Friday, December 7, 2018

NFL Week 14 Primer (With Picks): One Final Power Poll

Todd Gurley doesn't care about covering the spread or your fantasy team, but he's got the Rams in pole position in the NFC.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin) and Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

As we enter the final quarter of the NFL season, with all teams having played 75 percent of their schedule, we unleash our final regular season power poll. We've included movement since the last power poll, which came in Week 9, and we'll break down all the ins and outs and the end.

Quite Simply Not Good At Anything

32. Oakland Raiders (-1)
31. San Francisco 49ers (-2)
30. Arizona Cardinals (0)

The Nicest Truck Stop Port-o-John In All Of Rural Indiana

29. Buffalo Bills (+3)

The Generically Bad Teams

28. New York Jets (-7)
27. Detroit Lions (-4)
26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0)
25. Jacksonville Jaguars (-3)
24. Cincinnati Bengals (-8)

The Good Bad Teams



23. Cleveland Browns (+1)
22. Atlanta Falcons (-5)
21. New York Giants (+7)

Still Alive, Barely

20. Green Bay Packers (-5)
19. Miami Dolphins (+8)
18. Tennessee Titans (+6)

Walking Wounded

17. Washington Redskins (-7)
16. Philadelphia Eagles (-3)

Still Fighting

15. Indianapolis Colts (+4)
14. Carolina Panthers (-8)

Surging 

13. Denver Broncos (+7)
12. Dallas Cowboys (+5)

The Fringe

11. Minnesota Vikings (+3)
10. Baltimore Ravens (-2)

The Bad Good Teams

9. Seattle Seahawks (+3)
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (-1)

Deserve To Be Taken Seriously

7. Houston Texans (+4)
6. Chicago Bears (+3)
5. Los Angeles Chargers (-0)

The Contenders

4. New England Patriots (0)
3. Kansas City Chiefs (-1)

The Favorites

2. New Orleans Saints (+1)
1. Los Angeles Rams (0)

Ranking The Contenders and The Favorites was actually pretty tough. In both instances, we went with the team currently ahead in the standings as the top billing, even though the team directly behind them holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. In the AFC, both the Chiefs and Patriots have lost in the month since our last power poll - the Chiefs lost to the Rams in the gong show to end all gong shows, while the Patriots lost to the Titans. It just doesn't seem right to have the Patriots above Kansas City at this point.

(Worth noting, however, that New England's schedule is far easier than Kansas City's down the stretch - they play at Miami, at Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and the Jets, while the Chiefs play Baltimore, the Chargers, at Seattle, and Oakland. The Patriots seem more likely to win out than Kansas City is.)

In the NFC, we saw the Saints beat the Rams in the last month, but the Saints losing last week ceded the No. 1 seed in the NFC to Los Angeles. With both teams looking like they're capable of winning 13+ games, it seems like the NFC will come down to which team gets home-field advantage in the playoffs, and right now the Rams have the inside track.

The biggest gainers this time around were the Dolphins, although that might just have to do with us underrating them last time around. It looks like 9-7 will be good enough to get in, but between Miami, Baltimore, Indianapolis, and Tennessee, it will just come down to tiebreakers.

Other than Miami, are big gainers are Denver and the Giants. Denver certainly seems alive in the AFC playoff picture - winning three straight games will do that. The Broncos also have a pretty cushy remaining schedule (at San Francisco, Cleveland, at Oakland, and the Chargers), and certainly seem to be pushing Baltimore for the AFC's final playoff spot. The Giants winning three of their last four games probably isn't helping them in the long run, especially if they now finish a strong 6-10 and convince themselves to bring back Eli Manning for another year. Regardless, it's good to see them finding some success on offense with how terrible their offensive line has looked.

Week 14 got off on the right foot, with both of your correspondents zeroing in on Tennessee at home, and it comes off the heels of another positive week, including a true milestone. For the first time in longer than we're willing to admit, Joe peeked his head above .500 for the season with a 92-91-7 record following a 10-6 week. Let's keep that momentum going with the rest of the Week 14 picks.

Here Are The Picks We Agree On (Home Teams In CAPS)

TENNESSEE (-5.5) over Jacksonville

Jeremy has Derrick Henry on his fantasy team. He also has Matt Breida on his fantasy team. Breida has been solid, if unspectacular, and has worked his way into Jeremy's flex spot for most of the season. Matt Breida is out this week. Did Jeremy start Derrick Henry? Of course not. In related news, Jeremy will miss his fantasy playoffs this year.

