Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-7.5)
After last Thursday’s debacle, the Jaguars decided to fire their offensive coordinator, presumably with the hope that they go on a winning streak like the Bills did. I doubt that’s going to happen. The Jaguars won’t suddenly start blocking better, and so even though the Chiefs don’t have the best run defense, I expect them to put the clamps on Jacksonville’s underwhelming running backs, as well as put a lot of pressure on QB Blake Bortles. The Kansas City pass rush has started to come alive in recent weeks.
Alex Smith took two crushing hits last week, and is out for this game with a concussion. Luckily for the Chiefs, there won’t be too much of a difference with Nick Foles starting. The Jaguars have a decent defense, but how much energy and pride they play with has been a concern, but after getting embarrassed in their last game, Jacksonville should be motivated enough to play well. Kansas City’s best offensive weapon is TE Travis Kelce, but the Jaguars cover tight ends pretty well. With CB Jalen Ramsey expected to slow down WR Jeremy Maclin, and with the Chiefs down to their third string running back, Kansas City may have trouble moving the chains themselves.
It’s a little bold of me to pick the Jaguars on the road, but they are just the kings of garbage time. I don’t see Kansas City blowing them out by 20 points, which leaves Bortles the opportunity for a back-door cover.
Pick: Jaguars 17 Chiefs 24
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (-6.5)
Minnesota is another team dealing with a change at offensive coordinator this week. After a pathetic showing last Monday night, Vikings OC Norv Turner resigned. Even if he stayed, the Vikings offense is in big trouble. Sam Bradford has been sacked 11 times in their last two games. They have no running game to speak of with Adrian Peterson injured. It’s not like Bradford is the most talented quarterback around, either. It’s hard to trust the Minnesota offensive line in any of their games going forward, and the Lions have a pretty strong pass rush. However, on the plays when Bradford gets some time, he should be able to find Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph open against an injury depleted Detroit back seven.
The Lions have been much worse on the road than at home, at I expect that to continue here. The Vikings have too talented of a defense to submit a dud three weeks in a row. In the friendly confines of their new stadium, the Vikings will look to bring heavy pressure on Vikings QB Matthew Stafford. RB Theo Riddick will be available for dump-offs, but the Lions receivers will have a hard time getting open. The Lions are not a threat running the ball.
Detroit actually hasn’t lost a game by more than 7 points. I think that changes this week, though. The Lions struggled to put points on the board last week against the Texans, who are basically just a worse version of the Vikings.
Pick: Lions 13 Vikings 23
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (-2.5)
The Eagles blew a winnable game last week, which is unfortunate because that meant the media could keep telling us about how good the Cowboys are. Carson Wentz hasn’t had as much success since starting RT Lane Johnson started his 10-game suspension. Philly’s running backs also have struggled, and while Jordan Matthews is a good receiver, he’s not a downfield threat. Their other receivers have struggled with drops. The Eagles are going to have a hard time running against the Giants (NYG allows 3.6 YPC on average), so they’re going to have to use TE Zach Ertz and RB Darren Sproles (and Matthews out of the slot) to take advantage of New York’s poor linebackers.
Like Wentz, Eli Manning is also struggling due to a poor offensive line. I have seen him throw the ball into the dirt one too many times this season to avoid a sack. Also like the Eagles, the Giants don’t have much of a running game to speak of. Philly has an excellent pass rusher in Brandon Graham, and he’ll need to get to Manning early and often so that Odell Beckham doesn’t have time to get open.
The Giants haven’t beaten the Eagles in 3 years, and even though they’re 4-3, they have a -8-point differential. For comparison, the Eagles have the same record, but have a point differential of +62. Yeah…I think the Eagles are the better team here, and even though the Giants are coming off a bye, the Eagles should be able to win this.
Pick: Eagles 27 Giants 20
Dallas Cowboys (-7.5) at Cleveland Browns
Someone told me this week that their 7-year old boy told him “Dad, we don’t even have to watch the Cowboys this week against Cleveland”. Well little boy…
I get it. The Cowboys have an excellent offensive line, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott are the real deal, and Dez Bryant is rounding into form. Meanwhile, the Browns haven’t won a game, and the stats say they have a terrible run defense (and defense in general). The Dallas running game is going to be hard to stop, but Cleveland has had success against DeMarco Murray (65 yards), LeGarrette Blount (37 yards), and Jay Ajayi (28 yards). Also, they just traded for Jamie Collins, who instantly became their best player on defense. I expect Elliott to run for 100 yards, but I don’t expect him to run roughshod over the Browns.
