Washington Redskins @ Tennessee Titans -10 O/U 37
Shoutout to me for having both these teams last week. Anyways onto this game. The Titans are playing their best football of the year and may end up as the best team to miss the playoffs. Their losses to the Colts and Texans right after beating the Patriots may prove to be costly. Right now I think if the Titans can get into the playoffs they can get to the Super Bowl. That is how well they are playing. Derrick Henry is running everybody over and it’s almost as if Mike Vrabel saved him for this stretch run. He is so big that defenders just don’t want to hit him. He should fare well this week against Washington’s rush defense that is ranked 4th worst in rushing defense efficiency. I can see the Titans covering this one easily and the over will probably hit too. The Redskins do not have the benefit of facing Cody Kessler this week so they will probably struggle as they had been before last week.
Baltimore Ravns @ LA Chargers -4.5 O/U 44
These teams both play at an extremely slow pace which makes me love the under. I see the final score in the 21-17 range. This one is tough to handicap and the line appears pretty spot on. The Chargers are ranked 2nd in overall efficiency (2nd offense, 12th defense, 29th ST) and the Ravens are ranked 6th (14th offense, 2nd defense, 6th ST). We have seen the Ravens have some success in recent weeks with Lamar Jackson at QB. They have been implementing a run first offense that takes up time of possession and keeps their dominant defense off the field. They have had the advantage of facing 5 of the 6 worst defenses in the league. This week is a different story as they go up against the Chargers 12th ranked defense that has been trending upwards since the return of Joey Bosa. We saw last week when the Chargers played the Chiefs that you cannot be one dimensional against this Chargers team. Without the Chiefs dominant run game they had early on with Kareem Hunt they were not able to keep the Chargers offense off the field. I see the Ravens having the same issue this week. As I mentioned before, the Chargers play at an extremely slow pace but they are still very efficient. Their quick strike ability could be a huge issue for the Ravens if they fall into a hole early. The Ravens do not have an offense that can keep up with the Chargers. One thing the Ravens will have on their side is the crowd. Even with the Chargers recent success I still don’t see a lot of Chargers fans going to this game (because they don’t really exist). This game will be filled with mostly Ravens fans for sure. I’m still leaning Chargers and under here.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns -9 O/U 44.5
This line opened at -7 and has ballooned to -9. I have the feeling that is public money as the Browns have basically become ‘America’s Team’ at this point. Also the Browns won very convincingly in their first matchup where they quickly raced out to a 28-0 lead before winning 35-20. This line is not just all public perception though. The Browns have been very much improved since Hue Jackson was fired and Freddie Kitchens took over the offense. The Bengals on the other hand have been in a huge decline since losing AJ Green. They have looked slightly improved the last two weeks in a loss at the Chargers and in a win against Oakland. They have been feeding Joe Mixon and he has produced, 26 carries for 111 yards and a TD against the Chargers and 27 carries for 129 yards and 2 TDs against the Raiders. They face a Browns defense that is ranked 23rd in rushing efficiency so that will be an intriguing matchup. This game will also be a much tougher test for Bengals QB Jeff Driskel as he goes from playing the Raiders defense ranked 2nd worst in passing efficiency to playing the Browns defense ranked 6th best. I can’t get a good enough read on either of these teams to make a definitive pick. I will be staying away from this one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys -7 O/U 47.5
We saw last week that the Cowboys recent success is not for real. They got blown out on the road by a Colts team that is playing much better than them. What the Cowboys have done well this year is beat bad teams (other than the Saints) and they face another one this week when the Bucs come to town. That doesn’t mean I’m jumping to take the Cowboys. This line seems a bit inflated because even though the Cowboys have a better record than the Bucs they really aren’t a much better team. The Cowboys are ranked 20th in overall efficiency (26th offense, 9th defense 21st ST) compared to the Bucs ranked 25th (11th offense, 29th defense 31st ST). Not a huge difference by any means. This game, as all Cowboys games have, will come down to how well Ezekiel Elliot plays. If he is able to get around 30 touches and move the ball well as the Cowboys did in their 5 game win streak than the Cowboys should win here. If not, we could see the Cowboys struggle. Luckily for them they’re facing a Bucs defense that is ranked 31st in rushing efficiency and just gave up over 200 rushing yards to the Ravens last week. The Ravens rush defense is only ranked 3 spots higher than the Cowboys so that is definitely a possibility. I think the Bucs show up and play well in Jerry World. Two weeks ago they got off to a hot start against the Saints but were unable to close the game out and ended up losing 28-14. I can see the Bucs getting off to a good start in this game as well. The only difference being is I think the Bucs can hang on to cover the spread or win the game outright.
