With a little luck, we might actually get a normal NFL schedule this week. You remember what that’s like, right? One game on Thursday, another on Monday, and the rest come on Sunday.
Not that we haven’t enjoyed Tuesday night or Wednesday afternoon football in recent weeks, but on some level, it just doesn’t feel right. Fortunately, we should be back to normal this week, especially since there are no more bye weeks. That means 16 games every week from here on out, giving us more options to make our picks.
Speaking of our picks, we’re feeling the pressure to really crush it down the stretch, so here are our best bets for Week 14.
New England Patriots +5 at Los Angeles Rams
They haven’t always been convincing or aesthetically-pleasing to watch, but the Patriots are finding ways to win games. Bill Belichick’s team has emerged victorious in four of their last five, including wins over the Ravens and Cardinals, so we know that the Patriots can beat good teams. Plus, a 45-0 shellacking of the Chargers last week was no doubt a huge boost in confidence, especially with the Patriots staying in Los Angeles and playing at the same stadium Thursday night.
In fairness, the Rams have won three of their last four games and are trending upward. They have an offense that can be dangerous when Jared Goff plays well and a defense that can make things difficult for teams. But the Pats have been good defensively for most of the year, especially over the last month.
New England has also discovered a winning formula with their rushing attack. If Cam Newton has to throw the ball a lot, they’re probably in trouble, but the New England rushing attack should be enough to keep them in the game and force a close, low-scoring game.
In that sense, we like the Patriots to at least beat the five-point spread.
Houston Texans -1 at Chicago Bears
Early in the season, we would have jumped at the chance to take the Bears as home underdogs. But losing six games in a row has obviously changed our perception of Matt Nagy’s squad. Even the vaunted Chicago defense has folded in recent weeks. In fairness, the turnovers from the Bears' offense haven’t helped, although that’s not necessarily something that’s going to change moving forward.
If the Bears can’t rely on their defense, they have a narrow path to victory in this game.
Despite problems with the Texans' offensive line, Deshaun Watson has had a fine season and is still capable of creating big plays in the passing game. Whether it’s Mitch Trubisky or Nick Foles at quarterback, the Bears don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up in a track meet with Watson and the Texans.
Granted, Houston’s receiving corps is a little depleted, but David Johnson’s return from injury should provide a boost and give the Texans a little more balance.
Even in a close game, we have a lot more faith in Watson to make winning plays late than Trubisky or Foles, which should allow Houston to pull this one out by at least a field goal.
Jacksonville Jaguars +7.5 vs Tennessee Titans
We don’t like the Jaguars enough to take the moneyline, but Jacksonville isn’t giving up on the season. Four of the team’s last five losses have come by four points or less. Only the mighty Steelers were able to beat the Jags by a wider margin during that span.
In recent weeks, James Robinson has continued to give Jacksonville a productive rushing attack while Mike Glennon has been adequate at quarterback. In those four close losses, the Jags have scored at least 20 points, so it won’t be easy for Tennessee to cover more than a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the Titans have been too up and down in recent weeks, especially on defense. They have given up 29.5 points per game over their last eight games, losing to the Bengals at one point and conceding 41 points to the Browns last week.
Admittedly, the Titans are going to score points in this game and ride Derrick Henry for as long as possible. But if both teams are focused on the run, the game will be short, giving the Titans fewer opportunities to pull away. Plus, this is a rivalry game that the Titans won 33-30 in Week 2. The Jaguars are still playing hard and will want to win this game, which is why we think they’ll keep it within a touchdown.
New Orleans Saints -7.5 at Philadelphia Eagles
Does anyone think that Jalen Hurts replacing Carson Wentz is going to change Philadelphia’s fortunes? Yes, he’s a little more mobile and will be able to run away from the pressure that will eventually come behind a dreadful offensive line. But that just means Hurts will lose fewer yards on the sacks the Eagles give up.
The Eagles are asking an inexperienced quarterback to face constant pressure, which isn’t a winning formula. Running back Miles Sanders has become a non-factor in recent weeks because of Philadelphia’s offensive woes, and that won’t suddenly change with a new quarterback.
On the other side, there’s no stopping the Saints right now. They’ve won nine in a row, with four of their last five wins coming by more than a touchdown, like a lot more.
The New Orleans offense is functioning just fine under Taysom Hill, especially with Michael Thomas coming alive. Defensively, the Eagles deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there while the offense produces nothing. But you could sense them starting to crack last week in Green Bay, giving up over 400 yards of offense.
It won’t get any easier against the Saints, so we’ll take our chances with the Saints covering a touchdown and winning by multiple scores.
Washington Football Team +3.5 at San Francisco 49ers
Seriously, where is the respect for Washington? We’ll admit to being as skeptical at first, but Ron Rivera’s team has won three games in a row. That includes a dominating Thanksgiving Day performance in Dallas and last week’s win over the previously unbeaten Steelers.
Even with no running game, Alex Smith threw for nearly 300 yards against the Pittsburgh defense. Yet, Washington is somehow an underdog on a neutral field against a team that’s lost four of their last five and is also coming off a short week.
Nothing about this betting line adds up? Smith clearly gives Washington the better quarterback in the game over San Francisco’s Nick Mullens. The numbers also say that Washington has the better defense. To be fair, the 49ers have spent their last five games playing some of the best offensive teams in the league. However, the 49ers still have an injury-riddled defense and a quarterback who’s thrown six interceptions in his last four games.
Meanwhile, Washington is confident and motivated now that a division title is a realistic possibility. We agree that the game will be close, but we’ll gladly take a chance on Washington as the underdog.
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