Some new faces in new places and six teams on bye weeks make this an unusual forecast.

Last week: 11-3 for the second week in a row, raining down on the cloudy start to the season. 78-43 on the year, with the ties judged by how I picked the spread (2-1).

Lines are from Bovada as of 7 a.m. ET on Nov. 1. 

Thursday Night 

Oakland at San Francisco (-3.5): A pair of 1-win teams kicks off the football viewing weekend. And it will be the highest-rated TV show on any broadcast network this week that isn’t another football game. If you mute the broadcast and play the Benny Hill theme while the Raiders are on offense it will both be appropriate in most cases and also make the dismal matchup far more entertaining.

49ers 23, Raiders 16

Sunday Games 

Detroit at Minnesota (-5): This is one of those betting lines and moves I do not understand. On Monday morning, this game featured the Vikings as 6 or 6.5-point favorites at home over a Lions team which came out flat and got embarrassed at home by Seattle in Week 8. The line here is down to 5 but can be found at 4.5 in several books. In the meantime, Detroit dealt away leading receiver Golden Tate while the Vikings OL got healthier.

Somehow that has improved the Lions odds, he says skeptically. He also says, as someone who covers the Lions on a daily basis, this Lions team is capable of any outcome on any given weekend. This is a team that beat the hell out of New England and waxed Aaron Rodgers and the Packers but is the only team to lose to the 49ers and got blown out by the Jets. He knows this and opts to back away from the betting trap. There is no reason Kirk Cousins and the Vikings shouldn’t win by at least 10, but this Lions season defies reason.

Vikings 30, Lions 24

Tampa Bay at Carolina (-6.5): A vote for Tampa Bay here indicates belief that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the right candidate to make the Buccaneers great again. Loser Jameis Winston tanked the Tampa economy and shot all the promise straight to the bottom of the standings.

Sorry...the bombardment of political ads got to me there. No Panthers were injured in the making of this commercial, or something… 

Buccaneers 36, Panthers 31

New York Jets at Miami (-3): I’d feel a lot better about the Jets winning in South Florida if I could identify the jersey number of more than one of their healthy wide receivers. I know who Deontay Burnett, Charone Peake, Andre Roberts and Jermaine Kearse are, but other than Roberts No. 19 I can’t say I know who is who from the number. Wait...Roberts switched to No. 3?! I can only imagine Sam Darnold’s confusion. The rookie QB has enough issues trying to learn the rigors of the NFL game without trying to earn who he’s throwing the ball to each week.

Dolphins 21, Jets 20 

LA Chargers at Seattle (-1.5): I heard a great stat on the radio this week and it dominates my mind on this game the way my old poster of Alyssa Milano wearing nothing but a New Jersey Devils hockey jersey and a seductive smile did some 30 years ago: Russell Wilson is 12-0 at home against AFC teams since taking over as the Seahawks QB in 2012. Philip Rivers and the Chargers make lucky No. 13. 

Seahawks 20, Chargers 17

Atlanta at Washington (-1.5): Don’t look now but the Falcons are heating up, winning two in a row to get themselves right back into the NFC playoff race at 3-4. If they want to keep the flame smoldering, they must beat a Washington team currently leading the NFC East. If they do, Atlanta has a chance to vault from 13th in the NFC playoff standings (out of 16) at the beginning of Week 8 into the 5 seed by the end of Week 9. 

The Falcons are coming off a bye week, but Washington is relatively fresh itself. I like the Skins adding Ha Ha Clinton-Dix for mere peanuts, solidifying a top-5 defense. Atlanta has no such defensive teeth and it costs them a golden opportunity to rocket up the standings.

Washington 31, Falcons 28

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-3): The Ravens have lost 3 of 4 and the early offensive improvement has faded. Pittsburgh managed to hang 33 on the Browns last week despite not getting a first down in the 1st quarter. Putting those two hands together is probably a bit foolish, particularly in this bitter rivalry game, but I can’t help it.

Steelers 22, Ravens 17

Chicago at Buffalo (+10): The only drama here is if the Bears defense outscores the Chicago offense. Bills starting QB Nathan Peterman’s prolific history of pick-sixes makes that a tricky proposition. 

Bears 27, Bills 6 

Kansas City at Cleveland (-8.5): We’ll dive much deeper into the coaching upheaval in Cleveland in this week’s $.10. I’m sure I’ll include a blurb or two about this pending blowout, if only to kick the hornet’s nest that is new Browns coach Gregg Williams… 

Chiefs 37, Browns 24 

Houston at Denver (even): These two teams made a trade during the week. Denver dispatched Demaryius Thomas to the Texans and the big wideout didn’t need to find a hotel for his return trip. He’ll help mitigate the loss of Will Fuller, but the stylistic difference between the two could lead to some communication issues between Thomas and Deshaun Watson. I think the Texans defense will do enough to make a gaffe or two not matter. 

Texans 26, Broncos 20 

Green Bay at New England (-6): Green Bay being sellers at the trade deadline gives the unusual aura of concession from the Packers. It’s not that Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and (especially) Ty Montgomery are not replaceable, though all that Clinton-Dix did on the back end of the defense cannot be done by any one person stepping in. To me, it was a tacit signal from Packers brass they know they’re not good enough to win multiple playoff games this year, so why not preserve the potential to do it better in 2019? The Patriots could provide instant validation to the odd decision. Green Bay’s defensive front gives them a chance to make that very difficult for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, et al.

Patriots 27, Packers 21

Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans (-1.5): The last undefeated team is an underdog, and I believe it’s the correct assessment. Top 3 reasons why the Saints will spoil the Rams’ unblemished season:

  • Michael Thomas vs. Marcus Peters. The Saints exceptional wideout holds a big advantage against the overhyped and disappointing Rams corner. Drew Brees is as sharp as any QB has ever been, and he’ll take advantage.
  • Home field advantage. The Superdome will be raucous and the home team knows how to feed off the crowd energy. The Saints have won 10 of 12 at home and knocked off some impressive foes in the process.
  • Seductive Saints shootout. No team has the ball thrown more against them than the Saints. Opponents have gained an incredible 80 percent of their yards in the passing game. As good as Jared Goff and his cadre of receivers have been, Todd Gurley is why they win. New Orleans can take that away via score, scheme and sheer temptation. 

Saints 30, Rams 28

Monday Night

Tennessee at Dallas (-4): When last we saw the Titans, rookie coach Mike Vrabel decided it was better to lose than tie in England. I suspect they’ll relish the chance to be close enough to make that decision again. It won’t be in Dallas against a Cowboys defense which is well-equipped to shut down the moribund Titans offense.

Cowboys 24, Titans 13

College Games

Ohio 44, Western Michigan 30 in a Thursday night MACtion matchup I’ll be attending in person 

Pittsburgh 26, Virginia 24

Michigan 30, Penn State 21

Georgia 28, Kentucky 21

Northwestern 23, Notre Dame 21. Just a hunch.

Alabama 44, LSU 24