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) NEW ENGLAND (-6) at ATLANTA (Over/Under 47)
At 6-4, and looking good doing it, there are fewer reasons to doubt the Patriots in a packed AFC playoff picture. Bill Belichick’s defense allowed a touchdown on the opening drive against the Browns. From that point on, after some adjustments and a masterful job of play-calling from Josh McDaniels, the Patriots pulverized the hapless Browns. Mac Jones threw some darts throughout and looked very comfortable with the complementary ground game and stifling defense firing on all cylinders. Six-point favorites on the road on a short week may be a little much, but Atlanta has its own problems.
After an encouraging road win in New Orleans, the Falcons came in for a bumpy landing in Dallas, giving up points for fun. The injury to offensive Jenga piece Cordarrelle Patterson is one worth monitoring on the short week, but it seems unlikely he will be able to go. If Belichick can eliminate Kyle Pitts in the passing game, this will be a long evening for Matt Ryan.
Pick: New England
DETROIT at CLEVELAND (-10) (Over/Under 45.5)
The Lions didn’t lose last week, folks – but they did tie. The overtime period against Pittsburgh was perhaps one of the most error-strewn stretches of football that we will see all season and it solved nothing. Dan Campbell is probably shrugging his shoulders as he watches the tape. Jared Goff continues to be a liability, with the offense playing around him. At least the Lions have DeAndre Swift, who continues to put the offense on his back and perform well. If we could get to +10.5 here, the Lions might be tempting.
After all, the Browns left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouths last week in Foxborough. This is not a unit that operates well in comeback mode, and that is their Achilles heel. If Baker Mayfield is put in a negative game script, the outcome is forced throws, mistakes, and a predictable offense. No such issue should materialize at home against Detroit, but the Browns need a big performance here to erase last week’s debacle.
SAN FRANCISCO (-6.5) at JACKSONVILLE (Over/Under 46)
The 49ers pounded the Rams into submission in an impressive Monday night performance that revived their season and put to bed any doubts about Kyle Shanahan. Simply put, they met the moment. Not only that, but they set themselves up for a run at an improbable playoff berth. With key players on both sides of the ball getting healthy, this could be a dark horse team to watch down the stretch.
Jacksonville’s fortunes have been mixed of late, but they deserve credit for hanging with the Colts until the end. While the Buffalo win remains their signature performance, they have yet to get Trevor Lawrence going – and that is a major concern. Typically, this would be a good spot from a betting perspective – taking a +6.5 home underdog against a team coming off a big win on a short week. It is hard to trust the Jaguars, but that line is too tempting.
INDIANAPOLIS at BUFFALO (-7) (Over/Under 49.5)
They certainly didn’t convince in the win over Jacksonville, but the Colts got it over the line, somehow and some way. Having started horrendously this season with a 1-4 record, they now find themselves 5-5 and in the thick of things. A battle-hardened unit like them should fancy their chances to cause an upset in Buffalo, but only if Carson Wentz can play a clean game and Jonathan Taylor can run wild. Defensively, the test is not easy against Josh Allen and Co.
In this rematch of the Wild Card playoff game from last season, the Bills will be wary of not taking the Colts lightly. Sean McDermott’s team steadied the ship against a lowly opponent last week, but this is a nice acid test for Buffalo. It was heartening to see the Allen to Stefon Diggs connection revived last week after some quiet weeks; that hook-up could be pivotal for this contest. In a battle of Wentz vs. Allen, the latter has the greater trust factor, but +7 is too tempting to turn down.
MIAMI (-3) at NY JETS (Over/Under 44.5)
The Dolphins had a bizarre victory over the Ravens last week, with most of the credit going to the defense. The performance was such that the usually shifty Lamar Jackson was stopped in his tracks and left frustrated. A similarly stifling game plan should do the trick this week in MetLife Stadium, with the Jets facing a decision at quarterback. Zach Wilson should be back soon, but for now the Dolphins will be preparing for Mike White (gulp) and Joe Flacco (sigh). Not exactly a murderer’s row of passers.
In this match-up of the bottom-feeders of the AFC East, in other words, there isn’t a whole lot to get excited about. The main storyline to watch is how feisty the Jets are and whether Miami, at 3-7, can start to put a run together and maybe squeak out an unlikely playoff spot. Tua Tagovailoa has a great chance to pile up some numbers here and make a case for the starting job next year.
