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NFL picks week 14: Patriots return to their annual house of horrors

It’s that one week of every NFL season that Patriots fans have come to dread.

Aerial Photography of Dolphin Stadium - Site of Super Bowl XLI - January 18, 2007
Hard Rock Stadium doesn’t look quite like this anymore, but it’s the same building that gives the Patriots nightmares every year.
Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

That’s right, you guessed it. It’s every Patriots fan’s least favorite week of the season. It’s the game that we see every single year on the schedule, and we just grunt in annoyance. If New England’s schedule was a human face, this game would be the irritating pimple that just won’t go away.

Yep, it’s the Miami game — the annual trip to gorgeous south Florida and Hard Rock Stadium to face a Dolphins team that usually falls in the range of average to below-average. And almost every single year during this trip, the Patriots forget how to play to football. It rarely fails. Most years when they are in Miami, they play like a group of high school kids playing together for the first time.

So far this season, the Pats have dropped three fairly embarrassing road games in Jacksonville, Detroit and Tennessee. In all three games, they looked like they had nothing left, and were bound for football purgatory for an unknown amount of times. Those are the types of performances they usually save for the annual trip to Miami, so it will be interesting to see this Sunday if they have one more “Wait, how do we play football again?” game left in them.

Before the 2013 season, there was the run in which the Patriots won seven straight games against the Dolphins. But then starting in 2013, it became a standard New England football tradition: the Patriots dominate the holy hell out of the Dolphins each year at Gillette Stadium, but falter miserably each year in Miami. The one exception was the final game of the 2016 season when the Pats handed Miami a 35-14 butt-whooping in the Sunshine State, something I definitely didn’t predict.

Other than that, it has been four losses in the last five trips to Miami. Hard Rock Stadium, for some odd reason, has become a house of horrors for Tom Brady. It will be interesting to see if the trend continues in 2018.

A positive though: since Brady became the Patriots’ starting quarterback in 2001, the Dolphins have only won twice in New England: in 2005, and in 2008 when Matt Cassel was filling for Brady and his torn ACL. During the Brady-Belichick era, the Patriots have typically dominated the Dolphins at home. If you’re old enough, you can probably remember a time when getting a win over the Dolphins was actually something to celebrate.

And with that, let’s hit the picks for Week 14.

(Home teams in caps, and lines courtesy of

CHIEFS (-6.5) over Ravens

I was concerned about the Chiefs before their game in Oakland last week, as they were tasked with trying to bounce back from the Kareem Hunt disaster in just two days. Not only did they have to deal with the emotional stress that situation had to bring on, but they also now had to play without one of the driving forces of their seemingly unstoppable offense.

The result? The Mahomes crew still put up 40 points. Defensively, there are plenty of concerns as they allowed the laughingstock Raiders to score 33 points. But at Arrowhead this Sunday? It won’t matter. Lamar Jackson is about to get handed his first “L” of his very young career.

TEXANS (-4.5) over Colts

I’m certainly not going to bet against a Texans team that has won an incredible nine straight games — holstered by a defense that picked off Baker Mayfield three times last week and even recovered a fumble — in favor of a Colts team that couldn’t score a single point in Jacksonville a week ago, losing 6-0 to Cody Kessler. That was an all-time sports low for the city of Indianapolis.

Falcons (+4.5) over PACKERS

No matter who you pick in this game, you aren’t going to feel good about it. Atlanta only managed 131 yards of total offense at home against the Ravens last week, while the Packers lost in snowy Lambeau conditions to a team from the desert (with a rookie quarterback) that they were favored to beat by two touchdowns. There are no winners here. You can flip back and forth between these two scrubby teams all day long and you won’t feel any better.

BILLS (-3.5) over Jets

This game seemed difficult to pick until I realized Sam Darnold is expected to return this week, meaning the Jets will probably turn the ball over at least five times.

