After rough sledding for most of October and November, December has been good to our weekly NFL Underdogs picks and predictions.
We shook the stink of a nasty skid with a 2-1 against-the-spread finish in Week 12 and went a perfect 3-0 ATS in Week 13, thanks to some early-week underdogs who ended up closing as favorites when the whistle blew. But dog or fave, those three picks laid waste to any and all spreads. Closing line value be damned.
Due to my holiday schedule (I got some vacation days to burn up), the Week 14 edition of NFL Underdogs is hitting the presses a day early as we try to stay hot in the chilly December temperatures.
Here are my best NFL picks and predictions getting the points in Week 14.
NFL picks against the spread for Week 14
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Minnesota Vikings (+2.5) at Detroit Lions pick
Bettors love the Lions. We’ve seen early and late action on Detroit the past few weeks, and this divisional matchup with Minnesota is no exception.
The Vikings opened as 1-point road chalk in Motown and money dashed to Detroit and bumped this spread over the fence as far as Minnesota +2.5, as of Tuesday morning. What was once blind public love for the Lions has been backed up by solid play on the field, with Dan Campbell’s crew winning four of its last five and covering in each of those contests.
The lone loss was a Thanksgiving Day homestand against the Bills in a 28-25 nail-biter on a short week in which Buffalo was playing its second straight outing at Ford Field due to a snowstorm moving their Week 11 home game vs. Cleveland.
Not to sell the Lions’ success short but those last four wins have come against flawed teams. Detroit has beaten Green Bay, Chicago, the New York Giants, and Jacksonville — all of which have some major bugaboos holding them back.
The Vikings’ fatal flaw for a while has been losing close contests, be it via late-game collapses or coming up short on a comeback. However, the 2022 edition — the Kevin O’Connell Vikings — appears to have put that blemish to bed.
Minnesota’s margins remain razor thin (+0.8) but in those spots in which they would normally buckle, the Vikes are prevailing. This team has won nine of its last 10 games and is 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven showings, going up against much tougher defenses than Detroit's.
Minnesota is coming off a five-game stretch in which it took on stop units ranked No. 1, No. 2, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 10 in DVOA at Football Outsiders. And outside of the complete belly flop versus Dallas in Week 11, the Vikings have been able to put up points against those foes.
The Lions defense, on the other hand, ranks out No. 19 in DVOA and 31st in EPA allowed per play and the team relies more on its offense to overwhelm. Given the sky-high total for Week 14, Detroit will put up points against Minnesota but may not have what it takes to topple its division rival in crunch time.
The Vikings defense isn’t drum-tight by any means but that stop unit has been at the core of those close game wins, ranked out 11th in fourth-quarter DVOA and No. 6 in EPA allowed per play in the final 15 minutes. Mix in timely takeaways (tied for third with 20), and the Vikes are a live dog in what books predict to be another tight finish.
PICK: Vikings +2.5 (-110 at bet365)
Carolina Panthers (+4.5) at Seattle Seahawks pick
I warned of the potential for line movement between the Panthers and Seahawks in my “Bet Now, Bet Later” article on Sunday night and this spread quickly shuffled from as high as Seattle -6 to as low as -3.5 on Tuesday.
Carolina has been a quiet money maker in recent games, going 5-1 ATS in its last six showings, and seems to have support from sharps more often than not — be it early in the week or on gameday. The Panthers are in a pretty good spot, considering the cross-country trip, coming off a bye week to rest and retool around their latest QB Sam Darnold, who was steady against a very good Denver defense in his 2022 debut in Week 12.
The Seahawks seem to be coming back to earth after a head-scratching start to the season. They snapped a two-game skid with an uncomfortable win over the Rams’ skeleton crew last Sunday, showing glaring weaknesses on defense during this span from a unit that sits 27th in EPA allowed per play on the year.
Seattle has been bullied by rival running games the past three weeks, with L.A., Las Vegas, and Tampa Bay amassing a grand total of 615 rushing yards for 5.3 yards per carry in that stretch. That’s allowed those foes to control pace and clock, chewing up an average of 33:05 in time of possession. The Panthers know the value in TOP, having allowed the highest average in the NFL this season. Well, not in Week 14.
Carolina leans into bruising RB D'Onta Foreman, who has been a catalyst for this ATS windfall. He’s rushed for 526 yards the last six games, rumbling for 4.6 yards per handoff, and has helped lift the Panthers offense to No. 9 in EPA per play since Week 9.
That uptick in efficiency has drastically changed the load weighing on an underrated Carolina defense that has been buried under TOP for most of the year. The Panthers sit 12th in yards per play (on par with defenses like Buffalo, Washington, and New England) and their biggest weakness — stopping the run — may not be as much of an issue in Week 14.
The Seahawks offense could be down RB Kenneth Walker III for Sunday’s homestand after he left last Sunday’s win with an ankle injury, and backups Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas also carry the questionable tag heading into Sunday.
Throw in some classic Seattle weather for Sunday (potential rain/snow mix), which is something Carolina thrived in during its 25-15 home win over Atlanta in Week 10, and the Panthers have a great chance to “ugly up” this game enough to stay within this spread.
PICK: Panthers +4.5 (-107 at PointsBet)
New York Jets (+9.5) at Buffalo Bills pick
Much like Rocky Balboa’s wild right hook cutting Ivan Drago above the left eye in their infamous 1985 Xmas Day bout, the Jets know the Bills can bleed.
New York is not afraid of Buffalo — not the way it fears New England — after drawing first blood in this AFC East rivalry with a 20-17 stunner in East Rutherford back in Week 9. The Jets closed as 11-point home underdogs in that matchup (and were as high as +13.5 on the opening line), and now catch 9.5 points from the bookies in Orchard Park this weekend.
You could make the argument that the Week 14 Jets are a far better football team than the one that edged the Bills on November 6, despite going 1-2 SU and ATS in the three games since.
Defensively, Gang Green is just as stout as that first meeting with the Mafia, entering this Sunday No. 5 in DVOA at Football Outsiders and seventh in EPA allowed per play. The stop unit is creating plenty of pressure without blitzing at a high rate and the secondary is limiting opposing passing attacks to the eighth-lowest success rate. But offensively, New York is in a much better place.
Mike White isn’t the second coming of Joe Namath — hell, he’s not the second coming of Chad Pennington — but he’s rallied this locker room around him since taking over for Zach Wilson and the offense is clicking.
New York has produced yardage totals of 466 and 486 the past two games and while it’s a small sample against soft defenses (Chicago and Minnesota), the Jets own the 11th-highest EPA per play over the past two weeks — a stark contrast to an attack that ranked 28th in that metric in the first 11 weeks of action.
On top of that turnaround, this beefy spread is even more tempting considering how well Gang Green has played in second halves and more specifically fourth quarters. New York owns an average margin of +3.8 points in the closing 30 minutes, thanks in part to a defense that sits No. 2 in 2H DVOA. And in the final frame, the J-E-T-S sit No. 8 in offensive DVOA and No. 6 in Defensive DVOA at Football Outsiders.
A big dog that fights to the finish is always a live underdog. This Jets team is all that and then some in Week 14.
PICK: Jets +9.5 (-110 at FanDuel)
Last week: 3-0 ATS +2.74 units (Risking 1 unit per play)
Season: 17-22 ATS -6.07 units (Risking 1 unit per play)