Going 0-3 in the Thanksgiving games immediately put me behind the 8-ball with my Week 13 picks. It wasn’t the best place to be in but I still had five games to pick to turn things around. Turns out, those Thanksgiving games ended up being preludes to a horrible week for me. In some ways, I’m just relieved I didn’t go 0-8 for the week, but believe me, going 2-6 still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Time to turn things around again so let’s get things started with the opening lines of Week 14. We have a ton of games with playoff implications this week so I’m only highlighting those games and leaving out the irrelevant ones.
Cleaning up the AFC Wild Card mess
This is a make-or-break game for both the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins. The winner solidifies its position in the AFC Wild Card race while the loser is effectively a long shot heading into the last three weeks of the season. Miami opened as -3 favorites, which seems like a fair number given how I evenly matched I see both teams are. Not a lot of people share that sentiment, believing that Baltimore’s a much better team than their record suggests. I think the line moves down half-a-point to -2.5 on Miami, which would make a Dolphins pick pretty intriguing, to say the least.
AFC North on the line
The Baltimore Ravens aren’t just fighting for the wild card spots in the AFC because it also has a shot to win the AFC North. That said, the Cincinnati Bengals currently occupy the top spot in the division as they host the Pittsburgh Steelers, another AFC North team that’s still in the thick of the division race. The line actually opened at -4 for the Bengals before quickly being bet down to -3.5. I’m still not sure where to side in this game so I’ll wait until later in the week to make my pick. Either way, I expect this game to be close and as a personal rule, if it’s close, take the points. Yep. I’m leaning on the Steleers, but I’m not locking it yet.
Add another team to the AFC North race
It’s hard to believe that this late in the season, the AFC North can still be won by all four teams. The Cleveland Browns are still in the hunt at 7-5, but they face a stern task this week when they host the Indianapolis Colts, which opened as -3.5 favorites. The Colts are inching closer to winning the AFC South so it’s not like this game isn’t any less important to them than it is to the Browns. I’m still not a big fan of the Browns and the fact that they’re in the middle of a brewing QB controversy isn’t going to make me any more confident on picking them. Yeah, you know where I’m going with this. Andrew Luck taking on a team that probably isn’t as good as it’s record says? Give me the Colts to come out swinging and take this one easy.
Will the real Chiefs/Cardinals please stand up?
Injuries are piling up on the Arizona Cardinals at the wrong time. They’re already without Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald. Now they have to worry about star tailback Andre Ellington. It’s a tall order for a team trying to stave off the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title. It’s not going to get easier when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town. Unlike the Cards, the Chiefs don’t have their playoff hopes in their hands so this game is a lot more important for them. Lose this one and they could just as well kiss the playoffs goodbye. Arizona opened as -1.5 favorites for the game, but with so many injury questions surrounding the Cards, I’d wait and find out exactly who’s missing the game. If Ellington and Fitz play, I’d be more inclined to pick Arizona. If at least one sit out, I’m probably taking the Chiefs.
Broncos trying to stave of the Chargers
Did you know that the Denver Broncos are just a game ahead of the San Diego Chargers? Not that I think Denver will collapse and give up the AFC West to San Diego, but if I were them, I wouldn’t want to live that up to the standings. That’s why this game against the Buffalo Bills is probably the most important game for Denver this season. The team opened as -10 favorites against another AFC team still in the hunt for the conference’s wild card spot. Don’t think Buffalo will just lay one over and let Denver run wild on them. If that number goes up to more around -11, I might be inclined to pick Buffalo. Yep. I’m suicidal like that.
Battle of the Birds
The Seattle Seahawks travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles in a game that has a lot of playoff implications for both teams. If Seattle wins, they keep pace with the Cardinals for the NFC West title. If Philly wins, they at least keep their one-game lead on the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. It’s probably a big reason why sportsbooks opened the line for this game with Philly as -1 favorites. Some books already have it as a pick ‘em and I fully expect the Seahawks to be the favorites by the time Sunday rolls around. I actually like Philly here no matter what odds are published. If they end up being dogs, then that’s better for me.
Pats short road dogs against Bolts
New England saw its seven-game win streak get snapped by the Green Bay Packers so as a reward, the team must now travel to San Diego to play a Chargers team that currently occupies the first Wild Card spot in the AFC. No rest for the weary for both these teams. The line actually opened with New England as -3 favorites. It’s a suspicious line considering that San Diego isn’t a team that normally gets 3 points at home. But with heavy action on New England, books had to inflate the spread to get some action on both sides. Fortunately, I think the public buys into the whole “Belichick and Brady don’t lose two games in a row” narrative, which means that this spread could even add more points to San Diego. I’m perfectly content to wait if that happens because I don’t think it’s going down past -3. If it goes up to -4 or -4.5, then I’m pounding on the Bolts.
Green Bay coming on strong
The Green Bay Packers are looking every bit like the Super Bowl contenders they are after dispatching the New England Patriots on Sunday. Now they host an Atlanta Falcons team that’s right smack in the middle of the division race in the putrid NFC South. That’s why the Packers are -11 favorites in this game. I don’t expect this game to be close at all and even with the double-digit spread, I see Green Bay’s well-oiled offense to completely dismantle the Falcons.