Dak Prescott is like the Christmas present you accidentally find in the garage, unwrapped, in June. Or at least that’s how Jerry Jones is treating the best thing to happen to the Cowboys since Tony Romo emerged and saved them from constant question marks at the quarterback position almost a decade ago.
“Wait, you guys weren’t supposed to see that yet! Go play with your other toys that aren’t as good and always break for the next, uh, six months or so. They’re just as awesome, I swear! Don’t you remember how much you loved them five years ago?!”
No they’re not, Jerry. Stop trying to force Dak back into the box. Stop trying to make Tony Romo happen. It’s not happening.
Anyway, Week 14 went swimmingly in every way possible from a picks perspective, so let’s review and dive right into this week’s picks.
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 10-5-1 (Season Record – 102-100-4)
Straight Up – 10-6 (Season Record – 116-89-2)
Locks of the Week – 3-1 (Season Record – 41-33-1)
As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS
(4-9) Los Angeles Rams @ (8-4-1) Seattle Seahawks (-15.5) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Seahawks
Level Of Confidence: No way we can lose – lock of the week
So I actually Googled “highest point spreads in NFL history”, just to see if Vegas were even capable of setting a line so high for a game so one-sided that I’d consider taking the underdog. The highest point spread of all time appears to be from 1976 when the Steelers (Steel Curtain era, so that makes sense) played the Bucs. That line was set at Pitt (-27).
If the Seahawks were laying 27 this weekend, I’d still have a hard time picking against them.
I don’t see any way this one doesn’t get real, real ugly.
No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week
(8-5) Pittsburgh Steelers @ (5-7-1) Cincinnati Bengals (+3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Steelers
The Steelers are on a four-game winning streak and wouldn’t you know it, Le’Veon Bell had at least 23 rushes and well over 118 yards rushing in each of those games, including a ridiculous 236-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills last weekend.
I’m expecting more of the same from Bell, who has single-handedly pushed the Steelers back to the top of the AFC North.
AJ Green potentially returning for this game makes for some juicier headlines (and some happy fantasy football owners), but it remains to be seen just how well that hamstring has healed up.
Steelers run all over Bengals en route to a 9-5 record.
(6-7) Indianapolis Colts @ (7-6) Minnesota Vikings (-4) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Vikings
The Colts are an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a bad football team (just go with it…). One week they beat the Packers on the road to regain relevance, the next they look completely lost against the Texans with their division title on the line.
You never really know what you’re going to get with this team, but the Vikings — for better and for worse in 2016 — have been remarkably consistent. Good defense, bad offensive line, no running game, decent quarterbacking, close-ish games.
I’ll take the consistent Vikings over the wildly unpredictable Colts at home any day.
(0-13) Cleveland Browns @ (6-7) Buffalo Bills (-10) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bills
The Browns are on a collision course with an 0-16 season. After this week’s game in Buffalo, they head home to face the Chargers before visiting the Steelers to close out the year. How lucky are the Steelers?
Bills win big.
(5-8) New Orleans Saints @ (5-7-1) Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
Bruce Arians has all sorts of excuses for why his team hasn’t been able to get the job done this year and none of them seem to have anything to do with the Arizona Cardinals.
Their lackluster play has been shocking, yes, but at the end of the day they’re still a more skilled team than the Saints and should be able to handle a sputtering New Orleans team limping into Arizona.
Statistically, the Cardinals are still one of the best defenses in the league and they’ve been great against the pass all year while also proving capable when it comes to stopping to the run.
As we’ve learned, stopping the run is tantamount to stopping the pass against a Saints offense that needs the run to work to open up Drew Brees and the aerial attack. But in recent week their rushing game has been non-existant.
Count on the Cardinals to make that the case again this week.
(10-3) Oakland Raiders @ (5-8) San Diego Chargers (+3) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Raiders
Melvin Gordon — like, um, every single meaningful Chargers play-maker on offense not named Philip Rivers, has finally succumbed to the Chargers injury-plagued 2016 season. Luckily it seems like he’ll be fine sooner rather than later after getting carted off the field last week, but he won’t be suiting up for a clash with the Raiders.
That gives Oakland a decisive edge and makes the three-point spread even more confusing here.
Raiders win this one going away against a decent Chargers team that has been decimated by injuries.
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(8-5) Miami Dolphins @ (4-9) New York Jets (+2.5) – Saturday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Dolphins
You didn’t really think that an overtime victory of the hapless 49ers would sway me into picking the Jets against a backup QB at home, did you?
The Jets got absolutely torched by Carlos Hyde in the first half before he pulled a Jimmy Hoffa in the second half and completely disappeared. I think Jay Ajayi gets 30-plus touches and Matt Moore does just enough to get the win against the Jets on Saturday (really, NFL?) night football.
(2-11) Jacksonville Jaguars @ (7-6) Houston Texans (-6) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Texans
IT’S ANOTHER AFC SOUTH SHOWDOWN! HALLELUJAH!
