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Week fourteen did not get off to the best of starts for me as my difficulties in picking the Thursday night game between the Rams and Patriots were exposed as foolish when the Rams thoroughly beat the Patriots. So, having gifted a point back to Dan in terms of our season contest I have to have a good Sunday and Monday so let’s get to the game.

Early Games:

There are three games that shout off the list of the early games to me. The first is one of the matchups of the week for both Dan and I that sees the Miami Dolphins hosting the Kansas City Chiefs. The Dolphins defense is just outside of the top ten by DVOA but has looked good in recent weeks as Flores and his staff have taken elements from the Patriots and welded it to excellent special teams and good enough offence. I don’t know if this formula will be enough to beat the Chiefs, but this is a team that has lost only one of their last eight games. The Chiefs are only ranked fourth overall by DVOA despite their league leading offence, which seems to always have the answer at the end of the game thanks to the combination of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, head coach Andy Reid and coordinator Eric Bieniemy. There are some who are asking questions about the rest of the Chiefs team and if they have what it takes to repeat their trip to the Super Bowl, but it’s hard to argue with an 11-1 record and I’m certainly looking forward to watching this game.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their bye week if not in disarray then definitely facing problems having lost three of their last four games including their last two by a field goal. The Bucs host a Minnesota Vikings team who may only be one win behind in the standing but are very much in the hunt for a wildcard spot. If the Bucs have faltered in recent weeks, the Vikings are coming into form having won five of their last six games, although the loss was against the Cowboy. Partly this resurgence is due to the return of Dalvin Cook from injury, which helped the offence find its identity, but the defense is currently top ten by DVOA despite a huge amount of turnover in the secondary, although their special teams is a surprising thirty-first. It feels like the Bucs should be doing better with their sixth ranked offence by DVOA and fourth ranked defense, but things are not quite coming together for them and the concern is that there are not many weeks to get right. I think this should be a competitive game and everyone will be watching to see if the Bucs can push on from their bye week so I am surprised to see the points the Bucs are laying six and half points, even if the consensus sees the Bucs laying a touchdown.

The final game that stands out in the early slate does so as much about the stakes of the game as the quality of the contest. The New York Giants may only have a 5-7 record, but they have won four straight and are coming off their best of the season having beaten the Seahawks in Seattle with a great defensive performance. This week they face an Arizona Cardinals team who have been struggling for several weeks and last won a game in week ten. No one seems to know for sure, but many are speculating that Kyler Murray is dealing with an injury and what is for certain is that he is not running the ball like he was earlier in the season and this seems to have really hurt their offence. Both teams really need to win this game to maintain their chances of making the play-offs but with the way these two teams are trending it is a surprise to me that the Giants are getting points at home.

Points from the rest:

  • The Chicago Bears have had such a Jekyll and Hide season, starting off 5-1 before the problems on offence could be overcome no longer, then losing six games in a row. The Texans lost their first four games, which in fairness was a brutal stretch of opponents but they are the exact opposite of the Bears in that Deshaun Watson is absolutely a franchise quarterback and the Bears are yet again looking for one. Neither team are going to trouble the play-offs this season but the team with the worse record may in fact have the easier path back to being competitive but I’m really not sure which one I actually want to pick.
  • Then Cincinnati Bengals are not a good football team, but they might win this game because neither are the Dallas Cowboys, and it is somewhat ironic that Andy Dalton is clearly the best quarterback in this game. I think it is more likely that Dalton gets his revenge win than does not.
  • It is interesting that the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos have the same record as I have felt much more positive about the direction the Panthers are heading in, but with this week’s Covid-19 outbreak I wonder how the Panthers will fare against the Broncos.
  • I think that the Jacksonville Jaguars have looked better in the last couple of weeks with Mike Glennon at quarterback, but this has not resulted in wins and they will likely be starting next season with a new young quarterback. I don’t expect them to beat a Tennessee Titans team who still hold a share of the lead of the AFC South, but I just have an inkling this game will be closer than this line suggests.

Texans @ Bears (+1.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Texans
Dan’s Pick:      Bears

Cowboys @ Bengals (+3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Cowboys
Dan’s Pick:      Cowboys

Broncos @ Panthers (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Broncos
Dan’s Pick:      Broncos

Titans @ Jaguars (+7.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Jaguars
Dan’s Pick:      Titans

Chiefs @ Dolphins (+7.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:      Dolphins

Vikings @ Buccaneers (-6.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Vikings
Dan’s Pick:      Vikings

Cardinals @ Giants (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Giants
Dan’s Pick:      Cardinals

Late Games:

It is a slightly underwhelming late slate of the games, certainly for close games with play-off stakes but I will work my way through the two that I think are worth discussing.

