Author's Note: Two stats that I will be referencing throughout this weekly matchups column are Yards Per Point (YPP). and DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average). The goal of YPP is for an offense or defense to make the most of their opportunities when it comes to scoring points, but there are some important things that YPP doesn’t account for that DVOA does. In fact, DVOA accounts for everything YPP does plus important factors like turnovers, field position (where your drive starts) and special teams. These stats not only play a big part in scoring/preventing points, but they also play a big part in winning/covering spreads. With these statistics, my goal is to help us figure out which are the teams that are the most efficient at scoring AND at preventing points. Now, without further adieu, let’s officially get into our new NFL Week 14 matchup breakdowns column!
A quick primer on YPP and its importance in our handicapping: One of, if not THE most powerful measuring statistics in football, to measure how great an offense or defense is (or isn’t), in my opinion, is Yards Per Point (YPP). Yards Per Point is effective because it measures how many yards an offense gains before they score a point. A different stat that is regularly used by handicappers isYards Per Play, which only takes into account how many yards an offense gains and not its scoring. Gaining yards is a good thing to measure, sure, but in this world, we need to score points, and it does us no favors if a team gains yards without producing those points. This is where YPP will come into play for us. For an offense, the lower the YPP is, the better. Between 10-13 is a very good YPP number for an NFL offense, while 14-15 is average and 16 or lower I consider to be below average for an NFL offense. For defenses, the higher the YPP number is, the better. A defense with a high YPP doesn’t give up a lot of points for the yards that are gained against them. Throughout our weekly matchups column I will reference this stat quite often here.
Washington (+3.5) @ 49ers
Since Alex Smith has been named the starter the Washington Football Team has gone 3-1 SU and ATS and knocking off the undefeated Steelers may be the confidence and motivation they can ride to the end of the reason as they fight to make the playoffs and win the NFC East division. I picked Washington to cover the spread against Pittsburgh mainly because the disadvantages stacked up against Pittsburgh but for this matchup against the 49ers they won’t have those same advantages as both teams will be on short weeks but they won’t need them because I think Washington is the better team considering the injuries the 49ers have been facing all year. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best young coaches but against road underdogs over the last 3 years he’s 3-11-1 ATS. Washington also has an elite defense that ranks 3rd and 5th in pass coverage and pass rush grades according to Pro Football Focus. I’ll take Washington with the points and also like their chances of winning outright again as they’re riding the emotions of upsetting the Steelers and look to get a win for Alex Smith Over one of his former team.
Like: Washington +3.5
Titans (-7.5) @ Jaguars **Teaser Pick**
After being embarrassed in the 1st half by the Browns the Titans played a great 2nd half winning 28-3 but the whole was to big to climb out of so I’m expecting them to come out with a great sense of emergency against a weaker opponent in the Jaguars. For two weeks in a row the Jaguars have played above expectations losing by a total of 5 points. Coming out of their bye week Jake Luton played well enough for the Jags to be competitive in at least 2 starts before he crashed and burned out against the Steelers and now Mike Glennon has played well enough for them to be competitive in his 2 starts now I’m expecting him to crash and burn against a motivated Titans team that can still win the the AFC South Division. Look for the Titans to establish the running game early with Derrick Henry and for the defense to continue their play from the 2nd half against the Browns.
Like: Titans (-1.5) **Tease by 6**
Vikings (+6.5) @ Buccaneers **Teaser Pick**
A bye week couldn’t come at a better time for the Buccaneers as they lost 2 straight games and a big reason for those losses came to turnovers from Tom Brady not being on the same page with his receivers. Over the last 2 games Brady has thrown 4 interceptions and the Bucs have lost by a total of 6 points. During the bye week I expect that Brady and his receivers have corrected their communication issues as well as realizing how important the running game is to their success with Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette. In their 7 wins the Buccaneers have ran the ball a minimum of 20 times between the 2 running backs so I’m looking for the Bucs to run the ball and keep that explosive Vikings offense on the sidelines and take advantage of this Vikings rush defense that gives up over 4 YPC and 121 YPG on the ground.
Like: Bucs (-0.5/PK) **Tease by 6**
Texans (-1.5) @ Bears
Deshaun Watson has pretty much been the lone bright spot for the Texans this year. They’ve gotten rid of his top weapons but he still finds a way to produce numbers. Last week against a tough Colts pass defense without Will Fuller he went for 300+ passing yards and I think his player prop is another solid play to go over the total set at 274.5. Watson has went under that number only twice this season and one of those games was a bad weather game against the Browns. Without Fuller last week against the Colts, Cooks, Hansen and Coutee combined for 24 targets 18 catches and 307 yards. David Johnson returned after missing multiple games and even contributed in the passing attack catching all six of his targets for 24 yards. The Bears have a solid defense as well but they’re coming off an upset loss as a favorite against the Lions where Matt Stafford showed this Bears defense can be exposed through the air as he threw for 402 yards and 3 touchdowns while completing 64% of his passes. I think Watson is better than Stafford and the game plan for the Texans will continue jump on Watson’s back to try and get a win.