Baltimore (+5.5) over KANSAS CITY

JC: Can we talk about how Baltimore has won three games in a row, and in all three have rushed for more yards than their opponent has gained in total offense? Or about how their average time of possession in those three games is north of 37 minutes per game? Batlmore's game plan is control the clock + defense + don't turn the ball over, and it's working. The Chiefs have the league's 31st-ranked defense per rush attempt, dead last in DVOA. If Baltimore can execute their gameplan, this could be a close game.

JP: I don't know if Baltimore pulls this one out on the road, but I'm almost positive they can possess the ball for 45 minutes by running the read option against that KC defense.

Atlanta (+5) over GREEN BAY

JC: I hate both of these teams, mostly for burning me so many times this year when I believed in them but shouldn't have. I don't trust either of these teams any further than I can punt them, so I'm just taking the points and walking away.

JP: Yeah, it's disgusting these teams are so bad with these quarterbacks, but here we are. I'll take the points.

New England (-8) over MIAMI

JC: The Patriots might be finding a groove at the right time. You're not going to believe this, but we've seen this before. It's November/December, other teams in the conference are stumbling, just barely, and here come the Patriots to put themselves back on top of the AFC. If you're a fan of any other team, this must really suck for you. Honestly, I feel bad. If you're looking for solace, just know that the @ Miami game has historically been weird for the Patriots. They lost there last year, almost costing them home field advantage in the playoffs, lost there as well in 2015, which *did* cost them home field advantage in the playoffs, and lost there to open the 2014 season as well. Oh, also, they lost there in 2013, and didn't cover the spread in 2012. So there's something to keep an eye on here.

JP: Playing in Miami has been oddly difficult for Brady and the Pats, compared to everywhere else they've played, but this team is beginning its Super Bowl march. No more letdowns for New England this year.

New York Giants (-3.5) over WASHINGTON

JC: I just spent 15 minutes on ESPN's NFL Playoff Machine trying to finagle a way for the Giants to win the NFC East, but it would involve the Giants winning out and every other NFC team finishing 7-9, because somehow the Giants have the worst tiebreakers in the history of professional football. I don't think it's happening. But I do think they win this game.

JP: The Giants' offense continues its march to the middle of the first round...

Denver (-4) over SAN FRANCISCO

JC: I'm not going to lie, I stared at this line for way too long. This kind of seems like exactly the kind of game that a Vance Joseph-coached, Case Keenum-quarterbacked team would inexplicably lose and cost themselves a playoff spot. All in all, Denver hasn't been THAT good over the last month - they've just forced some timely turnovers and controlled the clock. I'm not that impressed with them, but I just couldn't bring myself to back this 49ers team.

JP: But, I mean, they've won games, which is more than we can say for San Fran. Let's not overthink this.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (-14) over Cincinnati

JC: The Bengals just have nothing left. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton are out for the year, the defense has been bad all season, and Marvin Lewis is probably finally on his way out the door. It's too bad, because their offense was humming early in the season and they looked like a potentially frisky team that could just win shootouts and be entertaining. That never quite panned out, and they're 1-6 over the last two months. The Chargers are still without Melvin Gordon, but they were able to grind out a win last week, so they should be fine here.

JP: RING THE DAMN BELL!

ARIZONA (+3) over Detroit

JC: I could spend some time trying to find out something interesting to say about either one of these teams or this matchup, but honestly, who cares? Then again, my refusal to do any research into these terrible matchups is probably why I'm still 16 games under .500 this year.

JP: Ugh. Gimme the points.

DALLAS (-3.5) over Philadelphia

JC: Wouldn't it be the most Cowboys thing ever to lose this game and suddenly make the NFC East wide open all over again? As much as I'd love for that to happen, I just don't like the matchup of Ezekiel Elliot and the Dallas offensive line vs. Philadelphia's 29th ranked defense per rush and a Dallas defense that beat the holy hell out of Drew Brees vs. a banged-up Philadelphia front.

JP: Yeah, this seems like a game Dallas will blow, but given Philly's current injury situation, and Carson Wentz suddenly looking, uh, bad, I can't bring myself to take the Eagles.

