Week 10? When did that happen?
There are a number of matchups this week that are nearly impossible to pick with conviction. Broncos-Saints and Dolphins-Chargers stand out. Also, there are a pair of “Game of the Year” and possible Super Bowl previews as the Cowboys face the Steelers and the Patriots host the Seahawks.
The belief here is that a pair of contenders will have bounce-back weeks. Yes, we’re talking to you Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Favorites went 6-5-2 against the spread (ATS) last week. Underdogs are 68-56-7 on the season. With a lot of even matchups, things could go either way this week. Expect a lot of close games.
RAMS (3-5) AT JETS (3-6), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Jets by 2; O/U: 40
The question, “Why won’t you give your young quarterback a shot?” applies to both teams. Todd Bowles and Jeff Fisher are sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Case Keenum, respectively, passing on the chance to give Bryce Petty and No. 1-pick Jared Goff playing time. It’s a head-scratcher considering neither team is going to make the playoffs. Trying to predict what either team will do on a weekly basis is impossible. Gut-instinct analysis says that you should take the Rams because they looked awful last week, and a lot of times that means that team will put forth a strong effort the next week.
The pick: Rams
BENGALS (3-4-1) AT GIANTS (5-3)
TV: Ch. 11, ESPN; Radio: ESPN (98.7)
Bengals by 1; O/U: 47
Odell Beckham Jr. lives for the national spotlight in prime time. Remember the one-handed catch? That was on a Sunday night. Andy Dalton, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of the bright lights. He’s 5-9 for his career in prime-time games. While there are a lot more components that will determine the outcome of this game, each player is the most integral to his team winning. If Ben McAdoo let me call the plays, the Beckham Jr. quick slant — you know, the one that won the Ravens game and also went for a touchdown against the Eagles — would be on an offensive loop. Over and over again. It is one of the most unstoppable plays in the game. Whether the Cowboys win or lose Sunday, the Giants will be motivated to either stay two games back or get to within a game in the division. Look for Dalton to make a big mistake or two as the Giants’ defense also delivers in prime time.
The pick: Giants
1 p.m. Games
LOCK OF THE WEEK
PACKERS (4-4) AT TITANS (4-5)
Packers by 3; O/U: 50
Green Bay isn’t the dominant regular-season team we’ve grown accustomed to watching, but they still have Aaron Rodgers. No way they’re going to lose their third straight, to drop to 4-5, at Tennessee. The Titans are improved, but if Rodgers and the passing game can get into a rhythm — and the guess here is that this is the week they turn it around — they should be able to put up 30 points and cover this number. The Titans have allowed 34 pass plays of 20-plus yards, so look for Jordy Nelson to break free for a couple of deep passes. Rodgers and Green Bay will want to start fast after last week’s lackluster loss, so betting on the first-quarter and/or first-half number is also a good play. This line should jump to around four points on Sunday, so scoop it up now while you can.
The pick: Packers
BRONCOS (6-3) AT SAINTS (4-4)
Saints by 3; O/U: 49.5
This is the toughest game of the week to pick. Will New Orleans, winners of four of five, make it three in a row at home? Or will Denver, losers of three of five, bounce back after getting outplayed at Oakland in prime time? Defense always travels, but Drew Brees and the Saints’ offense get the slight edge. New Orleans beat Seattle’s defense in the Saints’ last home game, and the Superdome appears to once again be a huge home-field advantage.
The pick: Saints
CHIEFS (6-2) AT PANTHERS (3-5)
Panthers by 3; O/U: 44
If the home team is favored by three points, it means that Las Vegas believes the game would be a pick ’em if it was played at a neutral site. The Panthers are not better than the Chiefs, so cash in on Vegas’ overreaction to Carolina’s last two wins. The Chiefs have won four in a row after their bye week, and are expected to have Alex Smith back. Their offense will slow the game down, and the defense will contain Cam Newton. When the better team is getting points, don’t ask questions. Just take the points.
The pick: Chiefs
TEXANS (5-3) AT JAGUARS (2-6)
Jaguars by 2; O/U: 42
Houston is 0-3 on the road, but it has to like its chances at Jacksonville. The Jaguars’ lone “home” win was in London. The Texans were on the bye last week, and will be prepared to put in a complete effort away from home for the first time this season. Look for the Texans’ defense to possibly be the difference-maker with a big play — or two or three.
The pick: Texans
VIKINGS (5-3) AT REDSKINS (4-3-1)
Redskins by 2.5; O/U: 41.5
Remember when the Vikings were 5-0 and the talk of the NFC? Seems like eons ago. That’s what three straight losses and 36 total points will do. Minnesota’s offense can’t be trusted, and Blair Walsh’s issues in the kicking game mean that if it’s a close game, a missed field goal or botched extra point could prove the difference against the spread. The Redskins, having had a week to prepare after the London tie, will be pumped to play at home for the first time in nearly a month.
