NFL Week 14 TV Games: Pedigree Colts too good for Cleveland

Indy QB Andy Luck is a class above Cleveland's Brian Hoyer
Indy QB Andy Luck is a class above Cleveland's Brian Hoyer

There may be no place like home, but Neil Harvey is encouraging us get out of our comfort zones and back a trio of away teams this weekend, as he takes us through Sunday night's live NFL games...

"Almost everyone except the Hoyer family and coach Pettine wants to see Johnny Manziel under centre. Instead, it will again be Brian Hoyer, whose form was last seen disappearing somewhere around the u-bend."

Indianapolis to beat Cleveland @ 1.618/13  

Indianapolis Colts @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday December 7th, 18:00
Live on Sky Sports 2

Cleveland have been looking increasingly wayward in the past few weeks. The first cracks, and they were big ones, appeared three games ago when they were rolled over by the Texans, scoring just seven points at home to the league's third-worst pass defense. Luckily for Cleveland, then came the return of Josh 'Flash' Gordon to save them. Rarely has there been so much hype about a player coming back from suspension, as if the messiah himself was about to pitch up at wide-receiver, part the defensive seas, and head straight for the endzone. Yet despite Gordon weighing-in with 120 yards receiving, the Browns could still only squeak their way past the woeful Falcons 26-24. So then it came as no surprise when, last week, Cleveland were brushed aside by Buffalo 26-10. It was candy from a baby stuff, with even 'Flash' unable to save them.

But not only are Cleveland struggling for wins, they can't even decide on their best team. The situation at running back has been farcical this season, with Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell taking it in turns to start, and every fumble resulting in a fall from grace. Then just as Crowell looks to have the starting spot locked down, he picks up an injury and may miss out. And just to make things worse, head coach Mike Pettine has been giving major reps to the untried Glenn Winston in practice - even hinting that West might be dropped this weekend. In short, the backfield situation in Cleveland is a nightmare to predict. So don't try.

And things are no better at the quarterback position, where almost everyone except the Hoyer family and coach Pettine wants to see Johnny Manziel under centre. Instead, it will again be Brian Hoyer, whose form was last seen disappearing somewhere around the u-bend.

By contrast, Indianapolis are in fine form having just thrashed the Jags and Redskins. QB Andrew Luck continues to show why he'll likely end up in the Hall of Fame. And at running back, it took head coach Chuck Pagano just a week to work out that everybody is better than Trent Richardson. Hence the quick promotion for Dan 'Boom' Herron who's set to see a ton of carries in the cold of Cleveland, and make big yardage against their 29th ranked rush-defense.

Recommended Bets:

Indianapolis to beat Cleveland @ 1.618/13   
Indianapolis Colts (-3.5) to beat Cleveland Browns @ 2.1011/10   
Dan Herron to score anytime touchdown @ 2.608/5 or better   


Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles   
Sunday December 7th, 21:25
Live on Sky Sports

Here we have another classic case of the irresistible force against the immovable rock. Or at least that's how they're being portrayed by the sports media coming into this game. The truth is not quite so straight forward though. Seattle (8-4) have actually been moved a few times this season, enough to see them lose four games at least. Both San Diego and Dallas put 30 points past them. And let's not forget the 28 points conceded in a surprise loss to St. Louis! The Seahawks have tightened things up however in the last couple of weeks, allowing just three points each to both Arizona and San Francisco. 

Certainly though the Hawks will face a much sterner test in the form of Philadelphia (9-3), who have scored at least 20 points in every one of their games this season. The arrival of Mark Sanchez at QB seems to have done nothing to slow their offensive progress. And running back LeSean McCoy's late blossoming has served only to make this offense even more dangerous.

That said though, there are serious question marks for me about how the Eagles will fare here. Yes, they've massacred the weaker sides. But I note that on the two occasions when they faced formidable defenses - the 49ers and Cardinals - they lost both times. Are the Eagles just flat-track bullies? Probably not. But there is evidence that they don't like it up em' Mr Mannering. 

The Legion of Boom has playing increasingly tight as we head towards the play-offs, and it's possible they are more battle-hardened compared to a Philly side who've been able to coast for much of the season. A strong start from the match-fit Hawks here would leave the Eagles in the unfamiliar position of having to chase the game against a top defensive unit, and I'm just not convinced they're up to it.

Recommended Bets:

Seattle (+1.5) to beat Philadelphia at half time @ 1.9110/11 or better 
Seattle to beat Philadelphia @ 2.1211/10   
Seattle to be first team to score @ 1.9110/11 or better    


New England Patriots @ San Diego Chargers    
Monday December 8th, 01:30
Live on Channel 4

Their records suggest there's little to separate them. But if you had to choose either the Patriots (9-3) or the Chargers (8-4) to go to the Superbowl, it would be New England for me...no contest. Certainly recent form goes against San Diego. Philip Rivers awoke from his slumber long enough to orchestrate a one-point win over the Ravens last week, while prior to that the Chargers had scraped past both St. Louis and Oakland. Personally, I'd read more into the 37-0 whooping by Miami that came just prior to that.

By huge contrast, New England arrive off the back of easy wins over Chicago, Denver, Indianapolis and Detroit, with their copybook blotted only fractionally, if at all, by last week's narrow loss on the road to Superbowl favourites Green Bay. Tom Brady has hit full stride at quarterback and all in all this New England side look to have the right offensive/defensive balance to go all the way this year. 

That said though, the Patriots do have a few injury niggles for this game, especially at wide receiver, where Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell are both listed as questionable. The absence of either of these would be a major blow, while both missing would be disastrous, especially given that Aaron Dobson has been placed on injured reserve. 

Injuries at wideout could see the Patriots lean more heavily on their running game, where any one of Vereen, Blount, Gray or Bolden could be handed the rock, depending on the ever fickle mood of Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick. The Chargers rank worse at stopping the run though than they do the pass, which is another incentive for New England to employ their strong team of running backs, and which should eat up the game clock.

Injury doubts aside though, New England have a 36-4 record in the week following a loss in the regular season. So history tells us they are highly likely to win. It they are missing players though, it could be close, so I'd prefer to oppose the Chargers rather than back the Pats, by getting behind New England's stout defense to power them to victory.

Recommended Bets:

Total Points to be Under 51 @ 2.1211/10    
San Diego Points to be Under 23.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better    
Philip Rivers passing yards to be Under 285.5 @ 1.9110/11 or better

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