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Thread: Best bets on Week 14 NFL games

  1. #1 Best bets on Week 14 NFL games 
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    Best bets on Week 14 NFL games

    Warren Sharp & Preston Johnson
    ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)


    It's Week 14 of the NFL season, and handicappers Warren Sharp and Preston Johnson have you covered with comprehensive betting previews for all of Sunday's games (except the late game, which will be featured in a separate file).


    Note: All odds courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as of Friday morning.

    Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5 [-120])

    Total: 51
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 66 percent picked Kansas City

    Johnson: The Ravens deserve a ton of credit for rolling off three straight wins with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. The wins over the Bengals, Raiders and Falcons certainly aren't anything to write home about, but they kept their playoff hopes alive while Joe Flacco nursed an injured hip. Flacco is set to return in Week 14, although there have been discussions about letting Jackson keep the starting job.


    I would think John Harbaugh trusts<offer style="box-sizing: border-box;"></offer>Flacco to go into Kansas City and get a win over Jackson's chances, but the rumor has been that he is feeling pressure from the front office to play the rookie. Regardless, the +7.5 line at open was too high. It has since moved to +7 or even +6.5, depending on the sportsbook. If Jackson gets the nod, I think the current +6.5 is a fair number. If Flacco starts, like I anticipate, then my projection is Ravens +3.9. At that point, if +7s are still hanging around it would be worth a wager.


    More than anything, I expect we will learn quite a bit about what the Chiefs will be able to do offensively against a stout defense come playoff time. The firepower was still there without Kareem Hunt in Week 13, but it is a little different situation facing the best defense in the NFL compared with the Raiders'. If his absence is going to be felt this season, we should find out here.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: The Ravens have a top-5 defense, which has been battle tested against top-10 offenses. However, they haven't yet faced an offense as explosive through the air as the Chiefs, and the Ravens may be without two starters in their secondary as SS Tony Jefferson is out and CB Marlon Humphrey hasn't practiced so far this week.


    It will be imperative for the Ravens to not only run efficiently, but to do so while keeping the Ravens defense (and Chiefs offense) on the sidelines -- and they have to score points. The Chiefs have the NFL's worst run defense, but don't expect a big boost in Lamar Jackson's production, as the Ravens have faced run defenses ranking No. 31, 29 and 28 over the last three weeks. However, the Chiefs haven't faced a really good run offense in weeks either, as three of their last four opponents were the Raiders, Cardinals and Browns. Those three teams ranked No. 24, 30 and 23 in run offense, respectively. It will also be vital for the Ravens to continue to have success on third downs, as they rank No. 5 in the NFL offensively in that scenario.


    Pick: Pass


    Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-4.5)

    Total: 50
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 56 percent picked Houston

    Johnson: We hit the Texans-Browns under last week, but it was definitely the wrong side in that game. I wanted to see how Baker Mayfield would handle a top-five defense (at the time) after three stellar performances for the Browns since they fired Hue Jackson. Mayfield lit Houston up, throwing for 397 yards on 9.2 yards per attempt. Three interceptions and an Antonio Callaway fumble at the one-yard line after a 71-yard gain (he slowed down and got stripped) were the reasons that this final score looked like the Texans dominated. The Browns should have had more points, and we probably should have lost the under.


