Around the NFL season’s midpoint turn and I have to admit I have been in a rut for a month. I had another marginally OK week, but I have been hovering at or near .500 since it turned to autumn.
What can help me turn this thing around? Well, this week’s schedule features a good number of “make or break” games for teams struggling to salvage their seasons after a poor start, put the finishing touches on partially completed comebacks, or looking to justify strong starts as something other than flukes, flashes in pans or favorable scheduling.
If you know which teams are for real and which aren’t, you might be able to make some scratch this week.
Last Week’s Picks: 9-7-1 Best: 1-1-1
Season Totals: 63-63-5 Best: 16-14-1
Green Bay @Carolina (My Top Sports Books)
This is the NFL’s best game of the week, and it’s a brutal one to pick. Anyone going against Aaron Rodgers is crazy. Then again, in Green Bay they’re openly questioning problems with the offense, including poor run blocking and receivers who can’t get open (gee, sounds like the Eagles, only with a great QB). Meanwhile, Carolina is the favorite to win and they’re never going to play any better than they are right now while at home. You don’t solve your problems in one week, on the road, against one of the league’s better defenses. Another loss for the Pack.
Carolina Panthers 23 Green Bay Packers 21
Oakland (+4.5) @Pittsburgh (Westgate Superbook)
Right out of the gate, we’ve got a very tough game to call. Oakland has played brilliantly this season, but beating the Steelers in their own building would be a step up to another level. They’d put themselves on the inside track for the playoffs for sure. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is a wounded animal. To a man they feel they should have won last week and their offense has lost the one player they could least afford in LeVeon Bell. Still, isn’t this the kind of game where Pittsburgh rises up and takes control of their season? This is a game I can’t wait to see, and wouldn’t bet with your money, but since I’m leaning toward the visitors I’ll go all-in and pick them to win this one outright.
Oakland Raiders 26 Pittsburgh Steelers 24
Jacksonville (+7) @NY Jets (Pinnacle)
This is a tough one, because the Jets are playing with an injured Ryan Fitzpatrick under center and no one knows for sure whether he’ll be affected a little, a lot, or not at all. If Fitzpatrick plays the way he’s played all season, this is a gimme for the Jets, who are playing for playoff position and still have a smothering defense. The Jaguars have been plucky, especially on offense, but against better competition they still look like they’re not ready. Jags’ll have to get their wins against those other bums in the AFC South.
New York Jets 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Tennessee (+7.5) @New Orleans (Pinnacle)
First off, I’m off the Titans completely until Marcus Mariota is back for sure. Zach Mettenberger is trash. I don’t love giving a lot of points with New Orleans. Even though they’re playing much better football and have a strong home field traditionally, this is still a team that feels a little like a house of cards. I just don’t think the Titans are the wind that can blow it down.
New Orleans Saints 34 Tennessee Titans 20
Washington (+13.5) @New England (Wynn Las Vegas)
In retrospect it’s no wonder the Patriots look invincible. Their first half schedule was a joke and this game is part of the punchline. I was off the Pats and these big spreads earlier but last week I went back to them and I’m staying on them here. The RacialSlurs stink and the Pats are going to cream them. Don’t be fooled later in the year when New England’s schedule takes a major step up in class, however.
New England Patriots 31 Washington RacialSlurs 17
NY Giants (-2.5) @Tampa Bay (Westgate Superbook)
This might be the most intriguing game of the week, and who would EVER have thought that about a Buccaneers game this season. But reality check: Tampa won their Super Bowl last week when they took out the Falcons in overtime, and the Giants really NEED this game to stay ahead of the weak NFC East field. I like the Giants to right the ship against an exuberant but beatable opponent.
New York Giants 30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
Denver (-4.5) @Indianapolis (Westgate Superbook)
This is a revenge game for the Broncos, and I find it hard to believe Indy is going to send Andrew Luck out there against a defense full of pissed off hungry sharks. The Colts are an impossible hot mess right now, none more so than Luck, and the Broncos will absolutely torment him.
Denver Broncos 24 Indianapolis Colts 16
Philadelphia (-3) @Dallas (William Hill)
I suppose I have an advantage in that I actually watched the first Eagles-Cowboys game whereas most people who stared directly into it lapsed into a coma. I have zero faith in this garbage heap of an offense to come up with any answers against Dallas, who keep getting closer to getting their first win without Tony Romo. It happens this week.
Dallas Cowboys 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17
Chicago (+3.5) @San Diego (Wynn Las Vegas)
On paper, the Bears plus more than 3 points looks like a good deal against the struggling Chargers. The difference here is that the Bears are a crappy team with a record that’s better than it should be while the Chargers are a crappy team with a quarterback playing really really well who can’t seem to get off the schnide. Well, meet the Bears guys, they’re here to help you feel better about your season.
San Diego Chargers 28 Chicago Bears 23
St. Louis (+1) @Minnesota (CG Technology)
Where’s home field for the Vikings? According to this line, St. Louis is actually the better team. I don’t buy that. If the game was in St. Louis, I’m not sure the Vikings could break their serve but in their own building Minnesota, which is a more complete team than the Rams are, should be able to win by a field goal.
Minnesota Vikings 24 St. Louis Rams 20
Miani (+3) @Buffalo (Westgate Superbook)
Trends have betrayed me a bit this year, but there are two running into this game that I like. First, Miami as an underdog is generally a good bet. Second, Rex Ryan as a coach has only covered the spread once in 7 tries. That makes sense, since he’s a motivator more than an x’s and o’s guy, and the extra week is just down time for him. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s extra rest is negated by the fact that the Dolphins played last Thursday, so they too are well rested. You want a real trend? Miami played poorly against New England while Buffalo is playing poorly against absolutely everyone. I’m off the Bills this year.
Miami Dolphins 23 Buffalo Bills 19
Atlanta (-7) @San Francisco (Westgate Superbook)
Look at it this way, the worst team in the league just installed Blaine F**king Gabbert as their quarterback. The only way, and I mean the ONLY way Atlanta does not win this game by 17 points or more is if they literally do a 100% repeat of their butterfingers 4 fumbles performance last week. Has any team ever done that two weeks in a row? Other than that, no matter what mistakes the Falcons make, I assure you the Niners will be worse.
Atlanta Falcons 28 San Francisco 49ers 6
Featured image via ESPN