Last week: 7-9. I misread the 500 millibar chart and forecast the wrong upsets. The season forecast is now 34-30.
All odds are from Bovada as of 10 am ET on Wednesday.
- New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6): The Patriots sport the league’s worst defense, and that gives Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers a real chance at home. No team is slower to get pressure on the QB than New England, and their secondary will be tested by a very good 1-2 punch at TE of Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. Mike Evans on the outside is another sizeable problem.
The problem in liking the Bucs too much here is that the Patriots offense is great, and the Tampa defense is struggling with injuries. This could be a very entertaining game with a lot of offense. I’ll take Tom Brady in a shootout, but I’m less confident about this forecast than I thought.
Patriots 37, Buccaneers 33
- Carolina Panthers at Detroit Lions (-3): The only game which features two teams with winning records happens in Detroit. Carolina won a big road game last week in New England, but the Lions also beat the odds in Minnesota. I was impressed that the Lions did so despite an off day from Matthew Stafford. Detroit’s defense took away both what the Vikings wanted to do as well as taking the football three times.
The Panthers hadn’t shown much offense before playing New England, though they’re oddly effective on third down. Carolina ranks in the 20s in most every offensive category, but they’re No. 1 in converting third downs. That is unsustainable in the long run. Detroit’s defense ranks in the top 10 in most categories, and third downs is one of them. I think Detroit gets the Carolina offense off the field enough to tilt the field position advantage for the best clutch kicker in the NFL in Matt Prater. His leg is the difference for me, both on kickoffs and field goals.
Lions 22, Panthers 17
- Kansas City Chiefs at Houston Texans (+1.5): Kansas City is the last of the undefeated teams, a somewhat incredible development just four weeks into the season. It’s a short week for the Chiefs after escaping with a Monday Night win over Washington, and now they face a Houston team which rewrote its record book in destroying Tennessee. The professional gamblers have moved this line substantially in favor of Houston; the game opened with the Chiefs favored by 3.5, and that moved to 1.5 by Wednesday morning. By Thursday at noon, the game was a pick ‘em on many books.
I don’t fully buy the line swing. Some of that is because I do not trust the Texans in a primetime game, and this will be a visible one on Sunday night. Houston has a terrible history in primetime, covering just three times in 25 games. The infamous letterman jacket game stands out. I do think the Chiefs are vulnerable to a balanced offense, and the Texans safeties are punching well above weight class thus far. Yet the Chiefs defensive front against a turbid Texans OL is the difference-maker, even on the road.
Chiefs 30, Texans 24
- Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (-1.5): Did Dez Bryant catch the ball? Of course he did, but strange things happen with the officiating in Lambeau Field. This game is away from the friendly confines for Green Bay, and that absolutely matters. So does the myriad Packers injuries. Demarcus Lawrence is going to be a big problem for a Packers team with injured offensive tackles. Lawrence leads the league in sacks and it’s not a fluke that he has 7.5 in 4 games. With Ty Montgomery and Davante Adams also banged up for Green Bay, and so many other players not 100%, it’s hard to see the Packers thriving much. Having Aaron Rodgers always gives them a chance, but he’ll need to be superhuman to match what Dak Prescott, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott can do to a Packers secondary with some issues.
Cowboys 31, Packers 20
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-8.5): The Steelers are a different (read: better) team at home, and that’s about the only reason I like them here. The ongoing struggles of their key offensive players is troublesome, and a Jacksonville defensive front that can bring pressure and get to the sidelines as well as any could wind up being a real problem for Roethlisberger and friends. That offense should still be enough to hold off the Jaguars and Blake Bortles, unless the Jacksonville QB has one of his periodic hiccups of competency. I like the Jags to cover here pretty confidently.
Steelers 23, Jaguars 20
- Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5): For some strange reason the song “Arizona” by Mark Lindsey popped into my head as I set out to write this forecast. I cannot stand that nugget of 70s schlock. I also cannot stop singing it. Curse you, Cardinals!
