Analysis

Between the Lines: Betting the NFL Week 14 Edition

Every Monday during the NFL season, I’ll compare game spreads to my own power ratings and give my perspective on whether I think the betting lines are accurate. Paying attention to the NFL market is one of the single most important aspects of successful wagering. 

All lines are consensus numbers across the U.S. Sportsbooks as of Monday morning. Some may not be out yet. Early lines that show great disparity with my own are highlighted in red

Raiders at Rams (+6), Total: 46.5

Where I set the line: Rams +7, Total: 46

The Rams played a respectable game on Sunday, giving the Seahawks everything they could handle at home. With John Wolford starting at quarterback and without key skill players on both sides of the ball, L.A. took a lead toward the end of the fourth quarter. They stacked up 319 yards against a porous Seattle defense, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. Geno Smith led a game-winning drive in the final seconds, sealing Seattle’s win and another unfortunate loss for the former Super Bowl champions. Again, the Rams’ season is effectively over–that’s something I said weeks ago, but it’s undeniable now.

The Raiders won their third game in a row on Sunday. Taking full advantage of the Chargers’ ineffective defense, Las Vegas totaled more than 400 yards of total offense and 6.8 yards per play. Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams both had huge performances again, and suddenly the Raiders are legitimate playoff contenders if they keep winning. Thursday night marks another great opportunity to stay on that path.

Matthew Stafford is done for the season, and the Raiders’ schedule is winnable until Week 17 (49ers) and Week 18 (Chiefs). That means every game is a must-win scenario for Vegas’ postseason hopes. I think the Rams’ effort on Sunday was more of an anomaly than a new norm. Wolford played decently (14-26, 178 yards, 2 INTs) in Week 13, but I don’t think we can expect their offense to keep producing at a level to keep up with the Raiders. Vegas has all the momentum and motivation. I’d consider a bet on the away team while it’s under a touchdown.

Eagles at Giants (+6.5), Total: 45

Where I set the line: Giants +7, Total: 44

I was impressed by the Giants’ defense on Sunday. Although the Commanders held the ball for more than 41 minutes, Big Blue’s defense never quit. In a game where two NFC East teams battled through all 10 minutes of overtime, the Giants’ defense hit Taylor Heinicke 10 times, sacked him another five times and grabbed five tackles for a loss. Daniel Jones and company did just enough to keep the Giants competitive, recovering from an early 10-0 deficit to lead 20-13 heading into the final quarter of play. But a late drive by Heinicke tied the game, leading to two tired units heading into extra time. The contest ended in a tie.

The Eagles had arguably the most impressive win on Sunday. Facing an angry Tennessee Titans squad off a tough loss in Week 12, the Eagles took care of business. Philadelphia dominated the Titans, winning 35-10 and more than doubling their total yards output (453 to 209). Jalen Hurts threw for nearly 400 yards and three touchdowns, while former Titan A.J. Brown caught eight balls for 119 yards and two touchdowns in his own personal revenge game. When firing on all cylinders, the Eagles are a scary team.

While I give the Eagles slightly more credit than the books in this circumstance, it’s interesting this line came out under a touchdown. The reason? I think the Giants match up well against the Eagles. New York is a run-first offense that controls the clock and tires out opposing defenses. Their defense is improving, and this is a tough spot for the Eagles after a big win. It’s also the beginning of a three-game road trip. I probably won’t bet on this game, but I think the Giants might be feistier than advertised. 

Jets at Bills (-9.5), Total: 44.5

Where I set the line: Bills -8.5, Total: 44

Do you think the sportsbooks respect Mike White? This line suggests an emphatic: no. The New York Jets were competitive in their Week 13 contest at Minnesota. Mounting a nice comeback where they outscored the Vikings 16-7 in the second half, the Jets had a chance to win late in the fourth quarter. The moment proved to be too much for White. He threw an interception on fourth down in the red zone, ending the contest. Too much was asked of White, who threw the ball 57 times on Sunday. He completed only 54% of his passes and threw two interceptions. 

