What a week of games this is going to be! You’ve got multiple games on the schedule that have divisional and playoff implications, with some great drama implicit in the matchups, both personality wise and good old fashioned revenge games. This is a showcase week for the best the NFL has to offer.
From my standpoint, I had what you’d call a “slow recovery” week, posting winning margins both overall and in Best Picks, but only by the tiniest of margins. If you’re looking for a descriptive label for what part of the season we’re in now, I’d call it Midseason Adjustment time (sort of like having a midlife crisis, only with Chuck Pagano and Rex Ryan). In other words, it’s time to now permanently downgrade those teams that up until now you’ve looked at just “disappointing.” Similarly, it’s time to give proper credit to teams like Minnesota and, perhaps, Oakland, who have shown that they are not just getting lucky or playing an easy schedule, but are capable of competing with whomever is on their schedule that week. Making these adjustments before the betting public does is a great way to get spread value on these teams who may still be giving or getting points based on early season assumptions.
Last Week’s Picks: 9-7 Best: 3-2
Season Totals: 54-56-4 Best: 15-13
Detroit (+4.5) @Kansas City (MGM Mirage)
Another game in London, which means you can watch some early morning (9:30 a.m. Eastern) football on Sunday. The history of these games has typically favored the better team, and while Kansas City has struggled since losing Jamaal Charles, their problems are nothing compared to snake bitten Detroit. The Chiefs still have a good defense, and the Lions weak areas are exactly what Kansas City should be able to exploit. I fear nothing can save the Lions from themselves, and 4.5 points ain’t enough.
Kansas City Chiefs 24 Detroit Lions 13
Minnesota (pick ‘em) @Chicago (5Dimes)
Wondering why the obviously superior team (Minnesota) is in a pick ‘em game against the crappy Bears, remember that this is a divisional rivalry game with a long history. Part of that history includes the Vikings having lost every game they’ve played in Chicago for the last 8 years. I’ll be damned if I’m taking the Bears though. You can’t trust them. For that reason, I wouldn’t bet this game on either side.
Minnesota Vikings 23 Chicago Bears 20
Tampa Bay (+7) @Atlanta (Westgate Superbook)
Tampa Bay is coming off a strong outing against Washington, you might be tempted to think that getting a touchdown is a good deal here. Picking against the Falcons at home, however, is a dicey proposition, and you can’t ignore the fact that Jameis Winston (typical for a rookie QB) alternates excellent performances with sub par ones. Atlanta’s defense is also pretty solid, so I don’t think the Buccaneers will have much success trading scores with Matt Ryan. I initially thought I might try the over on this game as well, but at 48.5, I’m not touching it.
Atlanta Falcons 31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
San Francisco @St. Louis o/u 40 (Stations)
High powered defense (St. Louis) vs. chasing its own tail offense. Strong running game (and slow passing game) vs. poor running defense. It all adds up to a clock eating slow moving game that ultimately will not produce many points. Even though 40 is a pretty low number, I’ll go lower.
St. Louis Rams 22 San Francisco 49ers 10
Arizona (-4.5) @Cleveland (Westgate Superbook)
Josh McCown is probable for this game, so I’m rather uneasy with giving the points here. Arizona has looked, at times, like the best team in the NFL, but they’ve also been a little streaky, coming up small when you least expect it. I don’t trust the Browns enough to want to take them here, but I’m also afraid enough of Cleveland’s ability to keep the game competitive to like the other side either. I’m giving the points on paper, but I wouldn’t touch this game.
Arizona Cardinals 26 Cleveland Browns 20
Cincinnati (+1) @Pittsburgh (Wynn Las Vegas)
This is another game where you’re looking at taking a risk no matter which you side you play. The Bengals are, of course, unbeaten, and have played very well on both sides of the ball. That said, Cincinnati does NOT own this divisional matchup: Andy Dalton is 2-6 against the Steelers and the Bengals overall have dropped 8 of the last 10 meetings. On the flip side, Pittsburgh gets Ben Roethlisberger back, and has possibly the impressive cadre of offensive weapons in the entire NFL. But is Big Ben 100% and can the Steelers’ banged up line give him enough protection to do his magic. The Steelers’ defense is also a far sight less talented than the offense, so what to do? I’m taking Pittsburgh here for the simple reason that the trend is on their side and no matter how good you think the Bengals are, you can’t possibly think they’re going 16-0 this season. Steelers in a very fun to watch shootout.
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Cincinnati Bengals 28
San Diego (+3.5) @Baltimore (Westgate Superbook)
Normally, I’d pick a struggling team like Baltimore to snap out of it with a home game against a West Coast opponent traveling East who is also struggling. But I just can’t do it with the Ravens anymore. To me, this team is as poison as the Lions and until they actually show they can win a football game, I’m off of them. Not only do I want the 3.5 points, I like San Diego to win outright. Philip Rivers, despite his team’s struggles, is having a monster season. He’ll shred the Ravens poor pass defense mercilessly.
San Diego Chargers 27 Baltimore Ravens 21
Tennessee (+4) @Houston (CarbonSports.ag)
If you watched even 5 minutes of the Texans’ game last week, you know you’re dealing with more than just a talent gap, this is team with zero fight in them who will quit at the first sign of trouble. By contrast, the Titans have shown that they are game no matter how much adversity they face. Marcus Mariota is questionable for this game, but he’s not that much better than his back up at this point, what makes me like Tennessee here is much more the difference in on the field effort. Need more convincing? The Texans are without Arian Foster for this game. While I don’t have the exact numbers for their record without him, I assure you they are pretty bad. I think the Titans can pull the upset.
