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Week 13 Primetime Moneymakers: Four the Win

A week after having the NFL primetime schedule extended into Wednesday we will do so again in Week 13. It’s an attempt to get back on track. Week 12’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens took so long to be played that their matchups this week have been pushed back in response. Pittsburgh will play the Washington Football Team on Monday at 5:00 PM ET; technically not in primetime but the unique time lands it on the list. Baltimore will face the Dallas Cowboys on Tuesday at 8:05 PM ET.

Sitting at 9-14 after a pair of brutal weeks, we finally hit it big going 3-0. We nailed Bears-Packers outright but only got Seahawks-Eagles and Steelers-Ravens covers because the spread changed. So what, we’ll take it at this point. The record now sits at 12-14 with a chance to go above .500 on the year for the first time. It’s been an absolute rollercoaster of bad beats but there’s still money to be made. If anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us!

Picking Four to Win in Week 13 Primetime Moneymakers

Denver Broncos (4-7) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-1)

Spread: Chiefs -14

O/U: 51

Drew Lock should be back under center for the Denver Broncos (6-5 ATS). They had to face the New Orleans Saints with practice squad receiver Kendall Hinton, a converted college quarterback. It did not go well as they lost 31-3. The Broncos average 22.7 PPG in Lock’s seven starts this season. They’ll need every bit of it with their opponent this week. Defensively they rank 10th in DVOA, per Football Outsiders, and seventh in sacks. That’s a testament to the job head coach Vic Fangio has done without Von Miller this season.

If ‘unbothered’ was a person, that person would be Patrick Mahomes. Undaunted by the reputation of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense (which was largely overblown anyway), he and the Kansas City Chiefs (6-5 ATS) put up 27 fairly easy points on them. They held off a late rally to reach double-digit wins for the sixth season in a row and seventh in eight years under Andy Reid (they won nine games the other year).

Perhaps in some alternate universe Lock is developed enough. And Miller and Courtland Sutton are healthy so the Broncos can keep up with the Chiefs. In this reality, though, he and the rest of the offense aren’t equipped to take advantage. The Chiefs defense ranks 17th in DVOA and has just 20 sacks on the season. Good luck to that secondary containing Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, and Mecole Hardman. No secondary is that deep. Take the Chiefs but just moneyline. For some reason, 14 points feel like too many to lay against a divisional opponent even with such a lopsided matchup.

Washington Football Team (4-7) at Pittsburgh Steelers (11-0)

Spread: Steelers -10

O/U: 42.5

The Washington Football Team (6-5 ATS) have had a surprisingly competitive season. And that’s not just because they play in the worst division in professional football which means they still have a chance to host a playoff game. It’s also because their defense is ranked fifth in DVOA despite the offense being 27th and 24th in scoring. Alex Smith has led the Football Team to back-to-back wins but has just three touchdowns to five interceptions.

By now the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-3 ATS) have to be tired of COVID as much as anyone. On top of having their own problems with the virus, they have had their games moved twice already due to their opponents handling of it. Still, they are undefeated and coming off a disappointing win (per Mike Tomlin) against a depleted division rival. Can their offense (sixth in scoring, 15th in DVOA) take a break and ride the defense (first in scoring and DVOA) to another win?

Some might be questioning the validity of Pittsburgh’s record after watching Ben Roethlisberger and co. struggle against Baltimore but that’s just how those games go. Washington will need them to play as sloppily as they did in Week 12 to have a shot because a shootout guarantees a Steelers victory. Barring that this will make it 12 wins for Tomlin’s team but maybe not by the double-digit margin predicted. The quick turnaround might lead the Steelers to run more with guys still missing in action and that would be just fine with the Football Team. Steelers moneyline seems best as does the under.

Buffalo Bills (8-3) at San Francisco 49ers (5-6)

Spread: 49ers +1

O/U: 48

If it seems like the Buffalo Bills (6-5 ATS) aren’t losing much lately it’s because they aren’t. Since back-to-back losses to the Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs they have gone 4-1 with a huge win over the Seattle Seahawks included. Buffalo, led by Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, is 10th in scoring offense and eighth in offense DVOA despite not having a ground game worth mentioning. Being so one-dimensional can be detrimental to any team, especially when your defense is 16th in DVOA and 18th in scoring.

