NFL Predictions 2019: Week 10

Well blah. I thought I did a lot better job last week and when I added it all up I was just decent. I was 9-5 picking winners (88-46-1 overall) and took some forgivable losses along the way. The toughest had to be my Vikings 23-20 over the Chiefs pick because that was the score until Minnesota’s defense let Moore beat them. I will never be mad about missing on a winless (Dolphins) team winning and an undefeated (Patriots) team losing because the odds were with me. No one thought the Chargers would beat the Packers much less bomb them. I regret having faith in the Browns who now are officially done. I reeled off a 10-4 record against the spread (68-65-2) and at least in that category lead Vegas. I was 7-6-1 on the over/under (61-72-2) and that’s my anchor at this point so I’m -8 in total against Vegas. Let’s grab the next rung of the ladder and keep pulling my way out of the hole.

LA Chargers (4-5) @ Oakland (4-4): The Bolts were the first opponent when the Silver and Black returned to East Bay, but the schedule makers are too stupid to make it the home finale in their final season in California. Ironically, Los Angeles has had to stave off rumors they will leave not only the state but the country thanks to having no fan support in Southern California. They can’t fill a shopping cart with fans and that’s not a good look as they prepare to open a new stadium with the Rams next season. Their team on the field kept the season alive with a stunning 26-11 win over Green Bay and even though they are on a short week it’s a quick flight up the coast. Yes, they are playing much better but this is the two-game stretch that really matters. They host Kansas City next on MNF with a lot of rest next and in their eyes can make a move. The talent is there and I can see them either 6-5 or 4-7 very easily when they hit their bye week and get ready for the final five. The Raiders are scrappers and they had a chance to let last week’s game against Detroit get away. Instead they brought it home and landed themselves at 4-4 with lots of favorable games upcoming. On deck are the Bengals and Jets (road) and playing level should get them to 7-4 for the December stretch. Tyrell Williams plays his former team and while he’s not the number one threat Antonio Brown would have been had he not gone mental he’s playing well amongst a well-rounded offense. The defense needs to improve, but they have their moments. Rivers is the more prolific quarterback, and faces the NFL’s worst pass defense on paper. They are on pace to allow 44 touchdowns against 8 interceptions with 4,760 yards so in essence every guy they face is an MVP. The Chargers bring heat with Bosa and Ingram so Carr has to be smart with the ball and not reach for pylons. Oakland is better at running the ball by a wide margin (6th versus 28th) and their run defense is superior as well. It’s a short week and the teams will be tired. They can pound the rock and make this happen. If Rivers can go off, the visitors win. Emotion plays in here. These guys are enjoying their home field and want to protect it again: Oakland 27, LA Chargers 23 (OAK +2/over 47.5)

Baltimore (6-2) @ Cincinnati (0-8): Is everyone on the bandwagon for the Ravens now? They showed out on national television slaying the champs. Their quarterback is on pace for 1,274 rushing yards to set an NFL record by a lot. He will also throw for 3,626 yards so he’s proving he’s not a running back playing quarterback. The latter is impressive because his receivers aren’t household names and a tight end leads the team in receptions, yards and touchdowns. You don’t know his name either. A sturdy veteran has helped keep the running game stable and here they are. The Bengals won the bye week because now they control their own destiny for the first pick in the draft. Thanks Dolphins! To help them keep that spot Ryan Finley is starting at quarterback because an untested rookie clearly gives them a better chance than a nine year veteran who was on pace to throw for 4,504 yards right? During their bye week A.J. Green was cleared to play and that helps an offense that has failed to score over 17 points in six of their last seven games. The defense has only allowed one opponent to score more than 27 all season, and that was currently undefeated San Francisco. For as much credit Baltimore gets for last week’s resounding win, their defense hasn’t been a shut down unit. Good, but not great. They also had to scrap past these guys at home 23-17 a month ago and while maybe they were never in danger of losing it wasn’t a blowout. The aforementioned “good” defense let Cincinnati convert 5 of 11 third downs and while the average per play was well in Baltimore’s favor (6.5 to 4.5) along with total yards (497-250) and time of possession (39:42 to 20:18) they should have won by more. I don’t really need to look at the stats to call the rematch. Harbaugh has to keep his team focused it’s a divisional matchup on the road after a huge win. They are primed for a letdown and this could be another ugly close win. However, the worst rushing offense and an untested rookie quarterback is a good way not to score so I don’t see how the hosts can keep it close: Baltimore 24, Cincinnati 6 (BAL -10/under 46)

