Expert NFL Picks for Week 14 Including Ravens-Browns, Bills-Bucs and Rams-Cardinals
Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider, Borgata sportsbook director Tom Gable and VSiN sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum offer their insights
This is NFL Best Bets, a recurring series in which professional sports handicappers lend us their insights and picks for the most intriguing matchups for each week of the football season.
For this edition of Best Bets, Kevin Rogers, a veteran handicapper for VegasInsider.com, Thomas Gable, the director of race and sportsbook at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and sports betting reporter Josh Appelbaum of VSiN share their opinions on five Week 14 games, including a pair of divisional matchups with playoff implications between the Ravens and Browns and Cowboys and WFT.
You’ve got places to go, people to see and possibly some wagers to make, so let’s get to it.
Baltimore Ravens (+2.5, O/U 43) at Cleveland Browns
A compelling matchup because … the Browns have not taken the field since losing to Baltimore on Sunday Night Football over Thanksgiving weekend and will host a Ravens team that is reeling from injuries and just lost to the Steelers. Lamar Jackson has thrown more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven) over his last five games and the Ravens have lost three of them. Baltimore has been shaky on the road this season at 3-3, while the Browns have been fairly good at home at 4-2.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Ravens (8-4 SU, 5-7 against the spread) just fell to the Steelers 20-19, losing outright as 4-point road favorites. Meanwhile, the Browns (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) are coming off a bye and previously lost to the Ravens 10-16, failing to cover as 3-point road dogs. This line opened with Cleveland listed as a short 1.5-point home favorite. Respected money has laid the points with the Browns, steaming Cleveland up from -1.5 to -2.5. Favorites off a bye like Cleveland are roughly 57% ATS over the past decade. Baltimore is riddled with injuries. I’ll back the Browns at -2.5. I also like the under. The forecast calls for temperatures in the low 40s with 15 MPH winds. Late season divisional unders are 12-4 (75%) since Week 11.
Gable’s Guess: Baltimore cornerback Marlon Humphrey is out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. He is the seventh starter and third member of the secondary to get sidelined for the season for Baltimore. The Ravens have been devastated by injuries this year and they’re allowing 272.4 passing yards per game on defense, which is second-worst in the NFL. Humphrey being out for the rest of the year certainly doesn’t help. Browns tight end Austin Hooper may be the only player available for Sunday’s game at that position. Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski said he’s considering using running backs Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb in some packages together, which you really haven’t seen from the Browns at all. It would be interesting to see what that looks like. The Browns have only scored 30 points total in their last three games. Anything Stefanski can do to get this offense going will be welcomed. Quarterback Baker Mayfield needs to play better and certainly has the opportunity to do so with this depleted Ravens secondary. I’m going to lay the 2.5 with Cleveland.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Cleveland is playing Baltimore for the second straight game. The Ravens couldn’t hold on in a 20-19 loss to the Steelers last week, but Baltimore is flipped to an underdog for only the second time this season. Baltimore’s offense has struggled of late by scoring 19 points or less in four straight games, while Cleveland has been unable to find any consistency by posting a 3-5 mark in their last eight contests. Best Bet: Baltimore +2.5.
Our Pick: The Browns owe the Ravens one and Baltimore is very banged-up. Lay the points with the Browns.
Dallas Cowboys (-4, O/U 48) at Washington Football Team
A compelling matchup because … away from his team for 10 days due to COVID-19, Dallas coach Mike McCarthy returned this week and promptly guaranteed the Cowboys would win Sunday’s important division game against Washington. Neither the Cowboys nor Washington has suffered a loss against an NFC opponent this season, which should change this weekend barring a tie. Despite losing star defensive player Chase Young, Washington has won four straight and only given up 30 points combined over the past two weeks.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The first-place Cowboys (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) just beat the Saints 27-17, covering as 6.5-point road favorites. Red-hot Washington (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) just had a 17-15 win over the Raiders as 1.5-point road dogs. This line opened with Dallas listed as a 5-point road favorite. We saw this line fall, signaling some sharp money grabbing the points with the Football Team. Then some buyback on Dallas pushed WFT back up. Divisional dogs are 30-23 ATS (57%) this season. Conference dogs +7 or less are 63-33 ATS (66%). The total has ticked down slightly from 49 to 48.5. The forecast calls for rain and 10-15 MPH winds. December divisional totals 45 or higher have gone under at a 56% clip the past decade. Mike McCarthy guaranteed a win this game, which provides added motivation for Washington. I’ll take the points with WFT +4.5 and the under 48.
