After a strong 3-2 ATS run last weekend during a very turbulent Sunday, James Scully returns once again with his Week 14 NFL Free Picks! Now at 28-32 ATS, Scully’s ready to take you down the homestretch.
*ATS (Against the Spread) / SU (Straight Up)
*PK indicates pick ’em
*home team in caps
Indianapolis Colts -4.5 vs Houston Texans (Sunday 1 p.m. ET)
Factoring in the natural home line, this spread suggests that Houston (-4.5) would be favored by less than a FG on a neutral field versus Indianapolis. This game won’t be close and is my best bet of the weekend. Texans the most improved team in the AFC and should have a picture of Rodney Dangerfield (‘I don’t get no respect’) hanging in their locker room given this ridiculous line.
Let’s start on offense where DeShaun Watson (coming back from an ACL) wasn’t healthy to start the season. He was also constantly on the run in the pocket, forcing Houston to throw the ball repeatedly (nearly 60% of time) in the first six games. The offensive line playing at a different level since Week 6, allowing Lamar Miller (6th in rushing yards) and the ground game to flourish as Houston has gone from near the bottom of the standings to the NFL’s third-best rushing attack. They only throw the ball 43% of the time now, with much-improved protection, and Watson developing into an elite QB with quality targets in DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas.
And don’t think the defense has simply been good since the start of the year: Houston surrendered 108 points and had trouble stopping bad teams the first four games of the season. JJ Watt and Jadeveon Clowney are superstar pass rushers who have managed to stay healthy for an entire season for the first time (so far), and Benardrick McKinney has been a top LB for years, but this defense has transformed into something special due to the progression of second-year LB Zach Cunningham (received the third-best grading for any LB in the league last week) and rookie S Justin Reid (top contender for defensive rookie of the year).
During their nine-game win streak, Houston has beaten Dallas at home. And they’ve won in recent weeks at Denver and Washington. They’re not getting it done with smoke and mirrors – 9-3 Texans have evolved into a legit AFC title contender and look destined to earn a bye as one of the top 2 seeds given the difficult schedules facing competitors.
Indianapolis enters at 6-6 SU by virtue of a five-game win streak in which they faced four non-playoff teams at home and won at Oakland. Andrew Luck one of the top QBs this season and the offensive line has played better than anybody expected. However, C Ryan Kelly and TE Jack Doyle were injured and lost for the season in recent weeks and that greatly changes the OL dynamic as witnessed by last week when Indy was 0-for-3 on 4th downs, gained only 41 yards rushing and wound up being shut out by one-dimensional Jacksonville with arguably the league’s worst offense.
Houston enters on 5-1 ATS run and Indy 3-5-1 ATS last nine games. Houston has all the momentum and is bigger and stronger up front on both sides. And given how banged-up the Colts are, with WR Hilton, LB Darius Leonard and S Malik Hooker all nursing injuries, this game has all the makings of a mismatch. Houston will win by double digits, lay the points!
Week 14 NFL Free Picks – Bet Houston -4.5 over Indianapolis!
New England Patriots -7.5 vs Miami Dolphins (Sunday 1 p.m. ET)
Miami (+7.5) always brings their best versus New England at home, winning three of the last four and 5-1 ATS in the last six at Hard Rock Stadium, and the home team has covered 13 of the last 16 games in this divisional rivalry.
Dolphins enter on the upswing, narrowly losing at Indianapolis two weeks ago and recording a 3-1 ATS mark in the last four games. Their improved play coincides with the recent return of QB Ryan Tannehill, who appears to be rounding back into top form with five TDs and only one interception in the last two games, and Miami (6-6 SU) remains in the thick of the wildcard chase with plenty to play for over the next four weeks. Adam Gase simply one of the best coaches in the NFL and while the defense has struggled statistically this season, the bend-but-don’t-break defense puts pressure on opposing QBs and doesn’t give up many points at home.
New England appears to be rounding into post-season form, posting a pair of convincing wins over the last two opponents, but this isn’t the high-scoring team from years past as the Patriots averaged only 20 points per game the last three weeks. They rely more on the ground game and defense nowadays, and it’s easy to envision another relatively low-scoring game in the difficult confines of South Florida. And New England must avoid looking ahead to the biggest remaining game on the schedule, at Pittsburgh next week. Points are a premium in what projects to be another close, heated rivalry game between two foes who know each other well; give me Miami!
Week 14 NFL Free Picks – Bet Miami +7.5 over New England!
New York Jets +3.5 vs Buffalo Bills (Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET)
New York Jets (+3.5) slumped mightily after opening the year 3-3 SU, dropping the next six games, but exit an encouraging performance at Tennessee in which they easily covered. Todd Bowles will likely lose his job after a third consecutive losing season, but the Green Machine (15-6-2 ATS in December games) appears on course to finish up strong once again for their beleaguered coach. Jets play better on the road and QB Sam Darnold returns to complement a ground game that put up 156 yards rushing last week.
