Last week: 8-6, pushing the season forecast to 98-52. I count the tie between the Lions and Steelers as a loss, which it was indeed for anyone who watched that monstrosity of a game…
Patriots at Falcons (+7.5): This will be the first time much of the nation will see two of the best rookies in the league. Patriots QB Mac Jones is coming off a phenomenal game in the New England slaughter of Cleveland, building upon a strong debut campaign. Atlanta TE Kyle Pitts is tied with DK Metcalf and Mike Evans in receiving yards and has done it on one fewer reception than Evans, two less than Metcalf. He plays tight end the way those physical giants play wide receiver. It’s tough to stand out in a very impressive rookie class, but they’ve done so.
Give Jones and the Patriots the edge here. Pitts should find some success, but not as much as Jones will in targeting the Falcons defense. Outside of A.J. Terrell, who is quietly playing at an All-Pro level, the Atlanta pass coverage is vulnerable to offenses that can spray the ball to multiple targets. Guess what Jones and the Patriots do very well…
Patriots 30, Falcons 19
Saints at Eagles (-1.5): I don’t get this line with the Eagles favored. The Saints have the NFL’s best run defense and it’s been consistent against all types of schemes and runners. The Eagles offense depends on the run and Jalen Hurts’ legs to set up the passing game, which is inconsistent. Hurts and the Eagles passing offense surpasses what Trevor Siemian and New Orleans can do, but having to throw to win is a bad recipe for the young Eagles. I like the Saints very much and would consider using them as a survivor fantasy pick, even on the road.
Saints 20, Eagles 14
Lions at Browns (-11): It’s not certain as of press time, but it strongly appears the Lions will have Tim Boyle as their starting quarterback instead of the wounded Jared Goff. It will be fascinating to see how the Lions dead-to-rights passing attack looks with a more aggressive QB at the helm. It’s a good opportunity for Boyle, who throws the ball 40 yards more accurately than he throws it four, because the Browns communication and transitions in deep coverage continue to be a serious issue.
This will be the third time this year I’ve said this of the winless Lions: If the two teams here are the same editions we saw a week earlier, the Lions will win. I said that same thing of Detroit’s games with Chicago and Philadelphia too--their two ugliest losses of the year.
Browns 27, Lions 17
49ers at Jaguars (+6): This is a test of the Kyle Shanahan coaching system. This is only a test. If you expect to see ineffective offense, predictable play calls and a general lack of precision from San Francisco, proceed to the nearest betting window (or app) and place your money squarely on the Jaguars. Otherwise, this is only a test to see if a fool and his money are soon parted…
49ers 26, Jaguars 15
Colts at Bills (-7): There’s something about the way the Colts play that leads me to believe they’ll give the Bills some issues. Jonathan Taylor is challenging for the league rushing title, and the Colts OL is physical and relentless. That’s the exact style of play that has given Buffalo’s defense fits this year. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis defense is opportunistic. They have 21 total takeaways on the year and prevent big plays outside the pocket well.
Alas, the team with the most takeaways is Buffalo (24) and it’s hard to trust Colts QB Carson Wentz to not screw the pooch at least one more time than his equally error-prone counterpart, Josh Allen, who happens to have better playmakers at his disposal. Should be a fun one.
Bills 31, Colts 30
Dolphins at Jets (+3): This game has very real implications on the 2022 NFL draft. And since the Dolphins already traded away their first pick to the Eagles, they don’t have any motivation to lose the game here to help augment their draft status. A Jets win here would all but lock up the first two picks going to Detroit and Houston. And yes, that’s about the only point of interest there is in this game. I mean, Joe Flacco getting the start for the Jets moves the needle a little, but that just tells me the Jets already know they’re done. There is no bigger white flag to a season or middle finger to a fanbase than trotting out what’s left of Joe Flacco at quarterback.
Dolphins 32, Jets 16
Football Team at Panthers (-3.5): Cam Newton vs. Ron Rivera. I love it. Panthers fans should love it too. I’m all-in on the Panthers decision to roll with their former legend. He looked good in limited duty last week, and Washington’s defense--now without Chase Young--would have had issues slowing down P.J. Walker at QB too.