Don’t look now, but the San Francisco 49ers (5-6 ATS) find themselve very much in the playoff hunt despite all of the games they’ve lost to injury this year. They’ve gotten some key players back in recent weeks including Richard Sherman and Raheem Mostert so maybe they can start stringing wins together. They still rank ninth in defense DVOA but are just 19th offensively. Jimmy Garoppolo (and likely George Kittle) won’t be walking through that door and Nick Mullens caps this team’s ceiling.

Location, location, location. The 49ers might appreciate the change of venue for this one since they’ve allowed 15 touchdowns at home compared to just 10 on the road. Their offense has also scored more on the road. Buffalo sees a drop in their offensive scoring, mostly in rushing scores. But their defense actually improves away from Bills Stadium. Additionally, even though it’s a small spread it’s worth mentioning the 49ers haven’t covered the spread in any game they haven’t won outright this season and that isn’t to be expected here. Take Buffalo and don’t be shocked to see over hit even with San Francisco so undermanned.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8) at Baltimore Ravens (6-5)

Check back soon once the line is set for this game to get the pick!

Free Agency Best and Worst: AFC West

We are 75 percent of the way through our trip around the NFL judging the best and worst from the free agency period. We arrive at our final two divisions, the Wests. As we have done with our other installments, we will go over the AFC West first. This is the division of the world champs whose grip on it shouldn’t be expected to loosen any time soon.

AFC: North | South | East

NFC: North | South | East

Best and Worst of Free Agency: AFC West

Denver Broncos

Best Move: Landing a Workhorse

Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is a defensive-minded coach. Those types almost always build their offenses around strong running games. So it shouldn’t have been a big surprise to see Denver be in on one of the most versatile runners in the NFL today, even with local-son Phillip Lindsay in tow.

Lindsay has amassed 2048 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns over the last two seasons. But at 5’8” and under 200 lbs, the Broncos have been reluctant to ride him. Melvin Gordon (6’1”, 215 lbs) doesn’t carry the same worries. Gordon is also a better weapon out of the backfield with 490 receiving yards in 2018 (his last full year) to 437 for Lindsay in his career.

Worst Move: None

This is another where it may seem like a cop-out. But the reality is Denver is smack dab in the middle of a rebuild. Expecting them to be major players in free agency is flawed. Sure, they could have been and could have used the available talent. But building through the draft and making smart free-agent acquisitions is never the wrong choice.

We could certainly nitpick and say they didn’t do enough to upgrade their pass protection or that replacing Chris Harris with A.J. Bouye isn’t a safe bet. We could say they should move Von Miller (they shouldn’t) to cash in on his name while his value is still high. But they have a nice mix of veterans and young guys right now. It’s a good blend.

Next Move: Find WR2

Courtland Sutton has the looks of a stud wide receiver. He turned 124 targets into 72 catches for 1112 yards and six scores with poor quarterback play. But after him, Denver is less than thin. Their second-leading receiver was Emmanuel Sanders who was traded midway through the season, with 30 catches for 367 yards.

The Broncos picked a good time to need a receiver. This draft is believed to be deep enough to produce starter-quality options well into the second day of selections. With their top option at receiver, workhorse and scat backs, and their quarterback of the future, all Denver needs is a receiver to take the top off the defense. That is if you think the offensive line play will hold up.

Kansas City Chiefs

Best Move: Retaining Dominant D-Lineman

Chris Jones is a dominant force for the Kansas City Chiefs. A Pro Bowler last year, Jones had a better season in 2018 than in 2019. He finished fifth in pressures that season and while that number fell in 2019, he still made an impact. Jones was credited with three pass deflections in Super Bowl LIV. He also missed three games explaining at least some of the drop from 15.5 sacks to nine (still a good total).

Slapping Jones with the franchise tag is far from solving the problem. Jones wants, deserves, and will get paid. Whether or not Kansas City is the organization to pony up remains to be seen. Rumors of potential trades have swirled since before he signed is tender. But that is a worry for another day. For now, the Chiefs did well to keep him in town.