Gable’s Guess: Washington comes in as one of the hottest teams in the league, currently on a win streak that started with an impressive win over Tampa. Offensively for Dallas, the only question is really what’s going on with Ezekiel Elliott. He had the worst four consecutive rushing days of his career last month. He managed only 41 yards, 32 yards, 25 yards and 45 yards. He appears to be injured, but we have nothing official to go on. Washington has played themselves right back into playoff contention after that terrible start. They’ve only given up 70 points in their last four games, all victories. The secondary should get a lot of credit for that along with defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, who’s been playing really well. They’ll need to slow this Dallas offense down, which I’m not sure they’ll be able to do completely. I like the under here.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Washington has made a remarkable comeback to be a part of the NFC Wild Card race. The Football Team is coming off back-to-back 17-15 victories over the Raiders and Seahawks, while winning each game during their four-game victory streak in the role of an underdog. Dallas pulled away from New Orleans in Week 13 to improve to 2-0 SU/ATS as a road favorite this season. The Cowboys lost twice to Washington last season, but quarterback Dak Prescott was out for both those games. Best Bet: Dallas -4.
Our Pick: The wind is really starting to become a factor this month. Go with the under.
San Francisco 49ers (-1.5, O/U 48.5) at Cincinnati Bengals
A compelling matchup because … second-year quarterback Joe Burrow was injured in Cincinnati’s loss to the Chargers on Sunday but was able to return and should be good to go versus the 49ers. The Bengals could re-take a share of first place in their division with a win combined with a Baltimore loss, and San Francisco could likewise capture some key ground in their division with the Rams and Cardinals, both of whom they trail in the NFC West, playing on Monday night. San Francisco leads the all-time series between these non-conference foes at 12-4
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The 49ers (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) just fell to the Seahawks 30-23, losing outright as 3-point road favorites. Similarly, the Bengals (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) just lost to the Chargers 41-22, losing outright as 3-point home favorites. This line opened with Cincinnati laying 2 points at home but has since flipped to San Francisco -1.5. This signals sharp “dog-to-favorite” wiseguy action on the 49ers. Non-conference favorites with high totals of 47 or more are roughly 59% ATS over the past decade. Craig Wrolstad, the lead ref, has historically favored road teams (66-49 ATS, 57%). I’ll follow the smart money and bet San Francisco on the moneyline (-125). I don’t want to lay the worst of the spread number and lose if San Francisco only wins by one point. I’ll pay a little more juice for the security of rooting for a straight-up win.
Gable’s Guess: This is a big game for both teams. San Francisco made a lot of costly mistakes in their loss to Seattle on Sunday and their secondary took another blow with starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley suffering a high ankle sprain. They don’t have a lot of good options left in their secondary. They’ll be vulnerable to Burrow and his passing attack. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins could end up with big days. The rest of their defense hasn’t played badly and will need to get pressure on Burrow. The Bengals had four turnovers against the Chargers in Week 13 and dug themselves a deep hole early. They did manage to at least try to make a comeback and make it close, but fell short. Their offensive line continues to be an issue. But I believe they’ll be able to put up points against the 49ers squad. I’m going to take the Bengals and the points.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Cincinnati seemed like the toast of the AFC North for a bit, but the Bengals are coming off a 41-22 drubbing at the hands of the Chargers last week. San Francisco heads to Paul Brown Stadium looking to rebound from a 30-23 defeat at Seattle last week, as the Niners dropped to 4-2 in the past six games. The Bengals have split a pair of games in the home underdog role, with both contests being decided in overtime against the Vikings and Packers. Best Bet: San Francisco -1.5.
Our Pick: Even if Burrow isn’t 100% healthy, we believe in Cincy more. Take the Bengals and the points.
Buffalo Bills (+3.5, O/U 53.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A compelling matchup because … the Bills no longer have to fear playing Tom Brady in their division, but heading to Tampa to take on a familiar foe could be a nightmare for a reeling Buffalo team that has played .500 ball since beating Kansas City in Week 5. The Bucs have quietly won three in a row after dropping two straight games and are tied with the Packers for the second best record in the NFC. Tampa Bay has not lost at home this season (5-0) and no team in the NFL has scored more points than the Bucs (377).