The Bills stymied the Patriots on Thursday night, limiting New England’s offense to only 242 total yards. Buffalo possessed the football for more than 38 minutes in a 24-10 victory. Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs played brilliantly once again, and the Bills moved to 9-3 overall. After Kansas City’s loss to the Bengals Sunday, the Bills are now the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

I give the Jets a little more value in this contest, but I’m surely not looking to wager on New York. The Bills are at home at Orchard Park, which is arguably the most significant home-field advantage in the league, and this is a revenge game after their loss to the Jets on Nov. 6. I’d bet on the Bills or avoid this contest altogether.

Browns at Bengals (-5), Total: 48.5

Where I set the line: Bengals -6.5, Total: 49

I’m sorry, should I be impressed by what I saw from the Browns on Sunday? Deshaun Watson didn’t look crisp in his first start. Watson struggled mightily against his former team on Sunday. Watson went 12-22 for 131 yards and one interception. Every one of the Browns’ touchdowns was scored by either their defense or special teams. They stacked up 174 yards on the ground, which provided enough time of possession to keep Kyle Allen and a struggling Texans’ offense out of contention. The Browns ended up winning 27-14, but I can’t say I was impressed with the win. Cleveland’s offense only mustered six points against a bad defense, and now they have to go on the road against Cincinnati, which is not ideal.

Speaking of the Bengals, I was impressed by their victory in Week 13. In a back-and-forth battle between two Super Bowl contenders, it was the Bengals who reigned supreme. It was a comprehensive team win for the Bengals, who needed big stops from their defense and quick answers from their offense as the Kansas City Chiefs just wouldn’t go away. Samaje Perine ran the ball with ferocity, Cincinnati’s star wide receivers all made big catches in clutch moments, the Bengals’ offensive line allowed just one sack, and Joe “Cool” Burrow outplayed Patrick Mahomes again. Burrow is now 3-0 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Bengals have won four games in a row.

We’re betting on the Bengals, and we’re betting it now. Watson is an all-star quarterback when he’s in full form, but he doesn’t look close to that yet. Burrow and the Bengals have vengeance on their minds, and they’ve been unflappable at home, winning and covering their last four home games. Bet on the Bengals, or don’t bet it at all. 

Vikings at Lions (+1), Total: 53

Where I set the line: Lions +1.5, Total: 50

This should be a closely fought NFC North battle, as the line indicates. We already covered the Vikings’ performance in their win against the Jets on Sunday. Kirk Cousins and his supporting cast survived in Week 13, but it wasn’t pretty. The Jets outgained Minnesota 486-287 in total yards, but they turned it over two times and couldn’t find any points early. The Vikings were (again) fortunate to eke out a win.

The Lions looked fantastic in Week 13 against the Jaguars. In a comprehensive 40-14 win, Detroit outgained Jacksonville 437 to 266 in total yards (31-14 in first downs) and played mistake-free football. They also held the ball for a dominant 36 minutes. Jared Goff enjoyed pristine protection from one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and it resulted in his biggest game of the season. Goff threw 31-41 for 340 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.

The total might be a little high since this is a divisional battle between two teams that know each other well, but I don’t have much else to assert from a wagering perspective. The Lions could definitely win this game–they’ve won four of their last five games, and their offense is playing spectacularly–but it’s too close a call. We’ll look for more angles throughout the week.

Jaguars at Titans (-3.5), Total: 41.5

Where I set the line: Titans -6, Total: 43

Maybe I’m overvaluing the Titans in how I handicap this contest, but I’m bullish on my assessment of the Jaguars. We already covered the Eagles’ shellacking of Tennessee on Sunday, so let’s talk about Jacksonville’s Week 13 result. 

The Jaguars were run out of Detroit on Sunday. A team loved by the sharp betting community (trust me, I hear “the sharps” talk more about their love for the Jaguars than I hear Russell Wilson say “let’s ride” this season), I see a squad that’s still in their developmental phase. When they face a team that’s poised and in a better spot, they don’t fare well. The Jaguars moved to 4-8 against the spread (ATS) in their blowout loss to the Lions. They couldn’t find a rhythm on offense, and they couldn’t buy a stop on defense. The Lions didn’t have a single punt on Sunday. Trevor Lawrence left the game at one point from an apparent leg injury, but he finished the game.

