By Marc Lawrence, PlaybookSports.com — College and Pro football season’s are winding down but no sense in leaving money on the table. To wit:
Navy over Army by 3
“In New England, we value history, honor, tradition, and celebrate sports rivalries. That’s why we are so thrilled for the opportunity to host America’s Game at Gillette Stadium in 2023.” With those words, New England Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft announced that Army and Navy would bring down the curtain on another college football regular season with their very first appearance in Foxborough, Massachusetts. “I can tell you that the ticket demand for this game is greater than any AFC Championship Game that we’ve hosted here, greater than Taylor Swift, greater than anything else we’ve ever seen,” Kraft said. Let that sink in before considering this afternoon’s contest pits a pair of 5-6 teams with nowhere to go after today. Only Navy can become bowl eligible as a pair of Army’s wins have come against two FCS teams, but all of the bids will be locked up before this game kicks off. However, there is something important to play for: the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. Since 1972, it has been awarded to the winner of the Air Force, Army and Navy games, and the Black Knights can win their 10th trophy of the series by beating Navy. Conspicuously absent today will be former Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who was released in 2022 after 15 seasons at Annapolis. The Midshipmen were 10-5 against Army West Point under his leadership with six Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy wins and the most victories of any coach in school history. Ten-year Army head coach Jeff Monken held his own against Niumatalolo, winning 5 out of nine meetings, so it will be interesting to see how he prepares for new Navy coach Brian Newberry. ESPN is certainly interested, as College GameDay will be in attendance, (where else would they be today?) though they’ll probably spend more time discussing Florida State’s snub by the CFP committee than today’s clash. And honestly, these games have become snooze-fests of late with the last nine contests averaging just 27.3 total points per game – which is why we’re looking at an Iowa-like total of 28 points for this matchup. As usual, both rushing offenses are highly ranked nationally with Army No. 9 and Navy No. 13, but this season each squad has aired it out more often than past editions, Army averaging 107 aerial yards per game compared to Navy’s 99 YPG. So where do we go from here? When the ground troops marched to a 20-17 overtime win in this rivalry last year, it moved the revenge-meter to 10-2 ATS in favor of the avenger the last dozen meetings in this series. In fact, the Swabbies are 14-7-1 ATS since 1999 when looking to avenge a military loss, including 10-1-1 ATS as a dog of 16 or fewer points. But the bottom line is neither team holds much of an edge today, and with it we’ll rely on the old military standby – revenge – as Navy proves once again that it’s a dish best served cold. In the 124th installment of this service academy showdown, we suggest you grab the points and join the Beach Boys on the Sloop John B.
Philadelphia over DALLAS by 8
Despite being hammered at home by the 49ers last week, Philadelphia still sits atop the standings, but the loss to San Francisco opened the door for Dallas to steal the division and the top seed in the postseason. The Cowboys have won 14 consecutive games at home and now get to host the Eagles for this Week 14 showdown. The smoking-hot Boys own the best points differential in the league this year (+168) and there is no quarterback in the league hotter than Dak Prescott who, in his last six games since Halloween, has completed 70.59% of his passes for 1.904 yards with 18 TDs and 2 INTs for a Passer rating of 120.2. However, our biggest concern is Dallas has no wins this season against a team that currently sports a winning record. Sure, Philadelphia has been ripped apart in the stats in their last fi ve games an average of -112 net yards per game, the last four of whom all sports .500 or greater records. Remember this: Philadelphia isn’t currently scheduled to face another squad with a winning record for the remainder of the regular season. That should be good news considering the fact the Eagles are 9-4 SUATS in this series in games in which they own a .750 or greater win percentage, including 5-0 ATS when Dallas enters off a win. Take the points with the better team coming off an embarrassing loss, and if you’re uncomfortable, confide in THE CLINCHER: The Eagles are 16-6 SU and 14-7-1 ATS versus winning foes during the regular season behind QB Jalen Hurts, including 14-1 SU and 11-3-1 ATS the last fifteen games.
CLEVELAND over Jacksonville by 6
With quarterbacks falling like flies this season, it only figures this game would find backup Jaguars’ C.J. Beathard taking on Joe Flacco. With Trevor Lawrence going down with a high ankle sprain, Beathard brings a 2-10 career mark in his NFL starts into this contest. Meanwhile, despite taking it on the chops last week, both teams still remain alive in the AFC Playoff Picture, although the Browns are having a hard time keeping a pulse. It’s what happens to teams funneling through four signal callers in the same season. The good news for the Browns is they are 7-2 at home against winning foes under Kevin Stefanski, including 6-0 when Cleveland owns a sub .600 win percentage. With Flacco 12-5 ATS in his last 17 games against foes coming off a SU favorite loss, including 8-1-1 ATS as a favorite, there is only one way to look here today.
NY GIANTS over Green Bay by 6
Suddenly, there is “love” in the air as the Packers have moved into the final playoff spot, thanks to having the second-best conference record after the Vikings, to whom they already lost but face again in Minnesota in Week 17. Green Bay is riding a 16-game win skein in games during December. And in the wild-card race, the Packers also hold critical wins over the Rams and Saints. For a team suddenly in the spotlight and making forward strides, visiting the Big Apple under the Monday Night lights could not come at a worse time. It’s not that the Giants are on any roll or even alive in the playoff race. It’s that they aren’t. They are the type of team Green Bay could easily play down to the level of. For openers, the Packers enter just 8-6 SU and 6-8 ATS under head coach Matt LaFleur against opponents coming off a SU underdog win, including 1-5 ATS versus sub .500 foes. They are also a non-division favorite coming off three uninterrupted underdog upset wins in a row, a role in which teams in the NFL are just 6-20-2 ATS since 1980. With that, and despite the fact they are averaging just 231 YPG in their last five contests, we expect Big Blue to rise to the occasion tonight. The G-Men take the fi eld this evening sporting an 11-4 ATS record on Monday Nights in games where they sport a .333 or fewer win percentage when battling .500 or fewer opponents, including 8-0 ATS in anything other than a season-opening game. And while Jordan Love is enduring himself to Packer backers, New York fi ll-in QB Tommy Devito has become the first undrafted QB in rookie season to have back-to-back QB Rating of 100 or more. He’s also one of only two NFL backup QBs this season with a winning record (Gardner Minshew).