Look for a regression from Buffalo following a fine road showing in which they outgained Miami but lost a heartbreaker when dropping a pass in the end zone on the final play. After playing well at Houston earlier this season, Bills were crushed 37-5 next out. They feature poor offensive line and have no decent WRs on the roster. Buffalo hasn’t been favored in any games this year and I certainly don’t want to lay more than a FG in this spot.
Jets have the better team and will be motivated for revenge after a poor showing against this divisional rival earlier this season. I like them straight up and expect a close, low-scoring game that will be decided by less a FG.
Week 14 NFL Free Picks – Bet New York Jets +3.5 over Buffalo!
Denver Broncos -4 vs San Francisco Forty Niners (Sunday 4:05 p.m. ET)
Bettors must be willing to adapt and Denver (-4) serves as a perfect example. After opening a woeful 2-6 SU, with a 0-4-1 ATS record in the first five games, Denver orchestrated a major turnaround and no longer resembles the same bad team. Broncos now a wildcard contender at 6-6 SU, covering six of the last seven games, and features a ferocious pass rush behind Von Miller (8 sacks) and Bradley Chubb (7 sacks) and a dynamic ground game behind rookie Phillip Lindsay. They’ve sustained a couple of key personnel losses of late, CB Chris Harris Jr. and WR Emmanuel Sanders, but those defections won’t hurt them against an inept foe.
Don’t expect San Francisco to be competitive over the final four weeks. They’ve been outscored 70-23 the last two games and sustained a major hit last week when losing RB Matt Breida, who was already replacing the injured starter. That leaves rookie Jeff Wilson, who was hobbled as well last week with a foot injury, as the projected starter at RB. Injuries have ruined the 49ers season and the defense had several players, including starting LB Watson and S Tartt, go down last week. One key fact about the defense: San Fran ranks last by turnover differential (-20), with amazingly only two interceptions and three fumbles recoveries. Compare to Denver (+8), who has forced 13 interceptions with a ball-hawking defense.
Reeling Niners (1-5 ATS last six games) like to give the ball away (15 interceptions, 10 lost fumbles) and will struggle to avoid being shut out against surging Denver. Lay the points with confidence!
Week 14 NFL Free Picks – Bet Denver -4 over New San Francisco!
Philadelphia Eagles +3.5 vs Dallas Cowboys (Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET)
After being inconsistent earlier in the season, Dallas (-3.5) has evolved into the one of the top teams in the NFC and enters on a 4-0 SU/ATS run. And they haven’t been beating up on tomato cans to improve their standing. After losing the first four road games of the season, Cowboys toughened up with road wins over Philadelphia and Atlanta. And they’ve continued to raise their level of play with home wins over Washington and New Orleans the past two weeks.
Everybody knows Dallas features a top pass rush but they’re fielding arguably the best overall defense in the NFL presently due to improved secondary play. Byron Jones a shutdown CB who played a key role in holding New Orleans (averaging 37.5 points per game) in check last week, with Drew Brees throwing for only 111 yards, and emergence of S Xavier Woods has been huge. And the run defense has improved significantly in recent weeks, allowing the Saints only 65 yards rushing in a close game. The addition of WR Amari Cooper has made a tremendous difference for a passing offense trending in the right direction and with the league’s leading rusher in Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas put up 100 yards rushing on the league’s best run defense last week. Look for this offense to keep clicking against a discombobulated opponent coming off a short week.
Philadelphia has crawled back to 6-6 SU by virtue of ugly wins over Giants (who blew chance to blow game open with late turnover in first half and still had chance to ice game late before being undermined by two missed calls) and Washington (Skins trailed only 14-13 early 4th quarter despite playing third-string Mark Sanchez, who had not thrown a pass in two years and was sitting on his coach at home 16 days earlier), but don’t be mistaken into believing this Eagles team is playing anywhere near the level of last season. Philly doesn’t force turnovers (-8 turnover differential) and defense has been ravaged by injuries, losing five players in the secondary including both starting CBs, and the offense is averaging only 20 points per games over the past six weeks. One the best rush offenses last year, Eagles have been forced to turn to RB Josh Adams due to injuries and rank a dismal 23rd overall. They’ve been terrible for bettors (1-3 ATS last four, 3-8 ATS last 11 games) and it’s unrealistic to expect the Eagles to get much going offensively against Dallas this weekend.
Series trends may favor Philly – visitor is 11-3 ATS in last 14 meetings – but this line is deflated because the Eagles are defending Super Bowl champs and have won two straight. Well-rested Dallas playing at a much higher level and highly-motivated to win a divisional race still up for grabs. Look for the ‘Boys to keep rolling and comfortably cover this low number!
Week 14 NFL Free Picks – Bet Dallas -3.5 over Philadelphia!
James Scully is a professional handicapper who hails from the great state of Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @JamesScully.