The Rams took down the Patriots on Thursday night to all but end the play-off hopes of the perennial post-season participants. Several other teams are now jockeying for position as we turn the corner and head for the final furlong home in this crazy campaign. Let’s get to the Week 14 slate…..
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Sunday Early Games
Denver Broncos @ Carolina Panthers – Spread / CAR-4.0
The first of this week’s contests is unfortunately a bit of a dead rubber between two sides with 4-8 records on the season. It has been a contrasting path to 4-8 for these sides with Denver probably underperforming and Carolina possibly overperforming. With that said, there has been a common theme: injuries. The Panthers look likely to be without star man Christian McCaffrey yet again this week but this time with a niggling hamstring injury. The Panthers are the team to keep eyes on from a COVID perspective this week as eight players ended up on the list despite them being on a bye week during Week 13. The Broncos are over their COVID issues and are as healthy now as they have been at any point in the season. The match-up itself is an intriguing one with Denver’s defence playing some tough football and seemingly able to raise its game when the competition goes up. Potential opportunities await those further down the depth chart in this one as has been the case of Tim Patrick, who has found himself a role in this Broncos offence.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – CAR
Houston Texans @ Chicago Bears – Spread / EVEN
Technically, the Bears are still alive in the play-off picture but in reality, they have lost six in a row and Matt Nagy is clinging onto his job over the remaining month of the season. Neither Nick Foles or Mitch Trubisky have been able to do anything consistently well in the passing game despite having the brilliant Allen Robinson at their disposal. David Montgomery had a nice statistical day last weekend but couldn’t manage to gain half a yard on 4th down when push came to shove. The Texans pushed the Colts all the way last time out and were inside the 10-yard line when Deshaun Watson fumbled a snap, which effectively ended the contest. They have been tough to play under the stewardship of Romeo Crennel and will always be competitive with Watson behind centre. The defence has also seemingly tightened up in recent weeks after shipping 30-plus points regularly to begin the campaign. David Johnson returned last week and Keke Coutee stepped up with additional responsibility thrown his way following the departures of Will Fuller and Kenny Stills for different reasons.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – HOU
Dallas Cowboys @ Cincinnati Bengals – Spread / CIN+3.5
The Bengals certainly played hard last week in Miami, probably a little too hard. That is what comes though of another lost season: frustration. The end of the campaign can not come quickly enough now in the jungle. AJ Green is likely playing out his final weeks for the team, Joe Mixon is out yet again for an injury that seemed week to week at the start and has now ended up lasting months. Brandon Allen will be the man at the controls once again for a rematch against a former Bengal. That of course is the ginger prince himself, Andy Dalton, who will be quarterbacking a Dallas side who are desperate for a win after now falling two games back in the NFC East race. They obviously didn’t play until Tuesday in Week 13 so will be on a short week turnaround. All of the offensive toys are still there but the problem has been protection up front from an offensive line that has seen multiple different combinations over the past few weeks. It is a game that will likely be full of sloppiness and mistakes, and probably not one for the neutral.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – CIN
Kansas City Chiefs @ Miami Dolphins (Sky Game) – Spread / MIA+7.0
Shaun’s Spread Pick – KC
Tennessee Titans @ Jacksonville Jaguars – Spread / JAX+7.5
Another heartbreaking loss for the Jags in Week 13 as they pushed the Vikings all the way to overtime. They have played several teams close over recent weeks and you feel another victory is surely around the corner. Mike Glennon has provided a steady if unspectacular hand at the quarterback position. He has a nice selection of developing young wide receivers to work with along with rookie stud James Robinson. The defence has played hard, symbolised by the pick-six made by Joe Schobert last weekend. The Titans were smacked in the mouth by the Browns early last week and never recovered. Derrick Henry fumbled when he was in the game for the first time all season and was then taken out of the game by the scoreboard. Ryan Tannehill had a productive day but was playing against prevent defences for much of the second half. The defence did not get any pressure on Baker Mayfield at all and has only 11 sacks through 14 weeks. The divisional race is as close as any in football and no slip-ups will go unpunished so this really is must-win territory for the Titans.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – JAX
Arizona Cardinals @ New York Giants – Spread / NYG+2.5
A few weeks ago, people would have had this one chalked up as a comfortbale road win for Kyler Murray and company. The most improved team in the NFL however may well be the New York Giants, who have won four games in a row and are currently the leaders of the NFC East. That success has been built around a solid defence that has only given up an average of 16.5 points per game during that run and was particularily impressive in shutting down the Seahawks last weekend. Daniel Jones is still questionable with his hamstring injury so it may well be another dose of Colt McCoy on offence. The Cardinals on the other hand have lost three straight games and four of the last five. Their last win was thanks to a last second ‘Hail Mary’ to beat the Bills so it could quite easily have been five straight defeats. The early season heroics of Kyler Murray have cooled somewhat and following Thursday’s win for the Rams, their hunt for the divisional crown looks all but over. Qualifying for the play-offs is the immediate concern as they find themselves on the outside looking in for the first time all season. It’s a classic strength vs strength battle but I find myself siding with momentum, particularly on the spread where the Giants get the points.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – NYG
Minnesota Vikings @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Spread / TB-6.5
Another team that have had a bit of a wobble recently are the Tom Brady led Bucs. Losing three out of their last four has raised some concerns about the amount of post-season noise this team can potentially make. Losses to the Rams, Chiefs and Saints are by no means unexpected but the talented bunch assembled in Florida are not here just to make up the numbers. Fresh off a late Week 13 bye, the Bucs will look to get back to winning ways against a side trending in the other direction. Yes, the Vikings escaped from overtime with a win over the Jags last weekend and staged a great comeback against the Panthers the week prior but slice it however you like, they have won five out of the last six. They will look for Dalvin Cook to lead the way against a tough defensive front of the Bucs in a game that they can’t really afford to lose. They still have the Saints to play and, as things stand, are currently clinging on to the 7th seed in the NFC. Things seem a little easier for Tampa with a softer schedule the rest of the way. Can Brady and co build momentum ahead of January football?
