Last week: 10-4, leaving the season forecast at a temperate 129-76 straight up

With the daily revelations of COVID-19 outbreaks around the league striking quickly, it’s very difficult to forecast or wager with any sort of certainty. The odds and the analysis for the teams are based on the status quo as of Wednesday night at 11:10 p.m. ET. That is certainly subject to change…

Thursday Night

- Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (+3): The AFC West title is on the line, with requisite apologies due to the Broncos here. The Chiefs have won six in a row and have done so with a suffocating defense. They’ve allowed just nine points in each of the last three games and have a league-high 15 takeaways in the last five contests.

The Chargers figure to score more than nine. They won the first meeting 30-24, after all. But the Los Angeles offense is too hit-and-miss and largely one-dimensional. If the Chargers can’t run the ball, they’re in a world of trouble against the resurgent Chiefs and the pass rush. Asking Justin Herbert to play hero ball isn’t a reliable success plan even if he’s proving to be pretty dang adept at it.

Chiefs 25, Chargers 20


- Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns (+1.5): The Browns were initially heavy favorites at home, but COVID has ravaged the Browns. Head coach Kevin Stefanski, QB Baker Mayfield, LT Jedrick Wills and S John Johnson are among the almost 20 Browns personnel who have tested positive this week. The Raiders have been one of the 5 worst teams in football over the last 6 weeks, but the Browns might lose the war of attrition here. Las Vegas can beat the Browns practice squad. Probably…

Raiders 18, Browns 16

- New England Patriots at Inidanapolis Colts (-2.5): I could be totally wrong on this, but I cannot escape this game playing out with Colts QB Carson Wentz making a massive, soul-crushing mistake in crunch time against Bill Belichick’s defense. Maybe it’s a lost strip-sack that Matthew Judon returns for a TD. It could be throwing the ball off RT Braden Smith’s helmet that gets picked off at his own 6-yard line. Or maybe Wentz knocks down RB Jonathan Taylor while handing the ball to the NFL’s rushing leader on a 4th-and-1 at midfield while down four late in the game.

Patriots 24, Colts 20


- Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos (-2.5): Huge game in the AFC playoff positioning, and the teams come in heading in opposite directions. Denver has won 4 of its last 6, while Cincinnati has dropped 4 of 6. The Bengals have struggled to protect the ball on offense and can’t get off the field on defense well enough lately. That’s a bad recipe against a patient, opportunistic Broncos team that has thrived on defense since acquiring LB Kenny Young. Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase can overcome, but it will not be easy. The decline of the Bengals run defense lately is troubling while facing the 1-2 punch of Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon.

Broncos 29, Bengals 23

- New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-10): The Tua Train keeps chugging. That’s it. What, you really expect me to say anything more in-depth about these hopeless Jets?

Dolphins 27, Jets 3

- Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles (-7): The WFT currently holds the final NFC playoff spot, but the Eagles sport the same 6-7 record. That makes this a de facto playoff game, even with four weeks remaining. Tiebreakers are going to be huge in the NFC Wild Card race.

The Eagles defense has been playing some impressive football recently. They’re allowing just 308 yards per game in the last six, and one of those was a 445-yard anomaly to the Chargers. I like the way the secondary has come together, and the tackling has also stepped up. Washington will hit a couple of big plays, it’s what they do. But I don’t see them finding enough sustained success to outscore the Eagles in Philly.

Eagles 22, Football Team 17

- Green Bay Packers at Baltimore Ravens (+5.5): Lamar Jackson’s questionable status makes this one academic. The Ravens defense isn’t deep enough or talented enough to handle Davante Adams at WR and Aaron Jones at RB, with Aaron Rodgers smartly knowing when to use each. This one could be a lot more lopsided than the line would indicate.

Packers 33, Ravens 16

- Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills (-10.5): Bills fans have to hope this is the week where coach Sean McDermott remembers that Buffalo is at its best when playing as a full team and not Josh Allen vs. the world. Allen’s struggles of late are troubling, but so too is the response from the Bills coaching and strategy. And that’s just the offensive side of the ball. Carolina is a great opponent to try and get things back on track against. Joe Brady leaving as OC has not helped Matt Rhule’s fading Panthers at all.

Bills 26, Panthers 17

- Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (+10.5): The Micah Parsons rookie of the year tour heads to New York. Prepare for the experience by buying a slobber shield if you’re listening to the broadcast. It might block just as effectively as the Giants woeful OL…

Cowboys 41, Giants 14

- Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5): Urban Meyer getting fired midweek leaves interim coach Darrell Bevell in an interestingly familiar position for the Jaguars. One year ago, Bevell took over for the internally reviled Matt Patricia in Detroit. Bevell’s fresh-faced optimism and positive reinforcement proved just the right tonic to coax a win out of a bad Lions team. The buzz only lasted one week before those Lions reverted back to being sewage overflow. I expect the same in Jacksonville from Bevell: he leads the Jaguars to one nice win and then they collapse into a hopeless entity for the final three weeks. It doesn’t hurt that the opponent for Bevell is the 2-11 Texans, a team that steadfastly refuses to remove their own inner Rasputin in Jack Easterby.

Jaguars 32, Texans 20

- Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5): This could be the last stand for the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh is 6-6-1 and could fall desperately behind in the playoff race with another loss. Their offense doesn’t scare anyone anymore. But just as concerning is how poorly the Steelers LBs not named T.J. Watt have played lately. The Titans are getting healthier at the right time.

Titans 28, Steelers 20

- Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions (+13.5): If ever there was a trap game, the Cardinals have one here. A trip to the team with the NFL’s worst record sandwiched in between an emotionally intense division game on Monday night and a home date with an AFC contender on Christmas night on national TV, that’s the epitome of a trap. Kliff Kingsbury’s Cardinals will not fall into the trap, not after losing to the Rams and needing this win to keep pace with Green Bay in the race for the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Cardinals 27, Lions 14

- Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers (-9): How do you beat Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense? By getting pressure on the ridiculously handsome QB. Alas, no team generates less pressure more often than the Falcons.

49ers 30, Falcons 19

- Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-6.5): Los Angeles comes off its fantastic Monday night win and promptly gets a massive COVID-19 outbreak. It’s a terrible time for the Rams to lose so many key players. Seattle is a dead team walking, but they’ve got one death gasp win still in them.

Seahawks 20, Rams 18

- New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-10.5): How much do the Saints miss having WR Michael Thomas catching passes from QB Drew Brees? Their leading wide receiver this year is Deonte Harris, who has 31 receptions for 523 yards. And he’s suspended for this game. Marquez Callaway and Tre-Quan Smith catching passes from Taysom Hill? Yeah, that’s not beating Tom Brady throwing to Mike Evans, Gronk, Chris Godwin et al… 

Buccaneers 28, Saints 12

Monday Night

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears (+3.5): These two teams meet twice in the final four weeks. If the Vikings don’t win this one, the rematch in Week 18 won’t matter for either squad except for draft slotting purposes. Given the Bears and their trudging onward with the dull Matt Nagy experience, I like the inconsistent Vikings to pull out the win and stay relevant in the jumbled NFC playoff picture.

Vikings 31, Bears 21