The Week 14 schedule is pretty underwhelming, due in part to teams like the Falcons and Packers — who are playing each other — disappointing and not living up to preseason expectations. The games to watch for this week include the Eagles visiting the Cowboys in an important contest in the NFC East race. Also of note are the prolific Rams offense going up against the strong Bears defense on Sunday night and the Vikings visiting the Seahawks on Monday night as both teams try to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card picture. I went 7-9 last week, giving me an overall record of 92-110 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red
Thursday Night Football
Jaguars at Titans (-3.5) – The Jaguars ended a seven-game losing streak on Sunday when they beat the Colts, but they only scored six points in the process. They’ll need more offense than that if they want to make it two in a row. They’ll have RB Leonard Fournette back this week after he missed that game while serving a one-game suspension. The 6-6 Titans hope QB Marcus Mariota can lead them to victory so they can stay alive in the AFC playoff race. I think the Titans win at home on the short week, and I’ll say they cover.
Sunday 1PM games
Falcons at Packers (-5.5) – The Packers fell to the Cardinals in an upset last week, which led to the ousting of long-time head coach Mike McCarthy, with Joe Philbin taking over on an interim basis. I don’t know how the Packers are favored in this game. The Falcons don’t have a good defense, but the Packers’ offense hasn’t been very good this season save for QB Aaron Rodgers, who doesn’t have much to work with with the players around him. On the other side of the field, the Falcons still have a strong QB-WR combo with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. I think that duo could play well enough to lead the Falcons to victory, so I’m going to take the points.
Jets at Bills (-3.5) – The Bills’ offense has improved since getting rookie QB Josh Allen back from injury, and they have a good defense which should be able to hold down the struggling Jets offense led by fellow rookie QB Sam Darnold. I think the Bills win and cover the spread behind the strength of their defense.
Panthers at Browns (+1.5) – At the beginning of the season, it would’ve been hard to imagine the Panthers being favored by less than a safety against the Browns, but the Panthers are just .500 heading into this week and fighting to stay alive for the postseason. Having said that, I think they win without much of a problem. The Browns struggled against the Texans last week, and the Panthers still have a good offense with QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey. I don’t think Browns rookie QB Baker Mayfield can keep them close in this one. Panthers easily cover.
Colts at Texans (-4.5) – The Colts were shut out by the Jaguars last week, and now QB Andrew Luck and his offense have to face a tough Texans defense led by DE J.J. Watt and LB Jadeveon Clowney. While they won’t get shut out again, it won’t be easy for the Colts to put a big number on the scoreboard against the Texans defense, as Houston looks to win its 10th straight game. I expect the Texans to win the game, and they should cover.
Ravens at Chiefs (-6.5) – The Chiefs faced some adversity late last week when they released RB Kareem Hunt after video surfaced of him attacking a woman. RB Spencer Ware took over for him as the team’s starting running back, and the Chiefs have since signed RB Charcandrick West for some depth at the position. This week, they face a Ravens team that faces a dilemma at the quarterback position over whether to continue starting rookie QB Lamar Jackson or go back to veteran QB Joe Flacco. With his scrambling ability, I think Jackson gives the Ravens a better chance to win, but either quarterback will have a tough time keeping up with the Chiefs’ prolific passing attack with QB Patrick Mahomes and WR Tyreek Hill. I’ll go with the home team.
Patriots at Dolphins (+8.5) – The Patriots are nearly nine-point favorites on the road in Miami. They got TE Rob Gronkowski and RB ReX Burkhead back from their respective injuries last week, but the offense still isn’t what it used to be, so I think that spread could be a bit high. I expect the Patriots to win the game, but I think the Dolphins could keep it to within a touchdown or so, so I am going to take the points.