Would I be surprised if the Jaguars upset the Texans, who are — let’s face it — not a good football team by any stretch of the imagination? Not at all.
But, given the fact that the Jaguars have mastered the art and taken it to a new level under Gus Bradley, I’ve got to go with the Texans here.
(5-8) Philadelphia Eagles @ (7-6) Baltimore Ravens (-6) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Ravens
The Cinderella’s of the early NFL season have seen their beautiful carriage turn back into the proverbial pumpkin. The Eagles are in the midst of a four-game losing streak, have lost their mojo at home, have lost some faith in their young starting quarterback and their rookie head coach Doug Pederson, who has found himself under more and more scrutiny as the Eagles continue to struggle to win games after such a hot start.
The Ravens, meanwhile, still control their own destiny in the race for the AFC North and desperately need a win over the Eagles to make next Sunday’s Christmas Day matchup with the Steelers the meaningful affair we all hope it will be.
If they don’t overlook the Eagles, they’ll beat them easily.
I think their defense makes life miserable for Carson Wentz and they get the job done, setting up an epic battle on X-mas.
(9-4) Detroit Lions @ (9-4) New York Giants (-4.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Lions
The Lions don’t seem to be garnering much in the way of respect from oddsmakers here, which is puzzling considering the quality of opponent they’ve beaten this year and the closeness of the games they’ve played in 2016.
The Giants are coming off of their biggest win of the season but I can’t picture this one being decided by more than a field goal in either direction. Lions and the points are the play in this one.
(7-6) Green Bay Packers @ (3-10) Chicago Bears (+6.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Packers
Welp, looks like we should’ve just “relaxed,” people. I’m sorry, Aaron, I won’t doubt you again.
While the Bears are playing opponents tough, I’d feel much better about their chances — or at least taking them in this game — with an extra point on that point spread.
Packers win by a touchdown at least and keep their playoff dreams alive.
(1-12) San Francisco 49ers @ (8-5) Atlanta Falcons (-13.5) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
Remember when the 49ers beat the Rams 28-0 in Week 1? I just checked, it actually happened.
If the 49ers could somehow upset the Falcons it would be the highlight of their season, which would be great because they haven’t had a highlight since that Week 1 victory.
Unfortunately, I think Week 1 remains the high watermark for this squad and think the Falcons pick up where they left off against the Rams.
Heads or Tails
(7-6) Tennessee Titans @ (10-3) Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Titans
Straight Up – Chiefs
The Titans have been one of the most pleasant surprises of the NFL season and have put themselves into position to secure their first playoff berth since 2008. If they can find a way to run the table these next three weeks, the division crown is theirs.
But in order to make a Week 17 showdown with the current division leaders, the Houston Texans, meaningful, they’ll have to topple one of the best teams in the NFL.
Against the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, that’s a Herculean task.
I think the Titans continue to do what they’ve done all year and keep things close, but ultimately I think they fall victim to the AFC West’s best.
Chiefs by a field goal.
(11-2) New England Patriots @ (8-5) Denver Broncos (+3) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – New England Patriots
I don’t think it’ll be easy, but I like the Patriots to get the job done in Denver. First of all, the Brady revenge tour hit list may have more than two names on it, but at the very least the two at the top are Roger Goodell and the entire Denver Broncos defense (honorable mentioned: Von Miller).
The Broncos’ defense chewed Brady up and spit him out in last year’s AFC Championship game and I’m sure Brady hasn’t forgotten. I think the Denver defense gets theirs here, but I like Brady to pull out the win in Denver and put his team one step closer towards clinching home field throughout the playoffs.
(8-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ (11-2) Dallas Cowboys (-7) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Buccaneers
Straight Up – Cowboys
While Jerry Jones does his best to usurp his 11-2 stud of a rookie QB, the Cowboys are hopefully finding a way to ignore their owner’s doltish comments and focus on a big NFC battle with the upstart Bucs.
The Cowboys should be able to find a way here against Tampa Bay but I like the Bucs to keep this one within a score for much of the afternoon. Tampa Bay’s defense has really stepped up the last few weeks and I’m of the opinion that this won’t be the bounce-back week that many are looking for from Dak Prescott. I think he’ll manage the game fine, and get the win, but I think he’ll leave the door open to more quarterback controversy in Big D with a less-than-stellar performance.
(5-8) Carolina Panthers @ (7-5-1) Washington Redskins (-4.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS – Panthers
Straight Up – Redskins
The Josh Norman bowl on Monday night should be a fascinating matchup. I’m not sure why — it’s probably got something to do with the NFL’s reigning MVP Cam Newton — but the Panthers still feel more than capable of stealing a win at any given moment this season.
But, the Redskins are in the throes of a playoff race and desperately need a win here. I think they get it, but I’m betting the Panthers keep it close.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.