Week 14 Primetime Monemakers: Lights, Cam-era, Action

Don’t look now, or quote us on this, but it appears we are back to a regular schedule in Week 14 in the NFL. We’re talking complete with Thursday Night Football and all. Just a week after having two games played at non-traditional times due to positive COVID tests with the Baltimore Ravens delaying their matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers from Thanksgiving night to the following Wednesday. Baltimore was the big mover. Others had positives along the way too though. It’s a position we saw the Tennessee Titans in earlier in the year, which also impacted Pittsburgh.

Last week was solid as we went 2-1. We ended up leaving the Baltimore-Dallas game alone. That was due to the uncertainty up until kickoff when they still had Dez Bryant test positive. In fact, the only thing that kept it from being great was the Washington Football Team upsetting the Pittsburgh Steelers. Our record sits at (an unacceptable) 11-15 even with the good week. But last week was just the start of our winning streak to close out the year. As always, there’s money to be made. If anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us.

Pats @ Rams Leads Week 14’s Primetime Moneymakers

New England Patriots (6-6) at Los Angeles Rams (8-4)

Spread: Rams -4.5

O/U: 44

Quiet as kept, the New England Patriots (6-6 ATS) have won two in a row and four of their last five. Cam Newton, averaging less than 200 passing yards per game, has cleaned up his act of late. He’s still well under 200 yards per and has thrown three touchdowns and just two interceptions. Major improvement after he threw seven interceptions but just two touchdowns over his first six games. His offense is 23rd in DVOA, per Football Outsiders. But it’s gone from averaging just over 19 points per game to more than 27 PPG in that same span. The defense, also 23rd in DVOA, has made a similarly positive switch. It’s gone from allowing 23 PPG to 17 PPG (the shutout helped).

Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Rams (7-5 ATS) have won three of four since their bye. They’ve beaten Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Arizona in that span but did drop one to San Francisco. Still, they’re fourth in offense DVOA and fifth in defense DVOA. They’ve been mediocre scoring points, ranking just 17th despite them being third in yards. But their defense has been stingy, ranking fifth in points and second in yards allowed. Jared Goff has completed better than 73 percent of his passes. That’s a stretch of accuracy only outdone by his performance from Weeks 2 to 5. But he has thrown four touchdowns to four interceptions and has lost two fumbles in that time.

Both of these teams are 3-1 ATS the last four weeks, making this more complicated than it should be. They last met in Super Bowl LIII, a game the Patriots won 13-3. This one shapes up as another defensive showdown so the under is probably the most appealing play. The Rams are 4-1 at home but their (small) record against the Patriots doesn’t lend much confidence to backing them straight up. Can you talk yourself into taking the Pats given what we know about both teams over the last month? It’s tough, but take the Pats plus points. They’ve failed to cover a spread less than a touchdown just twice and haven’t lost to L.A. since 2001.

Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) at Buffalo Bills (9-3)

Spread: Bills -2

O/U: 48.5

In a loss that was equal parts surprising and a long time coming, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-4 ATS) fell to the Washington Football Team in Week 13. As Chase Young and Monte Sweat mused after the game though, Baltimore had exposed some things the week prior. Pittsburgh has also failed to hit the century mark as a team on the ground in six of the last seven games. They’ve failed to crack 50 yards as a team in four of them. That’s a large part of why their offense is 17th in offense DVOA. Their defense is still first in DVOA but they just gave up 273 passing yards to the Football Team, the most they’ve allowed all season.

The Buffalo Bills (7-5 ATS) started 4-0 but went 3-3 over their next six games, including a loss to Arizona right before the bye. They’ve gone 2-0 since returning with wins over the Chargers and 49ers so it’s hard to say if they’ve truly regained their form from earlier in the year. They are 3-2 against teams currently in the playoffs. But their last such win came back in Week 9 at home against the Seahawks, who have gone 2-2 since. Buffalo, is seventh in offense DVOA and 16th in defense DVOA. They’ve been reliant on the passing game, hitting 100 team rushing yards in just five games (90-plus in two others) despite the threat of Josh Allen. Defense is the opposite.

Buffalo is 4-0 ATS the last four weeks while Pittsburgh is in the midst of a 0-2 skid. And while the Steelers still the analytics darling defensively, the Bills passing game certainly passes the eye test. Of course, there is something to be said for your head coach calling you out to to the media for your effort. It’s very possible for the Steelers to come out clicking at a level we haven’t seen for weeks. That puts the over squarely in play in a matchup of top-10 scoring outfits. It’s been mostly unders in Steelers games this year but they haven’t faced many offenses like the Bills. However, the Bills haven’t seen many pass rushes like the Steelers. Pittsburgh plus the points.

Baltimore Ravens (7-5) at Cleveland Browns (9-3)

Spread: Browns +3

O/U: 47

This will be a good test of whether the Baltimore Ravens (6-6 ATS) really turned a corner last week or if they just beat up on a bad team in Dallas. Conventional wisdom might point to the latter being the case as they had lost three straight before that. But they were missing several key players due to injury and COVID issues so maybe the last month is just the side-effect of that. The defense is carrying the Ravens. It ranks seventh in DVOA while the offense ranks just 21st. Baltimore also has just one win against a playoff team all season; against the Colts back in Week 9. 

It’s a new day in Cleveland as the Browns (5-7 ATS) are will have a winning season for the first time since 2007. That’s amazing not only for that reason but also when considering how the talk around the team sounded just a few weeks ago when losses to the Steelers and Raiders had folks talking about the Browns beating up on weak teams. Flash forward and Cleveland’s current four-game streak seemed doomed for the same type of talk before they took the Titans to the woodshed in Week 13. Cleveland is 23rd in total DVOA making them the second-lowest ranked playoff team behind the Giants.

So which team would be beating up on a weaker opponent here? If it was in the preseason the easy answer would be the Ravens are the bully. But the last few weeks they’ve struggled to beat bad or similarly-struggling squads. That doesn’t bode well against a Browns squad that is feeling itself in the run-up to its first playoff appearance in over a decade. Cleveland has the worse record against the number. But a home dog against a questionable opponent seems too good pass on. The difference could be injuries along the defensive front for Baltimore. This game will be decided on the ground. That could also make the under attractive.

All line information courtesy of Covers.com.