It took 10 weeks but the NFL finally figured out how to solve its ratings problem: Just schedule Cowboys-Steelers and Seahawks-Patriots every week. The best two games of the season were essentially played back-to-back last Sunday.
There’s not one game on this week’s schedule that comes close to matching those matchups. Eagles-Seahawks and Packers-Redskins may be the best of a weak bunch, but it still can be a rewarding week against the spread.
Underdogs went a remarkable 12-2 against the spread (ATS) last week, raising their season record to 80-58-7. Look for the favorites to have a bounce-back week.
AT GIANTS (6-3), 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 5; Radio: WFAN (660, 101.9)
Giants by 7.5; O/U: 44.5
There’s no doubt the Giants are going to win this game. The question then becomes: Will it be like the previous six Giants’ wins or will you be able to circle this one as a “W” early in the fourth quarter? Big Blue’s six wins, by point totals: 1, 3, 4, 7, 5 and 1. If ever there was a time for a double-digit win, this is it. The Bears just lost by 26 at Tampa Bay as the bad Jay Cutler showed up, and the Giants’ defense could be in for a big day. Look for ball-hawking Landon Collins, who has four interceptions in his last three games, to pick on Cutler. After a four-game winning streak, there is the thought that the Giants could play down to their competition. But considering the Cowboys are 8-1 and the Eagles and Redskins are right on the Giants’ tails, you have to think Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and the Giants’ offense will match the defensive intensity in a comfortable win.
The pick: Giants
RAVENS (5-4) AT COWBOYS (8-1)
Cowboys by 7; O//U: 44.5
After last week’s wild win at Pittsburgh and a Thanksgiving Day game against the Redskins looming, it would be understandable if the Cowboys were flat against the Ravens. Dallas has won and covered eight in a row, but they’re due for a letdown, aren’t they? Maybe not. Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have shown no signs of letting down. The Ravens haven’t looked impressive on the road, barely beating the Browns and Jaguars and losing to the Giants and Jets. If Dallas wins only by a field goal, it wouldn’t be shocking, but continue to roll the dice with the hot hand.
The pick: Cowboys
CARDINALS (4-4-1) AT VIKINGS (5-4)
Vikings by 2.5; O/U: 40
Is this the week Minnesota finally gets back on track? Yes. The Vikings, who have lost four in a row after a 5-0 start, will be fired up at home. Minnesota’s defense will be the difference. This is only Arizona’s fourth road game, and in two previous 1 p.m. starts, it fell behind big in losses at Buffalo and Carolina. An important footnote: The Blair Walsh Project is over in Minnesota, so you don’t have to worry about losing a cover because of a missed field goal or extra point.
The pick: Vikings
JAGUARS (2-7) AT LIONS (5-4)
Lions by 6.5; O/U: 47.5
On paper, this game shouldn’t be close. But factor in that the Lions could be looking ahead to their Thanksgiving Day game against the Vikings and it makes you worry that they’re overlooking the task at hand. However, Detroit is off a bye, has won three in a row at home and will be motivated to stay in first place. Oh, and it’s the Jaguars. Lay the points.
The pick: Lions
TITANS (5-5) AT COLTS (4-5)
Colts by 3; O/U: 53
Andrew Luck is 8-0 against the Titans, including a 34-26 win at Tennessee in Week 7. But maybe this finally will be the Titans’ time. Last week’s dominant 47-25 win over the Packers could give Marcus Mariota and Tennessee the confidence it needs to finally beat the Colts. Take the points.
The pick: Titans
STEELERS (4-5) AT BROWNS (0-10)
Steelers by 8; O/U: 46
The Browns are going 0-16. After the Steelers, it’s the Giants, Bengals, Bills, Chargers and Steelers again. Pittsburgh is on a four-game losing streak, and hasn’t tasted victory since Oct. 9. They’ll run up the score as Ben Roethlisberger improves to 21-2 all-time against Cleveland.
The pick: Steelers
BILLS (4-5) AT BENGALS (3-5-1)
Bengals by 2.5; O/U: 47.5
This is the toughest game of the week to pick. The Bengals have shown that they’re not the same playoff team from the last few seasons, while the Bills have lost three in a row and will have had nearly two weeks to stew over that wild Monday night loss in Seattle. Taking an angry Bills team off the bye is worth a shot against a mediocre Bengals squad.
The pick: Bills
BUCS (4-5) AT CHIEFS (7-2)
Chiefs by 7.5; O/U: 44.5
Did you know that the Chiefs have won 17 of their last 19 regular-season games? They also haven’t lost at home since Week 5 of last season. They’ll beat the Bucs, but covering is another issue. Three of the Chiefs’ four home wins this season are by 6, 6 and 5 points, so it’s not a stretch to think Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and the Bucs’ offense could keep this close.
