Week 14 NFL Picks

The Ravens need to get back to their run heavy offense, Drew Lock is on the clock, and you can stop laughing at the NFC East now. No, seriously. (AP Photo/Terrance Williams)

I’ve been getting crushed the last few weeks. If you’ve actually taken my gambling advice, well you’re unwise and I apologize to you and your family who won’t be receiving Christmas gifts.

Moneyline Picks;
Last Week: 6 – 9 – 0
Season: 117 – 74 – 1

If I Were Charles Barkley (ATS);
Last Week: 7 – 8 – 0
Season: 97 – 91 – 4

Thursday Night

Patriots 3 at Rams 24
Cam Newton is only 31 and he may very well have started his last game in the NFL. I hope the young elusive quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Deshaun Watson and Daniel Jones are paying attention. Using your legs is a great asset, but if you can’t throw accurately from the pocket, your career, and thus your earning potential, is cut by a third. Am I being a bit extreme? Sure. Cam is a little more unique because he was a punishing runner throughout his career, but the moral of the story still holds true… I think. Anyway, I think that finishes off the 2020 Patriots and the franchise’s illustrious playoff streak. The San Antonio Spurs and the New England Patriots go down in the same year. 2020 is a force.

Early Games (1:00PM ET)

Texans at Bears
Is there a more sure thing in the NFL right now than Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace getting fired, and Mitch Trubisky being jobless come January 4th? Nagy’s offense has been a disaster for three seasons. The unit has ranked 22nd, 29th and 30th in total offense. Pace is the head of a front office that selected Trubisky ahead of Deshaun Watson and a guy named Patrick Mahomes. Trubisky has rarely played like a competent NFL quarterback. Assuming there’s no miraculous change over the next four weeks, he won’t head into training camp next season as any team’s planned starting quarterback. NFL fans always think their suffering is the worst kind of suffering. But the Bears haven’t had a real franchise quarterback since… ever? Jim Harbaugh can’t count. Neither can Jay Cutler. I’m too old to know anyone past Jim McMahon. I’ll pray for you, Chicago. TEXANS If I were Charles Barkley; Texans -1

Cowboys at Bengals
The Cowboys should have an interesting offseason. Dallas is going to end up with a top five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Even though Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields won’t be available to them, there will be three other quarterbacks projected to go in the top 15 for Dallas to choose from. The Cowboys could trade back and take any one of Zach Wilson, Trey Lance or Kyle Trask for a total contract worth less than what they’re going to have to pay Dak Prescott per year. Are we sure the Cowboys don’t just say, “Screw it” and move on from the high cost of a quarterback coming off a career threatening injury? Here’s the argument against such a move: Dallas has a roster with a good amount of young talent, especially on offense. Jerry Jones isn’t getting any younger and he’s impatient, so he probably drafts a defensive player with that top pick, signs Prescott and believes his team will be a contender next year. It’s a risk to run it back, given how bad the defense has been, but you can see how it makes sense for the Cowboys to try to win now given the money they’ve already shelled out for Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. COWBOYS If I were Charles Barkley; Bengals +3.5

Chiefs at Dolphins
Kansas City’s offense is 1st in yards per game, 2nd in points per game, 2nd in third down conversion percentage and 1st in first downs per game, and yet I feel like they’ve been weirdly underwhelming for most of the season. Either my expectations for Patrick Mahomes and his offense are too high, or the Chiefs are coasting. I think they’re coasting. Pittsburgh’s loss to Washington in Week 13 was a huge win for the Chiefs. Kansas City is one of the few teams in the league with an actual home field advantage this season. Though they still currently trail the Steelers in the Standings, the Steelers have the Bills, Browns and Colts left on their schedule. CHIEFS If I were Charles Barkley; Chiefs -7

Cardinals at Giants
Something is clearly wrong with Kyler Murray. While he looks injured, I’m not buying Murray’s injury/play is the reason for Arizona’s recent demise. The Cardinals are one Hail Mary from a five game skid. The defense has been a mess for a while. The only difference is now the offense can’t bail them out. If there’s any positive news for the Cardinals right now, it’s Larry Fitzgerald returning after a two week Covid absence. While he may not bring a big punch to the offense, it’s not unreasonable to question if his absence has impacted Murray. Fitzgerald remains 2nd on the team in receptions and he was 2nd in targets before missing time. He’s often Murray’s checkdown/security blanket. Combine that absence with his recent hesitancy to scramble and you have a lost Murray when the offense breaks down. I could be way off, but I expect a bounce back performance from Murray now that Fitzgerald is back, even against a top defense. CARDINALS If I were Charles Barkley; Cardinals -3