SEATTLE (-3) over Minnesota

JC: Seattle's resume continues to improve every week. Their five losses are all respectable (and one-possession games), and most of their wins have been convincing. The top of the conference is obviously incredibly strong, but the Seahawks at 22-1 to win the NFC is very, very, VERY, *VERY* tempting to me at the moment. I would buy now while the price is still so favorable.

JP: This should be a great one, but it just seems like Seattle is building momentum each week. Expect a fun shootout, and three points for the surging home team seems fair.

Here Are The Picks We Disagree On (Home Teams Still In CAPS)

JC: HOUSTON (-4.5) over Indianapolis

Alright, I'll finally take Houston after trying to fade them (unsuccessfully) for the last month-plus. Naturally, they'll probably let the Colts hang around and win on a last-second field goal just to spite me.

JP: Indianapolis (+4.5) over HOUSTON

The Texans are going to lay a stinker at some point this year, right? This week seems like as good a bet as any against a totally desperate Colts team that was playing well until that weird game against Jacksonville.

JC: CLEVELAND (+2) over Carolina


Hear me out. Cleveland's remaining schedule after this week includes Denver, Cincinnati, and Baltimore. Winning out would put them at 8-7-1, and also hand a loss to three teams that are still fighting for AFC Playoff spots. There's actually a not-entirely-far-fetched scenario where Denver, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Miami, and Tennessee all end up at 8-8 (or worse) and Cleveland gets the AFC's 6th seed. It's a non-zero chance. Who wants to live the dream with me?

JP: Carolina (-2) over CLEVELAND

The Browns are a trendy, scrappy pick right now, and the Panthers seem to be sinking, but I've got to believe that defense and Cam Newton dig deep and refuse to lose to Cleveland. Time to stop the bleeding.

JC: New Orleans (-9) over TAMPA BAY

The league's most explosive offense coming off a loss and needing a win to keep pace going up against the league's most embarrassing defense? What's not to love?

JP: TAMPA BAY (+9) over New Orleans

Nah man, this has Bucs backdoor cover written all over it.


JC: New York Jets (+3.5) over BUFFALO


I've been singing Buffalo's praises the last few weeks (and have been paid off a few times), but under no circumstances should the Bills be favored by more than a field goal. I just can't accept it.

JP: BUFFALO (-3.5) over New York Jets

Uh... Playing the Jets at home seems like a proper circumstance for this line.

JC: CHICAGO (+3) over Los Angeles Rams

Let's find out once and for all if Chicago is real or not. They've taken some bad teams out to the woodshed, but struggled at weird times and lost games that they shouldn't have. We can give them a pass for last week, relying on a backup quarterback, but Mitch Trubisky is expected to play Sunday night. The Rams had one of their worse offensive performances last week, and now go up against maybe the league's best defense. The Rams have found themselves in some close games against teams like Seattle and Denver, especially on the road, so Chicago might have a puncher's chance here.

JP: Los Angeles Rams (-3) over CHICAGO

If this wasn't Mitch's first game back, and the Bears defense wasn't carved up early by Eli Manning and Co. last week, I'd be with you. Still think this will be a great game, but I'll go with the top seed over the up-and-comer as long as the spread is a field goal or less.

JC: Pittsburgh (-10) over OAKLAND

The Raiders covered a big spread at home against the Chiefs last week, but I'm not betting on that happening two weeks in a row. After two straight losses (and three straight lackluster performances), the Steelers find themselves with only a half-game lead over Baltimore in the AFC North, so they really need to kick it into gear down the stretch. With games remaining against New England and New Orleans, I'm not sure the Steelers can guarantee themselves even 10 wins this year despite starting 7-2-1. The Steelers need this game badly, so I wouldn't be surprised if come out swinging here.

JP: OAKLAND (+10) over Pittsburgh

The Steelers have lost back-to-back games, and really deserve to be losers of three straight. Plus, James Conner is out, Ben Roethlisberger continues to start slowly outside of Eastern Standard Time, and Pittsburgh hasn't won in Oakland since 1995... Yeah, I ain't givin' 10 points against all that.


Jeremy's Record:
Last Week: 8-8
Season: 84-101-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 2-4
Season's Disagreements: 29-37-1

Joe's Record:
Last Week: 10-6
Season: 92-91-7
Last Week's Disagreements: 4-2
Season's Disagreements: 37-29-1

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