My outright upset picks were not great last week, but I still managed to post a 7-6 mark against the spread. 53-62-4 is where I stand as the second half of the season begins. My picks are bolded, outright upsets have an asterisk, and all lines are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.
Bills (-3) at *Jets– After last week, I am done picking the road team on Thursday night unless it is obvious. Apart from a blowout win last week, Buffalo has found ways to win some close games lately, the Jets have found a way to lose.
Given the lack of depth in the AFC, Buffalo is in great position to end the longest playoff drought in the NFL. However, New York’s offense is putting together two or three scoring drives per game pretty routinely at this point. Missed field goals, not running the ball enough with the lead, and questionable officiating are what has cost them in recent weeks. All of those things are very correctable, even during a short week.
Buffalo has been in situations like this fairly often in the last 15 years or so. Every time the playoffs are in sight, they seem to lose a game like this. If they can pull this out, they are not the same old Bills, until then… NYJ 23 Buf 20
Falcons at Panthers (-2) – This year’s Falcons are last year’s Panthers. A team from the south that caught lightning in a bottle on offense one year and couldn’t back it up the next. Carolina has bounced back this year on the strength of their ground game and defense. For this reason, trading away Kelvin Benjamin won’t change this team’s fortunes all that much. Maybe next year, the Falcons can bounce back the way the Panthers have. Car 30 Atl 21
*Ravens at Titans (Pick ‘em) – The Ravens seemed to finally click on all levels last week against the Dolphins. Alex Collins has given the offense a short term spark it desperately needed. Conversely, the Titans were flat in a narrow escape against the Browns. This is one of a couple games this week where the teams may be headed in opposite directions. Bal 19 Ten 13
*Bengals at Jaguars (-4.5) – Even with a winning record, the Jags are a tough team for me to wrap my arms around. The defense and Leonard Fournette are amazing, but their ceiling is limited with Blake Bortles at quarterback. For the Bengals, Carlos Dunlap’s pick six last week may have saved the season and A.J. Green is the best player on either team here. That is good enough for me. Cin 21 Jac 17
Broncos at Eagles (-7.5) – Somehow, the Broncos have ended up with Brock Osweiler getting another crack at being their starting quarterback. We are living in strange times. The Denver defense should go on strike. Holding Kansas City to under 300 yards of offense is incredible. Turnovers undid Denver Monday night. Turning to Osweiler, doesn’t exactly scream stability.
The same thing will probably happen here. However, Carson Wentz has been pretty ordinary in recent weeks despite the Eagles continuing to win. That will not change here. The Broncos need a lot more than moral victories, but the defense will keep this close. Phi 24 Den 20
Colts at Texans (-13) – Deshaun Watson continued to amaze in a losing effort last week, but Houston’s defense has regressed this year. The Texans have lost two games this year when scoring 30+ points. Partly due to injuries, the defense is suddenly the weak link in Houston.
Indianapolis is far from an offensive juggernaut, but they did some good things last week in a near upset of Cincinnati. Some of that should carry over. Swallowing more than 10 points in an NFL game is rarely a good idea. Hou 27 Ind 16
Rams (-3.5) at Giants- Even with just a single win, the Giants are still very dangerous. There are not many one win teams with a borderline Hall of Fame quarterback and an above-average defense. Moreover, the Rams are a young team that is still getting used to being good and their traveling a long ways.
What Sean McVay has done with the Rams is incredible. It is one of the more dramatic and fast transformations in recent memory. This young team has not really stubbed its toe with a bad loss yet. The Giants seem to get more dysfunctional by the hour. Thus, I will nervously put my faith in the Rams to avoid that bad loss, but nothing would surprise me here. Lar 28 Nyg 23
Bucs at Saints (-7) – The Saints finally have a defense and running game. Drew Brees has been somewhat underwhelming during their five-game winning streak, but it has not mattered. In fact, he did not throw for 300 yards or have a touchdown pass last week. New Orleans is now trending towards being built on a two headed monster at running back and the defense.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay continues to lose games despite having a fair amount of young talent, particularly on offense. Other than the lack of a pass rush on defense, it is hard to pinpoint what exactly is missing from this team, but something clearly is. These two teams are headed in very different directions. This could get ugly. NO 31 TB 17
Cardinals (-2) at *49ers- The 49ers made a splash at the trade deadline. Jimmy Garoppolo won’t make an impact here, but the future in San Francisco just got a lot more interesting.
As for the present, the winless 49ers played Arizona to the wire earlier this year. If they cannot beat the Drew Stanton led Cardinals at home, they have a real shot at going 0-16 and joining the 2008 Lions in that infamous club. That is a powerful motivator and the talent gap between rosters is not much here. SF 20 Ari 17
Chiefs at Cowboys (-1) – Kansas City is nowhere close to the team that raced out to a 5-0 start. They needed every one of Denver’s five turnovers to win last week and had lost their previous two games. The Cowboys defensive line is harassing quarterbacks week in and week out. Their front four will create problems for every opponent for the rest of the year.
Also, with or without Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas will not turn the football over anywhere close to the way Denver did. They have two good veteran running backs behind Elliott and Dak Prescott’s football IQ has always been the most impressive thing about him. Dal 27 KC 23
Raiders (-3) at Dolphins- Here, we have two teams that are surprisingly struggling after starting the season with reasonably high expectations. Oakland has issues, but they also have Derek Carr. Miami has Jay Cutler back this week. Even with the way Matt Moore played last week, I am not sure that having Cutler back is a good thing. Throw in the fact that the Dolphins just traded one of the more consistent weapons on their last ranked offense, and Oakland starts to look like a real strong bet here. Oak 24 Mia 17
Lions (-2.5) at *Packers – Detroit had a chance to prove they were a legit contender last week and blew it. They do deserve some credit though. Who knew it was even mathematically possible to put up almost 500 yards of total offense and not score a touchdown?
Detroit is just so hard to trust in a big game. You can count on one hand the number of wins they have at Green Bay over the last 20+ years. Brett Hundley isn’t terrible and Mike McCarthy is smart. The Packers will find a way to move the ball without Aaron Rodgers. GB 27 Det 20