The pick: Redskins
BEARS (2-6) AT BUCS (3-5)
Bears by 1 ; O/U: 46
When looking at the spreads, this is one of those games that usually jump out. How could the 2-6 Bears be favored on the road? There’s a reason why. The Bears, who have played better than their record, are off a bye after beating the Vikings at home on Monday night. Jay Cutler and the offense should be able to put up some points against a Bucs team that has allowed 37, 27, 30 and 43 points in four home losses.
The pick: Bears
FALCONS (6-3) AT EAGLES (4-4)
Falcons by 2; O/U: 50
It’s the battle of the birds, as the NFC South leaders bring their No. 1 scoring offense to Philly against a team that is fading fast in the NFC East after a 3-0 start. You might be thinking: Atlanta has had more than a week to prepare and will light up the Eagles. Don’t be so sure. The Eagles are 3-0 at home and have allowed 10, 3 and 10 points in those games. One was a 34-3 win over the Steelers and another was a 21-10 win over the Vikings. In both games, the Eagles were underdogs and not many gave them a chance. Atlanta allows 28.8 points per game, so look for Carson Wentz and the offense to get back into a rhythm and win a 27-24 type of game.
The pick: Eagles
4 p.m. Games and Later
COWBOYS (7-1) AT STEELERS (4-4), Ch. 5
Steelers by 2.5; O/U: 49.5
The Steelers have won six Super Bowls and the Cowboys have won five. Before the season, Pittsburgh was a popular pick to add another title. Now, it’s looking as if Dallas has the better chance. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys haven’t lost since Week 1, going 7-0 ATS as well. It’s hard to pick against them, but this is the ideal spot to do so. The Steelers are coming off a no-show loss in Baltimore, and you have to think Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell will get back on track at home. The Cowboys’ secondary can be beat, so look for Brown to be the difference in what should be an entertaining, down-to-the-wire game. The Steelers haven’t won since Oct. 9 — even more reason to take them.
The pick: Steelers
DOLPHINS (4-4) AT CHARGERS (4-5), Ch. 2
Chargers by 4; O/U: 48.5
This battle of AFC teams that turned their seasons around after 1-4 starts features two of the most exciting running backs in the NFL. Jay Ajayi and Melvin Gordon could play their very own game of “first to 200.” This is a toss-up game, but the Chargers get the edge at home. What’s not a toss-up is the total: Bet the over.
The pick: Chargers
49ers (1-7) AT CARDINALS (3-4-1)
Cardinals by 13.5; O/U: 48.5
If the big number gives you pause, just hit rewind and remember that Arizona won at San Francisco, 33-21, in Week 5 with its backup quarterback. The Cardinals, off a bye after losing at Carolina the previous week and tying Seattle the week before that, will be fresh and ready for a big showing at home. The 49ers have allowed a 100-yard rusher in an NFL-record seven straight games. David Johnson, one of the game’s best, will run wild. Don’t be surprised if the Cards drop 49 on the 49ers.
The pick: Cardinals
SEAHAWKS (5-2-1) AT PATRIOTS (7-1), Ch. 4
Patriots by 7.5; O/U: 48
When you hear “Patriots vs. Seahawks”, the first thing that comes to mind is the infamous decision by Pete Carroll to throw from the 1-yard line in Super Bowl 49, right? How great would it be if we got a rematch three months from now? New England is going to be the AFC representative in the Super Bowl, that’s about as sure of a thing as Bill Belichick not wanting to talk about who he voted for in this week’s election. The Patriots may not lose again this season. Not with Tom Brady on a mission after his season-starting suspension. Brady is 4-0 since returning, completing over 73 percent of his passes while throwing 12 touchdowns with no interceptions. That success will continue as the Patriots (7-1 ATS) pick apart the Seahawks with an array of short passes and crossing routes. Julian Edelman will have a big game, as will Rob Gronkowski. Seattle played a tough game Monday night and the Patriots were on a bye last week, two important factors to note. Don’t be scared by laying this many points to a team such as Seattle. New England is in a league of its own.
The pick: Patriots
STAFF PICKS (best bets in bold)
Record: 63-63-7 overall, 6-3 best bets
Last week: 6-5-2
Rams Giants Packers Saints Chiefs Texans Redskins Bears Eagles Steelers Chargers Cardinals Patriots
Record: 62-64-7 overall, 4-5 best bets
Last week: 6-5-2
Jets Giants Packers Broncos Chiefs Jaguars Redskins Bucs Eagles Steelers Chargers Cardinals Patriots
Record: 67-59-7 overall, 3-6 best bets
Last week: 5-6-2
Rams Giants Titans Saints Chiefs Texans Vikings Bucs Falcons Cowboys Chargers 49ers Patriots
KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN
Record: 60-66-7 overall, 4-4-1 best bets
Last week: 7-4-2
Jets Bengals Packers Broncos Panthers Jaguars Vikings Bears Falcons Steelers Chargers 49ers Patriots