Last week: 12-2, another awesome week to push the season tally to 110-60.
Three games on Thursday and rivalry games everywhere on the college slate makes this arguably the best week of football before January. All byes are done, too. Enjoy the games, but try and carve out a little time for friends and family too.
All lines quoted here are from Caesar’s Palace as of 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday
- Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (+3): Every Sunday morning from 10-noon ET I co-host a football preview show in on ESPN 96.1 in Grand Rapids. Because we do it live on Sundays, we had to call our shot for the Lions last Sunday, and at that time I said (not an exact quote, I’ll paraphrase) I don’t believe the Lions can win against the Vikings with such an unbalanced offensive approach. Detroit still couldn’t run the ball against the Bears, so I’m completely unconfident in the Lions ability to do anything offensively other than Matthew Stafford playing “hero ball”. Stafford is exceptional at that, but it’s a tough way to rely on winning against a very good, balanced all-around team like Minnesota.
Vikings 29, Lions 24
- Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas Cowboys (+2): The Cowboys are home underdogs on Thanksgiving to a sub-.500 team. That tells you what the professionals think about a Dallas team without Tyron Smith, Sean Lee and Ezekiel Elliott. Few teams can survive losing three of the four best players on the team, and Dallas isn’t one of them. Three weeks ago, I said on the aforementioned radio show (stream it on your iHeart app) that I believed the Chargers were still going to win the AFC West like I predicted this summer. This game is another step in that direction for Los Angeles.
Chargers 39, Cowboys 28
- New York Giants at Washington (-7.5): Recency bias makes a difference here. The Giants just squashed the Chiefs, while Washington blew a huge lead against the Saints and suffered a crushing loss. But go back beyond that. The Giants lost to the previously winless 49ers and fell 51-17 to the Rams. Washington gave a very good Vikings game a strong game and won in Seattle. I’m more inclined to believe last week’s outcomes were the flukes. Keep in mind Washington did mount that huge lead against a Saints team that could very well win the NFC, too.
Washington 33, Giants 17
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-10): The Buccaneers are bad, but even worse on the road. Atlanta seems to be getting hot at the right time. Good week to use the Falcons in a fantasy survivor pool if you haven’t already.
Falcons 36, Buccaneers 21
- Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (+3.5): Neither of these teams have played since the Thursday night game in Week 11, so it’s easy to forget about this AFC South rivalry game. It’s so easy to forget that I had to do a last-minute edit on this piece because I passed over it on the first pass through. My gut reaction is Chuck Pagano does something to lose this game for his Colts. My friend Matt, a die-hard Colts fan from my former haunt of Franklin, IN, would agree.
Titans 33, Colts 24
- Carolina Panthers at New York Jets (+5): These teams last met in December of 2013. The only Jets from that game still in New York are Bilal Powell, Demario Davis (who left and came back) and Muhammad Wilkerson. They were but a small piece of the Jets team that lost that game 30-20 less than four years ago. They could very well see the same score this week, too.
Panthers 30, Jets 20
- Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-8.5): If I could trust Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer even a little bit I’d be inclined to pick the Browns here. But as terrible as he’s consistently been, it’s far more likely the Bengals shame the Browns by using A.J. McCarron to finish the win over the team that tried to trade for him a few weeks ago. Cleveland will miss injured DE Emmanuel Ogbah more than the casual fan might expect, too.
Bengals 24, Browns 10
- Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles (-13.5): Beware the trap game for the Eagles. Last week the Bears were also a trap game for Detroit, and they nearly beat the Lions. The Eagles are flying a lot higher than the Lions, but if the Bears can turn them into Griffins, they’ve got a better chance here than you might think. Philly cannot look past them to Seattle next week after the enthusiastic romp over Dallas on Sunday night.
Eagles 27, Bears 17
- Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots (-16.5): No. Just, no.
Patriots 39, Dolphins 10
- Buffalo Bills at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5): After the disastrous Nathan Peterman experiment, Bills Coach Sean McDermott turns back to deposed Tyrod Taylor. I suspect McDermott will be reminded why he made the stunning change by about the middle of the third quarter, when Taylor has thrown for 133 yards and turned the ball over twice trying to force the short throw. It’s very hard to trust the reeling Chiefs, but the chaotic Bills are just what the doctor ordered.
Chiefs 31, Bills 21
- New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams (-2.5): Last week the Rams faced a huge challenge in visiting Minnesota. After the first drive of the game they found no success offensively against a very stout Vikings defense. Now Jared Goff & Co. face a Saints defense which might be the most improved overall unit in the league.
The good news is, this one is at home. The bad news is, the Saints have found offensive balance. No team is better at making the equation of “6 in box = run, 7 in box = pass” work than the New Orleans offense. Drew Brees is smart enough to know when to stick with it and when to adjust too.
Saints 28, Rams 20
- Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (-5): Paxton Lynch gets the starting nod at QB for Denver. This is quietly a big moment for Lynch. He needs to prove he can thrive against a leaky and undisciplined Raiders defense. I was an avowed Lynch fan in his draft; he was my top QB in the 2016 draft and thus far he’s made me look worse than his wispy moustache. I can’t count on him to win a game for his team yet, however.
Raiders 26, Broncos 24
- Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (+7): Will we see Jimmy Garoppolo this week ahead of C.J. Beathard? It’s fascinating that the 49ers aren’t getting more national grief for trading a top 35 overall pick for a quarterback they’re not playing, and will have to decide if they’re going to pay him or not having not seen if he can play. If this was Cleveland or the Jets, the media would be relentlessly badgering the Niners for their frivolous incompetence, but you never hear a peep about the Niners. Are they protecting John Lynch, who was beloved media brethren, or are the Niners just that far off the national radar these days?
Seahawks 20, 49ers 14
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Arizona Cardinals (+4.5): The Cardinals lost in Houston last week. If this year’s history is any indication, that makes the Jaguars a mortal lock in this game. Every team that played Houston the prior week has lost the subsequent game. In fact, just one of the nine has scored within 3 points of their season average point total.
Jaguars 31, Cardinals 10
- Green Bay Packers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-14): Green Bay just got shut out at home by Baltimore. Pittsburgh hung 40 on a much better defense than Green Bay’s in their last game, which was the Thursday nighter last week. The Steelers get extra time to prepare for Brett Hundley and what’s left of the Packers injury-decimated offense. They won’t need it…
Steelers 32, Packers 13
- Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens (-7): I smell an upset for the gamblers. Why? Houston’s defense matches up quite well with the Ravens offense. The Texans struggle covering the outside and deep routes, and they can get caught losing contain on mobile QBs. Those are the antithesis of the Ravens offense, which has the lowest average yards per completion by a full 1.5 yards. As long as the Texans can prevent big plays in the run game, I don’t see the Ravens mounting more than three scoring drives.
Can Houston top that point total? It depends on the Tom Savage who shows up. The bitterly inconsistent QB has flashed skills which validate Coach Bill O’Brien’s decision to name him the starter over Deshaun Watson. He’s also made atrocious mistakes and terrible throws which make you wonder how he’s still on an NFL roster. The Ravens steal the win on a Savage fumble—he leads the league in fumbles despite playing less than half the season—but it will be a close game.
Ravens 23, Texans 20
Virginia Tech 36, Virginia 30
Ohio State 30, Michigan 13
UCF 40, USF 31
Auburn 29, Alabama 27
Clemson 34, South Carolina 27
Stanford 37, Notre Dame 33
Washington 44, Washington State 31