The NFL is crazy and unpredictable. That’s why I don’t gamble. Insert laughing emoji here. I was 10-5 picking winners (46-31-1 overall) and that’s cool with me. Double digits is where I strive to be weekly and as the bye weeks approach it can be more difficult, but with only one game short I have no reason not to get at least ten correct. I was robbed on Rams/Seahawks when the roughing call on Wilson happened, leading the winning touchdown. The Bills slugged past the Titans, but I knew that would be a close game. I had the Titans winning 20-19 and they lost 14-7. Broncos over Chargers is one of those wacky results when teams within the same division hook up. Denver was due for a win and they caught a Los Angeles team that has zero home field advantage. I should have known better when it came to picking the Cowboys over the Packers, but I don’t think anyone thought the Colts were going to beat the Chiefs.
I’m very glad to go 11-4 against the spread (37-40-1 overall) and that’s a long time coming. I even missed the Bucs covering by a half point. I think the Jaguars could have covered it was a battle that simply didn’t end up close enough. I was stupid thinking the Falcons would cover, and likewise probably shouldn’t have laid down points on the Chargers given how defensive that game figured to be. Favorites were 7-8 this week and that’s just how Vegas wants it, everything is a coin flip. I was a painful 5-10 on the over/under (31-46-1 overall) and need to focus because it’s dragging me down. It’s good to have a +2 week against Vegas in total, but I’m now -18 on the season and that’s embarrassing. It also means I’m about to start rolling.
NY Giants (2-3) @ New England (5-0): Should the Patriots be happy Eli Manning is on the bench? I kid of course. They aren’t afraid of the guy who took two Super Bowls away from them anymore. Those days are long gone. There isn’t a lot of analysis here. The Giants have a rookie quarterback trying to find his way and he’s taking on a pass defense that thus far has been ridiculously good. I mean 161 yards per game? No touchdowns and 11 interceptions through five games is sick, and 24 sacks is just icing on top. Jones is in trouble in primetime, and doesn’t have Barkley to help out. New England will be able to run and pass at will against this defense, so it’s just a matter of how much they will win by. This is an odd rivalry situation. Belichick won some jewelry when he was with the G-Men and as aforementioned also lost some because of this franchise. I feel he doesn’t want to embarrass them under the lights, and I mention this because many times this juggernaut has piled on the scoreboard. New York can’t score and might get shut out. I can’t recall ever predicting a shutout though and I won’t here: New England 34, NY Giants 6 (NE -14/under 46.5)
Carolina (3-2) @ Tampa Bay (2-3): This is the London game and it makes sense for these teams because they are already on the coast so travel isn’t as big of an issue. Last week that didn’t matter for Oakland anyway. The NFC South always seems to be an upside down cluster from season to season. New Orleans lost Brees and still appears to be the clear favorite, making this a crucial contest trying to keep pace. These teams already met with a national television audience, when the Bucs won 20-14 as a true road team on TNF. So they already have a win against them under their belt away from home. They had a goal line stand and really put the clamps on CMC (18 touches for 53 yards, no touchdowns) in that one. Newton threw for 333 yards, but now it’s Allen at the helm. The Bucs have allowed the most passing yards per game (323.6) and it’s not even close. So yes, they are second in run defense and it’s going to be difficult for McCaffrey to dominate the way he has in many games this season. I do think Allen gives them a better chance to win, and this victory will be cited as a reason he keeps the job after Newton is healthy enough to play. Next season Cam might be in a different color uniform: Carolina 27, Tampa Bay 21 (CAR +0/over 46)
Washington (0-5) @ Miami (0-4): It is absolutely not too soon for talk about which team is going to be drafting number one overall. The loser of this game, if it doesn’t end in a 0-0 tie, will have the inside track for sure. The Dolphins are openly tanking. The Redskins just fired their head coach, and now Bill Callahan has followed both Gruden brothers. Last time he led the team to the Super Bowl. This time it’s the toilet bowl. He has nothing to work with. It’s survival mode. Miami and Washington are storied franchises with great histories and it’s sad to see them have no chance to beat anyone. There is a huge gap between the bottom teams in the NFL and to avoid 0-16 this is probably it for both of these teams. If these teams combined their yards rushing per game (120.6) they would barely nose out Detroit for #13 in rushing offense. That’s astonishing. The Dolphins have only 1 interception and allow 175.8 rushing yards per game (worst in the league), over 30 more than the Redskins who rank #28. Does home field matter? It won’t be that warm. Who even plays quarterbacks for these teams? Keenum will be back, and Rosen has been declared the starter “for the rest of the season”. That’s all I need to know in order to make this pick: Washington 24, Miami 20 (WAS -3/over 41)
