NFL Week 14 preview and picks: In The Pocket

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers
Atlanta is now looking very solid in their division and are in position to push for a playoffs 1-seed and home field advantage. They keep winning at home, but this week they’re on the road visiting a league-worst Panthers team. Carolina has shown some minor signs of life, but not enough to warrant thinking they can cover this line. The spread is in the process of mobbing to 7.5, so grab the 7 while you can. Falcons -7 @ 1.91 (Centrebet)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Washington Redskins
Tampa just missed the cover last week on the road against the Falcons, minus a couple of their better players. Another road game this week, but a much feebler opponent in the Redskins, who appear to have given up on their season. The Bucs have been a very solid cover team who are fighting for their playoff lives – the NFC South will likely have Atlanta win the division, but one or two wildcard spots could come from it. New Orleans is favoured for one, but Tampa is not out of the running and a win here keeps their hopes realistically alive. The spread is growing on this line: -1 is still available but some bookies have the line as high as 3.5. Anything under 3 represents realistic value. Bucs -1 @ 1.85 (Luxbet)

St. Louis Rams @ New Orleans Saints
St. Louis is in the gun seat for the NFC West, which is still totally up for grabs. The Rams could go some way towards tying up the playoff spot by getting a win this week in New Orleans. The Saints will provide some stiff opposition at home, but the Rams have done nothing to indicate that they aren’t still the strong spread covering line-up they’ve been all season. Their defense is not a joke, and they can score enough points to hang with a lot of sides. The Saints have all the tools to blow them away, but more often than not they’ve misfired, turning the ball over more than their aggressive defense manages to get their hands on it. The nearly double figures line seems on the high side. Rams +9.5 @ (multiple sites)

Baltimore Ravens @ Houston Texans
Baltimore come off a tight home loss to rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers. In The Pocket is of the opinion that drawing conclusions based on a Steelers-Ravens game is a bit of a waste of time – there you see two defensive minded units trying to belt each other off the field. Scoring points almost seems a secondary consideration. Things will change this week up against Houston, who remain a terrible defensive team against the pass. Ravens QB Joe Flacco didn’t have a great game last start, but he won’t face anything like that defense this week. Whilst the Texans’ offense is arguably stronger than that of Pittsburgh, they leak points like a sieve. Ravens –3 @ 2.00 (Centrebet, Luxbet).

Other games
If you’ve been following the fortunes of teams that fire their coach, they have won every time this year. Denver did the deed this week and now they face a road game at the badly struggling Arizona Cardinals. The line has come up at 5.5, which is often the bookies’ way of saying they don’t know if this team should be favoured by a field goal or a touchdown. They have enough talent to be winners in this match-up, and the new coach should provide some spark.

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