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August 31, 2014

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Week 14 NFL picks against the spread for the Sun’s handicapping contest

Short spread for showdown between two of the league’s best teams

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) scores a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 in Miami .

Sun's NFL betting game of Week 14

Which side would you bet in this week's Monday Night Football?
Patriots -3 — 63.9%
Texans +3 — 36.1%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Losing three games by a total of four points in the NFL is equal parts improbable and unlucky.

It’s also why, despite only being tied for the third-best record in the standings, most oddsmakers’ and sports bettors’ power ratings put the New England Patriots as the top team in the NFL.

That merit gets put to the test during week 14. The Patriots (9-3 straight-up, 7-5 against the spread) host one of two teams tied for the best record in the league, the Houston Texans (11-1 straight-up, 8-4 against the spread), as 3-point favorites at William Hill sports books.

No more complaining about history-lecture-dull games on Monday Night Football. For the second straight week, the folks at ESPN are serving up what could be considered the game of the week.

Like the aforementioned rankings, Football Outsiders’ DVOA efficiency ratings have the Patriots at first in the NFL. The Texans come in at a respectable, but unspectacular, seventh.

Houston sits two games ahead of New England in the race for home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. But the Patriots have a history of finishing the season strong, especially at home and in primetime games.

Quarterback Tom Brady has gone 10-6 against the spread, including covering in four straight, in Monday Night Football contests for his career. He’s compiled another MVP-worthy season with 3,537 passing yards and 25 touchdowns to four interceptions despite a constantly banged-up receiving corps.

But the advent of a dangerous running game is what has made the Patriots by far the most efficient offense in the NFL. Second-year pro Stevan Ridley eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in last week’s 27-20 win at the Miami. He’s averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

That’s 0.6 yards better than Houston’s Arian Foster, who is regularly mentioned among the best running backs in the game. While the Houston offense has taken excellent care of the ball and ranks above average, it’s not the reason the Texans are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl.

The defense deserves the most recognition for the Texans' 2-to-1 odds to win the AFC and reach their first Super Bowl. The team has felt minimal impact from the defection of former first-round pick defensive end Mario Williams to the Buffalo Bills.

J.J. Watt is far better anyway. His 16.5 sacks through 12 games already are more than Williams combined for in the past two seasons. One of the NFL’s best defensive backfields — featuring Jonathan Joseph, Danieal Manning and Kareem Jackson — also bolsters Houston’s stop unit.

William Hill, the odds provider for the Las Vegas Sun’s handicapping contest, was the only shop in town with the Patriots posted at -3 as of Thursday afternoon. Everywhere else had New England as a 3.5-point favorite. The three members of the contest, which requires six picks per week, couldn’t pass up the generous number.

They all took the Patriots. It’s just the second time this year they all picked the same side on one game. The other instance came two weeks ago, when the Dolphins came through as 3-point underdogs to beat the Seattle Seahawks outright.

Check out all of this week’s picks below. Games are listed in order of kickoff time

 

Taylor Bern

Record: 39-36-3 (4-2 last week)

Bears -3 at Vikings

Rams +3 at Bills

Saints +5 at Giants

Ravens +2.5 at Redskins

Jaguars +2.5 vs. Jets

Patriots -3 vs. Texans

 

Ray Brewer

Record: 39-38-1 (4-2 last week)

Ravens +2.5 at Redskins

Bills -3 vs. Rams

Vikings +3 vs. Bears

Jets -2.5 at Jaguars

Falcons -3.5 at Panthers

Patriots -3 vs. Texans

 

Case Keefer

Record: 38-39-1 (3-3 last week)

Panthers +3.5 vs. Falcons

Rams vs. Bills under 42

Titans vs. Colts under 48

Falcons vs. Panthers over 47.5

Giants -5.5 vs. Saints

Patriots -3 vs. Texans

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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