I picked the Jets, and it cost me a winning record last week.
I should probably be forced to wear a scarlet ‘J’ on my chest for the rest of the NFL season.
I’m ashamed, and I let you down.
And as much as I’d like to spend the next few paragraphs or so complaining about the Jets and their impressive track record of sustained ineptitude, the show must go on. There are actually some great NFL teams and matchups to discuss, so let’s get to it.
There are just four weeks left in the NFL’s regular season and the importance of each game is obviously compounded by the fact that time is of the essence.
For a swath of teams with records anywhere between 8-4 and 6-6, the playoffs are still within arms reach and the next four weeks are essentially filled with playoff games for them.
Division leaders and teams with better records are still fighting for their division crown and of course for the coveted No. 1 and 2 seeds and a first-round bye. Two such teams will square off on Thursday night, getting Week 14 started right with what’s arguably not just the game of the week, but the game of the year.
But first… Let’s review Week 13!
ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 7-8 (Season Record – 92-86-4)
Straight Up – 8-7 (Season Record – 106-83-2)
Locks of the Week – 2-3 (Season Record – 38-32-1)
As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.
Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.
All spreads courtesy of CBS
(10-2) Oakland Raiders @ (9-3) Kansas City Chiefs (-3) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chiefs
Level Of Confidence – None — Uh, I mean, Heads or Tails
Seriously, I have no idea how this one is going to play out. Don’t look at me like that… you have no idea either. And I don’t care what any analyst says on the matter, nobody knows what’s going to happen in Kansas City on Thursday night.
Both the Raiders and Chiefs have been playing stellar football this year and you know they’re both going to be ready to go for this one.
And while it’s great that this game gets the primetime treatment it deserves, it’s a shame we have to watch these two go at it on short rest.
Still, this should be a highly entertaining, tightly-contested game for 60 minutes, but I’m going with the Chiefs to get the job done and cover the three-point spread.
The Chiefs did a number on Derek Carr and the Raiders when these teams met Week 6 IN Oakland, which has to count for something. On top of that, the Chiefs are super, super steady while Oakland has a bit more volatility to their style of play and the way they win games. I don’t think that bodes well for them against a team as fundamentally sound as the Chiefs, which is why I’m going with KC.
No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week
(6-6) Minnesota Vikings @ (2-10) Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Vikings
Right now, Gus Bradley is like an action hero that has taken a barrage of bullets to the chest and somehow, inexplicably, keeps going. I’m not exactly a confidant of Jaguars owner Shad Khan, but my educated guess is Bradley won’t be back for yet another sequel.
Speaking of cast members that won’t be back, Blake Bortles has probably been the worst starting QB in the NFL this season. I’m not sure what happened to the 24-year-old youngster with as much promise as any young QB in the league heading into 2016, but that’s long gone.
What I’m trying to say is, Jaguars lose, Vikings win, because the Jags are a mess.
(4-7-1) Cincinnati Bengals @ (0-12) Cleveland Browns (+5.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bengals
While a part of me is inclined to take the Browns against a division rival they’ve played close in the past, I’m not taking the bait here. The Bengals were hard-luck losers in their three games before they finally got off the schneid last week against the Eagles and I think they carry that momentum with them into Cleveland.
Sure, misery loves company, and the chance to put another ‘L’ on a hated rival might get the Browns’ motor running, but I don’t think they have what it takes to beat Cincy, whether A.J. Green suits up or not.
(5-6-1) Arizona Cardinals @ (7-5) Miami Dolphins (-1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals
The Cardinals have had a bizarre season to say the very least. At times they’ve looked like the Super Bowl contenders many thought they’d be at the beginning of the year and at others they’ve looked lost, listless and over-matched.
Now, at 5-6-1, they still have a glimmer of hope at a playoff berth, but only if they run the table the rest of the way.
They’ll have to do it primarily on the road as three of their last four take them away from the friendly confines of University of Phoenix stadium.
The Dolphins also have a shot at making it to the postseason but will likely need to win out as well to emerge with a No. 5 or 6 seed in a crowded AFC Wild Card picture. Their 38-6 loss to the Ravens was stunning, but was also slightly revealing as Miami only beat one team above .500 during their six-game win streak.
I think they struggle again and the Cardinals keep their remote hopes alive for at least another week.
(7-5) Atlanta Falcons @ (4-8) Los Angeles Rams (+6) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Falcons
The Rams have just gotten the doors blown off of them by teams cut from the exact same cloth as the Falcons the last two weeks in a row. The Falcons lost in one of the most brutal ways imaginable last week and will be, as we say, out for blood.
Plus, good god is Jeff Fisher a mess. I’m going to do the opposite of what the Rams just did and avoid putting my money on him at all costs.
Falcons win easily.
Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good
(6-6) Houston Texans @ (6-6) Indianapolis Colts (-6)
ATS/Straight Up – Colts
The teams comprising the AFC South are avoiding taking the division crown like it’s half-off, two-day-old sushi at the supermarket.
Things are that bad.
But either way, when this debacle is over, one of these teams will have a 7-6 record (barring another tie) and will be one step closer to being eliminated in the Wild Card rou… uh, I mean, winning the AFC South title.
I think the Colts get the job done. If there’s one thing the Jets are good at, it’s giving their opponents a confidence boost, so I’m sure with their newly-discovered swagger the Colts can dispatch another sub-par quarterback by a large margin.
(8-4) Denver Broncos @ (6-6) Tennessee Titans (-1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Titans
The Broncos have not been impressive of late and their trouble spot all year has been stopping the run. I don’t want to over-simplify this too much, but, the Titans run the ball really well.