I’m taking the Titans Sunday. Mike Vrabel’s team has now lost two games in a row, and although their spot on top of the AFC South is probably secure (they’re a full three games up on the Colts), this is a great correction spot at home. Experience and intangibles make a huge difference in situations like this, and I trust the Titans to assert themselves against a worse team in Week 14.

Texans at Cowboys (-16.5), Total: 46

Where I set the line: Doesn’t matter

This is a game to either bet on the Cowboys or avoid, and I’d suggest the latter. It’s easily the biggest betting line we’ve seen all season, but it’s not wrong.

The Cowboys took care of business on Sunday night, throttling the Colts 54-19. Indianapolis was competitive early, but Dallas’ defense came up with one interception after another in the second half. That put the game out of reach after multiple short fields turned into points for the home team. Dallas sacked Matt Ryan three times and collected five Colts turnovers. 

We already know what happened to the Texans (see the overview of the Browns’ game, above), and it wasn’t pretty.

This just isn’t a game or a wager worth talking about. The Cowboys are the vastly superior team, and they’re at home. They have no lookahead game to distract their focus–they face the Jaguars in Week 15–and they should be healthier than ever if Pro Bowl offensive lineman Tyron Smith returns on Sunday, as planned. Would you be surprised if the Cowboys won this game 48-7? Me neither. 

Ravens at Steelers (-2), Total: 38

Where I set the line: Steelers -1, Total: 40

The Steelers are trying their hardest to defend Mike Tomlin’s unparalleled feat of never having a losing season. Now at 5-7, Pittsburgh defeated the Falcons on Sunday, making them winners of three of their last four games. Kenny Pickett played a clean game and led the Steelers to 6-12 on third-down conversions. He looks more and more like the quarterback Pittsburgh needs, showing poise and toughness reminiscent of former Super Bowl-winning QBs that came before him. The Steelers also ran the ball for 154 yards. They’ve averaged 161 rushing yards in their last four contests.

The Ravens nearly lost to the Broncos at home. Losing Lamar Jackson in the first quarter to an apparent knee injury, Baltimore survived behind a clutch performance from Tyler Huntley. Huntley took immediate command of the offense, completing 27-of-32 passes for 187 yards. He made a remarkable play to put the Ravens in scoring position with only 31 seconds left in the game, and it ended up being the difference. Baltimore scored on the proceeding play, leaving little time on the clock for Wilson to create some end-game magic. The Ravens only had 20 first downs on 285 total yards, but it was enough to secure a victory.

The Steelers are small favorites at home on Sunday. Considering Jackson’s injury and how well Pittsburgh is playing, that makes sense. Huntley can get the job done, though, and the Ravens are always motivated against their arch-rival. I truly don’t know which side is the “right one,” probably because there’s not a clear answer, so we’ll skip this wager for now.

Chiefs at Broncos (+9.5), Total: 43.5

Where I set the line:  Broncos +8.5, Total: 44

The Denver Broncos season makes me sad. I know Wilson can be corny, and there’s a lot to dislike about Nathaniel Hackett’s coaching style, but the Broncos were a team with a ton of promise, and it just hasn’t materialized one bit. It was another uninspiring Broncos’ performance on Sunday, as they gained only 12 first downs and 272 yards in Baltimore. Their defense played tremendously, but they couldn’t prevent Huntley and the Ravens’ offense from scoring on their final drive. Denver returns home after their fourth straight loss.

Denver is never an easy place to play, especially in a tough AFC West battle, but it’s hard not to look at the Chiefs in this spot. I give the Broncos a little more credit at home, and the Chiefs rarely blow out teams on the road, so I still show value on the home team. No other thoughts from me for now.

Panthers at Seahawks (-4.5), Total: 44

Where I set the line: Seahawks -5.5, Total: 46

The Panthers had a bye in Week 13, so we don’t have much to say about them. They played well, particularly through their run game and more stingy defense in their Week 12 win against the Broncos, but traveling to the Pacific Northwest is a different challenge.

