The Cowboys' season didn't take a knife to the heart on Thursday night during Dallas' ugly 31-24 loss to the Bears in Chicago. But that's only because the Cowboys' season is a lifeless lump of clay and lifeless lumps of clay don't have hearts to stab. The Cowboys are now 6-7 and they're still a pretty heavy favorite (-150) to win the division.
Such is life in the NFC East, arguably the worst division in the history of professional football. The Cowboys (6-7) are leading the division, followed by the Eagles (5-7), Redskins (3-9) and Giants (2-10). The division as a whole has a .326 winning percentage. Woof, Buzz.
The Cowboys loss on Thursday gives the entire division a 3-19 record against teams with winning records, with all three of those wins coming in the form of Eagles victories. (Philly beat the Packers, Bills and Bears.) The non-division wins for each of these teams is pathetic.
Dallas beat the Dolphins and Lions. Washington beat the Dolphins and Lions as well, plus the Panthers last week. The Giants haven't played the Dolphins yet, but did beat the Buccaneers. That's the other signature NFC East win this season.
The two divisions you could argue are worse than the NFC East in history would be the 2008 NFC West (Arizona won with a 9-7 record) and the 2014 NFC South (Panthers won with a 7-8-1 record). The 2014 NFC South finished with a .352 winning percentage and a -155 point differential. The 2008 NFC West finished with a .344 winning percentage and cumulative -372 point differential.
Now, the NFC East won't finish with a worse winning percentage because most of the remaining games are in division. The NFC East can't finish worse than 22-42, which would make it difficult for it to be the slam dunk worst division in football. However, two possibilities remain to steal the title from one of the aforementioned divisions in the form of an arbitrary tiebreaker.
One, which would absolutely lock it up, involves the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins all finishing at 6-10. If that happens, the Cowboys would host a playoff game as a 6-10 team coached by Jason Garrett. We think. It would be glorious.
Two, which would be much worse for anyone who took the Redskins under 6.5 wins, involves the Redskins winning out and taking down the division at 7-9. A 7-9 Redskins team that fired its coach midseason winning the NFC East would somehow be more embarrassing than the Cowboys hosting a first-round playoff game after finishing the year four games under .500.
Both scenarios are firmly in play, so let's cross our fingers and hope for the worst.
Let's also get to something that's got a better record: my best bets! Last week I technically went 4-3 on my best bets for the podcast. However, it's worth noting that in my column from last week I said not to take the over in the Buccaneers/Jaguars game and even said if weather is bad -- and it was! -- to take the under. So I'm not counting it in this column. If you listened to the pod and took the over, my apologies. If there's ever a situation like that, I'll always tweet out something about it on Friday or Saturday so make sure and follow me @WillBrinson (or just yell about taking that over).
Also make sure and listen to our Week 14 Best Bets Podcast in the player below and hit that subscribe button for eight-plus podcasts per week delivered straight to your favorite pod app.
Ravens -5.5 at Bills
Do not like laying this much lumber with a road team who has become the public betting darling. Nearly 70 percent of the bets are on the Ravens. Everyone loves Lamar Jackson, the likely MVP. Buffalo is an underrated team, and Josh Allen is playing very well right now. Playing the Ravens sort of stinks. But the matchup isn't good for the Bills here. They have one primary weakness, and it's giving up rush yards and explosive runs. Buffalo's defense is second in the NFL and fourth in DVOA. But a deeper dive shows are 22nd in rush defense DVOA and they give up longer plays, having allowed 10 rush plays of 20+ yards or more, tied for fourth most in the NFL. The Bills allowed Ezekiel Elliott to run for 5.9 yards per carry on Thanksgiving, but the Cowboys abandoned the run. The Ravens will not abandon the run. Baltimore is the most explosive rushing team in football. The Ravens have the third-most rush yards in NFL history through 12 games, behind only the 1972 Dolphins and 1975 Bills. They have by far the most 20+ yard runs (17!) and 40+ yard runs (five). Pete Prisco argued the Bills will bracket Mark Andrews and let someone sit outside to watch Lamar when he reads the end on defense. That's fine, but it then creates a major numbers problem for the rest of the Bills defense if the Ravens offensive line wins their battle. It's going to be an awesome game and there will be tons of runs. There won't be any rain, but it's expected to be 19-plus mph winds the whole time. Whoever gets down early in this game will be in trouble against a pair of great pass defenses.
Buccaneers -3 vs. Colts
This line is going to move by Friday afternoon or Saturday morning at the latest, so I would take the Buccaneers now. It's already 3.5 at the Westgate while I'm writing this, probably because of the Colts injury situation. Marlon Mack and Parris Campbell should be back for Indy, but T.Y. Hilton is likely out, Adam Vinatieri probably won't kick (is that a bad thing?) and Malik Hooker isn't expected to play. Kenny Moore should miss also. Rock Ya-Sin just showed up on the injury report late this week too. If the Colts are without three of their top five defensive backs they are going to struggle mightily against one of the most explosive pass offenses in football. Jameis Winston is playing well right now -- ignore last week's stat line, he was good -- and knows if he keeps putting up numbers and winning games, he'll get a big contract extension from the Bucs this offseason, with everyone getting the nod to return in 2020. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin could be set to go off against a weakened secondary. The Derrick Henry Corollary is in play here too. Teams who give up 100 rushing yards to Henry are now 1-6 straight up the following week. The theory here is Henry steals a defense's soul with his physical running style and it creates a one-week hangover. Those defenses over the last three years have given up huge totals to opposing offenses the following weeks. Get a Bucs stack in your DFS lineup and look for Tampa to roll again this week.
