Another exciting NFL Sunday is here, bringing with it a lot of games with tremendous importance for playoff positioning.
Our VSiN experts -- Adam Burke, Dave Tuley, Will Hill, Wes Reynolds and Matt Youmans, along with Ben Brown of Pro Football Focus -- combine to give their opinions on every Sunday game in Week 14.
Note: Lines are from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Thursday night.
Here are our Week 14 best bets:
Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5, 47.5)
Tuley: The Chiefs have won five straight to turn around their season, led by a defense that is allowing just 11.2 points per game during that run. I’m a little concerned with the fact the Chiefs routed the Raiders 41-14 just four weeks ago, but other than that game, Patrick Mahomes has mostly been a game manager content to grind out wins. The Chiefs beat the Broncos 22-9 on Sunday night and covered a similar spread, but the Raiders offense is still more potent than Denver’s, so Derek Carr has a better shot at getting a back-door cover if needed Note: Circa Sports in Las Vegas and some offshore books went to Chiefs -10 on Thursday, so wait and shop around for the best line.
Pick: Raiders + 9.5 or better
Brown: Mahomes has had a rough stretch in this player prop category, as he has gone over this number just once in his last eight games. Mahomes simply hasn’t been as effective as prior seasons, posting the 24th-best PFF passing grade in 2021. Setting Mahomes up for success over the final stretch of the regular season should be the Chiefs offense's only objective moving forward. Everyone knows Mahomes can turn it on at any time, so betting his touchdown prop at one of the best plus prices of his season is an enticing opportunity.
Las Vegas has also taken a fairly drastic step backward after a hot start to the 2021 season, as it now sits with a league-average defensive ranking based on PFF’s opponent-adjusted grades. The Raiders' pass rush is the one bright spot, as their coverage unit ranks 25th in that same opponent-adjusted metric. The one game where Mahomes did throw over 2.5 passing touchdowns during this most recent stretch was against this same Raiders defense, where he lit up the scoreboard for five passing touchdowns. At home in Kansas City, expect Mahomes to quiet the critics' concerns by using the Raiders defense as a springboard into productive play as we grind closer to the playoffs.
Pick: Mahomes Over 2.5 Passing Touchdowns (+ 136)
New Orleans Saints (-5.5, 42.5) at New York Jets
Hill: The Jets are 3-9, and their lack of success is not just in winning games, but lies in covering them as well, as they are also 3-9 ATS. However, this line is a tick high considering the state of their opponent. The Saints won on Halloween to improve to 5-3, but went all of November (and now a game into December) without picking up win No. 6. Losers of four in a row, the Saints may be without both of their starting tackles, while quarterback Taysom Hill is playing through “mallet finger”. Wide receiver Deonte Harrris is suspended due to a DUI, while key defender Cam Jordan is likely to miss this game as he is currently on the Covid list.
Laying six points is simply too many for a team that has had difficulty scoring and is ravaged by injuries on offense. Yes, Alvin Kamara looks likely to return, but just last week the Eagles were laying five in this same venue, against this same opponent. Are we saying the Saints are one point better than the Eagles?
This line is inflated due to the public’s (understandable) lack of appetite to bet on the lowly Jets. Zach Wilson has struggled all year, but did show some flashes of competence last week, leading touchdown drives on the first three possessions of the game. The Saints will feature a run-heavy game script with Hill at quarterback that will bleed clock and keep scoring down, and the Jets are 10th according to DVOA’s “run stuffs” category. A dome team playing outdoors in the Northeast in December weather? Six is too high, so is 5.5. Grab the Jets in what should be an ugly affair, but shop around for a 6 to be safe.
Pick: Jets + 5.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-8, 43.5)
Burke: The Titans return from the bye week to face a familiar foe in the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tennessee had a lot of work to do during the bye. Some of it had to do with healing, but most of it had to do with figuring out how to get the offense going. Julio Jones is slated to return this week for a skill position group that badly needs an infusion of talent, but he may not be enough.
