Here is a 5-Pack of NFL value plays for Week 14 to help build your bankroll Sunday, featuring the undefeated Panthers playing early and then the Patriots and Texans going at night.
We have now completed 13 weeks of the 2015 NFL season and we still have one undefeated team as although it was not easy, the Carolina Panthers improved to 12-0 by rallying to beat the Saints 41-38 in New Orleans. The Panthers will now try to improve to 13-0 when they return home to take on their division rival Atlanta Falcons, and that contest is among our NFL picks as we are back again with another of our weekly 5-pack of Sunday plays.
Week 14 began with Thursday Night Football, and the second seeds behind the Panthers in the NFC, the Arizona Cardinals, held on to nip the Minnesota Vikings 23-20. That game was not a good one for the general public as the Cardinals failed to cover the point spread, which was bet up from an opener of -7½ to a closing line of -10. Also, the ‘under’ improved to 7-1 in the last eight Thursday Night Football games with the teams failing to reach the closing total of 46½.
So now we move on to Sunday, where for the second straight week we have just one side among our five plays. Furthermore, that side is a favorite, which goes against our naturally contrarian nature, The rest of our card is made up of four totals, and more in character for us, we have three ‘unders’ vs. only one ‘over’. As has become our norm in recent years, all of these NFL odds come from Pinnacle Sports.
Sunday, December 13th
Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers ‘under’ 46 (-102) (1:00 ET): So while most people were wondering if the New England Patriots could go 16-0 a couple of weeks ago, perhaps the same should now be asked about these Panthers, who have taken their season-opening win streak two games further than the Patriots did and who have a less than daunting last four games with this being the first of two meetings with the struggling Falcons over those last four contests. But let us take it one game at a time, and while we love the chances of Carolina emerging from this contest 13-0, our greater interest here is in the total. Although the Panthers won again last week, Coach Ron Rivera was none too pleased about allowing 38 points to the Saints, marking the first time all season that a team has reached 30 points vs. a Carolina defense ranked third in the NFL in total defense allowing just 314.3 yards per game and ninth in scoring defense surrendering only 20.2 points per contest. We look for a return to normalcy here though with the return home, especially vs. a scuffling Atlanta offense. And although it was encouraging to see that the Panthers can win in a shootout and Cam Newton continued his drive for the league MVP with five touchdown passes, the Panthers would prefer to grind away with a lead as they are third in the NFL in rushing offense with 141.9 yards per game. The Falcons were once 5-0 but have lost six of seven games since then, and the main culprit has been the offense coming to a standstill, failing to top 21 points in any of those last seven games with the lone win coming by just a 10-7 count vs. a dreadful Tennessee team. The one positive for Atlanta has been an improved defense now that former Seahawks’ defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is the head coach, as it is allowing 21.4 points and 342.5 yards per game.
Cleveland Browns -2 (-105) over San Francisco 49ers (1:00 ET): While some may question the Browns being favored here, even at home, this looks like a classic case of perception vs. reality. The perception is that the Browns have quit on this season after basically not showing up in an embarrassing 37-3 loss here at home to the Bengals last week while Blaine Gabbert is the greatest quarterback of our generation after actually making the 49ers look like a competitive team since taking over as the starting quarterback for Colin Kaepernick four games ago. Now let us move on to the reality. Yes, the Browns were pitiful last week, but bear in mind that they started their third string quarterback in Austin Davis who is barely worthy of an NFL roster spot and the team that crushed them is currently the top seed in the AFC after all. Now, Cleveland is turning to Johnny Manziel two weeks later than they intended too, as he was demoted to third string after originally being named the starter for the rest of the season two weeks ago due to some more off-the-field issues. While Manziel’s maturity is certainly questionable, these last four games are an audition for his future in the NFL and he actually did show more promise in his three starts this season than he did in his dreadful rookie campaign last year, even passing for 372 yards vs. the Steelers in Week 10. And his running ability should force the San Francisco defense to respect the Cleveland running game, which would normally not be the case considering how badly the Browns’ running backs have struggled. Yes, the 49ers are 2-2 straight up and 3-1 ATS since Gabbert took over at quarterback, but this cheap line means that the Niners would be favored over the Browns on a neutral field, which we disagree with considering that San Francisco is still dead last in the NFL in total offense and 28th in total defense.
Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams ‘under’ 41 (+100) (1:00 ET): Remember when the Rams were 4-3 and thinking about the playoffs with Todd Gurley setting the league on fire on the ground? It is hard to believe that was only six relatively short weeks ago, but the Rams have since lost five straight games with the offense being the worst in the NFL during this five-game span averaging a mere 10.8 points. It is not hard to understand why as St. Louis has gotten terrible quarterback play from both Nick Foles and Case Keenum, allowing defenses to focus all of their efforts on stopping Gurley without any fear of the passing game. Thus, through probably no fault of his own, Gurley has now been held below 100 rushing yards in his last five games after rushing for at least 128 yards in each if his first four NFL starts. The St. Louis defense remains talented though and is allowing a reasonable 21.4 points per game, which when combined with rotten offense has made the Rams a prime ‘under’ team with it going 7-1 in their last eight games! We do not expect a sudden resurgence in the St. Louis offense here, and we also do not see the Lions responding well to perhaps the worst loss in the NFL this year last week to the Packers on the Rodgers to Rodgers Hail Mary on an untimed down on the game’s final play. Yes, Detroit had been hot before that since firing its offensive coordinator, but now we expect a return to the dysfunctional Lions from earlier in the season.
San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs ‘under’ 45 (-110) (1:00 ET): The Chiefs may be the hottest team in the NFL right now not named the Carolina Panthers, as Kansas City looked dead in the water when it was 1-5 and had just lost superstar running back Jamaal Charles for the season to a torn ACL. Instead, the Chiefs have shown great character by winning six straight games since then both straight up and ATS, and at 7-5 they have incredibly now moved into the first wild card spot in the AFC! This looks like a great spot for a seventh straight win, but we almost never have any interest in laying double-digits in any sport and Kansas City is currently -10 or -10½ here depending on where you look. What does interest us in this game though is the ‘under’. You see, the Chargers have gotten progressively worse offensively as this season has gone on as the receiving corps has become depleted and rookie running back Melvin Gordon has proven to be a bust. Now, on top of that there seems to be apathy setting in with San Diego just going through the motions waiting for this season to end. The Chargers have the second worst record in the NFL at 3-9 and the offense has been held to exactly three points in two of the last three games. We do not expect much of anything from the San Diego offense here either and we look for the Chiefs to go about their business in workmanlike fashion, with heavy doses of running backs Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware along with safe game managing from quarterback Alex Smith.
New England Patriots, Houston Texans ‘over’ 45 (-101) (8:30 ET): So, two weeks ago the Patriots were sailing along at 10-0 and were dreaming of matching their perfect 16-0 regular season of 2007. However, the incredible has happened as New England has now lost two straight games straight up, which has rarely happened during the Bill Belichick era with Tom Brady at quarterback, and in those two short weeks the Patriots have gone from being undefeated to currently being the three-seeds in the AFC behind the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos! The good news is that the offense did look good again last week despite getting stunned at home in Foxboro 35-28 by the Philadelphia Eagles, as the return of Danny Amendola gave Brady a reliable target after the Pats fielded a bunch of no-name receivers in the loss at Denver the previous week. Now there are even whispers of Rob Gronkowski possibly giving it a go this week and even Julian Edelman, who had been announced to be out for the rest of the regular season, was a surprise participant in practice Friday. Regardless of whether or not those latter two return or not, the Patriots showed enough last week that they should be able to score on a Houston defense that was exposed a bit by the Buffalo Bills after looked so great in prior weeks. At the same time, the New England defense is having some issues and the Brian Hoyer to DeAndre Hopkins hook-up for Houston is also capable of putting points on the board here.