Eagles 28, Cardinals 20
- Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (-3): I don’t get the disrespect for the 3-1 Bills here. The Bengals are 1-3 and their win was last week in Cleveland against a Browns team that exhibited all the effort and competence of a sleepy orangutan trying to breakdance. The Bills D looks legit enough to me, and that Bengals OL remains dreadful.
Bills 26, Bengals 17
- Tennessee Titans at Miami Dolphins (NL): Two teams who desperately want to put Week 4 behind them meet in Miami. The home team got blanked by the Saints, who entered the game with the league’s worst defense. The visitors gave up 57 in Houston despite being favored on the road, and saw QB Marcus Mariota leave early with a hamstring injury. The Titans blowout loss in Houston seems fairly fluky, like losing a toe in a weed whacker accident because you wore flip-flops instead of boots. The Dolphins shutout loss in London to the previously hapless Saints is more of losing the toe because of untreated gout turning gangrenous.
Titans 24, Dolphins 12
- Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders (-2.5): I’m not sure if the Baltimore team of the last two weeks (combined score of 70-16) isn’t the worst in football. The Raiders should be able to smoke those Ravens even with E.J. Manuel at quarterback for the injured Derek Carr.
The problem here is Baltimore could rise. Their defense still has a lot of talent. Joe Flacco surely cannot be as awful as he’s been the last two weeks—39/67, 263 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT, 6 sacks. While Khalil Mack will be an issue, the rest of the Raiders defense is vulnerable, although CB T.J. Carrie is quietly looking competent. I sense a lower-scoring game with a lot of aesthetically unpleasant football, and the Ravens are more accustomed to that sort of slog.
Ravens 20, Raiders 17
- San Francisco 49ers at Indianapolis Colts (-1.5): The Niners are winless but have come close to a couple of wins. The Colts have a win, a close shave over the hapless Browns. I think San Francisco is the better team here despite the records, even on the road. Tough to stay winless in this league…
49ers 27, Colts 21
- Seattle Sehawks at Los Angeles Rams (-1): Aaron Donald and the Rams defense against Seattle’s wretchedly inept offensive line is the single biggest positional matchup advantage in any game this weekend. I’m not going to overlook or overthink that.
Rams 19, Seahawks 15
- Los Angeles Chargers at New York Giants (-3.5): Somebody has to win in the Eli Manning vs. Philip Rivers grudge match. It’s kind of amazing those two remain with their respective teams so many years after the 2004 NFL Draft and neither team has any real succession plan either. The loser here will be 0-5 and that will make either organization think long and hard about the future.
Giants 20, Chargers 16
- New York Jets at Cleveland Browns (pick ‘em): This game astonishingly opened with the winless Browns favored over the Jets, who are riding a two-game win streak. Bettors quickly evened that out, and for good reason. Even the debut of No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett won’t be enough to elevate the home team, which has what might be the worst QB/WR combination of a non-expansion team this century.
Jets 23, Browns 13
- Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (NL): The Bears have made the switch to Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, mercifully pulling the plug on the Mike Glennon experiment. His mobility and flair for making things happen on the move is a welcome addition to the offense, but he draws a tough test in the Vikings defense. Minnesota’s D played great in the loss to Detroit, bringing pressure from both edges and feature a (mostly) disciplined secondary.
Chicago’s defense is solid too, and that presents hope for Trubisky. Minnesota lost standout RB Dalvin Cook, who had 90 percent of their carries when he tore his ACL. They only have two pass catchers who really ever get involved as well. While Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are both very skilled and complement one another nicely, they need help. So does Case Keenum throwing to them. Between that and the Vikings recent road woes (they’ve lost 6 of 7) I’ll take the Trubisky bump and the Bears.
Bears 24, Vikings 20
Good one on Thursday night with North Carolina State hosting Louisville.
NC State 34, Louisville 28
Toledo 33, Eastern Michigan 31
Ohio 23, Central Michigan 13
Florida 25, LSU 19
TCU 44, West Virginia 38
Michigan 20, Michigan State 16