Here we are again this year, back for more NFL picks. It is with great pleasure that I begin my third season writing this column. As someone who has won and lost their fair share of money on the NFL (and many other sports), this is bound to be a fun and unpredictable ride. Join me, won’t you?
As with the format in previous years, this article will help those of you who compete in confidence pools and in ranking selections, which may come in handy on those Las Vegas trips. Games are rated based on preference for both the point spread and other angles (such as totals or over/unders) with 1-3 “Stars”, which basically highlight the best bets for the week. Those games which have zero stars are not preferred one way or the other, but will still be covered, discussed and a winner will be predicted for those trying to get some advice for their weekly office pools.
Note that the over/unders are taken from VegasInsider.com
(Thursday Night) BALTIMORE (-7.5) at MIAMI (Over/Under 47.5)
The Ravens just seem to find a way. Their analytics-driven approach means that they, inspired by head coach John Harbaugh, play without fear. Even in their own half, they back their ability to get first downs, extend drives, and utilize the immense talents of Lamar Jackson to crank out points. That the defense is so poor is something of a side story right now; Jackson and the offense have stepped up time and again. Even on a short week, few would balk if Baltimore were made double-digit road favorites in Miami.
As it stands, the visitors are laying 7.5 points, perhaps a sign of the lingering trust that the market has in the Dolphins. The turnover fest that their victory over Houston produced was not good football; a similar outcome this week will see them swiftly dismissed. The health of Tua Tagovailoa is the major concern now. At the very least this wayward franchise needs to see him on the field for the remainder of the season for evaluation purposes. The Dolphins could keep this close in an ideal scenario, but how many of those have they had this season?
JACKSONVILLE at INDIANAPOLIS (-10.5) (Over/Under 48)
Jacksonville would have been chalked up in the ‘lambs to the slaughter’ category last Sunday against Buffalo, just another obstacle in the way of the pursuit of the number one seed. Then, Josh Allen (not that one) happened, and everything changed. While the confetti won’t exactly be flying in Florida this week, there is at least a little bit of optimism in the air. The Jags appear to have avoided catastrophe with Trevor Lawrence’s injury, making this trip to Indianapolis the very definition of a free shot with nothing to lose.
For the Colts, 10 days of rest will do them good and will provide time to reassess the path ahead. At 4-5 in a muddled AFC, they are far from out of it. The division, yes; the playoff race, most definitely not. Carson Wentz put together a fantastic performance last time, while Jonathan Taylor looked every bit the superstar the Colts expected him to be when they drafted him. The job here is copy and paste from the Jets game; pound the rock and let the defense do the rest. The Jaguars have not done enough to earn our trust to keep this close.
CLEVELAND at NEW ENGLAND (-2) (Over/Under 45.5)
There was an undeniable pep in the step of the Browns last Sunday as they demolished the Bengals. Baker Mayfield still isn’t 100% healthy, but he is showing guts in playing through discomfort. Nick Chubb is, well, an uber stud. The defense is rounding into form amid some hiccups along the way. In other words, the Browns are exactly where they need to be: in the playoff picture and trending upwards.
The test against the Patriots will not be easy, of course. Carolina had some success running the ball against New England’s front, but largely they were kept under wraps. Expect Kevin Stefanski’s scheme to keep a focus on balance and not to abandon the run. Mayfield will have to be careful with the football to avoid the costly turnovers that doomed Sam Darnold. There are still chinks in Mac Jones’ overall play, but his competency is undeniable. In what should be a tight game, take the points.
ATLANTA at DALLAS (-9) (Over/Under 53.5)
Who can figure out the Falcons? Among many NFL teams that boggle the mind, Arthur Smith’s team must be one of the most enigmatic. Matt Ryan’s play continues to be solid enough to give them a chance, with last week’s sideline bullet to Cordarrelle Patterson a signature moment of magic. The Cowboys defense was completely flummoxed by the Denver offense; what is to say that Atlanta, with the right game plan, can’t do the same?
There are few excuses for the Cowboys to fall back on for the debacle that was the defeat to Denver. Dak Prescott returned, and yet things did not pick up where they left off. Perhaps it is just a blip, or perhaps it is something more. The market is unmoved, however, making the Cowboys nine-point favorites. In what should be a high-scoring affair, it is always advisable to take the points. At 4-4, the Falcons are very much alive and will give their all. See if the line moves to +10 and jump on it if it does.