Worst Move: Missing the Flash Sale

This one might take some convincing, but the Chiefs missed the boat letting the Broncos poach Gordon from the Los Angeles Chargers. Now, if you are done laughing yes, the Chiefs just won the Super Bowl with Damien Williams and all of his 498 regular-season rushing yards and 213 receiving yards.

Kansas City doesn’t need Gordon, that much is true. But the potential of this offense and Patrick Mahomes with Gordon’s dual-threat abilities is scary high. Kansas City had their way with much of the league with Williams and the ghost of LeSean McCoy. Adding Gordon would have made the Chiefs prohibitive favorites to win the whole thing again.

Next Move: Find Another Sammy

Sammy Watkins returning to the Chiefs is a win for Mahomes. Tyreek Hill is the top option, but Watkins has performed like a number one receiver on more than one occasion. Kansas City restructured Watson’s contract to keep the band together but they shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet.

Watkins has had a problem staying healthy in his relatively short career, only appearing in a full 16 games just once; his rookie season. That injury history is a large part of why the Chiefs were ever able to get him. Had he stayed healthy he might still be in Buffalo catching passes from Josh Allen. Instead, the Chiefs need to remember his body of work and not just his 2019.

Las Vegas Raiders

Best Move: Physically Moving

The Raiders last winning season came in 2016. Before that, it was 2002. That’s one winning season in 17 years. That kind of awful streak is sure to breed apathy among a fan base. So, despite the decrying from nostalgia nuts, the move from Oakland to Las Vegas is not only welcome but long overdue.

Waning attendance and (the bigger issue) a contract dispute over the Coliseum led to this and no one should be upset. If fans in Oakland are, they should be with their elected officials, any deal that they want to be done typically gets done. But the rest of us should indulge in this. In the imagery of the team with the pirate logo and colorful past now reside in Sin City. Glorius.

Worst Move: Spending on MLB

This is splitting hairs a bit. Las Vegas needed a middle linebacker anyway, but especially after letting Tahir Whitehead walk in free agency. They remedied that by signing former Chicago Bears reserve Nick Kwiatkoski to a three-year, $21 million deal. It’s not a large deal but there are definitely risks coming with it.

Kwiatkoski made for a nice fill-in player for the Bears. At different points, he has either come off the bench or started in place of starters Danny Trevathan and Roquan Smith. But he has never been tasked with starting more than half a season. That’s plenty of tape to draw a conclusion, but that’s not the issue. Kwiatkoski is limited (the logic for Chicago choosing Trevathan) and Oakland needs a dynamic playmaker in the worst way.

Next Move: Keep Trucking

Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock have taken plenty of flack for their decisions (drafting Clelin Ferrell fourth overall comes to mind) and for just being them. But they have a clear vision for the type of players they want and what they want this franchise to be on the football field. Realizing that vision is always a matter of chance. But Gruden and Mayock have been far more competent than we initially gave them credit for.

In that vein, the Raiders need to keep doing what they have been doing (didn’t think you’d get to read that when Gruden got hired, did ya?). Continue to build through the draft and even the reclamation projects like Marcus Mariota are smart. That one, in particular, is one to watch. It’s no secret that Gruden and starting quarterback Derek Carr have been anything but a match made in Heaven.

Los Angeles Chargers

Best Move: The Patriot Way

No, this isn’t  insanity, the Patriot Way definitely made its way West. Philip Rivers leaves the Chargers the all-time leader in passing yards on franchise history. He also leaves retaining every bit of the gunslinger mentality that fans undoubtedly came to both love and loathe at times.

Rivers averaged just over 28 touchdowns per season in 14 seasons as the full-time starter. He had 23 last season and 32 in 2018. He averaged a little over 14 interceptions in that same span and had 20 in 2019 and 12 in 2018. So, it would seem, his 2018 when the Chargers made the playoffs for the first time in five years, was the outlier. Smart move, Los Angeles.

Worst Move: Falling For It

Earlier in this piece, the Broncos received praise for giving a running back a new contract. On their side were the short length and relatively-small dollar mount (two years, $16 million with $13 million guaranteed. Los Angeles handing Austin Ekeler four years for $24.5 million and $15 million in guarantees. That’s a risky proposition for a player with no more than eight starts in any given season.