Minnesota Vikings -5.5 @ Detroit Lions O/U 42.5
I thought the Lions were going to be a lot better than they have been this year. I appeared to be on the right track after they beat the Patriots in week 3, then after beating the Packers and Dolphins bringing their record to 3-3 and 5-1 against the spread. Things fell apart quickly for them as they lost their next 3 games including a 24-9 loss in Minnesota where the Vikings sacked Matt Stafford 10 times. That was also the first game after the Lions traded Golden Tate signifying that they were building for the future and that success was not a priority this season. At the time he was the Lions leading receiver but his role has been taken over by Kenny Golladay who has played very well this year. After firing their offensive coordinator, the Vikings finally made their running game a priority last week and had their best offensive output of the season. Their offense also improved from being ranked last in rushing efficiency to being ranked 4th last which is still terrible but a huge difference after one week. It will be much tougher for them to move the ball on the road against a Lions defense that has been playing well as of late. In their last 5 games they have allowed 19 points to the Panthers, 16 to the Bears, 30 to the Rams, 3 to the Cardinals and 14 to the Bills. Even in their last game against the Vikings the Lions defense only allowed 17 points. Granted that 3 of those 6 teams are ranked in the bottom 10 of offensive efficiency including the Cardinals and Bills who are ranked last and second to last respectively. The other team was the Bears who were playing without their starting QB. Still I see the Vikings having trouble here. Matt Patricia is a good coach and he will be better prepared for this game after already seeing the Vikings before and having success against them. It will be more difficult for the Vikings to repeat their past performance of getting 10 sacks. This is the last Lions home game and I see them winning it outright.
NY Giants @ Indianapolis Colts -9.5 O/U 47
The Giants look dead and the Colts have played very well at home. The line is a little bit of an overreaction to the Giants getting shut out last week. I still could never find myself holding a Giants ticket in this game. Three of the Giants win have come against teams ranked in the bottom half of defensive efficiency. Not to mention the Colts actually have something to play for as they have not yet secured a playoff birth. The AFC South is loaded this year with the Texans Colts and Titans all playing very well and we may only see one of those teams make the playoffs. The Colts are the only side I would bet this game but I will be staying away from this one entirely.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Miami Dolphins -4.5 O/U 38.5
Puke. The real losers here are people who paid money to go to this game. This line comes down to one thing and one thing only, Cody Kessler. The Jaguars are ranked 18th in overall efficiency (29th offense, 5th defense, 3rd ST) compared to the Dolphins at 24th (19th offense, 26th defense, 16th ST). For as bad as I think Cody Kessler is, I think this line is a little bit inflated due to his recent failures and the Dolphins home success. The Dolphins probably shouldn’t be 4 point favorites to anybody except maybe the Cardinals. Even at home. It took a lot of lucky bounces for the Redskins for the Jaguars to lose last week even with Cody Kessler only throwing for 57 yards on 17 attempts. His interception at the end was ultimately the deciding factor but the ball bounced right off his receivers hands. The Jaguars wide receivers have struggled with drops all year as Blake Bortles still leads the league in having the highest percentage of his passes dropped. That combined with a 3rd and long conversion where a Josh Johnson pass was under-thrown, tipped in the air by the defender and then caught for a first down. This conversion kept the Redskins drive going which resulted in their only touchdown of the day. The Redskins also had the advantage of having no film out on their QB. The Dolphins will not have all of the same benefits that the Redskins were able to take advantage of last week. The Jaguars will probably win this game outright. At the very least they will cover an inflated spread.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots -13 O/U 44.5
