Each week, we break down some of the underlying mismatches in the NFL, hoping to give you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule. Here are four of the biggest betting mismatches from Week 14:
San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-9.5, 39)
Chargers’ travel vs. Climate and start time
Rise and shine Chargers. San Diego makes the cross-country trek to the Steel City to face the Steelers at 1 p.m. ET – that’s 10 a.m. back in sunny California. The weather in Pittsburgh will be far from San Diego’s perfect climate, with a 60 percent chance of showers and temperatures dipping into the low 50s. On top of that, Heinz Field is notoriously the worst surface in the NFL and becomes a giant banana peel this time of year.
The Bolts made a similar left-to-right trip to play Tampa Bay in Week 10, losing 34-24 as 3-point road underdogs. That game was also a 1 p.m. ET kickoff but the temperature was a much more favorable 80 degrees. San Diego struggled against the elements at Cleveland in Week 8, losing 7-6 to the Browns. The Chargers’ attack was slowed by wet and wild conditions. Pittsburgh would love that type of game Sunday.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-5, 48)
Titans’ lack of pressure vs. Colts’ QB Andrew Luck
The Titans already know how good rookie QB Andrew Luck is, having been burned by the Colts’ No. 1 overall pick in a 19-13 overtime loss to Indianapolis in Week 8. That win really got the ball rolling for Luck, who has since led the Colts to four wins in the last five games (4-1 ATS). Luck has thrown for 1,291 yards, 11 TDs, five INTs and has been sacked nine times in that span.
Tennessee has to make the young passer uncomfortable if it wants a shot at revenge but pressuring the quarterback has been an issue in recent weeks. The Titans couldn’t crack Houston’s offensive line in a 24-10 loss last Sunday, failing to register a sack or an interception. In fact, outside of a big day versus lowly Jacksonville (in which the Titans recorded seven of their total 23 sacks), Tennessee’s pass rush – or lack thereof – has allowed opposing QBs to complete 69.5 percent of their passes – worst in the NFL.
Dallas Cowboys at Cincinnati Bengals (-3, 46)
Cowboys’ patchwork o-line vs. Bengals’ sack-happy defense
Things have been better than OK in Tony Romo’s world. Despite injury issues to his offensive line, Romo has tightened up his play in recent weeks. After throwing 13 interceptions in the first seven games, he’s gone pick-less in four of his last five outings, totaling a 10:2 TD-to-INT count in that stretch. Dallas has benefited, posting a 3-2 SU record (1-4 ATS) in those games.
Enter the Cincinnati Bengals and their league-leading 39 sacks. That aggressiveness bit the Bengals in the butt early this season but Cincy has since found a balance and is no longer hemorrhaging huge plays on defense. The Cowboys just put center Phil Costa on IR and have trotted out a different offensive line just about every week. They rank first in the league in flags with 25 of their NFL-worst 98 penalties being false starts, and another 16 coming on offensive holding infractions. Dallas hasn’t faced a pass rush this furious since losing to New York, 29-24, in Week 8. Romo was sacked four times and threw four INTs in that game.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots (-3.5, 50.5)
Texans’ injured secondary vs. Patriots' WR Wes Welker
This Monday night matchup, which has a big impact on the AFC playoff picture, could come down to just one man: Wes Welker. Welker is licking his chops, matched up against a shorthanded and banged-up Texans secondary. The Texans are without CB Brice McCain, their best slot defender, due to a broken foot and could march out top corner Johnathan Joseph at less than 100 percent. Joseph missed the last two games due to a tender hamstring and won’t get any favors from the cold and wet conditions expected to hit Gillette Stadium Monday night.
Welker is the best slot receiver in the game, constantly topping the NFL in receptions and currently leading the league with 92 catches heading into Week 14. He sputtered a bit through November but erupted for 12 catches for 103 yards and a score in a win over Miami last weekend. The injury to Julian Edelman makes Welker even more key this week, not just receiving but also in the return game.