Last week: 8-6 

Thursday Night

Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-3.5): Two teams who have embraced the defense-optional approach to football lately face off in a critical NFC West matchup. Expect a reasonable facsimile of the Week 7 meeting between these two in Arizona, a game the Cardinals won 37-34.  

That was Seattle’s first loss, but it took the bloom away from their 5-0 start. Now the Seahawks are 6-3. Russell Wilson, handily the MVP for the first four weeks, has fallen back to being a demigod from being a deity. If he can’t elevate himself back up into the pantheon, Seattle doesn’t stand much of a chance against a Cardinals team that is figuring it out around Kyler Murray, who just might be the MVP of the last four weeks. Arizona has the NFL’s best offense (in yards per game) in that span. The Seahawks, still clinging to No. 3 on the season, are 13th in that span. In short, they simply cannot keep up in a shootout unless Wilson pulls off miracles. Like a Hail Murray, as a fresh example... 

Cardinals 38, Seahawks 31

Sunday Best

Green Bay Packers at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): Two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks face off in Indianapolis. Yes, Philip Rivers will get into the HOF at some point, and there’s no question about Aaron Rodgers. 

Rivers could help his case by seizing a head-to-head matchup, but I don’t see it happening. The Packers defense has quietly settled into a bit of a groove after its wretched start. The Colts win by Rivers methodically matriculating the ball down the field and hitting plays here and there to a variety of weapons. The Packers defense fares well against that style, better than against an offense that relies on explosive plays to punctuate otherwise middling drives. Maybe Nyheim Hines will change that for the Colts--he certainly has that ability--but relying on pedestrian rookie RB Jonathan Taylor will not beat these Packers. Don’t bet against the Packers getting a favorable call or two as well, even on the road. 

Packers 25, Colts 21

Kansas City Chiefs at Las Vegas Raiders (+6.5): The Chiefs can lock up the AFC West for all intents and purposes with a win here. No, it’s not “intensive purposes” or “intended purposes” or even “infected porpoises.” Wait, the Chiefs are not playing the Dolphins…

Chiefs 32, Raiders 28

Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-6.5): Two teams trending in the wrong direction try to right their listing ships against one another. The loser here will drop to 6-4 and out of the giant cluster that is the bottom AFC Wild Card tiebreaker, at least temporarily. 

All the injuries in Baltimore make it tough to trust them, and losing TE Nick Boyle is a dagger. They don’t have anyone who can directly replace what he offers, and given how limited the Ravens offense is in weapons around Lamar Jackson, that’s a problem. But the Titans have lost their swagger on defense. Tennessee is dead last in getting pressure on the opposing QB and 31st in getting off the field on third downs. I think Jackson and the Ravens offense string together enough positive plays to eke past that. Barely. 

Ravens 23, Titans 21

Sunday Rest

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-4.5): No Drew Brees means the Saints get to turn to Taysom Hill at QB. Wait, what? The NFL’s second-highest-paid non-starting quarterback (only Jacoby Brissett makes more) won’t even take over the starting role with the NFL’s all-time passing champ out. At some point, the Saints are going to have a reckoning as to how they paid a backup wide receiver and special teamer over $10M a year to be a (largely ineffective) gadget-play quarterback. Maybe it will happen when Jameis Winston throws his third INT to the lowly Falcons…

Falcons 27, Saints 24

Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns (-3.5): The first trip to Cleveland for Carson Wentz won’t be a happy one for the Eagles QB. I’ll have much more on the 2016 draft-day trade between these two teams and all its tentacles in this week’s $.10 on Monday. But know this: the Browns players are highly motivated to prove their team made the right decision and get this one in the win column for Baker Mayfield. I’m not betting against Myles Garrett in his matchup with Wentz, going with the NFL’s sack leader against the NFL’s most-sacked QB.  

Browns 22, Eagles 17 

Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Football Team (-1.5): Something’s got to give between one of the NFL’s most punchless offenses (WFT) and most toothless defenses (CIN). In keeping with the theme of 2020, bet against the NFC East winning against teams outside the division. This one could be the exception if the Bengals’ hit-and-miss run defense takes the week off, as they are prone to doing…

Bengals 20, Football Team 17

Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers: There’s no line on this game because both starting quarterbacks are apt to be questionable. Matthew Stafford has a sprained throwing thumb. Teddy Bridgewater has a sprained knee. If the game comes to a backup fight, I’ll take Carolina handily no matter if it’s Will Grier or P.J. Walker. Barring that, I think the Lions will find a way to win, then lose, then win this one--as is their M.O. 

Lions 26, Panthers 24

New England Patriots at Houston Texans (+2.5): Houston only beats Jacksonville in 2020. The Patriots are not the Jaguars, even though they’re a lot closer to Jacksonville in the standings than they’d like to be. Run defense is the difference in this one. 

Patriots 24, Texans 21 

Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars (+9.5): What am I missing here that the only remaining unbeaten team is only favored by 9.5 points against the team currently sitting No. 30 or 31 in most power polls, including my own? The Jaguars are at least fighting hard, but they don’t have the claws to stay within two TDs of the Steelers.  

Steelers 33, Jaguars 17 

Miami Dolphins at Denver Broncos (+3.5): Can Miami really win its sixth game in a row? I asked the Magic 8 Ball, freshly unearthed from my daughter’s closet floor. The answer came back, “Don’t count on it.”

I was leaning strongly in Miami’s favor, but now the child’s toy has me second-guessing my inclination. I’m going against the black plastic prognostication tool and riding with the Dolphins against a terrible Broncos run defense and a Denver QB in Drew Lock who makes too many mistakes. But maybe don’t count on it…? 

Dolphins 29, Broncos 27

New York Jets at Los Angeles Chargers (-8.5): If any team can blow it against the winless, witless, feckless Jets, it’s the Chargers. If there’s one sliver of bone in the fish taco, Anthony Lynn’s Chargers will choke on it and writhe violently in a deaht gasp on the beer-soaked floor of the dive bar. There’s no better NFL version of the dive bar than these Jets.  

Jets 20, Chargers 17

Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (-7.5): The Vikings are playing much better of late. Heck, they even got Kirk Cousins his elusive Monday Night Football win last week. Dallas comes off the bye week hoping its inept run defense can slow down Dalvin Cook, arguably the best all-around RB in the NFL in 2020. Don’t overthink this one…

Vikings 31, Cowboys 20

Monday Night

Los Angeles Rams at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3.5): I had a hunch about Jared Goff on this one, so I delved a little deeper and found my inclination was correct. The Rams QB is really good on Monday nights. In four prior MNF starts, Goff is 3-1 and has thrown 8 TDs to 2 INTs. His completion percentage, yards per attempt, INT rate and QB Rating are all higher on Mondays than his career averages overall. Couple that with Goff’s best month also being November (statistically, not win/loss) and I think I like the Rams to take the schizophrenic Buccaneers. 

Rams 30, Buccaneers 27