Beating the Book: Broncos Win AFC West Battle, Niners Stay Hot + Full NFL Week 14 ATS Picks and Predictions

Beating the Book: Broncos Win AFC West Battle, Niners Stay Hot + Full NFL Week 14 ATS Picks and Predictions

This article is part of our Beating the Book series.

Welcome to the Week 14 edition of Beating the Book!

We're coming off of a bit of a disappointing week bookended by painful misses on the Cowboys and Jags to each cover big numbers.

As readers of this article know, I am, in fact, a Jaguars fan, so suffice it to say it's been a difficult last couple of days at the Whalen household. Midway through the third quarter Monday night, my already-lifeless body slid from the recliner to the floor, where I remained for at least an hour after the conclusion of overtime.

The good news is Trevor Lawrence's ankle looks to be intact. The bad news is the Jags will likely start C.J. Beathard against Cleveland this week, they lost Christian Kirk for the season, and Lawrence's early exit was perhaps the third-biggest reason they lost that game. More on the Jags later.

As we move into Week 14, we've finally hit the final byes of the year. Washington and Arizona will get the week off, but the rest of the way we'll have full, 16-game slates. Looking at the board, our two double-digit favorites are the Dolphins (-13.0 vs. TEN) and the 49ers (-10.5 vs. SEA), who are each coming off of their latest one-sided romps in Week 13.

Baltimore (-7.0 vs. LAR) and Green Bay (-6.5 at NYG) are other notable favorites, while the Mitch Trubisky-led Steelers are giving 6.0 points to the Pats in what's shaping up to be our Thursday Night Football

Welcome to the Week 14 edition of Beating the Book!

We're coming off of a bit of a disappointing week bookended by painful misses on the Cowboys and Jags to each cover big numbers.

As readers of this article know, I am, in fact, a Jaguars fan, so suffice it to say it's been a difficult last couple of days at the Whalen household. Midway through the third quarter Monday night, my already-lifeless body slid from the recliner to the floor, where I remained for at least an hour after the conclusion of overtime.

The good news is Trevor Lawrence's ankle looks to be intact. The bad news is the Jags will likely start C.J. Beathard against Cleveland this week, they lost Christian Kirk for the season, and Lawrence's early exit was perhaps the third-biggest reason they lost that game. More on the Jags later.

As we move into Week 14, we've finally hit the final byes of the year. Washington and Arizona will get the week off, but the rest of the way we'll have full, 16-game slates. Looking at the board, our two double-digit favorites are the Dolphins (-13.0 vs. TEN) and the 49ers (-10.5 vs. SEA), who are each coming off of their latest one-sided romps in Week 13.

Baltimore (-7.0 vs. LAR) and Green Bay (-6.5 at NYG) are other notable favorites, while the Mitch Trubisky-led Steelers are giving 6.0 points to the Pats in what's shaping up to be our Thursday Night Football magnum opus.

You can find my thoughts on that game, as well as the entire Week 14 slate, below. As is the case every week throughout the regular season, we'll start with Thursday and go game-by-game, picking each contest against the spread. Our best bet will always be highlighted in gold.

Last week: 6-7 ATS; 10-3 SU; best bet won (MIA -9.5)

On the season: 92-96-5 ATS, 120-73 SU; 9-4 best bet

Best calls of Week 13:

  • On paper, the Chargers should have enough to get the job done against a free-falling team like the Pats, but I can assure you it will not be comfortable in any way, shape or form.
  • On one hand, it would be very Commanders-like to randomly find a way to hang around in this game, but I can't quite get there based on what we've seen from Washington of late. Give me Miami to approach a 40-point day and win big.

Worst calls of Week 13:

  • Going from facing the Chargers and Lions to an elite Chiefs defense is a big step-up in competition. I like Green Bay to hit a few big plays and hang around, but this should be a good spot for the KC defense to keep Love in check.
  • I don't expect the Jaguars to make it easy on themselves, but they have enough offensive firepower to beat a limited quarterback and a shaky defense by two scores at home.

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Thursday Night Football

New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.0)

Seahawks-Cowboys gave us perhaps the TNF game of the year a week ago. This time around, we are not so lucky. Pittsburgh limps into this game coming off of an embarrassing blowout loss to the Cardinals at home, while the Pats continue to sink increasingly lower each week.

The one thing New England can do is stop the run – they've allowed 85 or fewer rushing yards in six of their last seven games, including just 29 to the Chargers last week. That means the Steelers may have to pin their hopes on Mitch Trubisky, which is a devastating sentence to both write and read.

