Every week, we will give three bets against the spread to monitor for that slate of NFL games: one we like (Bet It), one we love (Hammer It) and one we are staying away from (Don’t Touch).
Without further ado, here are the best and worst bets for NFL week 14.
Denver Broncos (-4) over San Francisco 49ers
Denver has quietly become one of the more intriguing playoff teams in the AFC in recent weeks. They are fairly old school offensively, scoring with a remarkably efficient rushing attack and just enough solid play from Case Keenum. But more importantly, they get after the quarterback. While Derwin James, Darius Leonard and Leighton Vander Esch get most of the Rookie of the Year talk, Bradley Chubb has his own case. He has 10 sacks and has been the perfect complement opposite Von Miller as the Broncos try to re-establish their Super Bowl-caliber pass rush.
San Francisco will be without one of their best offensive players in Matt Breida. As such, I would expect that the Broncos will only need 17 points or so to cover the spread. They have reached that number in all but two games this season, so they are a pretty safe bet this week.
Cleveland Browns (+2) over Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are a month removed from being considered among the more dangerous NFC teams. They were 6-2, threatening the Saints and building a stranglehold on the top wild card spot. Now, four consecutive losses later, they are in freefall and in serious danger of missing the postseason entirely. The Browns, prior to last week, were building something on offense. Baker Mayfield was playing great, the running game was dynamite and a ton of production was coming from young players. The loss in Houston was a setback, but there is still a lot to like about the Browns, despite the 4-7-1 record.
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This is the make-or-break week for Carolina. They are 1-5 on the road this year. They are dealing with injuries to key players. Confidence in the coach is waning. If they fall on Sunday, their season will effectively be over. And yet, I love Mayfield and the Browns to hold serve at home and pull out the upset.
New York Jets (+3.5) at Buffalo Bills
The main reason to watch this game is the matchup of rookie quarterbacks. Sam Darnold and Josh Allen have both been extremely uneven, but at the very least, they provide a hint of excitement to ailing teams. Yet, perhaps in an effort to save his job, Todd Bowles seems a bit hesitant to outright name Darnold the starter for Sunday. Darnold’s foot injury appears to have healed; he has been a full participant in practice this week. But Darnold was reportedly healthy a week ago, and Bowles still went with Josh McCown.
Darnold is probably going to start, but until that becomes certain, I have no interest in this game. And then once Darnold is confirmed, I still will refrain from betting because both teams are some of the least predictable in football. Last time they matched up, Buffalo won 41-10. Would anyone be shocked if that result is reversed this time around?
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.