It was another middle-of-the-road effort by me last week. I went just 6-8 against the spread. I am now 77-85-6 on the year. A hot stretch is absolutely necessary for me to finish the year in the black. Hopefully, this weekend is the start of that. My picks are bolded. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. With not one, but three games on Thursday for Thanksgiving, I am at it early. Here we go.
Vikings at Lions (-2.5) – First place in the NFC North is at stake here. Both teams have taken strange paths to their 6-4 records. The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter of every game this season. Minnesota is relying almost exclusively on their defense and special teams to win games. It is hard to sustain the kind of winning both these teams are doing. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford continues his rise to becoming an elite quarterback every week. The gap between the two offenses is just too great to not swallow the points. Det 31 Min 20
Redskins at Cowboys (-7) – This game sells itself. Two of the hottest teams in football facing off in a holiday rivalry game. I have been wrong on Dallas all year. Amazingly, so has Vegas. Dallas is 9-0-1 against the spread this year. However, I am foolishly going to take the Redskins here. Rivalry games are always closer than they should be anyway. Washington’s offense is a problem for any opponent, especially if undrafted rookie Robert Kelley continues to spark the run game. Dallas and their freakishly talented rookies will get the job done, but will be made to work. Dal 28 Was 24.
Colts at Steelers (-7.5) – With Andrew Luck likely out due to a concussion, this number will probably continue to grow until game time, and rightfully so. Pittsburgh can score on anybody, and while their defense is still bad, Colts backup quarterback Scott Tolzien is the backup for a reason. He will not be able to exploit their defensive deficiencies. Pit 38 Ind 17
Cardinals at Falcons (-4) – This could go either way. Atlanta got off to a white-hot start, particularly on offense, but has struggled since. Arizona has struggled from the start, but we have seen flashes of why they reached the NFC championship game last year. Due to their division, Atlanta is in much stronger playoff position and they are at home. That is good enough for me. Atl 31 Ari 24
Bengals at Ravens (-4) – I have been high on the Ravens all year with mixed results. This week, they are catching the Bengals at a perfect time. Cincinnati’s relevant season may have ended with last week’s loss to Buffalo. Additionally, they will be without two of their main offensive weapons, wide receiver A.J. Green and running back Giovanni Bernard. The Ravens appear to be one of the strongest bets of the week. Bal 31 Cin 17
Jaguars at Bills (-7.5) – A streaky team like Buffalo as this big of a favorite makes me nervous, but the Jags played the Lions to the wire last week and still could not manage to cover. So… Buf 28 Jac 17
Rams at Saints (-7.5) – The Rams offense was cute last week in Jared Goff’s debut. He made no mistakes, but was not asked to do much. You can count on one hand the number of times he threw the ball more than 10 yards downfield. The “training wheels” approach won’t lead to enough points to keep up with Drew Brees and the Saints. NO 34 LA 17
Giants (-7) at Browns – As I noted last week, the Giants always keep it close. Despite rarely looking impressive, a 7-3 record is a 7-3 record. Also, this is the Browns we are talking about here. Between the injuries and general lack of talent on the roster, they may be unable to keep it close with anyone right now. NYG 30 Cle 17
Chargers (-1.5) at Texans – Here you have a last-place team favored over first place team. You just do not see that very often. The fact is San Diego is better by just about every statistical measure, except the important one. The Texans do have a slight edge on defense, but the difference between quarterbacks is too vast for me to pass up. SD 30 Hou 23
49ers at Dolphins (-7.5) – Miami keeps winning. Last week was closer than it should have been, but this isn’t college football. Style points are irrelevant. When everything around him is functioning well, Ryan Tannehill is just fine as an NFL quarterback. That is the case right now and San Francisco is not good enough on defense to expose his limitations. Mia 23 SF 13
Titans (-5.5) at Bears – It has probably been a few years since the Titans have been this significant of a road favorite. They showed their immaturity last week against the Colts after roughing up Green Bay. If the Titans stay the course, they will be really good in about two years. However, this is another spot where their youth and inexperience could hurt them. Also, the Bears have played people tough all year. It is hard for me to imagine them winning this game with third stringer Matt Barkley at quarterback, but I will take the points. Ten 24 Chi 21
Seahawks (-5.5) at Bucs – Seattle continued their recent great form by pushing around the Eagles last week. I would take them to cover against anyone right now. Even though I am impressed with the way Jameis Winston and the young Bucs have put themselves right in the middle of the playoff race, they are no exception. Sea 27 TB 17
*Panthers at Raiders (-3) – I am still not a believer in the Raiders. Yes, the defense has gotten better lately. However, the inevitable will happen at some point. Derek Carr will struggle and the hole the offense finds itself in will be too deep. As for Carolina, they are still very dangerous. The struggles of their division rivals leaves them with plenty to still play for. The Panthers are due to catch a break, and all the mistakes and penalties are due to catch up to Oakland. Car 27 Oak 20
Patriots (-7.5) at Jets – Again, rivalry games are always close. The Patriots will likely be without Rob Gronkowski for another week. They struggled for three quarters with the 49ers last week. The Jets beat the Patriots last year. The main parts of each roster are basically the same. Lastly, the Jets pass rush is a problem for any opponent, even if they are quarterbacked by Tom Brady. An outright upset with shock everyone but me here. NE 24 NYJ 20
Chiefs at Broncos (-3.5) – This is a huge game for both teams. It becomes even bigger if Carolina does indeed knock off Oakland. Despite current records, I would still argue that these two teams will eventually finish ahead of the error prone and one-dimensional Raiders. Given, that Denver is finally healthy off a bye week, I would have thought they would be a bigger favorite here. Kansas City found a very creative way to lose to Tampa Bay at home last week. I have too much respect for Kansas City to call for a blowout, but with Denver rested, healthy and at home 3.5 points feels like a steal. Den 24 KC 17
NNF: Packers at Eagles (-4) – I am officially out on the Packers, but I will tell you one thing. The problem is not Aaron Rodgers. Anyone who tosses 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions through 10 games is not the problem. The problem is that it looks like the defense is playing with about six guys on the field, the last two weeks have been particularly brutal. Any team with the kind of quarterback play the Packers are getting can turn around at any moment, but you will not see me predicting it. The Eagles are really solid along the offensive and defensive lines and should be able to manhandle the lifeless Packers here. Phi 34 GB 23. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving everyone!