Last Week’s forecast: 7-9. Rainy days and bad calls on Mondays always bring me down. The season forecast is 25-23, counting the tie as a loss.
With the weather dominating the news after Hurricane Ian, it’s important to remember the somewhat unpredictable after-effects of such a massive, devastating storm. I live outside of Grand Rapids and we’re expecting clouds and possible rain this weekend from the remnants. In places like Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia, the game conditions could be soggy and suboptimal for fans.
- Miami Dolphins at Cincinnati Bengals (-3.5): Another strong matchup kicking off the weekend, and an interesting line. The 1-2 Bengals are favored over the unbeaten Dolphins, who just beat down the mighty Bills. One of the reasons why Cincinnati is favored is reigning AFC Defensive Player of the Week Trey Hendrickson, who got three sacks last week. But he faces a much stouter challenge in Terron Armstead, who has been a great tackle for Miami. For all the focus on Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ issues protecting him, their own ability to disrupt the opposing QB is just as critical to their success. If Hendrickson and company can’t impact Tua Tagovailoa, who has played great the first three weeks, it will be a long night for the home fans.
Dolphins 32, Bengals 28
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Philadelphia Eagles (-6.5): Before you reflexively dismiss the visiting Jaguars here, understand they have a defensive weapon in rookie LB Devin Lloyd who might be the optimal foil for Jalen Hurts. Lloyd has been fantastic for Jacksonville, and he’s lifting those around him, too.
Trevor Lawrence isn’t playing at Hurts’ MVP-caliber, but the follically gifted Jags leader isn’t far off the pace. We’re seeing the growth in confidence and decision-making that was needed from Lawrence. His receiving corps can play, too. I don’t think the Jaguars can match the Eagles talent on the back end of the defense, but it should be a lot of fun to watch them try. The micro forecast: Darius Slay picks off a late Lawrence desperation-time throw to seal a hard-fought win and keep the Eagles unbeaten.
Eagles 27, Jaguars 23
- Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (+2.5): I like the Vikings here and I’ll tell you why: their offensive line. It’s good, folks. Left tackle Christian Darrisaw has made major progress from his rookie season, while right tackle Brian O’Neill might be the best pass protector at his position in the league right now. They’ve handled strong pass rushes (mostly) capably all season. That’s more than enough for Kirk Cousins to find Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn early and often. I do worry about the positive anomaly game from Saints QB Jameis Winston, but I can’t bet on that. You probably shouldn’t either…
Vikings 30, Saints 21
- Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons (+1.5): Entering the week I was mighty confident in Cleveland’s chances to roll on the road. However, Myles Garrett’s rollover car accident this week puts a dent in those chances. Thankfully Garrett walked away with only minor injuries. But potentially without both Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney, the Browns pass rush and outside-in run defense is vulnerable to a promising young Falcons attack. Toss-up game now.
Browns 26, Falcons 24
- Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys (-3.5): Cooper Rush? Cooper Rush! He’s the better of the redheaded step-QBs in this matchup. Washington cannot command the defensive intensity or pressure to match what Micah Parsons--a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate--can do either.
Cowboys 31, Commanders 15
- Chicago Bears at New York Giants (-3): No matter who wins, the victorious team will be the league’s most improbable 3-1 team. The Giants would be the less improbable team with their exciting young pass rush and wildly expensive receiving corps. Just a speculative hunch here, but if Kenny Golladay is in absentia for New York once again, don’t be surprised if he’s gone--perhaps in Chicago next week playing for the Bears. With Sterling Shepard now out, it’s Golladay’s do-or-die time with the Giants.
Giants 20, Bears 17
- Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions (+5.5): The Lions are 2nd in scoring and first in points allowed. The Seahawks are 20th in points allowed but 28th in scoring. Detroit has major injury issues--10 starters missed practice on Wednesday--but the Lions firepower should be enough to carry the home team to a win. This is the most points Detroit has been favored by since 2016.
Lions 33, Seahawks 28
- Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-3.5): This critical AFC South matchup will show us which team effectively shook off the early doldrums of being winless through the first two weeks. The Titans are a difficult team to put a finger on, and losing LT Taylor Lewan to a knee injury really hurts. But Matt Ryan, who was stellar all summer in Indy, has been largely rotten for the Colts, and he’s gotten little help from a banged-up receiving corps. I sense this is the Jonathan Taylor breakout game his fantasy owners have been dying for.