The reason I think the Browns have a chance is that the Cowboys suffered some significant injuries on their defense. CB Morris Claiborne, who was having a fantastic season, is gone for the year most likely. Also, SS Barry Church is out for at least a month. These were two of their best defensive players. The Browns are getting electric rookie Corey Coleman back this week, and have Terrelle Pryor on the other side. The Cowboys still have some decent corners in Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick, but the lack of depth will still hurt. If the Browns can get their receivers going, they will also have success running the ball against a league average run defense.
All the Cowboys hear is how great they are. Coming off an overtime win, and with a huge game against the Steelers next week, I can totally see Dallas looking past the Browns and not taking them seriously. This game stays close the whole way, and since I’m picking the Browns to cover, I’m picking them to win outright as well.
Pick: Cowboys 23 Browns 24
New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-4)
Lots of people still look down upon the Jets due to Ryan Fitzpatrick, and even though I can’t blame them, I think he’ll have a decent game against the Dolphins. Miami doesn’t have a very good secondary, so New York receivers Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa won’t have a hard time getting open. The Dolphins aren’t too good at stopping the run, either. Their strength is on the defensive line, so their hope is to pressure Fitzpatrick into some mistakes, especially with some injuries on the Jet offensive line.
Dolphins RB Jay Ajayi took the NFL by storm with two straight 200 yard rushing performances. I wouldn’t expect a hat-trick, because the Jets have the best run defense in the NFL. That means Ryan Tannehill should lead his team to victory, and while the Jets have a bad secondary, I’ve learned not to count on Ryan Tannehill.
Pick: Jets 21 Dolphins 20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-2.5)
I’m not even sure if -2.5 is the correct line or not, given the Steelers QB situation. But, in the words of Terrell Suggs, Ben ain’t fooling anybody. I’ll be surprised if Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t play this game, because it’s an opportunity for the Steelers to gain an advantage in the division. Perhaps they activate Ben but start Landry Jones, because the Ravens may be missing some key starters, which include: Terrell Suggs, CJ Mosley, Steve Smith, Lardarius Webb, among others. If these players don’t suit up for the Ravens, the Steelers may take their chances with Jones.
On defense, the Steelers get DE Cameron Heyward back from injury. He will help shore up the Pittsburgh run defense. Joe Flacco figures to move the ball well through the air, even if Steve Smith misses the game. The Steelers have recorded a league low 8 sacks, and don’t exactly, ahem, have too good of a secondary to rely on.
Regardless of whether Roethlisberger plays or not, Steelers-Ravens games always seem to stay close to the very end. This one will be no different, but I think Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown make sure the Steelers win this game.
Pick: Steelers 24 Ravens 20
New Orleans Saints (-4) at San Francisco 49ers
Easiest pick of the week. The Saints don’t always play well away from home, but the 49ers are playing in a half empty stadium, are the worst team in the NFL, and it’s supposed to be a pretty nice day in Santa Clara on Sunday. I’m done here.
Pick: Saints 30 49ers 17
Carolina Panthers (-3) at LA Rams
The Panthers’ adventure in recovering from a 1-5 start continues against the Rams. Carolina had no problems with the Cardinals last week, but now are travelling cross country to play in Los Angeles. The Rams’ defense should be at full strength, while the Panthers will be without starting OT Michael Oher. The Rams have a very strong defensive line led by the best defensive player in the NFL, Aaron Donald. Cam Newton won’t have much time in the pocket, but he’s used to this. The Rams figure to cover Kelvin Benjamin well, and figure to clamp down on Jonathan Stewart. Newton may have to rely on TE Greg Olsen early on until someone else on offense steps up and makes plays.
The Rams need all the help they can get on offense, and they’ll get that in this game, as LB Luke Keuchly isn’t 100 percent. The Panthers will also be missing another starting linebacker, Shaq Thompson. Carolina’s struggles in the secondary are well documented, so Rams QB Case Keenum should be able to limit turnovers as well as move the ball through the air. However, the Panthers have been excellent against the run, so expect another subdued Todd Gurley performance.
The Rams are fresh off a bye week and are getting some key defensive players back from injury. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers pull out a win, given how bad Keenum is. I don’t think Carolina will win by more than 3 points, however.
