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Thursday, December 6, 2018

Week 14: #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis) SUNDAY EDITION



Week 14:  #NFL Game Predictions (w/ spreads & analysis)

Week 13 results: 10-6 (wins); 8-7-1 (v. spread); 7-9 (O/U)

Season totals: 125-65-2 .658 (wins); 90-95-7 .487 (v. sp); 102-87-3 .540 (O/U)

Note/Key (when applicable): Statistical analysis based on the following metrics (abbreviations): Points scored (PF); points against (PA); Point differential (PD) Yards gained (YG); Yards allowed (YA); Red Zone TD efficiency (RZ); 3rd-down efficiency (3rd); Turnover ratio (TO); Time of possession (TOP); Yards per play (YPP); Sacks (S); Interceptions (INT); Penalty yards (PEN); Against the spread (ATS).

 The Tennessee Titans season has been as inconsistent as they could've hoped to avoid in part due to the inconsistent health of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Jacksonville Jaguars 4-8 (+4.5) @ Tennessee Titans 6-6 (37.5): Titans 20-19

Thursday, 8:20 PM, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN (Weather: Cloudy; high 30s)

Reasons: What better way to kick off Week 14 than with two of the worst offenses in the league playing in the cold for two teams that have played in fewer cold-weather games than almost any team in the league that doesn’t play in a dome. In rare cases teams that are bottom dwellers on one side of the ball excel on the other side and such is the case here; the Titans and Jaguars are two of the best defenses in the league to compliment being offensively inept, but only in terms of allowing points and yards, because neither team sacks the quarterback, ball-hawks or even takes the ball away for that matter. What we have here then is a warm-weather team playing in cold weather to salvage a lost season against a home division rival that still has a chance to salvage their season or even win the division (which will not happen).

New England Patriots 9-3 (-8) @ Miami Dolphins 6-6 (47): Patriots 27-21

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, FL (Weather: Chance rain; low 80s)

Reasons: The Patriots have always struggled in Miami, probably in general, but specifically in Tom Brady’s and Bill Belichick’s career. New England is 7-9 in the regular season since 2001 in Miami with Tom Brady starting (1-1 without Brady starting, including 2000 as Drew Bledsoe’s back-up and 2008 due to injury), which is astounding considering Bill Belichick has won nearly 75% of his games as the Patriots coach. Think about that: 13% of Belichick’s losses as the Patriots head coach have come against the Dolphins in Miami (10 of 77 total losses). To make matters worse the Patriots are 1-4 in Miami since 2013 and in most of those years the Dolphins and Patriots were in the same relative position they are in 2018: The Patriots being playoff bound and the Dolphins fighting for their playoff lives, which is about as good as its been in Miami of late. I wouldn’t count on a New England cover, especially considering the Dolphins are 5-1 at home this season.

New York Jets 3-9 (+3.5) @ Buffalo Bills 4-8 (38.5): Bills 23-20

Sunday, 1:00 PM, New Era Stadium, Buffalo, NY (Weather: Sunny; mid-30s)

Reasons: By my calculations this game is one of only three games in Week 14 with zero playoff implications, at least for the teams directly involved, and honestly, it’s the only game in which the teams are “mathematically eliminated” by the fact they share a division with the New England Patriots, so the hope of winning the division is non-existent, whereas the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions have a slim shot at catching the Chicago Bears. In other words, meh.

Don't look now, but the NFC East is a sh*t show again and the hapless New York Giants could win the division as easily as they could go 4-12.

New York Giants 4-8 (+1.5) @ Washington Footballs 6-6 (42.5): Giants 24-21

Sunday, 1:00 PM, FedEx Field, Landover, MD (Weather: Wintry mix; high 30s)

Reasons: The Giants are 3-1 since November started and seem poised to go on one of their patented late-season runs where they turn an abysmal season into an 8-8 campaign and make the playoffs, even potentially getting to a Super Bowl. Of course that’s highly unlikely considering the NFC competition, but the NFC East is up for grabs and mainly because teams like Washington have gone 1-4 since the start of November. These two teams are basically even on paper, save for Washington’s superior defense, but trending in the opposite directions in reality, especially considering Washington’s quarterback attrition issues.

New Orleans Saints 10-2 (-8) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5-7 (57): Saints 30-24

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, FL (Weather: Rain; low 70s)

Reasons: I can’t remember the last time the Bucs weren’t involved in a game with an O/U of at least 50 points, but such is life when you give up 29.6 ppg (30th). The Saints are just the wrong type of team for this terrible Bucs defense to face, but it could rain, which, well, could slow the Saints a little. Tampa Bay is coming off two straight wins, but the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers are no Saints, while New Orleans is coming off their first loss since Week 1, snapping a 10-game winning streak, meaning the Saints will be seeking to get back on track and keep pace with the Los Angeles Rams.

