SOUTH FLORIDA, December 7, 2016 — Every September, 32 NFL teams reenter our homes like little puppies with dreams in their eyes. They dream of being world champions. The weather is nice, so they run around and play. December is different. After 13 weeks and 12 games, the littlest of the puppies are left behind in the elements and the standings.
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.
In September the puppies can yap. In December only the best back up their talk. December is about a pair of Hall of Fame defensive legends, Minnesota’s John Randle and Chicago’s Mike Singletary. For these men and others as tough as them, there is only one thing to say about December football
“This is when the big dogs come out.”
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 big dogs come out.
In December the best buckle up chin straps, tape up ankles, and will themselves through sheer grit and determination. Only the strongest and toughest survive.
This is when the big dogs come out.
December brought football fans the Ice Bowl, the Immaculate Reception, the Sea of Hands, and The Greatest Game Ever Played. December brought Jim Brown barreling up the middle and Mean Joe Greene’s Steel Curtain blasting runners backward.
In September, you lose a football game and you regroup. In December, you lose a football game and your season is over.
This is when the big dogs come out.
This is December football. This is the NFL 2016 Week 14 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 8, 2016, 8:30 p.m.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-3) — The Raiders have an all world quarterback in Derek Carr who constantly bails out his defense. The Chiefs defense bails out dink and dunk West Coast Offense Game Manager Alex Smith. The Chiefs belted the Raiders in Oakland, and there is nothing to suggest the Chiefs will do worse at home. Chiefs cover.
Sunday, December 11, 1:00 p.m.
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans (-1) — Tennessee has a great offense with Marcus Mariota while Von Miller leads a great defense. If Paxton Lynch starts, Tennessee has a shortchanged. If Trevor Siemian is healthy, he will do enough. Upset special, Broncos win outright.
San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers (-1) — Philip Rivers and Cam Newton are both good quarterbacks on bad teams. Neither one is going to the playoffs. Despite blowing leads against all three aFC West teams, Carolina will win this one because San Diego also blows leads. Panthers cover.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-6) — Both teams are 6-6, and only the AFC South winner makes the playoffs. In Houston, the Colts blew a 14 point lead with three minutes left. In the rematch, Andrew Luck is back to lighting it up and Brock Osweiler is not. Colts cover.
Cincinnati Bengals (-6) at Cleveland Browns — The desperate Browns are 0-12, but Cincinnati is only 4-7 themselves. Cincinnati’s offense is not what it was in years past, and Cleveland is due. Upset special, Browns win outright.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2) at Buffalo Bills — Buffalo blew a 15 point road lead at Oakland and surrendered 29 unanswered points. Buffalo is 6-6 and Pittsburgh is 7-5. Buffalo is desperate, and Rex Ryan tends to win desperation games. Mike Tomlin has the better team, but running the ball at Buffalo is not easy. Upset special, Bills win outright.
Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins (-1.5) — After winning six straight, Miami looked flat last week in falling to 7-5 and on the outside looking in. The Cardinals are all but done, Bruce Arians saw his offense clicking last week at home against Washington. Upset special, Cardinals win outright.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-8) — The Lions are 8-4 and leading the NFC North. The Bears have a third string quarterback and a 3-9 team that struggled in a win against 1-11 San Francisco. The Lions are the much better team but they never make it easy. Lions win but fail to cover
Minnesota Vikings (-3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars — An NFL classic between busts Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbers is now an equally uninspiring game led by Sam Bradford and Blake Bortles. Despite losing badly in recent weeks, Mike Zimmer returns and his defense can still return another Bortles interception for a touchdown. Vikings cover
Washington Redskins (-1) at Philadelphia Eagles — The 6-5 Redskins are on the ropes while the 5-7 Eagles are running out of rope in this mediocrity dance. Both teams are inconsistent, so go with the Eagles at home. Upset special, Eagles win outrightl
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) — Drew Brees is on ice for 5,000 passing yards. The Buccaneers are improved on defense, but they are not the 2002 Pewter Power guys. Jameis Winston is also improved, but with both teams fighting for their playoff lives, go with the Super Bowl champion pinball wizard Upset special, Saints win outright
New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5) — League rules require that this battle of 3-9 Gang Green against 1-11 San San Francisco not be played. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Colin Kaepernick have been benched for Bryce Petty and Blaine Gabbert. Chip Kelly and Todd Bowles may both be fired. Go with the home team for one less mindless blunder. Phil Dawson can still make field goals. 49ers cover
Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-2.5) — Matt Hasselbeck and Al Harris are both retired, and Walrus Mike Holmgren is as well. The Seahawks have the better team, while Aaron Rodgers is trying to carry the Pack on his back. Seattle lost Earl Thomas to injury, and expect Rodgers to exploit that. If Green Bay’s defense can shut down Thomas Rawls, Russell Wilson can be contained easier than Aaron Rodgers. Packers cover
Atlanta Falcons (-6) at Los Angeles Rams — After starting 3-1, the Rams are 1-7 and regressing. Jared Goff is learning, but the Rams are a mess. Many Ryan has the Falcons offense clicking. the Rams still have some defensive playmakers, giving them a chance to beat the spread. Falcons win but fail to cover.
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at New York Giants — In Week 1, the Giants went into Dallas and beat the Cowboys one point to hand Dallas its only loss. The Giants played a clunker last week to fall to 8-4. The Cowboys have the better players in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, but the Giants always play to the level of their competition. In prime time, Big Blue will dig deep. Upset special, Giants cover.
Monday, December 12, 8:30 p.m.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7) — The 7-5 Ravens are tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North while the 10-2 Patriots have the best record in the AFC. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are retired, while Bill Belichick and Tom Brady have not. John Harbaugh still has a good defense, but even without Rob Gronkowski it’s hard to against the Patriots at home on Monday night. Patriots cover.