Like: Deshaun Watson Over 274.5 passing yards
Cowboys (-3.5) @ Bengals
This is a relatively low total set at 42.5 that opened at 43.5 but I think that’s in large part because both teams are playing with backup quarterbacks and do not score a lot of points since their starting quarterbacks went out for the season with injuries. Over the last 3 games the Bengals have given up 19.3 PPG and the Cowboys have given up more but they’ve played tougher opponents in the Ravens and Vikings for two out of there last three gamesso the Bengals don’t fit the mold of being on the same level of the Vikings or Ravens. Both teams have gone 2-3 ATS in their last five games but it’s considered more of a disappointment for the Cowboys than the Bengals as they had playoff aspirations and some considered them a legit Super Bowl contender. I think the Bengals will have more motivation to play this game as they have more young guys on the roster playing to prove they belong in the NFL and possibly want to have a roster spot on this next year when they get Joe Burrow back and improve the roster through the draft and free agency.
Lean: Bengals +3.5
Cardinals (-3) @ Giants
Since Kyler Murray sustained an injury to his shoulder the Cardinals have been protecting him more by choosing not to run him as much lately and it’s hurt his production as well as them winning games and putting points up on the board. Over their last three games they’ve scored 22 PPG going 0-3 SU and ATS while the offense has put up 281 yards of offense that ranks 30th in the league. Simply put the Cardinals need Murray to be healthy so he can get back to contributing to the running game. The Giants have been playing great football over the last month going 4-1 SU and ATS in their last 5 games while playing Bucs close and beating the Seahawks on the road during that stretch. They’ve enjoyed the success of their defense while they’ve only allowed the Bucs to reach 25 points and holding teams to 314.8 yards of total offense. The Giants are hopeful that Daniel Jones can return but if he’s not Colt McCoy has enough experience and talent to make another start and give them a chance to win and remain at the top of the NFC East division.
Lean: Giants +3
Broncos (+3.5) @ Panthers
The Panthers have two tough losses in their last four games losing by a total of 3 points to the Buccaneers and Vikings so that tells me that Matt Rhule does a good job of getting his team ready to play and they haven’t given up on him while he’s trying to establish a winning culture in his first season. Teddy Bridgewater is having a solid season completing 70% of his passes throwing for 2,819 yards with a 14:8 touchdown to interception ratio. He should be able to hook up with his top wide receiver in Robby Anderson to have a big day. Anderson has 13 more targets than second place DJ Moore and Anderson could see an uptick in targets while Moore and Samuel are dealing with injuries. There isn’t a set number for Anderson’s player prop but he’s averaging 76 receiving yards per game so any number set at less than 75 for him I’ll play him to go over.
Like: Robby Anderson over 75 receiving yards
Chiefs (-7) @ Dolphins
This is pretty much a measuring stick game for the Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa going up against the best team over the last two seasons in the Chiefs and best quarterback in the game in Patrick Mahomes and I think the Dolphins will have opportunities to put up points. This total is at 50.5 and the Chiefs have scored 25 or more in four of their last five games while also allowing their opponents to score the Panthers and Raiders to score 30 plus points and the Bucs scored 24. The Dolphins showed they’re capable of scoring 25 or more points while they went over that mark in three of their last six games. Brian Flores does has some experience going up against the Patrick Mahomes from his time with the Patriots running the defense but the Chiefs were still able to score in bunches so in order for the Dolphins to have a shot Tua is going to need a game like he had against the Cardinals and I think he will
Like: Over 50.5
Colts (-3) @ Raiders
The Colts have had to play some explosive offenses in their last six games and their defense has proven to be legit when they weren’t effected by COVID. In five of those games they’ve held their opponents to 22.6 PPG and I think they can do the same thing to the Raiders. Jonathan Taylor will be a big factor for this matchup as well. In his last two games he’s averaging 90.5 yards per game on the ground while gaining 5.5 yards per carry so I think the Colts will try and copy the game plan of the Jets last week when their running game went for 178 yards and 7 yards per carry. The Raiders have some explosive playmakers on offense and their biggest matchup problem is at tight end with Darren Waller. He had 13 catches for 200 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets which ranks as the sixth best game in the NFL from a tight end but the Colts are much better defense and smarter so I don’t expect that type of production out of him this week.