Philadelphia (3-2) @ Minnesota (3-2): It’s a long season and sometimes it can take a while for a team to find their groove. Both of these teams have talent and can make a playoff run there is no question about it. The Eagles embarrassed these guys in the playoffs 38-7 on their way to a title, then last year the Vikings got a 23-21 win with their new quarterback Kirk Cousins. Speaking of Cousins, he got a call from Trump applauding his effort. That’s bizarre. Maybe it will help him kick his history of never being able to beat a winning team. This is a huge game for them because they are at home, and stuck in a division with solid teams. After five weeks they have a winning record and are dead last in the NFC North. Three teams are leading their division with the same record. This team’s defense can keep them in it week after week. They are top 10 against the run and pass, but offensively it’s all about their running game (third) as they are #29 through the air. Philadelphia can put up points. Three times they have gone 31-plus and they put up a combined 44 in the other two games (both losses). Statistically, however, they are below average in rushing and passing offense. Their staple is leading the NFL in run defense. When you can take one thing away it makes life a lot easier. Can they go on the road and really lock down Dalvin Cook? The answer to that question determines the winner. They are the overall better team, I think. Really the best thing they have done is win at Green Bay. Scraping past Washington looks really bad now that the Redskins are 0-5, and so does losing to Atlanta who is otherwise 0-4. I think they have found their groove a little, but I also believe defense still matters and so does home field. It’s a fight: Minnesota 21, Philadelphia 20 (PHI +3/under 44)
Houston (3-2) @ Kansas City (4-1): I mean it’s on right? Mahomes and Watson meet for the first time and as long as they can stay healthy it’s going to be awesome to see them face off for the 20’s. Unfortunately Mahomes is dealing with a bad ankle that won’t get better as he continues to play on it. He’s a scrambler as a way to extend plays and the Chiefs are reliant upon that offensively. When Indianapolis roughed him up last week, it resulted in an ugly loss. Now teams smell blood and while they aren’t trying to injure him, let’s just say J.J. Watt is coming. In 10 games the quarterbacks have combined for 22 touchdowns against 1 pick and almost 3,200 yards. Houston’s offense gets more out of the running game, but Kansas City might have Hill back to add more fire to their already lethal aerial attack. I’m impressed that Mahomes is 16-0 in daytime regular season contests so it’s hard to pick the upset here, but I want to. It feels like this team could fade. Oakland held them scoreless in the second half after doing the same in the first quarter. They have only one touchdown pass in the last two weeks. The Texans just dropped 53 on Atlanta, but a week prior had only 10 in a loss to Carolina. What do we make of all this? I’m concerned the visitors push repeat on the film from last week on this field. I absolutely think they can run the ball and put this one away. Somehow I can’t bring myself to go against 16-0 history. The home team finds a game plan to work around the ankle injury and pulls out a thriller: Kansas City 31, Houston 28 (HOU +8.5/over 54)
New Orleans (4-1) @ Jacksonville (2-3): Each team will have their Super Bowl winning quarterback in street clothes in this one. Instead we get two great stories. Bridgewater has every neutral fan on his side as he defies the odds returning from injury and winning games. Minshew is the new Mayfield, without the draft hype. It’s fun to root for both of these guys to succeed. The Jaguars for sure need this game more. They return home after playing three of four on the road including the last two in Denver (win) and Carolina (loss). The offense is putting up points, but the defense is giving up points too. They are in a muddled division trying to get their footing and have played a lot of good teams this season. The Saints have churned out some clutch wins since Brees went out. Only one of them was on the road, however, and they typically struggle outdoors. It’s going to be warm. I’m going to gamble on Ramsey’s competitive nature winning out because he will want to shut down Michael Thomas. It’s a big risk because if he’s out, the defense changes. I worry about the Saints being able to just power run against a team allowing 5.5 yards per rush, but my Spidey sense tells me things level out here. They are a good team, at home with a hot quarterback who is fearless. Their defense can ball out at times. The visitors are just scraping by until Brees returns, even if the pundits seem to think they are elite without him. This will open some eyes: Jacksonville 24, New Orleans 20 (JAX -1/over 43.5)
