2017 NFL Picks Week 14: Geno's Gone, but The Giants Weren't Good Before
A promising start disintegrated into a mediocre 6-6 finish as the Texans allowed a game-sealing 75-yard touchdown run, the Raiders gave up a garbage time cover-blowing field goal, and the Bears were beaten by their former kicker. An average week keeps us above .500 for the year, but the goal is beat the break-even point of 52.5%. We're off to a bad start this week thanks to some lousy kicking and decision-making by New Orleans, but we still have nine games to go. Let's get to it!
New Orleans Saints EVEN at Atlanta Falcons
Alvin Kamara leaves the game early, a would-be pick-six is thwarted by cyborg Julio Jones before Wil Lutz misses an easy field goal, and the Saints throw a pick in the end zone down in the last minute down three. I'm not going to feel too bad about this one.
Philadelphia Eagles +2 at Los Angeles Rams
The Eagles' loss to the Seahawks last week was closer than the final score would suggest; a fumble at the opponent's 1-yard line will do that. The Rams are the best team in the league by DVOA and the Eagles are second-best, and the biggest gap comes in special teams. With two teams this good, I'd be tempted to take whoever is getting points. Factoring in the Rams' odd home field disadvantage makes the choice even simpler. Philadelphia's defensive front will cause just enough problems for Jared Goff and co. to come away with a win.
Dallas Cowboys -3.5 at New York Giants
Eli Manning gets benched for seemingly no reason, and Geno Smith manages a backdoor cover against a crummy Raiders team. Eli Manning gets the starting job back for seemingly no reason, and Vegas decides they're within a field goal of the Cowboys? This line seems fishy to me, but with Sean Lee returning from injury, it's hard to picture the Giants putting up much of a fight. Dallas won the Week 1 matchup between these teams 19-3. Since then, the Giants have gone 2-9 while the Cowboys have stayed in the playoff hunt. 3.5 points is not enough.
Seattle Seahawks +3 at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Seahawks are 9th in total DVOA and the Jaguars are 8th. Jacksonville has the most intimidating defense in the NFL, and Seattle has no offensive line or healthy running back I can name. But this is the NFL, where the quarterback position determines more of a team's success than any single position in any other team sport, and Russell Wilson is getting three points against Blake Bortles. Take Russ and the points.
Green Bay Packers -3 at Cleveland Browns
In case you really haven't been paying attention, the Browns are vying for just the second 0-16 season in NFL history. The Packers are lurking with Aaron Rodgers eligible to return next week, and even though Brett Hundley is clearly not an NFL quarterback, their middling defense and strong run game have caused problems for legitimate NFL competition. Cleveland doesn't even qualify as legitimate NFL competition, and their best showing(s) of the season have been 3-point losses to the Steelers, Titans, Colts, and Jets. The ceiling of the 2017 Browns is a 3-point loss, so I'm comfortable giving three points to anyone. I still hate the Packers, though.
Arizona Cardinals +3 vs. Tennessee Titans
I had the misfortune of watching the Tennessee Titans pull out a miracle cover last week against Tom Savage, and the conclusion I came to is that the Titans are awful. Somehow they're 8-4 and tied atop the AFC South because nothing outside of the Patriots' dominance makes sense in the AFC this year, but don't be fooled: DVOA ranks them 20th overall and their only two road wins of the year came against Blake Bortles and the Colts. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Blaine Gabbert has looked firmly "meh" for the Cardinals, which, coupled with their 6th-ranked defense, should be enough to keep them competitive against Tennessee. I'd take the Cards to win outright.
New England Patriots -11.5 at Miami Dolphins
Another year, another 10-2 start for the Patriots. Their dominance is occasionally boring, but they've won their last six games by an average of 18.7 points, including a 35-17 win over Miami just two weeks ago. Has anything changed since then to suggest the Dolphins should keep it close with a change in scenery? Noooooooope!
Carolina Panthers +3 vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings are a legitimately excellent team and I'm officially a Case Keenum believer. This is their third consecutive road game, though, and they're coming off a hard-fought win in Atlanta. I think the healthy Panthers defense (7th in DVOA) will make this an ugly, low-scoring affair, and Cam Newton will do just enough to come away with a much-needed victory at home.
New York Jets -1.5 at Denver Broncos
After an embarrassing loss to the 31st-ranked Miami Dolphins last week, the Broncos are firmly in last place in DVOA. It's hard to trace exactly what's happened to a team who we thought had the floor of a 6-10 or 7-9 season, but luckily we don't have to. All we have to do is take a surprisingly mediocre Jets team and a small line on the road. What could go wrong?
Washington Redskins +6 at Los Angeles Chargers
It doesn't feel like it, but a Washington win would give them the same record as the second Los Angeles team. I've had a lot of fun watching the Chargers gain ground on the dysfunctional Chiefs over the past six weeks, but Washington is feisty. Kirk Cousins needs to lock up a third consecutive franchise tag, and the Chargers need to disappoint their fans in heartbreaking ways. What better way to accomplish both than an upset with Washington fans packing the Chargers' tiny stadium?
That's all for this week! Kick back, grab a drink, and feel free to blame me if you put money on these picks and come out behind. I won't compensate you, but maybe your significant others will send their wrath in my direction instead of yours.