Carolina Panthers @ Pittsburgh Steelers -4 O/U 52
Both of these teams are on a roll going into their Thursday night matchup. Both teams are coming off division wins too, but in very different ways. The Steelers won a hard fought physical battle in Baltimore over the Ravens and the Panthers won a blowout at home. The Steelers always play very tough physical games against the Ravens and have lost in their following week in 3 of their last 4 victories over the Ravens. This includes both weeks after sweeping the Ravens last year. They are facing a Panthers team whose offense has been hot the past few weeks which include a 36-21 drubbing of the same Ravens the Steelers just played. Although Pittsburgh has been improving their defense is only ranked 21st in overall efficiency. The other teams included in the Steelers win streak are the Falcons, Bengals and Browns. I have said all year that Carolina has been disrespected by the bookmakers and that still holds true here. The Panthers are ranked 3rd in overall efficiency where the Steelers are ranked 11th. Even with the home field advantage, the Steelers should not be more than a 1 point favorite. Get on the Panthers early before the line moves down to 3 or less.
Buffalo Bills @ NY Jets -7.5 O/U 37
For all the attention Sam Darnold got for his struggles this past week, he has not come close to the incompetence of Nathan Peterman. The bookmakers agree by making the Jets more than a touchdown favorite with the total only being at 37. The Bills and Jets both have great defenses, ranked 2nd and 7th respectively. The same cannot be said about their offenses. The Jets rank 3rd to last and the Bills rank dead last and are on pace to have one of the worst offenses in NFL history. I don’t know where to start with handicapping this one. The Jets have at least shown that their offense can put up some points. The Bills offense on the other hand have scored double digit points in only 4 of their 9 games. If I had to, I would reluctantly take the Jets here but I probably won’t find myself betting this game.
New England Patriots -7 @ Tennessee Titans O/U 46.5
This is the most intriguing game to me on Sunday. The Titans come home after a win in Dallas that followed their bye week. The Patriots are on a 6 game win streak where they have looked like their familiar dominant self in the process. This game has the added storylines of Titans coach Mike Vrabel coaching against his mentor and former coach Bill Belichick. The Titans also have a few former Patriots playing prominent roles on their team with Dion Lewis, Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler.The numbers say that New England should cover this game and I agree. The Patriots are ranked 6th in overall efficiency (7th on offense, 13th on defense) and the Titans are ranked 22 (26th offense, 20th defense). The Patriots have had success against Mike Vrabel coached defenses in the past and I look for that to continue here. Also playing former Patriots is a huge advantage for the Patriots. There is no coach who is better at knowing players strengths and weaknesses than Bill Belichick. So when a player is on the Patriots, Bill puts them in position to succeed and when they are no loner Patriots he knows how to take advantage of their weaknesses. Tom Brady should have a field day against this secondary and the Patriots should cover this one easily.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears -6.5 O/U 45
I had the Lions last week. That was a bad pick. This week they play on the road again against another NFC north opponent. The line is pretty high but I am surprised it is not higher after the Vikings got 10 sacks on the Lions last week. Now the Lions travel to Chicago to play against the leagues best defense. The Lions offense has ben extremely inconsistent this year, no matter the opponent. After two straight games scoring over 30 points, the Lions followed that up with their last two games scoring 14 and 9 points. The numbers certainly give the advantage to the Bears, who are ranked 4th in overall efficiency (10th offense, 1st defense) over the Lions ranked 29th (18th offense 29th defense). The only thing is the Lions season has been so weird and inconsistent that a win here would almost make perfect sense for them. I’m leaning towards the Lions but will probably stay away.