Long live the Duck! Devlin Hodges has been a revelation for the Steelers, helping the offense create some semblance of offense in the wake of Mason Rudolph clogging up Pittsburgh's pipes. Hodges isn't going to roll into Arizona and light up the scoreboard or anything, but he'll do enough to create some points for the Steelers. Specifically, I'd look for him to target Vance McDonald, who's been fairly quiet the last few weeks with Hodges starting. The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in football at guarding the tight end position, so it shouldn't be shocking if McDonald finally has a decent game with Hodges playing. This could be especially exacerbated if the Cardinals let Patrick Peterson follow James Washington, the de facto No. 1 wideout for Pittsburgh with JuJu Smith-Schuster likely to miss. Washington's got 11 targets for seven catches, 209 yards and two touchdowns the last two weeks with Hodges throwing him the ball, but if he's smothered by Pat P, it's going to be much tougher for Hodges to utilize him in the passing game. James conner's absence is also a concern, but Benny Snell/Jaylen Samuels can make up for it. The biggest reason I like the Steelers here, though, is the Cardinals performance against high-end defenses. When playing teams outside the top 10 in defensive DVOA, the Cards have a -10 point differential and are 3-3-1 this year. When playing top-10 defenses, Arizona has a -68 point differential and is 0-5. I've only seen them try and storm through the backdoor once against a good defense this year and they were so far down to the Rams it didn't matter when Kyler Murray ran in for a touchdown.
Dolphins-Jets Over 45
Get this game in while you can. The total looks like it's going to keep rising -- it's already up to 45.5 from the opener of 44.5 and it shouldn't stop moving up. I think 48 is a reasonable closing number, although that might be too high for these two teams. I think the game is played in the 50s, though. We've seen the Jets explode on offense against bad defenses when playing at home twice in the last three weeks, and Le'Veon Bell should be actually able to run the ball against the Dolphins rush defense. Sam Darnold will get looks down the field to Robby Anderson. The Dolphins can't slow down opposing offenses and have three additional defensive backs on the injury report. The Jets, meanwhile, have 17 (!!!) players on the injury report this week including five defensive backs, most of whom seem unlikely to play. Weather looks good with light winds and sunny weather. The only concern here would be Ryan Fitzpatrick not playing, as he's on the injury report. But no one slows Fitzmagic and I think we get a shootout here.
Chargers-Jags Under 43
Gardner Minshew playing in this game could result in more points being scored, but I think it will also result in the Jaguars defense giving a better effort. The Chargers and Jaguars are both teams whose points/drive average is far below their yards/drive and time of possession/drive, meaning we're talking about relatively slow offenses who just so happen not to be very efficient. Both teams would vastly prefer the running game dominate, so I think we see a ton of Melvin Gordon and Leonard Fournette in this one. There could absolutely be shenanigans in this game, especially at the end, and that could result in the game going over. But there's also a pretty good/very real chance of the Chargers running up the score on Jacksonville, getting staked to a three-score lead and just melting the clock to get out of Jacksonville with a win. I doubt we see the Chargers trying to drop some 40-burger on the hapless Jags. TBD whether Jacksonville tries to show up and give one more effort for this game after losing their last four games by a combined score of 129-47. Yikes.
Week 13 best bets ATS record: 4-2, +5u
2019 best bets ATS record: 47-32-2, +16u
Yeah buddy, that's an emoji in a story. And it's there because you need to be aware that Baker Mayfield's status for this game could cause this best bet not to be a go. For the second straight week I've got a game I wish I wasn't betting on. The Browns dropped to -7 at the Westgate during us recording the podcast on Thursday, which is absolutely terrifying, especially with 66 percent of the bets on Cleveland. I just think Cleveland will get up for this game and play well against a bad defense. Cincinnati just won at home against the Jets, so they'll be coming down from the first win of the season. And while neither team really has anything to play for from a playoff perspective, the Browns should absolutely be out there fighting to save everyone's job. Mayfield's hand issue with some weather concerns is a factor -- it won't rain, but there's supposed to be 19-plus mph winds in Cleveland on Sunday -- and I would probably lean to the under here. But I'm still fine backing the Browns because I think Nick Chubb will have a monster game. You beat the Bengals by running the ball to the outside (not on the interior, hello, Adam Gase) and by throwing to your running backs. Kareem Hunt could blow up here too. I would squat and see if it gets below 6.5 points at this point, however, and pounce on Cleveland then. Wait and see what the deal is with Baker, obviously.
Pick Six Podcast Parlay of the Week
After hitting one of these we went down in flames last week. This week we're going with a trifecta of home teams with a varying amount of points. The Jets are pretty heavy favorites but we all three like them to surprise the Dolphins with a blowout win. The Raiders are home dogs in a scary game against the Titans and the Rams are facing the Seahawks, who just cannot stop winning games. It won't be easy but we'll grind something out and get back.
Jets -5.5 vs. Dolphins
Raiders +2.5 vs. Titans
Rams PK vs. Seahawks
.5u to win 3u
Season record: 1-13, -0.5u
Moneyline Parlay of the Week
The Eagles lost to the Dolphins, killing off our ML parlay of the week. Thankfully they died early so the Chargers epic failure at the end of their game didn't cause it to go down there instead. That would have been brutal.
This week we're gonna take two short home favorites -- the Patriots and the Bucs -- and toss them together with the three biggest favorites on the slate -- the Texans, Packers and Vikings -- for a decently little payback that can get us back into the black for the season.
Patriots -170 vs. Chiefs
Buccaneers -170 vs. Colts
Texans -460 vs. Broncos
Vikings -750 vs. Lions
Packers -800 vs. Redskins
.5u to win 1.45u
Season Record: 1-12, -0.88u