NFL picks against the spread: Dolphins look to rebound, Chargers hope to stay afloat

You can go back a year or less and find plenty of opinions that Tua Tagovailoa over Justin Herbert was an all-time draft mistake.

It doesn't look quite that bad anymore.

Tagovailoa has had a breakout season with new coach Mike McDaniel. The Dolphins took a weird loss last week to rookie quarterback Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers, but they're 8-4 and a good bet to make the playoffs.

The Chargers have Herbert, a fantastic talent, and are probably going to miss the playoffs for a third straight season with him.

That's not all on Herbert, though the "QB wins" crowd is sharpening its pitchforks. The Chargers haven't been good enough, and a bad streak of injuries have taken care of the rest. They're 6-6 and while they're not out of the playoff race, they need to start winning games.

Sunday night's game, which has the compelling but soon-to-be-overdone backdrop of Tua vs. Herbert, is a key one for both teams. Miami wants to keep up with the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East race. The Chargers just want to stay relevant this season.

The Dolphins are favored by 3.5 points at BetMGM, and it's because they've been the better team all season. The Dolphins lost three games when Tagovailoa was hurt, and then couldn't take advantage of Jimmy Garoppolo's injury in the first quarter of last week's game. They've won every other game. Miami has its flaws, and the Dolphins' offensive line injuries are a concern. But the Chargers won't be able to capitalize on those injuries like the 49ers did.

The Chargers are a pretty big disappointment. Given their talent, they should be better than .500. Injuries have played a role. But that doesn't explain everything, like a defense that seems to be getting worse each week. The Chargers had no answers for the Las Vegas Raiders, particularly Davante Adams and Josh Jacobs, last week. The Chargers are an average team, one that happens to have a really good quarterback.

I'll go with the Dolphins at -3.5, though that extra half-point over the field goal is concerning. The Chargers will be desperate. But they're not as good as Miami and it's not all that close.

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is hoping to rebound from last week's loss. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) is hoping to rebound from last week's loss. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

Here are the picks against the spread for Week 14, with odds from BetMGM:

Raiders (-6.5) over Rams

The Rams gave it all they had last week, and I'm not sure they can play that well again with their injuries. They're just outmanned against a hot Raiders team. If Baker Mayfield has to play, I like the Raiders even more.

Jets (+10) over Bills

Buffalo is very good. You'll also be paying a tax on the Bills if you wish to bet them. The Chiefs have been in that role for years. This line shouldn't be double digits. The Jets can compete, especially on defense. Did we forget the Jets, with Zach Wilson at quarterback, just beat the Bills in Week 9?

Bengals (-6) over Browns

Was last week's Deshaun Watson performance just him being rusty? And if so, can he shake that off in one week? I need to see Watson play well before I take the Browns. The Bengals won't hand the Browns defensive and special teams touchdowns to make them look better, as the Texans did last week. I worry about some post-Chiefs letdown from the Bengals after their big win, but Watson looked really bad last week and that's guiding this pick.

Texans (+17) over Cowboys

Fun fact: Over the past two seasons, there have been only three underdogs of at least 17 points in the NFL according to Stathead ... and all three times it was the Texans. They did not cover either time last season, losing by 40 to the Bills as a 17.5-point underdog and by 26 to the Cardinals as an 18-point underdog. Since the start of the 2012 season, underdogs getting 17 or more points are 6-12 against the spread. Despite the recent history I'll still take the Texans, though I might change my mind tomorrow. Stay away from this game.

Lions (-1.5) over Vikings

This is the weirdest, most interesting line of the NFL season. It'll be a long time before you see another 10-2 team as underdogs against a team with a losing record. By now, anyone who takes the NFL seriously realizes that the Vikings aren't as good as their record. They're having one of the craziest seasons in recent history. The Lions are playing well and the betting market has spoken: Don't trust the Vikings this week.

Jaguars (+4) over Titans

The Titans offense has some issues. Most importantly, Derrick Henry is not playing well. He is averaging 2.8 yards per carry over the Titans' last four games and he didn't force a tackle against the Eagles last week, the first time since 2018 that has happened according to Pat Thorson of Establish the Run. It's not a fun thought because Henry is such a great player, but you have to wonder if he's wearing down rapidly. To add to the Titans' problems, receiver Treylon Burks won't play if he doesn't clear concussion protocol. It's hard to back the Jaguars after they got blown out by the Lions last week, but I think being embarrassed like that will refocus Jacksonville. The Jaguars could win straight up.

Giants (+7) over Eagles

I don't love taking the Giants against a fantastic Eagles team, but it's a full touchdown for a home team still in the playoff race, playing a divisional rival. Hold your nose and take New York.

Ravens (+2.5) over Steelers

Tyler Huntley didn't play well last week, but the Broncos have a tough defense and Huntley was coming in cold for an injured Lamar Jackson. Huntley did play well last season when he had time to prepare as the starter. This feels like a bit of an overreaction to the Jackson injury, and a chance to buy low on Baltimore.

Chiefs (-9.5) over Broncos

An angry Chiefs team coming off a loss is going against a Broncos team that hasn't scored much all season and will probably be without top receiver Courtland Sutton? This could get ugly.

Buccaneers (+3.5) over 49ers

This is a fascinating game. The Bucs won't be able to block the 49ers. But can we count on Brock Purdy moving the ball against a tough Buccaneers defense? This game feels like it could be 12-9.

Panthers (+4) over Seahawks

It's hard to like what we've seen from the Seahawks the past three games. And I assume rookie running back Kenneth Walker will be out with an ankle injury. That sets back Seattle's offense. I don't love the Panthers, but I'll take the points.

Patriots (-1.5) over Cardinals

Look, are you going to take Kliff Kingsbury over Bill Belichick?

Last week: 8-7

Season to date: 102-88-3