 41 yards on 16 attempts. You can’t fault the Colts defence in this one as they did more than enough to win. They allowed only 132 total passing yards and under 3 yards per carry in a dominant display. With their season essentially on the line in Houston, they’ll need to pull off something special here.
Having had some great success backing Houston lately, I’m rolling with that same trend here. I just don’t see how this struggling Colts defence slows their dynamic offence. With the AFC South all but sealed with a Houston win, I’m expecting another strong performance from the Texans here. Texans 27-20 Colts.
LA CHARGERS VS CINCINNATI BENGAL
Monday, December 10, 8:05am (AEDT), Stubhub Centre
Los Angeles Chargers
The 9-3 Chargers enter this one off their best performance of the season, a huge comeback road victory in Pittsburgh. QB Phillip Rivers was again outstanding, completing 26/36 passes for 299 yards and 2 scores. Receiver Keenan Allen was a beast yet again, hauling in 14 catches for 148 yards and a score. Defensively, the Chargers did just enough to limit the high-powered Steelers offence. They allowed under 4 yards per carry and only 6.2 yards per pass attempt in a crucial performance. The Chargers travel to Kansas City for Thursday Night Football next week, meaning they could be prone for a letdown game here.
The 5-7 Bengals enter this one with their season all but over, falling to an embarrassing 24-10 loss to the Broncos last week. QB Jeff Driskel just didn’t do enough here, taking four crucial sacks and two turnovers in a poor offensive display. This wasn’t helped by the loss of star Receiver A.J. Green, who suffered a potentially season-ending injury. Defensively, the Bengals were gouged to the tune of 218 yards and 2 touchdowns by the diverse Broncos rushing attack. The Broncos were in control of this one from start to finish as the injury-riddled Bengals defence just couldn’t generate enough pressure.
This is really a situational play. The Chargers are coming off a huge primetime win in Pittsburgh and have a short-week before another monumental clash in Kansas City next Thursday. With 2 full touchdowns to play with, I’ll take Cincinnati here. Chargers 30-20 Bengals.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS VS DENVER BRONCOS
Monday, December 10, 8:05am (AEDT), Levi’s Stadium
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers enter this one off their 9th loss in 10 games as they succumbed to an embarrassing 43-16 loss in Seattle last week. QB Nick Mullens did throw for 414 yards, however much of this came in garbage time. Rookie Receiver Dante Pettis had his best day as a pro, hauling in 5 catches for 129 yards and 2 touchdowns. Defensively, the 49ers had no answer for the Seahawks. They allowed just under 6 yards per rush attempt, whilst Russell Wilson averaged 11 yards per attempt en route to 4 touchdown passes. Currently in pole position for the #1 pick, you have to wonder how much motivation the Niners have here.
The Broncos enter this one well in playoff contention off the back of 3 straight gritty victories. Rookie RB Phillip Lindsay has been a revelation of late, totalling 346 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns in this winning streak. QB Case Keenum has improved in more of a game managing role, going 4 weeks without throwing an interception. The Broncos excellent defence has been the catalyst for this winning streak, allowing 22 points or less in each of their last 4. This has been led by an excellent pass rush, notably star Linebacker Von Miller, who has 12.5 sacks on the campaign so far. Against a struggling Niners side, the Broncos definitely have more to play for here.
Whilst I think the line value is on the Niners, the Broncos are playing too well right now for me to pass them up. Their defence matches up very well here and I can see another long day for Nick Mullens. Under the key numbers of 6 and 7, I expect Denver to continue their playoff push here. Broncos 27-17 49ers.
DALLAS COWBOYS VS PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Monday, December 10, 8:05am (AEDT), AT&T Stadium
The Cowboys enter this crucial NFC East showdown off the back of 4 straight wins, including a huge win over New Orleans last week. RB Ezekiel Elliott has been the catalyst behind this win streak, averaging 150 total yards per game and registering 5 touchdowns. QB Dak Prescott was also much more efficient last week, completing 24/28 passes for 248 yards and a score. The Cowboys defence has also been excellent on this winning streak, allowing only 18 points per game. They completely shut down the Saints last week, allowing only 176 yards of total offence. In a game where they can essentially secure a playoff spot, you have to think the Cowboys will be up for this one.
