An unfortunate storyline this season has been the significant number of injuries to starting quarterbacks. Teams such as the Cincinatti Bengals (Joe Burrow), Indianapolis Colts (Anthony Richardson), Minnesota Vikings (Kirk Cousins) and Cleveland Browns (DeShaun Watson), are all without their leading signal-callers.
But they all have something else in common; each of those teams are squarely in their respective conference's playoff picture due to the play of their backups. The QB’s range from the unheralded, like Jake Browning of the Bengals, to the classic journey men in the Colts’ Gardner Minshew and Vikings’ Joshua Dobbs, and even an old wily veteran straight from his couch onto the field in Cleveland's’ Joe Flacco.
Each will have a chance to bolster their team’s playoff chances in critical matchups this weekend.
Allow me to help you try and win some cold hard cash courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Here’s a look at our games of the week.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Cincinatti Bengals (-1)
Raise your hand if you had Jake Browning as your AFC offensive player of the week in week 13? Yeah, me neither. The undrafted (2019) veteran QB led his Bengals to a shocking upset over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, completing 32 of 37 passes for 352 yards and two touchdowns. He was tremendous and kept his team in the AFC wild card race with the win.
The team they are facing are currently in the playoffs if it were to start today. The Colts, led by Gardner Minshew, defeated the Tennessee Titans in overtime last week to improve to 7-5.
Colts’ WR Michael Pittman Jr. has become one of the best at his position in the league. In his last five games, Pittman Jr. has caught 45 passes for 400 yards and has made two trips to the endzone.
The Bengals have the NFL’s 27th ranked pass-defense, so I’m expecting a shootout in this one. Pittman Jr. will have a big day, but when it’s all said and done, Browning will build on the momentum from last week’s big win. He probably won’t win AFC offensive player of the week again, but he will help his squad win the game.
Pick: Bengals -1
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Cleveland Browns (-3.5)
This is a weird line. On one end we have Trevor Lawrence and a Jaguars team who were playing for first place in the AFC against the Bengals last week. And on the other side we have ... Joe Flacco. Bettors are also confused, as wagers placed are split right down the middle at 50% on both teams.
I’d imagine the impact of Lawrence’s injury has people very nervous. He injured his right ankle late in Monday’s loss and didn’t return to the game. He is however expected to suit up as he returned to practice on Thursday.
Flacco, a former Super Bowl champion, became the fourth QB to start a game for Cleveland this season. In week 13 the Browns lost to the Los Angeles Rams, but the veteran QB actually performed admirably, completing 23 passes for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
But the reason the Browns are favored in this game isn’t because of their offensive prowess.
Cleveland’s defense is arguably the best in the league, having allowed the fewest yards in the NFL on a per game basis at just 260.5.
Because of that, the Jaguars are going to lose to AFC North teams in back-to-back weeks.
Pick: Browns -3.5
Minnesota Vikings vs. Las Vegas Raiders (+3)
It’s time to embark on the final chapter of this QB journey. Both of these teams have had roller coaster seasons and have dealt with injuries across the board. The most notable is Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson, who is set to make his return following a lengthy absence with a hamstring injury. Jefferson will look pick up where he left off. He was averaging seven receptions for 114 yards per game prior to his injury — but that was with Kirk Cousins as his signal-caller.
Enter Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs story’ was magical, as he was acquired from the Arizona Cardinals and went 2-0 with the Vikings before even digesting the playbook. But his last two starts he’s 0-2 including a four-interception performance his last time out against the Chicago Bears.
The Raiders have a rookie QB at the helm in Aidan O’ Connell — and quite frankly, they have been a different team since Josh McDaniels was fired five weeks ago. Interim head coach Antonio Pierce has the black and silver playing with grit, and I believe this is another tough spot for a Vikings team that has lost its luster.
Currently 39% of Moneyline bets have been placed on the Raiders. I’m with them.
I’m rolling the dice with Las Vegas, to both win and cover the spread.
Pick: Raiders Moneyline and Raiders +3.5
What are your thoughts on the team’s picks for Week 14?