Shaun’s Spread Pick – MIN
Sunday Late Games
New York Jets @ Seattle Seahawks – Spread / SEA-13.5
Seattle were big favourites against the other New York team last weekend and fluffed their lines. I just can not see a repeat of that a week on. I jokingly say it’s always the ideal game to ‘get right’ after a poor outing and Seattle will be relieved to have the NFL’s worst team opposing them this weekend. Russell Wilson is in danger of losing any MVP votes he may have been receiving after the first half of the season. His turnovers are up, his touchdowns are down and his play in general has deteriorated since his electrifying beginning to the season. The Jets fired Greg Williams this week after the call for cover zero against a ‘Hail Mary’ backfired spectacularly against the Raiders last week when the first victory of the season was within reach. Looking at the bigger picture, it was the ideal result as the Jags remain on one win so the Jets still hold the keys to the number 1 pick. Will we see an inspired defence following the coaching alterations? I highly doubt it. We all know the coach that needs to get fired in New York: Adam Gase.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – SEA
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions – Spread / DET+7.5
A coaching change that brought about a change of fortunes last weekend happened, of course, in Detroit. After scoring 34 points or more on just one occasion in two-and-a-bit seasons under Matt Patricia, the Lions took just one week to repeat that feat without him. Marvin Jones Jr and Adrian Peterson rolled back the years to produce good performances as they defeated the Bears. This is a different challenge all together though, as the red-hot Packers come to town. Realistically, you would assume it’s between themselves or the Saints for the number 1 seed so no slip-ups will be afforded down the stretch. Aaron Jones was seemingly back to the lead role in the backfield last time out after annoyingly splitting time with Jamal Williams in recent weeks. Allen Lazard has slotted back in nicely to his number 2 receiver role and Davante Adams looks like the best wideout in the game. The Packers put 42 points on the Lions way back in Week 2. We may be 12 weeks further on, but I don’t see this being too much different.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – GB
Indianapolis Colts @ Las Vegas Raiders (Sky Game) – Spread / LV+2.5
Shaun’s Spread Pick – IND
New Orleans Saints @ Philadelphia Eagles – Spread / PHI+7.0
It’s Jalen Hurts time! Carson Wentz has been nothing short of woeful for much of the season and he has finally been put out of his misery and will take over clipboard duties this week. The longer-term question is one for the offseason as surely the Eagles simply can’t afford to pay a back-up QB so much money. As for the game itself, what a baptism of fire for Hurts. Somehow, the Eagles have looked worse since many of their ‘stars’ have returned. Alshon Jeffery, who has just two catches in his four games since returning, probably stands out as the prime example. The Saints defence has found its groove and is giving up an average of less than 9 points game over the stretch of the last five. That is simply incredible and will win games regardless of any struggles you may have offensively. It was much better from Taysom Hill last weekend who proved when given the opportunity to throw, he can be effective. The Eagles have a decent pass rush so this will be a good test to see how far Hill has come over the course of the past month.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – NO
Atlanta Falcons @ Los Angeles Chargers – Spread / LAC+2.5
Sorry Chargers fans, it’s another week of Anthony Lynn and another season full of hope ruined by questionable play-calling and an inability to close out tight games. There was nothing tight about last weekend however, as the Chargers laid an egg in being shut out 45-0 at home by the Patriots. It was poor in all three phases of the game with a special teams day that included missed field goals, blocked field goals returned for touchdowns and punt returns for touchdowns. Quite simply, the season cannot end soon enough as you almost have to ask is this now doing Justin Herbert more harm than good? The Falcons had their chances in the final minute to upset the Saints last time out and they have stabilised under Raheem Morris. Julio Jones looks like he will miss out this week as he continues to be in and out the line-up with injuries. Todd Gurley however should play in what is of course his old stomping ground. It’s difficult for me to see anything other than a road win here to condemn the Chargers to defeat number six out of the last seven.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – ATL
Washington Football Team @ San Francisco 49ers – Spread / SF-3.5
Congratulations Alex Smith and the Washington Football Team. They got the honour of ending the Steelers’ undefeated season after a hard-fought victory last Monday. Even more impressive was the fact they were able to do it without star rookie Antonio Gibson for most of the contest. He will be sitting out this one from the start but this may well have been more of a game for JD McKissic anyway. I say that as the 49ers defensive front is very good so plenty of quick short passing will be the order of the day, an area in which Smith excels. It could well be a similar story on the other side to slow down the Washington rushers. Chase Young and Montez Sweat will be after Nick Mullens all day in what for me is one of the more intriguing matches on the slate. Raheem Mostert could be in line for a decent workload if that is the case as he is finally 100% healthy. The bookies have San Francisco as favourites but the Football Team are riding some positive momentum so I see a close one here.
Shaun’s Spread Pick – WAS
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Buffalo Bills – (Sky Game SNF) – Spread / BUF-2.5
Shaun’s Spread Pick – BUF
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns – (Sky Game MNF) – Spread / CLE+2.0
Shaun’s Spread Pick – CLE
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