Last Week: 10-6
It’s a big weekend for home underdogs. Six of the 16 games on the slate feature the home team getting points from the bookmakers, and two others have no favorite.
- Denver Broncos at New York Jets (NL): The Broncos are making the switch to Brett Rypien as the starting quarterback after Jeff Driskel flamed out as Drew Lock’s replacement. It’s almost as if the Broncos and coach Vic Fangio are insulting the Jets by trotting out Rypien. Hey look, we can in fact beat you with one hand tied behind our back! And they will…just watch. Better yet, don’t watch what might be the worst primetime matchup of the season.
Broncos 18, Jets 16
- Indianapolis Colts at Chicago Bears (+2): The bookies still show Chicago no love. Not even after coach Matt Nagy made the switch to Nick Foles over Mitchell Trubisky at QB. The unbeaten Bears are still underdogs at home to the 2-1 Colts, who are coming off Philip Rivers’ best game in Indy. I wonder how the change impacts Foles; he’s been at his best when he’s the knight in shining armor instead of the warhorse, and now the Bears team is saddled on his back. It’s not like Trubisky will ride in on a white horse to rescue the team if Foles (again) falters when he’s the unquestioned starter and not the relief pitcher.
Colts 23, Bears 20
- New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions (+4): Detroit’s toothless defense is exactly what the doctor ordered for Drew Brees and his alleged loss of manly vigor. He should be getting Michael Thomas back, too. Detroit’s offense should keep it a challenge, but Brees has earned the benefit of my doubt. Now if Brees can’t light up a Lions defense that puts about as much pressure on opposing QBs as a flea on a rhinoceros, it’s time to worry.
Saints 33, Lions 28
- New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs (-7): Bill Belichick is the supervillain sent to destroy the heroic unbeaten run for the defending champion Chiefs. Andy Reid has what he covets and will go to the ends of the earth to possess. He’s Goldfinger, Scaramanga and Kananga all rolled into a sleeveless hoodie. He might not have the greatest of henchman (Oddjob edges Jaws in my book) but Belichick and his Patriots have enough nefarious defensive schemes to foil Mahomes’ plot to seize the MVP for the second time.
However, I’ve seen enough Bond movies to know that no matter how the odds seem stacked against the hero, no matter how awesomely over-the-top awesome the adversary (Christopher Walken’s Zorin comes to view), Bond always wins and gets the girl too. The only wonder is what punny quip ends the game...
Chiefs 30, Patriots 27
- Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (+3.5): It’s an underrated matchup that taps into the draftnik in me: Jeremy Chinn vs. Isaiah Simmons. Chinn, the last pick of the 2nd round, is off to an impressive start at safety for the Panthers and their overhauled defense. Simmons, No. 8 overall has been benched and couldn’t cover pedestrian Lions backup TE Jesse James last week despite being hyped in the draft process as an instant transcendent star for the Cardinals. He’s struggled at inside LB and could move to safety this week, where he played at Clemson. It’s a good week to experiment for the Cardinals defense with the largely punchless, McCaffrey-less Carolina offense (24th in scoring) on the docket.
Cardinals 33, Panthers 23
- Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys (-4.5): Expect a shootout in Dallas between two of the better offenses and two of the worst pass defenses in the league. The Browns have been playing much better all-around football than the Cowboys, but they’ve done so against the Bengals and Football Team. If Kevin Stefanski’s crew can hit the Cowboys the way they have played the last two weeks, Cleveland is absolutely winning this game. Dallas’ defense has no answer for a dialed-in Baker Mayfield, a subdued Odell Beckham Jr. and the best 1-2 RB punch in football, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Having said all that, the Cowboys are a tough foe. Dak Prescott and his glorious weaponry have lit up better secondaries than the one Cleveland brings, especially if starting CBs Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams are sidelined (both missed practice Wed. and will be iffy for Sunday). I do expect the Browns to cover and they probably should win, but my beloved hometown just hasn’t earned that credit in the football bank just yet.
Cowboys 37, Browns 35
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals (-3): I’d feel really good about Joe Burrow getting his first career win here except I’m mortified that Jaguars EDGE Josh Allen--the “other” Josh Allen--will treat tackle Bobby Hart like the cheap screen door that he is and crush Burrow like a meathead smashing a beer can on his forehead. Burrow has taken some massive hits already in his three weeks. Here’s hoping Burrow can enjoy a celebratory Rheingeist instead of being a smashed can of one…
Bengals 25, Jaguars 21
- Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7): Congrats to the Tampa Bay Lightning for winning the Stanley Cup! I’ll gleefully misapply the transitive cross-sport narrative to buy into the momentum from the ice carrying over to the nearby gridiron.
Buccaneers 27, Chargers 20
- Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans (-5): Someone has to win. Well, technically the Eagles and Bengals disproved that last week, but it seems extraordinarily likely that this meeting of winless teams will not end in a tie. Based on the COVID-19 concerns that have prevented the Vikings from practicing this week, it’s an overwhelmingly cloudy forecast for the visitors from Minnesota. Given how bad their defense has been, less practice to face Deshaun Watson is going into a hurricane with a broken umbrella.
Texans 39, Vikings 20
- Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins (+6.5): The Russell Wilson MVP train continues. The Dolphins have the worst opposing yards per pass attempt defense in the NFL (8.3), tied with the Seahawks. Seattle has the firepower to overcome its own leaky pass defense. Miami doesn’t have that club in the bag…
Seahawks 33, Dolphins 24
- Buffalo Bills at Las Vegas Raiders (+3): The Josh Allen express should keep riding high, even on the road. The Raiders struggle to defend down the field and don’t pressure the QB well. Allen has proven he’s not shy about uncorking the deep ball, and it’s working very well for the rocket-armed QB. This one should be an entertaining watch for neutral fans and a good chance to check out the Raiders’ awesome-looking new home stadium.
Bills 29, Raiders 27
- Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team (+13): This will be an interesting test for Baltimore. Coming off a rough loss, they have to face a team that is better-equipped to match up against their offense than most. Washington’s defensive front is very, very good, and their LBs have speed. The problem for Washington is the mistake-prone offense that gave the ball up five times in Cleveland in Week 3. If Dwayne Haskins and crew can pitch a clean game, this one could be much closer than expected. I wouldn’t bet on that happening, but it’s not out of the question.
Ravens 28, Football Team 23
- New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (-13): The Giants will not go winless. They have too many positive assets to lose every game. But they’re not beating Aaron Donald and the Rams in Los Angeles. If we’re doing confidence pools, this is the one to value with the most points.
Rams 31, Giants 12
- Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers (-7): The 49ers handled business with Nick Mullens at the helm last week. Now Mullens, still in for Jimmy Garoppolo, gets George Kittle back at his disposal. That will only help against an Eagles defense that many Philly fans believe belongs in a garbage disposal. If you’re still alive in survivor fantasy pools, it’s a good week to swim with the Niners.
49ers 34, Eagles 24
Atlanta at Green Bay (-7.5): The Falcons have blown 16-point second-half leads two weeks in a row. I doubt they get the chance to make it a threesome, not competing against both the Packers and the officials in Green Bay in prime time. The Packers pour it on and punish the Falcons for even thinking they can win.
Packers 37, Falcons 21
Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans (NL): The game between the unbeaten AFC powers will not be played on Sunday as regularly scheduled in Week 4.