The NFL regular season chugs onward with Week 14. Four teams are idle, as the Colts, Dolphins, Patriots and Eagles all drew the short straw with the latest off weeks of the season. That may not be a bad thing, though, as they’ll have a chance to rest up for the playoff push.
Look-ahead lines are always worth a few minutes of your time to see how the teams are priced before game week, just to try and spot some overreactions. Then you can compare those with the lines that come out on Sunday night to see if what happened in the previous game is properly accounted for in the markets.
Here are a few early lines I like for Week 14:
New Orleans Saints (-6, 44) at New York Jets
Taysom Hill was 19 of 41 with four interceptions against the Cowboys last week and he is also suffering from “Mallet Finger,” which sounds like a ska band from the ‘90s. Hill will try to play through the injury, but the Saints could opt to go back to Trevor Siemian with his 57.2% completion rate.
The Saints have a complete mess at the quarterback position. So do the Jets, which is unfortunate because they used the No. 2 pick on Zach Wilson, who has had 11 passes intercepted against six touchdowns.
It might take these teams two games to score 43 points with the quarterback play that we’ve seen to this point. Neither team can really run the football either, as the Jets and Saints are both below the league average in yards per carry. Weather could be a factor, given that it’s December, but even if not, these are two inept offenses.
Pick: Under 44
The Jaguars were the perfect remedy for the Rams, who were on a three-game slide. However, a lot of the season rides on next week’s game at Arizona.
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals (-1 1/2, 47 1/2)
Teams that are just finding out what it’s like to be in the playoff picture after a long hiatus can sometimes fall short of expectations. That happened to the Bengals this past week. After blowing out the rival Steelers, Cincinnati dug a 24-0 hole against the Chargers. It was a desperate Chargers bunch, but the Bengals still have no excuse for how the game started and the lopsided finish.
San Francisco will be the second consecutive California team to go west to east for a kickoff on the banks of the Ohio River. Even though Joe Burrow has to deal with a dislocated pinkie finger, the Bengals quarterback and his mates should be ready to go from the jump this week. They aren’t coming off of an historic win against a division rival. They’re coming off of a humbling performance that set them back in the AFC playoff chase.
The 49ers had a tough outing of their own, losing to the rival Seahawks to stop a three-game winning streak. It is true that San Francisco will be one of the better offenses that Cincinnati has faced this season, but the Bengals are extremely stout against the run and we saw how much the Niners struggled without Deebo Samuel last week. He’s likely to miss this week as well.
I wouldn’t call it a buy-low spot on the Bengals, but this is a good situation. The 49ers are on their second long trip east in four weeks and were idle in Week 6, so they’re in a tough spot here.
Pick: Bengals -1 1/2
The Rams took care of business and ended a three-game skid by beating the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, but can they beat the NFL’s better teams?
Dallas Cowboys (-4 1/2, 49) at Washington
The Cowboys are on some extra rest here after playing a second consecutive Thursday game and it does come at a good time, as Dallas has had numerous COVID and injury issues in recent weeks. The opponent, however, comes at a bad time.
Washington has improved quickly over the last few weeks, as some positive regression has hit on third down and in the red zone. Defensively, it has also been better lately. It held five straight opponents to fewer than 305 yards and fewer than 20 first downs before the Raiders had 310 yards and 21 first downs to eke over those totals.
The Cowboys do have a strong offense, but they also have a suspect defense. Washington also has something of a coaching edge here, especially with how Ron Rivera’s team has really turned things around. Five points just seems like a couple too many.
Pick: Washington +4 1/2
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The Chargers got off to a blazing start, taking a 24-0 lead, then allowed 22 consecutive points before the defense returned a fumble for a score to ignite a 41-22 win over the Bengals.