The Eagles kept their season alive with a convincing 28-13 home win over the Redskins last week. QB Carson Wentz had another solid outing, throwing for over 300 yards and 2 touchdowns. Rookie RB Josh Adams has given this rushing attack a new dimension, rushing 20 times for 85 yards. It was a vintage display from this Eagles defence as well, holding Washington under 240 yards. Their pass defence was especially good, limiting the Redskins to only 131 yards. If they can contain Ezekiel Elliott, the Eagles have a chance in this one.
Dallas turned their season around with a road win in Philly earlier this year and I expect them to get the season sweep in this one. Their offence matches up very well with the Eagles and I expect another huge output from Zeke Elliott. If the defence continues to show up, this is a Cowboys win that all but seals the NFC East. Cowboys 27-20 Eagles.
OAKLAND RAIDERS VS PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Monday, December 10, 8:25am (AEDT), Oakland Coliseum
The Raiders enter this one at 2-10, putting up a more competitive display in a 7-point loss to Kansas City last week. QB Derek Carr delivered one of his better displays of the season, throwing for 285 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jalen Richard also led a resurgent rushing attack that totalled 171 yards on over 6 yards per carry. It was another poor display from the Raiders defence that cost them in this one. They allowed 295 yards and 4 touchdowns to QB Patrick Mahomes, allowing a further 174 yards on the ground. Things don’t get any easier this week as they welcome the high-flying Steelers to town.
The Steelers enter this one at 7-4-1 after an epic collapse at home to the Chargers. Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t his usual efficient self, throwing for only 6.2 yards per attempt. Antonio Brown was still excellent, hauling in 10 catches for 154 yards and a score. Defensively, this improving Pittsburgh defence just couldn’t contain the strong Chargers passing attack. Prior to this 2-game losing streak, the Steelers had allowed 21 or less points in each of their 5-straight wins. This gives me faith that Pittsburgh can turn it around here against a struggling Raiders side.
With the Patriots on deck next week, I’m not sure how motivated Pittsburgh will be here. Oakland showed they’re still playing hard in a competitive contest against the Chiefs last week. 11 points is just too many for me to pass up with the home dog here. Steelers 30-24 Raiders.
ARIZONA CARDINALS VS DETROIT LIONS
Monday, December 10, 8:25am (AEDT), State Farm Stadium
The 3-9 Cardinals enter this one off their best performance of the season, a surprising road win in Green Bay. This was despite a poor performance from QB Josh Rosen, who completed only 11/26 passes for 149 yards. The rushing offence delivered a much better display, totalling 182 yards and 2 touchdowns on 29 carries. It has been the Cardinals defence that has been their standout unit and they again carried them to victory here. They allowed Aaron Rodgers to throw for just 4.7 yards per attempt and kept the improving Packers rushing attack under 100 yards. A visit from the struggling Lions represents an excellent chance to finally register consecutive victories.
After a strong 3-3 start, the Lions have lost 4 of their last 5 and find them in the basement of the NFC North. QB Matthew Stafford appears to be going through a down stretch, throwing just 4 touchdowns over his last 5 games. The injury to Kerryon Johnson has also halted what was an improving rushing attack. Whilst the Lions defence has been solid this season, they struggled mightily against the Rams last week. Todd Gurley had another dominant day with 165 total yards and 2 touchdowns, while Jared Goff had another controlled display through the air. Against a struggling Cardinals passing offence, they’ll be looking for a better performance here.
Prediction: Over 40.5
With the Cardinals recent offensive struggles, I see some line value on the over here. Neither of these sides have anything to lose and I expect a more expansive game plan from both coaches. Defensive scores are also a possibility to lift this above a relatively paltry total. Lions 24-21 Cardinals.