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Bills (7-5 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) just lost to the Patriots 14-10 as 3-point home favorites. On the flip side, the Bucs (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS) have won three straight and just edged the Falcons 30-17, covering as 11-point road favorites. This line opened with Tampa Bay listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The +3.5 with the Bills is being juiced up to -115 or -120, signaling liability in their favor. Some shops have touched down to 3. No shops ever went to 4. Essentially, the line has always trended toward Buffalo. Road dogs off a loss are 33-22 ATS (60%) this season. Road dogs +3 or less are 20-10 ATS (67%). Buffalo QB Josh Allen is 15-8 ATS (65%) as a dog in his career. I’ll buy low on the Bills after their primetime loss and take Buffalo +3.5.
Gable’s Guess: Brady has faced this team 35 times in his career and his overall record is 32-3 against Buffalo, which is the most wins any quarterback has had against one team in NFL history. He’s having another MVP-type season at age 44 and leads the NFL in passing yards, attempts, completions and passing touchdowns with 34. Tampa’s offense revolves around letting Brady throw the ball and he hasn’t disappointed yet. The Bills’ defense only faced three pass attempts from Mac Jones in Week 13. At one point, the Bills were the highest or second-highest rated team in the league, and now they’re just fighting for a playoff spot. They’ve just been so inconsistent and aren’t executing in the red zone. They turn the ball over a lot and they rarely run the ball. Buffalo only has one win against a team with a winning record this year. They had a short week to prepare for Tampa and that’s not going to be enough. I’m going to lay the points with Tampa.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Buffalo heads south to Tampa following a tough defeat to New England on Monday night in a wind-infested game. The Bills have not lost consecutive games this season, going 4-0 off a defeat and are being listed as an underdog for only the second time this season. Tampa Bay owns a perfect record at Raymond James Stadium, but this is the best team the Bucs have played at home since edging the Cowboys in Week 1. Best Bet: Buffalo +3.5.
Our Pick: Brady will do what he always does and bury the Bills in a big game. Lay the points with Tampa.
Los Angeles Rams (+2.5, O/U 51.5) at Arizona Cardinals
A compelling matchup because … in October, the Cardinals went to Los Angeles and blew out the Rams by 17 points. LA will look to return to the favor in the desert against an Arizona team that got back star QB Kyler Murray last week in a win. The Cardinals have gone 4-0 against division opponents this season while the Rams are just 1-3. Both of these teams have Super Bowl aspirations and the winner of this game will strengthen its case to be taken seriously as a contender. The loser, especially if it is LA, will be looked at a bit differently.
Appelbaum’s Assessment: The Rams (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) just crushed the Jaguars 37-7 as 14-point home favorites. Meanwhile, the Cardinals (10-2 SU, 9-3 ATS) continue to roll and just beat the Bears 33-22, covering as 8-point road favorites. This line opened with Arizona listed as a 2.5-point home favorite. The public is laying the short number with the best team in the NFL, yet the line hasn’t moved off the 2.5. This indicates some liability on the road dog Rams. Primetime dogs are 24-15 ATS (62%) this season. Short road dogs +3 or less are 20-10 ATS (67%). I’m wary of a 3-point Cardinals win, so I’ll tease the Rams up from +2.5 to +8.5, which goes through the top key numbers of 3 and 7.
Gable’s Guess: The Cardinals have a two-game lead on LA right now. A win won’t clinch the division for them, but it’ll go a long way towards essentially wrapping it up. The Rams had their get-right spot against the Jags last week. Their offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage and protected Matthew Stafford well. They also had good run-blocking. They’ll really need that same level of play against Arizona. The Cardinals have one of the more underrated defenses in the league. With DeAndre Hopkins back, their offense gets a lot more complicated to defend when you have that dual-threat of Murray to worry about. This is going to be a great division game. But with Arizona being at home, I’m going to lay the points with the Cardinals.
Rogers’s Recommendation: Los Angeles finally bounced back last week with a 37-7 rout of Jacksonville to end a three-game slide. The Rams will play with revenge on the mind on Monday night at Arizona, as the Cardinals crushed Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium 37-20 in early October. The Cardinals rolled past the Bears last week in the return of Murray and DeAndre Hopkins to the lineup, but Arizona is 0-2 SU/ATS in its last two games as a home favorite. Best Bet: L.A. Rams +2.5.
Our Pick: LA’s back-to-back primetime losses should not be forgotten. Lay the points with Arizona.
Last Week: 1-4; Season: 29-33-1
Editor’s note: Betting lines fluctuate throughout the week based on injuries, weather reports and other factors. Make sure to double-check odds before betting.
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