There are a number of good matchups this week. Rams-Vikings tops the slate with Eagles-Cowboys and Falcons-Seahawks capping it off in prime-time contests. There are also a number of must-miss contests (Bucs-Dolphins, anyone?).
As the season nears the finish line, it’s easier to zero in on the contenders and fade the pretenders. Look for the best of the best to stay hot with wins and covers (we’re looking at you, Eagles, Patriots, Saints and Chiefs).
Favorites went 7-6-1 against the spread (ATS) last week, but underdogs still lead the season at 73-64-7. My most confident picks ATS this week are Patriots, Eagles, Broncos, Jaguars and Chiefs. Tricky games to avoid: Cardinals-Texans, Bucs-Dolphins and Ravens-Packers.
CHIEFS (6-3) AT GIANTS (1-8), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 2; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Chiefs by 10.5; O/U: 45.5
Andy Reid is Mr. Good bye. Ben McAdoo is Mr. Goodbye. While the Chiefs coach is the king of the bye week — his teams are 16-2 the game after — the Giants coach is all but gone. After their bye in Week 8, the Giants took the next two weeks off, too, losing 51-17 at home to the Rams and 31-21 last week at previously winless San Francisco. “The team will rally around an embattled coach” theory doesn’t apply to these Giants, and it’s hard to see them containing a loaded Chiefs offense. The Giants have allowed a touchdown to a tight end in an NFL-record 10 straight games, and now they get one of the NFL’s eliTE in Travis Kelce. The Chiefs have lost three of four after a 5-0 start, but this is the perfect opponent for Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt. Big Blue is winless at MetLife Stadium, with the losses by 14, 5, 17 and 34 points. The Giants’ lone win was at Denver, when they were an 11.5-point underdog. If they were to somehow cover a similar big number at home, hey, stranger things have happened. But expect No. 11 and the Chiefs’ dynamic offense to impose its will and win big. Not 51-17 big but something like 41-20.
The pick: Chiefs
EAGLES (8-1) AT COWBOYS (5-4)
TV: Ch. 4, 8:30 p.m.
Eagles by 4.5; O/U: 48.5
Philly and Dallas usually produce exciting games, with the last two at AT&T Stadium going to overtime. The Cowboys rallied for a 29-23 win last year, also a Sunday nighter. While this one should be competitive for the most part, it’s hard to see an undermanned Dallas team staying with Carson Wentz (NFL-best 23 TD passes) and a Philly team rested after the bye. The Eagles have won seven in a row and are also on a 6-0 ATS run. If Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee were playing, Dallas would have a shot. But losing your best offensive and defensive player is too much to overcome, especially against a team averaging 33-plus points during its win streak.
The pick: Eagles
1 P.M. GAMES
RAMS (7-2) AT VIKINGS (7-2)
Vikings by 2; O/U: 46
Raise your hand if you had Rams-Vikings circled as the best game of Week 11 before the season? Yep, me neither. Even Jared Goff and Case Keenum couldn’t have imagined this when they were teammates in L.A. last season. This should be a competitive game into the fourth quarter. The slight edge goes to a Vikings team that’s 4-1 straight up and ATS at home and riding a five-game win streak thanks to Keenum, a talented receiving corps and a stout defense.
The pick: Vikings
LIONS (5-4) AT BEARS (3-6)
Lions by 3; O/U: 40.5
Detroit has won seven of the last eight against Chicago, but the last four games at Soldier Field have been decided by 3, 4, 6 and 2 points. Expect another close one now that the Bears are back in their more comfortable spot as a home underdog after faltering as a rare favorite last week. Matthew Stafford and a talented Lions offense should take care of business and then get ready for the Thanksgiving main event against the Vikings.
The pick: Lions
REDSKINS (4-5) AT SAINTS (7-2)
Saints by 8; O/U: 51
Washington has been a tough out on the road, beating the Seahawks and Rams and nearly upsetting the Chiefs. It will be a lot harder in The Big Easy, against a Saints team that has won seven straight (6-1 ATS) and is fresh off a 298-yard, 6-TD rushing performance at Buffalo. Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara are the perfect 1-2 punch, and the Redskins won’t be able to slow them or Drew Brees. The Saints are averaging nearly 33 points and allowing just more than 14 during the win streak.
The pick: Saints
RAVENS (4-5) AT PACKERS (5-4)
Ravens by 2; O/U: 38
Brett Hundley had his best game at Chicago last week, and that first win could be a big confidence booster. It’s tempting to take Green Bay as a home ’dog against a hard-to-figure-out Baltimore team, but John Harbaugh will have his team ready after the bye. Check out this stat courtesy of OddsShark.com: The Ravens are 12-3 straight up and ATS in their last 15 games after the bye. Hello!
