The big dogs come out: NFL 2020 Week 14 Preview and Bettor’s Guide
LOS ANGELES – In September, all 32 NFL teams are like little puppies with dreams in their eyes. Only you cannot be a puppy in the NFL in December. The words of John Randle and Mike Singletary ring true like a quarterback getting his bell rung. “This is when the big dogs come out.” You can yap and yelp in September. But you better be a snarling mad dog to win in the National Football League in December. Even during COVID.
This is when the big dogs come out.
There is room for finesse in September. The weather is colder in December. The bodies are bruised, beaten, battered and bloodied. The best of these men will refuse to stay down. Talking does not win Super Bowls. The Lombardi Trophy is not hoisted by engaging in words. Winning teams in December bring their battering rams. December is smash-mouth offense, bone-crushing defense, and brutal, blustery football weather.
September brings sunshine and ease at moving the ball. December is a war of attrition where every yard is contested. Fourth and goal at the one are not so easy when the men in the trenches are fighting the elements of rain, snow, and cold as well as each other. Every loss brings a team closer to the season’s end short of the goal. In December, only the very strongest of the strong survive. The very strongest of those men thrive.
This is December football. These are the Big Dogs
With the biggest of the big dogs in mind, here is the NFL 2020 Week 14 Preview and Bettor’s Guide, with point spreads provided by DraftKings and all times Eastern.
Thursday, December 9, 2020, 8:20 p.m
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5) —
Kurt Warner is retired and Tom Brady is in Tampa. Bill Belichick remains and his club has fought back from 2-5 to get to 6-6. The Rams at 8-4 sit atop the NFC West. The spread is too high to bet against the Evil Hoodie, but Sean McVay desperately wants a win against the guy who beat him in the Super Bowl two years ago McVay will pull out all the stops. If it comes down to a winning field goal, Adam Vinatieri is a free agent not playing. Rams win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 13, 2020, 1:00 p.m
Minnesota Vikings at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-6.5) —
The Buccaneers began 6-2 but lost three of four since. The Vikings clawed back from a 1-5 start to get to 6-6. The Buccaneers have the better receivers but the Vikings have Dalvin Cook running the ball. Bruce Arians knows offensive tactics and Mike Zimmer knows defense. The Vikings have the momentum, but they barely survived Jacksonville at home. Buccaneers win but fail to cover.
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) at New York Giants —
The Cardinals began 6-3 but have lost three straight. The Giants began 1-7 but have won four straight. Going into Seattle and winning is a big deal. Kyler Murray is exciting but the Giants are seriously improving on defense. Go with the momentum. Upset special, Giants win outright.
Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5) at Miami Dolphins —
The 11-1 Chiefs take on the 8-4 Dolphins. Andy Reid is an offensive guru with a superhuman quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Brian Flores has revitalized the Dolphin’s defense but Tua Tagovailoa is a work in progress. Miami’s defense is good enough to prevent this from being a blowout, but the Chiefs have too much firepower. Chiefs win but fail to cover.
Tennessee Titans (-6.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars —
The 8-4 Titans will be angry after their humiliating home loss to Cleveland. The Jaguars are 1-11. They fight hard, but the offense is not doing nearly enough to help the defense. Derrick Henry will handle things, and the Jacksonville quarterbacks will not be starting mark Brunell. Titans win but fail to cover.
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at Cincinnati Bengals —
Both teams have lost nine games. Red Rifle Andy Dalton desperately wants a win against his old team while the Cowboys desperately want a win against anyone. Dallas is playing on a very short week after a Tuesday night loss at Baltimore. The Bengals defense hung tough in a loss at Miami. The Cowboys consistently underachieve, but they have more talent than the Bengals. Cowboys win but fail to cover.
Houston Texans (-2.5) at Chicago Bears —
Both teams have at least seven losses, with the Bears losers of six straight after a 5-1 start. Deshaun Watson wants to redeem himself after a key fumble near the goal line in last week’s loss. The Bears have gotten terrible quarterback play, wasting efforts by their defense. Texans cover.
Denver Broncos at Carolina Panthers (-3.5) —
Both teams are 4-8. The Broncos defense is competing hard for Vic Fangio. Drew Lock has thrown an interception in seven straight games. The Broncos did take Kansas City to the limit. Upset special, Broncos win outright.
Sunday, December 13, 2020, 4:00 p.m
New York Jets at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5) —
The Jets were one play away from a win, yet are now 0-12. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was fired, while Adam Gase somehow remains. The Seahawks will be enraged after a home loss to the Giants. Russell Wilson will move the Seahawks at will. The Jets are not tanking. They are just terrible. This one could be over by halftime. Seahawks cover.
Indianapolis Colts (-2.5) at Las Vegas Raiders —
The Colts have a decent defense while the Raiders have no defense. The Raiders needed dumb luck to survive against the winless Jets. Derek Carr and Philip Rivers know each other very well and can both sling it. The Colts are 8-4 and the Raiders are 7-5. The Raiders play three straight home games, but it is tough to give them the benefit of the doubt after the Jets game. Colts cover.
Washington Anonymous Surnames at San Francisco 49ers (-3) —
Both teams are 5-7, which is good enough to have the Washington N-Names tied atop the NFC Least. Alex Smith is playing inspired football, but Nick Mullens is competent enough. Both teams are playing on a short week. Washington may not have a team name, but they are coming off an emotional win at previously unbeaten Pittsburgh. Expect a letdown. 49ers cover.
New Orleans Saints (-6.5) at Philadelphia Eagles —
The Eagles are a mess. They have lost 4 straight to fall to 3-8. Doug Pederson benched Carson Wentz for Jalen Hurts last week. Meanwhile, the 10-2 Saints held it together. Now Sean Payton gets his pinball wizard Drew Brees back. Saints cover.
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Los Angeles Chargers —
Neither team is going to the playoffs, but the Falcons are 4-3 under Raheem Morris after an 0-5 start. The Chargers just had the worst loss in history 45-0, and they did it at home. Both teams found creative ways to lose games earlier in the year, but the Falcons finally turned it around. The Chargers did not. Falcons cover.
Green Bay Packers (-7.5) at Detroit Lions —
The 9-3 Packers have a stranglehold on the NFC North but are one game back in the race for home field. The 5-7 Lions are coming off an emotional comeback win over Chicago. Green Bay has more talent and Aaron Rodgers should be able to move the ball easily. Matthew Stafford has far less help. Packers win but fail to cover.
Sunday, December 13, 2020, 8:00 p.m
Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills (-1.5) —
The Steelers were finally knocked from the unbeaten ranks but are still 11-1 and up by two games in the AFC North. The Bills are 9-3 and one game up in the AFC East. Josh Allen has been hurting teams with his arms and legs. As well as the Steelers are playing this year, go with the Bills at home in December even without the normal number of fans. Bills cover.
Monday, December 14, 2020, 8:20 p.m
Baltimore Ravens (-1.5) at Cleveland Browns —
Those wondering when the Brown will finally win a big game that matters can stop carping. They went on the road and throttled Tennessee in a game that was nowhere near as close as the score. The Browns led by 31 points at halftime. The Browns are 9-3 and the Ravens are 7-5. Baltimore is desperate and they have Lamar Jackson, but the Browns are finally for real. Eliminating their hated rival from playoff contention will fuel them. Upset special, Browns win outright.
Lead Image: Courtesy of the Cleveland Browns Website (uncredited)