Last week: Thursday football is done, but we’ve now entered a week where we are blessed with three games on Saturday...not to mention scads of bowl games. Have yourself a merry little football weekend!
All lines are from BetOnline as of Thursday 9:52 p.m.
- Houston Texans at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3): The Buccaneers red-hot passing offense is a problem for Houston. Jameis Winston has thrown for over 400 yards and 4 TDs in two straight games, and he did so without Mike Evans in the second one. Jameis will have to do it against Houston without Evans and Chris Godwin after the Pro Bowler was ruled out injured. It’s a huge break for the Texans but they must stay vigilant. Then again Houston CB Vernon Hargreaves practiced against that offense for years before being dealt to the Texans, so he’ll keep his mates straight.
Texans 34, Buccaneers 26
- Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-6.5): I don’t care about your negative takes on Tom Brady, about how Josh Allen is more accurate and how the Bills pass defense is a major problem. I don’t care that I can’t name more than two Patriots wideouts off the top of my head and they’re starting Lions castoffs on the O-line. I don’t care that the Bills are the better team on paper 1-to-53. I care about history and legacy...which are about the only reasons the Patriots should win this game.
Patriots 22, Bills 21
- Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-6.5): Super Bowl losers don’t make it back. The trend continues as the 49ers officially park the Rams roller coaster in the station house.
49ers 30, Rams 17
- New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans (+2.5): This is a rare interconference battle late in the season, and it’s effectively a must-win for both teams. While the Saints have already wrapped up the NFC South, they need to keep winning to secure a top 2 seed in the NFC and get a needed bye. They’re still very much in contention for the No. 1 overall seed and the associative home-field advantage, too.
Things are even starker for the Titans. They must win to stay in the AFC playoff chase. If the Texans win on Saturday, they’ll know it’s just to stay in the Wild Card picture. Fortunately for the home team, Derrick Henry appears ready to roll. I believe the offensive balance can stress the Saints defense. Now if new kicker Greg Joseph--Tennessee’s fifth this year--can make all his field goal attempts, the Titans are looking good…
Titans 27, Saints 24
- Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (+1.5): The winner gets the NFC crown. Technically that’s only true if Dallas wins; the Eagles would also need to beat the Giants in Week 17 if they beat the Cowboys. Given all the Philadelphia injuries and the restored vigor of the Cowboys from last week, I don’t think that game will mean anything. The Cowboys finally get above .500 and try to keep the momentum rolling towards the postseason.
Cowboys 27, Eagles 14
- Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears (+6): The Chiefs have a lot to play for, including a playoff bye. The Bears were eliminated last week and are jockeying for somewhere between the 17 and 20 slot in the draft. Big difference of motivation and I believe it will show--and that’s not an indictment of the Bears players or coaches as much as an acknowledgment of human nature.
Chiefs 24, Bears 10
- Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns (+10): Believe it or not, the Browns were the last team to beat the Ravens. Kicked their ass in Baltimore to boot. That was Week 4. The Ravens get to return the favor and perhaps convince the Browns to whack head coach Freddie Kitchens. Neither would surprise me.
Ravens 41, Browns 20
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Atlanta Falcons (-7.5): The Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin this week, something I will opine about in Monday’s $.10. In the short-term, I can see the Jaguars players feeling liberated from their oppressive overlord and taking out the joyous frustration on an unsuspecting Falcons team.
Jaguars 32, Falcons 28
- Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos (-7): What’s left of the Lions, who have placed seven starters on I.R. in the last 10 days, is not beating anyone. This one could be really ugly.
Broncos 33, Lions 10
- Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets (+3): I asked my 14-year-old son if he wanted to be a guest picker for this game. His droll response, “Why would I care?” I suspect many Jets fans feel the same way.
Steelers 18, Jets 14
- New York Giants at Washington (-1.5): Huge battle in the top-5 of the draft. The race to the bottom is a more tenable path for the defenseless Giants. Washington has played some solid football of late and I expect that to continue.
Washington 23, Giants 20
- Cincinnati Bengals at Miami Dolphins (even): The Bengals would cement the No. 1 overall pick by losing. The Dolphins would effectively play their way out of the bottom five by winning. Somehow I think both fan bases will be okay with that. Any team that loses to these Bengals is far more than a couple of draft slots away from being competitive than what one player could possibly impact. Mix in the expected heavy rain and this might be the most sparsely attended game of the season.
Dolphins 16, Bengals 12
- Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts (-6.5): The coaching change in Carolina has not helped. Perhaps switching to Will Grier at quarterback will. I wouldn’t bet on it, but lightning does come unbottled every now and then.
Colts 34, Panthers 31
- Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-9.5): Kyler Murray can do some things that will make the 12th man fans raise an eyebrow of familiarity. He doesn’t have enough around him to keep up with the original Russell Wilson, however. Should be a fun game to watch and don’t be surprised if it’s closer than expected.
Seahawks 37, Cardinals 32
- Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7.5): I expect to see more Los Angeles Raiders gear in the stands than either Chargers or Oakland gear. It’s fitting. Maybe Ice Cube can play at halftime or something. That would be a good day…
Raiders 29, Chargers 27
- Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings (-5.5): The Packers win the NFC North with a win, while the Vikings would clinch a playoff berth and set themselves up nicely to capture the division in Week 17 if they prevail. I like the home team to get the obnoxious (and awesome) horn rolling with a TD from Kirk Cousins to Kyle Rudolph on the opening drive and never look back. Aaron Rodgers, in the midst of his least-effective season in memory, will not be able to pull enough rabbits out of hats.
Vikings 24, Packers 19