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NFL: Week 14 - Do or die

Week 14 represents some do-or-die moments for lots of teams, and it’s on those units we’ll focus this week. The Chargers look to get back on track against the Falcons, the Colts face the Raiders, and the Vikings take on the Bucs.

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Week 14 action 

Last week, Anthony Lynn - whose Los Angeles Chargers were not mathematically out of playoff contention - told his locker room that it wouldn’t happen for them in 2020.

This went down about as well as one could imagine, and they went out and got beaten 45-0 by the New England Patriots, despite Cam Newton throwing for 69 yards.

The lesson to learn here is that, while hope may be limited, it’s still comfortably the biggest motivator.

Week 14 represents some do-or-die moments for lots of teams, and it’s on those units we’ll focus this week.

Justin Jefferson - WR Minnesota Vikings. Over 73.5 Receiving Yards (1.82)

Minnesota Vikings (+7 1.90) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7 1.95)

Jefferson would be our selection for “Rookie of the Year Not Named Justin Herbert”, and the reasons for that are multi-faceted.

It’s common that rookies flash for either their speed or their ability to avoid drops. But Jefferson has both, and runs routes like a veteran.

The Vikings know their best hope of beating this front is through play-action when they’re getting heavy man looks early in the game, and this is where Jefferson has shone all season long.

Adam Thielen is now commanding double-coverage, which means if Tampa Bay’s three-deep look, the middle field player will slightly edge towards his side, allowing for Jefferson to work double moves and deep crossing patterns - the same routes that have made him such a sensation this early in his career.

T. Y. Hilton - WR Indianapolis Colts. Under 55.5 Receiving Yards (1.84)

Indianapolis Colts (-3 1.97) @ Las Vegas Raiders (+3 1.88)

We enjoy lines that spell “over-reaction”.

Philip Rivers’ inability to get the ball into Hilton’s hands has been a storyline all year long, and just because it finally clicked last week does not mean he’s now the primary read on plays again.

In fact, Hilton’s entire career has seen him put up big numbers against divisional opponents, so it was no major surprise to anyone when he once again derailed the Houston Texans like he’s been doing throughout his time in the NFL.

Oakland are weaker on the perimeters, which should see Michael Pitman get more looks this week - again taking away any first-read preferences that Hilton may have gained in the first place.

We’re confident in this line.

Justin Herbert - QB LA Chargers. Over 11.5 Rushing Yards (1.80)

Atlanta Falcons (-2 1.86) @ Los Angeles Chargers (+2 2.00)

The Falcons frequently bring five- and six-man pressures.

The Chargers have been at their absolute best when they’re able to extend plays outside of the pocket, and when Herbert does escape, he’ll likely benefit from man coverage in behind, giving him wide-open lanes to run into.

While the line is very low because they’ve limited the amount of time he spends trying to scramble, that’s largely because teams are getting home by just bringing four-man pressures.

This isn’t the case in Atlanta - and while they double Allen on slants and quick releases, the clever offensive counter is to run both RPOs and QB speed plays where they allow Herbert to run free to open the passing game and ensure that someone in the ilk of Deion Jones is assigned a spy role rather than bringing pressure on third down.

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