Seattle (4-1) @ Cleveland (2-3): The Browns have to travel home on a short week amidst a lot of questions. They were embarrassed at San Francisco, looking inept on offense and not good enough on defense. The Seahawks are flying east, which is never easy but do so on a long week having won a thriller on TNF over the Rams. Still, analyzing their schedule is not pretty. They beat now 0-5 Cincinnati by a point at home, won in Pittsburgh by two after Big Ben was injured, and lost to New Orleans at home in their first game without Brees. That win over the Rams was just a few days after the Bucs laid 55 on them. Still, they are in better shape mentally for sure. Cleveland has to rebound. They are at home and their best hope is to get physical, keep this game low scoring and find a way at the end. Good luck with that against Wilson. I think we are witnessing a team that thought they were good simply because everyone said it. Mayfield lost his edge and who knows if he will ever find it again. He was supposed to be better with OBJ and instead he’s been worse. The offensive line is bad and their defense isn’t shutting teams down. Wilson has 0 interceptions this season and Mayfield has 8. That’s the story. Run defense is another factor. Seattle is fourth (80.0 yards per game) and Cleveland is fourth-worst (150.8). The visitors can pound the rock and slug this one out. I don’t think the Browns will go down easily, but they are not a team I can rely on in this spot. They are on the ropes and tired: Seattle 20, Cleveland 17 (SEA +2.5/under 46.5)
Cincinnati (0-5) @ Baltimore (3-2): How bad is the AFC North? Should the Bengals win they would be two games off the lead. Sounds insane right? Well, the Ravens next play in Seattle and then hosts New England before the rematch with a bye week in between. It’s not incomprehensible to see them losing both those games and being 3-5 by then. Don’t worry I’m not saying that happens. Cincinnati next plays the Jags then go cross-country for the Rams and they probably lose both of those as well. My point is that at some point a team has to rise out of this muck and Baltimore is the likely candidate. They sweated out an ugly overtime win at Pittsburgh, who was down to their third-string quarterback in the second half. I think it’s very possible they win this division at 7-9 unless Cleveland wakes up. Cincinnati is in full fade mode. They host the Jets and travel to Miami during December so it’s not like 0-16 is a certainty, but after falling to Arizona at home I think they are out of steam. The home team averages more than triple the rushing yards per game (192.2 to 61.2) than the visitors, and a full 2 more yards per carry. Does anything else really matter? They are going to break their will. No one cares on the Bengals anymore. It’s the road, starting to get colder and they have no extra motivation to press here. I see a rout: Baltimore 33, Cincinnati 17 (BAL -8.5/over 47.5)
San Francisco (4-0) @ LA Rams (3-2): Remember the end of 2017 when the 49ers smoked the Rams, who were playing backups, 34-13? It felt then like the gap was closing. Then 2018 happened, and Jimmy G got hurt. Los Angeles scored 87 points in the two meetings last year en route to the Super Bowl and now find themselves staring up at a once hopeless rival in the standings. San Francisco is feeling great after a 31-3 MNF win over Cleveland. They were dominant, celebrating boisterously, and even making up lies about the opposing quarterback. Losing left tackle Joe Staley hasn’t hurt them yet, and the big concern is a schedule filled with losing teams. They did win at Tampa Bay, a team that two weeks ago laid down 55 on this field. Los Angeles is on a long week and backed against the wall. Their defense is reeling, but the offense can put up points in bunches. It was awesome to watch San Francisco shut down Mayfield, but let’s be serious this is a much better attack they are facing here and it’s on the road. The 49ers have a much more efficient passing game so don’t be fooled by the rankings. They lead the NFL with a ridiculous 200 yards per game, or more than double the Rams. San Francisco is second in pass defense and fifth against the run. On paper it sure feels as if they should win. Los Angeles has played better teams though, and has more motivation. I think it’s a thriller and we might wind up getting a trilogy this season: LA Rams 23, San Francisco 21 (SF +5/under 51)
Atlanta (1-4) @ Arizona (1-3-1): When will the pain end for the Falcons? It’s one thing to drop some close games, have some tough breaks or whatever. These guys have now lost three times by at least two touchdowns including last week’s humiliating 53-32 loss in Houston. They are desperate and with four competent opponents up next on the schedule I think they are done. Dan Quinn will probably be fired it’s just a matter of when. If they lose this game, the hammer could fall much sooner than later. They play the Rams and Seahawks before the bye week and 1-7 or even 2-6 assuming they get this one will just about do it. The Cardinals blew a lead at Cincinnati, but managed their first win for Kingsburgy. Now they are trying for their first home victory. I think it’s a toss up. The points should be flying. Ryan can throw it around the yard and the kid can match him or close to it. Arizona has allowed more sacks by a lot (21-12) but Atlanta has only 5 sacks on the season. Inability to rush the passer is a huge issue with a mobile rookie on the loose. The Cards run the ball better, but the Falcons defend the run better. Emotions are always hard to measure and it comes into play here. Atlanta has to be mad. Arizona is confident after the win, but also a bit relieved. I’m conflicted. I think the kid has some spark and if he’s allowed time to work they can outscore the visitors. Start the clock on Quinn: Arizona 31, Atlanta 27 (AZ +2.5/over 47)
