Last week: 6-8, a stiff, cold wind on an otherwise strong season forecast.
This week’s forecast is a difficult one with all the COVID-19 cases and absences around the league. There is so much uncertainty for key player availability in several games. This is definitely a week to take the NFL for entertainment purposes only. Many games do not have active betting lines as of Thursday morning. As such, this week is all about straight-up results in the forecast.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers: The Packers will play this game without their top three RBs, and perhaps also left tackle David Bakhtiari. The 49ers will play without starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo, tight end George Kittle and several WRs. The handsome Jimmy G and Kittle are injured, but the 49ers COVID list is teeming with critical members of the team too. I’m surprised the NFL is letting this game go ahead as scheduled.
I would have picked the Packers even if the 49ers were at full strength. There’s only so much schematic magic coach Kyle Shanahan can pull off with his XFL-caliber roster of offensive talent.
Packers 33, 49ers 16
Seattle Seahawks at Buffalo Bills: A possible Super Bowl preview? It could be. The Seahawks are 6-1, the Bills are 6-2 and both teams sport MVP candidates at QB. Russell Wilson is the clubhouse leader in the MVP race, and his ability to turn broken plays into touchdowns is something that still amazes even though we’ve witnessed it for years now. His weaponry with D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and friends are too much for the Bills to defend and also keep Wilson’s legs in check.
Josh Allen’s own legs and propensity for hitting the big play down the field can keep up with the Seahawks, and Seattle’s truly terrible defense will aid Allen and the Bills offense. But in the end I think it’s Buffalo’s own leaky run defense that does them in. This one should be close and entertaining.
Seahawks 29, Bills 27
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts: Fun fact--the Ravens have never won in Indianapolis against the Colts team that used to call Baltimore home. I guess technically that fact’s fun factor depends on your rooting interest, but it’s a fact nonetheless. And this Colts team is well-suited to keep it that way.
The Indianapolis front seven on defense can contain Lamar Jackson and the Ravens ground attack. With Darius Leonard, DeForest Buckner & Co. preventing the big plays, it will force Jackson to win over the top. He’s capable but inconsistent at doing that in 2020. Between that and all the Ravens players missing due to either injury or COVID-19, it’s fixing to be another cloudy trip west on I-70 for Baltimore.
Colts 23, Ravens 17
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Two reasons I like the Buccaneers here, even on short rest after the close shave with the lowly Giants on MNF:
I like the way the Tampa secondary is sorting itself out, and they match up well with the Saints depleted receiving corps.
The Saints needed a lot of good fortune to hold off the Bears in overtime last week. They haven’t really played as well as their record indicates since waxing Detroit in Week 4. I think the luck runs out against a Bucs team that will listen to the wakeup call they got against New York.
Buccaneers 30, Saints 20
Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons: Last week the Broncos pulled off a comeback for the ages against the Chargers. What does Atlanta do? They allow comebacks for the ages on a semi-weekly basis, and they won last week. The Falcons have the better roster but don’t play to that potential often enough; it’s why they have an interim coach and why the Broncos can win one on the road.
Broncos 26, Falcons 24
Chicago Bears at Tennessee Titans: An intriguing matchup between two teams that might very well have peaked in early October, with both teams looking to stop taking on water after poor recent games. Both have lost two in a row after mighty impressive starts.
The Bears have COVID-related issues along the offensive line, and that’s a real problem for a team that hasn’t protected Nick Foles all that well. The Titans smartly added DB Desmond King at the trade deadline, and his big-play mentality could pay dividends right away. Chicago will need a defensive or special teams touchdown to win this one. Good thing they’re excellent at both, giving them a chance.
Titans 20, Bears 16
Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars: Something called Jake Luton will start at quarterback for the Jaguars. The sixth-round rookie from Oregon State, via Idaho and Ventura Community College, has one of the oddest physical attribute measurements of anyone I’ve ever seen. He’s got freakishly short arms.
Luton stands a hair over 6-foot-6. His arm length, measured at the Combine in February, is just over 31 inches long. By way of comparison, I’m a hair under 6-foot-5 and I have 35.5-inch arms, and I’m on the slightly higher side of normal arm length. Luton has a hand span over 10 inches, too. That’s just...weird. Good luck, stumpy, you’re gonna need it--even against the one-win Texans.
Texans 36, Jaguars 28
Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings: All bets are off--literally--with the uncertain status of Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Detroit placed Stafford on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Wednesday, but there is still a chance he can play.
Stafford’s presence is the difference between the Lions keeping this game within striking distance or the Vikings getting the football equivalent of a 6-0/6-0 tennis bagel. With no Kenny Golladay or Trey Flowers--the Lions’ best players on offense and defense outside of Stafford--this one is a longshot for the visitors regardless. Great week to use the Vikings in survivor fantasy games.
Vikings 34, Lions 26 if Stafford plays
Vikings 39, Lions 9 if he doesn’t
Carolina Panthers at Kansas City Chiefs: The Panthers hope to welcome back Christian McCaffrey to the lineup after six weeks. McCaffrey would certainly help, but the way the Chiefs are playing right now, even McCaffrey at his peak would have a hard time keeping up with the hosts in Kansas City. The way the Chiefs didn’t overlook the lowly Jets last week indicates they’re dialed in and less apt to get upset here than some other heavy favorites would be susceptible.
Chiefs 36, Panthers 21
New York Giants at Washington Football Team: The Giants won the first meeting back in Week 6 when a win-or-die 2-pt. conversion from the WFT (I love that shorthand!) came up with the “Death” Tarot card flipped. I dabbled with Tarot cards for the outcome of the rematch. After oddly overturning the “Lovers” four times, the next card flipped was the upright “Hanging Man”. Bad news for the road team. I don’t make the rules, I just flip the cards…
Football Team 24, Giants 20
Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers: The old LA team heads to LA to face the San Diego team LA doesn’t really want or need. Stop trying to make LA happen, Mr. Goodell...
Raiders 31, Chargers 25
Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals: Good test for the Miami defense, which is quietly playing some very good football. The Arizona offense has been too, scoring at least 30 in each of the last three games. I’ll trust the Cardinals defense against the Miami offense that managed just 8 first downs and 145 total yards last week.
Cardinals 27, Dolphins 14
Pittsburgh Steelers at Dallas Cowboys: Imagine for a minute you are a network executive and you see the NFL grant your entity this sexy game on the schedule over the summer. The marquee matchup between the two closest things to “America’s Team”, and both are loaded with marquee players and storylines.
Alas, the reality if the current state of the Cowboys throws this game on the rocks. That same network executive needs quite a bit of bourbon on those rocks to stomach the non-competitive game this figures to be between the unbeaten Steelers and the Cowboys, who will start Cooper Rush--a street free agent a week ago--at quarterback.
Steelers 40, Cowboys 9
New England Patriots at New York Jets: Just a strict hunch here, but I think the Jets pull it off. No other reason than election-related fatigue and brain drain on my part.
Jets 22, Patriots 21