NFL Week 14 best bets: Will Tom Brady and the Bucs cover as underdogs vs. the 49ers? – The Athletic

When the editors assigned a picks column before the season, I never expected it to lead to late-night debating of whether Brock Purdy would win as a favorite over Tom Brady.

Welcome to Week 14.

Between Purdy giving points to Brady and the Lions favored over the Vikings, even though Minnesota is five wins ahead of them in the standings, this is a slate that challenges the first glance. How will it go? Here are my picks.

Last week’s record: 3-3 overall; 2-2 versus the spread; 0-1 in the upset pick on the moneyline; 1-0 on player props.

Season record: 40-36-2 overall; 30-20-2 versus the spread; 3-10 in the upset pick on the moneyline; 7-6 on player props.

Premier Sunday afternoon game: Jets +10 at Bills

The Jets upset the Bills in Week 9 as 10.5-point underdogs and have kept every loss within a touchdown since Week 3. The Bills are better than the Jets, but not 10 points better. The Jets have a defense that can keep them competitive in Buffalo, and the over/under of 43 is the lowest in a Bills game this season. That could suggest a lower-scoring game. Unless Buffalo stymies the Jets as it did New England last week, it’s fair to expect the Jets to keep the margin within single digits.

Pick of the week: Buccaneers +3.5 at 49ers

The Buccaneers are underdogs for the first time this season, and it comes against a seventh-round pick making his first NFL start. As much as I like this 49ers defense and think Kyle Shanahan can game plan around Purdy, I’d rather take Brady in this spot than Purdy — especially when getting points. For as much as Tampa Bay is underachieving this season, it has still won three of the past four games, with the loss coming to Cleveland in overtime. Todd Bowles is 6-2 against rookie starting quarterbacks in Tampa Bay. (One of those losses was earlier this season against Pittsburgh, although Kenny Pickett exited the game and Mitchell Trubisky led a comeback.) In the eight games, the Bucs averaged 2.1 takeaways. I have more confidence in Tampa Bay making it a tough day for Purdy than Brady losing by more than three points.

Underdog on moneyline: Vikings +105 at Lions

The 10-2 Vikings are underdogs in Detroit? Data suggests the Vikings’ performance might not be aligned with their record, and the Lions are playing well in recent weeks — especially on offense — so the line makes sense. But this is an intriguing play for an outright winner with odds in your favor. The Lions are ranked seven spots ahead of the Vikings in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). You know who else is ranked ahead of the Vikings? Seven teams they’ve beaten this season.

Sunday prime time: Chargers +3.5 vs. Dolphins

The Chargers are coming off a bad loss against Las Vegas and have lost three of four games, so there’s little reason for confidence in them against a team ranked No. 8 in DVOA. But last week was the first time the Chargers failed to cover as underdogs this season (they covered the other three times), and Justin Herbert’s teams have covered six of nine games in which he’s been an underdog during the past two seasons. The early lines have moved to give the Chargers a field goal cushion, which could be key — that was the margin of defeat in both games against Kansas City this season, when the Chargers snuck under the spread to cover. One concern here: Chargers safety Derwin James is doubtful.

Monday prime time: Cardinals +1.5 vs. Patriots

Home underdogs are appealing until seeing that Kyler Murray has lost nine of his last 10 home games. So that’s not the reason to pick the Cardinals, and neither is an offense that’s ranked No. 29 in DVOA going against a defense ranked No. 3. But the Cardinals are averaging 25 points during their past six games, while the Patriots are scoring 18 points per game during that span. New England’s defense is good enough to win an ugly game, but Murray offers more upside — even for as bad as Arizona has looked this season. The Patriots have struggled against mobile quarterbacks, and Murray has topped 50 rushing yards in each of his past two games.

Player prop: Eagles WR DeVonta Smith over 4.5 receptions

This number seems too low for Smith, which is why you’ll find it at -120 on BetMGM. It’s still a good bet to make because Smith’s volume has been consistent in recent weeks. He’s had at least five receptions in six of his last eight games and has been targeted at least eight times in each of his past four games. The Giants rank 18th against the pass this season and are dealing with injuries in the secondary. The Eagles could also look for quick passes to Smith as blitz beaters. Unless the weather prompts the Eagles to keep the ball on the ground, Smith’s consistency will push this over.

(Photo: Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

This content was originally published here.

Share this story