Playing at home, I think Pittsburgh can avoid a second consecutive disaster, but this is going to be a struggle-filled matchup for both sides. Steelers win, but New England finds a way to cover. I also lean U30.0, for what it's worth. Over the last three weeks, 39 total points – as in, both teams combined – have been scored in Patriots games.

The pick: Steelers 7 – Patriots 3

Sunday Early Games

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-2.5)

At this point, pretty much any NFL South game feels like a complete toss-up – especially if we're picking against the number. I remain steadfast in my belief that the Falcons cannot be trusted, but they've strung together two straight wins following a three-game losing streak. With Carolina, Indy, Chicago and New Orleans remaining on the schedule, this is a massive opportunity for the Falcons to open up a two-game lead over Tampa and sweep the season series.

Meanwhile, the Bucs took care of business last week against Carolina, but it wasn't overly convincing. It was also just the Bucs' second win since Week 4. On a more positive note, Tampa has been able to get its running game going – relatively speaking, of course – over the last two weeks. If that continues, I like the Bucs to win a close game outright.

The pick: Buccaneers 21 – Falcons 20

Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens (-7.0)

The Rams have resurrected their way back into the NFC playoff mix with three straight wins over Seattle, Arizona and Cleveland. The last two weeks, LA has piled up over 850 yards of total offense, including 399 through the air on an excellent Browns unit.

While Matthew Stafford, Puka Nacua and Kyren Williams have found a groove, I'm not sure it can continue against a Ravens team coming out of a bye. Baltimore isn't bulletproof, but the Ravens should be able to win the line of scrimmage and put an average-at-best Rams rushing defense to the test.

The pick: Ravens 27 - Rams 17

Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (+3.0)

Technically, the Lions bounced back from an ugly Thanksgiving Day loss to the Packers, but they nearly blew a three-score lead in New Orleans after jumping out to an early 24-3 advantage. Defense has become a liability for Detroit, which has allowed 38, 26, 29 and 28 points since coming out of its Week 9 bye. During that stretch, the Lions have allowed three 100-yard rushing games – something they did only once in their first eight games.

The good news for Detroit is the offense is averaging nearly 32 points per game since the bye and has rushed for at least 140 yards in four of the last five games. The Bears' defense excels at stopping the ground game, but they rank 30th in EPA against the pass and 29th in completion percentage allowed (68.4%).

Much like they did three weeks ago, I like the Bears to hang around and make this a fun, back-and-forth game. But Chicago can't depend on the Lions turning the ball over four times again. 

The pick: Lions 31 – Bears 27

Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals (+1.0)

The Bengals' Super Bowl ceiling may not longer be intact, but suddenly the door is, at the very least, cracked open as far as a Wild Card spot in the AFC is concerned. Jake Browning played the game of his life Monday night in Jacksonville, proving that the Bengals don't need to game-manage him and simply run out the clock on the season.

The Colts are the first of three beatable opponents (Minnesota, Pittsburgh) over the next three weeks for Cincinnati. Indy has the freewheeling style to hang in with just about anyone, but White Jameis Gardner Minshew is also more than capable of holding this offense back with ill-timed turnovers and downright "what the hell was that, man?" plays (Note: I couldn't find the clip of Minshew nearly throwing a pick on a screen pass deep in his own territory with under a minute left last week).

If Browning can carry over any momentum from Monday night, I like the Bengals to win a close game at home. Perhaps the bigger question is whether Cincinnati's suspect run defense can show up again after mostly shutting down Travis Etienne.

The pick: Bengals 24 – Colts 23

Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns (-3.0)

Monday night was supposed to be an official coming-out party for the Jags in their first MNF appearance since 2011. Rather than grabbing hold of the ultra-valuable No. 1 seed in the AFC, the Jags' defense had far and away its worst showing of the season, and things went from bad to worse as Trevor Lawrence limped his way through the five-mile trek to the locker room in the fourth quarter.

The Lawrence injury is the obvious headline, but Jacksonville's no-show on defense, another massive drop by Calvin Ridley, and a season-ending injury to Christian Kirk underscore an all-around disastrous week. The Jags are still in command in the AFC South, but if Lawrence is limited or misses time, the Texans (or Colts!) will have a chance to steal the division.

As of publication, the Jags have miraculously not ruled Lawrence out for Week 14, but I have a hard time believing he'll be ready to play. And as a Jags fan, going up against this Browns defense, I'm not sure I want him to.