In the first two games without Derrick Henry, Tennessee was held to 194 and 264 yards. In the two most recent games, the Titans have amassed 775 total yards, but have also turned the ball over nine times and scored 13 points in each game. The Jaguars aren’t on the level of the Patriots, but the five-turnover performance against the Texans was certainly cause for concern.
The Jaguars don’t have an offense either, though they did have 454 yards when the two teams first met on Oct. 10. Jacksonville has just 5.1 yards per play and has only scored 1.34 points per drive, which ranks 31st in the NFL. Their percentage of scoring drives also ranks 31st.
Even though the teams combined for 56 points and over 800 yards in the first meeting, it seems unlikely that we’ll see the same level of offensive explosiveness in this game.
Pick: Under 43.5
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (-3, 42.5)
Brown: Lamar Jackson has been on a passing yardage tear in 2021, exceeding his closing prop number in eight of 11 games this season. Given the state of their rushing unit, the Ravens have one of the most drastic run/pass splits in the NFL, dropping back to pass on 61 percent of offensive plays. Jackson hasn’t been overly productive as a passer, ranking 26th in PFF passing grade and 20th in EPA generated per pass attempt. This 230.5 passing yards number sits right at the mean expectation for Jackson in 2021.
The problem in Week 14 is the matchup, as Cleveland is widely considered the second-best defense in the NFL. The Browns generate pressure at the 10th-highest rate in the NFL and blitz at the seventh-lowest rate. Very few defenses have the capability to slow Jackson like the Browns, as they are uniquely built to handle Jackson’s rushing and passing dynamics.
PFF’s betting model points toward the under 42.5-point total, meaning this game could be ugly offensively throughout. The weather appears to be clear skies and 41 degrees, but winds could tick up into the 15 MPH range. Any added element could force the Ravens to be more run-heavy. Given the injury situations and other outside factors, too many potential outcomes have Jackson finishing well short of this prop number on Sunday.
Pick: Jackson Under 230.5 Passing Yards (-115)
Tuley: In a scheduling oddity, the Browns are coming off a bye and playing their second straight game against the Ravens, who won 16-10 two weeks ago in Baltimore. In rematches, I love getting the winner of the previous game plus points, especially as the Ravens pulled out the win despite four INTs by Jackson. The Ravens are 6-2 this season in games decided by eight points or fewer despite the loss this past Sunday to the Steelers, so I trust John Harbaugh more in what should be another close game.
I’m calling for the outright upset for the Ravens, but just in case they lose a close one, I’m also using them liberally in two-team, 6-point teasers. In Point Spread Weekly, I gave out my top teaser play of the week as Ravens + 2.5/49ers + 7.5; however, the 49ers have since been bet to 1.5-point favorites over the Bengals, so the preferred teaser would now be Ravens + 2.5/Bengals + 7.5, though I still believe there’s a good chance that all teasers will cash on this matchup if it comes down to a late FG.
Pick: Ravens + 2.5 and in two-team, 6-point teasers, led by Ravens + 8.5/Bengals + 7.5
Reynolds: These two just played on Sunday Night Football two weeks ago where Baltimore won 16-10 as 3-point home favorites. The Ravens won that game despite Jackson’s four interceptions. Baker Mayfield obviously did not look near 100 percent, but perhaps the bye week may have done him some good.
The Ravens have failed to eclipse 20 points in each of its last four games and the Browns defense is getting healthier. Baltimore’s defense is not getting healthier. Top corner Marlon Humphrey is now out for the season and the Ravens secondary situation is so poor that it was arguably the primary reason why Harbaugh elected to go for two at the end instead of kicking the PAT and taking his chances in overtime.
Cleveland still has some sneaky value considering its six losses come to teams with a combined record of 48-24-1 including four current division leaders. Five of the Browns six losses have come to teams currently in playoff positions.
This feels almost like a back-against-the-wall game for Cleveland and this is the game where they keep playoff hopes alive.
