NFL's biggest betting mismatches: Week 14

Dec 4, 2017 |

Each week, Monty Andrews breaks down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the National Football League slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup.

Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-4, 47.5)

Raiders' ragged secondary vs. Chiefs' elite ball security

The AFC West is officially the craziest division in the NFL, with three teams tied for the division lead as we enter the final four weeks of the regular season. This week's encounter between the streaking Raiders and the tumbling Chiefs will have a significant impact on how the final standings play out - and despite Kansas City having squandered what was a comfortable lead just a month ago, it has a sizeable edge in this one when it comes to retaining possession on offense.

The Oakland pass defense is a major reason why the Raiders are sitting at .500 through 13 weeks rather than leading the division by several games. By any measure, Oakland has struggled mightily to contain opposing signal callers, surrendering 20 pass touchdowns with just one interception; only one other team, the Atlanta Falcons (three), have fewer than five INTs. In addition, Oakland's 108.2 passer rating against is easily the worst in football.

Despite Kansas City's recent struggles, don't expect the Raiders secondary to suddenly look like world beaters against Alex Smith. The Chiefs have perennially been one of the lowest-turnover offenses in football with Smith at the helm, and 2017 is no exception - Kansas City has thrown just six interceptions, tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. Look for Smith to pick apart Oakland's pass defense, which should at least give the Chiefs a fighting chance of ending their four-game losing skid.

Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns (+3.5, 40.5)

Packers' red-zone proficiency vs. Browns' broken defense

No Aaron Rodgers? No problem - okay, several problems, but not as many as fans and bettors thought after the Packers lost their franchise quarterback to a collarbone injury in a Week 6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Green Bay evened its record at 6-6 with an impressive 26-20 overtime win over Tampa Bay, and with Rodgers due back later this month, a postseason spot remains in play. The Packers will look to improve their chances this week by exploiting a major edge in red-zone play against winless Cleveland.

If there is one area where Green Bay has remained as potent as ever, it is in turning red-zone opportunities into six points. The Packers come into Week 14 with a success rate of nearly 65 percent inside the opponents' 20-yard line, the third-best rate in the league. That red-zone proficiency was on full display in last week's victory over the Buccaneers, when Aaron Jones ran in his only carry from the Tampa Bay 20-yard line to give the Packers a critical victory.

The Browns have been halfway decent at limiting opponent yardage (327.2, 10th in NFL), but are lagging behind in just about every other defensive metric. That includes red-zone points against, with Cleveland having allowed a touchdown on 68.6 percent of foes' trips inside their 20 - the second-worst rate in the NFL. The Browns' chances of earning win No. 1 will likely hinge on their ability to hold Green Bay to field goals - and if that's the case, bettors shouldn't hold their breath.




San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans (-3, 43)

49ers' third-down troubles vs. Texans' punt-forcing prowess

A two-game losing skid and a date with a suddenly improving San Francisco team has the host Texans staring at a minuscule edge in the Vegas line this weekend. Yet, despite having lost four of its past five games to guarantee a non-winning season, Houston is still in good position heading into Week 14. Not only have the Texans prevailed in two of their previous three home games, but they have been a force on third downs - and the 49ers, for lack of a more eloquent turn of phrase, have not.

Perhaps the switch at quarterback from C.J. Beathard to Jimmy Garoppolo will mean great things for the 49ers on third down - after all, they went a stunning 10-for-18 in such situations in Garoppolo's first start in the red and gold. But one game is just that - and if you look at the season, San Francisco is still converting just 36.3 percent of third downs, good for 26th out of 32 teams. And getting to third down 18 times against the Texans probably won't turn out nearly as well for Garoppolo and the visitors.

Only five teams have been stingier on third down than the Texans, who have forced a punt or fourth-down try on 65.9 percent of opponent opportunities. Houston has been even tighter over the previous three games, allowing teams to extend drives or score on just 31.4 percent of third-down chances. And with opponents converting just 32.4 percent of their third-down opportunities at NRG Stadium, it could be a long afternoon for Garoppolo and the rest of the San Francisco offense.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (-6, 44)

Ravens' ball-hawking skills vs. Big Ben's interception troubles

The Ravens still have a shot at the NFC North title - albeit a small one - as they prepare to visit Ben Roethlisberger and the division-leading Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Baltimore did its part to remain in the hunt with a 44-20 drubbing of the Detroit Lions - its third consecutive victory - and will be looking to atone for a 26-9 loss to the Steelers in their previous meeting Oct. 1. Even though Heinz Field is Big Ben's personal playground, the Ravens have the secondary to make life miserable for him.

The Ravens continue to lead the NFL in interceptions with 20 - four more than the runner-up Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars. And while it's fair to note that eight of those picks came in Baltimore's first two games - specifically, four each against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns - the Ravens are still a top-six interception unit even if they hadn't recorded an INT in either of those contests. Opponents throw a pick on 5.14 percent of passing plays vs. Baltimore.

Roethlisberger escaped with just one interception in the Steelers' Week 4 triumph in Baltimore, but that was largely because his team ran the ball an unbelievable 42 times in the victory. Pittsburgh passers - yes, plural, thanks to Robert Golden's 44-yard completion in a Week 7 win over Cincinnati - come into this weekend with (12) interceptions, the seventh-most of any team. And with the Ravens looking to make up for their earlier loss, Pittsburgh might want to fire up 35 more carries for Le'Veon Bell.