After going 5-8-1 against the spread last week, my record for the year now sits at 64-76-6. The climb back towards a respectable record starts this week. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.
Titans at Steelers (-7) – Tennessee is on a four-game winning streak, but three of those wins were Indianapolis, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Steelers are a significant step up. The emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster has made the offense all the more dangerous, and being at home seems to shield them from slow starts like last week.
The Titans may need to put up over 30 points in this one, something they haven’t done since the start of their winning streak. Pittsburgh is just a little more consistent on both sides of the ball at the moment. They will pull away late. Pit 31 Ten 21
Cardinals (-1.5) at Texans – This game will feature a quarterback duel between Tom Savage and Blaine Gabbert. How can you not be pumped up for that?
Sarcasm aside, Arizona has at least shown an occasional ability to let Adrian Peterson carry them to victory in recent weeks. With Deshaun Watson hurt, Houston has not managed to come close to finding a similar winning formula. Ari 16 Hou 9
Ravens (-2) at Packers – This is a coin flip. The Packers finally figured out how to look like an NFL offense without Aaron Rodgers last week, but the injuries are piling up. The offensive line and backfield are now affected. It is easy to say “next man up,” but a team can only overcome so much.
Baltimore’s offense was not playoff worthy early in the year, but all the teams in the AFC Wild Card race have the same issue. The spark provided by Alex Collins in recent weeks has at least made them a realistic part of that conversation. In a game of struggling offenses, Baltimore’s defense is better. Bal 23 GB 20
Lions (-3) at *Bears – The Bears are undermanned and have serious limitations on offense, but they continue to manage it pretty well. Even though it is not showing up in the form of wins, John Fox may need to save his job. Chicago can run the ball and play defense against anyone.
The one thing Chicago cannot do is fall behind early. The good news this week is Detroit waits until the fourth quarter to start playing almost every week. The Lions are in the playoff hunt and every game is big. They tend to struggle in that situation. Chicago is just a bad matchup for them this week. Chi 19 Det 16
Jaguars (-7.5) at Browns – For the first time in a long time, Jacksonville is in the thick of the playoff hunt. Doug Marrone and his players deserve a ton of credit. However, the offense is still a one-man show centered around Leonard Fournette. Surprisingly, Cleveland’s run defense is top five in the league. With the offense coming off its best game of the year, the Browns should keep this close, and getting their first win is not out of the question. Jac 19 Cle 14
Chiefs (-10) at Giants – Kansas City has lost three of its last four after a 5-0 start. However, the Giants just lost to the hapless 49ers and are growing more dysfunctional by the hour. Additionally, Andy Reid is 16-2 in games following a bye week during his coaching career. There is absolutely nothing to suggest this game will be anything other than a bloodbath, which should make anyone who bets it nervous. KC 30 NYG 13
*Rams at Vikings (-2.5) – Two of this year’s most pleasant surprises face off here. The Vikings defense is very good, but the Rams have gashed every defense they have faced this year. So, it may not matter.
Teddy Bridgewater is a fantastic story. However, the fact that there was even a discussion about him replacing Case Keenum this week makes you wonder if Mike Zimmer is looking to fix something that isn’t broke. It is the kind of delicate situation that can ruin a team if it isn’t handled properly.
In the short term, the Rams offense is in touch more explosive. That gives them the edge here. In the long-term, Minnesota had better be very careful in regards to its quarterback situation. LAR 28 Min 27
Buccaneers at Dolphins (-1) – This game is taking place 10 weeks later than originally scheduled due to Hurricane Irma. Both of these teams have been disappointments this year. Last week aside, Miami has been better at winning ugly.
The Dolphins defense got absolutely leveled in Carolina last week, but the Bucs offense has not shown the capability to put up 45 points on anyone this year. The Dolphins defensive unit is actually pretty good and will be eager to bounce back from last week’s embarrassment. Mia 20 TB 17
Redskins at Saints (-7.5) – This season, the Saints have totally reinvented themselves on the fly. Their bread is now buttered via the running game and defense. Drew Brees may not be what he once was, but the 38-year-old quarterback is still plenty good enough to get the job done.
New Orleans has destroyed some really solid teams over the last seven weeks. Washington is not a terrible football team, but they don’t have the horsepower to keep up here. NO 30 Was 20
Bills at Chargers (-4) – Buffalo is panicking. After two straight blowout losses, they are turning to rookie mid-round draft pick Nathan Peterman at quarterback. Tyrod Taylor has not been the problem for the last two weeks. The problem has been giving up 81 combined points.
For a team that still has a realistic shot at ending a 16-year playoff drought, the move is stranger than strange. The Chargers found yet another way to lose a close game last week. With Philip Rivers in concussion protocol, Kellen Clemens may get the call here. Even if that is the case, the Los Angeles pass rush should be enough to overwhelm the rookie signal caller on the other side. LAC 27 Buf 19
Bengals at Broncos (-2.5) – The seasons for both these teams have gone off the rails in a big way. Denver is at home and some of their struggles have come against three of the best teams in football. Moreover, Brock Osweiler and the offense made some strides last week. It is hard to come up with any positives like the ones above for the Bengals. Denver should benefit from a much needed step down in opposition. Den 28 Cin 21
Patriots (-6.5) at Raiders (Mexico) – New England has become the well-oiled machine we are used to after a slow start. They are doing everything well right now. The Raiders high-powered offense has disappeared. They have scored fewer than 20 points in five of their last seven games. Especially since this is not a true road game, the Patriots should keep rolling here. NE 34 Oak 20
Eagles (-3) at *Cowboys – It is rare for a home team to be an underdog in a rivalry game. When it applies, taking the points is always wise.
Too much is being made of what happened to Dallas in Atlanta last week. The Falcons are built to play in their building. They make a lot of teams look bad there. The same thing happened to Green Bay earlier this year. The Packers turned out fine until their Hall of Fame quarterback got hurt.
The Cowboys have had another week to adjust to life without Ezekiel Elliott. The loss of Sean Lee on defense may be tough to overcome, but they match up well with all of their division rivals.
As good as the Eagles are, they are still a pretty young football team. Going on the road to face the defending division champions is their toughest test yet. It is hard not to have serious doubts about whether any young team is ready for something like this. Dal 24 Phi 20
Falcons at Seahawks (-3) – Both of these teams are very talented, but this is a pretty simple matchup. Seattle is the better team and has lost just two home games in two years. Atlanta has struggled on the road as of late and has had a hard time scoring on a consistent basis this year. Seattle is not the place to go to fix those issues. Sea 22 Atl 14
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