Pick: Browns ML (-145)
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-2.5, 41.5)
Burke: When Cam Newton exclaimed “I’m back” in his first game against Arizona, we probably should have taken that in more of a literal sense. Cam is indeed back, posting poor numbers that any quarterback in the NFL would be able to put up. He has only completed 55.8 percent of his passes and has a 3/2 TD/INT ratio. He has been able to avoid sacks, but has not really been an effective runner and was benched in the Week 12 loss to the Dolphins.
The Panthers are off of the bye here and lined as a short favorite against the Atlanta Falcons, who have a chance to be competitive again because Cordarrelle Patterson is back in the mix. Shy of that random outlier against the Cardinals, the Panthers have scored 21 or fewer points in five of their last six games and have scored 10 or fewer points three times. The defense is still solid, holding opponents to 1.72 points per drive, fifth-best in the NFL, but the offense is simply non-existent.
As a result, the Falcons fall perfectly into a teaser leg here. You can take Atlanta up from + 2.5 to 8.5 and move through that 3 and 7 corridor with a low total on this game of 42.5.
Carolina fired Joe Brady over the bye week, so the offense will be in a state of flux taking on a Falcons defense that hasn’t been awful, but just hasn’t forced enough turnovers. Fortunately, Carolina has turned the ball over quite a bit this season.
Maybe Atlanta wins outright and that would hardly be a shocking result, but the Falcons fit very nicely into a teaser with Denver -2.5 or Tennessee -2.5
Pick: Falcons + 8.5 and Denver -2.5 (6-pt teaser)
Dallas Cowboys (-4.5, 48) at Washington Football Team
Youmans: It once seemed obvious the Cowboys would run away with the NFC East, but Washington (6-6) has closed the gap to two games with a four-game winning streak. The toughness of quarterback Taylor Heinicke is a major reason for the Football Team’s turnaround. Heinicke completed 23-of-30 passes with two touchdowns in a win at Las Vegas, where coach Ron Rivera’s defense continued a trend of strong performances. Washington has allowed 17.4 points in the past five games while overcoming some key injuries.
Is Dallas headed for a December collapse? The Cowboys are slipping on defense and quarterback Dak Prescott has not been particularly impressive lately. The Football Team seems to like the underdog role and is in it for the ninth week in a row. Dallas has dropped two of the past three, allowing a dangerous dog to sneak back into the division race.
Pick: Washington + 4.5
Burke: The Football Team is on the move in the NFC East and an upset special this week against the Cowboys could make things very interesting. I’m not sure that happens, but I agree with the line move we’ve seen on this game and think that there is still a little bit of value to be had.
Washington struggled early in the season because of third down issues and red zone failures. In the four victories since the bye, Washington is 29-of-58 on third down and 9-of-16 in the red zone. While a 56 percent success rate in the red zone still isn’t quite good enough, Washington’s third-down defense has improved and the defense as a whole has gotten stingier.
The Football Team has held six straight opponents to 310 or fewer yards and each of the last five opponents to 21 or fewer points. The full-season profile still doesn’t look great for Washington, but it has been a tale of two seasons.
Dallas, meanwhile, is all over the place right now, as COVID and injuries have derailed some of the team’s progress. The defense lives on takeaways, but has allowed 5.9 yards per play otherwise. Dallas can be beaten on the ground and through the air. The Cowboys rank second in third-down defense, which seems like an area ripe for regression and a Washington team that is greatly improved on third down looks like a good spot for it to happen.
Maybe the Football Team doesn’t come away with the upset, but a 4-point spread is a little too high.
Pick: Washington + 4.5
Tuley: My first thought on whether to take the Football Team is that the line was too short, but the more I researched, the more I like it. On Sunday, Washington just beat the Raiders 17-15 after the Raiders were coming off a 36-33 overtime win at the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, so there’s no reason this shouldn’t come down to the wire too. The Cowboys still have the No. 1 offense in the league at 416.3 yards per game, but the Washington defense has stepped up since losing Chase Young, allowing just 15 points the past two weeks (and don’t forget it held the Buccaneers to just 19 in its upset four weeks ago). Meanwhile, Washington’s offense isn’t flashy, but Taylor Heinicke and Antonio Gibson are proving a balanced attack that should keep the Football Team right in this game with a shot at the outright upset.