Buffalo (6-2) @ Cleveland (2-6): The Bills are quietly on pace for a 12-4 season and in control of their own destiny to win the AFC East. Okay, stop laughing. They have taken advantage of a favorable schedule to reach this point and can follow the same recipe (beat bad teams, lose to good teams) and end up 10-6 very easily. Perhaps a blowout loss to Philly exposed them two weeks ago, but they have consistently been able to put down inferior opponents. This is their first road game since October 6, but the cold weather shouldn’t be an issue. Neither should fans ready to turn on their home team. The Browns are home for the first time in a month and games continue to get away from them. At this point the boat has taken on too much water. They have reached the tipping point and are in full spoiler mode the rest of the way. Hosting rival Pittsburgh in a few days should put the final nail in their coffin. Kitchens should be fired sooner than later and if the team can find a viable head coach then 2020 will be a rebound season. There is a chance they can grind out wins over bad teams in the second half and build momentum, that’s about it. Neither team can protect the quarterback and Mayfield has 12 interceptions. Allen has 8. Both defenses can get after the passer and rank top 6 in pass defense, but Cleveland has allowed way more passing touchdowns (16 to 5). The rushing offenses are comparable, and Kareem Hunt makes his debut for the Browns after serving a suspension. The Bills are better at stopping the run and that’s the significant factor here. I definitely believe an upset here is possible. It’s getting old having confidence in a team that has no chemistry and can’t game plan to save their life: Buffalo 23, Cleveland 20 (BUF +3/over 40.5)

Detroit (3-4-1) @ Chicago (3-5): Close games determine if a team is going to contend or fade. The Bears are 1-4 in games decided by one-score this season. They were only 6-4 in such games last year, but when things aren’t breaking your way it tends to spiral. Only one game so far hasn’t been close for the Lions, a 42-30 loss against Minnesota. They have grinded their way to this point and I don’t see the quit in them at all. Dome teams always struggle outdoors, but they are 1-2-1 on the road so far and one of those was a controversial 23-22 loss in Green Bay. They were competitive last week in Oakland. The cold weather is problematic though. I’m not convinced this team can’t at least make a move in the second half. The November series with these guys is going to determine if they are contenders come December. They need a sweep and this is the game to pivot their season. Chicago is collapsing. They haven’t won since September (0-4) and are 1-3 at home. Their dream 2018 season is a memory and Trubisky is a national punch line. The NFC is just too competitive to expect them to make a move. Are they going to beat the Rams on the road next week? Their December is treacherous and to me looks like 0-4. Maybe they enter it 5-7, maybe. It’s a mess and it’s up to the pride of the players to avoid a disastrous second half. I can see them showing up here though. Detroit obviously has a huge edge in passing offense. They are third and Chicago is third-worst. The Lions are third-worst in pass defense though, and can’t get after the quarterback. At least the Bears are able to harass Stafford with Mack to get their offense back on the field. The rushing offenses are both anemic. Chicago is actually worse somehow than a Detroit attack that has been dreadful for years. The difference in the outcome is probably run defense. The Lions give up a yard more per carry (4.7 to 3.7) and this is going to be that kind of game in a the chilly conditions. The losing streak is over: Chicago 20, Detroit 19 (DET +3.5/under 44)

NY Giants (2-7) @ NY Jets (1-7): It’s the battle of New York, played in New Jersey of course. Maybe it’s the Leonard Williams Bowl. He changed locker rooms before the trading deadline. At least this matchup isn’t in primetime. Only the New Yorkers need suffer through watching it. The Giants actually didn’t show too poorly on MNF, a 37-18 final score in a loss to Dallas wasn’t indicative of their effort. After the bye week their stretch run will give them a chance to get some victories and ruin their draft position. It’s not catastrophic because they have their quarterback. So do the Jets, who just lost to the winless Dolphins and now seem to be in full tank mode. Six times they have lost by more than a touchdown this season if we include the 26-18 loss in South Florida last week. That loss started a current stretch playing five teams in the span of six weeks who have 7-plus losses on their ledger. The opening loss wasn’t an omen that they can make a move. This is a really hard game to call because it’s hard to know which team wants to show up. The Jets have the worst passing offense in the league and have already taken 37 sacks in half a season. The Giants are mediocre and have allowed 28. Both have double digits in interceptions. For pass defense the Giants have more sacks (22-13) but give up a higher average. Even with Bell, the Jets only manage 66.3 yards rushing per game. The Giants are mediocre and that’s an edge, plus they have Barkley who is playing every game like it’s the Super Bowl. The Jets are a lot better in run defense and it’s possible Bell can do some damage here. I have no idea what’s going to happen. There’s no real home field advantage here even though the guys in green have their season ticket holders in the stands. Neither quarterback is experienced or game changing, but I think the guys in blue are going to win because of coaching: NY Giants 24, NY Jets 21 (NYG +1.5/over 41)