Next Move: Finding QB1

Naturally, after Rivers moved on to the Indianapolis Colts, and really even before, names were getting linked to the Chargers for 2020. From Jameis Winston to Cam Newton to Tom Brady, Los Angeles was viewed as a top landing spot. They settled on Tyrod Taylor, even announcing as much. But he is, at best, a stop-gap option.

With the NFL Draft just a few days away and an older (and average) starter in place, it makes sense for the Chargers to be looking at one of the top passers coming in. Do they trade up for Tua Tagovailoa whose game is like Taylor’s on steroids or maybe Jalen Hurts who might be somewhere in between those two, or Justin Herbert who is more like the departed Rivers?

Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs About More Than Thursday

Week 15 in the NFL wastes little time getting time before serving up one of the most intriguing matchups of the week. Rife with playoff implications, the contest pits the 10-3 Los Angeles Chargers against the 11-2 Chiefs; in Kansas City. That last part is important as the Chiefs already hold the advantage. That is the result of the Chiefs opening night victory over the Chargers in L.A.

Huge Implications When Chargers Face Chiefs

Young Gunner

Patrick Mahomes is not only in the MVP conversation, he is the current favorite. In his first year as the starter, no less, following a rookie season that saw him sit behind Alex Smith. Mahomes decided to trade with Washington look good a long time ago, but the award would make it look genius. More important than the likelihood of who wins what individual awards, the Chiefs priority is to finally make it to a conference championship game for the first time since 1993. In their 10 postseason appearances since then, the Chiefs have gone one-and-done nine times. The lone exception coming in 2012 when they beat the Brian Hoyer led Texans 30-0.

First, they have to take on a Chargers team that ranks eighth in yard-per-game and seventh in scoring. That would be a damper for a normal quarterback, and Baltimore had him stumped initially last week, but Patrick Mahomes has proven up to the task. Kareem Hunt replacement — who Hunt actually replaced last year — Spencer Ware looks unlikely to suit up with a hamstring injury. That means Chiefs retread Charcandrick West and Miami Dolphin-castoff, Damien Williams. Dynamic weapon Tyreek Hill is dealing with wrist and heel injuries but appears healthy enough to play. He and Travis Kelce, who has been on a tear, give Mahomes plenty to work with.

Old Man Rivers

The Chargers also have injury woes. Starting tailback Melvin Gordon is questionable to start the week. He has missed the last two contests, both wins, and three games overall. His usual understudy, Austin Ekeler, has already been ruled out with nerve damage in his neck on top of a concussion. This means Los Angeles could be down to their third or even fourth-string running backs tonight. Luckily Keenan Allen has repeated 2016 and is on another late-season heater. He should be in for a heavy workload against a Chiefs secondary that plays better than perceived; especially in the noise of Arrowhead.

Quietly in the MVP race himself, Philip Rivers sets out to exercise some demons; his Chargers are on a nine-game skid against their division rival. Looking to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2013 – just five appearances since 2004 – Los Angeles has quite the obstacle in their immediate path. Playing defense might be close to optional in this one, though both teams are better in that regard than one might think. It is week 15 so no team is completely healthy – just ask Washington – but the injuries at running back for both teams will almost certainly put the game on the shoulders of these two stud signal-callers.

Chargers v. Chiefs About Playoffs

Still, Thursday games can be lackluster slugfests. Luckily, Kansas City safety Eric Berry making his 2018 debut should add some extra buzz to the atmosphere. Los Angeles edge rusher Joey Bosa returned to the Chargers defense a couple of weeks ago and seems to be back to himself as well. Despite the excitement those two bring, this game is about these two offenses and their prolific quarterbacks. One looking to cement his legacy, the other just building his. The Chargers have struggled to sell out home games but look like a tough out in the playoffs. Kansas City seems to have finally found an offense that will not disappear in the playoffs. Get your popcorn ready; this should be fun.
Prediction: Philip Rivers struggles early, rallies, but falls short. Chiefs roll on.

Final Score: 33-30 Chiefs