Dallas (3-2) @ NY Jets (0-4): The Cowboys for sure need this. They are reeling after being down 31-3 at one point last week to Green Bay during their second consecutive loss. This is still the first place team in the NFC East and the only peril here is being on the road in a clear trap situation against a bad team with a huge game next week against Philadelphia. I think the losses negate the trap factor and help them focus on a struggling opponent. The Jets have lost by 16-plus points in three straight after blowing a lead in the season opener and have allowed 61 over their last two. If they had all the points from their entire season last week they still would have only won 39-31 for crying out loud. Sam Darnold is back and in theory that changes everything. They should be fighting to save their season. Preseason pundits thought they would (insert laughter) challenge the Patriots who visit next Monday night. This is definitely a spot for them to rise up and make noise, in theory. Their passing offense is almost 60 yards per game worse than the #31 ranked Dolphins. Is that even correct? I looked, it is. They are third-worst in rushing with a robust 66 yards per game. About all New York does is contain the run, and here comes a team capable of bludgeoning them on the ground. Crazy things happen in the league every week. It’s time for Dallas to rebound, and while I don’t see them blowing out a team that has Darnold back they will win: Dallas 26, NY Jets 17 (DAL -7/under 45)
Tennessee (2-3) @ Denver (1-4): In a league with rules set up to favor wide open passing and no hits, this shapes up to be a matchup between two throwback teams who can play physical defense. Part of the deal is that offensively neither team is really lighting it up. The Titans lost 14-7 last week and while it’s nice they have yet to allow a team to score more than 20 points this season you can see their record. They have scored 17, 7 and 7 in the losses. The AFC South is a mess so while they are in last place they are also one game out of first. This game matters more to them. The Broncos finally got in the win column at the Chargers and even in victory it was their fourth time failing to score more than 20 points. Flacco was supposed to steady the quarterback position for Denver while Lock was developed, but he’s thrown 4 interceptions and done nothing of note. Mariota has yet to throw a pick and adds at least a bit of mobility although the team has absorbed 22 sacks. He has a bruising back at his disposal, and the visitors have a 1-2 quick punch. Both pass defenses are in the top 10, but the Broncos have only 5 sacks and that’s what happens with Chubb out. Their defense has a harder time stopping the run as well. This is a hard game to call. Denver tasted a win and has the home field. Tennessee can find their way back into the division race with a victory here. Sometimes it’s a guessing game. I think the visitors get physical and find a way: Tennessee 17, Denver 14 (TEN +2/under 40.5)
Pittsburgh (1-4) @ LA Chargers (2-3): Even without Roethlisberger, the Steelers had a chance this season. They just couldn’t close the deal. Their three losses were by a combined 9 points including last week in overtime. There were opportunities to get a close win or two and stay in the hunt. Now they are traveling across the country for SNF and forced to start Hodges at quarterback, their third option entering the season. The defense isn’t stout enough for them to really compete in this spot. The Chargers have no home field advantage in this stadium and are coming off a stunning loss to previously 0-4 Denver. They hardly resemble the dominant team that stood tall down the stretch in 2018 and nearly had home field throughout the AFC playoffs. It’s not too late for them, but this is not a situation for them to mess around. Gordon needs to get back in form and the offense has to give the defense a break. Last week was the second loss in which they failed to score 14 points. I think it’s going to be a tight, low scoring game. Pittsburgh is a proud franchise and won’t roll over. Neither team really runs the ball and I think the Steelers can pull out some tricks to keep it close for a while. Eventually it’s a dull win for the home team: LA Chargers 24, Pittsburgh 16 (LAC -5.5/under 43.5)
Detroit (2-1-1) @ Green Bay (4-1): Would it surprise you to know the Lions have won four straight in this series and scored 31-plus in all of those wins? It surprised me. The Packers swept the season before that and the last six meetings produced a winning team scoring 31-plus for the record. Rodgers was so smug about always winning in Dallas after last week’s blowout that got close at the end. This one on MNF is for the NFC North lead and the Lions will never get a better chance to prove they belong in this race. They are coming off a bye week and host Minnesota next week with an opportunity to push them down the standings. A late loss to Kansas City followed up a nice win at Philly, but all of that progress could disappear in a flash if they lose these two within the division. Green Bay lost to the Eagles before last week’s bounce back and is looking like one of the best teams in the NFC at the moment. Games like this tend to determine whether a team goes up or down the rest of the way. It’s so huge for the visitors and yes they have won the last two here, but can they do it again? I don’t think so. They should be able to run the ball some though, and keep it close: Green Bay 28, Detroit 23 (GB -4/over 46.5)