    So, this begs a question about what Andrew Luck is going to do to this Texans defense after getting shut out in Jacksonville. Was this Texans-Browns game a fluke for Houston? Is Mayfield the real deal? It is probably a combination of both, and I certainly do not mind sitting on the sideline and gathering more information about these two teams. My projections line up with the market anyway. I have the Texans -4.6 with a total of 51.6. I'd likely need 48 or better to consider making a bet on the over, and I don't envision this line ever getting there. This is just going to be a pass for me.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: Against the Texans' run defense, which ranks No. 2 in the NFL, the Colts will likely have to rely more on Andrew Luck's arm. One week after Andrew Luck attempted 52 passes but only averaged 4.8 yards per attempt, there is upside in his ability to find success with TE Eric Ebron, who was limited to just 5.1 yards per target against a Jaguars pass defense that's particularly stingy against tight ends. The Texans allow tight ends to gain 8.7 yards per target, which is fifth-worst in the NFL. Meanwhile, after facing three run defenses in a row that have been suspect, the Texans face the Colts, whose run defense ranks No. 4. Even though they've shifted to a more run-based attack over the last month-plus, that success has come against bad run offenses. The Colts not only rank poorly in pass defense, they also struggle mightily at rushing opposing quarterbacks. As such, the Texans should find more opportunities to pass the ball.


    Pick: Pass


    Carolina Panthers (-2) at Cleveland Browns

    Total: 47
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 61 percent picked Carolina

    Johnson: Four weeks ago, I wrote about the NFC wild-card race of mediocrity and didn't include a 6-2 Panthers team in the discussion. Well, four straight Carolina losses later, they are now solidly in that discussion. This game opened up at Panthers -1 and has since been bet to -2. The narratives here, at the very least, make some sense. Cam Newton is coming off of a four-interception game in Tampa Bay. The Panthers are now in a "must-win" situation in Week 14 sitting at 6-6. They get to play the Browns. Unfortunately for Carolina, the Browns have been really good. I have this lined Panthers -2.1, so the line is ultimately fair, but they are only coming away with a victory about 53.7 percent of the time, narratives aside.


    Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland offense have been a force to be reckoned with (I can't believe I just wrote that). The turnovers cost them a shot at beating Houston, but Mayfield still threw for almost 400 yards and 9.2 yards per pass attempt against a pass defense that ranked in the top five in the NFL. I'm passing on a game that I anticipate will draw a lot of Carolina money, but I would be shocked if we saw this get to a key number like Panthers -3. If it were to, at that point I may dabble with a small Browns bet +3.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: Gregg Williams' defense is designed to take away deep passes while blitzing the QB (they rank No. 5 in the NFL against such play), but that leaves the Browns schematically bad against short passes. The problem heading into this particular game is that the Panthers don't throw deep often. Instead, they get the ball out of Cam's hands quickly and throw short -- which plays directly to the biggest weakness that the Browns have. Over the Browns' last six games, they are allowing a 60 percent success rate on these passes, sixth-worst in the NFL.


    The Browns also are bad against the run, and by my metrics they have the No. 32 explosive run defense (allowing the highest rate of 10-plus yard runs), and the Panthers' offense is the best explosive run offense in the NFL. Additionally, the Browns rank dead last defending against running back pass efficiency, while Christian McCaffrey and the Panthers rank No. 2 in the NFL.


    All of those Carolina edges aside, the Panthers' defense ranks No. 28 against the pass, and after playing the No. 6 Texans' defense last week, the Browns' offense should look much better in this game. While Carolina's defense plays well against the run, they are bad against explosive runs -- and Cleveland is the second-best explosive run team the Panthers have faced since Week 3.


    Lean: Browns +2


    Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (-4.5)

    Total: 51
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 50 percent picked Atlanta

    Johnson: There is a narrative that exists that teams play better the week after firing their coach. It makes some sense: get rid of a guy that the players don't want around anymore, or at least aren't playing for anymore. With the news of the coach's departure, the team feels rejuvenated and refreshed, or maybe it even puts the players on notice.


    "If Mike McCarthy got fired, we could be next!"


    We should get max effort from the Packers this week, right? In theory, we should expect max effort from professionals getting paid large amounts of money to do any job. Does firing McCarthy actually impact the expected result in their next game? Historically, I haven't seen any data that suggests they are more likely to cover in Week 14. The market moved from Packers -4 to -5.5 after that news, but has since dropped back down to -4.5. My projection for the game lines up exactly with the opener at -4. I can't put much stock into a narrative that we can't justifiably quantify.