Despite the high spread this one is pretty easy. The pick is the Patriots. For the last 15 seasons whenever they have lost back to back games the following game has been a double digit win. Combine that with the Patriots playing at home and their opponent is ranked 2nd worst in overall efficiency. This is also Bill Belichick’s first time coaching against Bills rookie QB Josh Allen. He will be looking to expose his inexperience. The Patriots recent struggles are a little bit overblown. If the season ended today, 4 of the 5 teams the Patriots have lost to would not be making the playoffs. The teams that beat the Patriots are 0-4 so far in the following week. The average margin of defeat in those games is 14.25 points. These teams are giving it all they have to beat the Patriots and then they fall flat the next week. We will see if Pittsburgh follows suit but this is not new. This has been a common theme throughout the past decade plus. The Patriots inspire a Super Bowl like effort from the opposing players and coaching staff every week. It is a big deal for any team to beat the Patriots. If the Patriots win it’s just business as usual. We saw the Jaguars beat the Patriots in week 2 and people were ready to crown them AFC champions. They’re 4-10 now. The Patriots are taking everybody’s best shot week after week and still have a very good record. What I am most impressed with is who the Patriots have beat rather than who they have lost to. That list is much more impressive and includes the Texans, Colts, Chiefs and Bears. The defense has been improving every week and held the Steelers 5th ranked offense to just 17 points. This game should be a cake-walk for the Patriots as they set their sights on the playoffs and another Lombardi trophy. It seems like Bill Belichick has been more careful to not burn out his players after the controversies that arose last year. Something tells me this offense and defense will both be playing their best come playoff time.
Green Bay Packers -3 @ NY Jets O/U 46
This game is very interesting, in a disgusting way. No chance I would want to watch this game but it still is very intriguing. The Packers have been a disappointment this year. After being one of the favorites to win the division they have already been knocked out of playoff contention. They fired their coach Mike McCarthy and are looking forward to next season. The Jets have had an up and down season but have played well for the most part. In their non-divsional matchups 5 of the 6 teams the Jets have lost to are ranked in the top 10 of defensive efficiency with the other team being the Titans at 13. They also have wins against good defenses with the Broncos (4th) and Colts (11th). Last week against the Texans (7th) they were very close to pulling out a win. Morris Claiborne was called for holding on a late 3rd down that kept the Texans drive alive on a play where the ball was thrown way over the receivers head. The Packers defense is ranked 24th which is by far the worst non-division opponent they have played since the Lions in week 1. The Jets offense has been the 3rd worst in efficiency metrics but they have played by far the toughest schedule of opposing defenses. Out of the Packers 5 wins, 3 of them have com against teams ranked in the bottom 10 of defensive efficiency. The other two wins were the Bears in week 1 and the Bills in week 4. They have not fared well against teams ranked in the top half of defensive efficiency which the Jets are right at the border of, ranked 16th. The Packers have also not won a road game all season going 0-7 so far. I see the Packers struggling here against a motivated Jets team. This game feels like it means a lot more to the Jets. They only have one fewer win than the Packers but the Packers were supposed to be competing for a Super Bowl. Now they are just finishing out what they view as a wasted season while the Jets continue to build something for next year. This is also the last home game for the Jets and I think they go out in style. I see the Jets winning this game. Plus this will is ultimate torture for Jets fans that they endure seemingly every year. Winning a late game that doesn’t matter and worsening their draft position.
Houston Texans @ Philadelphia Eagles -2.5 O/U 46
Gotta love the public overreaction when the Super Bowl champs win a game. The Eagles have been such a disappointment this year and it has been awesome betting against them. Even after beating the Rams I am not sold on the Eagles at all. The Rams turned the ball over 3 times but still had a chance at winning the game at the end. The Eagles (17th) are still ranked lower in overall efficiency than the Texans (14th) so this line is definitely inflated by public perception. The Texans defense has played well so far this year and are ranked 7th in overall efficiency (22nd passing, 2nd rushing). There are definitely holes in the Texans secondary if QBs can get the time to find open receivers. On the other side the Eagles defense is ranked 20th (20th passing, 14th rushing) and have lost almost their entire starting secondary to injury. This will be where the Texans look to take advantage with their offense ranked 11th in passing efficiency. I can’t escape my gut feeling to take the Texans in this game. The Eagles are dealing with so many injuries and I am not sold on Nick Foles as a passer or Doug Pedersen as a coach. Last year was magical, but the Rams are the only team the Eagles have defeated this year that would currently be in the playoffs. I don’t think the Eagles can repeat that performance again this week. The Texans are looking to clinch their division this week and I think they will. Also the Texans have an extra day of rest and the Eagles had one day of cross country travel in between last week and this week. I think the Texans win outright and finally put the Eagles out of their misery.
