BEST GAME – New England at Indianapolis (-2)
New England 9-4 SU, 9-4 ATS
Indianapolis 7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS
Fish-or-cut-bait time for the red-hot Colts, who need this one more than the Patriots do. An Indy loss basically closes the door in the AFC South and would most likely force the Colts to run the table (at Arizona, home vs. Las Vegas, at Jacksonville) to squeak into the playoffs. Any edge Indy might have gained by having Week 14 off is negated by NE also coming off its bye week, with Bill Belichick having 12 days to prepare for Jonathan Taylor. (Taylor is so far ahead in the NFL rushing stats that he could sit out the final four games and probably STILL win that title, but prop bettors should probably take a hard look at the under here.) Playing indoors will probably enable Belichick to remove the choke chain from rookie QB Mac Jones, who was allowed to throw only three times in the Buffalo wind two weeks ago. If you care about weird statistics, the Patriots are unbeaten (6-0) on the road this season. This one might not have the intensity of those many early-2000s Brady-Manning battles, but it has plenty of meaning – and the added juice of two teams that have been reliable covers (combined 17-9 ATS) all season. Oddsmakers originally listed this one as a pick ‘em.
WORST GAME – Houston at Jacksonville (-3, O/U 42.5)
Houston 2-11 SU, 5-8 ATS, 5-8 O/U
Jacksonville 2-11 SU, 4-9 ATS, 2-11 O/U
Call it the Race to the Bottom Bowl, with the loser of this one still having a puncher’s chance to beat out Detroit for the overall No. 1 pick come next April. Since the Jags already have their quarterback of the future, there is more incentive for Houston to tank this one. Plus, the last thing J-Ville coach Urban Meyer needs right now is more pressure, so he’ll empty the playbook to try to save his job. No matter what, this game is all about the future for both teams, as the present is not all that pleasant. As befitting two offensively-challenged teams, this is also the lowest total on the board (41). Houston’s Davis Mills showed a little zip against Seattle in his late-season QB audition, but Trevor Lawrence is coming off a disastrous 4-interception shutout loss to Tennessee.
LARGEST SPREAD – Arizona at Detroit (+14)
Arizona 10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS
Detroit 1-11-1 SU, 8-5 ATS
Yes, the Lions got pasted in Denver this past Sunday and yes, 1-11-1 is 1-11-1. But a two-touchdown home dog? For a team that would be around .500 if all its one-score losses were flipped? The number actually went UP a half-point after Arizona’s loss to the Rams on Monday night in a game which threw a hand grenade in the Cardinals’ march to the NFC West title, best record in the conference and playoff bye. They CAN’T let up now in Detroit.
LARGEST TOTAL – Kansas City at Los Angeles Chargers (51)
Kansas City 9-4, SU, 6-7 ATS, 6-7 O/U
Los Angeles 8-5 SU, 7-6 ATS, 6-7 O/U
Whatever issues the Chiefs may have had when they were in the midst of that 3-4 start are long since in the rear view mirror. KC has it rolling now, and will bring tons of momentum to the West Coast for this one on Thursday night. It’s doubtful that totals players will shy away from this one even though the Chiefs defense has found its footing and now had held three consecutive opponents to 9 points each. The Chiefs offense is capable of covering the 51 all by itself, although if recent history is any guide the Chargers will hold up their end of the bargain. The LAC have scored at least 37 in three of the last four. The D coordinators won’t be sleeping much as they prep for this one on a short week.
SMALLEST TOTAL – Tennessee at Pittsburgh (41.5)
Tennessee 9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS, 7-6 O/U
Pittsburgh 6-6-1 SU, 5-8 ATS, 5-8 O/U
The Houston-Jacksonville game is a half-point smaller, but this game at 41.5 has some significance in that it in all likelihood is the beginning of the end for Steelers warhorse Ben Roethlisberger? Pittsburgh faces a closing grim schedule (after the Titans they’ll be at Kansas City, home vs. Cleveland and at Baltimore). How much gas is left in Ben’s tank is anyone’s guess. The Steelers did score 28 this past Sunday, but that was against a relaxed Vikings defense that was playing with a 29-0 lead. The Titans, meanwhile, are continuing to cope without RB Derrick Henry. They averaged 28 points a game with him, and in five without him they’ve dropped to 19 a game.