NO Saints -5 @ Cincinnatti Bengals O/U 54
The Bengals are coming off a bye and will be without wide receiver AJ Green. This line is exactly where it should be and will probably trend higher as game time approaches. Marvin Lewis is not a great coach and the Bengals have not been good coming out of the bye week. They have lost 3 of their last 4 games and that trend should continue here. Their offense has been mediocre and inconsistent this year. Ranked only 12th despite facing the 2nd easiest schedule of opposing defenses. Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense have struggled mightily in the past when AJ Green is out. AJ Green is the best player at his position in the NFL when healthy and he gives room for the running game and the other wide receivers to flourish. His departure is always a big deal and this week will be no different. I see the Bengals having a tough time moving the ball in this game. The Saints are on a roll and have won 7 straight games. Their offense is ranked 4th in overall efficiency and just added Dez Bryant for extra depth at receiver. The only thing the Bengals have going for them is that the Saints next two games after this one are big games against the Eagles and Falcons. They may be due for a let down against a weaker opponent here but I do not see it happening. I don’t think the Bengals have ever covered the spread without AJ Green. I may be wrong but I know it won’t happen here. The Saints should cover this number easily. This is one of those lines where it feels almost too easy and you try to find any angle you can as to why the Bengals will have a chance. I just don’t see it.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts -3 O/U 47
Both of these teams are coming off a bye week with the same record. The outlook for the two teams could are polar opposites. The Jaguars are very disappointed with their 3-5 start and losing 4 straight after being in the AFC Championship last year. The Colts on the other hand had meager expectations and have won 2 straight games to bring themselves to 3-5. Both teams could potentially make the playoffs but this game will be big for both of them. The Jaguars offense has had its struggles, ranked only 28th. They get a bit of a break this week facing a Colts defense that is ranked only 22nd. The Jaguars should get Leonard Fournette back this week as well which will be a huge addition for their offense. This game is a make or break game for Blake Bortles and the entire Jaguars team. They need to win this game to have any shot at winning the division or making the playoffs. I think they get the job done here and win the game outright. I also think this one starts slow. I like the first half under.
Atlanta Falcons -4.5 @ Cleveland Browns O/U 51
One of the main things to monitor here is the injury status of Browns CB Denzel Ward. He has been a game changer defensively and has helped the Browns achieve being ranked 2nd in pass defense. His injury in last weeks game proved to be a big loss. The Browns overall defensive efficiency went from 3rd to 11th. Despite winning last week the Falcons are still not the best team playing outdoors. Their defense is horrible and caught a break last week against a Washington team whose offense struggles just as much. I don’t think signing Bruce Irvin will be the answer for a defense ranked 30th in overall efficiency. The Browns offense has struggled as well but looked improved last week in their first game since Hue Jackson was fired. I like the Browns to score a lot of points here. I think the line is also a bit inflated. I think the Browns cover and the over hits.
Washington @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers -3 O/U 51.5
This line makes no sense to me. I guess the Bucs are getting 3 points for being at home and the outlook that they perform better with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Washington’s defense is currently ranked 25th but they took a huge tumble after going into the week ranked 14th. The Bucs defense is ranked dead last and has been there for most of the year. Washington’s offense has had it’s share of struggles this year incuding only getting 14 points last week. Despite their offensive struggles Washington seems like more of a close knit team. They play for each other and for their coach. Tampa Bay on the other hand has struggled all season with being ill-prepared and their defense has been affected that the most. This is another game where I do not see them being well prepared. The only issue for Washington is that they will be without 4 of their 5 starting offensive linemen. That was certainly an issue last week and the Bucs defensive line has been pretty good this year, ranked 5th against the run and 14th against the pass. You also have Desean Jackson playing his former team and in those games he is almost always due for a big play touchdown catch. I still think this will be a tough number for them to cover.
Arizona Cardinals @ KC Chiefs -17 O/U 50
There is no way I would be on either side of this game. The Chiefs are clearly the better team but this spread is way too high. Their defense is not very good and a backdoor cover that has no meaning for the outcome is entirely possible. Also this will be the Cardinals 2nd game with Byron Leftwich at offensive coordinator. The Cardinals were very much improved in their last game against the 49ers and their coaching staff has had an extra week to prepare for the Chiefs. The Cardinals defense has been good this year, ranked 8th in overall efficiency. If they can get some production from their offense they should have no problem covering this number. The Chiefs may have no issue covering this number either with how great their offense has been. This is one I will be staying away from.