Colts 28, Titans 20
- New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3): Upset alert? You betcha. I love Jets coach Robert Saleh’s chess match advantage against Steelers QB Mitch Trubisky and his utter inability to throw to the left side of the field. Saleh has the pieces to make it work, even on the road. If Pittsburgh is going to win this one, it’s on the backs of Alex Highsmith and the defensive front to dominate. And they can! But will they…?
Jets 19, Steelers 15
- Buffalo Bills at Baltimore Ravens (+3.5): The Ravens are overall a pretty good team, but they have shown a lot of issues on the back end of the defense. Nobody threatens and exploits downfield defensive issues better than Josh Allen and the Bills. Lamar Jackson is playing like an MVP himself, and his ability to attack the injury-riddled Buffalo secondary should keep this one very interesting.
With the potential for the weather impact on the two dual-threat QBs, I lean towards the more consistently accurate Jackson throwing. Then again, Allen has the better receivers and the more unfiltered style that can wreak havoc. Tough call. Should be a great game.
Bills 33, Ravens 31
- Los Angeles Chargers at Houston Texans (+6): All the injuries to the Chargers key players make their roster nearly as anonymous to the general fan as what the Texans will trot out. This is quietly a big game for Houston QB Davis Mills to prove he can belong as the long-term solution. So far this year, he has not been money. The home fans need to see something more from Mills than his amazing neck at some point…
Chargers 23, Texans 20
- Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (+1.5): Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray face off in the battle of former Heisman-winning Oklahoma QBs. Murray and the Cardinals have had an uneven season, but the (dis)harmony between Mayfield and his Panthers receivers is becoming a bigger problem in Carolina. The inability to protect Mayfield exacerbates the issues; Mayfield often doesn’t do off-script well. Yet the Cardinals don’t pressure the QB well. Heck, the Cardinals don’t really do anything well on defense. They’re 31st or 32nd in nearly everything. I don’t think that changes much here.
Panthers 34, Cardinals 28
- New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers (-10.5): Seeing a Bill Belichick team as double-digit dogs is a stunner. Then you look at their QB situation; Brian Hoyer has lost his last 17 starts and nearly every one of those provoked the question, “How the hell is this guy still in the league?” I don’t see that changing against the Packers’ awakening defense. If you are in a pinch, this is a great time to use the Packers in survivor fantasy football.
Packers 30, Patriots 9
- Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders (-2.5): It’s stunning to me that the Raiders are the NFL’s only 0-3 team. Las Vegas is too talented overall for that to persist. The inconsistent Broncos with their rookie coaching growing pains are the perfect panacea for what ails the winless home team.
Raiders 32, Broncos 17
- Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5): The Sunday night game is scheduled to be played in Tampa, but that’s a tenuous possibility at this point. The game could very well be played in Minnesota. Aside from the logistics of a short-term loss of a home game, don’t forget the Tampa Bay players live in the area. They have families and friends who are no doubt impacted by Ian’s devastation. That’s a mentally draining situation.
In stressful situations like that, teams either rally around themselves and play incredibly for a game before crashing the following week, or the weight is too much and they can’t get off the mat. Insert cliche about “heart of a champion” here, but the Chiefs are a really bad opponent to face in these sorts of circumstances.
Chiefs 23, Buccaneers 20
- Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5): The national focus will be on the high-profile QBs, Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo. However, my focus is on the run defenses. The Rams don’t run the ball often or successfully, but they don’t rely on it. The Rams run defense is very good, and that includes their defensive backs. San Francisco has to run the ball to be effective, in the way a Taco Bell must have a functional bathroom for you to eat there. Beware the pink urinal cake and the increasingly predictable 49ers offense. The Rams figure out both and chomp their way to victory.
Rams 24, 49ers 17
Washington 33, UCLA 28 (Friday night)
Michigan 20, Iowa 6
Ole Miss 29, Kentucky 27
TCU 30, Oklahoma 28
Arkansas 33, Alabama 30, and I’m basing this solely because Alabama lost (to Texas A&M) during my son’s HS homecoming weekend a year ago. He’ll be at a homecoming dance when this one ends. We’ll see if there’s a coincidental correlation…