Baltimore Ravens 7-5 (+7.5) @ Kansas City Chiefs 10-2 (53): Chiefs 27-24

Sunday, 1:00 PM, Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City, MO (Weather: Sunny; mid-30s)

Reasons: The Ravens have won three straight game since putting Lamar Jackson at starting quarterback, but head to the toughest place to play in the NFL at Arrowhead Stadium and against a record-breaking offense scoring 37 ppg that also just happens to be second in the NFL in sacks with a healthy Justin Houston. That could play into the hands of the Ravens, who will obviously be rushing the ball a lot, and the Chiefs defense remains one of the worst teams in the NFL against the run (22nd). The truth is all the running in the world won’t stop the Chiefs from scoring 30+ points on several drives of 12-180 seconds, so clock management is a moot point against the fastest team in the league. Ok, maybe the Chiefs don’t score over 30 this week against the top overall defense in the league.

Indianapolis Colts 6-6 (+4.5) @ Houston Texans 9-3 (49): Colts 24-23

Sunday, 1:00 PM, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Texans are now the “hottest” team in the NFL after the New Orleans Saints loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week, winners of nine straight games after starting the season 0-3. The battle of the dome teams should be a good one as the Colts were one of the hottest teams in the league themselves before losing 6-0 last week at Jacksonville, but up until that point Andrew Luck (32 passing TDs; 12 INTs) had been on a torrent pace and the Colts looked poised to make a playoff run. The season is not lost, but if the Colts want to make the playoffs (“The playoffs???”) they need to start with ending Houston’s 9-game win streak, which coincidentally started against these Colts. 

 It's both a blessing and a curse to be led by Cam Newton, who can single-handily win games for you as quickly as he can lose them for you.

Carolina Panthers 6-6 (-1) @ Cleveland Browns 4-7-1 (47): Panthers 27-24

Sunday, 1:00 PM, First Energy Stadium, Cleveland, OH (Weather: Sunny; mid-30s)

Reasons: The Panthers are a team loaded with talent but nothing to show for it, sitting at 6-6 with a -0.2-point differential. Cam Newton (28 TOT TDs; 11 INTs) went from an MVP candidate to throwing seven INTs in the past four weeks, including four last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, while the Panthers defense has allowed 31.5 ppg over that four-week stretch. The Browns aren’t doing much better and Baker Mayfield (18 TDs; 10 INTs) threw three INTs of his own in a bad loss to the Houston Texans last week, so this game likely comes down to how many mistakes the Panthers make and if the Browns can capitalize on any should they arise (3rd INTs; 4th TO ratio).

Atlanta Falcons 4-8 (+6) @ Green Bay Packers 4-7-1 (48.5): Packers 27-23
Sunday, 1:00 PM, Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI (Weather: Sunny; low 30s) 

Reasons: Name a game between two more disappointing team in 2018. Exactly, such a game doesn’t exist. Atlanta had high hopes entering the season, perhaps even foolish Super Bowl aspirations in their own stadium, while the Packers are led by the most arrogant guy in the NFL, which is really saying something, so everyone in the NFL Universe knows the Packers had higher expectations, which didn’t include firing Mike McCarthy mid-season. I’m sure there’s an incredible quote about expectations I won’t bother researching, but suffice to say, it seems like the NFC Championship between these two teams in January of 2017 was a decade ago.

Denver Broncos 6-6 (-6) @ San Francisco 49ers 2-10 (43.5): Broncos 24-20

Sunday, 4:05 PM, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 60s)

Reasons: Losing Emmanuel Sanders to IR is a major blow to the Broncos offense, but lucky for them they face the 49ers, a team terrible enough to award a visiting team six points despite that opponent losing one of their best weapons on offense. San Francisco has gone from a team people felt bad for, to a team people talked about only needing a few more pieces, to a team that still couldn’t win despite a stretch of one-win opponents to a team that no one talks about anymore, and for good reason. Maybe the cover is a good idea, but the Broncos have life and the 49ers, well, don’t. At least the Santa Clara area is nice once you get over the other side of Highway 17.

Cincinnati Bengals 5-7 (+14) @ Los Angeles Chargers 9-3 (47.5): 30-20

Sunday, 4:05 PM, Stub Hub Field, Carson City, CA (Weather: Sunny; low 70s)

Reasons: The Bengals season is over and the Chargers are a go-ahead FG as time expired 1-point loss to the Denver Broncos away from being tied for the top seed in the AFC, so despite the game being played on neutral ground a Chargers win seems like a no-brainer, but here we are again faced with an absurd point spread, no matter which way the NFL is trending. I hate taking 14 points, but the Bengals have lost their last two games by an average of 14.5 ppg and the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos are no Chargers team. Still…

 The Philadelphia Eagles have flapped their gums as much as their wings this season and neither has gotten them anywhere.