BUFFALO (-13) at NY JETS (Over/Under 48)
The Bills’ loss to the Jaguars had ‘Any Given Sunday’ written all over it, but before dismissing it as a flash in the pan, perhaps it is time we face the reality of Buffalo’s situation. This offense doesn’t have the firepower it once had, although the personnel hasn’t changed much. It is simply difficult to sustain that level of productivity, as we have seen with the Chiefs. What is clear is that Buffalo will be in the mix come the business end of the season; what isn’t is how equipped they will be to not only hit their stride, but produce meaningful playoff victories.
The Jets will likely provide little resistance this week, regardless of who the quarterback is. There is fight in this team, but not enough to be considered a live underdog in this spot. The Bills will have seen what happened to the Bengals and will not want a sequel with them as the protagonists. The best approach here is to stay away with the -13 points you would have to lay.
Pick: New York
NEW ORLEANS at TENNESSEE (-3) (Over/Under 45)
Just when you thought the Saints were ready to take football back a couple of decades with a defense-first, caretaker quarterback strategy, suddenly the Falcons said ‘Not so fast’. Despite a furious fourth-quarter rally, Sean Payton’s team couldn’t get the job done. This might be the script for the Saints for the remainder of the season – close, but not quite. A road trip to Tennessee figures to be one of their trickiest tests for the remainder of the year.
The Titans have sneaked up on the rest of the league, quietly going about their business in a ruthless fashion. The signature win over the Rams was yet another reminder not to doubt this team’s potential, which is the Super Bowl. Even with Derrick Henry sidelined, there is enough in their arsenal to cause problems. Defensively, they have made massive strides and will present real problems for whoever starts at quarterback for the Saints.
TAMPA BAY (-10) at WASHINGTON (Over/Under 52)
The Bucs come off the bye sitting pretty atop the NFC South, with the teams below them essentially canceling each other out. The rest will do this veteran squad the world of good – and so will seeing Washington on the schedule. Expect a focused, hungry team ready to take care of business. Tom Brady with two weeks to prepare is typically not good for the opposing team.
As for Washington, they are one of the teams adrift in the league at the moment: not quite here, not quite there. Ron Rivera’s task is a mammoth one, and it appears that Taylor Heinicke will once again be starting. The script has not been kind to the Football Team this season. Listed as 10-point underdogs at home, the trust factor here is low for a potential late cover. Don’t overthink this.
Pick: Tampa Bay
DETROIT at PITTSBURGH (-9) (Over/Under 43.5)
The Steelers got over the hump against the Bears – just about – and continue to win in unimpressive fashion. Nevertheless, they are racking up the victories and, at 5-3, are well-positioned for a run. The visit of the league’s only winless team should be a walk in the park at Heinz Field, allowing Ben Roethlisberger to give Najee Harris plenty of touches and let the defense do their part.
Dan Campbell’s Lions had the bye to lick their wounds, but turning this ship around will take some time and patience. Jared Goff’s play continues to lack inspiration and the number one pick continues to be a reality for this franchise. The under, based on team trends, is a strong likelihood to hit here. That may be the best approach to a game that should be lower on the list of Sunday priorities.
MINNESOTA at LA CHARGERS (-2.5) (Over/Under 52)
Mike Zimmer’s team has covered the spread in five of the last seven road trips, so the Vikings have a live shot here to be a feisty underdog, which is the role they’ve been playing frequently this season. Despite holding a comfortable lead last week, they tripped over themselves, got conservative in overtime, and ended up paying the price with a narrow defeat in Baltimore. Will they learn from their lessons and change? The pattern so far says probably not.
As for the Chargers, it was a battling performance in Philadelphia but they pulled out a victory in the end. One key factor here is the crowd make-up in Los Angeles this week; it is likely to be an overwhelming majority of hardcore Vikings fans, so expect Justin Herbert to have to operate in silent count at times. Vegas is trying to tempt us with a -2.5 line for the home team, but the visitors have an edge here and should keep it close.