Pick: Washington + 4.5
Brown: The journeyman in Heinicke continues to exceed expectations in Washington and grades as the third-best passing quarterback over the past four weeks. The one detriment to his 2021 performance is the turnover-worthy plays, as 3.5 percent of his throws have been graded in this category, which is the 11th most among active starting quarterbacks. Some slip-ups are expected for a quarterback of Heinicke’s ability, yet his downfield playmaking has far exceeded the occasional miscue.
The interesting part about Heinicke’s 2021 season is that his interceptions haven’t been the result of turnover-worthy plays. He has the fifth-highest percentage of non-turnover worthy plays that ended up as an interception. This mostly boils down to poor luck, as a receiver was more responsible for the interception than Heinicke.
Dallas’s defense has been opportunistic this season, turning a turnover-worthy play into an interception at the third-highest rate in the NFL. The Cowboys also have turned a non-turnover worthy throw into an interception at the second-highest rate in the NFL. If we believe these to be somewhat fluky and random occurrences, then things should regress back toward the mean on both sides. With the under on Heinicke's interception prop priced at + 136, a little variance in the right direction is all that is needed for it to pay off. Given PFF’s betting model expectation for this game, this is a bet worth making on Sunday.
Pick: Heinicke Under 0.5 Interceptions (+ 136)
Seattle Seahawks (-8.5, 41.5) at Houston Texans
Burke: This is about as ugly and nauseating as a play can get in the NFL, but the Seahawks are laying more than a touchdown to the Texans and that line is simply too high. This is a game with a low total of 41.5 and continues to trend down.
Seattle scored a really nice win over San Francisco last week, but that seemed to say more about the 49ers than the Seahawks. Seattle scored on a long fake punt and managed to take advantage of some major 49er mistakes, namely Jimmy Garoppolo interceptions and roughing the passer calls. The 49ers had 1st-and-Goal at the 7 with a chance to tie or win, but got stopped on downs.
The Texans have not been competitive in many of their losses this season, but Seattle is closer to their level than a lot of the teams that they have faced. All things considered, Houston’s defense isn’t awful, ranked 10th in DVOA and sixth in Pass DVOA. The Texans can’t stop the run, but the Seahawks are not a great rushing team.
Seattle’s defense ranks in the bottom third of the NFL against the pass and just lost Jamal Adams for the season. Neither Tyrod Taylor nor Davis Mills go vertical a lot, but there may be some opportunities to make plays on the scramble or with a few deep shots.
The Seahawks have no playoff hopes, but they might get up to play spoiler, like we saw last week against the Niners and like we could see next week against the Rams. I’m not sure we get a fully invested effort in this one and we have two uncreative offenses that are likely to bog this game down. With a low total, in that kind of environment, the dog looks attractive, even if it is one of those ugly, hairless breeds.
Pick: Texans + 8.5
Brown: Houston’s offense is coming off a historically bad performance where it averaged less than -0.5 EPA per offensive play. This has happened 10 times for an offense in 2021, and the Texans are responsible for three of them.
Seattle’s defense could be exactly what the Texans need to find some rhythm, as the Seahawks sit 26th in PFF’s opponent-adjusted grading metric. Jamaal Adams is lost for the season due to injury, and Seattle could be even worse than what its current ranking indicates.
Cooks has failed to hit his receiving yardage prop in four-straight games. Dropping almost 15 yards from his season-high, Cooks receiving yardage props has fallen too far based on Cooks’ usage. He boasts the ninth-highest percentage of routes run per team dropback among wide receivers and ranks in the same spot for team target shares. Only Justin Jefferson has accounted for a higher share of team air yards, as Cooks is one of only six receivers to boast a team air yards share over 40%. Mills starting is concerning, but this still looks like too good of a buy-low opportunity to bypass. PFF’s betting model leans over the 41.5-point game total, and the only way that happens is if Cooks exceeds this relatively modest receiving yardage number.
