Last week: 9-4, leaving the season forecast at a sunny 74-33 record through Week 7
Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals (-6.5): Two of the NFL’s best teams kick off the weekend in a must-see matchup. Of course, some of the shine is already off the game with Packers WR Davante Adams almost certainly out with COVID-19 and Cardinals DE J.J. Watt definitely out with a shoulder injury that will cost him the rest of the regular season.
The Packers have been weirdly successful without Adams over the years even though their WR depth isn’t impressive. I refuse to disrespect Aaron Rodgers and his ability to cope without his favorite target. But the way to knock the Cardinals from their perch as the NFL’s last remaining unbeaten is to outscore them. Doing that without Adams--and with a beat-up OL--seems very difficult. Unless Kyler Murray has an off night, and that could happen with Green Bay’s defense nicely emerging as a force, the Cardinals just have too many paths to victory to not pick them.
Cardinals 30, Packers 24
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (-3.5): The last two times these teams met, the Browns won both games in back-to-back weeks by a 72-59 margin. Cleveland is getting healthier and playing better all-around ball recently, too. This could very well be the death-gasp from Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin and that mustn’t be discounted, but the Browns match up extraordinarily well with the Steelers even without Nick Chubb or Jack Conklin--and they’ll both be back.
Browns 28, Steelers 20
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (+5.5): The Saints are 4-2 but you’d never know it from the decided lack of national attention, not even after winning on Monday night in Seattle. They get a chance to grab some spotlight by playing the high-flying defending champs, who look very much like they can repeat. It’s hard to trust Jameis Winston against his old team, especially given the lack of firepower in his receiving corps. The Saints defense will give them a chance, probably a better one than you’ll expect.
Buccaneers 27, Saints 22
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills (-13.5): Buffalo has played one game in the last month against another team that has more than one win in the last month, and they got beaten back by those Titans. Miami has managed to bungle away two solid games in a row from Tua Tagovailoa and the reports out of Dolphins land about the team’s response to head coach Brian Flores are not promising. The Bills simply do not lose to bad teams, and right now there aren’t three other teams worse than the one-win Dolphins.
Bills 37, Dolphins 19
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (-5): It’s difficult to ascertain how the Chargers can light up the Browns for 47 points in Week 6 and then sputter to just 6 against the Ravens in Week 7. Their inability to do anything on the ground against Baltimore is an issue against the Patriots, who boast one of the NFL’s best run defenses and have quietly emerged as an efficient overall D. If Mac Jones can find success down the field against a marginally effective L.A. secondary, the Patriots have the ability to outscore the Chargers. I like what I see from Jones but his supporting cast isn’t reliable enough to trust in pulling off the upset.
Chargers 21, Patriots 17
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3.5): Through the first four weeks, the Panthers were 3-1 and the Falcons 1-3. Since then, Carolina has not won and the Falcons are 2-1, albeit beating the two woeful New York teams. The Panthers have QB chaos, no Christian McCaffrey and no answer for how the Falcons have figured out how to deploy rookie TE Kyle Pitts. Bad matchup for Matt Rhule’s reeling Panthers, even if the Falcons schedule has been ridiculously favorable for the last month. Sneaky good chance to use the Falcons in survivor fantasy pools if you’re somehow still alive…
Falcons 30, Panthers 22
Philadelphia Eagles at Detroit Lions (+3.5): The Lions remain the NFL’s last winless team, but they’ve got a solid chance of ending that with the Eagles coming to Detroit. The Detroit team that played last week beats the Philadelphia team that played last week. The trick for the Lions is to coax the same effort out of Jared Goff and aggressive execution that worked against the Rams but came up short. The trick for the Eagles is to not fall behind early and ask Jalen Hurts to try and win the game by himself. The forecast is for some much-needed sunshine in Detroit for the home team.
