Arizona Cardinals (-3.5) at San Francisco 49ers
Yeah, I’m glad I didn’t pick possible the worst team in football to cover. The 49ers repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.
Pick: Cardinal 17 49ers 10 correct
Houston Texans at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5)
Those who watched the Vikings on Monday night this past week saw how scared Eli Manning was of their defense. As a result, the Vikings are no longer underrated in the eyes of the betting world. At the very least, the Texans are getting their starting left tackle, Duane Brown, back from injury for this game. The Giants don’t have a very good offensive line, and I expect the Texans to have a little more success protecting Brock Osweiler. Even if that happens though, the Vikings have an excellent secondary to contain Texan receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller. Houston’s running back, Lamar Miller, is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry, while Minnesota’s defense gives up a 3.6 YPC average. Osweiler really needs to be on point for the Texans to have a shot at scoring.
The Texans have a very good defense themselves. In fact, they currently allow 162.5 passing yards per game, good for #1 in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. They also have collected 11 sacks, and unfortunately for the Vikings, they do not have Adrian Peterson available to establish the run. Houston doesn’t have as good of a run defense, so Vikings RB Jerrick McKinnon should have some success, but I still expect Sam Bradford to struggle in this game.
This game should be a defensive struggle for the most part, so the difference (as far as covering the spread goes) will be turnovers. Osweiler has 6 INTs on the year, while Bradford has none. Bradford may throw his first pick in this game, but I expect the Vikings to force Osweiler into throwing at least 2 in order to win by a comfortable margin.
Pick: Texans 14 Vikings 24
Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (-3)
Miami’s biggest issue last Thursday against the Bengals was its offensive line, which featured a third string center. That will change this week, as starter Mike Pouncey will return. Branden Albert, the team’s starting left tackle, also is set to return. QB Ryan Tannehill is much better when not throwing under pressure, so a shored up offensive line will be a huge boost. The Titans don’t have the stats on paper (6 sacks on the year), but they still have a pretty strong pass rush. The Tennessee secondary, on the other hand, isn’t very good, so if Tannehill has time, Dolphin receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker will be able to get open.
For the Titans on offense, QB Marcus Mariota has not played well this season. He’s completing less than 60% of his passes for only 6.8 yards per attempt, all while struggling with turnovers. Sure, the lack of talent at receiver doesn’t help, but at least in this game, Mariota gets to go against a struggling Dolphins secondary. The Titans only offensive weapon so far has been RB DeMarco Murray, who is actually the #1 running back in fantasy football so far. The Dolphins have a good enough run defense to slow him down, however.
Tennessee’s worst loss so far was by 9 points to the Vikings (doesn’t look too bad now). The Dolphins don’t have a very good homefield advantage, and seeing how they struggled with the Browns, I like Tennessee’s chances to cover.
Pick: Titans 19 Dolphins 20
New England Patriots (-10.5) at Cleveland Browns
Everyone in the media expects Tom Brady to be in “FU mode” and completely light up the Browns. Well, Coach Belichick isn’t convinced, and quite frankly, I’ll also need to see it first. Brady is 39 years old and was out of practice for a month. It may be more of a “hand it off to LeGarrette Blount and throw when I have to game”.
Meanwhile, on defense, I expect the Patriots to neutralize the Browns biggest offensive threat, Terrelle Pryor. This means QB Cody Kessler will have to settle for dump offs to his running backs and tight ends. The Browns will also hope to get RB Isaiah Crowell, who is averaging almost 7 yards per carry, involved early and often.
This spread is obviously inflated because everyone thinks Tom Brady is going to play at an MVP level. I’m sure he’ll play well, but right now, 84% of the bets are on the Patriots. On the road, I expect coach Belichick’s gameplan will focus more on running the ball and controlling the clock rather than having Brady try to light up the scoreboard.
Pick: Patriots 23 Browns 14
New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has really been struggling recently, but the remedy may be a bad Steelers secondary that currently allows 316 yards per game through the air. Sure, the Steelers defense performed well last week, but I expect Fitzpatrick to take a different approach than Alex Smith. The Jets have much better receivers than the Chiefs anyway, even with Eric Decker out. Fitzpatrick won’t have much of a running game to rely on. The Steelers are very good against the run and have only allowed around 78 rushing yards per game so far.
The same thing I wrote about the Steeler defense can be applied to the Jets. New York’s secondary is really struggling, but will be missing Darrelle Revis this week. Revis has been awful, and it’s a shame the Jets paid him so much money just to watch him get torched. The Steelers have more of an advantage here because Ben Roethlisberger is much better than Fitzpatrick. On the ground, the Jets are only allowing 3.1 yards per carry, but I still expect the Steelers to try and get Le’Veon Bell going. He’ll still be effective as a receiver out of the backfield or slot though.
Like the Patriots, everyone is betting on the Steelers like it’s easy money. I agree that the Jets aren’t looking good, but they should be able to score on the Steelers, and they will be desperate to avoid a 1-4 record. The Jets will give the Steelers their best shot and keep this game close.
