Last week: 9-7. The clouds converged quicker than I expected below the 500 millibar chart. 121-70 for the season forecast.
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-4): This is fantasy football playoff weekend. I can’t imagine any other reason why anyone who isn’t a fan of these two AFC South offensively-challenged also-rans would watch. I’ll be at a middle school band concert for the first half and I’m not even upset about it, that’s how terrible this game could be.
Titans 16, Jaguars 13
- Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5): The humdrum, perennially overhyped NFC East is suddenly both relevant and legitimately entertaining, and this game will play a major role in who wins it.
The biggest advantage here is the Cowboys passing game vs. the Eagles dilapidated secondary. Amari Cooper has coaxed out balance in the Dallas offense and that makes them quite dangerous against an Eagles team that sees opponents throw at a higher percentage than any other defense. Meanwhile the Cowboys defense suffocated Drew Brees and Michael Thomas last week. Carson Wentz is no Drew Brees.
Cowboys 23, Eagles 13
- Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-4.5): The Texans have won nine in a row since their 0-3 start. That makes them overdue for a loss. The Colts were in the same boat last week after winning five in a row and they lost...thanks in no small part to atrocious decision-making by rookie coach Frank Reich and QB Andrew Luck down the stretch. It’s Bill O’Brien and Deshaun Watson’s turn for the unanticipated choke job in crunch time.
Colts 24, Texans 21
- Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (-6.5): The Chiefs have scored less than 30 points in a game just twice all year. The Ravens offense has topped 30 just twice, and one of those was Week 1. Baltimore’s attack has morphed quite a bit with Lamar Jackson in control, but they don’t have the firepower to keep up unless the Chiefs go minus-2 or worse in turnover margin.
Chiefs 33, Ravens 26
- Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (-6): The Packers take to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field without Mike McCarthy at the helm for the first time since current middle schoolers were babies. It will be interesting to see how the team reacts to interim coach Joe Philbin, who was about as impactful as the Dolphins head coach as adding half a leaf of lettuce to a bacon double cheeseburger. It also makes forecasting this game between two of the league’s biggest 2018 underachievers quite difficult.
Packers 29, Falcons 21
- New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (NL): A few weeks back I was morbidly looking forward to the Sam Darnold vs. Josh Allen battle, in part to see which top-10 rookie could do more with less support. Then Allen got hurt, and now that he’s back from his elbow injury, Darnold is out--though perhaps healthy (hence the lack of a line). So too is Kelvin Benjamin, dumped by the Bills after being a big fat disappointment. Normally, I wouldn’t include the second adjective there, but in Benjamin’s case it’s quite fitting.
Late edit--Darnold is now going to start. That ups the watchability factor. Not sure it help the Jets’ chances to win, however...
Bills 20, Jets 13
- New York Giants at Washington (+3.5): Washington’s theme song for the rest of the season is Tom Petty’s brilliantly understated yet wildly overplayed Free Fallin’. Given all their injuries they might not win again. The quietly improving Giants won’t object, not after losing Landon Collins. Fans of both teams might need numerical rosters to know who’s on the field by the middle of this one. Gonna leave this world for awhile…
Giants 23, Washington 10
- New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins (+8.5): The home team has won 11 of the last 12 meetings between these AFC East rivals. That includes last year, when a 10-2 Patriots team favored by 10 lost to a 5-7 Dolphins team that got a fantastic game from none other than Jay Cutler. Could Ryan Tannehill replicate Cutler’s magical day? Don’t bet on it, but probably don’t bet against it either.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 26
- New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+8): I worry a little about a hangover overcorrection for the Saints here. They just got shut down by the Cowboys. The Buccaneers are a completely different foe. Dallas knew it couldn’t win with a score in the 20s or higher. Tampa, on the other hand, knows it can’t win without scoring in the 40s. They did hang 48 on the Saints in New Orleans back in Week 1, after all. They might again. It won’t be enough.
Saints 51, Buccaneers 38
- Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns (+2): Three reasons why I really like the Browns to pull the home upset:
- Carolina is awful on the road
- Baker Mayfield is masterful in the red zone
- Last week’s loss taught the Browns humility they needed a bit
The red zone transformation in Cleveland is remarkable. Last year with DeShone Kizer primarily at the helm, the team had more red zone turnovers than TDs. This year, Mayfield has thrown 15 TDs with 0 INTs and no lost fumbles. That’s not a fluke. The Panthers on the road aren’t about to impede.
Browns 27, Panthers 21
- Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers (+5.5): Denver losing Emmanuel Sanders to a torn Achilles is a big blow. After already trading away Demaryius Thomas, the receiving corps for Case Keenum is an even bigger question. Keenum is already the NFL’s worst red zone QB and without Sanders the threat of the big play to prevent those is lessened.
It won’t be enough for the NFC’s worst team, the 49ers, to beat them. But it might be closer than you think…
Broncos 21, 49ers 17
- Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Chargers (-14): If Andy Dalton was throwing to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert, I’d like the Bengals chances to maybe pull the upset. None of those guys will be on the field in Los Angeles, where the Chargers have a chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win and a couple other teams losing. The Bengals last gasp will come up well short.
Chargers 31, Bengals 13
- Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (+2.5): Both these defenses have improved of late. Both offenses remain in the tank. I’ve been a Lions fan for nearly 40 years but I can’t muster much excitement for this one.
Lions 19, Cardinals 13
- Los Angeles Rams at Chicago (+3.5): Just a hunch here, but I think the Bears pull this one off. After seeing the Rams struggle against the Lions defense a week ago--their final two scores to hit the 30 mark were off short fields in garbage time--I’m not sure they can handle the better Bears. This is the Sunday night game and features Aaron Donald, so if you dislike hearing Cris Collinsworth climaxing on-air, you might want to watch with this one on mute…
Bears 31, Rams 27
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders (+11.5): God blessed you for the fantasy football playoffs if you own any Steelers players in your league. Except those of us who have James Conner, who will not play. Sigh.
Steelers 38, Raiders 12
- Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5): A Monday nighter worthy of watching, replete with NFC playoff implications. These two are currently the Wild Cards in the conference, and a Seattle win will all but lock up a berth with their 8th win.
The matchup to watch is Seattle’s pass defense against Kirk Cousins, Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs. Minnesota keeps alternating wins and losses and they’re coming off a loss, but it will take better games from the playmakers to pull off the win in notoriously tough Seattle. Bobby Wagner and Frank Clark should both have big games for the home team defense.
Seahawks 21, Vikings 17