Friday, February 23, 2024

NFL Week 14 Predictions: 3 Best Picks Against Spread

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Every week during the 2023-24 NFL season, I’ll be sharing my favorite picks against the spread (ATS) and bets for every Sunday slate in my NFL predictions and picks.

For reference, my season-long sides record in this file sits at 28-14 (66.7%) for +12.55 units after last Sunday’s sweep.

For my expert picks against the spread in Week 14, I’m targeting three plays on the Browns, Bears and Seahawks.

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Somehow, I’ll actually be at this game. Every year over the last decade, I visit friends in Cleveland to watch my Baltimore Ravens, who almost always make the trip to the Factory of Sadness in December.

However, for what whatever reason, the schedulemakers put that meeting in September this season. With college football in full swing at that time, I can’t really travel early in the season, so I picked this particular weekend to make the trip.

When I did, I figured I’d see Trevor Lawrence vs. Deshaun Watson in a late-season matchup between teams battling for playoff positioning. Well, the latter held true, but I didn’t expect to see potentially Joe Flacco vs. C.J. Beathard in treacherous weather conditions with heavy wind and rain in the forecast. Fortunately, there’s a stadium bar near our seats broadcasting all of the other games, and I will at least have action on this potentially ugly affair.

I like the Browns against a Jaguars team in a very tough spot. Not only are the Jaguars headed out on the road after a short week following a bad loss on Monday night, but they also suffered a number of important injuries, which make the preparation even more difficult.

I assume the Jags will be without Trevor Lawrence. They also saw left tackle Walker Little, wide receiver Christian Kirk and a number of defensive players go down with injuries on Monday night. Meanwhile, the Browns appear to have a much cleaner bill of health with Denzel Ward expected to return — though Amari Cooper might not suit up with a concussion.

That spells trouble against a Cleveland defense that ranks No. 1 overall in EPA per Play and has been absolutely untouchable at home. Shockingly, the Browns have only allowed a league-low 10.2 points per game at home compared to 30.7 on the road.

Beathard is a serviceable backup who knows the system, but he is completely immobile. This should lead to disaster against the dominant Cleveland pass rush that can also blanket the outside with Ward back.

Without Lawrence, Cleveland’s defense will be the best unit on the field by a mile, which should make all of the difference at home. Ultimately, I just don’t see many paths to success for this Jacksonville offense.

Trending: Kevin Stefanski is 20-18 ATS (52.6%) in non-division games compared to a paltry 8-15 (34.8%) ATS record within the division. Meanwhile, Doug Pederson is just 13-19 ATS (40.6%) in non-division road games.

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First off, this is a pretty good spot for the Bears, who come off a valuable late-season bye week at pretty much full strength. Meanwhile, the Lions hit the highway for a second straight road game, and they will potentially without two key cogs in the trenches in defensive tackle Alim McNeill (IR) and center Frank Ragnow (doubtful).

McNeill, arguably Detroit’s best defensive player this season, will be sorely missed in the middle, while Ragnow’s potential absence would significantly hurt up front, particularly with run blocking.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention the weather. While the forecast doesn’t look as bad as it did earlier in the week, it will still be an outdoor game with freezing cold temperatures and wind. That’s essentially the formula for turning Jared Goff into an absolute pumpkin.

In 2023 alone, Goff has averaged 8.1 yards per attempt with 2.3 touchdowns indoors compared to 6.9 and 1.0 outdoors. During his entire time in Detroit, he has averaged 0.5 yards fewer per attempt outdoors with a touchdown percentage that plummets from 5.3% indoors to 2.8% outdoors.

Additionally, despite the record discrepancy, these teams have been trending in opposite directions in recent weeks, including the most recent meeting in Detroit when the Bears actually led by double digits late in the fourth quarter before completely collapsing.

Just take a look at the discrepancy in defensive metrics since Week 7:

  • EPA per Play: Bears sixth vs. Lions 29th
  • Success Rate: Bears eighth vs. Lions 31st
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Chicago not only added Montez Sweat via trade to increase its ability to generate pressure, but it also got healthier on the back end. With cornerback Jaylon Johnson playing at an All-Pro level on the outside, this defense is significantly improved.

The Detroit defense continues to struggle, especially in the secondary where it routinely blows assignments. Now without McNeil in the middle, the run defense could also take a step back.

Over that same stretch, both offenses rank in the top 10 in Success Rate. Justin Fields has worked on his dropback mechanics in front of an improving (and healthier) offensive line, which has made this unit much more dangerous. I expect Fields to have another decent day at the office against a stop unit that has struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks all season.

Give me the healthier and up-trending Bears at home catching over a field goal against a Lions team showing cracks with a quarterback that has issues playing outdoors.

Trending: Jared Goff has gone a sparkling 30-15 ATS (66.7%) indoors but just 33-32 ATS (50.8%) in all other games. That includes a 1-6 mark against the number in December when the temperature sits below 50 degrees. His teams have averaged 14 points per game in those conditions.

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.

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This is the situational spot of the weekend with the Seahawks checking all of the boxes for a classic buy-low/sell-high opportunity.

Following three straight losses, but with extra time and rest to prepare after playing on Thursday night, Seattle will head to San Francisco to take on a 49ers team that traveled across the country after getting revenge over the Eagles.

To me, we have reached the pinnacle of the market on the 49ers, who have won four straight by double digits. Some oddsmakers have even stated they now have S.F. power rated four-plus points better than every other team in the league.

We’ve seen this story play out countless times just this season alone, including with these same 49ers after they demolished Dallas to improve to 5-0, leading to plenty of undefeated chatter.

Well, San Francisco then lost three straight to the Browns (with P.J. Walker), Vikings and Bengals.

I have San Francisco power rated as the No.1 team in the league as well, but this is still the NFL. No team is usually as good or as bad as they look over a period of a few weeks — except the Jets.

Conversely, we are likely near the bottom of the market on the Seahawks, who have lost three straight games to fall to 6-6 on the season. But two of those defeats came against the 49ers and Cowboys, in addition to a one-point loss against the Rams.

This is just a classic betting spot in the NFL market that has treated me very well over the years. Just take a look at the following two historical trends for added context of selling high on teams nobody wants to fade after a recent successful stretch:

  • Teams laying double digits after four or more consecutive wins have gone just 61-80-1 (43.3%) since 2003.
  • Divisional road ‘dogs of more than 10 points have gone 94-74-3 (56%) ATS over that span.

I know the 49ers rolled the Seahawks in Seattle a few weeks back, but Geno Smith wasn’t fully healthy. Generally speaking, this isn’t the worst schematic matchup for Smith. Plus, the Seahawks will be more likely to make some positive adjustments following that one-sided affair.

This outcome could ultimately decide Seattle’s playoff fate, so I expect a best-effort game in a spot where Pete Carroll generally always has his team ready to roll. I’m holding my nose and jumping in front of the San Francisco freight train.

Trending: Pete Carroll owns a gaudy 50-33-3 (60.2%) ATS mark as an underdog, including 20-12 against divisional foes. Over the last 20 seasons, he’s the second-most profitable coach (among 148) when catching points, trailing only Mike Tomlin. Carroll has also gone a whopping 21-5-1 (80.8%) ATS when his team is on a losing streak of two or more games, covering by 6.7 points per game. That makes him the most-profitable coach in NFL history in this spot.

What is QuickSlip?

QuickSlip is an Action Network feature that allows users to automatically pre-load their bet slip at FanDuel Sportsbook.

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