If Lawrence does play, he'll obviously give them a much better chance than C.J. Beathard, who immediately fumbled on his first play Monday night. Considering the Jags' complete absence of a running game, a Beathard start is close to an automatic loss – even with Joe Flacco starting for the Browns. Either way, give me Cleveland to win and cover at home. Given the Jags' current state, this is not a good matchup.

The pick: Browns 17 – Jaguars 13

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-5.0)

As noted above, NFC South games have been a toss-up this season. You may be shocked to discover that the Panthers and Saints are a combined 4-17-3 ATS on the year. One of those ATS wins for Carolina came last week against the Bucs, but I'm not convinced the Panthers are any better off without Frank Reich. To me, they looked exactly the same: boring, slow, and bad on third downs (3-of-15).

Carolina has now gone seven straight weeks without reaching 300 yards of total offense. That's been the case in a league-high 10 of 12 games thus far (the NFL record for most sub-300-yard games in a season is 14, FYI).

The Saints, meanwhile, are still the Saints. Injuries continue to pile up, and it's unclear if Derek Carr will be able to go this week. My hope, as a man and as a sports fan, is that we get ourselves a Jameis Winston start. Just one. That's all I ask.

Whether it's Jameis or Carr, I'm backing the Saints. But this may be the No. 1 Nick Whalen Stay-Away of the Week. And that's saying a lot, because I really have no faith in the Panthers.

The pick: Saints 23 – Panthers 17

Houston Texans at New York Jets (+4.5)

The Tim Boyle Experiment went so well that the Jets decided to waive him this week and pivot back to Zach Wilson, who initially wasn't sure if he even wanted to step back in.

The fact that Wilson feels like an upgrade over Boyle says a lot about where we're at with the Jegs' QB situation. One of the great sagas of our time. As always, this is a game the Jets will have to bank on their defense to win. Of late, that strategy has not been effective as they carry a five-game losing streak into Week 14. The Jets' defense is also struggling to generate the big plays necessary to hang around with teams like Houston. Over the last six games, they've forced six turnovers while the Jets' offense has committed 15 of its own.

The Texans are down Tank Dell, a crushing blow to their explosive passing game, but I still like CJ Stroud and Co. to consistently move the ball and generate some chunk plays. Keeping Stroud upright after a five-sack game last week is a concern, but we'll trust the Texans to cover the 4.5 on the road.

The pick: Texans 24 – Jets 17

Sunday Afternoon Games

Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders (+3.0)

The Vikings are still in playoff position in the NFC, but after two straight losses they have the Rams and Packers – among others – breathing down their neck. Last time we saw Joshua Dobbs, he had perhaps the worst game any quarterback has played this season, tossing four picks in a brutal home loss to the Bears.

While I think Minnesota – which should get Justin Jefferson back – can bounce back and win this game, Vegas is frisky enough to keep it close against a shaky defense that struggled against an ultra-conservative Bears attack. Vikings win but Vegas gets the cover. Three points is just too much for me at home.

The pick: Vikings 23 – Raiders 21

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-10.5)

The Niners had their three-game blip earlier in the season when injuries piled up, but they're healthy and back to steamrolling teams on a weekly basis. Most recently, that meant going into Philly and scoring a touchdown on six consecutive drives en route to a 42-19 shellacking. Now, the Niners match up with Seattle for the second time in 17 days, having already battered the Seahawks in a 31-13 Thanksgiving Day victory. 

Seattle moved the ball and ripped off big plays against Dallas last week, but that's something they've struggled to do consistently this season. They're also still one of the worst teams on third down, converting just 34.5 percent of their attempts (SF sits at 46.9%). Look for Seattle to take some chances and try to take advantage of the absence of Talanoa Hufanga, but if the downfield passing game isn't working, it could be another long afternoon. Both Zach Charbonnet and Kenneth Walker are banged up, as well.

The pick: 49ers 34 – Seahawks 20

Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-1.5)

For the second year in a row, the Bills have the privilege of playing at Arrowhead, where they pulled out a 24-20 win in Week 6 last season. Of course, this season has been an adventure for both Buffalo and Kansas City, but the Bills may need this game to hold onto their playoff hopes, which got a boost last week with Jacksonville, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Denver all taking losses.

For as uninspiring as the Bills have been, at times, this season, they remain one of the NFL's elite offenses and should be able to put up points on a Chiefs defense that had no answers for Jordan Love on Sunday night. Meanwhile, questions remain as to whether this specific KC roster is built to win shootouts. 