Kansas City (6-3) @ Tennessee (4-5): The Chiefs are well on their way to surviving the injury to Mahomes. Two long field goals in the final 2:30 lifted them past Minnesota and now they have to see if they can take this show on the road. Their MVP was injured during a game at Denver, but they already were in control of that contest. It’s a different deal to win on the road with a backup. The smart play would be resting Mahomes here and next week at the Chargers plus a bye week to be sure he’s ready for December. They apparently aren’t going to be smart. He is playing. The Titans technically have their backup quarterback going as well, but Tannehill took over and the offense improved. A loss in Carolina last week dented their hopes in a competitive AFC South, but if they can pull this off they get a bye week next and will be rested for the stretch run. There are no ducks left for them though. Only Jacksonville, at 4-5, is below .500 on their remaining slate. I never know what to expect from this team. They tend to show up at home where their two losses came against winning teams (Buffalo, Indianapolis) in close games. Tennessee has a dramatically inferior passing offense and has allowed 38 sacks. Kansas City is second in passing and has only a single interception on the season. The pass defenses are competent, and comparable on the stat sheet. The Titans run the ball a little better and defend the run significantly better. The Chiefs have allowed 4.8 yards per carry and 10 scores on the ground. I have this sneaky feeling the hosts are going to run them over, but I’m swayed by Mahomes’ status and I’ll change the 23-19 win to this close loss: Kansas City 22, Tennessee 20 (TEN +6.5/under 50)

Arizona (3-5-1) @ Tampa Bay (2-6): You are what your record says you are, and at the halfway mark of the season these teams are out of the hunt. However, both can be a tough out and if things go their way are capable of hanging with most teams in the league. The Cards most recently put a scare into the lone remaining unbeaten team in the league, falling to San Francisco 28-25 on TNF. It wasn’t really that close because a return touchdown and two-point conversion tightened it up in the end, but they still had a chance at the end. An opening tie against Detroit and 23-17 loss at Baltimore look pretty good right now, especially the latter. They are in the middle of playing four of five on the road, but have had extra rest here. The Bucs are playing at home for the first time since September 22 because the NFL enjoys screwing teams over with their asinine scheduling. Hey let’s give them four out of five weeks on the road and make the lone “home” game be in London! It’s no shock they lost the final four of that stretch. The team was playing well at the beginning, a wild 55-40 win at the Rams and narrow 31-24 loss at the Saints who are elite. Is it a surprise they couldn’t win an overtime battle in Seattle last week? They must have been taxed. The boost of playing at home is going to be palpable. Yes, their season is toast but I think they can be up for this one. The visitors will be too. Their young quarterback feels ages younger than Winston who might be on his way out of Florida. A guy who was playing in the state earlier this season has sparked Arizona’s backfield. Drake is playing like he wants to get paid. Tampa Bay for sure has the better receivers although Fitzgerald should be lauded for the season he’s having in possibly his swan song. The 12 interceptions have hurt the Bucs who have also endured 30 sacks as have the Cardinals, but their rookie passer has just 4 interceptions. These are two of the four worst pass defenses in the league, but Arizona has allowed 24 touchdowns against only 2 interceptions and has let passers complete 71.7%. That’s awful and Patrick Peterson’s suspension certainly hurt those figures. Still, the hosts are going to have their way through the air. The Cardinals have the better running game because their signal caller scrambles. The Bucs have a vastly superior run defense, best in the league. I think the hosts have their way on offense and the visitors simply can’t keep up: Tampa Bay 34, Arizona 28 (TB -4.5/over 52)

Atlanta (1-7) @ New Orleans (7-1): It’s like the Falcons are living a nightmare season. The bye week allowed them time to regroup I suppose and somehow they didn’t fire Quinn. The second half of their schedule is all about their division, including all of the next five weeks. Maybe ownership wants to see them compete against the NFC South without making a move. The defense has allowed seven of their eight opponents to score 27-plus points and this is not a great spot for them as they face Brees and company. The Saints have rung up 30-plus five times this season mixed with their future Hall of Famer and Bridgewater who is now biding his time until his 2020 payday. If Brees had any rust left he worked it out over the bye week. Ryan is set to return and while that can’t hurt I still have a hard time imagining the visitors rising up here. Atlanta has the top ranked passing offense in the league and 9 interceptions isn’t catastrophic. Neither is 21 sacks allowed. It hasn’t been enough. New Orleans is tenth with their QB duo and has given up only 12 sacks and thrown 5 interceptions. The Saints have the better pass defense and while the two teams have combined for an embarrassing 5 interceptions on 535 attempts faced, the other key stats all favor them heavily. The Falcons have fewer sacks (7 to 24) more TD passes allowed (19 to 10) and give up 8% more of opponents’ passes to be completed. New Orleans is a lot better running the ball and Atlanta is significantly worse defending the run. Usually I believe divisional matchups are close even when the records are disparate by such a wide margin. However, all the signs are pointing to a rout here. It’s at home and I see no reason for the spoiler team to make this too difficult for the Super Bowl contenders: New Orleans 35, Atlanta 20 (NO -13/over 50)

