Many of the teams involved in this week's best bets are jockeying for playoff positioning. Where should you place your money for Week 14?
Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5)
Sun. 12/9, 1:00 p.m. ET
Pick: Chiefs -6.5
While Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson deserves a lot of credit for having won each of his first three NFL starts, those wins have come at home against the Bengals and Raiders, then on the road this past Sunday against the Falcons. Those three teams are a combined 11-25 straight up this season and a combined 2-13 since the start of November. The only two losses the 10-2 Chiefs have suffered this season have been by three points each, on the road against the 9-3 Patriots and 11-1 Rams. Kansas City’s five wins in five home games have been by an average margin of more than 16 points per game, and all five wins have been by seven or more points.
The Chiefs come into this one having gone 4-0-1 against the spread this season when facing an opponent with a winning record; the Ravens are 1-4 against the spread in 2018 when going against a team with a winning record. Kansas City is also a perfect 6-0 against the spread as a home favorite of between 3.5 and seven points since the start of last season. Baltimore is the only NFL team allowing an average of fewer than 285 total yards per game, but Kansas City is 4-1 against the spread since the start of the 2016 season when facing teams with defenses that are giving up an average of that few yards per game. While Jackson has yet to go up against an opposing team that’s averaging as many as 25 points per game this season, the Chiefs lead the NFL with an average of 37 points per game. With Baltimore having yet to reach 175 passing yards in any of the three games Jackson has started, it seems unlikely that the Ravens are going to be able to put up the points they’ll need to keep the final margin of this one within single digits. — Scott Gramling
New England Patriots (-8) at Miami Dolphins
Sun. 12/9, 1:00 p.m.
Pick: Patriots -8
Since the start of 2015, the Patriots are 5-2 both straight up and against the spread when facing the Dolphins. The two teams met earlier this season, when New England absolutely dominated Miami in a 38-7 win as a 6.5-point home favorite. Tom Brady threw for 274 yards with three touchdowns in that game, and James White racked up 112 total yards and found the end zone twice. Over the last three seasons, New England is a perfect 9-0 against the spread in the second half of the season when playing teams that allow 350 or more yards per game. New England is also 9-1 against the spread in December games in that span. And while the Dolphins might be 4-3 in games that Ryan Tannehill has started this season, those wins came over the Titans, Jets, Raiders and Bills. That is not exactly an inspiring group. Look for the Patriots to roll over the Dolphins once again, even with the game being played in Miami. — Zachary Cohen
Denver Broncos (-5.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Sun. 12/9, 4:05 p.m.
Pick: Broncos -5.5
After a 3-6 start, Denver has quietly rebounded to play as well as any team in the league over the past few weeks. Single-score losses to strong Kansas City and Houston teams gave way to the Broncos' current three-game winning streak, which includes wins over the Chargers, Steelers and Bengals. The Denver defense put the clamps down on those three teams—including the elite Los Angeles and Pittsburgh offenses—allowing only 16.3 points per game in those contests. Rookie running back Phillip Lindsay has been a revelation for the offense, having averaged 7.9 yards per carry during the winning streak. And after a rocky start in the Rocky Mountains, quarterback Case Keenum has gone four straight games without throwing an interception. Over the last 10 seasons, teams that average no more than 1.25 turnovers per game and having gone two straight games without committing more than a single turnover are 75-39 against the spread when playing a team that is forcing fewer than 1.25 TOPG eight or more games into the season.
That brings us to the 49ers, who are dead last in the NFL with 0.4 forced turnovers per game on the season. San Francisco is now 2-10 after a 43-16 loss in Seattle last Sunday, and has little left to (not) play for than the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft. Denver, meanwhile, is fighting for a wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs. Thinking about a contrarian play on the Niners as home 'dogs? Not so fast: Home teams with a winning percentage of .250 or worse and coming off of two consecutive road losses are 20-43 ATS over the last 10 seasons. — Sam Chase
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-3)
Mon. 12/10, 8:20 p.m.
Pick: Seahawks -3
Since October, the Seahawks are 6-1-1 against the spread and 5-3 straight up. Their three defeats—twice to the 11-1 Rams and once to the 9-3 Chargers—have been by a combined 15 points. They are regularly paying bettors who have chosen to ignore Seattle's dim preseason forecasts, but Vegas doesn’t seem to get the hint. Perhaps overshadowed by its two conference powerhouses, this is a much better team than it is being given credit for. It’s baffling, then, to see just a three-point spread against the traveling Vikings, who are 2-3 ATS and SU in their last five games, and who lost at home to Buffalo by 21 points earlier in the season.
While Seattle doesn’t have as many playmakers as it did in its heyday, coach Pete Carroll is wringing as much as he can out of the team’s one bonafide star, Russell Wilson, and has found something in linebacker Austin Calitro, making up for the injury to K.J. Wright and suspension to Mychal Kendricks, who is eligible to come back for Monday night's game. The Vikings, meanwhile, haven’t been able to establish a rhythm at any point this season. In a game with significant playoff implications, take the points, the home field and, simply put, the better team. — Ed McGrogan