    Now, I wasn't betting the Falcons at +5.5, since there isn't much of an edge to be had there when my true line is +4 anyway, and it's only gone done from there. The only way I was going to get involved was if it kept climbing to +6.5 or +7.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: It seems like forever ago that Matt Ryan and the Falcons put up 38 points in DC back in Week 9. Their other road games saw them score 12, 16, 17, and 17 points, and now they play their sixth road game in Green Bay. On the positive side, the Packers defense ranks No. 23 on the year, but on the negative end, that defense is trending better than it's year-to-date ranking and the game-day temps are projected to be 22 degrees at kickoff with wind chills in the teens.


    The Packers' weakness defensively is against the run, and last week they held David Johnson to 3.5 yards per carry and a 35 percent success rate in their home loss. The Falcons simply cannot run the football, which means the Falcons will need to attack the strength of the Packers D -- their pass defense.


    After playing three top-15 pass defenses over the last three weeks, including two games on the road, the Packers get to face the No. 31-ranked pass defense of the Falcons, which is still trending No. 31 against the pass as well as No. 32 against the run over the last month. I expect the Packers offense, without Mike McCarthy, to play with a better disposition and more explosiveness.


    Pick: Packers -4.5


    New Orleans Saints (-9.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Total: 54
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 78 percent picked New Orleans

    Johnson: The timing of this matchup is rather interesting. The Super Bowl favorites in New Orleans opened their season with a home loss to Tampa Bay, giving up 48 points to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Saints followed that up with 10 straight wins before losing their second game of the season this past week in Dallas. Not only do the Saints get to avenge their loss to the Buccaneers earlier in the year, but they get to do it coming off of their only other loss on the season (with a few extra days to prepare).


    The New Orleans spreads have been inflated for a few weeks now. They had actually covered nine in a row before they lost to the Cowboys on Thursday night. It's important to be able to recognize when the market is overvaluing or undervaluing a team, and we were able to capitalize with a Dallas bet in that game. Well, in Week 14, the situation screams Saints blowout, but is -9.5 a profitable bet? I don't think it is. My projection for the game is Saints -6.2, so for me it is going to be Tampa Bay or nothing. I'm not in any rush to back the Buccaneers at this point in the week. I imagine every teaser and moneyline parlay this weekend will include New Orleans, so there's a possibility this line balloons even higher closer to kickoff. I'll be keeping an eye on it.


    Lean: Buccaneers +9.5, keep an eye out for a better number later this week


    Sharp: The Saints are looking for a big bounce back, coming off of a loss and playing against one of the two teams to defeat them earlier this year. The Saints' pass offense has been solid but the targets have been erratic, as various utility players have had to step up and deliver each week to bolster what Michael Thomas has to offer. The Saints should have success on the ground as well as in the air, as the Bucs are 30th against the run -- and that ranking is trending no better the past month.


    Tampa Bay has played an extremely easy schedule of defenses over the past month, and the Buccaneers could struggle to move the ball on the ground, which would require them to pass the ball often. The Buccaneers will be without speedster DeSean Jackson, and with the Saints playing very well defensively against tight ends, the pressure will be on Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to put up enough points to compete with the Saints' offense.


    Pick: Pass


    New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-3.5)

    Total: 38
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 76 percent picked Buffalo

    Johnson: Who would have guessed the Bills would be laying over a field goal to anybody in the 2018-2019 season? I do think it is a little extreme, but not to the degree I will be betting on New York either. The Jets +3.5s that are in the market are all -120, and the Bills -3s are -120 to -125. This is more of a -3.25. My number is Jets -2.4.


    I was surprised to see New York get bet against so heavily in Week 13 in Tennessee (closed +10 some spots). They had the lead and the ball with under three minutes to go, but couldn't close and get the victory. They got a fairly easy cover against the spread, but the numbers after the fact point to the Titans clearly being the stronger team on Sunday. Tennessee outgained New York 403 yards to 280 and converted seven more first downs, but they were 1-of-11 on third down specifically. Tennessee stalled throughout the game on multiple drives despite moving the ball with relative ease.


