Things have a way of evening out in the NFL. Last week was all about the underdog, highlighted by Jacksonville’s shocking victory over Buffalo and Denver’s stunner at Dallas. Both winners were double-digit 'dogs. Expect the Bills and Cowboys, big favorites again, to get back on track Sunday.
Underdogs went 10-4 against the spread (ATS) to build on their season lead, now at 73-60-2.
My most confident picks this week ATS are Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Green Bay. I also like a handful of "against the grain" type of picks that might catch you off guard. There’s no true "stay away" game, but be careful with tough-to-call matchups like Cleveland-New England and L.A. Rams-San Francisco on MNF.
GAME OF THE WEEK
KANSAS CITY (5-4) AT LAS VEGAS (5-3)
TV: NBC, 8:20 p.m.
Kansas City by 2.5; O/U: 51.5
Every team in the AFC West has five wins, so this is a big one. The rivals played a SNF thriller last year, a 35-31 KC win at Vegas. This should be another close one, but I’m rolling with the hosts. We’re approaching Thanksgiving and people are still counting on "Kansas City will figure things out eventually." That kind of thinking made sense in late September, even early October, but now? Something’s not right with that offense, which has scored 13, 20 and 3 points its last three games. With Dallas on deck, it wouldn’t shock me if KC again falls under .500 next week. The Raiders had a predictable loss at the Giants last week, a trap game off a bye and a rivalry game looming. They were also dealing with a tragedy off the field. Back home, I expect Derek Carr and the offense to find plenty of open space against a beatable KC defense like it did last year when Vegas put up 71 total points in two meetings. Patrick Mahomes is 5-1 against the Raiders, but the present Mahomes doesn’t look like the past Mahomes, so don’t let that sway your thinking. Unlike last year, Vegas gets this SNF win.
The pick: Las Vegas
1 p.m. GAMES
BUFFALO (5-3) AT JETS (2-6)
Buffalo by 12; O/U: 47.5
The downside of the Jets’ stunning home wins over the Titans and Bengals? Teams take notice. Also working against the Jets: Buffalo enters off a stunning loss of its own, a 9-6, how-the-heck-did-that-happen shocker at lowly Jacksonville. Josh Allen and Buffalo will be motivated to remind the rest of the NFL it’s still a top Super Bowl contender against a Jets defense that has allowed 500-plus yards and 40-plus points in two of its last three games. Don’t be scared off by the big number.
The pick: Buffalo
CLEVELAND (5-4) AT NEW ENGLAND (5-4)
New England by 2.5; O/U: 45
This is the toughest game of the week to pick. My first thought was to back Baker Mayfield and the Brownies, fresh off a huge win at Cincinnati. Then I saw that Nick Chubb tested positive for COVID-19 and might not play. New England is 1-4 at home, its one win against the Jets, but it has won three in a row overall and four of five. The two losses were a two-pointer to Tampa Bay and an OT walk-off to Dallas. This feels like a 20-17 game either way. When in doubt, back Bill Belichick.
The pick: New England
LOCK OF THE WEEK
TAMPA BAY (6-2) AT WASHINGTON (2-6)
Tampa Bay by 9.5; O/U: 51
Both teams are off a bye but the comparisons stop there. Tom Brady is always a smart bet after a loss, but when there's two weeks to stew about it? Don't even think twice. Brady is 15-4 after the regular-season bye and he will come out firing against a Washington defense that can't get off the field. The Bucs have beaten similarly inferior teams by big margins: 48-25 (Atlanta), 45-17 (Miami), 28-22 (Philadelphia, it wasn't that close) and 38-3 (Chicago). Taylor Heinicke played well against the eventual champs in last year's wild-card loss, but he will be playing catch-up all day this time.
The pick: Tampa Bay
JACKSONVILLE (2-6) AT INDIANAPOLIS (4-5)
Indianapolis by 10.5; O/U: 47.5
Favorites of 10 or more points are 10-5 ATS this season. Two of those wins are by the Colts, who covered easily against the Texans (31-3) and Jets (45-30 after it was 42-10). Indy has extra rest and Jacksonville should be flat after shocking Buffalo.
The pick: Indianapolis
ATLANTA (4-4) AT DALLAS (6-2)
Dallas by 9.5; O/U: 54.5
Last week, I wrote to keep riding the Cowboys (then 7-0 ATS) until they give you a reason not to. Did they ever in last week’s blowout home loss to the Broncos. Well, that was last week. Dak Prescott and Dallas will be hungry after that humbling defeat snapped a six-game win streak. Cowboys DC Dan Quinn is the former Falcons head coach and has extra insight on how to defend Matt Ryan.
