For those who are cursed enough to live in places with Daylight Savings Time, enjoy the extra hour of sleep Saturday night. It will leave you well-rested for an interesting slate of Sunday games.
Last week: 13-2. 74-48 on the season with the tie counted as a loss.
- San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (+10): Last week I forecast the 49ers undefeated start to end, largely for no other reason than it’s really hard to go 7-0. It’s even harder to go 8-0, and the Cardinals have quietly played some decent football of late. Well, except for last week against a Saints defense that dominated the line of scrimmage and ruined everything Kyler Murray and the Arizona offense tried to do. The 49ers can do that, too.
49ers 30, Cardinals 17
- New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens (+3.5): I have not looked forward to an AFC regular-season game as much as I have this one in some time. I cannot wait to see how Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense attacks the unbeaten Patriots and their historically awesome defense.
What really intrigues me is that the Browns had a lot of success running at the edges of the Patriots defense a week ago. They did it without the threat of the read-option, too. Jackson brings that extra dimension. But New England is incredibly opportunistic at creating penalties and takeaways.
History says the Patriots will win. Baltimore has only beaten New England once in the regular season, back in 2012 when Justin Tucker hammered a chip shot FG as time expired to send a sputtering Patriots team to 1-2. The games are usually close, and I suspect this one will be too. I see Tom Brady making Baltimore’s defense pay for one too many coverage mistakes in a meeting between what I believe are the AFC’s two best overall teams.
Patriots 29, Ravens 27
- Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (+1): This game is in London, which means most of us will awaken to football or at least a pregame show. I love this concept and wish the NFL would make it a reality more often. I know, I know: it’s brutally early for those on the West coast. Guess what? Most people on the East coast never get to see the second half of a Monday Night Football game that caters to the later time zone denizens.
Those living in the 713, 281 and surrounding area codes in the Central Time Zone will want to set the alarm to rise and watch Deshaun Watson shine.
Texans 32, Jaguars 24
- Minnesota Vikings at Kansas City Chiefs (NL): Patrick Mahomes and his availability are still up in the air as of press time. That’s why there is no line on the game and why the forecast is as cloudy as March in Scotland. I’ll ride with NFC Offensive Player of the Month Kirk Cousins--the NFL’s top-rated passer--either way. Lest you think the cold and potentially inclement weather will bother Cousins, I live in his hometown of Holland MI and as I write this, it’s 37 degrees, raining with steady 15-25 mph winds. This will be one of the nicest days we have until April. He once led a team to a high school state title playing weeks in conditions like that.
Vikings 34, Chiefs 26
- Washington at Buffalo Bills (-10): The Bills will win this game because Washington’s offense is unreliable on a good day, and the Buffalo defense can make offenses better than the Skins’ have a bad day. But beware overconfidence on the point spread here. Washington’s defense has some teeth, while the Buffalo offense is wet bread; Buffalo hasn’t topped 204 yards passing in a month and remains turnover-prone and lousy on 3rd downs.
Bills 16, Washington 10
- Tennessee Titans at Carolina Panthers (-4): I heard a national pundit this week discuss the geographic proximity of the Titans and Panthers. The geography enthusiast in me cried, no, died a little.
Charlotte and Nashville are a little over 400 miles away from one another. To put that into perspective, Charlotte is closer to Washington DC than it is Nashville. Cincinnati is almost as close as Nashville based on where the stadiums are in those respective cities. Chicago is only about 50 miles farther away from Nashville than Charlotte is. Learn to read a map!
Panthers 23, Titans 20
- Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles (-5): It’s going to get worse in Chicago before it gets better. Unless Matt Nagy realizes how to run last year’s offense for Mitchell Trubisky once again, they’re destined for failure. Reinventing the wheel doesn’t work when the axles are damaged. I like how the Eagles appeared to right their ship last week, and they’re getting healthier. Rough road for the visitors from Chicago…
Eagles 27, Bears 13
- Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders (-2.5): Matchups matter, and the Raiders have a decided advantage in one crucial matchup with the Lions coming to town. The Raiders offensive line and power run game with Josh Jacobs is a major problem for an underwhelming Detroit defense that struggles against aggressive schemes that can dictate the action. Oakland doesn’t do a lot of things well, but that’s their offense. Matthew Stafford will keep the Lions close, but unless the Detroit defense can create +2 in takeaways, it won’t be enough.
Raiders 38, Lions 33
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Seattle Seahawks (-6): Bruce Arians is the only visiting coach with more than two wins this century against the 12th man in Seattle. The Bucs coach is capable of lighting up the sky, but with the inconsistent and error-prone Jameis Winston at the helm, it’s hard to see the light for Tampa in this one.
Seahawks 28, Buccaneers 20
- Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5): The Chargers manufactured a win against Chicago last week, but the high-flying Packers will not be so accommodating in helping Los Angeles get the win this time. Philip Rivers will not have much time and his receivers need to stop the drops.
I can see why many support the Chargers. This is the time of year where they typically start playing better. Against a lesser foe I would concur. But not Aaron Rodgers and a very well-conceived Packers defense.
Packers 26, Chargers 21
- Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos (+3): The Brandon Allen era begins for the Broncos. Tough first draw, facing the NFL’s leading sack artist in Myles Garrett and the desperate Browns. Lost in all the hubbub over Baker Mayfield’s press conference snafu and the 3 straight plays that resulted in takeaways in New England last week is the fact the Browns played the Patriots straight up the rest of the game and forced Tom Brady into some poor choices. If they can do that to the GOAT, they can make a sheep out of Brandon Allen.
Browns 30, Broncos 13
- Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (+1): Pittsburgh opened as the favorites at home, but the iffy status of RB James Conner swung the money in heavy favor on the Colts side. Enough action flowed in on Indy that a certain bookkeeper demanded extra juice to bet on them. That’s telling to me and I’m not going to fight it.
Colts 31, Steelers 22
- New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (+3): Is this really the week Miami could blow the tank job? The way the Jets have looked the last couple of games, it is certainly possible. The game is at home, they’re playing old coach Adam Gase, and the Gase effect is hitting the Jets hard; New York is in hot water for handling Kelechi Osemele’s injury and now Jamal Adams trade talks. Gase is about as warm and understanding as a colony of fire ants about to get mowed over by an oblivious groundskeeper. I’m riding the FitzMagic to rub Gase’s face in the fire ants.
Dolphins 17, Jets 15
- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (+7): Arguably the two best RBs in the league face off with Zeke Elliott visiting Saquon Barkley. The difference in the game will be Elliott’s superior supporting cast, namely on the defensive side of the ball but also Amari Cooper going against a Giant secondary prone to too many coverage lapses. Daniel Jones has had some good series but must string them together more frequently for the Giants to start winning games like this one.
Cowboys 33, Giants 20
A largely terrible week on the college slate with several top 10 teams idle. Good Saturday to enjoy something else…
Georgia 27, Florida 17
Michigan 42, Maryland 20
Notre Dame 28, Virginia Tech 24
Utah 30, Washington 27
Memphis 36, SMU 34