Panthers 31, Football Team 22
Ravens at Bears (+4.5): Just playing a straight gut hunch here. I like the Bears coming out of the bye against a Ravens team that doesn’t play to typical Ravens standards as consistently as hoped. Baltimore could very well win by 30, but I like the rested Bears to come out of the bye and snap their 4-game losing streak.
Bears 24, Ravens 21
Texans at Titans (-10.5): The AFC’s best against the AFC’s worst. I’m going to trust Mike Vrabel to keep his Titans focused against the undertalented Texans, who are coming off a bye and do have a nice mismatch with WR Brandin Cooks on the outside.
Titans 38, Texans 25
Packers at Vikings (+2): The Packers trudge forward to their inevitable NFC North crown. A win here gives them a 4.5-game lead over the Vikings with 6 to play. Hard to see Mike Zimmer’s fading team being more than a speed bump unless their pass rush suddenly delivers a huge game.
Packers 31, Vikings 24
Bengals at Raiders (pick’em): A peek behind the process of creating this forecast every week…
Normally I do the outline and at least jot down initial thoughts on each game to riff off on Wednesday nights while I’m at my daughter’s basketball practice. The facility they practice at has incredible WiFi and it’s easy to watch the on-court action from the tables in the common area where I set up shop. I’m writing the shell for this game and lo and behold, I see a man walking in wearing a Raiders tracksuit straight outta N.W.A. some 30 years ago. If that’s not a sign from God to take Las Vegas here, I’ll be struck down worse than the girl my daughter crossed over and knocked on her butt later during practice.
Raiders 27, Bengals 24
Cardinals at Seahawks (NL): I know Kyler Murray is supposed to be back for Arizona, but watching Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last week convinced me of two things. First, rust is real, even on Russ. Second, adapting the offense back to the starter also requires some adjustment from the rest of the offense. Arizona is a week behind Seattle on that timeline. Nothing at all against the Cardinals (the definite better team here) but I like the idea of Wilson with something to prove and playing at home.
Seahawks 24, Cardinals 20
Cowboys at Chiefs (-2.5): Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs had their “get-right” game last week, and it seems everyone is back to anointing them as the class of the AFC. To quote Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend!”.
As I pull out the cowboy hat and demonstratively place it upon my head to signify the Cowboys as the winner here in true Corso fashion, I will point out the playmaking Dallas defense with impact young talents Trevon Diggs and Micah Parsons. Diggs will absolutely give up at least one TD in this game in coverage, but he’ll make a play on the ball to kill Mahomes and the Chiefs chances too. And the Chiefs defense will remain the butter to Dak Prescott and the hot knife that is the Cowboys offense.
Cowboys 42, Chiefs 31
Steelers at Chargers (-5.5): The status of Ben Roethlisberger is unknown as of press time. After watching mason Rudolph fill in for the COVID-stricken Steelers starter last week, I will go ahead and guarantee a Chargers victory if Rudolph plays. They’ll probably beat Roethlisberger too, though the Chargers spotty run game and interesting tackling leave the door much more open to a (somewhat) capable QB. Subtract 12 points from Pittsburgh if Rudolph gets the start.
Chargers 24, Steelers 20
Giants at Buccaneers (-11.5): I feel bad for the Giants here, I really do. New York won 2 of 3 heading into the bye week, and they should gain some confidence and sharpness from that over the restful break. But they draw the Buccaneers at the absolute worst time. Tampa Bay got its wakeful comeuppance last week at the hands of Washington. Now they’re mad and focused again. Expect the Giants to play well. Expect the Buccaneers to play better.
Buccaneers 33, Giants 21
Great slate of games for the college weekend!
Ohio State 36, Michigan State 28
UCLA 30, USC 19
UTSA 33, UAB 30
Pittsburgh 37, Virginia 20
Cincinnati 40, SMU 38
Clemson 44, Wake Forest 41 in multiple overtimes