The pick: Ravens
JAGUARS (6-3) AT BROWNS (0-9)
Jaguars by 8; O/U: 37
There’s 0-16 talk in Cleveland for a second straight year. Last season, a home game against Jacksonville might have been a spot for that first win. Not this season. The Jags are the NFL’s stingiest defense (14.9 ppg) and will dominate a low-scoring game. A 20-6 final sounds about right.
The pick: Jaguars
CARDINALS (4-5) AT TEXANS (3-6)
Texans by 1; O/U: 38.5
No Deshaun Watson. No J.J. Watt. No Carson Palmer. No David Johnson. No reason to watch or wager on this battle of the backup QBs. But we have to pick every game here, and as one of the Gridiron Guide’s most avid readers likes to tell me: When it’s a small spread and you’re not sure who to pick, go with the home team.
The pick: Texans
BUCS (3-6) AT DOLPHINS (4-5)
Pick ’em; O/U: 41
This game was postponed from Week 1 because of Hurricane Irma. If only the NFL could postpone this matchup of two underachieving teams to, well, never. How Miami and its 31st-ranked offense has won four games is one of the mysteries of the season. At least Tampa Bay’s defense showed some life in last week’s win over the Jets.
The pick: Bucs
4 P.M. GAMES
LOCK OF THE WEEK
PATRIOTS (7-2) AT RAIDERS (4-5), in Mexico City
Patriots by 7; O/U: 54.5
The Patriots have won five in a row (3-1-1 ATS) and look more and more like the team that went 16-3 ATS and won the Super Bowl last season. Tom Brady, 40, probably could play till he’s 50 with numbers like this: 19 TDs to just two INTs and 2,807 yards. The Pats’ defense has gotten better as the season has aged, allowing 67 points over the last five games — a stark contrast from the 128 through the first four games. The Pats are on too big of a roll to be slowed by an inconsistent Raiders team. Yes, Oakland is off the bye and needs the win more, but it’ll be overmatched in all aspects. The biggest reason why the Pats are the best bet is their decision to stay in Colorado after their 41-16 win in the 5,280-feet elevation of Denver. Practicing at the Air Force Academy (7,258 elevation) this week surely will help in Mexico City (7,382). Brady has a big day in the rarefied air, and Dion Lewis and a bevy of backs have the Raiders catching their breath all game.
The pick: Patriots
BILLS (5-4) AT CHARGERS (3-6)
Chargers by 4.5; O/U: 43.5
The Chargers continue to find new ways to lose. The Bills just got trounced at home by the Saints a week after a bad loss to the Jets. For some reason, Tyrod Taylor was benched for rookie quarterback Nathan “Don’t Call me J.” Peterman. Philip Rivers, in concussion protocol this week, should play, and L.A. should have enough to pull out a win. But so many of its games are down to the wire and this could be a field-goal game, so take the points.
The pick: Bills
BENGALS (3-6) AT BRONCOS (3-6)
Broncos by 2.5; O/U: 39
It’s the Orange Bowl of Disappointment, and you need only three wins to be eligible. Denver is on a five-game losing streak in which it has been outscored, 165-68. Cincy has lost three in a row, and its bad offense is the perfect foe for Denver’s defense to take its frustration out on after allowing 51 and 41 points the last two weeks.
The pick: Broncos
FALCONS (5-4) AT SEAHAWKS (6-3)
TV: ESPN, 8:30 p.m.
Seahawks by 3; O/U: 44.5
This is a big game between teams that could be battling for one of the two NFC wild-card spots. Atlanta snapped out of its funk with a big win over a depleted Dallas team last week, and now gets a Seattle team without Richard Sherman and dealing with a number of other injuries on defense. One of the Falcons’ best games en route to its Super Bowl run last season was actually a 26-24 loss at Seattle in which Matt Ryan and Julio Jones had big games. Expect them to do it again with Atlanta winning a close one this time.
The pick: Falcons
Staff Picks and Standings
(Best bets in bold)
60-79-7 overall, 2-8 best bets
Last week: 5-8-1
Chiefs Vikings Lions Saints
Ravens Jaguars Texans Bucs
Patriots Bills Broncos Eagles Falcons
Last Week: 7-6-1
Chiefs Vikings Lions Saints
Packers Browns Cardinals Dolphins
Patriots Chargers Bengals Cowboys Falcons
Last Week: 5-8-1
Chiefs Rams Lions Redskins
Packers Jaguars Texans Dolphins
Patriots Bills Broncos Eagles Seahawks
Last Week: 7-6-1
Chiefs Rams Lions Saints
Packers Jaguars Cardinals Bucs
Patriots Chargers Broncos Eagles Seahawks