Last week: 10-6, with the season forecast now at 123-86
Just three more weeks of the regular season. Teams are now jockeying for either playoff spots or draft positioning. The games pitting two teams fighting for the same goals will be very interesting to watch.
- New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (-15.5): After a few weeks of appealing Thursday games, we get the intersection of have vs. have not. The Ravens clinch the AFC North with a win and can boost their overall AFC conference lead. The Jets have escaped the bottom-feeding realms with four wins in five games, but they continue to struggle on the road. I expect the Jets to make it a competitive game, but unless the Ravens start turning the ball over and missing tackles, New York stands little chance of the outright win.
Ravens 30, Jets 20
- Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3): The AFC South title is on the line with the red-hot Titans hosting the schizo Texans. Tennessee has scored at least 31 points in 4 straight games with Ryan Tannehill at the controls. Derrick Henry is the league’s leading rusher over that period too, racking up nearly 600 yards on the ground.
I don’t see the Texans defense slowing that train down. The question for me is, can Deshaun Watson and the Houston offense keep up? With an iffy Will Fuller and a propensity to hold the ball too long against a playmaking secondary. I can see Duke Johnson being a thorn in the Titans paw. As long as Henry can answer the bell--and he missed practice Wednesday with a bum hamstring--I see the Titans withstanding the Texans onslaught. All bets are off if Henry sits.
Titans 36, Texans 31
- Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers (-2): The Battle of I-79 carries significant playoff implications. The Bills effectively lock up the top Wild Card seed--at minimum--with the win. The Steelers, currently in the 6 seed, can emphatically enhance their playoff positioning.
The key matchup here is the Steelers offense and its ability to convert opportunities into points. Getting WR Juju Smith-Schuster back in the lineup will help, but the line battle will decide it. The Bills defense is a top-5 D in just about every important statistical metric, and it’s not hard to see why. They’re smartly coordinated and talented. I think that will prove too much for Duck Hodges. Josh Allen needs to keep the chains moving with his legs, something to which the Steelers defense is vulnerable. He’s great at it, and that will help carry the visitors to the win.
Bills 27, Steelers 24
- Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (-10): Drew Lock gets a crack at taking down Patrick Mahomes. Don’t scoff, it could happen. The Chiefs have already wrapped up the AFC West and have almost no chance to move into the top two seeds. They are forgiven if the intensity lags.
Chiefs 31, Broncos 28
- Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers (-4): The Bears playoff aspirations die a pitiful death at the hands of their hated rival Packers. Death by cheese probably sounds more fun than it would be in reality. What a way to go…
Packers 26, Bears 13
- Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (+6): The Panthers have lost five in a row and host one of the NFL’s best road teams, the Seahawks. Seattle desperately needs to keep winning to keep pace with the 49ers in the NFC West. The Panthers won’t provide much resistance, not after giving up 40 last week to Atlanta.
Seahawks 38, Panthers 21
- New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals (+9): Did Bill Belichick and the Patriots really need to (allegedly) cheat to steal signals from the 1-12 Bengals? Based on the modest 9-point spread, maybe New England did need a little competitive advantage. This seems like a trap, a honey pot designed to lure in unsuspecting bettors. Good thing I don’t like honey…
Patriots 27, Bengals 10
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions (+3.5): Upset alert! No Mike Evans and Jameis Winston’s broken thumb leave the Buccaneers highly vulnerable to a Lions team that has not quit on coach Matt Patricia. If Patricia allows his team to play to win the game, instead of the failed strategy of playing not to lose, Detroit will be rewarded. However, the Lions losing WR Marvin Jones really hurts rookie QB David Blough.
Buccaneers 21, Lions 20
- Miami Dolphins at New York Giants (-3.5): If the Giants lose, they all but sew up the No. 2 overall pick and stay alive to possibly seize the No. 1 pick if the Bengals somehow screw up and win a game. If New York wins, it opens the door for a free-for-all for the No. 2 pick, with the Dolphins firmly in the mix too. I’m rooting for the chaos and it definitely influences my pick here.
Giants 27, Dolphins 18
- Philadelphia Eagles at Washington (+5.5): Washington rookie WR Terry McLaurin is going to be a major problem for the Eagles. The recent resurgence of the home team can ruin the Eagles playoff aspirations. Don’t be surprised if it happens; the Eagles should have lost to the lowly Giants on Monday night, and they’re banged up badly.
Washington 20, Eagles 17
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders (-6.5): It’s the last-ever home game in Oakland for the Raiders. They couldn’t have drawn much better of an opponent to close out the antiquated dump that is RingCentral Coliseum. These teams have combined to lose 8 games in a row. The Jaguars bottom out with their 6th defeat in a row in front of the Black Hole. Enjoy the revelry, Raiders fans. You’ve earned it.
Raiders 31, Jaguars 16
- Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals (+2.5): Browns coach Freddie Kitchens returns to his old employer. Kitchens spent 11 seasons as an assistant for the Cardinals. Many Browns fans would love for Freddie to just stay in Arizona. If his Browns lose, they might get their wish…
Browns 27, Cardinals 20
- Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers (+2.5): Philip Rivers vs. Kirk Cousins is the battle of the wholesome QB with underwhelming playoff outcomes. Rivers won’t get another postseason disappointment opportunity, but he can put a damper on Cousins’ chances with an upset win. I don’t see it happening, in part because the Vikings DL vs. the Chargers OL might be the biggest mismatch of any game this weekend.
Vikings 33, Chargers 24
- Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (-11): Dan Quinn and Atlanta might have one last death gasp upset in them, but on the road on the West Coast against the NFC’s No. 1 team? Don’t bet on it here, and I mean that quite literally.
49ers 32, Falcons 17
- Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys (+1): As I said in this week’s $.10, I’ve given up trying to figure out the Rams. They’re the better team and playing better football of late, but I can’t trust them to keep either of those statuses. Dallas is due for a game that reminds everyone why the expectations of Super Bowl legitimacy were not unfounded with this incredibly disappointing team.
Cowboys 33, Rams 31
- Indianapolis Colts at New Orleans Saints (-8): The Colts once-promising season continues to circle the drain. There is no better place to hit rock bottom than New Orleans. Beignets and chicory coffee after a night of hurricanes drunk out of tacky three-foot plastic cups through phallic novelty straws. That’s the smell of abject failure for the Colts, or my buddy Dave’s impending bachelor party…
Saints 28, Colts 14