[Note: Feel free to use this page the place for you non-Giants open thread on Sunday]
Back on the right side of .500 … for the week. The season is another story. But an above .500 week was nice to see after the tire fire of a Thursday night game — Arizona +1 was a bust almost from the opening kickoff. But, hey, we’re still trying and we never said these picks were going to be great. They’re just picks and continue to pick we shall.
Remember these picks are strictly for fun and entertainment purposes and please for your sake do not take these picks as gambling advice. Lines used here come from the Westgate Las Vegas via OddsShark. Home team in CAPS.
HOUSTON (-7.5) over Miami
Houston’s at the top of the AFC South, but has yet to play particularly well. Miami is super weird — 26th in Variance, per Football Outsiders, which means from week-to-week you don’t really know what you’re going to get. The Dolphins are starting Brock Osweiler again and won’t have Albert Wilson against a Texans defense that looks like its forming into one of the best in the league. Miami might not even be able to take advantage of Houston’s biggest weakness — the offensive line. The Dolphins have one of the worst pressure rates on defense and they rank 29th in adjusted sack rate.
[Update: This hit, 1-0 for the week]
Philadelphia (-3) over Jacksonville (in London)
Both of these teams are disappointing relative to preseason expectations this season — but for this game, one of them doesn’t have Blake Bortles. At any point, Bortles could turn into a quarterback who is fine, but boy has that not been the case in the past few weeks. The Eagles really dominated the Panthers for like three and a half quarters before pulling out last-minute loss. Philadelphia might not be great, but they should be good enough to get back on track here.
KANSAS CITY (-10) over Denver
Denver is second is pass defense DVOA, but it’s just so damn hard to have Patrick Mahomes or Andy Reid to make a mistake. New England almost got there for a half, then the Chiefs adjusted. Mahomes is only throwing into tight coverage on 10 percent of his throws, the lowest-rate among starters in the league, but he’s also throwing some of the deepest passes in the league on average — during the offseason, I found most “separation” happens on shorter routes, so for these open throws to happen down the field is a master class in scheming.
CHICAGO (-7) over Jets
These are two defenses that have been good — first (CHI) and ninth (NYJ) in DVOA but were rough in their last game. Chicago should have a better pass rush and a better schemed offense, whether Mitchell Turbisky can take full advantage or not. But even with a quarterback question, the Bears are way more talented on that side of the ball, which should push this game in their favor.
Cleveland (+8.5) over PITTSBURGH
This was a 21-21 tie in Week 1 when Tyrod Taylor was still the starter for the Browns. Since then Cleveland has gone to Baker Mayfield, who has been better, but the offense is still a work in progress. Meanwhile the Steelers have gotten a little better, but nowhere near one of the bets teams in the league they were expected to be at the start of the season. A really good Browns defense could be what keeps this close again.
Baltimore (-2.5) over CAROLINA
The Ravens have the one legitimately good defense in the NFL. They have the lowest ANY/A against (4.7) and a 10.0 percent sack rate. Carolina has won a few games without looking particularly impressive and the defensive unit that has been good in years past just hasn’t been there yet. Baltimore should have the advantage on both sides of the ball and if not, the advantage they have on defense greatly outweighs everything else.
Washington (-1) over GIANTS
How this line is still only Washington by one is puzzling. At least that was the case on Wednesday when this was written. Washington hasn’t been great this season and there have been real puzzling performances like against New Orleans, but there have been some flashes of good on both sides of the ball.
Seattle (+3) over DETROIT
The Seahawks have been a sneaky good team this season. They’re 10th in overall DVOA and fourth in defensive DVOA. The offense is what’s lacking — 20th in DVOA — but it’s still a unit led by Russell Wilson, if they let him. Detroit’s been coming together a little from the disastrous start of the season, but Seattle is still the better team right now.
CINCINNATI (-4.5) over Tampa Bay
It’s been a bit of a bummer of a few weeks for the Bengals. Two weeks ago they were 4-1, then they ran into the Steelers and the steamroller known as the Chiefs. Now they’re only 4-3. A blowout loss never looks good, but Cincinnati should still be considered better than that. Tampa Bay is going to continue to be a team that allows a lot of points and when the Bengals face a defense like that, they have the offensive pieces to take advantage.
Indianapolis (-3) over OAKLAND
We saw last week the Colts are able to beat up on bad opponents when given the opportunity and we can safely say the Raiders are a bad opponent. Indianapolis is much better than a 2-5 record would indicate — the defense has been a pleasant surprise — and Oakland might be worse than its 1-5. The Raiders rank no better than 21st in any area, just lost Marshawn Lynch to injured reserve, Amari Cooper to the Cowboys, and spent the week using energy on a whole bunch of dumb stuff off the field. That’s not a team you pick to win a game.
San Francisco (PK) over ARIZONA
I had higher hopes for Arizona on Thursday night. The defense had started to click just because of the talent on it and then bam, the Broncos happened pretty quickly. Rosen is the better quarterback in this game and the Cardinals should have the better defense, but until they show any of that can come together for a full game, it’s safer to stay away, though I do have some hope for a Byron Leftwich coordinated offense.
RAMS (-9.5) over Green Bay
There aren’t many scenarios where I’d feel comfortable spotting an Aaron Rodgers opponent nearly 10 points, but guys, have you seen these Rams play? They’re nearly schematically perfect on offense and the defense has been getting more pressure off the edge and from players not named Aaron Donald, though that guy is still doing pretty well. The Rams are first in net yards per drive at plus-14.37 (only one other team is above plus-10 and third place is at plus-5.51) and first in net points per drive (1.28). I will pick them to win until proven otherwise.
New Orleans (PK) over MINNESOTA
Neither of these teams are what they were in the NFC Championship Game, but this should still be a good, close game. New Orleans easy has the most dominant unit in this matchup — the offense — and that should be what gives them the advantage here. The Vikings’ defensive strength this season has been forcing three-and-outs (first in three-and-outs per drive), but after that, they’ll let teams drive down for at least a field goal. It’s just too hard to rely on forcing Drew Brees into a three-and-out.
New England (-14) over BUFFALO
I’m not sure what the point spread would have to be for me to consider Buffalo, who right now has the worst offensive ever tracked by DVOA through seven weeks. I do know that spread is not 14 points.
Last week: 7-6-1