DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA. Put the little puppies to bed. This is December football. And this is Week 14. NFL fans know, “This is when the big dogs come out.”
Football is a violent, tough game. The legendary Vince Lombardi once said it was a game for madmen, and he was their leader. Lombardi was only speaking about regular football. December football is even tougher than that. December football is brutal. Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells had a stern December warning for his players:
“Don’t tell me about the pain, just deliver the damn baby.”
December: When the NFL big dogs come out
Buckle up chin straps. Tape up ankles. Will yourself through sheer grit and determination. Only the strongest and toughest survive the month of December. Welcome to National Football League Week 14. Yes, “This is when the big dogs come out.”
Welcome to December, and the words of Hall of Fame Minnesota Vikings great John Randle.
“This is when the NFL big dogs come out!”
Look in Hall of Fame Chicago bears legend, and one of the original NFL Big Dogs, Michael Singletary’s eyes. See the smoke of his breath in the freezing air. Hear his intensity.
“This is when the NFL big dogs come out!”
In September, all 32 NFL teams are like little puppies with dreams in their eyes.
You can yap and yelp in September. You better be snarling mad dog mean come December to win in the National Football League.
“This is when the NFL big dogs come out.”
The NFL Game – September to December
In September there is room for finesse.
In December the weather is colder and the bodies are bruised, beaten, bloodied, and battered. Some of these men will refuse to stay down. Super Bowls are not won by talking. The Lombardi Trophy is not hoisted by engaging in words.
December is when the teams with the battering rams get the job done. December is smash-mouth offense, bone-crushing defense, and blustery blizzard football weather. After all, this is really when the big dogs come out.
With that, here is the NFL 2018 Week 14 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by OddsShark and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 6, 2018, 8:20 p.m.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-4.5) — Jacksonville shocked Indianapolis last week in an ugly 6-0 game that brought back memories of the 2017 Jaguars. That team is gone. Don’t let a fluke fool you. Go with the home field. Titans win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 9, 1:00 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5) — Lamar Jackson has led Baltimore to three straight wins, but this is the reality check. The Chiefs offense is unstoppable. Baltimore does not have the firepower to keep up. Chiefs cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-3.5) — Last week’s stunning 6-0 loss should not deter Colts supporters. They are clearly on the rise. However, Houston has won nine straight games. This is another game to trust the home field. Texans win but fail to cover.
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (-4.5) — Mike McCarthy has been fired, and the even less inspiring Joe Philbin is the interim coach. The fiery Winston Moss has also been let go. If the Packers win, it is only because they are playing a bigger underachiever than they are. Packers win but fail to cover.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (-3.5) — The Jets blew a 16-0 lead last week. Both of these teams are awful, so when all things are equal, especially in cold weather December football, go with the home crowd. Bills win but fail to cover.
More Sunday games at 1
New York Giants at Washington Redskins (-1) — The Redskins are down to third string quarterback Mark Sanchez. The Giants despite their awful record have won three of four and are playing improved football. Upset special, Giants win outright.
New Orleans Saints (-7.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — The Saints are almost unstoppable despite stumbling at Dallas last week. Tampa Bay has no defense. This could get ugly early. Saints cover.
New England Patriots (-7) at Miami Dolphins — The Dolphins won at home last week only because a wide open receiver dropped the winning touchdown pass in the end zone. Tom Brady has had some of his worst games at Miami. However, New England is just so much better that past flukes should not be held against them. Patriots cover.
Carolina Panthers (-2.5) at Cleveland Browns — After a promising start, Carolina has lost four straight games. Meanwhile, Cleveland is finally coming together. They may not be big dogs yet, but remember, they did launch the original Dog Pound. Gregg Williams has given them an attitude, and Baker Mayfield is for real. Upset special, Browns win outright.
Sunday, December 9, 4:00 p.m.
Denver Broncos (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers — After a 3-6 start, the Broncos have won three straight games. The 49ers are a mess. Denver’s wins have been too small to trust the spread on the road. Nick Mullens has talent. Broncos win but fail to cover.
Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers (-14.5) — The Chargers went on the road and beat Pittsburgh. Finally, they are for real. The Bengals are in tatters. The spread is high, but Cincinnati lost by 11 at home last week to a weak Denver team. Philip Rivers could throw for 500 yards. Chargers cover.
Detroit Lions (-2.5) at Arizona Cardinals — Neither of these teams are any good, but Arizona showed a ton of heart in winning at Green Bay last week in the snow. At home in the desert, give them a chance to show that they are slowly building something. Upset special, Cardinals win outright.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) — Philadelphia has won two straight to get to 6-6 while Dallas has won four straight to get to 7-5. The home field is less important than the quality of the wins. Dallas is running the football. Ezekiel Elliott will be the difference. Cowboys win but fail to cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-13) at Oakland Raiders — The Steelers have lost two straight, but the Raiders are horrendous. Oakland has no defense. Pittsburgh should move the ball at will, but Oakland often hangs in games early before falling apart late. The spread is too high for a road game. A garbage touchdown is realistic. Steelers win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 9, 8:20 p.m.
Los Angeles Rams (-4) at Chicago Bears — Speaking of big dogs, the Rams have a great offense and the Bears have a great defense. However, the Rams are as good as the Greatest Show on Turf of 1999. The Bears are not the 1985 Bears. Rams win but fail to cover.
Monday, December 10, 8:20 p.m.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (Pick ‘em) — Seattle is playing good football. Minnesota has talent but lacks consistency. This is definitely a game to go with the home field and the 12th man. Seahawks win.
Next week: We’ll get another chance to see which of this week’s real big dogs are likely to win, place or show in the fast-approaching Super Bowl sweepstakes.
— Headline image: Photo, circa the mid-1960s of Vince Lombardi and his then-starring Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr. (Public domain photo and Green Bay logo via Wikipedia entries on Vince Lombardi and Green Bay Packers.)