Miami (1-7) @ Indianapolis (5-3): The Dolphins avoided the stigma of going 0-16 and as much as their fans want the number one pick it’s probably better for them to not be the only franchise with a perfect season and a winless campaign. It’s amazing to look back at a late November meeting between these teams last season that the Colts won 27-24 en route to a playoff campaign behind Luck that ended in the divisional round. They are without Luck now of course and possibly his replacement as well. Even if it’s Hoyer I think they are in good position here. Hoyer is a veteran and Mack is having a great season running the ball. They dropped a tough game at Pittsburgh last week, but across a season that has seen all of their games comes down to one possession they have won more than lost including 3-1 in their dome. Miami had lost six times by double digits during their 0-7 start before taking down the Jets last week. I have to think they will be more relaxed in this one and not as desperate to get that first win. While going 0-3 none of the results have been close, with an average loss of 30-14. This one I do see as close because it’s not going to be high scoring. The Dolphins have a terrible passing offense, but Fitzpatrick improves their chances and the Colts are simply efficient throwing the ball. Their strength is allowing just 16 sacks and throwing only 4 interceptions. The pass defenses are both average and the key problem for Miami is having just 3 interceptions and 12 sacks. They can’t get after the passer and in this league with the rules how they are that makes it hard to win. Running the ball is how I know the upset won’t happen. Indianapolis has a solid attack although they have run it in for a score only 4 times. The Dolphins average 63.8 yards a game and 3.1 per carry plus they just dumped Drake. Their defense has been crushed against the run of course because teams pile up on them while leading late. Indy allows 4.6 yards per run so that’s dangerous. Clearly the hosts are in position to win easily. Odd things happen and routs are rare: Indianapolis 24, Miami 17 (MIA +15.5/under 44)

LA Rams (5-3) @ Pittsburgh (4-4): The Steelers are a shell of their former selves at the skill positions yet find themselves in position to make a run at the playoffs. They are a game out of the wild card and thanks to last week’s win over the Colts they hold the tiebreaker over the team residing in that spot. Conner is out, but they are a team that can rise at home and play well with missing parts. They have won three straight and scored 23-plus in four in a row so let’s see what they’ve got. Three against the Ohio teams are up next and they have to feel as if stealing this game puts them in a position to make a run at 8-4. The Rams are trying to defend their conference title and appear to be relegated to a wild card even if they can make the tournament. They are currently a half-game out of the picture and third in their division. The bye week allowed them to regroup after finishing their first half beating two teams who are a combined 1-15 on the heels of losing three straight. I’m not sure they will ever get up to the level of their 2018 campaign despite being much healthier than they were in the Super Bowl. They draw a struggling Chicago team next week back in SoCal so if they can survive this one maybe their confidence will build. Dates loom with Baltimore and Seattle (both at home) then consecutive road games in Dallas and San Francisco so nothing is certain for this team when it comes to the playoffs. Los Angeles has the fifth ranked passing offense, but only 11 TD passes. Pittsburgh is 27th and has that many and even with backups has allowed only 8 sacks. Aaron Donald is returning to his college town and will want to test that. The Steelers have the better pass defense with 11 interceptions and 29 sacks, plus Fitzpatrick now at their disposal. The Rams added Ramsey after losing a couple veterans. It’s interesting based on which team protects their guy. Both teams are draggin in the running game, shy of 4 yards per carry and 100 yards per game. The run defenses are competent and in the end one team has Gurley and the other is down to backups. I think it’s close. I could really see an upset here because the visitors are erratic. It’s a physical game so a warm weather team on the road in the cold is a weird situation. They get it in a close one: LA Rams 23, Pittsburgh 20 (PIT +4/under 45.5)

