NFL Picks Week #14 (2020 regular season)
NFL PICKS (WEEK #14)
BY PROFESSOR MJ
Written Thursday December 10th, 2020 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time (spreads/odds may have changed)
We experienced a 4th straight positive week by going 3-2 against the spread (ATS) last week.
It’s time to update my ATS record, as a function of the star rating, for the NFL 2020 season:
- 5 STARS: 3-2 record
- 4 STARS: 7-3-1 record
- 3 STARS: 10-11-1 record
- 2 STARS: 3-6-1 record
- 1 STAR: 7-3 record
- OVERALL: 30-25-3 record (a 55% win rate)
The 4- and 5-star picks have yielded a promising 10-5-1 ATS record.
Also worth noting is that the leans have gone 6-1 over the past two weeks.
PICK #1 (5 STARS): TENNESSEE TITANS -7 AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
Most bookies currently have a spread of 7.5, but I was still able to grab Tennessee as 7-point favorites with one sportsbook (even though it meant lower odds).
Some of you will be surprised that I’m going against a betting strategy that I’ve talked about often this season, and that has been very lucrative to us: bet the Titans as underdogs, but fade them as favorites. They are an inconsistent squad, which means they find a way to beat great teams, but they are susceptible to losing to weak ones.
I’m going to make an exception because I do believe they are ready to crush the Jags. Clearly, Tennessee needs this game so much more than Jacksonville does. I admire how the Jags have fought hard and kept games close, but they must be discouraged from holding a 1-11 record. I expect Mike Glennon and company to completely collapse this weekend.
Jacksonville’s offense has been surprisingly good on the ground, but that’s the facet of the game where Tennessee’s defense has been the best at. The Titans struggle defending the pass, but Mike Glennon won’t light them up.
Meanwhile, the Jags pass defense is abysmal. They have allowed the most net yards per attempt this season, there is no pass rush to support them (just 15 sacks in 12 games), and they have been decimated with injuries with poor replacement players.
Things aren’t that much brighter when it comes to stopping the run for Jacksonville. Over the last three games, they have surrendered an average of 5.1 yards per carry!
So, even though Tennessee holds a 2-6-1 ATS record in Jacksonville recently and the Jags will try to get revenge from an earlier loss to the Titans, I still expect Mike Vrabel’s team to pulverize Jacksonville.
PICK #2 (4 STARS): INDIANAPOLIS COLTS -2.5 AT LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
The line just keeps shifting towards Indy and some sportsbooks now even have a spread of 3. I jumped on the Colts as 2.5-point favorites.
Let’s get rid of my worries first. Indianapolis will be traveling through three time zones to play this game. Also, left tackle Anthony Castonzo seems on the wrong side of questionable and his backup is out, so Philip Rivers’ blindside could end up being protected by the team’s third string left tackle.
Other than that, I like Indy in this spot. The Raiders have had ups-and-downs thus far this season, but it’s been more “down” than “up” recently. They should have lost to the lowly Jets last week and they got hammered by the Falcons the week before. I feel like the season is slipping away from Vegas.
The Raiders’ run defense improved towards mid-season, but it is back to being pretty weak. They hit rock-bottom last week after allowing 178 yards on 30 rushes to career reserves from the Jets. There is not much run-stuffing talent in their front seven, and things won’t end well against a solid Colts offensive line.
Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs seems unlikely to suit up due to an ankle injury. His backup Devontae Booker flopped as the starter against the Jets last week, and he is now about to face a run defense that has not allowed more than 75 yards on the ground to any running back this year, except to the beast Derrick Henry. DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry were absent during this meeting with the Titans, but they are back to stuff the line of scrimmage.
The Raiders’ secondary has four starters listed as questionable: cornerbacks Damon Arnette and Nevin Lawson, as well as safeties Johnathan Abram and Jeff Heath. Ouch!
For all of these reasons, I like the Colts to run away with the victory in sin city.
PICK #3 (4 STARS): CLEVELAND BROWNS +2.5 VS BALTIMORE RAVENS
It’s payback time! After getting humiliated 38-to-6 in the season opener, the Browns will be looking to get the best of the Ravens this time.
I also love the fact that Baltimore’s routine has been altered quite a bit after playing a game last Tuesday, which is highly unusual. They are going to lose two days of rest and preparation because of this.
I like how the Browns match up with the Ravens. First, Cleveland’s offense relies a lot on their running game, which happens to be Baltimore’s weakness on defense. Indeed, the Ravens rank 18th in the league in terms of yards allowed per carry.