Pick: Cooks Over 57.5 Receiving Yards (-112)
Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos (-10, 42.5)
Burke: Low totals and high spreads generally push me towards the underdog, but Sunday’s game in the Mile High City has given me the opposite perspective. The Broncos are laying more than a touchdown against the Lions, who are coming off of that very emotional first win of the season. Denver, meanwhile, is coming off of a game of missed opportunities against the Chiefs.
Denver’s offense grades in the middle of the pack in DVOA and a lot of other metrics, while Detroit has one of the worst offenses in football. The advanced metrics aren’t as high on the Broncos as some of the more traditional stats, and I tend to agree more with the traditional numbers in this case. Denver is fourth in points per drive allowed and fourth in percentage of opponents’ drives ending in points. They’ve allowed the second-fewest first downs in the NFL and have only allowed 22 offensive touchdowns.
The Broncos have also dealt with a litany of injuries, particularly on the offensive line, but have been a bit healthier since the bye week and are not playing a team with the talent to exploit any of those depth chart concerns. This feels a lot like the first three games of the season, when Denver beat the Giants, Jaguars and Jets by a combined score of 76-26.
Detroit won last week, but got outgained 6.0 to 5.2 in yards per play and went 2-of-11 on third down. The Vikings had six red zone trips. The Lions won the game, but they didn’t really deserve to in a lot of ways.
The Lions have been kind to bettors and the Broncos are looked down upon, but this feels like a good matchup and situation for Denver.
Pick: Broncos -10
Tuley: The Lions picked up their first win of the season, beating the Vikings 29-27 on the game’s final play, so if you’ve followed my columns for long you know they’re in a classic “swagger” spot, with a team regaining its swagger after snapping a long losing streak. The Lions have been surprisingly competitive all year and have been good to us as they’re 8-4 ATS despite the 1-10-1 SU record. The Broncos have been up and down all year (6-6 SU and ATS) but shouldn’t be favored by more than a touchdown.
If the Lions could avoid being blown out as big dogs by the Vikings (twice), Browns, Rams and Ravens, they can stick with the Broncos. Since we gave this out in Point Spread Weekly, the line has been creeping up to Broncos -10, so shop around for the best number you can get.
Pick: Lions + 10 or better
New York Giants at Los Angeles Chargers (-9.5, 43)
Burke: The Giants head to SoFi Stadium with major questions at the quarterback position. Daniel Jones is out once again and Mike Glennon spent the early part of the week in concussion protocol. He is expected to clear and start for New York against the Chargers, but he probably won’t be all that effective anyway.
You can run the ball on the Chargers, but the Giants have only rushed for 3.9 yards per carry this season. This is a very paltry offense, with both the passing game and the running game, but the Chargers will be able to set themselves up for success against the run by loading up the box and daring Glennon or Jake Fromm to beat them.
Saquon Barkley is back in the mix, but the Giants have been held under 265 yards in each of the last four games and have maxed out at 302 yards in the last seven games. They’ve scored 32 points in the last three games.
The Los Angeles defense really should be better than it is, but they’ve also played some solid offensive teams and their metrics are skewed a bit as a result. The Chargers are 16th in total yardage allowed, but 27th in points allowed. They’ve had some poor special teams play and have set other teams up for success. Some of those things should even out as the season pushes forward.
The Chargers offense will be without Mike Williams, who is in COVID protocol, so that will limit their big-play potential just a little bit. We should see a lot of ball control from the Chargers and shouldn’t see much of that from the Giants. As a result, the Giants Team Total Under 16.5 looks like a solid position to take here, as we have a low-scoring expectation and the Chargers should control the clock and the game.
