NFL Picks Week #14



University Professor. PhD in stats. Proud dad of 2 boys.




Hi football fans, I’m happy to be back to present my NFL picks for the week. There are only 4 weeks left in the regular season, it seems like it began not so long ago, time flies by so quickly! Our season record stands at 27-20-2 for a 57.4% success rate. I’m really aiming at getting over 60% before the season ends; it’s not going to be easy, but let’s give it a shot.

I’ve got two picks and two leans (unofficial picks) this week. Enjoy the read!

PICK #1: Carolina Panthers +3 vs Minnesota Vikings

I have picked the Vikings on a few occasions this year, but this time I am fading them. I don’t like how this is going to be their third straight game on the road, and also their fourth over the past five weeks. That’s a lot of traveling in a short period of time. You may argue that the Panthers are coming off a couple of road games, but that’s not as bad, especially considering they had spent their previous three weeks at home.

These two teams met in 2016 with Minnesota coming on top by a 22 to 10 score in Charlotte. Cam Newton threw three interceptions in that game, and he will certainly be looking for payback.

I also feel like Carolina will be hungrier to win that game. Sure, the Vikings are playing for home-field advantage but they have all but locked up the NFC North title already, while the Panthers are literally playing for their lives. They are one game back of the division lead, and one game ahead of the Falcons who are chasing them for the last playoff spot. They NEED this game.

I also like betting a strong team that is coming off a loss, which is the case here since Carolina dropped a 31-21 decision against the Saints last week. Meanwhile, the Vikings are cruising on an 8-game winning streak, which might inflate the line in their favor a little too much because of the public perception. They are a strong team, I’m not disputing that; but are they that much superior to the Panthers to warrant being a 3-point favorite on the road? That means Minnesota would be favored by 8 or 9 points at home against Carolina, which seems too big for me. Well, that’s my personal opinion; you may or may not agree with that statement.

By the way, the Panthers are very likely to welcome tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil back from injuries this week. I’m taking the Panthers in this game.

PICK #2: Baltimore Ravens +5.5 at Pittsburgh Steelers

The vast majority of sportsbooks are posting a line of 5, but Sports Interaction still has 5.5. I like quite a few things about this play.

  • Earlier this year, the Steelers rolled to a 26-9 victory in Baltimore. The Ravens turned the ball over three times in that game, which certainly did not help. The revenge factor is on their side.
  • Much like my first pick, the desperation level is higher for a team fighting for its playoff hopes as opposed to a team who is pretty much guaranteed to reach the postseason but still playing for home-field advantage. Baltimore holds the last playoff spot and they have been playing much better of late, racking up four wins over their past five contests (where the only loss during that stretch was a close 23-20 loss to the Titans).
  • Here is a fact that will probably surprise you quite a bit: Baltimore has a better point differential that Pittsburgh this year. Indeed, the Ravens are +73 versus +68 for the Steelers, even though Pittsburgh has three additional wins. And that’s despite the fact that Baltimore lost by 37 points against Jacksonville on week 3! That’s amazing! One of the reasons explaining this weird phenomenon is Pittsburgh having won six games by six points or less. In other words, only four times out of 12 games they have beaten their opponents by more than six points. That makes me more comfortable betting an above-average team with a +5.5 point spread against them.
  • To me, the number one reason to lay the Steelers this week is how they probably won’t show up in top form. Not only are they coming off a Monday Nighter, which amounts to one less day of preparation, but that game in Cincinnati was extremely rough and physical. There were many personal fouls and injuries, including a couple of scary ones to Ryan Shazier and Vontaze Burfict. All NFL games are tough, but this one was up a notch. The Steelers will be more banged up than usual, and might letdown a little bit after such an emotional game (even though they are always ready to take on the Ravens). They might also look ahead to a critical game against the Patriots next week, a match that may settle who is going to hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in the AFC conference.

LEAN #1: Atlanta Falcons +2 vs New Orleans Saints

As I said earlier, I tend to expect good teams to rebound after suffering a loss. After a slow start to the 2017 season, Atlanta has woken up and I consider them a dangerous team. After losing 14-9 against the Vikings, I believe they will come out firing on all cylinders at home on primetime television. Meanwhile, the Saints are coming off a key win over the Panthers and may not feel like they absolutely need this game like the Falcons do.

I expected the line to favor the Falcons a little bit, and that’s how it opened, but they are now slight underdogs.

LEAN #2: Denver Broncos +1 vs New York Jets

A couple of months ago, you would not have believed me if I had told you that the Jets would be established as favorites in Denver. However, New York has been playing better than expected, while Denver is completely collapsing following a 3-1 start after dropping 8 straight games. Last week’s performance was really bad, as they lost 35-9 to the Dolphins. These guys are professionals, and pride will take over for sure. I do believe they will put a good effort in order to halt their worst skid in 50 years. They even allowed a successful onside kick in the fourth quarter as Miami was already up 33-9. See for yourself:


Meanwhile, the Jets won’t feel as desperate to win after making a nice comeback to overcome a 14-point deficit against the Chiefs last week. They will also be traveling through two time zones, and we all know about the thin air in Denver which requires some adjustments for visiting teams. Despite their poor 3-9 overall record, the Broncos are still 3-3 at home.

Another potential play?

If you believe in reverse line moves, then one game is really standing out this week. About 75% of spread and money line bets have gone on Green Bay so far, and yet the spread moved from Browns +4 points to Browns +3.5 or even +3 points with certain bookies. Sharp money is without a doubt backing Cleveland in this game. I just thought I would let you know.

My advice would be to either bet the Browns or stay away from the game. Cleveland is 3-9 against the spread this season and many people, including me, have been burned by them so it’s hard to feel super confident anytime you are betting this club. But if you are considering backing them this week, I would not call you crazy at all.

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This is Professor MJ from Quebec City in Canada, it was good talking to you and I hope you’ll be back next week for more free NFL picks. Thanks and have a great day, see ya!