It isn’t every year that you start writing next week’s column while the previous week has yet to be completed. Welcome to the 2020 NFL season, which had the rare Wednesday game in Week 12, and this week has no Thursday night game, two Monday matchups and one on Tuesday. Got all that?
Favorites went 7-8-1 ATS last week and are 77-90-6 for the season. Home teams went 6-10 straight up and 7-8-1 ATS, bringing their season totals to 91-85-1 and 83-88-6. There are a number of big spreads this week.
My three most confident picks this week are the L.A. Rams, Las Vegas and Seattle (sorry, local football fans). Avoid Detroit-Chicago for obvious reasons.
GIANTS (4-7) AT SEATTLE (8-3)
TV: Ch. 5, 4:05 p.m.
Seattle by 10; O/U: 47
The Giants got an assist from the Seahawks, whose win at Philadelphia Monday night meant Big Blue would stay in first place. Don't expect any more favors. Seattle, which seemed to be faltering a bit at 6-3, has won two in a row and looks to be in good shape in the NFC West thanks to a favorable schedule. After hosting a Giants team likely without Daniel Jones, its next opponent is . . . wait for it . . . the Jets! I haven't seen a run of good luck like that since Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003. Speaking of good luck, there's a strong chance the Giants will still be in first, though, as the NFC East has a tough draw and could go 0-4. Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf (nine TD catches and an NFL-best 1,039 receiving yards) can be unstoppable. As well as the Giants defense has played, this isn't Washington, Philadelphia or Cincinnati. Colt McCoy won't be able to play catch-up against this team.
The pick: Seattle
LAS VEGAS (6-5) AT JETS (0-11)
TV: Ch. 2, 1 p.m.
Las Vegas by 8.5; O/U: 47
I don't know about you, but if I was on the Raiders and was just part of one of the worst losses in Jon Gruden's career - a 43-6 thumping at Atlanta - I'd sure be happy about following that up by facing the Jets. Derek Carr fumbled three times last week but he and Las Vegas should roll against an overmatched defense that spends too much time on the field thanks to a dismal offense. There's also a little revenge factor, not that the Raiders will need it: The Jets crushed them last year, 34-3, at MetLife Stadium.
The pick: Las Vegas
1 p.m. GAMES
GAME OF THE WEEK
CLEVELAND (8-3) AT TENNESSEE (8-3)
Tennessee by ??; O/U: ??
This should be a fun one between the two best AFC teams (I think?) not named Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Both have superb rushing attacks, led by Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb, and I don’t see either team running away from each other. Considering the playoff implications and what’s at stake, the safe play is to take the points in what likely will be a field-goal finish either way.
The pick: Cleveland
INDIANAPOLIS (7-4) AT HOUSTON (4-7)
Indianapolis by 5.5; O/U: 54
The Texans won’t be able to move the ball against the Colts the way they did against the Lions on Thanksgiving. Indy’s defense will be extra motivated after allowing 45 points to the Titans. The Texans also lost a starting receiver and cornerback to PED suspensions. Not good with T.Y. Hilton in town. He owns the Texans (85 catches for 1,537 yards and 10 TDs in 16 games, 10 wins).
The pick: Indianapolis
NEW ORLEANS (9-2) AT ATLANTA (4-7)
New Orleans by 3; O/U: 45.5
This will be closer than the Saints' 24-9 win over the Falcons in Week 11. Still, New Orleans has won eight in a row, won't let up with only the top seed getting a bye this season and Taysom Hill could benefit from just seeing this defense so recently.
The pick: New Orleans
CINCINNATI (2-8-1) AT MIAMI (7-4)
Miami by 11.5; O/U: 42.5
At first glance, this feels like too many points. Then you remember that the Bengals would've scored 10 points against the Giants if not for a 103-yard kickoff return for a TD. Miami has won three in a row at home, all covers, and has some lopsided wins this season.
The pick: Miami
JACKSONVILLE (1-10) AT MINNESOTA (5-6)
Minnesota by 10; O/U: 52
The Vikings have had a tendency to play down to inferior opponents as big home favorites in recent seasons. But even if they’re off their A-game a little bit, they should still win big against a Jaguars team that has lost 10 in a row and allows 29.5 points per game.
The pick: Minnesota
DETROIT (4-7) AT CHICAGO (5-6)
Chicago by 3; O/U: 44.5
Matt Patricia got fired. Matt Nagy could be next, as Chicago has lost five in a row and the offense is a mess. This is a stay-away game, but one reason to mildly back the Lions: Maybe a little revenge on their minds after the Bears scored 21 fourth-quarter points at Detroit in a Week 1 stunning comeback.