Pick: Jets 24 Steelers 30
Washington Redskins at Baltimore Ravens (-4)
Look at Joe Flacco ponder the fact that he let his team down last week:
Anyway, the Ravens still produced over 400 yards of offense on a not very good Raiders defense. This week, they get a Redskin defense that’s just as bad. The Redskins are missing some starters in the secondary, and while LB Ryan Kerrigan will play, he won’t be at 100%. The Ravens will be without starting LT Ronnie Stanley again, so the Redskins will hope to pressure Flacco’s, but like the Raiders, the Redskins don’t have a good run defense. Look for Ravens RB Terrance West to build upon his success from last week.
The Ravens defense looked good against the Raiders last week, allowing only 261 yards of total offense. Getting to the quarterback should be a little easier this week. The Raiders have only allowed 2 sacks on the year (fewest in the league), while the Redskins have allowed 7 (still a respectable number), so I expect Washington QB Kirk Cousins to have a clean pocket at times. The question with Cousins, as always, is will he make some killer mistakes? The Ravens have a very good run defense (3.7 YPC, 80 yards allowed), which means that it’s up to Cousins to move the ball and score. I’m not sure I trust him against the Ravens, so I’m taking Baltimore.
Pick: Redskins 19 Ravens 24
Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) at Detroit Lions
Last season, the Lions beat the Eagles 45-14 on Thanksgiving. This year, thanks to a new coach, new QB, and great defense, the Eagles are favored by more than a field goal. The Lions will again be without their two best defensive players, LB DeAndre Levy and DE Ziggy Ansah. As a result, QB Carson Wentz should have lots of time in the pocket, and the Philly running backs will have lots of running room (Lions allow 4.8 YPC on average).
As for the Detroit offense, they are facing a defense that’s allowed just 27 points on the year. The Eagles have 10 sacks on the year (in 3 games), while the Lions have given up 10 sacks on the year. The Lions are missing their starting running back, Ameer Abdullah, but even with him in the lineup, the Lions were going to have a difficult time running against the Eagles. Therefore, it’s not looking good for Matthew Stafford. The Eagles don’t have a very good secondary, but if Stafford doesn’t have any time to throw, it won’t matter much.
I would absolutely take the Lions if Ansah and Levy were playing. The Eagles have had two weeks to hear about how great they are, while the Lions, at 1-3, are trying to save their season. Unfortunately for the Lions, the Eagles are legitimately good.
Pick: Eagles 27 Lions 21
Chicago Bears at Indianapolis Colts (-4.5)
The Colts GM is making excuses, saying that a defense is hard to build with Luck’s $140 million contract on the books. Sooooo what about the first 4 seasons, when Luck was on his rookie deal? What about trading a first round pick for Trent Richardson? The result is that the Colts are starting a 33 year old running back, have no talent on defense, and employ an offensive line that has already given up 15 sacks on the year. The Colts just aren’t very good.
Bears QB Brian Hoyer shouldn’t have too much of a problem moving the ball on the Colts. Yes, the Bears are missing WR Kevin White, and their other receiver, Alshon Jeffery, is a little banged up, but the Colts don’t have much of a pass rush to rattle Hoyer. Jeffery and the other Chicago receiver will get open. The Bears should also be able to establish a ground game with impressive rookie Jordan Howard.
With the issues the Colts have, they won’t be able to establish a big lead. They may win, but not by much.
Pick: Bears 27 Colts 30
Atlanta Falcons at Denver Broncos (-4.5)
It’s safe to say that Julio Jones won’t be accumulating 300 receiving yards in this game. The Broncos present a very stiff test for Matt Ryan and the Falcons. Denver has the league’s best pass defense (169.5 yards per game) and pass rush (17 sacks). The Falcons will have to emphasize their running game against Denver’s average run defense in order to have success through the air. At the very least, the Falcons have other weapons in the passing game who should be able to take advantage of the extra attention Julio will surely get in this game.
Denver is starting their rookie quarterback, Paxton Lynch, in this game. The Broncos have two great receivers, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but the Falcons secondary is actually playing well. Atlanta’s pass rush is lacking (last in the NFL with 4 sacks), but there may be some opportunities against the Broncos, who have given up 9 sacks on the year. The Falcons also struggle against the run (they give up 4.5 yards per rush), so with a rookie QB playing, expect the Broncos to hand off to RB CJ Anderson early and often.
You could say that this is the toughest test for the Falcons’ offense so far, and you could say that this is the toughest test for the Broncos’ defense so far. Either way you look at it, I don’t see the Broncos’ defense dominating to the point where they establish a big lead in this game.
Pick: Falcons 23 Broncos 26
Buffalo Bills at LA Rams (pick)
One of the season’s biggest surprises so far would be that Todd Gurley is averaging 2.63 yards per carry. That probably won’t change this week, as the Bills are only giving up 3.6 yards per rush, and they get their best player, DT Marcell Dareus, back from suspension this week. Even with Gurley’s struggles, the Rams have been able to recover from their horrific week 1 showing. QB Case Keenum has been able to win games with his arm, but he’s in for a difficult day against a Bills team with 13 sacks on the season (without their best linemen, no less).
