A slew of close games resulted in a mixed bag last week. After a 6-7 mark against the spread, the season mark now sits at a still solid 82-73-6. Picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of writing. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Bears (-3) at *Lions– The bigger the spot and better the opponent, the better the Lions have played this year. Three of their four wins have come against Carolina, New England, and Green Bay before the Packers fell apart. The division-leading Bears on Thanksgiving certainly checks both boxes. Chicago will also be turning to backup quarterback Chase Daniel, who has been around long enough to be serviceable, but is the backup for a reason. Det 27 Chi 24
*Redskins at Cowboys (-7.5)- Colt McCoy has been around in Washington since 2014 for a reason. Obviously, the decision makers there are confident that he can step in and win games like this if needed. The former Texas Longhorn looked fairly comfortable after the Alex Smith injury last week. There is no reason to think that he will be a liability moving forward.
The Cowboys have put together two fantastic efforts to re-enter the playoff picture, but there is still nothing coming easy for this offense. It is still ranked 27th. Washington’s defense has had one or two bad outings this year but has held opponents to 17 or fewer points six times this year. That list already includes Dallas once. Expect a low scoring battle, but Washington’s offense will make one more play against a good defense than the home team. Was 21 Dal 20
Falcons at Saints (-13)- Look, the Falcons have been a major disappointment this year, but they can score on a fairly regular basis. You cannot take this many points when the team getting them has as much firepower as Atlanta. The Saints made using this same logic last week look foolish, but it is possible to be on the right side of a game and still be wrong. NO 38 Atl 30
Browns at Bengals (-3)- The Bengals need this one to stay in touch in the AFC Wild Card race and keep others at bay. The Browns are no longer a pushover, but don’t confuse no longer being a pushover with being able to go on the road and threaten a playoff chasing team. Cincinnati got smoked by the Saints and lost a close game on the road the last two weeks. Big deal. There is still no reason to think they are not as good as they showed in the first month of the year. A historically bad defense will be their eventual undoing but losing to or being troubled by the Browns at home is a bit extreme. Cin 27 Cle 17
Jaguars (-3) at *Bills– It appears the Bills will get rookie quarterback Josh Allen back for this battle of offensively challenged three-win teams. Buffalo remains a tough place to play and the defense and special teams have remained pretty scrappy all year long, despite an inept offense. Jacksonville has similar problems but has mailed it in more than once this year. Last week’s loss against Pittsburgh likely broke whatever fight this team had left. Buf 15 Jac 12
Patriots (-9.5) at Jets– This has more to do with trends than Xs and Os. Once again, New England is good, and the Jets are bad. However, this particular road game is always tough for the Brady/Belichick led Patriots. Five consecutive installments of this game in New York have been decided by one possession, including two Jets wins. The Jets’ defense always bothers Tom Brady. New England has not scored more than 27 points in any of those five games. The better team will prevail but expect a fist fight. NE 27 Nyj 23
*Giants at Eagles (-6)- The Eagles are no longer suffering a Super Bowl hangover. That is too mild a description. They are now stumbling around drunk after winning it all last year. Meanwhile, the Giants are on a modest two-game win streak and still have a heartbeat in the NFC East thanks to teams like the Eagles. When you have two teams going in different directions this drastically, take the hot one. Nyg 26 Phi 20
Raiders at Ravens (-10.5)- Lamar Jackson clearly is not an NFL thrower of the football yet. Fortunately for the Ravens, he is a good enough raw athlete to lead his team to victory while running the ball 27 times like he did last week. This formula has zero long-term viability and certainly is not going to blow anyone out, which Baltimore would need to do to cover here. All the Ravens need from their rookie signal caller is to win the team a few games while Joe Flacco is hurt. That is more than attainable. Bal 20 Oak 17
Seahawks at Panthers (-3.5)- These two teams match up evenly and are factors in the NFC playoff race, but this is a pretty simple pick. Carolina is undefeated at home this year, Seattle has just two wins on the road. Car 24 Sea 17
*49ers at Bucs (-3.5)- The undermanned 49ers have been a tough out all year long. They have the third-ranked rushing offense in the NFL and Kyle Shanahan has gotten something out of the passing game, despite dealing with backup quarterbacks since Week 4. It just has not resulted in many wins. However, they deserve the benefit of the doubt against a fading Bucs team that faces a murky quarterback and coaching future. SF 24 TB 21
Cardinals at Chargers (-12)- This is the one big number worth swallowing this week. The Chargers should be good and angry after losing the way they did last week, Joey Bosa is back and looked healthy against the Broncos despite being a non-factor, and Arizona’s offense is bottom five in nearly every major statistical category. This is a get right game for Los Angeles. Lac 31 Ari 13
Dolphins at Colts (-9)- With this line, it is hard to believe that these teams are both 5-5. A lot of that likely stems from the fact that Andrew Luck is playing at an MVP level and Ryan Tannehill is returning from injury just this week. That alone gives the Colts the win, but Miami does well in the field position game and ranks sixth in total defense. That allows them to stay close most weeks and win enough to still be playing meaningful games this late in the year. Ind 27 Mia 21
Steelers (-3) at Broncos- It took Vegas until Week 12 to figure out that if Denver is playing a good team, it is going to come down to the wire. Playing in Denver does weird things to opposing future Hall of Fame quarterbacks that play there. Ben Roethlisberger is no exception. His Steelers are just 2-3 there in his career.
The Broncos could very easily win this game an insert themselves into the crowded AFC Wild Card race, but the Steelers have been so good at finding ways to win as of late. Even though last week was something for the betting public to think about, Denver has not. Pit 27 Den 23
Packers at Vikings (-3)- On the surface, Green Bay’s numbers are pretty good. Being 8th in total offense and 12th in total defense is nothing to sneeze at. The Packers have lost three out of four and are falling out of playoff relevance because they have not been able to make key plays late in games. That is the only way you have the numbers above and a 4-5-1 record. It is over for Mike McCarthy in Green Bay, even though Aaron Rodgers and the other 52 players are just as responsible for this disappointing season.
The Vikings have also been a little underwhelming this year, but they will no doubt relish the chance to bury their division rivals at home and keep holding on to the last NFC playoff spot. Also, there are not new stories popping up every five minutes about the head coach and quarterback hating each other like in Green Bay. Min 26 GB 20
Titans at Texans (-6)- Well, the Texans just keep winning after a 0-3 start. The Titans came crashing back to Earth last week reminding us all that they are still the same team that had not scored more than 20 points in a regulation game prior to the consecutive wins over the Cowboys and Patriots. Quarterback questions and going on the road to face one of the hottest teams around make this too tough a task for the Titans. Hou 26 Ten 14