The pick: Bucs
4 P.M. GAMES
EAGLES (5-4) AT SEAHAWKS (6-2-1), Ch. 2
Seahawks by 6; O/U: 42.5
If this game was in Philadelphia, the Eagles might be the pick. They’re 4-0 at home, including wins against the Steelers (2-0 at the time), Vikings (5-0) and Falcons (6-3). The Eagles are 1-4 on the road, losing four straight against quality opponents in the Lions, Redskins, Cowboys and Giants. The Seahawks could experience a bit of a letdown after playing their best game of the season at New England, but the safe bet is that their defense will make it a very long day for Carson Wentz.
The pick: Seahawks
LOCK OF THE WEEK
DOLPHINS (5-4) AT RAMS (4-5)
Dolphins by 1.5; O/U: 39.5
Jeff Fisher is finally giving Jared Goff a shot. Too bad the No. 1 overall pick has to make his debut against a red-hot Dolphins team whose defense last week picked off Philip Rivers four times . . . in the fourth quarter alone! The Dolphins as “lock of the week” had a nice ring to it even before Fisher finally went to Jared. Miami has won four in a row, and with a favorable schedule, could compete for the final AFC wild-card spot (only if one of the AGFC West’s Big Three slip up, of course). The Dolphins wisely stayed in California after winning at San Diego. Not that they need any extra positives against a Rams team with so many negatives. Los Angeles has scored 10 or fewer points in five of its nine games, and just 29 total over the last three games. Goff is going to struggle, and it wouldn’t be shocking if the Miami defense outscored the Los Angeles offense. The Dolphins also will ride the running of Jay Ajayi, who has 608 yards and four touchdowns during the win streak.
The pick: Dolphins
PATRIOTS (7-2) AT 49ERS (1-8)
Patriots by 13; O/U: 51
After losing a thriller at home to the NFC West’s best, expect Tom Brady and the Patriots to take out their frustration against the NFC West’s worst. The 49ers have lost eight in a row, and while they covered (a similar number) last week for the first time since Week 1, it’s unlikely to happen against an angry Pats team. Brady, who grew up a Joe Montana fan and attended 49ers games, will light up the NFL’s worst defense — last in points (31.4) and yards (429.7) per game. This could have one of those lopsided 49ers Super Bowl scores, only with San Francisco on the wrong side of it: Pats 45, 49ers 10.
The pick: Patriots
PACKERS (4-5) AT REDSKINS (5-3-1), Ch. 4
Redskins by 3; O/U: 50
Maybe playing at Washington is just what this Green Bay team needs. The Packers can look back to last year’s NFC wild-card round when they beat the Redskins, 35-18, on the road. Before that game, many were questioning Aaron Rodgers and the Pack, who had taken a step back and were only one-point favorites. A similar scenario presents itself now with Green Bay on a three-game losing streak. Washington is 5-1-1 overall in its last seven, and tends to play well at home. Still, the belief here is that you should take the Packers one more time and hope desperation kicks in. Look for Rodgers to have a vintage performance with the entire country watching.
The pick: Packers
TEXANS (6-3) VS. RAIDERS (7-2), ESPN
In Mexico City
Raiders by 6; O/U: 46
The last time we saw the Raiders, they were pushing around the Broncos in prime time on Sunday night. After a bye, it’s another chance to show the world they’re the real deal. Houston’s defense should keep this close for a while, but Brock Osweiler won’t be able to match the firepower of Derek Carr as the rested Raiders win and cover in the NFL’s first game in Mexico since 2005.
The pick: Raiders
STAFF PICKS (best bets in bold)
Record: 69-71-7 overall, 6-4 best bets
Last week: 6-8
Giants Cowboys Vikings Lions Titans Steelers Bills Bucs Seahawks Dolphins Patriots Packers Raiders
Record: 69-71-7 overall, 5-5 best bets
Last week: 7-7
Giants Cowboys Vikings Lions Colts Steelers Bills Chiefs Seahawks Dolphins Patriots Packers Raiders
Record: 76-64-7 overall, 3-7 best bets
Last week: 9-5
Giants Ravens Vikings Lions Colts Steelers Bills Bucs Seahawks Dolphins Patriots Redskins Raiders
KIMBERLEY A. MARTIN
Record: 63-77-7 overall, 4-5-1 best bets
Last week: 3-11
Bears Ravens Cardinals Lions Titans Browns Bills Chiefs Seahawks Dolphins 49ers Packers Texans