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Ravens offense needs it ground game to be productive since Lamar Jackson has been very inconsistent as a passer this year. Well, guess what is Cleveland’s strength on defense? That’s right, stopping the run.
The Browns’ pass defense is suspect, but so are Lamar Jackson and his receivers. And Cleveland has a chance to get cornerback Denzel Ward back on the field.
The only thing I don’t like about this pick are the historical trends. There are many statistics going against Cleveland. Let me mention a few:
The Ravens are 9-2-1 ATS over their last 12 meetings in Cleveland;
The Ravens are 11-5 ATS on Monday Night Football versus 1-4 for the Browns;
The Browns have beaten the spread just once over their past 12 matches at home against a team with a winning record.
Despite those scary numbers, I’m still putting my money on the Browns +2.5.
PICK #4 (2 STARS): OVER 47 JETS-SEAHAWKS
If you add up all points scored and allowed by both teams this year, you end up with an average of 50.3 points per game. Most of the time, the line will be pretty close to this number, unless there is a significant injury. In this case, the total is a good three points below, even though the Jets played a few games with their backup QB.
However, my main argument regarding this prediction pertains to how I see this game unfolding. Both defenses are pretty stout against the run: the Jets and the Seahawks rank 3rd and 7th in terms of yards allowed per rush, respectively.
What this means is both teams are likely to throw often, which is good for the over since the clock stops on incompletions. I am aware that Russell Wilson had an off day against the Giants last week, but he is now facing what is probably the weakest pass defense in the NFL by far. To top it all off, safety Ashtyn Davis is listed as doubtful, while the other starting safety Marcus Maye is questionable (he may be the only bright spot in the secondary, so if he misses the game it will be a huge blow for New York).
Since Seattle is projected to light up the scoreboard, that will force Sam Darnold to throw often. He should be fine scoring a few points against a bad Seahawks pass defense.
PICK #5 (1 STAR): CHICAGO BEARS +1 VS HOUSTON TEXANS
The latest weather reports are projecting a pretty cold and windy Sunday afternoon. Houston prefers to play in the comfort of NRG Stadium. If wind is indeed a factor, that would be a huge advantage for the Bears, who prefer to keep the ball on the ground while the Texans love to air it out.
Houston has a 1-5-1 ATS record in their last seven matchups on grass, and a mediocre 4-12-2 ATS record in December.
As for the Bears, they have beaten the spread on 13 of their last 19 games as home underdogs.
Chicago has not had to travel very much lately. Indeed, they went on the road just once over the past five weeks, and the lone trip was in Green Bay, which isn’t very far.
Running back David Montgomery has now posted two good games in a row. He has a shot for a third straight solid game, considering only Dallas has allowed more yards on the ground this year.
I’m banking on Da Bears to pull off the mild upset.
PICK #6 (1 STAR): UNDER 50.5 CHIEFS-DOLPHINS
The Chiefs and the Dolphins rank 5th and 3rd in terms of passer rating allowed this season. In other words, both teams’ pass defense has been very solid.
Things aren’t as pretty on the ground, as shown by their 30th and 24th spot in yards allowed per carry.
In light of these numbers, it seems pretty clear that both teams are likely to try to exploit weak run defenses. When betting the under, that’s great news because it runs out the clock more quickly.
The “under” has hit the last five times Kansas City took the road against a team with a winning record. When focusing on Miami, the “under” is 7-3 the last 10 times the Dolphins hosted a team with a winning record.
For entertainment purposes, here are some leans for you:
- LEAN #1: Bengals +3.5 vs Cowboys (Dallas is losing two days of rest after playing last Tuesday, Cincy is 4-1 ATS as home underdogs and I believe it’s best to take the 3.5 points in a battle of struggling teams);
- LEAN #2: Packers -7.5 at Lions (Green Bay has not had much success against the Lions recently, as evidenced by their 1-6 ATS record over the last seven meetings. Still, the Pack are 7-2 on fieldturf and they usually don’t let their foot off the gas once they get the lead);
- LEAN #3: Chargers +2.5 vs Falcons (Justin Herbert was shut down by Bill Belichick last week, but he gets a much easier test against a weak Falcons pass defense that has allowed 300+ passing yards in all games except the last three. However, two of them were against Taysom Hill, who prefers to run with the ball).
Can we get a positive record for a 5th consecutive week, which coincides with the moment I got my puppy Golden Retriever named Cooper? We are about to find out!
(Sports Betting Expert / University Professor / PhD in statistics)