Last week’s forecast: 11-4
We begin our scheduled bye weeks this weekend, and God only knows what’s going to happen with the Titans…
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Chicago Bears (+3.5): The Bears were the most improbable of the 3-0 teams. Now they’re 3-1 and stuck with a QB change that didn’t exactly pay dividends against the Colts. Tampa Bay’s defense isn’t of the Colts’ caliber, but they’re getting better by the week--now 4th in yards per play and in the top 10 in both red zone and 3rd down conversions. Bad time for the Bears offense to try and get rolling.
Then there’s that Brady guy on the other side of the ball for the visitors…
Buccaneers 26, Bears 17
- Philadelphia Eagles at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7): The battle of Pennsylvania looks to be a lopsided affair. The unbeaten Steelers are angry and ready to roll after their unexpected and unwanted early bye. They’ve had extra practice time and rest time to prepare for an Eagles team coming off a primetime win that exposed just how fragile their margin for error in games truly is. Carson Wentz is going to have to play significantly better than he has to pull this one off, and doing so with a largely anonymous receiving corps and battered OL against this swift, smart Steelers defense makes that extraordinarily unlikely.
Steelers 37, Eagles 10
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans (-6): The post-Bill O’Brien era begins in Houston. Merci beaucoup. Romeo Crennel takes over to the joy and relief of the Texans defense, which led a bit of a coup to get O’Brien out of office. Just a hunch, but I think we’ll see the best Texans team since the first half of their playoff loss to the Chiefs.
Texans 33, Jaguars 19
- Arizona Cardinals at New York Jets (+7): Joe Flacco takes over for the injured Sam Darnold in New York. Don’t snicker, but this could actually work against the Cardinals and their floundering defense. This is the Jets’ best chance to get into the win column since...last Thursday, when they got beat by Brett Rypien and a Broncos team missing most of the players most fans have ever heard of. There’s definitely part of me that thinks this is the week for the Jets. I’ll attempt to kill that figment of my imagination with beer while I don’t watch this game.
Cardinals 24, Jets 20
- Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-13.5): There might not be a bigger mismatch this entire weekend than the Ravens defensive front against the Bengals offensive line. Pray for Joe Burrow and for the Bengals training staff that will have to treat him after the game.
Ravens 31, Bengals 16
- Indianapolis Colts at Cleveland Browns (+2): The Browns go from facing the defenseless Cowboys to the stingy Colts, owners of the league’s top scoring defense through four weeks. It’s quite a radical change from one week to the next, and the Browns will do it without RB Nick Chubb. To put it in perspective, in Week 4 the Browns blew past the total over/under for this game (45.5) all on their own.
This will be a big litmus test for the Colts defense, which has played three of the NFL’s worst offenses (JAX, NYJ, CHI) in their four games. They haven’t seen an offensive line like Cleveland’s impressive group, nor have the Colts faced an offense with so many weapons. The issue for the Browns is the defense, which outside of Myles Garrett and the CB combo of Terrance Mitchell/Denzel Ward has not been good at all. If Cleveland does manage to extend the win streak to four, it’s because the guys like B.J. Goodson, Karl Joseph and Olivier Vernon step up.
Colts 28, Browns 24
- Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (-10.5): Quarterback uncertainty mars both teams here. Quarterback uncertainty is like predicting the path of a hurricane while it’s still a tropical depression hundreds of miles to the east of the Caribbean. Many of the potential paths wind up being within the cone of certainty, but there’s always the random outlier that sees the storm shift suddenly southward and hitting Cancun instead of Miami.
For all those in the path of Hurricane Delta, please be safe and smart!
Patriots 24, Broncos 12
- Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-1): What does it say about the Panthers that they’re underdogs to the winless, self-destructive Falcons?
(That’s a rhetorical question)
I’m just trying to figure out how the Falcons manage to lose this game. Missed extra point? Premature celebration on a pick-six that results in a fumble? Allowing Mike Davis to rush for 137 yards and two TDs? Heck, it could be all of them!
Panthers 30, Falcons 28
- Los Angeles Rams at Washington Football Team (+7): Washington has made the switch to Kyle Allen at QB, but more interesting to me is that Alex Smith is the new No. 2, not Dwayne Haskins. Smith--if healthy--is a perfect fit for what the Washington offense needs, a reliable distributor who can adapt and improvise when required. Alas, Allen doesn’t have those skills. Aaron Donald and the Rams defense will make sure Football Team coach Ron Rivera gets that message loud and clear.
Rams 20, Football Team 16
- Las Vegas Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-13): The Raiders have allowed 30 points or more in three of their four games, including two games surrendering exactly 30. The Chiefs average 29.2 points per game, not quite 30 but close enough for government work.
Chiefs 30, Raiders 20
- Miami Dolphins at San Francisco 49ers (-9): Jimmy Garoppolo’s questionable status--he was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice--and the questionable status of who would play if the devastatingly handsome Jimmy G can’t go make this a very tough forecast. Not that the Dolphins are a major threat to pull the upset, but the uncertainty and all the 49ers injuries make this a tough one to have any real confidence in trusting. Bet at your own peril.
49ers 27, Dolphins 20
- New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys (-9.5): The Cowboys should win this one, but expecting that horrifying defense to be almost 10 points better than any other team is a fool’s bet. I know New York’s offense is sputtering, but the Cowboys are the magic tonic to calm that sour stomach.
Cowboys 40, Giants 34
- Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-7): Upset alert? Absolutely. And no, I’m not day-drinking.
Much is made of Kirk Cousins and his primetime failures, but the Vikings QB is 3-2 on Sunday nights. Seattle’s pass defense is the worst in the league, and Cousins is finally warming up. And he’s got Dalvin Cook at his disposal if the Seahawks load up to try and stop the pass.
The only holdback I have on picking the outright Vikings win is Minnesota’s own bad defense. I don’t trust them to stop a game-winning drive from first-quarter NFL MVP Russell Wilson.
Seahawks 37, Vikings 35
- Buffalo Bills at Tennessee Titans (NL): We will see if this game winds up being played or if the matchup of AFC unbeatens gets postponed to the rampant COVID-19 problems with the home Titans. If they do play, expect the Bills to punish the undermanned Titans for being an embarrassing scourge upon the league for their flippant disregard of the NFL and NFLPA’s carefully designed protocols.
Bills 38, Titans 19--if they even play
- Los Angeles Chargers at New Orleans Saints (-7.5): Doesn’t it feel like these two teams already played this year? I could’ve sworn it’s already happened. The deja vu of the Saints winning 27-17 is fresh in my mind. I won’t fight the redux version of the same game on Monday.
Saints 27, Chargers 17