Of course, the main reason for the Rams’ success has been its defense. Unfortunately for the Rams, they may be without three starting defensive linemen this week. Unfortunately for the Bills, DT Aaron Donald is not one of those linemen. Without WR Sammy Watkins, the Bills’ biggest threat on offense is RB LeSean McCoy. He may find more running room against the Rams’ injured defensive front, which would be a relief for QB Tyrod Taylor, who doesn’t have much to work with as far as receivers go.
This game is a toss-up, so I flipped a coin and it told me to take the Rams. Both teams will struggle to score, and it’s hard to predict which defense will make the big play to win the game.
Pick: Rams 13 Bills 10
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders (-3.5)
The Chargers can’t catch a break on the injuries, as they now have lost their best corner, Jason Verrett, for the season. Obviously, this is good news for the Raiders, who have two great receiver in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. The Oakland passing game will have to carry the team, because the Raiders will be without their starting running back. This means that two rookies, DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard, get the unenviable task of establishing a running game against the Chargers, who actually have a good run defense (3.6 YPC allowed). It’ll be difficult to control the clock without a running game, so the Raiders may need more 4th quarter heroics from QB Derek Carr.
The Oakland defense is starting to look better, but they just keep allowing big plays and big yardage totals to opposing offenses. QB Philip Rivers will be very aware of this and should have no trouble moving the ball against the Raiders. RB Melvin Gordon will pick up chunks on the ground as well. The Raiders allow a league worst 5.1 YPC average on the ground.
In close games this year, the Raiders have won thanks to Derek Carr, while the Chargers have been sloppy with the football. Hopefully, the Chargers continue that trend this week, because there’s no way the Raiders establish a big lead against Philip Rivers with this defense.
Pick: Chargers 28 Raiders 31
Cincinnati Bengals (-2.5) at Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys, with a rookie QB and RB, actually have the league’s second best offense in terms of yards per game. Star WR Dez Bryant hasn’t contributed much, and he’s expected to miss this game as well. I’m not sure how well the Cowboys will run the ball in this game, as the Bengals only give up a 3.8 YPC average on the ground. Cincinnati isn’t as good in the secondary, so there will be some opportunities for Dak Prescott through the air. The Bengals have a decent pass rush (9 sacks on the year), but the Cowboys get their starting left tackle, Tyron Smith, back from injury. The Cowboys should be able to maintain a clean pocket for Prescott.
The Cowboys finally get one of their suspended players back, DE Demarcus Lawrence. He should be able to help a struggling Dallas pass rush. There will be opportunities to get to Andy Dalton. The Bengals have given up 13 sacks on the year. Dallas will still struggle to stop the run in this game, which, of course, will make it easier for AJ Green to get open downfield.
The Cowboys don’t have much of a homefield advantage, while Andy Dalton is actually 6-2 in his past 8 road games. Cincinnati needs to keep pace with Baltimore and Pittsburgh, so I think they win this.
Pick: Bengals 24 Cowboys 17
Donald Trump vs. Hilary Clinton
While most of America will be focused on the debate, the Giants will be playing the Packers. Eli Manning was ridiculously scared of the Vikings pass rush last week, but the Packers won’t be nearly as menacing. Odell Beckham is obviously a huge baby, but the Packers don’t have anyone who can cover him. The Packers have the league’s best run defense, but with the Giants down to their third string running back, that won’t matter much. Eli Manning is already planning to throw 60 times in this game.
The same write-up could be made for the Packers. The Giants, with injuries in their secondary, don’t have the personnel to match up with the Packers’ receivers. Meanwhile, the Giants also have a great run defense (3.2 YPC average) and won’t have any problems with fat Ed Lacy. Aaron Rodgers also might throw it 60 times in this game.
I think this will be a high scoring affair, but even if the Packers open up a 2 or 3 touchdown lead, the Giants will have every opportunity for a backdoor cover.
Pick: Giants 31 Packers 35
Monday night: Tampa Bay Bucs at Carolina Panthers (-4)
Cam Newton won’t be playing, but neither will the Bucs’ best defensive player, Gerald McCoy. Tampa Bay’s top two pass rushers are also not expected to play, which means that the Bucs’ horrible secondary will have a difficult time containing WR Kelvin Benjamin. QB Derek Anderson will have a lot of time in the pocket to find him.
On offense, Tampa Bay will be missing both Doug Martin and Charles Sims. I’m not sure who will start at running back for Tampa Bay, but whoever does won’t have much success, because Carolina defends the run well (3.5 YPC allowed). Where Carolina is struggling, of course, is in the secondary. The Bucs have some big receivers in Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson, and I expect QB Jameis Winston to look for them all night.
This is a game in which both teams need to stop the bleeding. I think Carolina will start the game with more energy since Derek Anderson is starting in place of Cam. Winston has been a turnover machine so far this season, and against a secondary looking for redemption, I think he throws another killer pick in this game.
Pick: Bucs 24 Panthers 31