Like: Colts -3
Jets (+13.5) @ Seahawks
The Seahawks are coming off an embarrassing home lost to the Giants last week and I’m expecting a bounce back performance from them and Russell Wilson against the Jets as they’re everybody’s “get right” game this year as they’re 0-11 and have a real shot at going 0-16 this year. The Jets best opportunity to get a win came last week against the Raiders and a couple weeks ago when they made a late comeback against the Chargers but still gave up a ton of yards to Justin Herbert and Derek Carr. Carr went for 381 yards and 3 touchdowns while Herbert went for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns and neither one of them is better than Russell Wilson who’s player prop is set at 280.5 yards and he averages 289.9 yards per game through the air so I see value in playing that over at -118.
Like: Russell Wilson Over 289.5 passing yards
Packers (-7.5) @ Lions
Patrick Mahomes is the front runner for the MVP but Aaron Rodgers isn’t far behind throwing for 3,395 yards, completing nearly 70% of his passes and having 36 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions with a 118.5 quarterback rating. The Packers also have a solid running game led by Aaron Jones who’s averaging 75.4 yards per game in the 10 games he’s played. The Lions are off a comeback win against the Bears being down 10 points in the fourth quarter after they fired their head coach Matt Patricia and they may be still riding that momentum to prove that Patricia was more of the problem than the players on the roster. With Aaron Jones being an important piece to the Packers success and finally healthy over the last two weeks averaging 110 yards on 7 yards per carry I would look to play his player prop over if it’s less than 75 yards. In their first matchup back in September, Jones went for 168 yards on 18 carries and 2 touchdowns.
Like: Aaron Jones Over 75 rushing yards
Falcons (-2.5) @ Chargers
With the Chargers coming off a complete embarrassing performance last week against the Patriots I think they have a bounce back performance against the the Falcons but I just can’t trust Anthony Lynn anymore as a head coach but they do have Justin Herbert who’s been having the best year for rookie quarterbacks in recent memory. I’m not going to count his performance last week against him as Bill Belichick specializes in making rookie quarterbacks look confused. This is also a relatively low total at 49.5 for two offenses that are capable scoring in the 30s so I like the play on the over. Over their last six games the Chargers have scored 25 or more three times while giving up 25 or more in all six games and the Falcons have scored 25 or more in their last four games while giving up 25 or more in two of those four games.
Like: Over 49.5
Saints (-7) @ Eagles
Sean Payton has proven to be one of the top 3-5 coaches in the NFL considering what he’s been able to do with the Saints over the last couple years going 8-0 in games Drew Brees hasn’t played in and with two different quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater last year for five games and Taysom Hill this year for three games. Also a large amount of credit goes to that defense with holding their opponents under 25 points in their last six games. The Eagles are looking for a spark making a quarterback change to Jalen Hurts from Carson Wentz but unfortunately for Hurts I think he’s going to deal with the same struggles as Carson Wentz behind this offensive line. The Eagles was dealing with injuries to multiple starters before the season and they’ve allowed Wentz to be the most sacked and hit quarterback in the league and last week Hurts and Wentz combined to go down seven times in 27 pass attempts (26% of the time) and it won’t get any easier against a Saints defense that ranks 4th in sacks with 36. With both teams having running quarterbacks under center and defenses that’s been holding their opponents under 22 points in recent weeks like a play on the total going under 43 points.
Like: Under 43
Steelers (+1.5) @ Bills
With the Steelers missing some key defensive players last week against Washington and playing on only four days rest proved to be a bad spot for them and helped contribute to them ending their undefeated seasons. Now they have to deal with the red hot Bills and Josh Allen. The Bills have scored 24 or more points in each of their last five games and I don’t see a banged up Steelers defense stopping them on Sunday night. With the Steelers being banged up on defense they’re going to need to rely on their offense to carry the load and over the last six games they’ve shown they’re capable by scoring 24 or more points four out six of those games. They have a dynamic receiving core with Claypool, Johnson and Smith-Schuster so they shouldn’t have any issues against this Bills secondary that do have playmakers but they will give up yards and big plays.
Like: Over 48
Ravens (-2.5) @ Browns
The Browns are 9-3 and hold a two game lead over last years division leader Ravens and I think this is a statement game for the Browns as the media has given them props for their record but claim they haven’t beat any good teams expect for the Colts. The Browns are currently on a six game win streak but three of those wins came at home under some bad weather conditions so Baker Mayfield hasn’t been getting his proper respect but in those two games following the bad weather against the Jaguars and Titans, Mayfield is averaging 296 yards per game with six touchdowns and 0 turnovers. The Ravens are allowing opposing quarterbacks to average 270 passing per game in their last three games and if Baker Mayfield‘ player prop is set at 265 or less for Monday Night Football I’m going to take the over.
Like: Baker Mayfield Over 265 passing yards