    Looking at this Week 14 matchup, Josh Allen has been running like he's the next Michael Vick since returning for Buffalo (234 yards on 22 carries). I just don't think I can trust the Jets' defense -- even against the Bills. I'm staying away.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: The Bills throttled the Jets just four weeks ago, 41-10, and the Bills are laying a juiced 3 points at home in a game between the dregs of the AFC East. In that last meeting, Josh McCown led the Jets and Matt Barkley led the Bills. Neither of those QBs will be under center this time around. With both offenses ranking in the bottom three in the NFL, this game comes down to the defenses. On the season, the Bills' defense ranks No. 3 while the Jets' ranks No. 18. The Jets held a lead over the Titans last week before allowing a huge Marcus Mariota comeback, but the Bills have such a strong pass rush they should be able to minimize the upside of whatever the return of Sam Darnold brings to the table.


    Pick: Pass


    New England Patriots (-7.5) at Miami Dolphins

    Total: 48
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 71 percent picked New England

    Johnson: The Dolphins-Bills game on Sunday was as strange a contest as I have seen this season. The Dolphins won the matchup 21-17 despite getting outgained 415 yards to 175. You know how hard it is to score 21 points without extra help from the defense (to an extent, more on this in a bit) or special teams with only 175 yards? Imagine only converting two third downs in an entire game but scoring three touchdowns! The Miami defense did help force three turnovers, which explains part of the discrepancy, but the offense was putrid for the entire 60 minutes.


    Miami hosts New England this week and currently sits as a 7.5-point underdog. Maybe the Dolphins were looking ahead to this matchup after getting waxed by the Patriots earlier this season? I guess it's possible. I would still be careful backing Miami this week. The return of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback hasn't gone well, and I certainly won't be rushing to bet on him against one of the better teams in the AFC. If anything, I'm looking at using New England as an option in a two-team, six-point teaser at -110.


    Pick: Patriots -1.5 as a teaser leg


    Sharp: The biggest news with this matchup is the loss of the Dolphins' key cover CB, Xavien Howard. Howard has played at a Pro Bowl level so far this season, and even with his tremendous performance the Dolphins pass defense still ranks No. 24 on the season despite playing the fourth-easiest schedule of opposing pass offenses.


    With the Patriots having played two top-15 pass defenses coming off their bye, they should fare extremely well against the Dolphins. Last week the Dolphins were +2 in turnovers and went 3/3 in the red zone en route to beating the Bills. The Dolphins' run offense is trending downward, and they'll need improvement in that category to beat the Patriots, whose pass defense has ranked in the top 10 over the past month.


    Lean: Patriots -7.5


    New York Giants (-3.5) at Washington Redskins

    Total: 41
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 62 percent picked New York

    Johnson: We have yet another example this season of a quarterback change that is impacting the spread to a degree that I don't feel comfortable trying to decipher enough to actually wager money on. Mark Sanchez wasn't even in the league two weeks ago, but after Colt McCoy broke his fibula this past Monday night, Sanchez found himself under center for Washington in a big divisional game against the Eagles. I wrote about the difficulty of measuring these backup quarterbacks' impact against the previous starters last week. The situation for the Redskins certainly isn't any clearer. To some degree it seems like an overreaction that this team is getting 3.5 points at home to the Giants. Remember, just a month ago this same Giants team was getting 3.5 points themselves against Nick Mullens in San Francisco.


