[Update: Use this page as your non-Giants (that’s easy, they’re on a bye) football thread for Week 9.]
Movin’ on up. An 8-6 week — still very average — brought the overall record closer to .500. If I finish the season over .500, I’ll be happy. We’ll see how much this week helps.
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.
SAN FRANCISCO (-2.5) over Oakland
San Francisco just lost to Arizona and the 49ers are still favored by 2.5 points. That feels like a pretty accurate assessment of the Raiders right now. Both of these teams are bad as currently constructed, so this comes down to coaching and at the moment I’ll give the edge of Kyle Shanahan over Jon Gruden, which I know is really going out on a limb. More importantly for Giants fans, this game and the Monday night game next week will have huge implications on the top of the draft considering the teams involved.
[Update: This was a pretty easy win, 1-0 for the week]
MINNESOTA (-4.5) over Detroit
The Vikings don’t exactly look like the title contender they were last season, but they’re getting closer to it as the season progresses. The defense that struggled to start the season is now 13th in DVOA. Detroit is also finding its way, but at a slower pace. They’re 26th in overall DVOA, thanks mostly to a 30th ranked defense. This feels like a game where Minnesota gets back on track after a loss to New Orleans last week.
Chicago (-10) over BUFFALO
Chicago is first in defensive DVOA. Buffalo will be starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback again. That’s enough.
CAROLINA (-6) over Tampa Bay
FitzMagic is back, but it’s got to run out at some point. Carolina’s defense isn’t the unit it’s been over the past few seasons — just 17th in DVOA — but the offense has been really good and that should give them a bigger advantage over Tampa’s terrible defense, especially after the Panthers were able to put of 26 points on the Baltimore Ravens’ defense last week.
Kansas City (-8) over CLEVELAND
Cleveland might get a boost just from no longer being held down by Hue Jackson… but then they also promoted Gregg Williams to interim head coach. That might not exactly be an upgrade for the rest of 2018, though it should be exponentially better for 2019 and beyond. Anyway, it’s pretty safe to say the best team in the league is going to blow through the team that just had to fire its coach and offensive coordinator. Though I do wish Patrick Mahomes vs Baker Mayfield could come in better circumstances.
Jets (+3) over MIAMI
Miami is decidedly not good. We can see the defensive performance that had earlier in the season was very much based on sample samples and turnovers. They’re now 23rd in defensive DVOA. The only thing keeping them as a somewhat acceptable overall team is a third-ranked special teams. But the Jets are second in special teams DVOA, so Miami won’t even have the advantage there. A pretty good Jets defense gets to go against Brock Osweiler and you should never take Brock Osweiler in that situation.
BALTIMORE (-3) over Pittsburgh
This is the one game I really don’t know what to make of where I stand. Baltimore is good and one of the league’s legitimately good defenses, but even that couldn’t stop them from giving up almost 40 points to the Panthers last week. The Steelers also aren’t exactly the Steelers. The offense is good and not great and that can be a problem when it has to carry a defense that has been bad. I want to say I have more faith in the Ravens putting everything together at home.
Atlanta (+1.5) over WASHINGTON
Is Washington good? Sure, 5-2 and leading the NFC East, but is Washington good? They’re 14th in overall DVOA, but the offense ranks just 21st. Would you be really surprised if Atlanta’s ninth-ranked offense is able to score on Washington’s 14th-ranked defense? Does Washington have enough on offense to take advantage of the Falcons’ bad defense? They barely did against the Giants until the late Adrian Peterson run. Only being favored by 1.5 at home suggests Vegas isn’t too sold on Washington either.
Chargers (+2) over SEATTLE
This game is going to be overlooked because of Rams/Saints and Packers/Patriots, but this matchup should be fantastic. The Chargers have one of the league’s best offenses and the defense has slowly been coming along. Seattle has survived the mass exodus of defensive players and still rank second in defensive DVOA. The offensive line isn’t atrocious anymore and they have that Russell Wilson guy throwing the ball. Still, I’ll the Chargers a slight edge here because I have to pick, but this is a game I could probably just watch on repeat and enjoy.
DENVER (-1) over Houston
Denver was a seller at the trade deadline — Demaryius Thomas is now a Texan — but the team has been playing well lately despite the record. The Broncos have gone 1-2 over the past three games, but those games were a three-point loss to the Rams, a blowout win against the Cardinals, and a three-point loss to the Chiefs. That’s an impressive stretch even with two losses. Houston will have to see if the offense clicks with Thomas — currently 24th in DVOA — to get through a good Denver defense.
Rams (+1.5) over NEW ORLEANS
I’m going to find it hard to make anyone a favorite against the Rams right now, even though the Saints were my preseason pick to make the Super Bowl. You could consider these offenses about even, but the Rams defense has been so much better than the Saints this season, so that could give them the edge in what is likely to be a highly entertaining shootout.
Green Bay (+6) over NEW ENGLAND
I made the mistake last week of thinking Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t be able to keep a game against a superior opponent close. I wouldn’t confidently pick the Packers to win this game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rodgers was able to score enough to keep this game close.
Tennessee (+6) over DALLAS
Tennessee is still a team I have no handle on, but why are we giving the Cowboys six points over anyone? The defense is good — 11th in DVOA — but are we really expecting Amari Cooper to be a magical fix for the offense? I’m not sold just yet.
Last week: 8-6