Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (-2.5): The most important game of the weekend is the first bite for Week 10. The winner here seizes control of the AFC South and a home playoff date. Sure, there’s a lot of football yet to be played, but this is a major battle and a fortuitous bounce for the Thursday Night Football crew.
It’s always fun to see how strength vs. strength plays out. The Titans run offense with Derrick Henry is their chief asset. The Colts run defense with DeForest Buckner and Darius Leonard is the best part of that team. But what if they cancel one another out? That’s why I like the Titans here; they have more paths to victory in other ways than playing to their strengths.
Specifically, I think their ability to stop the run and force Philip Rivers to throw the ball down the field really helps the Titans in this one. Tennessee has quietly played much better against the run of late, and the Colts remain among the very worst at running the ball. Rivers has not shown he can win down the field anymore, and that’s where the Titans biggest weakness is on defense.
Titans 25, Colts 21
Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns (-3.5): The Browns return to action after a much-needed bye week. Getting Nick Chubb and Wyatt Teller back--hopefully--means the NFL’s top rushing attack from the first month is back at full strength. Bad news for a Texans defense that ranks 31st in yards per carry and is dead last in tackles for loss in the run game. The Texans will put up some points on the Browns truly tragic middle-of-field defense, but Cleveland should put up even more.
Browns 34, Texans 31
Washington Football Team at Detroit Lions (-4.5): Washington won this meeting last year when the Lions couldn’t stop the Dwayne Haskins-to-Terry McLaurin combination down the field. Now it’s Alex Smith under center, and his more careful nature and shakier offensive line shift the scales a bit. Detroit’s pass rush isn’t impressive, however. And the Lions will sorely miss WR Kenny Golladay, their best red zone threat. It’s a limiting factor for the Lions offense. First team to 20 wins.
Lions 22, Football Team 20
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers (-13.5): The only real question here is how many different ways FOX play-by-play man Chris Myers pronounces the Jacksonville team name. Myers is handily the worst in the business--and that’s saying something--capable of mispronouncing and misidentifying far more prominent people and places than Jake Luton and the Jaguars.
Will it be “jah-goo-WARS” or “Jag-OOH-ars” or “jag-GWARs”, perhaps honoring the late Oderus Urungus? Knowing Myers and his decided lack of evident game prep, you’ll hear all those and many more variations as he and his crew try to stay attentive to a game that figures to be over by halftime.
Packers 36, Jaguars 15
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (+3.5): Do NFC East teams ever play anyone outside the division? Jeez. Feels like the third time in a month these two teams have played. On a whim, I think the Giants defense gives Carson Wentz problems and comes away with a defensive TD and the win.
Giants 23, Eagles 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (+5.5): Rebound game for Tom Brady, Antonio Brown and the beleaguered Bucs. Some teams would struggle to regroup after what happened on Monday night, but not this Tampa Bay team. I think they light up the Charlotte sky. And with no Christian McCaffrey--again--the Panthers just don’t have the firepower to keep up.
Buccaneers 31, Panthers 17
Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals (-1.5): Perhaps the most entertaining game on the Sunday slate pits two exciting young dual-threat QBs in Josh Allen and Kyler Murray. The Bills defense faced a similar type of threat in Seattle’s Russell Wilson last week, and the familiarity with containing a mobile QB preps them nicely. Buffalo also happens to have better defensive talent than widely advertised. They should have enough to eke out a road win. My lack of faith in the Cardinals kicking game definitely weighs on the forecast here too.
Bills 30, Cardinals 28
Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (-4.5): The Broncos will need to be much sharper in the passing game to pull this one off. No team has a lower completion percentage than Denver, and they struggle to protect the ball well. The Raiders are beatable but won’t beat themselves, and I’m just not sure the Broncos can force the issue. Tough forecast and an opportunity for a confident bettor.
Raiders 27, Broncos 24
Los Angeles Chargers at Miami Dolphins (-2.5): A fairly low-profile game belies a matchup between two of the more impressive rookie QBs in recent seasons with Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa squaring off in Miami. Tua gets the benefit of a team that finds ways to win games, whereas Herbert’s Chargers keep finding new and more disappointing ways to lose them. Look for Herbert to have the better day passing but for Tagovailoa to win the battle.
Dolphins 24, Chargers 20
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals (-7.5): The Steelers have won 10 in a row in this AFC North matchup and have lost just three times in the series in the last 10 years. This one doesn’t figure to be any different unless the Bengals defense can step up and create some takeaways. Cincinnati is playing better on both sides of the ball but they’re not ready yet to knock off the last remaining unbeaten. The Steelers ability to create pressure with just four will be a new kind of learning experience for Joe Burrow.
Steelers 30, Bengals 21
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-1.5): The Rams get the nod here for two reasons. First, I like Jared Goff spreading the ball around to multiple targets. Seattle’s pass defense is really struggling, and it’s even worse when they don’t have one specific target to focus upon. Second, the Rams defense has proven they can somewhat contain Russell Wilson, who did not play well last week. I expect Wilson will rectify that this week, but I also expect the Rams to not need punter Johnny Hekker more than once all night.
Rams 38, Seahawks 33
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (-9.5): As I wrote after Week 9, it’s time to forget about the 49ers from a year ago. This team bears very little resemblance to the defending NFC champs with all the injuries in so many key places. This road trip to New Orleans figures to be a stark reminder of how quickly things can change.
Saints 32, 49ers 13
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (+6.5): It took New England’s best game in a month to squeak out a comeback victory over the winless Jets on Monday night. The Ravens have shown some cracks in the armor this year, but the Patriots are attempting to win a jousting match with a leadless mechanical pencil.
Ravens 34, Patriots 17
Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (+1.5): The Vikings are on the come-up. The Bears are in the down elevator. Look out below. An efficient Kirk Cousins shines in prime time with help from Dalvin Cook.
Vikings 27, Bears 13