Most of the NFL still has a chance to make the playoffs, but there is a significant gap between the league’s top teams and the fringe postseason contenders. A few teams stand out as legitimate threats to win the Super Bowl as they continue to win week after week.
The Carolina Panthers are the NFL’s only unbeaten team, and they’ll be favored for the rest of the regular season. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks are long shots to win their divisions, but they are playing so well that they will likely be favored on the road in the first round of the playoffs.
There’s no such thing as a “sure thing” when it comes to betting, but here are the three best bets for Week 14 of the 2015 NFL season.
Chicago Bears (-3)
The Bears are all but out of the playoff hunt, but they are better than a few teams that might make the postseason. The Washington Redskins have a share of first place in the NFC East, but they should be getting more than three points in their Week 14 visit to Chicago.
Chicago is 5-7, but they haven’t played poorly in the last nine weeks, going 5-4. They have quality wins over the Packers and Chiefs, and five of their seven losses have come against likely playoff teams. The Bears’ defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in regulation in their last five games, and Jay Cutler hasn’t thrown more than one interception in any game this year.
Washington is 5-7 because they’ve beaten bad teams, going 0-4 against teams with a .500 record or better. Kirk Cousins has a 73.5 passer rating in the Redskins’ losses, and only Denver has allowed fewer passing yards than Chicago.
Carolina Panthers (-7.5)
The Panthers continue to roll at 12-0, and they have a good chance to go undefeated in the regular season. With a perfect record straight up and a 9-3 record against the spread, Carolina is an easy pick at home in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
After the first few weeks of the season, it looked like Carolina and Atlanta might battle for first place in the NFC South for the entire year. But following five straight losses, it’s become clear that the Falcons aren’t very good. They took advantage of a weak schedule to begin the season, and they haven’t beaten a team with a winning record. The Panthers are 4-0 against teams .500 or better, and four of their last five wins have come by at least eight points.
The Falcons are losing because they commit too many turnovers and can’t score. Atlanta has failed to put up more than 21 points in each of their last seven games, and the Panthers have totaled at least 27 points in 10 consecutive contests behind MVP frontrunner Cam Newton. Carolina leads the NFL with 19 interceptions, and Matt Ryan has been picked off nine times in the last six games.
Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
Double-digit favorites are rarely one of the best bets in the NFL, but the Chiefs are an exception in Week 14. Kansas City has been so good of late, and San Diego has been so bad that it’s hard to imagine the Chargers losing by fewer than 10 points at Arrowhead Stadium.
Even the undefeated Panthers haven’t been as good as the Chiefs over the last six games. Kansas City hasn’t lost since their 1-5 start, going 6-0 with five victories by double-digits and no wins by less than eight points. Without the injured Jamaal Charles for much of the season, the Chiefs still have the No.7 rushing offense, and Alex Smith has posted a passer rating of 99.9 or better in five of the last six games.
San Diego has little to play for at 3-9, and they’ve already lost to Kansas City by 30 points. With the NFL’s No.30 rushing offense, Philip Rivers needs to have a big game in order for the Chargers to put up points. But the Chiefs rank No.4 in opponents’ passer rating.
Season Record: 21-15