    My best shot at a projection for this matchup in Week 14 is Redskins +0.7. The majority of the data on Sanchez that we have, however, comes from 2009 to 2012. He started 62 games in those four seasons. He started 10 games over the next three seasons, and hasn't made a start since 2015. I think it is very fair to assume that the Sanchez data from years ago isn't an accurate representation of what we can expect to get from him in 2018, three years since his last start. My number for this game compared to the current market explains the difference to be about three points for 2018 Sanchez. That certainly could be the case, so I generally won't be getting involved trying to bet either the side or the total in a situation like this.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: This game has quickly transitioned from an interesting NFC East battle of pride to a showcase of Mark Sanchez against a Giants defense that has trended upwards. The Giants, winners of three of their last four games, are actually trending really strongly with their defense, as it ranks No. 17 vs. the pass over the past month and No. 10 against the run. If the Giants' run defense is able to limit the run offense of the Redskins, it's hard to envision Mark Sanchez seeing success through the air, even if the game is in DC. On top of all that, the Redskins' defense has ranked No. 29 against the pass over the past month, and after playing the No. 1 defense of the Bears last week, this Giants offense should see a boost.


    Pick: Pass


    Denver Broncos (-4) at San Francisco 49ers

    Total: 45.5
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 74 percent picked Denver

    Johnson: Since the 34-3 win over the Raiders in Nick Mullens' first start at quarterback, the 49ers have dropped three straight games and haven't been close in either of their last two against the Buccaneers and Seahawks. Denver, meanwhile, has won three straight over the Chargers, Steelers and Bengals. This spread at Broncos -6 seemed extreme to me at first glance Sunday night, and it has since been bet down. I agree with the early-week move on the 49ers, but at the current +4 and my projection coming in as Denver a 3.1-point favorite, the current market number is pretty close to fair.


    I think I anticipated there would be value showing on San Francisco in Week 14, because generally in the NFL we see overreactions to small sample sizes of games. The Broncos have been on fire the last three weeks while the 49ers have struggled mightily. I assumed I would be making an ugly bet here, but the numbers do in fact line up closely (my total for the game is 44.5). I will likely need to see a +6 pop up again later in the week before I consider backing San Francisco.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: The big story in this game is the injuries to the Broncos on both sides of the ball. The Broncos' perimeter defense in the secondary has been bad this season, but they had been strong against slot WRs with former Pro Bowler Chris Harris patrolling the secondary. Now Harris is out for the year. Additionally, the Broncos lost No. 1 wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, and after trading away their No. 2 in Demaryius Thomas earlier this season, they are left with a lot of inexperience among their pass-catching corps.


    The weakness of the 49ers' defense is against the pass, and it will be difficult to take advantage of that with the Broncos' current personnel. The Broncos have a top run offense, to be sure, but the 49ers fared well against other top run offenses earlier this year, covering in LA against the Chargers and in Green Bay vs. the Packers. Playing in their first home game since week 10, I think Nick Mullens and the passing offense can do enough to keep this one close.


    Lean: 49ers +4


    Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers (-14)

    Total: 47.5
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 71 percent picked Los Angeles

    Johnson: The Bengals were one of those other teams, along with the Redskins, that had to turn to a backup quarterback. Jeff Driskel was making his first career start last week and I didn't want to get involved making a bet in their game against Denver despite some value showing on the home underdog in Cincinnati. Well, the Bengals couldn't stop the Broncos' run game anyway, as Phillip Lindsay carved them up for 157 yards on just 19 carries and scored two touchdowns. Driskel actually played OK, throwing for 236 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Three Cincinnati fumbles ultimately swung the game, along with their lack of run defense.


    I'm still not completely sure how much of a downgrade Driskel is from Andy Dalton, if at all, but the Bengals' issues have been compounded with other injuries throughout the season. The energy and effort just don't seem to be there anymore on the defensive side of the football. My numbers make this game Bengals +11.2 with a decent edge to be had again on Cincinnati getting 14 points -- but I saved money staying away in Week 13, and I plan to do the same again here this Sunday.


