Last week: 10-4. Season forecast is 99-64
- Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (-3.5): The AFC South lead is on the line at Reliant Stadium, and the Texans and Colts are about as even as two teams can be. Their point differentials are very close, even closer when you factor in the 7-point Colts win over the Texans in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.
Houston simply cannot afford to have a hangover from their drubbing in Baltimore last Sunday. Their inability to do anything on offense against the Ravens is far more concerning than Lamar Jackson hanging 41 on their defense. The Colts defense has had some injury issues, ones which the Texans offense is well-equipped to expose. Deshaun Watson and his crew need to get it right quickly, because notorious Texans nemesis TY Hilton appears ready to play.
For a deeper dive into the Texans’ Thursday night series history, check out my good friend Cody Stoots’ piece from Houston Sportsmap.
Colts 26, Texans 24
- Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers (-3): Big-time matchup with major NFC playoff picture implications. The winner here has a very clear path to the No. 1 overall seed and home field advantage throughout.
The key for me here is the play of the offensive lines. If the 49ers OL can give Jimmy Garoppolo time and keep him comfortable against a great Packers pass rush, the home team can outshoot Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. But Rodgers is never out of a game, and if his up-and-down OL can protect him and also pave holes for a resurgent ground game, the more experienced Packers can run away with it. The Packers have the more reliable special teams and no fear of playing important games on the road. The 49ers haven’t danced in this classy of a ballroom in a long time, and I think that matters.
Packers 27, 49ers 21
- Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles (-1): Two reasons why I’m rolling with the Eagles at home. First, it’s an early kickoff on the East Coast for the Seahawks, and that’s an issue for the visitors from the Pacific Northwest. Secondly, the Seahawks are prone to throwing up a clunker here and there, and the Eagles are due for one of those tantalizing performances where they remind everyone they’re supposed to be good. Just a hunch they get that on Sunday at home…
Eagles 32, Seahawks 21
- Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots (-6.5): Dak Prescott blistered Bill Belichick defensive protege Matt Patricia and his Lions last week. Dak and the Cowboys will find a much different defense in Foxboro this week. Nobody picks up on the subtle intricacies of game film thank Belichick, and he knows exactly what the Lions were trying to do to the Cowboys. Prescott is playing fantastic, but their banged-up OL and atrocious special teams are going to be big problems for the visiting Cowboys.
Patriots 30, Cowboys 17
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans (-3): Who would’ve thunk a matchup between Ryan Tannehill and Nick Foles would have such prominence this late in the season? Who can predict the outcome of this game between two of the most unpredictable teams? Who outside of the AFC South really cares about the two most anonymous franchises in the NFL? Who wants to bet this winds up being one of the best games of the weekend?
Jaguars 29, Titans 27
- Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills (-4): Denver is lost in a sea of despair. Vic Fangio’s listless team will find no smooth waters on the southeastern shore of Lake Erie. Buffalo surges to a win that further erodes support in John Elway as GM in Denver.
Bills 20, Broncos 10
- Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints (-9.5): The bloom is off the Kyle Allen rose in Carolina. Now he’s the onion about to be deep-fried and devoured by hungry Saints defenders, who need a get-right game. This forecast brought to you by Outback, which now delivers if there’s one near you. I’d accept a free delivery but the closest Outback to me is over an hour away. A win for Carolina here might be just as distant.
Saints 28, Panthers 12
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (+7): This is probably the Bengals’ best chance to get a win this season. Sure, the Steelers are 5-5 and the hosts are 0-10. But Pittsburgh comes in very banged up all over the offense, notably at WR. They’ll also miss suspended center Maurkice Pouncey, their best OL but also the guy who is primarily responsible for containing Geno Atkins, the Bengals’ best player. But the Cincinnati offense will be hard-pressed to score more than twice, and I’m not sure that will be enough. If the Bengals score first, I expect them to win...but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Steelers 15, Bengals 10
- Detroit Lions at Washington (+3.5): The Lions have held the lead in every game this season. Somehow they are 3-6-1. Washington has not held a lead since Week 6. Jeff Driskel and the Lions offense is doing well enough to ravage a bad Skins defense that cannot get off the field. I see weeks of Detroit frustration being exorcised on the FedEx Field turf.
Lions 36, Washington 17
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons (-4): Atlanta is on fire, burning up two divisional wins in a row behind a resurgent defense. Can they hit the NFC South trifecta?
For help here, I’ll turn to my daughter’s novelty Magic 8-Ball...
“Outlook not so good”
Apparently Jameis Winston, the NFL’s runaway leader in giveaways, is the right answer to stop Atlanta’s revitalized defense.
Buccaneers 37, Falcons 35
- New York Giants at Chicago Bears (-6): Mitchell Trubisky’s hip injury will need to flare up for the Bears to win this game. Yeah, you read that right: if normal Bears starting QB Trubisky plays, the Giants will win this game. If he sits and Chase Daniel plays, the visitors from New York stand little chance.
Giants 23, Bears 13 if Trubisky plays
Flip it if he sits
- Miami Dolphins at Cleveland Browns (-10.5): The Browns are favored by double-digits for just the third time this century. That they are still so lofty a favorite despite half the starting DL being suspended tells you how much confidence there is in the resurgent Browns offense. Baker Mayfield is playing much better since the bye week, and adding Kareem Hunt to the mix has bolstered the passing game as much as it has the ground game. Miami might be able to cover, but a straight-up road win in the Dawg Pound would be a monumental surprise.
Browns 28, Dolphins 20
- Oakland Raiders at New York Jets (+3): Josh Jacobs cements his Offensive Rookie of the Year candidacy by ravaging Gregg Williams’ mystically baffling blitz calls on defense for 139 yards and 3 TDs. Sam Darnold and what’s left of the Jets can’t match that.
Raiders 28, Jets 20
- Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams (+3): Lamar Jackson and friends cruise against the Rams, who remain woefully overrated based on the legacy of what once was. The L.A. offense stands little chance against a Baltimore defense that smothered the vastly superior Texans attack a week ago. Expect to hear Matt Judon’s name a lot.
Ravens 33, Rams 17
Ohio State 38, Penn State 30
Alabama 59, Western Carolina 6
Notre Dame 33, Boston College 20
Michigan 34, Indiana 33 in overtime
USC 46, UCLA 37
Boise State 26, Utah State 24