Last week: 9-4, pushing the season forecast to a robust 103-57
All lines are from BetOnline as of Tuesday at 9:52 p.m.
- Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (+3.5): The Bears get shafted by their own success. When the league flexed their Week 11 game to primetime Sunday night, they gave Chicago the shortest possible turnaround time to play. This game kicks at 12:30 p.m. ET, or 11:30 a.m. Chicago time. Their game on Sunday night ended at 11:30 p.m. ET. Detroit’s finished some eight hours earlier, and they have the benefit of not needing to travel or change time zones.
The Lions also have the advantage of a healthy quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky is unlikely to play for the Bears. While the Lions will miss impressive rookie RB Kerryon Johnson, Matthew Stafford remains the steering wheel for the Ford Field faithful. He’ll drive Detroit to another win over a team with a winning record, their fifth on the season.
Lions 20, Bears 17
- Washington at Dallas Cowboys (-7.5): Colt McCoy gets his first start in years for Washington as the injury replacement for Alex Smith. McCoy should be an acceptable fill-in, but playing in Dallas against the swift and tough Cowboys defense is a tall order. Doing it behind a dilapidated offensive line makes it even tougher.
Washington’s own defense will pose some problems for Dak Prescott, but the Amari Cooper acquisition pays dividends in this one. The NFC East gets turned on its head as the Cowboys seize the division lead with a 6-5 record.
Cowboys 21, Washington 16
- Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-13): New Orleans showed no mercy to the defending champs in annihilating the Eagles. They’ll do the same when the Falcons fly into the Superdome, plucking every last feather off another fowl foe with massive injury issues on the defensive side of the ball.
Saints 41, Falcons 20
- Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (-3.5): Both of these teams are significantly more effective at home. Not to oversimplify things, but this game will be played in Charlotte. ‘Nuff said…
Panthers 22, Seahawks 20
- Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-3): The Hue Jackson Bowl features a Browns team coming off a bye week, giving more time for the replacement coaching staff to get their collective bearings and the players time to heal from 10 games worth of aches and pains. It features a Bengals team where the fired Browns coach and noted offensive guru is coaching the Cincinnati defense. Bet on the team that doesn’t have the worst head coach in NFL history (that’s not hyperbole, the record bears it out) on its sideline.
Browns 31, Bengals 21
- Oakland Raiders at Baltimore Ravens (-11): Last week proved my stark strategy of picking against the Raiders with the reflexivity of a Trump supporter reacting to Hillary Clinton was flawed. Lightning won’t strike twice…
Ravens 32, Raiders 17
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Buffalo Bills (+3): Josh Allen is back at the helm for the Bills, hopefully recovered from his latest arm injury. He gets the benefit of a better defense than advertised which can alleviate pressure on his troublesome right elbow and shoulder. He also gets the benefit of playing the collapsing Jaguars, a team which has gone from nearly making the Super Bowl to the bottom of the AFC South and the current 14th seed in the conference...one behind the Bills. I’d bet on the death gasp of pride from the visiting Jaguars, but they did that last week and still lost to Pittsburgh.
Bills 19, Jaguars 17
- San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5): Tens of fans will take in the return of Jameis Winston to the helm of the Buccaneers ship. Until he throws two picks in the first three drives and dead man walking Dirk Koetter panics and switches course once again. Or maybe Ryan Fitzpatrick starts and Koetter yanks him when the magic isn't there. I’ll be honest, I can't keep track of what exactly the Buccaneers are trying to do. Even so, they’re still the better overall team and get the benefit of the early start for what’s left of the visiting 49ers. Side note: expect a lot of turnovers as these two teams are dead last in turnover margin at a combined -38.
Buccaneers 28, 49ers 24
- New England Patriots at New York Jets (+9.5): The Patriots are not the juggernaut of recent times, but they’re still capable of handling business against a Jets team that has lost four games in a row and hasn’t registered a defensive takeaway or topped 83 yards rushing in any of those games. New England has its flaws, but they don’t turn the ball over (no giveaways in last 3 games) and devour one-dimensional foes.
Patriots 31, Jets 10
- New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-6): The Eagles devastated defensive backfield is a bigger issue than the odds here would indicate. Having practice squad refugees starting at cornerback is a bad recipe against Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley. Forget the concept that the Eagles are the defending champs--the team they’re sending to the field vs. the Giants is akin to Caitlyn Jenner; deep down it’s the same but looks nothing like the former greatness on the surface anymore.
Giants 27, Eagles 24
- Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Chargers (-11.5): The Cardinals just got beat by the Raiders. I don’t know how you recover from that. Then again, the Chargers are fully capable of the most mind-boggling losses. Beware overconfidence in LA, but it would take some serious Any Given Sunday syndrome for them to lose outright.
Chargers 30, Cardinals 17
- Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (-9): The Colts have emerged as one of the hottest teams in the league, feasting on a freakishly favorable schedule to win four in a row. Who am I to doubt the feast ends on a weekend where I’ll likely be shoving a third pound of stuffing down my gullet by halftime of this matchup between 5-5 teams jockeying for the AFC’s final playoff spot?
Colts 29, Dolphins 20
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos (+3): I worry a little about a letdown game for the Steelers here. Denver is not without some teeth to stymie the Steelers offense, and coming off the emotional comeback win over pseudo-rival Jacksonville and with a potential playoff preview with the Chargers on the docket next week, it’s a game where Pittsburgh must be sharp. Sharp as...steel. Sorry, I’ve been watching too much Law & Order…
Steelers 27, Broncos 21
- Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5): There is potential for the Packers to fall a full four games behind the Bears in the win column if they lose here. There is also potential for the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers to fall into last place in the NFC North if Detroit beats Chicago on Thursday. Neither of those should be even remote possibilities and it’s a crying shame how badly Rodgers’ prime years are being wasted by the draft follies of former GM Ted Thompson and the tired coaching of Mike McCarthy.
The Vikings have problems of their own, but they seem less fundamentally flawed. Rodgers might overcome that, thanks in part to one of those Vikings flaws being an inability to contain the likes of Davante Adams. These teams tied in the first meeting, and they leave this contest tied in the standings as the most disappointing 5-5-1 teams in NFL history.
Packers 30, Vikings 27, probably in overtime
- Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans (-6): All good things must come to an end, and Houston’s 7-game sprint to the top of the AFC South standings has been a very good thing. This being the crazy year of the muddled NFL, the Titans somehow prevail in Mike Vrabel’s return to Houston.
Titans 23, Texans 20
Michigan at Ohio State: This one gets a write-up because it’s a very big deal on both sides of my family. My people are Buckeyes, my wife’s people are Wolverines. The B1G East title is on the line, pitting Jim Harbaugh’s best Michigan team against Urban Meyer’s worst Ohio State team. Ohio State’s offensive rebirth could pose problems for the nation’s best defense, but it will be Shea Patterson and the Wolverines offense exploiting a poorly coordinated and low football IQ Buckeyes defense that is the difference. If not now, when?
Michigan 37, Ohio State 24
Buffalo 26, Bowling Green 21 to give the Bulls the MAC East title.
Virginia Tech 27, Virginia 24
Oklahoma 42, West Virginia 33
Washington State 36, Washington 28
Texas A&M 20, LSU 17
Alabama 42, Auburn 10
Utah State 30, Boise State 24