    Patience can go a long way when it comes to analyzing a position as important as quarterback is to a spread in football, so waiting to gather more data and results from these players -- rather than betting without confidence in your numbers -- is usually a better avenue to take.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: While the wind last week limited the upside of Jeff Driskel's arm, it's still hard to feel optimistic about the Bengals' offense. They lost AJ Green for most of that game, and it's hard to trust Driskel on the road against an aggressive Chargers defense. I expect more rushing for the Bengals' offense as a result, but the Chargers' defense ranks among the top 10 against both the run and pass in the last month.


    The Bengals' defense is a disaster, ranking among the bottom five on the year, and they have the NFL's worst pass defense over the past month. Philip Riversshould have little trouble moving the ball through the air should the rushing game not produce. While there is a lot of explosiveness lost from this offense without Melvin Gordon's burst and yards after contact (both on the ground and through the air), the Chargers have already played three games against top-half defenses and the Bengals are trending as one of the NFL's worst.


    Pick: Pass


    Detroit Lions (-3) at Arizona Cardinals

    Total: 40.5
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 56 percent picked Detroit

    Johnson: I am somewhat surprised that the market saw immediate Lions money this week after the Cardinals upset the Packers on the road as a double-digit underdog, while Detroit has seemingly been in a free fall since their big win over the Patriots early in the season. I don't necessarily love the prospect of betting on a team coming off of a gigantic upset win like that either, but at the current +3, that's the only direction I could look. I have this projected as Arizona +0.5 and a total of 39.1.


    The Cardinals are now tied for sixth in the NFL in opponent yards per play (5.3) and are coming off a game in which they held an Aaron Rodgers offense to 4.4 yards per play in Lambeau. As bad as the offense has been all season long (the worst in the league), their defense has kept them in games that they weren't expected to have a shot in. I'm definitely going to get suckered into backing Arizona if this gets to +3.5, but until that point in time I would just call +3 a lean.


    Lean: Cardinals +3


    Sharp: With Kerryon Johnson out for another game, the Lions' rushing attack has really trended downward. They are now ranked No. 20 on the season, and they're No. 23 over the past month. They could get back on track against the Cardinals' 21st-ranked run defense, but Johnson's absence makes that less likely.


    The Cardinals have played the 11th-most-difficult schedule of pass defenses, but in games they played against pass defenses that rank among the bottom half of the league they are 3-1, with the lone loss coming by just two points. The Lions rank No. 30. and despite playing "road Cam Newton" and Chase Daniels on a short week over the past three weeks, the Lions' pass defense has still been bad. It's hard to know how the Cardinals will react to the huge upset win over the Packers last week, but they play just one more home game this year -- against the dominant Rams, who beat them 34-0 earlier this season. I expect a focused effort from Arizona against a limited Lions offense.


    Lean: Cardinals +3


    Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-3 [-120])

    Total: 44
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 62 percent picked Dallas

    Johnson: Dallas has been playing at an elite level since dropping their Monday Night Football game at home against the Titans in early November. Road wins over the Eagles and Falcons, along with the upset over New Orleans last week, are as impressive a run as we have seen from any team this past month. This Week 14 rematch against Philadelphia sets up to potentially be the deciding game in the NFC division race.


    I know a few different sharp bettors that like the Eagles side and already bet it at +4, but I'm not as optimistic. I'm not sure if this has to do with my Eagles futures to win the division and the fact they really just haven't been able to put it together this season (or at least not anywhere near where they were a year ago). Maybe it's the fact they gave up 7.9 yards per carry to Ezekiel Elliot in their first matchup and rank 29th in the NFL defending the run.


    My number comes in a little lower than the -3.5s or -3s in the market (-2.8), but when accounting for a few extra days preparation on the Dallas side, the spread is probably spot on. I do like the total and over 44 in the game to a degree. I mentioned the effectiveness the Cowboys had running against the Eagles in their previous matchup (and really, anybody that runs against the Eagles has had success this season). I anticipate more of the same unless Philadelphia chooses to stack the box and forces Dak Prescott to beat them through the air.


