We’re all set to get going with the Week 14 odds for NFL this week at Bang the Book, as there are a plethora of games that we are going to be focusing in on that are going to have some huge impacts on the entire season.
Week 14 is a peculiar looking one indeed, as we have some anomalies that we would normally never see to analyze on the NFL betting lines.
We’ll start with the first game of the week, when the 2-10 Houston Texans play the 3-9 Jacksonville Jaguars in a game which should just have the subtitle of “Tank for Ted.” Both of these teams clearly want QB Teddy Bridgewater with the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, and the loser of this game is going to be in a lot better shape than the winner will be (get used to hearing that over the course of the next few weeks). The weird happening, though? The Texans, who have lost 10 games in a row, are actually favored on the road in this one by a field goal, as amazing as that sounds. Jacksonville is bad, but it has won three out of four games since its bye week, and it almost seems like easy pickings to take it in what amounts to be the worst Thursday Night Football game of the year.
That’s not the only mind-boggling point spread on tap for sure. The New York Jets and their offense which has one touchdown in their last three games are favored over the Oakland Raiders by 2.5 points. The Raiders have been playing tons of games in the Eastern Time Zone and the Central Time Zone of late, so this is nothing new to them. But with an offense that has been as bad as that of New York, it really feels like Oakland, especially after a good showing in spite of its loss on Thanksgiving Day, should have the edge. Odd.
More odd: The 3-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are favored in a game! The Bucs fell back to earth last week when they were beaten by Carolina, which isn’t a damning defeat by any stretch of the imagination considering the form which the Panthers are in. However, Tampa Bay still has one of the worst teams in the league. The good news for the Buccaneers, though? They have the Buffalo Bills on tap, who just managed to do the other unthinkable: They lost to the Falcons at “home.” Sure, that “home” was Toronto, but it was still an inexcusable loss against a team which has clearly given up on the season.
And finally, the oddest of the odd: The 11-1 Seattle Seahawks, who just became the first team in the league to clinch a playoff spot, are underdogs against the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners have proven that they can be beaten here at home against good teams (See: Carolina and Indianapolis). They have also proven that they can’t play with the Seahawks on the road after getting killed at CenturyLink Field earlier this year. QB Russell Wilson and the gang can lock up the NFC West with a win in this one, and Seattle won’t take this game lightly. This is probably the last meaningful road game the Seahawks will play this year, and they might even be able to clinch the #1 overall seed in the playoffs on Sunday as well. Yet, it’s San Fran which is giving 2.5 in this one at Candlestick Park.
Fortunately, there are some more normal looking point spreads to deal with as well in games that range from total stinkers to playoff eliminators to division tiebreakers.
We’ll start with the duds to get those out of the way. The Kansas City Chiefs have lost three games in a row, and though there is no sin in losing twice to the Broncos, there would be a sin in losing on the road to the lowly Washington Redskins. The Skins are +3 at home, but they really look like they have given up on the campaign. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons are headed on the road to Lambeau Field this week in a game that the Green Bay Packers absolutely have to win if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive. This one hasn’t come on the board yet, knowing that QB Aaron Rodgers still hasn’t been cleared to play.
Another team with quarterback issues is the Cleveland Browns. Up until they signed QB Caleb Hanie on Tuesday, the Browns didn’t have a healthy quarterback on the roster who has ever thrown an NFL pass. It really could be QB Alex Tanney who starts on Sunday. If that’s the case, his first foe would be QB Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Yikes. Every time Head Coach Bill Belichick goes up against his former team, he has a chip on shoulder. This is an easy game for the Pats to overlook, but they are going to be the biggest favorites of the weekend when a line opens up on this game.
The biggest favorites at the moment are the Denver Broncos, who are giving 11 to the Tennessee Titans in what will be the first game back in the saddle for Head Coach John Fox after giving up the job to Jack Del Rio for a month following his heart surgery. The Titans badly need a win, but they aren’t the only team in the AFC Wild Card chase really hoping for a ‘W’.
The Baltimore Ravens are -7 against the Minnesota Vikings, who also have yet to name a healthy starting quarterback for this week’s game. The M.O. this year in the AFC is that the teams that need wins in the Wild Card chase lose them when they really should be winning them though, so don’t discount the possibility of Baltimore losing this game. We already know that the other team that is 6-6 and tied for the last Wild Card slot in the conference, the Miami Dolphins, are in some trouble this week. The Fins take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that the black and gold absolutely have to win if they have any chance of getting into the second season. The Steelers are favored by a field goal.
Division leaders are colliding all over the place this week as well. The Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts will go to war, as they both are going in search of the second bye in the AFC playoff picture. If the Bengals win this one, they will hold the tiebreaker over both Indy and New England, and they’ll definitely have an inside track towards that coveted bye. If they lose though, the Pats will be sitting pretty, and there will be a decent chance that the AFC North title could yet be in doubt. This is also a good battle between two of the young quarterbacks in the game, as QB Andrew Luck and QB Andy Dalton will duke it out. Luck and his Colts have looked horrid of late, even in spite of their narrow escape last week against the Titans to essentially win the AFC South title. Cincinnati, which hasn’t missed a beat this year and hasn’t been beaten at home in spite of the fact that its schedule there has been very tough, is -6.
Over in the NFC, the co-NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the Detroit Lions. The opportunity is there for the Lions to make a statement, and if they can win this game and get some help along the way, they’ll be in line for the NFC North crown. They’ve got the lead by a game now after pummeling the Packers on Thanksgiving Day, and they will have the advantage of a long week of preparation for one of the toughest offenses to try to tame in football. Head Coach Chip Kelly has his boys playing with gusto, and it doesn’t look like the Eagles are getting beaten any time soon. The oddsmakers have these two teams right on level pegging with one another, as Philly is only favored by three, the value of home field advantage.
We have yet to discuss a pair of late games on Sunday. The Arizona Cardinals are favored by six over the St. Louis Rams in a battle of teams who played to a close 27-24 Rams win in Week 1, while the San Diego Chargers are -3 in what might amount to be an elimination game against the New York Giants. The G-Men are quietly still hanging around in the NFC East race this year, and this could be one of the better games of the day.
All eyes though, are going to be on Sunday Night Football, where the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints meet for the first time this year. These two teams still play a pair of games against each other, and if either team can sweep the other, that squad would win the NFC South and get the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs that goes with it in all likelihood. Carolina has won eight games in a row, but this is the real test going to the Bayou. It’s a short week off of a long week of travel for the Saints, which makes this one awfully dangerous. The Panthers play football a heck of a lot like the Seahawks do, and if Seattle was able to whip up on New Orleans like that, it’s a wonder if Carolina can’t win this game, even as 3.5-point underdogs.
Finally on Monday Night Football, the Dallas Cowboys are a pick ’em on the on the road against the Chicago Bears. This is the game that QB Jay Cutler has targeted as his return from his groin injury. If he does get back in the saddle, it’ll be in a huge spot against Dallas. Not only is this a battle between potential division winners, but it’s also a game which could see the Bears put into a world of hurt. If the Lions upset the Eagles and Chicago loses this game, the NFC North race may as well be over with, and since no one from the NFC East or NFC North figures to challenge for a Wild Card slot, that makes this one all the more pivotal for both clubs. It’s a pick ’em game that could easily go either way.
‘Totals’ this week range from the 54 in the Detroit/Philly game down to the 40.5 on the board for the Jets and Raiders.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.