The pick: Dallas
NEW ORLEANS (5-3) AT TENNESSEE (7-2)
Tennessee by 3; O/U: 44.5
The Titans have won five in a row — all covers — since their loss to the Jets. They just sent a message to the rest of the NFL with a dominant road win over the Rams on SNF. There's no reason to pick against them . . . which is why I'm going to do the opposite just like George Costanza taught me. The emotional high of playing up that underdog role the first game without Derrick Henry is no longer there. The Saints are 3-1 on the road and the low spread tells you Vegas expects a close game.
The pick: New Orleans
DETROIT (0-8) AT PITTSBURGH (5-3)
Pittsburgh by 8.5; O/U: 42.5
The Steelers’ win streak should hit five, but this might be closer than you think. The Lions didn't lose last week (thanks, bye!) and could catch a Pittsburgh team that's not hungry for this sandwich game: The Steelers just had a MNF scare and next week play on SNF against the Chargers.
The pick: Detroit
4 p.m. GAMES
SEATTLE (3-5) AT GREEN BAY (7-2)
Green Bay by 3.5; O/U: 49.5
Lost in all the Aaron Rodgers drama is how great the Packers’ defense has played: It held Patrick Mahomes and KC to 13 points after holding Kyler Murray and Arizona to 21. Russell Wilson will have his work cut out for him in his return. Even if Rodgers doesn’t play, Jordan Love should play better at home (and his family will have closer seats, too). Seattle won't be able to stop the Packers’ 1-2 run punch in Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. Green Bay had its seven-game win streak snapped but it still hasn’t lost against the spread since Week 1 (7-0-1 ATS).
The pick: Green Bay
MINNESOTA (3-5) AT L.A. CHARGERS (5-3)
L.A. by 3; O/U: 53
If you like betting overs, cash in on this one. Justin Herbert and Kirk Cousins will go up and down the field in what feels like a "first to 30 (maybe even 40) wins" kind of game. Dalvin Cook could be the difference-maker against a bad Chargers’ run defense. Seven of Minnesota’s eight games have been nail-biters, with the five losses by 3, 1, 7, 4 and 3 points. It’s also played three overtime games.
The pick: Minnesota
CAROLINA (4-5) AT ARIZONA (8-1)
Arizona by 10.5; O/U: 44.5
Arizona just coasted at San Francisco without its stars so crushing Carolina at home seems like the logical next step. Well, if picking NFL games was that easy we would all be rich. In addition to the letdown factor, the Cardinals play at rival Seattle next week, so they may not be up for this game. Matt Rhule will run Christian McCaffrey 25-plus times and keep this close enough to cover.
The pick: Carolina
PHILADELPHIA (3-6) AT DENVER (5-4)
Denver by 2.5; O/U: 45.5
Denver is coming off a shocking 30-16 win at Dallas in which it led 30-0. I’m still not a believer. Same goes for the Eagles, but they’re 3-2 on the road compared to 0-4 at home so let’s take a shot with the 'dogs.
The pick: Philadelphia
L.A. RAMS (7-2) AT SAN FRANCISCO (3-5)
TV: ESPN, 8:15 p.m.
L.A. by 4; O/U: 51.5
Both are off bad home losses so expect a competitive division battle. The Rams are 12-5 straight up (SU) after a loss under coach Sean McVay, but I’ll side with the home team covering. San Francisco is 1-11 SU at home the last two seasons, but its one win was against the Rams. The 49ers have won the last four meetings, too.
The pick: San Francisco
STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS
(best bets in bold)
69-65-2 overall, 5-4 best bets
Last week: 8-6
Baltimore Buffalo New England Tampa Bay Indianapolis
Dallas New Orleans Detroit Green Bay Minnesota
Carolina Philadelphia Las Vegas San Francisco
Last week: 6-8
Baltimore Buffalo Cleveland Tampa Bay Indianapolis
Dallas Tennessee Pittsburgh Green Bay L.A. Chargers
Arizona Denver Kansas City L.A. Rams
Last week: 7-7
Miami Buffalo Cleveland Tampa Bay Indianapolis
Dallas New Orleans Detroit Green Bay L.A. Chargers
Arizona Denver Kansas City L.A. Rams
Last week: 5-9
Baltimore Buffalo New England Tampa BayJacksonville
Atlanta Tennessee Detroit Green Bay L.A. Chargers
Arizona Denver Kansas City L.A. Rams