Lions 27, Eagles 21
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-1): I like to try and anticipate the betting lines, and the Colts being favored here surprised me a bit. I expected Tennessee to be favored by 3, even on the road. The Titans have won 5 of 6 and appear to be settling into the balanced offense that makes them at their best. I know the Colts have won 3 of their last 4 as well, but beating San Francisco, Houston and Miami doesn’t exactly impress me. Tennessee comfortably won the first meeting back in Week 4 despite having a minus-3 turnover ratio and has only played better football since. I’ll stick to my initial instincts.
Titans 24, Colts 21
San Francisco 49ers at Chicago Bears (+4): Perhaps the best analogy for Justin Fields’ ongoing struggles as the Bears rookie QB came from Twitter: imagine having Steph Curry and playing him like he’s Shaq. Matt Nagy as the Bears coach, ladies and gentlemen. Sadly enough, the misplayed Fields could still be the better QB in this one with the exceptionally handsome Jimmy Garoppolo playing the way he has lately. Khalil Mack’s iffy status--will he play or will he be on IR?--makes a cloudy game even more difficult to forecast.
49ers 17, Bears 13
Los AngelesRams at Houston Texans (+14.5): The schedule makers did the Rams a huge favor by backing up a home date with winless Detroit with a trip to one-win Houston. The Texans might have a victory but they’re pretty handily worse than the Lions. As long as Matthew Stafford, Jalen Ramsey and the Rams stay engaged, this one will not be close.
Rams 40, Texans 12
Cincinnati Bengals at New York Jets (+10.5): Mike White takes over at QB for the Jets for injured rookie Zach Wilson. It’s bad enough that New York fans actually seem happy that the team traded for what’s left of Joe Flacco’s aggressive indifference to back up White, who might not complete a pass longer than 5 yards downfield.
Bengals 39, Jets 6
Jacksonville Jaguars at Seattle Seahawks (-3): Seattle only being 3-point favorites over a 1-win Jaguars team that has yet to give up less than 20 points in any game is a stunning sight. But it’s justifiable. Seattle has scored just 47 points in 3 games, all losses, and the Jags are coming off a bye week and a win before that. Man it’s tempting…
Seahawks 20, Jaguars 19
Washington Football Team at Denver Broncos (-3): If they just played this one on the old electric football game that used to always short-circuit my grandma’s living room, I don’t think anyone would really care. Turn the dial on the base a little more to the right and hope that the Taylor Heinicke replica can flip the little foam ball to Terry McLaurin behind all the Broncos defenders caught in endless loops of maddening futility. Oh the months of my childhood devoted to that game!
Football Team 26, Broncos 21
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings (+1): This should be a good Sunday nightcap with two of the most interesting and entertaining offenses squaring off in beautiful US Bank Stadium. The Vikings have won 3 of 4 and are rested after a bye week. They’ll need every ounce of energy to keep up with a Cowboys team that has scored at least 35 points in each of the last four weeks. It’s been enough against lesser offenses on the other side, but Kirk Cousins and co. have the firepower to keep up. The inconsistent performances from the home team keep me from buying into the upset here but it wouldn't surprise me if the Vikings went off and blew some doors off. I’m more confident that Dak Prescott and the visiting Cowboys are the door blasters.
Cowboys 41, Vikings 38
New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs (-10): How bad of a game is this? There is an argument to be made that the Chiefs have been the AFC’s third-worst team over the last month, down in the dregs with the Jets and Texans. And yet the floundering Chiefs are still favored by double-digits over the Giants, a team that won in convincing fashion last week. Either the reality of what these Chiefs are hasn’t hit the bookmakers yet or the Giants still having major injury questions is that impactful. I sense value for the bettors here even if I give the Giants little chance of winning outright.
Chiefs 37, Giants 28
Michigan State 22, Michigan 20
North Carolina 33, Notre Dame 28
San Diego State 27, Fresno State 24
Ohio State 33, Penn State 16
Ole Miss 32, Auburn 24
Houston 38, SMU 37