Philadelphia Eagles 6-6 (+4) @ Dallas Cowboys 7-5 (43): Cowboys 24-23

Sunday, 4:25 PM, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX (Weather: Indoors)

Reasons: The Cowboys are riding high on a four-game win streak that started with these Eagles Week 10, including snapping the New Orleans Saints 10-game winning streak last Thursday night. Philadelphia’s struggles are well-documented, but the NFC East remains a carousel from week-to-week, so anything is possible. The Cowboys possess one of the best defenses in the league and are 5-1 at AT&T Stadium, so they’ll try to stifle that new relationship between Carson Wentz and Golden Tate and let a red-hot Ezekiel Elliot (1149 rushing yards; 6 TDs) control the clock, tempo and ultimately the game.

Detroit Lions 4-8 (-2.5) @ Arizona Cardinals 3-9 (40.5): Lions 23-21

Sunday, 4:25 PM, Univ. of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ (Weather: Indoors) 

Reasons: This is one of those games I was talking about earlier as being one of the few that didn’t really have playoff implications, but it mathematically does, even though that math involves the Lions winning out and the Chicago Bears losing out, which is not only unlikely, but not the only math involved.

Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4-1 (-11) @ Oakland Raiders 2-10 (51.5): Steelers 27-20

Sunday, 4:25PM, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, CA (Weather: Possible rain; low 60s)

Reasons: The Steelers continue to be the most inconsistent great team in the NFL, from their inconsistent play to their inconsistent locker room to their inconsistent head case quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, who would be in the MVP conversation if he hadn’t lost as many games with his failed heroics as he’s won with successful heroics. It should also be noted that the bulk of Roethlisberger’s 13 INTs have come while targeting Antonio Brown, which begs the question: Are most of his TD passes forced to Brown as well? That notion sort of takes the mystique out of the ballooned stats if you consider 20+ feast or famine balls are just chucked up to Brown with the highest hopes. Regardless of any of this, Pittsburgh plays the laughingstock of the NFL in the Raiders Sunday. Oakland owns the worst point differential in the NFL (-12.3 ppg) and by a full point over the next worst team (Arizona), and that’s taking into account Oakland’s three games (25%) decided by three or fewer points. Pittsburgh is also 4-1-1 on the road this season, so a win seems inevitable, but by 11 points? The Steelers only won those four road games by an average of 5.3 ppg, which is less than half the predicted spread.

Los Angeles Rams 11-1 (-3) @ Chicago Bears 8-4 (42): Bears 28-27

Sunday, 8:20 PM, Soldier Field, Chicago, IL (Weather: Clear; low 30s)

Reasons: Unstoppable force meets immovable object Sunday night in Chicago as the league’s top team and one of the most dynamic offenses in NFL history (2nd 34.9 ppg) takes on the 4th-ranked overall defense in the league, that just happens to be 5th in the league in points scored (28.7 ppg). The capabilities of these two offenses are predicated upon the coaching skills of these two teams young, hyper-talented head coaches in Sean McVay (Rams) and Matt Nagy (Bears), who have breathed new dynamic life into their NFL offenses, sending opposing coaches scrambling to keep up. Both teams are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, both teams play well on the road and at home (Both teams are 5-1 in their respective context), respectively, neither team turns the ball over and both teams are in control of their divisions but with teams knocking in the distance, meaning both teams know now is not the time to take the foot of the gas. Perhaps the one advantage in the game could be the cold weather, which the Rams are not accustomed to, but the game really comes down to the availability of Mitch Trubisky.

 The Legion Of Boom is long gone for Seattle, but the Seahawks are still in the playoff hunt unless they lose to the Vikings Sunday. The same could be said for Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings 6-5-1 (+3.5) @ Seattle Seahawks 7-5 (45): Seahawks 24-23

Monday, 8:15 PM, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA (Weather: Chance rain; low 40s)

Reasons: Monday Night Football is no dud this week as the Vikings travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks in a battle to stay alive in the NFC. Both teams would have to win out and need their current division leaders to lose out the rest of the way to have any chance at their respective divisions, but both teams remain alive in the Wild Card race. Both teams possess good defenses, the Seahawks ranked 9th in scoring defense (21.6 ppg) while the Vikings are just out of the top-10 at 22.5 ppg, but only the Seahawks possess a top-10 scoring offense (26.6 ppg) despite the myriad weapons the Vikings have on the offensive side of the ball. Neither team has any decided advantage or disadvantage playing at home or on the road, and both teams secure the ball, which means turnovers shouldn’t play a large role in the outcome, so I’d expect two well-rested buttoned-up teams in which one is trying to overachieve their way to the playoffs (Seattle), while the other is desperately trying to salvage what they thought was a Super Bowl-bound season. Desperation is a dangerous place to live.

Stay tuned for the remaining Tuesday’s Gone: Week 14 #NFL Game Reviews coming Wednesday!


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