The Seahawks weren’t impressive on Sunday, although they did earn a win against the fledgling Rams. Again they couldn’t find their ground attack. Kenneth Walker III was only given three carries and then exited the game with an ankle injury in the first half, but Smith had another big game. He threw for 367 yards and three touchdowns, including a game-winning touchdown pass on Seattle’s final drive. It was enough to outlast a try-hard Rams team without many of their stars. The Seahawks will need to find the refined style they exhibited so often in the first half of the season if they want to find success against better teams.

The Panthers just aren’t one of those better teams. This is a challenging spot for Sam Darnold in his second start at quarterback on the road against Seattle’s 12th man, and the Seahawks’ defense really needs to play better. Smith should find some success against Carolina’s defense, even though they’re an above-average unit. I think the Seahawks win this by a touchdown, so I’m taking Seattle now.

Buccaneers at 49ers (-3), Total: 37.5

Where I set the line: 49ers -3, Total: 38

The Bucs are playing tonight on Monday night, so we won’t talk about their position in this game. We’ll wait to see how crisp (or not so much) they look tonight. After a bad Week 12 loss to the Browns, they should get a win at home against the struggling Saints. They’re favored by just more than a field goal.

The 49ers showed why they should be considered a true Super Bowl contender again on Sunday. The Miami Dolphins went up 7-0 immediately in their Week 13 showdown, and then Jimmy Garoppolo broke his foot, effectively ending his season. It didn’t matter. Brock Purdy, the final pick in the 2022 NFL draft, replaced Garoppolo, and he performed well. He went 25-37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also led San Francisco on one scoring drive after another, accumulating 351 total yards and 33 points against the Dolphins.

The 49ers’ defense was the true key to victory. They prevented the Dolphins from ever successfully completing a third down conversion and held Miami to only 17 points and just more than 300 yards. It was a defensive showcase against an offense that seemed unstoppable against most other teams.

Tampa Bay’s defense is still above-average, and the way San Francisco’s defense is playing has me thinking we won’t see many points in this battle. My total is close to where the sportsbooks have it, so I won’t pull the trigger right now. I have no lean on either side at this juncture. Tampa Bay will need to keep winning to ready themselves for the postseason, while the 49ers look more than capable with Purdy at the helm. 

Dolphins at Chargers (+2.5), Total: 52

Where I set the line: Chargers +3, Total: 53

Well, I’m sure the Dolphins can’t wait to get back on the field in Week 14. Fortunately for their offense, they may just have the perfect matchup. 

The Chargers fell short against the Raiders on Sunday, failing to match their opponents’ intensity in the second half. Los Angeles only scored seven points in the final 30 minutes. A fumble and a missed field goal in the second half didn’t help, but I give credit to a feisty Raiders’ defense for stepping up their game and preventing another Justin Herbert comeback. Another subpar performance from the Chargers’ rushing attack (72 total yards on Sunday) led to another instance of too much falling on Herbert’s shoulders.

I highlighted this game in red because it’s hard for me not to see this game going over the total. Then again, 52 is a big line. Still, the Dolphins’ offense will be ready to explode, and the Chargers’ offense left quite a few points off the board in Week 13. A spot where two above-average offenses are due for regression against two bad defenses is a great situation for an over.

Patriots at Cardinals (+1.5), Total: 44

Where I set the line: Cardinals +2, Total: 43

The Cardinals will be coming off a bye in Week 14, and the Patriots are fresh off a humbling defeat against Buffalo on Thursday night. In that sense, both teams are coming off extended rest. 

This game seems like it’s lightyears away. Right now, we don’t have any strong leans or suggestions on how to wager on it. The Cardinals could find success on offense–Bill Belichik’s defenses tend to struggle against dynamic running quarterbacks like Kyler Murray– but the Cardinals’ defense might not be good enough to hold back the Patriots’ offense. I know, New England’s offense hasn’t exactly been lighting up opposing defenses, but they will have extra time to prepare and correct their mistakes. 

My line is set pretty close to where the books have it. We’ll hang back and watch how it moves for now.

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