Falcons -3.5 @ Panthers O/U 43.5
After a 6 game losing streak the Panthers are out of the playoffs and Cam Newton is done for the season. He is a huge part of the reason why the Panthers offense is ranked 2nd in rushing efficiency. The Panthers defense has not played well ranking 26th in overall efficiency (28th passing, 13th rushing) but the Falcons have been worse and are last in defensive efficiency (30th passing, 30th rushing). This week that should not matter too much as they face off against Panthers backup QB Taylor Heinicke. The Falcons won their game last week in a blowout and I expect them to do the same this week. Their offense is ranked 10th overall (8th passing, 26th rushing) and should have no problems moving the ball against the Panthers defense. They put up 31 points in their first matchup and I expect them to get more here.
LA Rams -14 @ Arizona Cardinals O/U 44
These games are no fun to handicap. Should the Rams cover this spread? Probably. Will they cover this spread? Probably. Will I bet it? Probably not. Will I watch it? Unfortunately yes, since the NFL only schedules 3 games in the afternoon time slot. I would like to take this time to make another formal complaint about the NFL scheduling process. We need more games in the afternoon time slot. Everybody loves when these games are on the east coast because it feels like a night game. Just like the Steelers Patriots game last week. We need more of that.
Chicago Bears -4 @ San Francisco 49ers O/U 43
Since taking over the starting QB job in San Francisco Nick Mullens has played very well. This includes throwing for 10 TDs which is more than Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in that time. This week he faces his toughest test with the Bears number 1 defense. The Bears have clinched their division but are still chasing the Rams in hopes to get a first round bye. This matchup includes two very good play-callers and offensive minds in Matt Nagy and Kyle Shanahan. My gut feeling is that this game will go over with these two offensive minded coaches. Even with the Bears excellent defense I think Kyle Shanahan will find a way to get his team in the end zone.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ NO Saints -6 O/U 53
The Saints can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with a win in either of their final two games. The Saints offense has struggled lately on the road scoring only 10, 28 and 12 points in their last 3 games, all of which were on the road. They return home this week to play the Steelers who are looking to hold on to their slim lead in their division. The Steelers are coming off a win against the Patriots but they did not play very well in. Ben Roethlisberger threw for only 235 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs and they only scored 17 points. Their running game did well getting 158 yards on just 25 carries but they face a much tougher matchup against the Saints rush defense, ranked 3rd in rushing defense efficiency. Ben Roethlisberger’s road struggles are well documented as well. For these reasons, I’m leaning towards taking the Saints in this game. Along with the coaching advantage of Sean Payton over Mike Tomlin. Every team that has defeated the Patriots this year has treated it like their Super Bowl and lost the following week. I think the Steelers will follow suit here.
Kansas City Chiefs -2.5 @ Seattle Seahawks O/U 53.5
If Kareem Hunt never kicked someone in the head 10 months ago this game would be a whole lot less exciting. The Chiefs have looked vulnerable since losing their best running back. Taking Kareem Hunt away makes the Chiefs offense much more predictable. The Seahawks defense has definitely regressed this year but they play much better at home. The line is just about perfect here which makes this game tough to handicap. I think this game goes a little bit slower than people are expecting and I expect it to go under.
Denver Broncos -3 @ Oakland Raiders O/U 43.5
Puke. This game is gross but the Raiders have been playing better at home lately. The Broncos haven’t been able to move the ball since losing Emmanuel Sanders. They face a much easier task this week with the Raiders defense that is ranked 30th in overall efficiency. This will still be a tough game for them to cover. The Raiders have been resurgent lately especially at home. I’m still not convinced enough by either of these teams to make a wager. If I had to pick I would lean slightly to the Raiders.