Vikings at Buccaneers
Minnesota has won five of six. That’s impressive. They’ve also lost to a three win Dallas team and needed overtime to finish off the 1-11 Jaguars. I know it’s not “how you win,” but I’d like the Vikings to start putting together some better outings because their last three have been heavy on the ugly side. Regardless, I remain bullish on Minnesota because they know who they are and what they do well. I trust those teams more than teams still fishing for their identity this late in the season. Yes, I’m looking at you, Buccaneers. VIKINGS If I were Charles Barkley; Vikings +6.5

Broncos at Panthers
Drew Lock has four weeks to convince Denver they don’t need to draft a quarterback with their 2021 top 10 pick. While the Broncos having patience with their 2nd year quarterback wouldn’t be surprising, John Elway and the front office have invested heavily in the wide receiver position. So they can’t just hope Lock figures it out while some of the most talented players on their roster are rendered useless. Over the last three drafts, the Broncos have used five of their top seven picks on the passing game; two in the first round and three in the second. The Broncos need to know if Lock is their future, and now. He’s played well in stretches but has regressed overall from his rookie year, especially in the turnover category. So while Denver won’t be making a postseason run, Lock may still find himself in a do-or-die scenario. BRONCOS If I were Charles Barkley; Broncos +3.5

Titans at Jaguars
I try not to overreact to one game, but Tennessee’s performance against the Browns in Week 13 demonstrated why the Titans won’t make another deep postseason run. Cleveland entered last Sunday as the 30th ranked passing offense. Tennessee allowed Baker Mayfield to throw for 334 yards despite attempting only 3 passes in the 4th quarter. In fact, Mayfield has only been within 50 yards of his 334 Sunday total once in his last 16 games. The Chiefs are the favorite in the AFC. They’re the league’s best passing offense by a laaaaarge margin. The Steelers are the AFC’s other heavyweight and their offense relies heavily on their quartet of talented receivers. The Titans pass defense isn’t good enough to hang around in January this season. TITANS If I were Charles Barkley; Titans -7.5

Afternoon Games (4:05PM ET)

Colts at Raiders
Speaking of horrible performances… Remember when the Raiders were thought to be a legitimate threat in the AFC playoffs? That was a fun two weeks. I’m not all the way ready to write of Jon Gruden’s team, but I’m in range. The Colts are another perplexing team. Check out the disparity in their 1st half offensive performance vs. the 2nd half last week in Houston. 1st half: 5 drives, 247 yards, 24 points. 2nd half: 5 drives, 127 yards, 0 points. Now for the most confusing part; the Colts ran 33 plays in the 1st half and 32 in the 2nd. COLTS If I were Charles Barkley; Colts -3

Jets at Seahawks
I missed the convention when all of football media agreed to largely ignore Russell Wilson’s struggles over the last five weeks. Seattle is 2-3 over that stretch and those two wins have come against the sinking Cardinals and the capsized, floating upside down wreckage that is the Eagles. Wilson’s thrown 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions in that stretch, but perhaps most telling is his sack numbers have increased. In Seattle’s last three losses, Wilson has been sacked at least 5 times in each game. Seattle’s defense isn’t going to carry the Seahawks, and the rushing attack is average at best. Wilson is their best shot at any kind of playoff run. If they can’t protect him, they’re sitting ducks because every likely NFC playoff team ranks among the top 10 in sack percentage except Minnesota. SEAHAWKS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +13.5

Packers at Lions
The Lions have a potential out in regards to Matthew Stafford after the 2020 season. They should take it, and I don’t mean this as a knock against Stafford. I like Stafford. He’s both underrated and a slight disappointment. But the Lions need to make their open head-coaching gig as attractive as possible, and retaining Stafford probably won’t help. Detroit must give their next coach the opportunity to bring in a quarterback of his choosing, whether via the draft, trade or free agency. If it’s Stafford, great, but I’m guessing the next coach will want to separate himself from as much Detroit baggage as possible. PACKERS If I were Charles Barkley; Packers -8