Rarely do I ever pick against Patrick Mahomes at Arrowhead, but this is a bad spot for the Chiefs with Buffalo coming in motivated and off of a bye week.

The pick: Bills 27 – Chiefs 24

Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (-2.5)

Denver's win streak – and run of turnover luck – came to an end last week against Houston, though the Broncos had a golden opportunity to walk off with a victory. It was a rough afternoon for Russell Wilson, who tossed three picks – two to Derek Stingley – including the game-loser late in the fourth.

Still, the Broncos remain in the thick of the AFC playoff race and will look to get back on track against a Chargers team that just erupted for six points in a win over the Patriots. If you were watching Red Zone on Sunday, it may have felt like they never flashed to Chargers-Pats. That's because both teams literally never entered the red zone at any point. 22 drives. Zero of those reached the red zone.

Sitting at 5-7, the Chargers could talk themselves into being a fringe-playoff contender, but this is a game they would obviously need to win. I still respect Justin Herbert and view him as one of the NFL's elite QBs, but the talent around him continues to dwindle – especially with Austin Ekeler looking like a shell of his former self.

I think we get a close game, but I'm not sure the Chargers should be giving points to Denver in front of a non-existent home crowd.

The pick: Broncos 20 – Chargers 17

Sunday Night Football

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5)

Easily the game of the week comes to us in the Sunday night window as the Cowboys look to pull even with Philly and avenge a narrow loss in Week 9. While Dallas has done nothing but decimate teams at home this season, this will be easily their toughest test.

Philly was humbled at home by the Niners last week but prior to that had found ways to win close games against Dallas, Kansas City and Buffalo in consecutive weeks. Even so, the defense has hemorrhaged yards of late, surrendering 472 to Washington, 406 to Dallas, 505 to Buffalo and 456 to San Francisco.

With the way the Cowboys' offense is rolling, it's hard not to like Dallas. We'll roll with the Cowboys to win outright, but I like Philly to keep it close and cover with the hook.

The pick: Cowboys 31 – Eagles 28

Monday Night Football

Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (-13.0)

Why is the NFL playing two Monday Night Football games concurrently? I don't know. I'm sure there's a viable reason, but I am not aware of what that reason is. Either way, this will be a great night for those of us who've convinced our wives that, yes, babe, we obviously need two TVs in the living room at all times.

Miami is coming off two straight romps over bad teams, outscoring the Jets and Commanders 79 to 28 over the last two weeks. Miami now heads back home after a two-game trip and will look to keep the momentum rolling against a Titans team that saw any far-fetched playoff hopes vanish before their eyes in OT last week.

While this is a clearly diminished version of the Titans, it's still a team that wants to dictate tempo and control the clock. I'm not sure that'll be an option against Miami, which should be able to throw all over the NFL's 29th-ranked passing defense. 

Give the Dolphins to keep it rolling and pour some gasoline on the Tyreek Hill MVP narrative. Home teams favored by at least 10.0 are 10-4 ATS on the year, although Miami is responsible for one of those losses (Week 11 vs. Las Vegas).

The pick: Dolphins 38 – Titans 21

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (+6.5)

Don't look now, but the Packers are in the driver's seat for a Wild Card spot in the NFC, while the Giants are playing out the string on what will go down as a lost season. Green Bay is picking up steam offensively on a weekly basis, with Jordan Love turning in his best performance yet on Sunday night against KC. The Packers could get Aaron Jones back this week, but it's been the passing game – and an improved defense – that's carried them to wins over the Chargers, Lions and Chiefs. 

I understand why the Packers are such heavy favorites against Tommy DeVito, but 6.5 feels a little rich for a team that we (AKA me) were ready to write off a month ago. Give me the Packers to win the game, but the Giants can weasel their way into a narrow cover at home.

The pick: Packers 23 – Giants 17

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick Whalen
Now in his 10th year with the company, Nick is RotoWire's Senior Media Analyst, a position he took on after several years as the Head of Basketball Content. A multi-time FSGA and FSWA award winner, Nick co-hosts RotoWire's flagship show on Sirius XM Fantasy alongside Jeff Erickson, as well as The RotoWire NBA Show on Sirius XM NBA with Alex Barutha. He also co-hosts RotoWire's Football and Basketball podcasts. You can catch Nick's NBA and NFL analysis on VSiN and DraftKings, as well as RotoWire's various social and video channels. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @wha1en.
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