Thursday Night

- Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-2.5): The NFL whets the appetite for the weekend with the latest display of how the Falcons snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Then again, in the first meeting just three short weeks ago the Panthers led almost the whole way and cruised to a 23-16 win in Atlanta. That game resulted in the Falcons firing GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn. This one likely won’t end any better for the birds…

Panthers 27, Falcons 24

Sunday Games 

- Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-3.5): The Steelers are the NFL’s last unbeaten team. They’re the best team in the league in 2020, a year with some pretty worthy aspirants to that title, too. One such aspirant is the Ravens, who have lost just once and would love nothing more than to spoil Pittsburgh’s party. 

I went back and looked at the success of the NFL’s last unbeaten team every year. Thanks to Pro Football Reference, it’s been some time since the string ended at 6-0, the Steelers current record. The 2001 Rams were the last team that picked up the league’s last initial loss in a season after starting 6-0. It seems like we’re overdue for that string to end. And guess who ended New England’s run as the last unbeaten in 2019? That’s right--the Ravens.

Ravens 22, Steelers 20

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-3.5): This forecast is brought to you by Dave Mustaine. The lead singer and songwriter for Megadeth is a frequent muse, and I can’t help but sing “Kill the King” as I contemplate the Bills burying the Patriots’ chances to win yet another AFC East crown. 

Kill the King, The King is dead

I am the King, Long live the King

Bow down before Josh Allen and the Bills, the new kings of the AFC East.

Bills 32, Patriots 17

- Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns (-2.5): Fun fact--Raiders coach Jon Gruden has never lost to the Browns. And the last time these two teams met the NFL made sure it stayed that way. That game and the way it went down still bugs me. 

Flashback to Week 4 of 2018. The Browns have a 42-34 lead late in the game after Nick Chubb gashed the Raiders defense for a 41-yard TD. The Browns defense had just held up against the Raiders, forcing a Derek Carr incompletion to Amari Cooper on 4th down. It’s 3rd-and-2 with under two minutes to play and the game is over when Carlos Hyde runs for two yards up the middle.

Except a booth review initiated from the league office decides that there is conclusive evidence Hyde didn’t make it. There was conclusive video evidence that Hyde did in fact make it, but nevermind. Gruden was languishing to start his Raiders redux and the league couldn’t bear the embarrassment of him getting beaten by Hue Jackson’s Browns, so they legitimately altered the outcome of the game. The Raiders went on to win in overtime. 

Yes, I’m still bitter about it. You can bet reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Month Myles Garrett, reigning AFC Offensive Player of the Week Baker Mayfield and the Browns are too. It’s not going to come down to a questionable spot this time. 

Browns 41, Raiders 30

- San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5): The bubble popped on the Seahawks last week. It’s hard to keep winning with the NFL’s worst defense, and Seattle learned that the hard way. I worry that the balloon keeps deflating against the 49ers, an up-and-down team but one that has a defense that can contain presumptive MVP Russell Wilson and his merry band of misfit playmakers. It should be a fun one to watch, especially for George Kittle fans.  

49ers 34, Seahawks 28

- New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears (+2.5): The Jim Finks/Mike Ditka bowl comes down to which quarterback I trust more to pull off a key drive when his team needs it most. I’ll take Drew Brees over any QB the Bears have ever employed, including in the Finks and Ditka eras. Nick Foles is not going to be the exception. The southern end of I-55 prevails against the northern terminus point. 

Saints 24, Bears 20

- Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5): Give me Brown over Green in the battle of the colorfully surnamed A.J.’s that play wide receiver at a high level. Now if only A.J. McCarron was still playing QB for the Bengals and one of these teams could trade for CB A.J. Bouye, and get A.J. Hawk up in the booth on the call, that would be a real A.J. party!

Titans 30, Bengals 24

- Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions (+2.5): Sometimes you have to defy convention and roll with the trends. Okay, maybe not the inexplicable resurgence of the mullet or Limp Bizkit music, but I digress...

Over the last three games, the Lions have allowed just 3.3 yards per carry on the ground, the 3rd-best defensive output in the league. In that same three-game window, the Colts have averaged just 3.2 yards per carry on offense. Only the Bears and Bengals have been worse. 

The convergence of those two trends is enough for me to believe in the upset home win for the Lions, in part because what’s left of Philip Rivers isn’t playing well enough to overcome the utter lack of a ground game. 

Lions 23, Colts 20

- Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (+2.5): The Melvin Gordon revenge game probably won’t go too well for the Broncos and their former Chargers RB. Gordon has played well the last couple of weeks for Denver, but 83 rushing yards and a TD won’t keep pace with what Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense are poised to do. The Broncos defense has been game this season, but the demoralizing reality of their loss to the Chiefs last week despite playing relatively well looms large here. 

Chargers 27, Broncos 16

- Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-6.5): The Vikings are perhaps the biggest disappointment in the NFL this season. It’s been rough sailing for the Norsemen, and the seas in Green Bay are cold, dark and rocky. The langskip crashes hard into the Wisconsin rocks. 

Packers 33, Vikings 21 

- New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs (-19.5): This was the rare NFL game with a 20-point initial line. That led many outlets to recite the history of such games, and that sort of overexposure to historical date has influenced enough bettors that the game is no longer topping a 20-point spread. The Jets haven’t gotten better, the Chiefs haven’t gotten worse. No, it’s all about the troubling history that in eight prior instances of a spread of at least 20 points, only one team (the 1976 Steelers, arguably the best defense in NFL history) has covered the margin in the victory. 

I’m going to swim against the betting current. Now that the line is below 20, the Chiefs are free to blow out the winless Jets like they should. 

Chiefs 41, Jets 9

- Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins (+3.5): It’s Tua Time in Miami. I wonder if the Dolphins thought through the idea of having an incredibly fragile rookie QB make his first start against Aaron Donald and the hard-hitting Rams defense? 

Rams 27, Dolphins 14

- Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5): Just imagine the furor in Philadelphia when Ben DiNucci outplays Carson Wentz and the Cowboys stun the Eagles to seize first place in the NFC East despite dumping several veterans on defense in a cost-cutting/tanking move. I’m here for it. All of it. 

Too bad it’s not going to happen. Probably not, anyway. But it could…

Eagles 22, Cowboys 21

Monday Night

- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants (+10.5): On the eve of Election Day, the NFL treats us to a lighthearted game that should be free of any drama from the get-go. Just what we all need--a mindless blowout where the only controversy will be how early Bucs coach Bruce Arians should pull Tom Brady.  

Buccaneers 38, Giants 12