Pick: Giants Team Total Under 16.5
San Francisco 49ers (-2, 49) at Cincinnati Bengals
Reynolds: While San Francisco stubbed its toe last weekend at Seattle, the Niners moved the ball with ease up and down the field for much of the game. Jimmy Garoppolo averaged 10 yards per attempt and 15 yards per completion. The Niners caught a lot of bad luck in the game. They gave up a 73-yard fake punt touchdown run, fumbled the opening second-half kickoff, had a pair of roughing the passer penalties to keep a touchdown drive alive in the first half and then a defenseless receiver penalty kept the ball in Seattle’s hands on a key third down late.
Cincinnati was down two starters last week on the offensive line - Trey Hopkins and Riley Reiff - and it showed as Joe Burrow was sacked six times and injured his pinky finger on his throwing hand.
Monitor the Bengals health defensively as they could be down three starters: CB Chidobe Awuzie and LBs Logan Wilson and Markus Bailey. While the Niners are not exactly a beacon of health at the moment, they have not been totally healthy for about a season and a half now. They are used to having a “next man up mentality.”
Pick: 49ers ML (-125)
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5, 53.5)
Youmans: If the Buccaneers have a weakness that can be exploited, it’s their pass defense, so there’s a reason to like this matchup for Bills quarterback Josh Allen. On a cold, windy Monday night in Buffalo, Allen was held down in a 14-10 loss to the Patriots. The conditions in Tampa will be favorable for both quarterbacks, so Tom Brady is a good bet to put up big numbers, as well. But this play is mostly about the spot. Allen talked about a “sense of urgency” after Buffalo dropped to 3-4 in its past seven games and fell down to No. 7 in the AFC playoff pecking order. The dog is in desperate need of a win, so I’ll bet on Allen’s arm and take the points.
Pick: Bills + 3.5
Burke: A lot of Western New Yorkers leave town and head for Florida around this time of the year. For Allen and the Bills, it might be just what the doctor ordered offensively. The weather looks flawless on the Gulf Coast on Sunday with temperatures in the upper 70s, sunny skies and light winds for Buffalo’s matchup with the Buccaneers.
Bad weather hasn’t been the sole reason why the Bills have struggled of late on offense. OC Brian Daboll is having a rough year and Allen hasn’t found Stefon Diggs with the same efficiency that he did last season. Nevertheless, the Bills offense still has a lot of talented pieces and parts going up against a Buccaneers secondary that has been banged-up all season long.
Tampa Bay’s numbers look pretty good on defense when it comes to the pass, but they’ve also played a lot of weak passing offenses, especially lately, like the Falcons, Giants, Jets, Saints, Bears and Eagles. In fact, Tampa Bay has faced one above average offense in the last six games and the Eagles weren’t nearly as proficient with the run in Week 6 as they are now.
The Bills defense shines by a lot of metrics, but Buffalo has played one of the easiest schedules this season, especially in terms of opposing offenses. Tampa Bay is on a heater offensively and leads the NFL in Total DVOA and Pass DVOA, while being second in Rush DVOA.
This game has all the makings of a shootout, with great weather, two talented offenses and defenses that are overrated by not having played enough quality opponents.
Pick: Over 53.5
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-12.5, 43)
Burke: It will be cool and crisp in Green Bay for Sunday Night Football at Lambeau Field. The Packers are coming off of their bye week to host the Bears, who are going to start Justin Fields in this one.
That means we have two semi-rusty quarterbacks taking the field. The reality is that Green Bay has a great record and some really impressive performances, but the Packers are just 14th in yards per play and 11th in percentage of scoring drives. They are 12th in points per drive.
With wind gusts in the 15-20 mph range for this one, maybe we don’t see a big offensive explosion. We can reasonably assume we won’t get one from the Bears, who rank 29th in the NFL with 1.55 points per drive. Fields brings some different elements to the offense from Andy Dalton, but probably not enough to crack what has been a very solid Packers defense.
There is a lot of familiarity between these two teams and the Packers had the bye week to make sure that they got healthier on defense and were also ready to go in this one. The first-half Under 22 is a reasonable assumption, especially with the wind likely to be worse in the first half.
Pick: Under 22 1H