Saints at Eagles
I want Jalen Hurts to be great, but if Hurts plays really well down the stretch, does that mean Jeffrey Lurie forgets the dumpster fire Doug Pederson’s offense has been for the last three seasons? Or that Howie Roseman has been a flat out disaster in the draft? Lurie needs to take all his thoughts, feelings and anger, put them on paper, and put that paper in a safe in his office. And no matter what happens over the next four weeks, the things written on that paper should not change. (Unless of course he wrote down “keep Doug and Howie.” Then those things definitely need to change. SAINTS If I were Charles Barkley; Saints -7

Falcons at Chargers
I’ve passively defended Anthony Lynn keeping his job for most of the season, but that Chargers performance last week was tough to rationalize. Justin Herbert has attempted 42 or more passes in six of his last seven games, including 50+ in back to back weeks. Here is where many may criticize the Chargers for putting the offense entirely on their rookie quarterback. I’m not one of them, and here’s why. The Chargers average 29.7 rushing attempts per game. That’s 9th in the NFL. They average only 3.8 yards per rush, which is 27th in the league. Essentially, the Chargers commit heavily to something they do worse than 80% of the NFL. So yeh, I’d throw the football a bunch too. This feels like a much bigger game for the coaches than the players. Raheem Morris’ momentum to retain the Falcons job has lost all its steam from a month ago and Lynn’s holding onto his job with the tip of a pinky. CHARGERS If I were Charles Barkley; Chargers +1.5

Football Team at 49ers
All that talk back in October and November making fun of the NFC East and here we are in mid December with a Wildcard matchup no NFC offense wants. You think the Rams, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Vikings or Cardinals want to go play against a top 10 defense… outside… in January? I don’t think so. In all likelihood, the NFC East will be hosting the Seahawks or Buccaneers. Both teams rank among the top 11 in pass play percentage. The Buccaneers flat out can’t run the football.  Both the Giants and Football Team are top 10 in sacks. Washington’s defense is a force against the pass, ranking among the top five in nearly every defensive passing category. The Giants are elite against the run and forcing turnovers. Choose your poison. FOOTBALL TEAM If I were Charles Barkley; Football Team +3

Sunday Night (8:20PM ET)

Steelers at Bills
I’m not in the majority here, but I’m not all that worried about the Steelers not having a rushing attack. Once they get James Conner back that should be enough for what their offense needs. Pittsburgh is like the Chiefs in that regard. While a potent ground game would be nice, why devote a large chunk of your offense to running the football when your talent is on the outside? One thing I think the Steelers need to do in order to fix their struggling offense is get back to taking more shots deep downfield. Ben Roethlisberger’s average yards per attempt the last three weeks has plummeted over a full yard compared to his season average up to that point. As for the Bills… Josh Allen was awesome Monday night. I’m interested to see how he does against the NFL’s top defense. STEELERS If I were Charles Barkley; Steelers +2

Monday Night (8:15PM ET)

Ravens at Browns
Dallas’ rush defense was already the worst in the NFL heading into Week 13, so Baltimore pounding the ground game wasn’t a surprise. I wonder, though, if their success Tuesday changes their approach to the final quarter of the season. Lamar Jackson’s 17 passing attempts tied the lowest number of his career. I know Baltimore has two years of evidence that their offense doesn’t succeed in the postseason, but I think they double down on what they do best just to ensure they get to the postseason and figure the rest out later. Prior to beating Dallas, the Ravens faced teams who now have winning records for five straight weeks. They went 1-4 over that stretch and 1-3 when Jackson played. A closer look at the box score should provide direction for the Ravens down the stretch. In the first two games of that tough stretch (a loss to Pittsburgh and a win over the Colts), Baltimore’s run/pass ratio was 62/38. If not for a Jackson fumble inside the Pittsburgh 10 late in the 4th quarter, I think the Ravens beat Pittsburgh. Regardless, over the next two weeks Baltimore’s ratios evened out closer to 50/50 and it resulted in two bad losses. Jackson’s feet and Baltimore’s rushing attack is their greatest chance of success right now, not Jackson’s arm. RAVENS If I were Charles Barkley; Ravens -2.5

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