Tennessee Titans 16 Houston Texans 14
NY Jets (-1) @Oakland (MGM Mirage)
I wouldn’t touch this game. At all. The Jets are coming off an emotional loss to New England and that could either have them playing angry, looking to take it out on Oakland, or have them so preoccupied with last week’s opponent that they look past the Raiders which would be a HUGE mistake. Oakland showed what they’re capable of when they blew the Chargers clean off the field last week, but New York’s defense is for real and as much as I like Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, they ain’t Brady and Gronk. Not even close. Not yet anyway. My heart wants to go with the Raiders but my head says the Jets find a way to win this one. Don’t be surprised if this is an OT game BTW.
New York Jets 23 Oakland Raiders 20
Seattle (-7) @Dallas (5Dimes)
The Seahawks have probably had this game circled on their calendar for a while. Remember, the Cowboys win at Seattle last season put them on the map as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. I think Seattle will be able to answer the bell and keep Dallas in the loss column this week. Part of the reason is the switch to Matt Cassel was a mistake – Brandon Weeden was playing better, but the main reason is that Dallas has shown zero ability to compensate for the loss of Tony Romo the way the Steelers were able to tread water when Roethlisberger was out. As a result, you have to like the Seahawks, but not by 7 points. This has the makings of a low scoring game with both teams trying to lean as much as possible on the run.
Seattle Seahawks 21 Dallas Cowboys 17
Seattle @Dallas o/u 41 (5Dimes)
I was back and forth on the over/under on this game. I’ve been burned by the Seahawks before, looking for the under and then having them explode offensively, but I don’t see that happening here and that’s likely the only way you see this game break 40.
Seattle Seahawks 21 Dallas Cowboys 17
Green Bay (-3) @Denver (Wynn Las Vegas)
I was all set to take the Broncos here. I love their defense, and Peyton Manning has shown that he is still occasionally capable of rising to the spotlight and this is absolutely the NFL’s marquee game of the week. Remember, also, that while Aaron Rodgers is great, he’s a lot greater at home than on the road. But then I ran across a trend I absolutely won’t go against: Packers coach Mike McCarthy is 9-0 coming off a bye. After spending years of watching Andy Reid’s Eagles consistently defy the odds every time they played after a bye week, I know how significant this trend can be. I’m taking the Packers, and for that reason, I’m also staying off the under in this game which I thought might be a decent play, but I was looking for a number close to 50, and it’s only 46, and in a game the Packers win, I think that’s right about where it will end up.
Green Bay Packers 24 Denver Broncos 20
Indianapolis (+6.5) @Carolina (Westgate Superbook)
I’m on the record saying the Colts suck, and my picks will definitely reflect that belief. 6.5 is a lot to give with a low power offense like Carolina, but their running game has been impressive lately, and one of the things the sucky Colts suck at is stopping the run. Add in that Andrew Luck just played, ahem, sucky against a Saints defense that’s about one tenth as good as Carolina’s and I think you see where I’m going with this. As an aside, the under looks appealing to me on this game, as it’s at 46.5, but the Colts look for big plays and that’s a sure-fire way to get burned with a back door cover and an over/under snafu. For those reasons, I’m off this game as far as the total is concerned.
Carolina Panthers 26 Indianapolis Colts 17
NY Giants (+3) @New Orleans (Westgate Superbook)
I’m going a little bit out on a limb here because the Saints have surely looked pretty horrid at times this season, but it looks like they’ve figured out their problems on offense, or maybe Drew Brees just wasn’t 100% healthy earlier in the year. Either way, the Giants have been winning games against so-so opponents by the skin of their teeth, so neither of these teams is necessarily a sure thing when they show up. The clincher for me, however, is the Giants history in the SuperDome. They’ve given up close to 100 points in their last two meetings. You read right: their last TWO meetings. I’ll go with the trend here and see if New Orleans can keep up their improved play.
New Orleans Saints 34 New York Giants 27
San Francisco (+8) @St. Louis Rams (Pinnacle)
At first blush, this line looks like it must be a mistake. How could there be an 8 point spread in a division rivalry game? How could it be 8 points when it’s the St. Louis Rams and their rather anemic offense giving the 8? Wasn’t it just last season that the 49ers were perennial favorites in this matchup? How could any game have a spread of over a touchdown when the over/under on total points is at or under 40, almost guaranteeing a close, defensive contest? Yes, yes, yes and you’re right, that makes no sense. It all adds up to the line “telling you something.” It’s telling you the 49ers are a train wreck and that the oddsmakers clearly believe San Francisco is going to put up single digit points on offense just like they did last week at Seattle (and this year, at least, the Rams’ defense is even more of a shutdown unit than the Seahawks?). Accordingly, I’ll go out on a limb and actually give the 8 points.
St. Louis Rams 22 San Francisco 49ers 10
Cincinnati @Pittsburgh o/u 47.5 (Pinnacle)
Once upon a time, the AFC North (formerly the AFC Central) was the division of Mean Joe Greene, Ray Lewis, Clay Matthews, Ed Reed & Tim Krumrie. But seemingly overnight the North has become a division of tough quarterbacks, shifty runners and some of the best receivers in the NFL. And the Browns. This game has shootout written all over it. The Steelers are very hard to stop and have trouble stopping others. The Bengals play good D, but they haven’t faced anything like Antonio Brown and LeVeon Bell, but they do have the weapons to put up plenty of points of their own. I’m all in on the over here.
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 Cincinnati Bengals 28