CAROLINA at ARIZONA (-10) (Over/Under 44.5)
Sam Darnold is set to miss multiple weeks with a broken scapula, so the team signed Matt Barkley to cover the backup quarterback spot – presumably. What is clear is that the Panthers’ season has gone down the tubes and fast. Offensive linemen are heading for injured reserve, and the center cannot hold for this roster. Even with a less than 100% Christian McCaffrey back, don’t expect much from Matt Rhule’s men in Arizona.
As the Cardinals showed last week, even without Kyler Murray they are more than capable of putting together game plans to knock off opponents. The depth of this squad is enviable, putting them in excellent position to compete for the number one seed in the NFC. Carolina will be nothing more than a bump on the road.
SEATTLE at GREEN BAY (-3) (Over/Under 49.5)
The good news for the Seahawks is that Russell Wilson has been cleared to return to action, putting them in a good position to jostle for position in a crowded NFC playoff field. Geno Smith is 3-0 against the spread as the starter, but that time seems to be over. With an extra week to prepare, the temptation is to back the Seahawks, energized and ready to roll, to cause an upset. That might be a little much against the red-hot Packers, however (last week’s narrow loss to Kansas City notwithstanding).
Pick: Green Bay
PHILADELPHIA at DENVER (-2.5) (Over/Under 45)
Wait a minute. The Broncos traded Von Miller and suddenly they’re knocking off Dallas in Jerry World? Well, well… it seems they had a plan after all. A total team effort, featuring a punishing ground game, was instrumental to the win in Big D. Now, back home, Denver will fancy their chances of swatting aside an Eagles team that has very little going for it. The Broncos are in with a great chance to build momentum here and squeeze into the playoff picture.
The Eagles are coming into flower but not quite seeing the seeds of their labor come to fruition. With their season all but over, the focus turns to Jalen Hurts making a case for the starting quarterback job next year and Nick Sirianni keeping the veteran locker room together. The roster has the talent to stay with Denver here, but the -2.5 here is awfully tempting.
(Sunday Night) KANSAS CITY (-3) at LAS VEGAS (Over/Under 51.5)
The Chiefs are a staggering 4-16 in their last 20 games against the spread, so the points spread tax that we previously referenced has all but evaporated. People are now out on the Chiefs, and it shows in this -3 line. This may also represent an opportunity, however, depending on how much faith you have in them to recover. The malaise is real, so one couldn’t be blamed for fading the Chiefs altogether.
Las Vegas has problems of their own, having fallen to a battle-tested Giants team last week. The Raiders have everything to play for in the division, however, and are in a good spot here in prime time to wash away last week. Derek Carr will fancy his chances of dissecting the Chiefs defense, which has given up 227 points already this season.
Pick: Las Vegas
(Monday Night) LOS ANGELES RAMS (-4) at SAN FRANCISCO (Over/Under 49.5)
Another week, another high-profile prime-time affair for the Rams. Last week’s loss to the Titans wasn’t in the script, but at 7-2, there isn’t much to be disappointed about. What Sean McVay’s team will need is to improve on last week, when Matthew Stafford was a punching bag at times and the offense failed to click in the usual way. Installed as four-point road favorites, all signs seem to point to the Rams.
The 49ers have a case, too, having won four straight meetings between the teams. At 3-5, their season is on the ropes but they should be highly motivated to cause an upset here and shake up the division a bit. The trust factor isn’t especially high right now, but the +4 points are appealing.
Pick: San Francisco
Once again this year this article will give out not only the Best Bets but also a rating of each one on a 1-3 Star scale. The more stars, the bigger the emphasis on that side of the game.
This week, we will focus our bets around the following lines:
- 1 LAS VEGAS (+3) vs. KANSAS CITY
- 2 GREEN BAY (-3) vs. SEATTLE
- 3 MINNESOTA (+2.5) at LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
- 4 NEW YORK JETS (+13) vs. BUFFALO
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 10 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- NEW YORK JETS (+13)
- MINNESOTA (+2.5)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- LAS VEGAS (+3)
- GREEN BAY (-3)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM LONG SHOT MONEY LINE (6.6-1 ODDS)
- PITTSBURGH – FOR THE WIN
- TENNESSEE – FOR THE WIN
- MINNESOTA – FOR THE WIN
- DENVER – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Las Vegas, Green Bay, Minnesota, New York Jets,
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 6-8
- SEASON OVERALL: 60-74-1
- BEST BETS: 18-18
- PICKS OF THE WEEK: 18-23
Good luck this weekend!
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