Last week: 9-5, though I did correctly forecast sunshine for the previously winless Dolphins. 83-53 on the season, with the tie counted as a loss because I didn’t predict it. 

Thursday Night

- Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders (+1): The Chargers continue to roll as the Britney Spears of the NFL.

Oops they did it again

they played with our heart

got lost in many early games

They do this every year. They drive their fans crazy. But Chargers fans will say hit me baby one more time with another strong surge towards a playoff run. Gimmie more, you toxic Chargers!

Chargers 35, Raiders 27 

Sunday Games

- Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys (-3): I’m going to flashback to one of the very first football games I can remember watching as a wee lad. It was between these two teams on New Year’s Day of 1978. Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to a victory in the NFC Championship game over Bud Grant’s Vikings. I remember asking my grandfather why the Vikings kept trying to run the ball even though the Dallas defense was suffocating them at every turn.  

“Because that’s what they do,” he replied. 

It was at that point that I decided to root for the Cowboys for a little bit. A couple of years later I switched allegiances to Billy Sims and the Silver Rush defense in Detroit, a team I could watch just about every week in the world before cable and satellite television. But for a brief time, I liked the Cowboys...a factoid my Uncle Jack--a diehard Browns fan-- still gives me crap about some 40 years later. I deserve it. 

Cowboys 22, Vikings 20 

- Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers (-5.5): Now that Cam Newton is on injured reserve, the Kyle Allen show faces an immediate must-win if they wish to keep their fledgling NFC playoff hopes alive. Tough task against a Packers defense that made arguably the best free agent signing value of the offseason in Za’Darius Smith. A healthy dose of NFL rushing leader Christian McCaffrey can balance out the advantage on the field. But with this game being in Green Bay and the Packers coming off a loss, you can bet the officials will do whatever they can to tilt the scales to the home team. 

Packers 27, Panthers 24

- Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-2.5): Poor Mitchell Trubisky can’t bear the thought of having (correct) criticism thrown at him and the Bears, so he wants radio and television silence in Halas Hall this week. Wait until you’re 4-for-11 for 19 yards and a pick-6 in the first quarter in front of the home fans, Mitchell…

Lions 33, Bears 24

- Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans (+5.5): It appears Patrick Mahomes will make his return to the Chiefs lineup. The reigning MVP was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice session and should be ready to roll on the bum ankle. The Chiefs should get top pass rusher Frank Clark and starting OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back, too. The inconsistent Titans are one of the tougher teams to forecast, but they don’t have a favorable matchup against a healthy Chiefs team even on Tennessee’s good weeks.  

Chiefs 31, Titans 21

- Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-13): We have to seriously consider the point that the Falcons might not win another game this season. They sure as heck aren’t winning in New Orleans. 

Saints 40, Falcons 16 

- Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (+10): Ryan Finley makes his NFL debut against a team that just flummoxed Tom Brady. The Bengals might get a win this season. It’s not going to be against the Ravens, certainly not with the way the Bengals LBs play and Lamar Jackson running and throwing. 

Ravens 30, Bengals 10

- Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns (-2.5): That the 2-6 Browns are favored over the 6-2 Bills tells you all you need to know about the relative talent on both teams. Coaching matters, alas, and right now it’s hard to find a more poorly coached collection of (very high-end) talent than Freddie Kitchens and the Browns. They should win by 20. They might lose by 20. 

Bills 24, Browns 17

- New York Giants at New York Jets (+2.5): Leonard Williams gets a chance to face his old team in the Battle of New Jersey. While New York media fawns over the Daniel Jones vs. Sam Darnold debate, the rest of the weary nation changes the channel to the other 762 NFL storylines it cares far more about but won’t hear a whisper of because IT’s NEW YORK! Yawn. 

Giants 32, Jets 24

- Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-4.5): Just a hunch, but this is one of the three or four games this year where the Buccaneers explode, teasing the home fans with a dominating performance that shows the potential this team truly has. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, but maybe enjoy some Sunny D at the Cardinals expense. 

Buccaneers 38, Cardinals 20

- Miami Dolphins at Indianapolis Colts (-10): Jacoby Brissett’s injury--he’ll be listed as questionable--could be a real issue for the Colts. Brian Hoyer looked like he should have retired 3 years ago in relief last week. The Miami defense is quietly showing improvement and has found a bit of a pass rush. Brissett is already one of the NFL’s more stone-footed QBs even when he’s healthy. There’s danger here. The Dolphins offense probably won’t be able to outscore the Colts after losing top WR Preston Williams, however. 

Colts 23, Dolphins 13

- Los Angeles Rams at Pittsburgh Steelers (+3.5): A rested Rams team is the right recipe to cool off the suddenly hot Steelers. The bye gave the Rams time to integrate Jalen Ramsey into the defense. That’s going to be a problem for Mason Rudolph, who has acquitted himself fairly well, and a decent young Steelers receiving corps. 

Rams 28, Steelers 21

Monday Night

- Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers (-6): The NFL schedule makers anticipated this week nicely. The best matchup of the week gets the Monday Night Football treatment it deserves. 

This is the first game of a meatgrinder of a schedule coming up for the unbeaten 49ers. Though the next three are all at home, navigating past the Seahawks, Cardinals (who played them tight last week), Ravens and Saints and staying unblemished would truly be a feat to behold. Playing without kicker Robbie Gould this week makes it even tougher. Russell Wilson is the right kind of QB to nullify the 49ers impressive defensive line, and I can see the Seahawks getting to Jimmy Garoppolo a few times. The last unbeaten falls, even at home. 

Seahawks 27, 49ers 17

College Games

I’m writing these in mourning for my Ohio Bobcats losing to our rival Miami on Wednesday night MACtion. Deep, deep sigh…

Penn State 30, Minnesota 17. Sorry P.J. Fleck, but at least he got his deserved contract extension

LSU 31, Alabama 20. Joe Burrow cements his Heisman here

Texas 29, Kansas State 28

Wisconsin 18, Iowa 10

Ohio State 70, Maryland 13

Appalachian State 27, South Carolina 20