Saints at Buccaneers (+8.5) – The Saints only managed to put up 10 points against the Cowboys last Thursday, but that isn’t likely to happen again with the good offense that the Saints have with QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas and RB Alvin Kamara. Plus, the Buccaneers’ defense isn’t as good as the Cowboys’, so I expect a bounceback game for Brees and the rest of the New Orleans offense. It’s kind of a big spread, but I think the Saints will cove on the road.
Giants at Redskins (-0.5) – The Redskins lost QB Alex Smith to a season-ending leg injury a few weeks ago, then the same thing happened to backup-turned-starting QB Colt McCoy in Monday night’s loss to the Eagles. That leaves QB Mark Sanchez — who only signed with the team following Smith’s injury — in line to make his first start since 2015 this weekend after having only been in the system for a few weeks. That, combined with injuries to the offensive line, will make it hard for the Washington offense to find much success the rest of the season. The Giants have been playing better in recent weeks and are probably a better team than the Sanchez-led Redskins. I think they win the game outright, so I’m taking the Giants here.
Sunday 4PM games
Bengals at Chargers (-14.5) – The Bengals are starting QB Jeff Driskel with Andy Dalton out for the year and WR A.J. Green suffered a season-ending foot injury last week, leaving the Bengals with a compromised offense. The Chargers were without starting RB Melvin Gordon last week and his status for Sunday is up in the air. If his MCL sprain keeps him out another week, RBs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson will split the workload in the running game once again. With the Bengals’ injuries the Chargers should easily win the game, but I have a hard time giving more than two touchdowns so I’ll take the Bengals to cover.
Broncos at 49ers (+5.5) – The Broncos lost WR Emmanuel Sanders to a season-ending Achilles tear during practice this week, limiting their receiving corps after trading WR Demaryius Thomas to the Texans earlier in the season. That leaves WR Courtland Sutton as the main pass-catcher for QB Case Keenum, which means rookie RB Phillip Lindsay is likely to be a bigger part of the offense and will have to continue the success he has had in recent weeks. The 49ers are dealing with their own injury as RB Matt Breida will miss this game after injuring his ankle last week. I expect the Broncos to win a close game, but I’ll take the points.
Eagles at Cowboys (-4.5) – The Cowboys’ defense limited Brees and the Saints to 10 points last Thursday and have 10 days to prepare for this game with the Eagles, who are on a short week after beating the Redskins on Monday night. WR Golden Tate is coming off his best game since being traded to the Eagles, while WR Amari Cooper has been the Cowboys’ best receiver since they acquired him in a trade with the Raiders. Cowboys win and cover.
Lions at Cardinals (+2.5) – The Cardinals are coming off an upset victory over the Packers, but I’m not sure if they can make it two in a row against NFC North foes when the Lions come to Arizona. Neither team has a great offense, but the LIons have a better squad on that side of the ball behind QB Matthew Stafford, so I’m going to give the points on the road.
Steelers at Raiders (+11.5) – The Steelers have relied on RB James Conner as their workhouse back all season with RB Le’Veon Bell not playing this year, but they will not have Conner on the field Sunday after he suffered a high ankle sprain last week against the Chargers. So RB Jaylen Samuels is expected to get his first career start alongside QB Ben Roethlisberger and WR Antonio Brown. The Steelers should be able to bounce back from last week’s loss to beat the Raiders, but I’ll take the points.
Sunday Night Football
Rams at Bears (+3.5) – Bears QB MItchell Trubisky has missed the team’s last two games with a shoulder injury, but he appears to be back on track to start this week. It won’t be easy to lead his team to the win, though, against a strong Rams team with QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley leading the way. The Bears will likely have to rely on their defense to win the game, and I’m not sure the defense will be able to stop the Los Angeles offense. I’ll give the points.
Monday Night Football
Vikings at Seahawks (-3.5) – The Vikings head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in the final game of the weekend. The Seahawks are riding a three-game win streak into this one behind strong play from QB Russell Wilson, and I think they continue their winning ways to maintain their hold on the first Wild Card in the NFC. I’m going with the home team.