Carolina (5-3) @ Green Bay (7-2); Will the tundra be frozen? The forecast is snow and 19 degrees so that’s fun. It’s a playoff atmosphere as well to be sure. Newton has been shut down for the season so it’s on Allen now for the Panthers. They rebounded from the ugly loss at San Francisco to dispose of Tennessee 30-20. This is a really tough spot on the road for the young passer though, and also his MVP contender lead back who as tough as he is really isn’t a frozen turf guy. The Packers are off kilter a bit after being embarrassed at the Chargers last week in a 26-11 loss. Their defense is shaky, that’s a fact. It hurt them in Los Angeles, allowing 442 total yards and more importantly 35:51 time of possession. Rodgers and the offense ran only 49 plays and never got into rhythm, managing only 13 first downs and 184 yards. It’s hard not to overreact to a result like that given how consistently poor their defense has been, even against the Chiefs playing with Moore at quarterback. Obviously the Packers are better by a wide margin in passing offense and have thrown only 2 interceptions. The Panthers have only 9 TD passes and it’s tough to see Allen really doing a lot in these conditions. Carolina’s pass defense has 12 interceptions and 34 sacks so that side is ready to impact the game regardless of the weather. The Panthers are a lot better running the ball, powering to 5.1 per carry with 13 touchdowns. The Packers have a good backfield, but not an impact guy like McCaffrey. Both run defenses are in the bottom 10 and Carolina actually allows more yards per carry (5.1 to 4.7) and more touchdowns (14 to 10) than a defense that can’t stop anyone. The quarterback advantage is huge here it’s just that simple. In poor weather that becomes more important. Mistakes are going to ruin the young signal caller and make this a comfortable win for the home side: Green Bay 24, Carolina 17 (GB -5/under 48)

Minnesota (6-3) @ Dallas (5-3): It’s always nice to see a primetime matchup feature winning teams with playoff aspirations. Cousins struggles against winning teams and that’s just the way it is. The Vikings lost in Kansas City last week and it really wasn’t his fault. They had the lead and allowed two long field goals late to beat them, sandwiched around an awful punt. It snapped a four game winning streak and kept them from claiming a share of the division lead. The Cowboys have won a couple in a row, scoring 37 points in each contest against NFC East foes to climb atop their division as they prepare for the second half of the season. Their schedule is rough and the next two weeks are on the road (Detroit, New England) before a short rest hosting Buffalo on Thanksgiving. Dallas is fourth in passing offense, protects Prescott and has Cooper healthy again. Minnesota is a middling aerial attack and while they have thrown only 3 interceptions, Thielen is out. Both pass defenses are top 10 and while the Vikings have more sacks (28 to 22) while having played one more game they have also allowed way more touchdown passes (15 to 7). These are two top 4 rushing offenses with a true feature back capable of dominating. Minnesota is ninth and Dallas eleventh in rushing defense, and the Vikings have allowed only 2 rushing scores. If the visitors are up to it defensively they are going to win this game. I don’t trust them a lot on the road. They just lost to Moore. I think it’s a close game throughout. The home team is confident and squeezes this one out: Dallas 24, Minnesota 23 (MIN +3/over 45.5)

Seattle (7-2) @ San Francisco (8-0): If the SNF game is a big one for the NFC playoff picture, this one is massive for the NFC West race on MNF. It’s like the Rams, the defending conference champions, no longer exist. The 49ers are coming off ostensibly a bye week going from TNF to this one. They are well rested and survived a desert scare in Arizona, only the second win this season decided by a single possession. They are 3-0 at home this season and spend the entire month at home. On the downside their stud tight end Kittle and kicker Gould look to be out. In a tight matchup that’s a bummer. The Seahawks are coming off a wild 40-34 OT win over Tampa Bay. They are now 6-1 in games decided by a single score and continue finding ways to win behind their MVP caliber signal caller. I mean 22 TD passes against a single interception is a pretty good way to win some hardware. They added Gordon at receiver and he’ll suit up here. San Francisco already has seen what Sanders can do for them, their trade acquisition, and it’s a good look. Seattle has a better passing offense and Wilson is a baller even if Jimmy G has the unreal record as a starting quarterback. The 49ers lead the NFL in pass defense and will be fired up at home under the lights. The Seahawks are giving up 278.1 yards per game as one of the worst pass defenses in the league and have only 15 sacks. San Francisco is second in rushing offense and considering they get no yardage from their quarterback it’s impressive to see them run for 171.1 yards per game. Seattle is eighth and their offense is balanced. The run defenses are statistically almost identical, each allowing 4.7 yards per carry and just shy of 103 yards per game. If those trends hold it’s going to be a game filled with long drives and physical play. I’m not sure I love the home team here. They are due for a flat performance and could choke. The visitors have been here before. Still, I have to stick with the team that hasn’t lost yet: San Francisco 23, Seattle 21 (SEA +6.5/under 47)

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