DELRAY BEACH, FLORIDA, December 9, 2015 — Buckle up chin straps. Tape up ankles. Will yourself through sheer grit and determination. Only the strongest and toughest survive. Welcome to National Football League Week 14.
Welcome to December, and the words of Hall of Fame Minnesota Vikings great John Randle.
“This is when the 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 big dogs come out.
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.
This is when the big dogs come out.
Welcome to the NFL 2015 Week 14 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by FootballLocks.com and all times Eastern.
Minnesota Vikings at Arizona Cardinals (-10) — Minnesota is 8-4, but they have lost two of their last three games to Green Bay and Seattle, and both of those losses were at home. Arizona at 10-2 is just clicking on all cylinders. Minnesota is a good team but Arizona is a great team. Minnesota’s defense could be enough defeat the high point spread. Cardinals win but fail to cover.
Seattle Seahawks (-9) at Baltimore Ravens — The Seahawks are finally starting to look like the team that represented the NFC in the last two Super Bowls. Baltimore is finished and playing for pride. Expect Matt Schaub to throw at least one touchdown to the Legion of Boom defense. Seahawks cover.
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-7.5) — The Panthers barely survived to remain the only unbeaten team at 12-0, but Atlanta after a 5-0 start is in free-fall at 6-6. Carolina may stumble, but this is not the game that will happen. Their defense will rattle the Atlanta offense into mistakes. Panthers cover.
Washington Redskins at Chicago Bears (-3) — These 5-7 teams are fighting for their playoff lives, but Washington is actually tied for first in the woeful NFC Least. On the road, Washington is just awful. Kirk Cousins and Jay Cutler have both played decent football in stretches, but at home go with Cutler. Bears cover.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-3) — The Bengals at 10-2 right now have the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs. However, Pittsburgh at 7-5 is a dangerous team. The Bengals will never get any respect until they win games like this. They know it. This game is the one where they finally prove it, but it will be a dogfight. Bengals cover.
San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns (-1.5) — This is the battle for the top pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Blaine Gabbert led the 49ers to a win while Mike Pettine has finally decided to let Johnny Manziel play football. This season could be Manziel’s very last chance. He will take advantage of the opportunity. Browns cover.
Indianapolis Colts at Jacksonville Jaguars (-1) — Weather is not a factor for these teams. One plays in a dome and the other one plays in Florida. Old Man Matt Hasselbeck has played well in place of Andrew Luck while Blake Bortles still experiences growing pains. With the Colts at 6-6 and fighting for a playoff spot, trust Hasselbeck. Upset special, Colts win outright.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-10) — After starting 1-5, the Chiefs have won six straight. The Chargers have a shot at the top pick in the 2016 Draft. This looks like an easy win for the Chiefs, but the spread is high and Philip Rivers can still move the ball. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Tennessee Titans at New York Jets (-7) — The Jets got a big win last week over their New York brethren the Giants. Now they face a Tennessee team that won a thriller last week but does not have enough to compete. Expect Todd Bowles to blitz the house against Marcus Mariota. Jets cover.
Buffalo Bills (-1) at Philadelphia Eagles — The Eagles shocked the football world by going into New England and winning last week. Philadelphia at 5-7 is tied for the NFC Least lead while Buffalo at 6-6 is fighting for a playoff spot. Chip Kelly is known for offense and Rex Ryan is known for defense, but neither has seen the production they want on a consistent basis. Go with the defense against suspect quarterback play. Bills cover.
Detroit Lions at St. Louis Rams (Pick ‘em) — After starting 1-7, the Lions were one Hail Mary away from four straight wins before it was taken away from them. The Rams have lost four straight. Both teams are 4-8 and done. If the Lions had something to play for it would be different, but their guts were ripped out and that may carry over to this game. Rams win.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5) — The Saints almost knocked off unbeaten Carolina, but the loss ended their season. Lovie Smith has Tampa Bay at 6-6 and fighting for a playoff spot while Jameis Winston has shown leadership. With Drew Brees slinging the ball, the spread is beatable. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (-7.5) — Peyton Manning is still injured. While Brock Osweiler is 3-0, it is Denver’s defense racking up the wins. The 10-2 Broncos right now would have a first round playoff bye. Derek Carr has played well this year, but had a fourth quarter meltdown at home that has the 5-7 Raiders only one loss from their thirteenth straight non-winning season. This will be that loss, but Denver’s offense is winning ugly, not with blowouts. Broncos win but fail to cover.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (-7) — 20 years ago this was the NFC Title Game. The Packers needed a miracle Hail Mary to get to 8-4, tied for their division lead. The 4-8 Cowboys are only one game back in the wretched NFC Least. Before Cowboys fans even think about the playoffs, they need to beat Green Bay on the road with a backup quarterback. You can stop laughing now. Packers cover.
New England Patriots (-3) at Houston Texans — Consecutive losses after a 10-0 start have the Patriots right now not even with a first round bye. New England has no receivers. Houston at 6-6 has a shot at their division and a very good defense. This defense went on the road and stunned Cincinnati. Yet every time in the last 15 years the Patriots were written off, the Evil Empire of Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady proved everybody wrong. They will again. Patriots cover.
New York Giants (-1.5) at Miami Dolphins — The Giants suffered a shocking fourth quarter collapse against the Jets that has them at 5-7. Yet Tom Coughlin teams never quit while the Miami Dolphins seem to be going through the motions. The Giants can still win the woeful NFC Least, and twice Tom Coughlin has shown that if the Giants just make the playoffs, anything can happen. Giants cover.