The pick: Detroit
4 p.m. Games
PHILADELPHIA (3-7-1) AT GREEN BAY (8-3)
Green Bay by 8.5; O/U: 47.5
The Eagles are a mess and I said I would stay away after backing them against the Giants and Seahawks. But this line is too high, moving nearly three points after the MNF loss. The Packers will win but a desperate Eagles team will be in it and lose by 4-7, which coincidentally will be their W-L total if they somehow prevail.
The pick: Philadelphia
LOCK OF THE WEEK
L.A. RAMS (7-4) AT ARIZONA (6-5)
Los Angeles by 3; O/U: 48.5
When you pick every game every week like I have for the last six seasons, you remember certain trends. One that popped into my mind when I saw Rams-Cardinals: Sean McVay owns Arizona. The Rams are 6-0 vs. their division rival since McVay took over. McVay’s teams are 13-4 after a loss, including 3-0 this season. Expect a super-focused effort after a sloppy loss to the 49ers. Kyler Murray hasn’t been the same since injuring his shoulder at Seattle on TNF a couple weeks ago, and the Cards are reeling.
The pick: L.A. Rams
NEW ENGLAND (5-6) AT L.A. CHARGERS (3-8)
Pick 'em; O/U: 48
I don’t get this spread, which usually means you’re going to get the game wrong. Still, I’m not backing a Chargers team that always finds a way to lose, especially not against Bill Belichick and the Pats as they try to stay in the wild-card hunt.
The pick: New England
DENVER (4-7) AT KANSAS CITY (10-1)
TV: Ch. 4
Kansas City by 14; O/U: 51
Kansas City has Patrick Mahomes (6-0 vs. the Broncos). Denver didn't even have a QB last week. If Kansas City didn't need to catch Pittsburgh for the No. 1 spot, then maybe there would be some letup, but with a bye still in reach, expect an all-out effort. KC has beaten Denver 10 times in a row, including 43-16 in Week 7.
The pick: Kansas City
WASHINGTON (4-7) AT PITTSBURGH (11-0)
TV: Ch. 5, 5 p.m.
Pittsburgh by 8; O/U: 42
The Steelers are going to be 12-0, but that dozen mean they have to win this game by double digits. Washington had its best win of the season at Dallas on Thanksgiving and is well-rested unlike Pittsburgh, which was supposed to play on Turkey Day as well but had its game pushed back six days.
The pick: Washington
BUFFALO (8-3) AT SAN FRANCISCO (5-6)
TV: ESPN, 8:15 p.m.
Buffalo by 1; O/U: 48
When the Bills walked off the field stunned in Arizona three weeks ago, they probably thought: At least we don't have to play here again for a while. Yeah, about that. The 49ers have to play their home games in Arizona, so this creates a weird dynamic. This should be a close game that could again come down to another big play late. I'll take the "home" dog that had a big win last week over the Rams and needs the game more.
The pick: San Francisco
DALLAS (3-8) AT BALTIMORE (6-5)
TV: Ch. 5, 8:05 p.m.
Baltimore by 8.5; O/U: 45
Who knows what to expect in this one, so let's follow the same logic for Washington-Pittsburgh with the extra rest vs. short rest theory. Dallas could also be playing for a first-place tie in the NFC East by the time this game kicks off.
The pick: Dallas
STAFF STANDINGS AND PICKS
(best bets in bold)
82-89-6 overall, 7-5 best bets
Last week: 7-8-1
Las Vegas Seattle Cleveland Indianapolis
Miami Minnesota New Orleans Detroit
Philadelphia New England L.A. Rams Kansas City
Washington San Francisco Dallas
Last week: 6-9-1
Las Vegas Seattle Tennessee Indianapolis
Miami Minnesota New Orleans Chicago
Green Bay New England L.A. Rams Kansas City
Pittsburgh San Francisco Baltimore
Last week: 9-6-1
Jets Giants Tennessee Houston
Miami Jacksonville New Orleans Detroit
Green Bay L.A. Chargers Arizona Kansas City
Washington San Francisco Baltimore
Last week: 7-8-1
Jets Seattle Tennessee Indianapolis
Cincinnati Jacksonville New Orleans Chicago
Green Bay New England L.A. Rams Denver
Washington Buffalo Baltimore