2016 NFL Picks: Week 14
Last Week: 5-5
- Oakland Raiders +3 at Kansas City Chiefs
- Pittsburgh Steelers -2 at Buffalo Bills
- Washington Redskins -1 at Philadelphia Eagles
- Atlanta Falcons -6 at Los Angeles Rams
- Seattle Seahawks -3 at Green Bay Packers
- New Orleans Saints +3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Dallas Cowboys -3 at New York Giants
- Baltimore Ravens +7.5 at New England Patriots
We've picked nineteen games in the last two weeks, and their combined record was 9-9-1. If I keep conveying such a strong predilection for mediocrity, I should get a contract from the Rams any day now! Until then, it would be nice if our picks rebounded in a way suggestive of some level of skill from yours truly. On one hand, I feel a lot better about this week's picks than last week's; on the other, I'm picking an Eagles game, and they really don't like me.
There are only four weeks left in the regular season, which means many of these games have serious playoff implications. In the words of Cotton McKnight, "it's time to separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the awkwardly feminine from the possibly Canadian." To the picks!
Oakland Raiders +3 at Kansas City Chiefs
I picked this matchup incorrectly back in week 6 when the Chiefs went into Oakland and won 26-10. Since then, the Raiders are 6-0 and the Chiefs are 6-1. Much of Kansas City's success is a result of their opportunistic defense (Eric Berry seems to be taking every interception to the house lately, regardless of how many points it's worth), but I'm skeptical they can keep it up against Oakland. The Raiders have only given the ball away nine times (nine times) in twelve games this season, and if they don't help the Chiefs score that way, the burden will fall fully on Alex Smith's shoulders. If Oakland can get to 27 points as they have in all but two games this season, I don't think Kansas City can keep up.
Watching this game was a major bummer, especially when Amari Cooper lost track of the potential spread-covering touchdown. Ouch.
Pittsburgh Steelers -2 at Buffalo Bills
Last week, the Bills went into Oakland and ran all over the Raiders, racking up 212 yards on 30 carries. Fortunately for me, they also lost by 14 points. Pittsburgh's offense is nearly as scary as Oakland's, but they quietly boast the NFL's 8th-best defense by DVOA. Buffalo, meanwhile, runs the ball well and rushes the passer well, but struggles to throw the ball or protect Tyrod Taylor. Hmm...there might be a connection there. In the playoff picture, the Steelers need to win to stay even with Baltimore, and the Bills need to lose to continue a long tradition of disappointing their fans in excruciating ways. Then again, Donald Trump is our next president and the Cubs won the World Series. 2016, y'all!
Washington Redskins -1 at Philadelphia Eagles
Hello there, Philadelphia! I thought my relationship with you wouldn't get worse than being mugged by members of your police force, but I was wrong. That day we only lost the money in our wallets (we did offer to go to the ATM), but this season you've been even less kind to me. Had I wagered $20 on each of the games I've picked involving you, I'd be $140 in the hole! Fortunately, it seems any remaining passengers on the Wentz Wagon have surely died of dysentery by now, as the Eagles have failed to top 15 points in their last three games. Washington comes to town with the 6th-ranked offense by DVOA and at least 20 points in each of their last five games. Captain Kirk: you may have burned me in the closing moments last week, but I haven't given up on you yet!
Atlanta Falcons -6 at Los Angeles Rams
I think the Rams might have given up on this season, and I can't blame them. Put yourself in their shoes: your front office re-signs eighth-overall pick Tavon Austin to a four-year $42M contract before the season and gets him a whopping five touches per game. Your coach refuses to bench Case Keenum for first-overall draft pick Jared Goff until week 11, then receives a contract extension hours before losing to New England to ensure another .500 or worse season. Your defense holds opponents to 17, 13, 9, and 14 points in one four-week stretch, but your record in those games is 1-3. The Rams just aren't good, no matter who is taking snaps. At least Bill Belichick is a big fan of their punter?
Seattle Seahawks -3 at Green Bay Packers
There's a lot of recent history between these two teams, and it has produced some memorable moments. In 2012 we had the Fail Mary, possibly the nadir of the NFL's replacement referee experiment. In January 2015, the Packers seemed well on their way to avenging an early-season 36-16 beatdown when they collapsed in spectacular fashion, giving up a 12 point lead despite having possession with only five minutes left. The Packers have won the last two meetings in Green Bay, but this isn't the same Packers team. Green Bay's offense ranks 9th in DVOA, their defense ranks 18th, and their special teams rank 20th. Seattle has the league's 13th-ranked offense, 5th-ranked defense, and 11th-ranked special teams. My biggest concern is that the Packers need a couple of wins to set up a week 17 ruination of the Lions' playoff hopes. LIONS!
New Orleans Saints +3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite recent wins over the Seahawks, Chargers, and Chiefs, I'm not sold on Tampa Bay's ability to consistently perform. New Orleans has won its last four games in Tampa Bay, and eight of their last nine against the Buccaneers overall. I'll take Drew Brees and the points, please.
Dallas Cowboys -3 at New York Giants
The Cowboys have only lost one game this season, by one point to these New York Giants in week 1. That was Dak Prescott's first regular season game, and it's safe to say things have improved in Dallas since. Coming into this game, the Cowboys are ranked 2nd in offensive DVOA and total DVOA. They also have the 9th-ranked special teams unit. The Giants rank 19th in offense and 7th in defense, but I expect them to struggle more than the Vikings did last Thursday. Unless Odell Beckham Jr. can torch this secondary single-handedly, the Cowboys should roll.
Baltimore Ravens +7.5 at New England Patriots
Eight of the last nine games between these teams have ended in a Baltimore win or a loss by less than seven points. On top of that, Baltimore has one of the best defenses in the NFL and the Patriots are without Rob Gronkowski. The Ravens might be terrible at scoring points, but New England ranks a middling 19th in defensive DVOA. The Patriots will probably win the game, but it's hard to imagine them blowing out Baltimore without Gronk. Besides, isn't it always fun to root against the Pats?