The Washington Football Team are in Arizona to take on the San Francisco 49ers in their second home game at the Cardinals’ stadium. There has been plenty of discussion of how important this game is to Kyle Shanahan given how Washington’s owner Dan Snyder treated Shanahan and his dad when they worked for him. This meeting of 5-7 teams does have play-off significance thanks to the state of the NFC East and Washington are coming off their best win of the season having beaten the Steelers last week. I don’t know whether they can extend their three-game winning streak, but this is a game where the stakes are raised for both teams and with how competitive the 49ers have been despite their injuries I think this could well be a good one to watch;

The other game that catches the eye a little is the New Orleans Saints taking on the Philadelphia Eagles in a matchup that is interesting because of the two quarterbacks involved. The Saints have won three straight games with Taysom Hill starting at quarterback in the absence of Drew Brees and having thrown his first passing touchdown last week, the Saints and Hill take on an Eagles team in disarray who have turned to rookie Jalen Hurts to start at quarterback. The 3-8-1 Eagles have not won a game since week eight and their only win against a team outside of the NFC East came against the 49ers in week four. With the way the Saints’ defense is playing I don’t think the Eagles will do much better against the Saints with Hurts starting, particularly given his problems throwing the ball in college, but I do think it will be interesting to see and contrast the two quarterbacks in this game.

Points on the Rest:

  • The Las Vegas Raiders have fallen back in recent weeks and can’t be relied upon. The Colts have their own problems with the injury to Philip Rivers’ toe combined with a backup getting the start at left tackle, but I think they are more reliable. This is likely the cue for the Raiders to get back to winning ways…
  • The Seattle Seahawks will be looking to bounce back from their loss to the Giant last week and I do expect them to beat the New York Jets, but the Jets have been competitive in the last few weeks and so I think this line is too high, even if the consensus line is even higher.
  • The LA Chargers were beaten by forty-five points last week and Anthony Lynn is taking over special teams after last week’s fiascos, but whether that is enough to get back to winning ways remains to be seen. The Chargers take on a Falcons team who have at least been competitive since Raheem Moris became interim head coach and I think they are favourites for a reason, even if the line does give me pause.
  • The Detroit Lions got a win last week after the firing of Matt Patricia, but the Green Bay Packers are a much different prospect to facing the Bears and that is why the line is so high, which is hard to argue with, particularly as the consensus line is even higher.

Colts @ Raiders (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Colts
Dan’s Pick:      Colts

Jets @ Seahawks (-13.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Jets
Dan’s Pick:      Jets

Falcons @ Chargers (+2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Falcons
Dan’s Pick:      Falcons

Packers @ Lions (+7.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Packers
Dan’s Pick:      Packers

Saints @ Eagles (+6.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Saints
Dan’s Pick:      Saints

Washington @ 49ers (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Washington
Dan’s Pick:      Washington

Sunday Night Football:

Steelers @ Bills (-2.5)

The Sunday Night football game is a cracker this week that sees the Buffalo Bills hosting the 11-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. There have been plenty of questions surrounding the Steelers in recent weeks, both because their running game is just not functioning, so they are relying on Ben Roethlisberger to throw short passes and get the ball out of his hands to win game, and that the Steelers have continued to pick up injuries to their linebackers. The Bills meanwhile got a stellar game from Josh Allen last week and their top ten by DVOA offense and special teams is now getting some support from a defense who has dragged themselves back up to a reasonably average rank of sixteenth. This is one of those games where the absence of fans is going to be sorely missed and I like the Bills to win this game given the increasing number of problems the Steelers are facing. You must respect any team who have an 11-1 record, but if you look at the Steelers schedule this is their toughest opponent since the Titans in week seven and very possibly the best team they will face in the regular season. I like the Bills to win this game, but Mike Tomlin is a really good coach, and it wouldn’t exactly be a surprise if the Steelers do get the road win.

Gee’s Pick:      Bills
Dan’s Pick:      Bills

Monday Night Football

Ravens @ Browns (+1.5)

The Cleveland Browns are hosting the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night with a two-game lead over them the AFC North and the joint second-best record in the AFC. The Browns switched their game plan last week and attacked the Titans through the air as Kevin Stefanski continues to impress in his first season as a head coach. It does feel like the Browns have had a real change in their identity under the new regime and this contrasts favourably to a Ravens team who look to have taken a step back from the previous year. The problems with the offence still seem to be haunting the Ravens, although at least Lamar Jackson looked more like himself last week but that was against the struggling Cowboys. I have a lot of respect for the Ravens as a franchise, but it does feel odd that they are laying points on the road given their recent record, but this is a genuine test of whether the Browns are as good as their record suggests or if this is only the first step in their development. Still, I have no doubt that this will be a closer game than their first meeting in week one and should be a cracking way to end week fourteen.

Gee’s Pick:      Browns
Dan’s Pick:      Browns

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.