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Week 14 NFL picks using the Golden Rules

Laying down a few bucks in Vegas on the Week 14 lines? Or, maybe, it’s you and 49 other colleagues at the firm all staring curiously at the spreads wondering how to get a leg up in the office pool. Regardless of the reason, the Golden Rules are for you.

During the 2014 NFL season, I provided weekly insights for those betting NFL games against the spread (ATS). It’s what I like to call The Golden Rules. And I’m back for the 2015 regular season hoping to build on my 39-25 (61%) regular season record from a year ago.

There is no guarantee you can pick the winner by analyzing historical data from the past five, ten or 20 NFL seasons. But can you gain a competitive advantage? Sure you can. The Golden Rules are about asking the right questions, identifying differentiating factors and having faith that you are increasing the likelihood of success.


Sunday December 13, 2015 – Detroit Lions at St. Louis Rams (-0.5)
Sunday December 13, 2015 – Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (-7.5)

I’ve seen the highlights before. I’ve seen Ahmad Rashad’s one hand scoop, White Shoes Johnson’s side step and plunge and Tim Couch’s heave for the franchise’s first win as the “new” Browns. But those were highlights, YouTube clips or flashes on Sportscenter. I had never seen a game-deciding hail mary as it happened until I saw the miracle pulled off by the Packers last Thursday.

Could this be the momentum Green Bay needs to lift themselves from their midseason doldrums? The perennial NFC North powerhouse dropped four of five games after starting 6-0, but the hail mary from Rodgers to Rodgers moved them back even in wins with the Vikings. On the other hand, how can the Lions recover from this? Detroit looked destined for the first pick overall until their Week 9 bye. Following the rest, the Lions strung together three consecutive wins and were set for a fourth until the phantom face mask and Green Bay’s answered prayer sent them crashing back to earth.

With such a stunning and rare occurrence last Thursday, I decided to analyze how teams react after being involved in a game-deciding hail mary. The table below summarizes ten successful regular season hail marys that concluded a game. I have documented how each of the hail mary participants fared versus the spread in the following week.

Performance Against the Spread (ATS) following Winning or Losing
after being Involved in Game Deciding Hail Mary 
Since 1978

Hail Mary Date

Hail Mary 
Game Score

Hail Mary Winner 
Next Game

Winner’s ATS Result 
Week After

Hail Mary Loser 
Next Game

Loser’s ATS Result
Week After

Nov 12, 1978

ATL 20 NO 17

ATL -3 vs. CHI


NO +13 vs. DAL


Dec 14, 1980

MIN 28 CLE 23

MIN +10 vs. HOU


CLE -3 vs. CIN


Nov 22, 1981

BUF 20 NE 17

BUF -5 vs. WAS


NE -4 vs. STL


Nov 20, 1983

ATL 28 SF 24

ATL -2.5 vs. GB


SF -4 vs. CHI


Sep 20, 1987

SF 27 CIN 26

SF -3 vs. NO


CIN +2.5 vs. PIT


Nov 3, 1991

ATL 17 SF 14

ATL +12 vs. WAS


SF +5.5 vs. NO


Oct 31, 1999

CLE 21 NO 16

CLE +3.5 vs. BAL


NO +3.5 vs. TB


Dec 8, 2002

CLE 21 JAX 20

CLE +2 vs. IND


JAX -3 vs. CIN


Nov 14, 2010

JAX 31 TEN 24

JAX -2.5 vs. CLE


HOU +6.5 vs. NYJ


Sep 24, 2012

SEA 14 GB 12

SEA -2.5 vs. STL


GB -7.5 vs. NO


The table above indicates that teams on the successful side of a hail mary are 4-6 against the spread during their next game. However, only one of these franchises (Mike Thomas and David Garrard’s 2010 Jaguars) beat the spread in their next game among the most recent six examples. Could the trend be turning into Green Bay’s favor? Likely not. There’s just not enough of a trend to take a stance.

There might not be any evidence that momentum affects ATS results, but the damaging impact of hail mary heartbreak is significant. Of the ten games listed above, the victims of hail marys have only managed to post a 2-7-1 mark against the spread. In fact, it wasn’t until the 2002 Jaguars rebounded, that the loser to a hail mary covered the spread in the subsequent week.

Golden Rules are staying away from Dallas/Green Bay and take St. Louis


Sunday December 13, 2015 – Seattle Seahawks (-6.5) at Baltimore Ravens

We are all well aware of how dominant the 2015 Carolina Panthers are. Cam Newton and company have charged out to a 12-0 record and an NFC South title. But did you know how dominant Ron Rivera is in December? Riverboat Ron has amassed a 16-4 mark in the season’s final month during his four plus years in Charlotte. But how has Rivera performed against the spread in the same month? He does still rank 6th among current head coaches with at least 20 December games under their belt, but his 11-8-1 ATS record might be an indicator that his teams tend to keep the scores tight as the season draws to a close.

Of the current crop of 32 head coaches, only 18 men have strolled the sidelines for a minimum of 20 regular season games in December. The chart below shows which five coaches have performed the best against the spread and which five have the lowest December ATS winning percentage.


Mike McCarthy leads the way with a .643 ATS winning percentage in December. Could he be taking advantage of the inherent home field advantage brought on by the early Wisconsin winters? That might just be the case. Mike Sherman’s December ATS mark was .621 and Mike Holmgren’s Green Bay numbers topped them all at .655. Of course, cold weather doesn’t help Lovie Smith’s case. Smith posted a .386 ATS winning percentage in December during his tenure with the Bears.

After observing the figures summarized in the chart above, the easy choice would be to take the Packers to cover at home to Jason Garrett and the Cowboys. After all, Garrett has only beaten the spread in half of his December matchups. But I decided to analyze these results from a different vantage point to confirm whether there were better opportunities to beat the spread.

I compared those among the 18 head coaches (with a minimum of 20 regular season December games) who face each other in Week 14. The largest difference in the December ATS winning percentages of the opposing coaches would coincide with the ideal game to pick a winner. Consequently, the greatest delta belonged to the battle between two Super Bowl winning coaches – Seattle’s Pete Carroll (.610) and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh (.424).

Golden Rules say to take Seattle


Monday December 14, 2015 – New York Giants (-1.5) at Miami Dolphins

From its inception in 1970, Monday Night Football has brought a unique twist to the spread analysis. Will the home team be pumped to be playing a nationally televised game in prime time in front of their fans? Will the extra day rest benefit a visiting team that has travelled during the week? And does one team benefit more than the other with the extra day of rest?

I considered many of these questions, but settled on asking whether teams perform differently on Monday nights as the season progresses. Could there be historical trends over the past 20 seasons that were impacted by the time of the year? The following chart shows how visiting teams perform on Monday nights by month since 1995.


The results of the study indicate that visitors have a higher likelihood of beating the spread in October than they would in September or November – two months in which visiting teams hover at or near a .500 ATS winning percentage. However, it is in December that you see the ATS results historically descend for the road team. You hear how home teams are more focused or more acclimated to the weather. In this case, the visiting teams cannot keep pace in December as it pertains to the spread.

Golden Rules say to take Miami

Bob Sullivan writes periodically for and can be followed on Twitter at @mrbobsullivan.

The Golden Rules were 1-2 during Week 13 and are 28-26 for 2015

You can access last week’s 2015 Weekly Golden Rules Analysis below.

- Week 13 NFL Picks Using the Golden Rules


Historical data on NFL spreads was accessed via Sunshine Forecast, whose latest source was, or accessed from directly. Spreads were collected by Sunshine Forecast as close as practicable to game time.

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