Last week: 12-4. Strong forecast for such a turbulent weekend! 133-74 on the season.
- Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5): The schedule makers got this primetime matchup right. Arguably the two best teams in the AFC happen to reside in the same division, and the Chiefs can lock up the West with a home win on the national stage.
This forecast is cloudy for what should be a bright and vibrant game. I’d like the Chargers chances a lot more if either Melvin Gordon or Austin Ekeler were available as running backs, but they’re both out injured. The Chiefs defense is vulnerable but quietly getting better of late, and standout safety Eric Berry might return for this one. Yet there are some prevailing winds that make me really like the Chargers defense to do things to Patrick Mahomes and the Hunt-less Chiefs offense that give me pause.
Chiefs 30, Chargers 27
- Houston Texans at New York Jets (+6): The Texans lost their 9-game win streak against the Colts. Losing a game is never good, but I think it resets Houston and refocuses them for a stretch run. The clinching starts here. Now if the Texans lose this one…
Texans 32, Jets 17
- Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos (-3): Cleveland’s improbable march to finishing with the team’s first winning season since 2007 gets a boost with a favorable road matchup in Denver. The Broncos appear to have no answer for Myles Garrett, and Cleveland’s safety combination of Damarious Randall and Jabrill Peppers is playing as well as any duo in the league right now. That’s trouble for Case Keenum throwing to DaeSean Hamilton and Courtland Sutton. I like both those rookies, but not as featured performers against this playmaking defense.
Browns 25, Broncos 21
- Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-8): The Bears can clinch the NFC North with a win and complete their impressive worst-to-first turnaround. Perhaps the biggest reason why Chicago has ascended so rapidly is the defense and the ability to create turnovers. Yet Aaron Rodgers is in the midst of the NFL record for pass attempts without throwing an interception. Something’s gotta give.
I think it will be Rodgers’ impressive run. Eddie Jackson can shade help on Davante Adams, and the Bears LBs drop so well in coverage they can create tight windows and opportunities. Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and the front can pressure Rodgers into the rare mistake, too.
Bears 24, Packers 17
- Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win. The Colts desperately need a victory to bolster their playoff aspirations. Give me the team that has to win over the team that can back-door clinch, especially when the must-win team is at home. A Cowboys defensive TD would flip this, however.
Colts 20, Cowboys 17
- Detroit Lions at Buffalo Bills (-2.5): Expect a low-scoring, boring game punctuated with the sporadic big play. Josh Allen and the Bills are more capable of generating that big play than the Lions offense, which currently features a hobbled Bruce Ellington and his 5.7 yards per reception as Matthew Stafford’s primary target. Buffalo’s defense rules this game.
Bills 18, Lions 10
- Miami Dolphins at Minnesota Vikings (-7): As I write this forecast, I look to my left and on the desk is a mailer from Holland Hospital. On the cover is one Kirk Cousins, a native of where I live here in Holland MI. It’s enough to convince me as a sign from God that the Vikings will win. In this logic-defying NFL season, good enough for me...
Vikings 26, Dolphins 24
- Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals (-3): Who cares wins. Good and underrated old Anthrax song. Very fitting for this game. The Raiders probably care more, believe it or not.
Raiders 20, Bengals 16
- Tennessee Titans at New York Giants (-2.5): The Giants are playing better of late than you might think, and with both Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley thriving, the Titans cannot match their firepower. The injuries to Tennessee are a big factor here, notably Jack Conklin.
Giants 28, Titans 20
- Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons (-9): If by some chance you’ve lasted this long in survivor fantasy football and still have the Falcons as a team to use--and if you’ve lasted this long you probably do--this is the time to use them. Nine points is a lot for that Falcons defense to give away, but I don’t think these Cardinals break into double digits without those added points.
Falcons 26, Cardinals 9
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Baltimore Ravens (-8): John Harbaugh has finally committed to Lamar Jackson as his starting quarterback. It’s a smart time to make the official changing of the guard from Joe Flacco. Tampa’s defense allows 11 more points per game than the Ravens, who still boast the No. 1 scoring D. The Bucs will score and raise that average. The Ravens will score more.
Ravens 31, Buccaneers 27
- Washington at Jacksonville Jaguars (-7): Josh Johnson will become the fourth QB in five weeks to start for the Skins. He last started in the NFL in 2011 and sports an 0-5 record as a starter, with 6 TDs and 11 INTs. I’m often quite critical of Jaguars starter Cody Kessler, but he’s the better, more proven option here. What’s that I see streaking across the sky...is that a...pig...flying?!?
Jaguars 22, Washington 13
- Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (+4.5): Seattle is cruising and doing so in the way good teams win--by beating the snot out of inferior foes. That includes a 43-16 trouncing of these vastly inferior 49ers just two weeks ago. This game might be closer. Might be…
Seahawks 36, 49ers 10
- New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5): Bill Belichick and the Patriots bounce back from a miserable day in Miami by getting a Steelers team that doesn’t even try to run the ball. Pittsburgh is really good at throwing the ball, but if the Steelers don’t run the ball to balance it and keep the defense honest, they’re not going to find enough success to beat a hungry Patriots team playing for playoff seeding and home field potential.
Patriots 29, Steelers 27
- Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams (-9.5): The Eagles ruled out Carson Wentz for this game, and likely the rest of the season. The injury bug bites hard and infects the Eagles from winning a game against a Rams team that sorely needs a good performance to restore itself.
Rams 32, Eagles 17
- New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers (+6.5): When the Panthers lose this game, and they will, they need to shut down Cam Newton for the rest of the season. He’s clearly not healthy in his right shoulder and it’s a major problem. There is a longer term, bigger picture need with Cam. The Panthers defense at home should keep this interesting enough to watch beyond halftime.
Saints 27, Panthers 17
Five Bowls games on Saturday…
Louisiana (you know them as La-Lafayette) 33, Tulane 24
Utah State 40, North Texas 27
Fresno State 26, Arizona State 21
Appalachian State 20, Middle Tennessee 17
Georgia Southern 34, Eastern Michigan 10