It’s Week 14 in the NFL, and the last of the league’s teams are getting their bye weeks before a mad dash to the playoffs.
NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle, though, aren’t afforded such luxuries. They are at it every single week, making their best bets on “The Spread,” NESN’s football picks podcast. Get caught up on the latest episode — one that includes an in-depth discussion of life-threatening Christmas celebrations — below.
In addition to those picks, as part of their weekly obligations, Mike and Ricky also analyzed the entire slate with against-the-spread picks for each and every game. Before diving into those, though, here’s how the guys fared last week.
Here are their full Week 14 against-the-spread picks based on consensus betting lines found on the NESNBets live odds page.
THURSDAY, DEC. 8
(-6) Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Rams. Sean McVay’s greatest magic trick yet: Making Baker Mayfield look halfway competent on a short week in a brand-new offense. It’s so crazy it just might work.
Ricky: Rams. The Raiders are surging, sure. But laying a touchdown on the road? Not ready to go there, even with the Rams’ litany of injuries.
SUNDAY, DEC. 11
New York Jets at (-9.5) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Jets. The Bills have failed to cover their last three games as 9-point chalk or higher, while the last time the Jets lost by a touchdown or more, there were still leaves on the tree. The Jets probably don’t get the sweep, but that defense is just so good that it keeps them in this game.
Ricky: Jets. New York’s defensive front is capable of wrecking games — a quality that oftentimes travels well — and the Jets’ offensive floor is much higher with Mike White under center.
Cleveland Browns at (-6) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. Deshaun Watson should look better in his second week with the Browns, though that’s an extremely low bar to clear. The bigger problem will be the Browns’ defense trying to defend one of the NFL’s most versatile offenses led by the red-hot Joe Burrow.
Ricky: Bengals. Cincinnati is clicking right now. And while this might normally be a letdown spot — coming off a thrilling win over the Chiefs — the Bengals definitely don’t forget losing to the Browns 32-13 on Halloween night.
Houston Texans at (-16) Dallas Cowboys, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. Sure, it’s a lot of points, but when you assign an actual score that fits a cover, it doesn’t seem as bad. For instance, the Cowboys could definitely win this thing 30-10.
Ricky: Texans. Not to discredit the Cowboys’ three-game win streak — in which they’ve won by an average of 26.7 points per game — but they let the Giants sneak in the backdoor on Thanksgiving and appeared poised for a slugfest with the Colts last week until Indianapolis crumbled at the first sign of adversity. Dallas isn’t above playing down to its competition in what should be an absolute beatdown.
Minnesota Vikings at (-2.5) Detroit Lions, 1 p.m.
Mike: Vikings. OK, this thing has gotten out of hand. I don’t think the Vikings are an elite team, but I also know the Lions defense still has some holes. Minnesota has the offensive firepower to expose those holes, and their habit of playing close games makes it even more attractive to get points.
Ricky: Vikings. I understand the skepticism over Minnesota. However, this line has moved too much in favor of Detroit, to the point where I feel like I need to pick the Vikings because there’s no longer any value in backing the Lions.
(-7) Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants, 1 p.m.
Mike: Eagles. Brian Daboll probably should be Coach of the Year just for his ability to keep the Giants in games where they’ve had the talent disadvantage just about every week. This Philly defense, though, might be getting right. They’re ranked sixth in rushing EPA allowed per play the last three weeks and just bottled up Derrick Henry. Could be a similar fate for Saquon Barkley.
Ricky: Eagles. The Giants just aren’t very good. And it’s starting to show. Don’t say we didn’t warn you earlier this season.
Baltimore Ravens at (-2.5) Pittsburgh Steelers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Ravens. Tyler Huntley has been around this block before. He started four games last season for Lamar Jackson and was competent. Baltimore lost three of those four, but the losses came by a combined seven points. Let’s also not get carried away with Pittsburgh’s offense, especially against a defense that has allowed 13 points or less three times in four games.
Ricky: Ravens. Is there a huge talent disparity between Jackson and Huntley? Yes. But there’s also enough redundancy in their respective skill sets that Baltimore still should be able to function adequately enough offensively. Feels like there’s value here — for one week, at least — as folks overreact to the Ravens being without their star QB.
Jacksonville Jaguars at (-4) Tennessee Titans, 1 p.m.
Mike: Titans. Many people (OK, me) overvalued the Titans, and they have hit a bit of a rough patch against some elite competition. This is a nice little bounce-back spot against a banged-up Jaguars team that just got run out of the building in Detroit.
Ricky: Titans. Trevor Lawrence is dealing with a toe issue, which could limit his mobility — an asset he probably should use more, anyway — and thus his overall effectiveness at a point where he finally was making significant strides.
(-9.5) Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Four of Denver’s losses have been by a field goal or less. Despite the fact their record is awful, they play close games, thanks to an elite defense. Kansas City has just two legitimate blowout wins since Week 1. This could be an annoying afternoon for KC who wins close-ish.
Ricky: Broncos. Denver’s defense remains a borderline top-five unit — despite the team’s anemic offense — and will do just enough at home to slow Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs. The Broncos, who rank fourth in DVOA against the pass, are first in yards allowed per drive and second in points allowed per drive.
Carolina Panthers at (-3.5) Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Seattle might be without Ken Walker III (apparently he’s Ken now), which is a big deal. Their offense sputtered without him against the Rams, and the Panthers have an underrated defense. If Seattle struggles to score, the defense isn’t good enough to trust even against Carolina.
Ricky: Panthers. Credit Carolina for fighting through a tumultuous season. The floor is low in any given week, due to the Panthers’ offensive shortcomings, but they’re capable of turning certain matchups — like this one against an inconsistent Seahawks team — into a grind.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at (-3.5) San Francisco 49ers, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Bucs. Jumping at getting more than a field goal because it’s Tom Brady vs. Mr. Irrelevant is certainly a square play, but Tampa Bay also keeps playing close games whether it wins or loses. If the trend continues, you obviously trust Brady more to find a way to either win or keep it close.
Ricky: 49ers. Not overreacting to the Bucs’ win against the Saints on Monday night or Jimmy Garoppolo’s injury. Tampa Bay’s offense remains punchless — a serious problem against San Francisco’s elite defense — while the drop-off from Garoppolo to Brock Purdy won’t be that much of an issue for the 49ers thanks to Kyle Shanahan’s scheme and the team’s playmakers.
(-3) Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Chargers, 8:20 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. Time to ditch the Chargers, who are just bad pretty much across the board. The Chargers are in the bottom third of the league in pressure rate, which should give those Dolphins recievers ample time to get open. Mike McDaniel will find every hole and expose it, and not even Justin Herbert will be able to keep pace.
Ricky: Dolphins. Miami’s offense destroys bad defenses. And Los Angeles’ defense falls under that category, ranking 27th in total DVOA. The Fins love to operate in the middle of the field, turning intermediate passes into chunk plays thanks to their talented receivers doing damage in space, and the Bolts rank 25th in defending passes to that area, per Football Outsiders.
MONDAY, DEC. 12
(-1) New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals, 8:15 p.m.
Mike: Cardinals. Arizona’s defense is a concern, but they are better against the run than pass, and the Patriots don’t look like they consistently throw on anyone. The New England defense will have its hands full with Kyler Murray, especially given their struggles to slow down scrambling quarterbacks, and Murray should be healthy coming off the bye.
Ricky: Cardinals. What once looked like a get-right West Coast trip for the Patriots now has the potential to be rock bottom. The Patriots were torched in recent weeks by top-tier receivers Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs, and that trend will continue with DeAndre Hopkins.