Trevor Siemian’s return to the lineup definitely helps the Broncos as Paxton Lynch hasn’t looked NFL ready in any of his regular season action this year, but I like Tennessee to control the clock and do enough defensively to get a big ‘W’ and keep them in the playoff hunt.
(3-9) Chicago Bears @ (8-4) Detroit Lions (-8) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS – Bears
Straight Up – Lions
The only thing fan bases of teams with abysmal records want is a glimpse, however small, of a potentially brighter future. Matt Barkley has four games left to continue to provide that glimmer of hope to Bears fans and this would be a heck of a time to do it.
I feel like a broken record I’ve said this so many times, but the Lions play close games almost every week. I think a division matchup here is no exception. Lions win by a TD.
(7-5) Baltimore Ravens @ (10-2) New England Patriots (-7) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Ravens
This is a whole lot of points to be giving a 7-5 division-leading team with the best defense in the NFL. I get it, it’s the Patriots, they command that kind of respect, but I think the Gronk-less Patriots will struggle here.
Ravens pull the upset over the Patriots and expand their AFC North lead in the process, let’s say on a last-second Justin Tucker field goal.
Heads or Tails
(7-5) Pittsburgh Steelers @ (6-6) Buffalo Bills (+2) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Bills
Had the Bills held on in Oakland, it would have put them on a path towards a possible playoff berth with a 7-5 record and three winnable games to close out their year against the Dolphins, Browns and Jets.
Now, at 6-6, they need to win out and need a lot to go right for them to sneak back into the playoff picture.
The Steelers, meanwhile, are in a heated playoff race of their own for both a Wild Card berth and for the AFC North title (tied at 7-5 with Baltimore), so the stakes couldn’t be higher when these teams meet in western New York on Sunday afternoon.
Even though it felt like Buffalo’s playoff chances evaporated into the Bay Area fog last week, I think Rex Ryan’s squad finds a way against the Steelers this week.
Pittsburgh’s been much better of late, but they’ve beaten up on some weak teams and — to their credit, mind you — were able to capitalize on a mistake-prone Giants offense to get the win last week.
If the Bills play mistake-free football, they win this game.
(5-7) San Diego Chargers @ (4-8) Carolina Panthers (-1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Chargers
The Seahawks win at home — that’s just what they do, they’re 6-0 there — but to not even show up against a perennial NFL superpower as the Panthers did on Sunday was damning.
The Eagles, Bills and Falcons, all teams that range from mediocre to above average, roughly in that order, played the Seahawks tight at home, so no excuses or “let’s toss that one out, everyone loses in Seattle” rationale at play here for Carolina.
The Chargers are playing good football against good opponents and I’m honestly not sure if Carolina shows up on Sunday for this one after the shellacking they took out west.
(6-5-1) Washington Redskins @ (5-7) Philadelphia Eagles (+1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Redskins
The Eagles are a different beast at home versus on the road, but they’ve also been a very different team this second half of the season. Their defense has been far less impressive as has their franchise quarterback, leaving Eagles fans left wondering just a little bit about that ‘sure thing’ they thought they had under center.
I think the oddsmakers are being a little too kind to the Eagles here and are dissing the Redskins. This spread should be +3 at least, in which case I’d consider taking Philly as I think they keep it close, but ultimately Washington finds a way.
‘Skins by three.
(3-9) New York Jets @ (2-10) San Francisco 49ers (-1) – Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – 49ers
The Jets flat out quit on coach Todd Bowles in front of their fans and a national audience on Monday night. Now, I’m supposed to give them a serious look as they head across the country with a second-year starter who’s starting his second NFL game?
Uh, no thanks.
49ers take it.
(5-7) New Orleans Saints @ (7-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Buccaneers
Arguably, aside from the Cowboys, no team in the NFL has been hotter than the Bucs of late. Not only has Tampa taken hold of the NFC South, but they’ve done it by beating some very good teams, notably the Seahawks and the Chiefs in back-to-back weeks.
So it stands to reason that they can handle a Saints team that’s staggering to the finish line after showing brief signs of life in the middle of the season.
Plus, someone please explain to me how the Saints can possibly stop Mike Evans. I’ll wait.
Bucs win and continue their run towards the playoffs.
(8-3-1) Seattle Seahawks @ (6-6) Green Bay Packers (+2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Packers
Let’s not go so far as to say the Packers are ‘back’, but they’re on the road back to respectability with each passing victory.
The question, though, is whether it’s too late for them to turn this season into a memorable one with a late playoff push?
I say it isn’t.
I think the Packers get up for this game against the Seahawks and manage to grind out a ‘W’ against a Seattle team that’s Jekyll and Hyde on the road vs. at home.
Plus, I think the loss of Earl Thomas hurts Seattle more than we think, especially against an offense like Green Bay’s.
Packers by a field goal.
(11-1) Dallas Cowboys @ (8-4) New York Giants (+3) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET
ATS/Straight Up – Giants
Ezekiel Elliott hasn’t lost on the road in seven years. Let that sink in for a second, because it’s pretty damn impressive.
Now, forget about it, because that streak is going the way of the Cowboys’ 11-game win streak this weekend — it’s over.
Elliott and the Cowboys have had their way running the ball almost every week this year except one… when they faced the Giants in Week 1. That week, Big Blue limited Elliott to just 51 yards on 20 carries for 2.6 yards per carry.
Sure, you could argue that Elliott was a rookie, playing in his first career NFL game, and has found his groove since that opening day loss.
I counter with the fact that the Giants have been stout against the run all year and I think that’ll continue against the Cowboys on Sunday night.
Giants pull the upset.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.