Pick: Panthers 26 Rams 24
Indianapolis Colts at Green Bay Packers (-7)
Two top-5 quarterbacks going head to head? Yeah, I think this is going to be a high scoring game. The Colts’ issues on defense are well documented, while the Packers have a long list of injuries, especially in their secondary. Even if the Packers establish an early lead, Andrew Luck can easily bring his team back for, at the very least, a back-door cover.
Pick: Colts 27 Packers 33
Tennessee Titans at San Diego Chargers (-4)
This is as close as Marcus Mariota will get to Hawaii, and apparently he’s going to have a lot of family and friends in the stands for this game. The Chargers need help filling their stadium, anyway. Mariota started the season with some shaky performances, but he has played much better recently, throwing for 10 touchdowns and only 1 interception (and 1 lost fumble) the past 4 games. Tennessee’s best receiving weapon, TE Delanie Walker, is a game-time decision, while the Chargers sport a strong pass rush and two very good starting corners. So, Mariota may not be asked to do much in this game, as the Chargers have some injury issues with their linebackers. I expect DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to get involved early and often.
The Chargers will also be missing some key offensive players, namely WR Travis Benjamin and TE Hunter Henry. The Titans, however, don’t have a very good secondary, so the San Diego receivers should still be able to get open for Philip Rivers. The Titans stop the run and rush the passer well, so Rivers, as usual, will need to have a great game for the Chargers to win.
The Chargers don’t have much of a homefield advantage, so I think this spread is too high. The Titans have been very competitive in all their games this year. Their worst loss was by 9 points to the Vikings. I think Tennessee has a very good chance to win this game, but that may be because I really want the Chargers to lose every game.
Pick: Titans 27 Chargers 24
Denver Donkeys at Oakland Raiders (-1)
I’ve waited 15 years for a relevant Raiders primetime game. How fitting that it comes against the reigning Super Bowl champs. Derek Carr torched the Buccaneers for a franchise record 513 passing yards last week, but I think it’s safe to say he won’t come close to matching that number in this game.
Even with CB Aqib Talib out, the Broncos have an excellent secondary that figures to match up well with Oakland receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The Raiders have struggled on the ground since week 1, and while Denver hasn’t been very good against the run either, I think they will be able to stop the Raiders running backs pretty easily. At the very least, the Raiders should be able to somewhat neutralize the ferocious Denver pass rush and give Carr some time in the pocket.
The Raiders have improved on defense in recent weeks, but unfortunately starting corner Sean Smith may miss this game with an injury. The Broncos have two excellent receivers of their own, so the Raiders could use all the help they can get in the secondary. I’m hoping the Raiders will be able to stop the run in this game, but I could easily see RB Devontae Booker having a huge game. Karl Joseph has been the most consistent playmaker against the run for the Raiders, so Karl, I’m counting on you.
Raiders fans have also waited 15 years for an important night game like this. Will the Raiders get too nervous and commit way too many penalties? They just set an NFL record for penalties. This may not be an easily correctable problem, unfortunately. The Raiders haven’t played this well at home this year, either. I just don’t have a good feeling about this game. The Raiders have been on the winning end of too many close games, so I think they blow this one.
Pick: Donkeys 20 Raiders 17
Monday Night: Buffalo Bills at Seattle Seahawks (-7)
The worst offensive line in the NFL is going against one of the league leaders in sacks. Things aren’t going to end well for Russell Wilson in this game. Wilson is already playing through some injuries, and, because of his poor offensive line, doesn’t have much of a running game to rely on. Buffalo’s secondary has given up some big plays this year though, so if Wilson gets some time to throw, Jimmy Graham and the Seahawks receivers should be able to make some plays.
All indications point to LeSean McCoy suiting up for the Bills. This is great news, as they are desperate for playmakers. In fact, they’re so desperate, they had to ask Percy Harvin to come out of retirement. He may not have much of an impact against Seattle’s defense, however. Some good news for the Bills is that Seahawks DE Michael Bennett is out with a knee injury. Both the run defense and pass rush suffered as a result.
The Seahawks are getting too much respect here. They may have a great homefield advantage, but their offense is struggling. Buffalo may have lost by 16 to the Patriots last week, but that was a revenge game for Coach Belichick. The Bills have not lost by more than 6 points in any of their other games. Buffalo will keep this game close.
Pick: Bills 17 Seahawks 20