LA Chargers -10 @ Oakland Raiders O/U 50
Have the Raiders completely quit? It seems that way. I said on Thursday the 49ers would have no issue with the Raiders and win big, and they did. The Raiders have looked completely inept on both sides of the ball all year and it was all on display in their 34-3 loss in primetime. The Raiders have the benefit of having extra time to prepare this week. That may not matter for a team that has not been prepared no matter the situation. This week they play a Chargers team that does everything well. I don’t think this game will go well for the Raiders. I am interested in seeing how bad things in Oakland will get with Jon Gruden coaching. Only one more game until we can cash our under 8 wins ticket.
Miami Dolphins @ Green Bay Packers -10 O/U 47.5
The Packers are definitely overvalued here but would anyone back the Dolphins with Brock Osweiler as QB in Lambeau Field? I’m thinking about it. This line has a lot to do with public perception because the Packers are only ranked one spot higher in overall efficiency than the Dolphins (13th and 14th). They had trouble on offense last week against the Jets but the Jets defense is better than the Packers, ranked 7th overall compared to 24th. The Dolphins offense has a reputation that is worse than their ranking. The Dolphins overall as a team do not move the needle but they are always competitive and well prepared. Adam Gase is a good coach, and much better than his counterpart this Sunday in Mike McCarthy. The Packers on the other hand have one of the NFLs biggest stars in Aaron Rodgers and have a large following. This line is so high because of that. 10 points is way too many. I can see the Dolphins covering this game easily.
Seattle Seahawks @ LA Rams -10 O/U 51
I want to use this space to once again complain about the NFL not scheduling games in the 4:05 and 4:25 time slots. There are 8 early games and only 3 late games. Not to mention the 3 late games this week all have 10 point spreads so on paper they don’t even look like good games. The Patriots Titans game would have been an awesome afternoon game. During this time of year when the sun sets earlier so you get a little bit of that sunset in the game. The NFL does not have enough east coast late afternoon games and I will continue to bring awareness to this epidemic until something is done. Anyway, onto this game. The Seahawks have no shot. They kept this game close at home but ultimately lost late. I don’t think they will be in this game the same way. The Seahawks run defense was thrashed last week by Melvin Gordon. I expect Todd Gurley to do the same here and I think the Rams win this one easy but I’m wary of a backdoor cover. I will probably be staying away from this one.
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles -7 O/U 43
How awesome is it that the Cowboys are on national TV again? What is this the fourth time this year? America is the land of mediocrity so the Cowboys are the perfect fit to be America’s team. As much as I am sick of seeing this team, 7 points seems like a little too much. This line is the ultimate public perception line. We have the team that won the Super Bowl last year, coming off a bye, playing at home against their division rival that just lost a big game in prime time and has looked mediocre all year. Since the Cowboys have been on prime time so much this year, everyone has had the opportunity to be put to sleep by them. The Eagles on the other hand have been overvalued all year after winning the Super Bowl last year. They have definitely dealt with a Super Bowl hangover and are only 4-4, 3-5 against the spread. I think this is another game they will have trouble covering. I am still not sold on the Eagles being a good team.
NY Giants @ San Francisco 49ers -3 O/U 44
Nick Mullens in just his second start has the 49ers favored by 3 points. Let me use this space to remind you that least week I predicted Nick Mullens and the 49ers success despite the line moving from SF -3 to OAK -1. This week I am not sure what is going to happen with these teams. I expect the 49ers to be well prepared, as they have been all season. The Giants actually rank one spot higher than the 49ers in efficiency metrics (25 and 26) but they looked especially bad leading up to their bye week. I can not find myself in good conscience betting on the Giants with how bad Eli Manning has been. I’m not sure I want to lay points with the 49ers either. This is one I will probably not touch. This could be ugly