Situational handicapping — AKA spot bets — starts holding a lot of value at this late stage in the season.
The grind of the schedule is a challenge before the whistle even blows and focus and motivation can come and go, depending on what just happened and what’s coming next. These factors can give you an added advantage when shopping the Week 14 odds, as these aren’t always baked into the numbers.
I run down the NFL Week 14 slate and call out some of my top spots — look-ahead, letdown, and schedule — for you to keep in mind this week.
Letdown spot: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5, 49)
The Bengals were beaten up the last time they played the rival Browns, getting embarrassed on Monday Night Football in Week 8. That misstep may protect Cincinnati from a looming letdown spot, set up by the team’s huge win over Kansas City at home on Sunday.
The Bengals reminded the rest of the conference just who the reigning AFC champs are, doing a great job slowing down Patrick Mahomes & Co. while also flexing their offensive prowess in a 27-24 win. It was an emotional victory with both sides trading barbs before and during the game.
The Browns are not the same threat as Kansas City and bring a new wrinkle to the table with Deshaun Watson under center this time around. Cleveland’s defense and special teams did the heavy lifting in the win at Houston in Week 13, scoring all three of the Browns' touchdowns.
We’re starting to see the juice rise on the Bengals -4.5, which means a move to -5 or higher is coming later in the week. If Cincy isn’t completely focused, that growing spread could come up and bite them in the ass versus an AFC North foe that’s beaten the Bengals in five straight meetings (3-2 ATS).
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Look-ahead spot: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams (+6, 43.5)
Thursday games are challenging enough, but the Raiders run into a nasty look-ahead on a short week with the New England Patriots waiting on the schedule in Week 15. Head coach Josh McDaniels has the Silver and Black rolling and could get caught looking ahead to that showdown against his former team and mentor Bill Belichick.
Las Vegas is a big 6-point favorite on the road in SoFi Stadium and could get caught looking past a broken Rams team with backup QB John Wofford at the wheel and missing big pieces of this once-feared pass rush.
The Raiders have held their own at home but are wretched on the road, with an average margin of -3.9 as visitors feeding into a 2-5 SU mark and 3-4 ATS count away from Sin City. Los Angeles put up a good fight versus Seattle on Sunday and covered as touchdown dogs at home. If McDaniels is sweating the Hoodie, his Week 14 opponent could capitalize on the look-ahead.
Schedule spot: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (+9.5, 41)
The Chiefs are not only playing their second straight road game and third roadie in four weeks in Week 14, but they are also climbing the mountain to Mile High to battle the Broncos in the thin Colorado air.
Kansas City stays away from home after getting handled by the Bengals in Week 13, sprinkling in a potential letdown spot in this AFC West matchup. The Chiefs are still laying the lumber against a dismal Denver team that has only one win in its last six contests. The Broncos are playing a rare home game in a stretch that saw the team as hosts only once in the past 47 days heading into Week 14.
Denver has only been an underdog of nine or more points at home four times since 1985, going 1-3 SU but 3-1 ATS in those games — one of which was against Kansas City in Week 18 last year (lost 28-24 as 11-point dogs).
That said, this 2022 Broncos squad is on a different level of bad, at least on offense, where it’s failed to top 20 points in 10 of its dozen games. The Denver defense continues to keep the team in games, ranked out Top 5 in EPA allowed per play.
This spread will likely climb to double digits with bettors fading the Broncos and banking on a bounce back from Mahomes & Co. off a loss (14-3 SU/10-7 ATS since 2018). Will the tough sked and Denver defense keep the Chiefs inside that big number?