WASHINGTON at CAROLINA (-3) (Over/Under 43)
The news that star pass rusher Chase Young is set to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL is a devastating blow to Washington. The elation of the win over the Buccaneers is somewhat deflated as a result, but Ron Rivera will not be short on motivation this week as he visits the place where he was head coach for nearly a decade, Carolina. Taylor Heinicke, a former Panther, will face his former team looking to build on the momentum of his performance against the Bucs defense.
Matt Rhule indicated that the returning Cam Newton would get the bulk of the practice reps this week, a strong sign that he will be under center this Sunday. The Cam package of plays was fun in Arizona, but now it seems it is time to get down to the real business. Carolina’s defense set the tone in Arizona and we should expect the same this week at home. It is difficult to trust the Panthers given their inconsistency, but -3 is a fine gamble to take.
BALTIMORE (-6.5) at CHICAGO (Over/Under 45)
The Ravens have had ample time to lick their wounds after the loss in Miami, and in truth, they benefited from a dismal week from their division rivals. They are still top of the division and their destiny is in their own hands, but a much-improved display will be needed on the road against arguably a similar or better team in Chicago. The Bears defense has the players to stifle Jackson’s rushing, so Lamar the passer will have to make plays.
The Bears had a bye to reconfigure things, and optimism should abound after Justin Fields’ performance against the Steelers, albeit in a losing effort. Fields’ break will have done the rookie good, giving him valuable time to refresh and get his body ready for the stretch run. If Chicago goes out to +7, this is a train you want to jump on for sure. Even at +6.5, this could be a good spot against a shaky Ravens outfit.
NEW ORLEANS (-1) at PHILADELPHIA (Over/Under 43.5)
Sean Payton was justifiably livid with the phantom roughing the passer penalty on Ryan Tannehill that ruled out a Saints interception and possibly changed the momentum of the game in Tennessee. Nevertheless, Trevor Siemian performed well and the team is battling hard despite the injuries they are facing. Slight favorites on the road in Philadelphia, this game feels like a bit of a toss-up for the topsy-turvy Saints.
The Eagles continue to run the ball effectively, and Jalen Hurts’ development continues to be positive. Interestingly, they have yet to register a home win this season (0-4), so this is one they could really use to settle the home faithful down a bit. Hurts will face a defense that has the talent to fluster and frustrate him, and the Eagles will not get as much change out of the Saints run defense as they did against the Broncos’.
Pick: New Orleans
HOUSTON at TENNESSEE (-10.5) (Over/Under 44.5)
The Texans come off the bye week and face the rest of the season as a team probably already looking towards the finish line. The question will be how much pride they have to be the party-spoilers each and every week and whether they will fold when the score gets away from them. They are 0-5 on the road this season, and it seems their misfortune on the road is set to continue.
Tennessee’s victory over the Saints was a tight one and it needed a few things here and there to bounce their way, but that’s been the way for them this season. When they’ve needed something to happen, it usually has. At 8-2, they are firmly positioned as the AFC’s number one seed. With a generous schedule down the stretch, they can afford to take the longer view, perhaps even resting starters. The -10.5 is a little bit rich, but the Texans are hopeless.
GREEN BAY (-2.5) at MINNESOTA (Over/Under 49)
Green Bay’s penchant for winning different types of games is what sets them apart from the rest of the league. Matt LaFleur’s team has a knack for adjusting to whatever the script demands. With Aaron Jones missing time, there should be no drop-off this week as A.J. Dillon takes on the Minnesota rush defense. Aaron Rodgers’ return was largely successful, and he should find success against the Vikings, a team he generally performs well against.
At 4-5, the Vikings are not out of it yet, of course. However, they are such an up-and-down outfit that it is difficult to put faith in anything except a rollercoaster ride for the rest of the season. After a high last week, could this be another dip? Curiously, the Packers are laying just 2.5 points on the road, a sign that perhaps there is lingering hope for the Vikings among the Vegas sharps.
Pick: Green Bay
CINCINNATI (-1) at LAS VEGAS (Over/Under 49)
Off the bye, the Bengals will need a sharper focus to get out of their recent slump. The AFC North is wide open now; it is simply down to which teams have the consistency to put together a run. Cincinnati has shown the ability to do just that, and this game has particular importance as they face a potential playoff foe in Las Vegas. It will be interesting to see how aggressive they choose to be against a vulnerable Raiders defense fresh off a slicing and dicing from the Chiefs.
