Here’s something. I actually managed to finish above .500 (if only just) picking against the spread in week thirteen. That feels all right. I suppose. I mean, the way this season’s gone so far, I’ll take it.
I had an OK week picking straight up, too. Came in at 11-4 there, which brings me to 121-69-2 (.635) for the season. And with my 8-7 finish against the spread, I’m now 86-103-3 (.456) overall.
Of course, one kind of good week probably means I’m due for an offsetting pretty bad week. Let’s plunge in. Here’s what not to expect in week fourteen.
Oakland (+3) at Kansas City
The Raiders might be the better team here. Or they might not be. And either way, it might not matter. Oakland looks (slightly) better on paper. And Kansas City continues to look to me like a team waiting for an opportunity to collapse. But it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the Chiefs thumped the Raiders in Oakland back in week six. Thumped as in took a lead in the second quarter and never relinquished it. Thumped as in shut out the home team in the second half. Thumped as in won by more than two scores. You take that and add in the difficulty of traveling on a short week and a forecast that calls for brutal cold at kickoff, and I think you get to a Chiefs sweep of the season series. I don’t foresee another thumping, though. Kansas City by a point.
Denver (+1) at Tennessee
I know the Broncos of 2016 aren’t the Broncos of 2015. But they still have to be good enough to take a critical game against the Titans, don’t they? I mean, don’t they? Maybe they don’t. But I’m still saying Denver by a field goal.
San Diego (+1.5) at Carolina
Neither of these teams is going anywhere. But I suspect the Chargers are prepared to fight their way through the last quarter of the season even if the effort only gets them to a .500 record and the middle of the draft order. And the Panthers on Sunday night looked to me like a team ready to move on to the offseason. (Not because they got beat by the Seahawks, mind you. That can happen to any team. It just didn’t look to me like the Panthers were full participants in that game.) San Diego by four.
Houston (+6) at Indianapolis
The Texans have lost three in a row, mostly to good teams. The Colts have won one in a row, beating a mostly bad team. Indy’s probably still the better pick at home, but I’m not giving six. Colts by half the spread.
Cincinnati (-5.5) at Cleveland
Robert Griffin III is ready to play again. So that’s a rare bit of good news for the Browns, I suppose. I hear the over/under on how long the Browns will be able to keep him (relatively) healthy and on the field halftime. I’m tempted to bet the under. Bengals by a touchdown.
Arizona (+1) at Miami
It’s tempting to think the Dolphins were somehow exposed in last weekend’s blowout loss at Baltimore. But I’m not sure that’s the case. I think the Dolphins are who we thought they were; a team that beats fair to bad opponents and loses to good ones. The Cardinals fall into the fair category (I think). In Miami, that should translate to a Dolphins win. I suspect the difference will be more than a field goal but less than a touchdown. For fun, let’s put it at five.
Minnesota (-3.5) at Jacksonville
The Vikings may be fading, but they’re still close to the top of the leader board in takeaways, with 22, which is tied for fourth most in the league. The Jaguars don’t have anywhere to fade to. And they’re tied for most giveaways in the league, 25. Minnesota by three turnovers and 14 points.
Dallas (-3) at NY Giants
The Giants can’t lose this game and win the NFC East. But the Giants aren’t winning and NFC East anyhow. And they can lose those game and still land in the postseason as the NFC five or six seed. Which, I guess, will be a nice thing for Giants fans to keep in mind as the game clock ticks down to zero. Cowboys by a touchdown.
Baltimore (+7) at New England
Seven seems like a lot, doesn’t it? It certainly does to me. Here, let’s look at the big three predictive stats. Scoring differential, Patriots +2.7. That’s not much. Passer rating differential, Patriots. +11.7. That fairly meaningful. Takeaway-giveaway differential, dead even at +5 per team. What’s interesting to me about that last thing is that the team’s have taken significantly different paths to get there. The Patriots have 13 takeaways (seven interceptions, six fumble recoveries), against just eight giveaways (one pick, seven fumbles). The Ravens have logged 22 takeaways (14 INTs, eight fumble recoveries) and committed 17 giveaways (11 picks, six fumbles). One kind of gets the feeling that the outcome of this game may come down to which team’s turnover game prevails. That should bode well for the team that protects the ball better, especially with that team playing at home. But I’ll offer this qualifying thought: It may not favor a team that has Fumblina Wilkinson returning kicks. We’ll see how that plays out. In the meantime, Patriots by three.