    If they go this route, then it likely means more plays, more clock stoppages, and potentially more scoring. Dallas scored 27 in Philly pre-Amari Cooper trade, and he has done wonders for their passing attack since arriving. After holding the Saints to just 10 points, I think we are getting some extra immediate value in this Week 14 number. My raw projection is 46.0, and I've made a half-sized wager on the over at 44.


    Pick: Over 44


    Sharp: The Eagles' run defense looked tremendous early in the season, but we now realize that was because they played the No. 1 easiest schedule of run offenses through the first five weeks of the season. In the four weeks since their bye, against the Cowboys, Saints, Giants and Redskins, the Eagles' run defense allowed 6.2 yards per carry on early-down runs. Injuries to their secondary have hurt the defense, as that secondary has ranked 20th against passes and allowed 8.4 yards per attempt over the past four weeks. They have been particularly bad against explosive passes, ranking fourth-worst in the NFL over that four-week span.


    Dallas is the second-most explosive rushing offense the Eagles have played this year. Over the past four weeks, the Cowboys have opted to pass on 61 percent of first downs in the first half -- making them the eighth-most pass-heavy team in the NFL. Compare that with the first nine weeks, when they passed on only 39 percent of first downs, which made them the No. 1-most run-heavy team in the NFL. That should play into their ability to exploit the injured secondary of the Eagles. At a juiced -3, it's hard not to look to the Cowboys.


    Pick: Cowboys -3 (-120)


    Pittsburgh Steelers (-10.5) at Oakland Raiders

    Total: 51.5
    PickCenter public consensus pick: 62 percent picked Pittsburgh

    Johnson: Steelers-Chargers was one of those games that if you had followed it in the first half, it made Pittsburgh out to be the best team in the NFL for 30 minutes. If you caught only the second half, then the Chargers are winning the Super Bowl, even without Melvin Gordon. This seems like a slam-dunk for the Steelers to get back on track after dropping their last two contests. The Ravens aren't going away despite Lamar Jackson starting at quarterback, while Joe Flacco has nursed his hip injury. Pittsburgh needs a win in a week they will likely gain a much-needed game on Baltimore in the divisional race as the Ravens take on the Chiefs.


    The +11.5s, +11s, and +10.5s have all disappeared with a fairly big move coming on the Raiders earlier this week. My numbers point to a slight edge at +10.5 or better, but at +10, it wouldn't be worth any wager. The Raiders deserve some credit for not completely giving up on the season, as easy as that may have been after the debacle in San Francisco. It's hard to get legitimately excited about a loss, but Oakland did hang with the Chiefs this past Sunday in a 40-33 loss. I won't fault anybody for backing the Raiders this week, but you're definitely paying a premium if you like the Pittsburgh side.


    Pick: Pass


    Sharp: The Steelers' injury luck couldn't have come at a worse time, as they are without James Conner while facing the NFL's No. 31 run defense. If the Steelers can't take advantage of that weakness, they will likely turn to a very predictable pass-heavy attack. Ben Roethlisberger tends to be hit or miss on the road. The positive here is the Raiders' pass defense ranks No. 32 against the pass and No. 32 in pass rush, so Big Ben should have time to pass the ball and search out mismatches.


    The negative is the Raiders are still battling, and the Steelers' pass defense, as good as it has looked of late, still ranks No. 17 (trending up to No. 15), which is the worst pass defense the Raiders' offense has faced since Week 9. This game hinges on whether Roethlisberger plays well coupled with how much pressure the Steelers' No. 1 pass rush is able to generate against Derek Carr, as Carr tends to shrink under pressure.



    Lean: Raiders +10
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    A Good Head & A Good Heart Are Always A Formidable Combination
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    No opinion on this material, just posting for others to read...
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    H/Man......as usual, appreciate the added info buddy.......get'em this weekend.........indy
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    Hache, thanks for posting this every week. Been finding it helpful recently.
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