Las Vegas’ fortunes in that game were not as bad as the final score indicated, but it was nonetheless an embarrassing outing that did little to quiet their doubters. The AFC West has been wild so far this season. If the Raiders have a second-half run in them, anything is possible. They have shown little to get excited about in recent weeks, however.
ARIZONA (-2.5) at SEATTLE (Over/Under 48)
Kyler Murray was back at practice on Wednesday, igniting hopes that he could make a much-needed return to the line-up this week. While DeAndre Hopkins seems he will miss out, Murray’s dynamism is exactly what the Cardinals need to get their season back into high gear. The drubbing against Carolina was a shock to the system, but the opportunity is there to get back on track against their division rivals.
Russell Wilson’s second game back will be a fascinating one - more so than last week in Green Bay, at least. At 3-6, the Seahawks have very little margin for error, so a clean game will be needed from Wilson to stand a chance here. With the Seahawks at home, there is a chance of a home-field bump, but it is hard to put money behind that with the team’s stock so low.
DALLAS at KANSAS CITY (-2.5) (Over/Under 55.5)
This line has stayed solidly at Chiefs -2.5 all week long, and one would have to think it will be one of the most gambled on games this season. The match-up of the quarterbacks is an intriguing one, and Super Bowl cases could be made for either team. Certainly, you have to work harder to make the case for the Chiefs given their recent struggles, but they looked awfully like themselves in Las Vegas.
A popcorn game without a doubt, the Cowboys should fancy their chances to get one over on the Chiefs in Arrowhead. Dak Prescott’s form has been red-hot this season – much more so than Patrick Mahomes II’ – and the Cowboys seem to have found a rhythm on both sides of the ball. If you can wait and get +3 for Dallas, jump all over it.
(Sunday Night) PITTSBURGH at LA CHARGERS (-5.5) (Over/Under 47)
With Ben Roethlisberger’s status up in the air for this game, the line has moved more in the Chargers’ favor. Pittsburgh’s best chance might be to minimize Mason Rudolph’s involvement and let the defense go to work, but that strategy is likely to run into resistance if the home team gets hot. Najee Harris will see plenty of touches against the vulnerable L.A. run defense; if he can put the offense on his back, an upset is possible.
The Chargers are drifting in obscurity right now, even at 5-4. There is a lack of spark with the overall squad, something the previously lauded Brandon Staley needs to figure out. The good news is that the defense should be able to find joy against Rudolph, whose performance last week reminded the football world how big the drop-off really is between him and Roethlisberger.
(Monday Night) NY GIANTS at TAMPA BAY (-11) (Over/Under 49.5)
Could the Giants realistically hold out some hope of a playoff spot, even at 3-6? It seems unlikely, especially given the close games they had no right to lose. The bye week will have given them time to reassess, but this might be the worst possible time this season to play the Bucs. If there is one thing Joe Judge’s team has done, however, is playing up to the competition.
Tampa Bay’s recent slump is uncharacteristic, but we’ve seen this before. Indeed, last season the Bucs went through a mid-season rough patch, only to put together a long winning streak that ended in a Lombardi Trophy. A peeved Tom Brady on Monday Night Football with his buddies Eli and Peyton watching is not one the Giants defense will relish facing, but +11 points is too much.
Pick: New York
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 DALLAS (+2.5) at KANSAS CITY
- 2 NEW ORLEANS (-1) at PHILADELPHIA
- 3 INDIANAPOLIS (+7) at BUFFALO
- 4 CINCINNATI (-1) at LAS VEGAS
With these likes in mind, here are the Week 11 selections:
* ONE STAR GAMES *
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.61-1 ODDS)
- CINCINNATI (-1)
- INDIANAPOLIS (+7)
** TWO STAR GAMES **
- 2-TEAM ATS DOUBLE (2.42-1 ODDS):
- DALLAS (+2.5)
- NEW ORLEANS (-1)
*** THREE STAR GAMES ***
- 4-TEAM MONEY LINE (6.16-1 ODDS)
- GREEN BAY – FOR THE WIN
- MIAMI – FOR THE WIN
- NEW ORLEANS – FOR THE WIN
- SAN FRANCISCO – FOR THE WIN
PICK(S) OF THE WEEK: Dallas, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Indianapolis
Last Week / Season
- LAST WEEK: 3-11
- SEASON OVERALL: 63-85-1
- BEST BETS: 20-20
- PICKS OF THE WEEK: 20-25
Good luck this weekend!
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