The quest to .501 still lives on. A 9-7 week has gotten us to .505. Outside of a disastrous Week 11, these picks have been fine. I’ll take fine, but let’s see if we can do a little better than that this week.
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.
TENNESSEE (-4) over Jacksonville
There was a stretch when Thursday Night Football was fun and not the typical bad teams going against each other and even early season promise has gone away from this matchup while we get another uninspiring Titans-Jaguars game. Both of these teams have underwhelmed preseason expectations, but only one of them is starting Cody Kessler at quarterback.
KANSAS CITY (-7) over Baltimore
Baltimore has one of the defenses that actually matter this season, but the Kanas City offense just might be too good. As fun as Lamar Jackson has been during his three starts, he hasn’t played particularly well overall — though there is promise with more time and development. What he does even in these circumstances is give the defense looks it’s not used to seeing. But it might not matter as much when a team like the Chiefs can just outscore them.
Indianapolis (+5) over HOUSTON
These teams aren’t super different by DVOA. Overall, Houston is 11th and Indianapolis is 13th, but by Weighted DVOA which puts more emphasis on recent weeks, the Colts are 11th and the Texans are 12th. Basically, these teams are about even despite the difference in record, so five points is way too high a line for what should be a close divisional battle.
Atlanta (+5.5) over GREEN BAY
It was time for Green Bay to move on from Mike McCarthy, but Joe Philbin isn’t exactly an upgrade for the rest of the season. Who knows what the on-field impact is going to be. Atlanta can still put up points — sixth in points per drive — so if this turns into a shootout should Green Bay’s offense click, the Falcons will be able to keep it close.
Jets (+3) over BUFFALO
Does anyone want to think about a Jets-Bills game in Week 14? If Josh Allen doesn’t rush for 100 yards, the Bills probably don’t win — yes, you read that right — and the Jets might be fast enough at the second level of the defense to not allow that to happen.
Giants (-4) over WASHINGTON
By DVOA the Giants are the best team in the NFC East and Washington is the worst. That’s not as big a difference as it might seem because everyone in the NFC is bad. But Washington is starting Mark Sanchez, so it’s really hard to have even the tiniest sliver of confidence in that offense.
New Orleans (-8) over TAMPA BAY
Since Tampa Bay’s 48-40 win over New Orleans in Week 1, the Saints’ defense has gotten better while the Buccaneers’ has continued to get worse. Tampa is 29th in points allowed per drive and New Orleans is 22nd. The Bucs have also dropped to 11th in points per drive on offense while the Saints are first.
New England (-7.5) over MIAMI
Strange things have happened when the Patriots go to Miami, but there has to be a time when it doesn’t, right? Even as the Patriots aren’t the level of team they’ve been in the past, they’re so much better than the Dolphins. Miami is 22nd in DVOA on both offense and defense and just an overall bad team.
CLEVELAND (+2.5) over Carolina
Cam Newton’s shoulder has been bothering him lately the defense hasn’t been nearly good enough to keep these games low-scoring. The Panthers are 21st in yards allowed per drive and 26th in points allowed per drive. Cleveland had its first offensive hiccup since Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator, but in the second have Baker Mayfield started to figure out the Houston defense. He won’t have such a tough start here.
Denver (-5.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Denver is fifth in DVOA right now and even with the injuries to Chris Harris and now Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos are still a significantly better team than the 49ers. The 49ers are a better run defense than pass defense, but it’s hard to see them slowing down Phillip Lindsay and the offense doesn’t have enough firepower to get through the Broncos defense.
CHARGERS (-14) over Cincinnati
No Andy Dalton, no A.J. Green, and a defense ranked 32nd in yards allowed per drive and points allowed per drive. Chargers all day.
ARIZONA (+2.5) over Detroit
The Cardinals have continued to be pretty good on defense while now dropping to the league’s worst offense. The Lions have spent the year being pretty bad at everything. There shouldn’t be much faith in either one of these teams right now, so we’ll just go with the home points.
Philadelphia (+3.5) over DALLAS
It’s hard to figure anyone in the NFC East as more than three points better than anyone else (Mark Sanchez starting at quarterback aside). Dallas’s defense is suddenly the best unit in this game, but Philadelphia has started to figure out how to mix in all the new pieces on the offense. I refuse to believe this game is won by more than a field goal.
Pittsburgh (-10.5) over OAKLAND
Pittsburgh has gotten all of its eggs to lay out if its system, right? This should be an easy game to handle for the Steelers. It has to be with a half-game lead over Baltimore and upcoming games with New England and New Orleans. The Steelers should be able to do whatever they want with the Raiders defense and there’s not much the Raiders can do about it.
Rams (-3) over CHICAGO
This is a game of interest just to see how much impact a top defense can have in today’s NFL. If the Chicago defense isn’t enough to slow down the Rams, then what’s the point of playing defense? Just put all the focus on offense. Without Mitchell Trubisky at 100 percent to take advantage of the LA defense, it would make holding the Rams down even harder.
SEATTLE (-3) over Minnesota
It’s easy to overlook how well the Seahawks have played this season, but they have eclipsed all expectations. Seattle is 10th in overall DVOA, 10th on offense, 16th on defense, and ninth on special teams. Meanwhile, the Vikings have kept the defense going, but the offense has yet to click — thanks mostly to a bad and injured offensive line — which should give the Seahawks the advantage, especially at home.
Last week: 9-7