PS: I actually really hope that happens because I’m starting the Bills defense in my fantasy league’s playoffs this week. Which, you know, is not frightening at all.

Giants (-3.5) over REDSKINS

This is amazing. We get to spend the rest of the 2018 season betting against Mark Sanchez. Tell me I’m not the only person who is excited about this. I mean, I feel bad that Alex Smith and Colt McCoy are both sitting around with broken legs, but … it’s our old friend, the Sanchize!

BUCCANEERS (+9.5) over Saints

I’m making a very bold pick here. The reasoning behind it: the Saints are vulnerable after the Cowboys’ defense exposed them last week. Also, Tampa Bay is the only other team to have beaten New Orleans this season. Lastly, the Bucs have recently been money when they are home underdogs; they are 4-0 against the spread in their last four games as home dogs.

I will definitely regret this pick, but nevertheless, I’m rolling with Tampa Bay at home +9.5.

DOLPHINS (+7.5) over Patriots

I already went over the whole Patriots in Miami thing. We don’t need to hit that again. Maybe I’m crazy, but 7.5 points seems like a lot for a team that never plays a good game in Miami. We’ll see what happens. My only takeaway here: don’t wager a lot of money on this game. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

BROWNS (+1.5) over Panthers

Carolina is a dumpster fire right now. Four straight losses, 1-5 straight up AND against the spread when playing on the road this season. Does that sound like a team you want to bet on?

There are few reasons to ever get behind the Browns, but this is one of them.

Broncos (-4) over 49ERS

The Broncos are still very much alive in the playoff race, and the Niners should be an easy victory for them to keep it going. Nick Mullens might have played one impressive game, but don’t get sucked onto his bandwagon — especially when he’s going up against Von Miller and Nick Chubb. Denver all the way in this one.

CHARGERS (-14) over Bengals

The Chargers are a very good team. Philip Rivers is having one of the best seasons of his 15-year-career. Meanwhile, the Bengals are sunk. This game has already been over for about a week.

PS: I’m really intrigued for the playoffs. I want to see if this is the year Rivers finally gets over the hump and makes a legitimate playoff run. I don’t think it will happen — he’s the kind of QB that will break your heart at the end — but I am just very intrigued to see if it does.

CARDINALS (+3) over Lions

This game makes me so depressed, I don’t even want to make a pick.

COWBOYS (-3.5) over Eagles

This Dallas defense is no joke. Heck, it’s elite. Last Thursday, the Cowboys held the Saints to just 10 points to snap their 10-game losing streak, and they did it purely on the basis of rock solid, lights out defense — as the 13-10 final score suggests.

This should be an excellent game, one that could have major implications on the NFC East race. I’m looking forward to watching this.

RAIDERS (+10) over Steelers

Oakland covered against Kansas City last week. Who is to say they can’t cover at home to a Steelers team that has suddenly lost two straight, on the verge of blowing a shot at the No. 2 seed in the AFC? Seems reasonable to me.

Rams (-3) over BEARS

Another tremendous game for Sunday Night Football. The NFC’s best offense against the NFC’s best defense. I think this will be a close game, but it’s a loss the Bears need to take, especially getting Mitchell Trubisky back. It will make them hungrier, and keeping it close/limiting the L.A. offense will prove that Chicago should be considered a legitimate playoff sleeper in the NFC.

Not to mention, this game will get a Carrie Underwood introduction, and that always makes any football game significantly better. That’s why I believe NBC should broadcast the Super Bowl every year.

(By the way, forget about the Saints. I want to see the Rams and Bears meet in the NFC Championship Game. I’d rather see an elite offense duke it out with an elite defense over an offensive shootout any day.)

SEAHAWKS (-3) over Vikings

Seattle sports fans can celebrate the fact that they are just a couple of years away from having an NHL team with a Monday Night Football win over the Vikings. Make the future members of the Seattle Kraken proud.

Last week: 7-9

This week: 1-0

Season: 94-92-7