Last Week: 9-4 and one of those misses was a mistype on my part with the final outcome. The season forecast is 87-46 straight up.
- Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4): Still no Le’Veon Bell, who has been spotted in Pittsburgh this week but not at Steelers practice. Playing pickup basketball at a gym against a bunch of middle-aged white dudes is not the same as getting ready to play Eric Reid and the surging Panthers. Carolina has only lost once since Reid signed on and solidified the back end of the Carolina defense.
It’s a tough draw for the Pittsburgh offense, and I worry about a letdown after cruising past archrival Baltimore in a game that was not as close as the 7-point margin. I smell the road upset.
Panthers 27, Steelers 24
- Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-6.5): The Bears are rightly confident heading into their first NFC North home game of the season, facing a Lions team that has lost two in a row and has looked awful in the process. But the Soldier Field faithful shouldn’t get too chesty. Detroit fans have seen this movie already once this year, and it wound up having an oddly happy ending. After falling to the Jets and 49ers in the first two weeks, the Lions rose up and trashed the Patriots on national TV. Chicago’s offense should be able to outscore an inconsistent Lions squad in the cold outdoors, but the line seems pretty high against a Detroit team capable of beating anyone in between looking like a bottom-5 team.
Bears 33, Lions 28
- Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs (-17): This is the biggest point spread of the season, and since the turn of the century teams favored by at least 17 points are 22-0. They don’t cover even half the time, however. Whether it’s taking an opponent for granted or a sudden surge of pride from the subjugated underdog, the massive favorites have covered just 8 of those 22 games. This will be the ninth…
Chiefs 44, Cardinals 23
- New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans (+7): Bill Belichick takes on a rookie coach who is descended from his extended tree in Mike Vrabel. Normally, that goes quite poorly for the student, but Matt Patricia proved earlier this year that the kohai can sometimes surprise the senpai. If Marcus Mariota plays as well as he did against Dallas, it could happen again. Don’t bet on it, however…
Patriots 26, Titans 20
- New Orleans Saints at Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5): This game got a lot less interesting with A.J. Green being ruled out. It renders the Bengals the football equivalent of entering a gunfight without their biggest-caliber weapon. Instead, they’re swinging a broadsword. New Orleans will get medieval on that…
Saints 30, Bengals 20
- Atlanta Falcons at Cleveland Browns (+5): At full strength, I would have given the Browns a chance to compete in a shootout with the Falcons. I wouldn't have picked them to win, but the concept of Baker Mayfield going toe-to-toe with Matt Ryan would have been fun. Alas, the Browns placed two key defensive starters on IR this week in Christian Kirksey and E.J. Gaines. Joe Schobert remains out, and Denzel Ward is on the doubtful side of doubtful from the early practice reports. Damarious Randall missed last week, too. Take five of the seven best defensive starters off any team and they’re going to struggle. Against Julio Jones, Tevin Coleman and the Falcons? Pray for Cleveland…
Falcons 40, Browns 26
- Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (-3): Indianapolis is coming off one of the most ill-timed bye weeks ever. Having devastated Oakland and Buffalo by a combined score of 79-33, the Colts would have been better off staying well-lubed and ready to keep the machine rolling.
Instead, they get a week to cool off. Now they face the Jaguars, a desperate and hungry team coming off a bye week they needed very much to stop the catastrophic fall from AFC Championship game participant to AFC South -- the weakest division in all of the NFL -- bottom-dweller. I think the Jaguars do what my old roommate David used to tell me as I spiraled into increasing drunkenness to the point of publicly embarrassing myself: burp and settle. Blake Bortles burps and settles enough to have a good game against a Colts defense that gave up 117 points in the three games against teams before the Bills and Raiders, who have progressed far beyond anything burping and settling could possibly stop.
Jaguars 33, Colts 28
- Washington at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3): The devastating injuries to the Washington offensive line dramatically swung the momentum of this matchup. Starters Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao were both lost for the season in Week 9, and Trent Williams remains sidelined. Tampa Bay doesn’t do a lot well, but with Jason Pierre-Paul, they do have an impressive pass rush. As long as Ryan Fitzpatrick has a little of the magic and not much of the tragic, the home team should prevail.
Buccaneers 32, Washington 17
- Buffalo Bills at New York Jets (-7.5): Sam Darnold will not play for the Jets. Josh McCown will get the start at QB. Doesn’t matter. Could be Luke McCown. Could be Luke Kuechly. Could be Luke Skywalker. Could be Kenny “Sky” Walker from the Ewing-era Knicks. All would be less detrimental to the Jets fates in this game than what Nathan Peterman is to Buffalo.
Jets 17, Bills 9
Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders (+10): I said three weeks ago I was not picking Oakland again this season. After their embarrassing effort and utter incompetence on national TV last Thursday, I’m not sure I’d pick them against Alabama this year. As someone who covered both winless teams in the last 10 years, I can confidently say these Raiders are worse than both the ‘08 Lions and ‘17 Browns. Those teams at least (mostly) tried.
Chargers 47, Raiders 17
- Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers (-10): The Packers are a safe pick at home in November against the fading Brocktober Dolphins. But I’ll believe this Mike McCarthy-coached team that just traded away its best safety is 10 points better than anyone when I see it.
Packers 27, Dolphins 21
- Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (-10): How do the Rams bounce back from their first setback? Seattle is no easy rebound affair. It’s like going on your first post-divorce date and your buddy with an odd sense of humor sets you up with a fresh parolee with authority issues and an eating disorder. You’re used to a comfortable-- if quiet -- existence and now you’re worried if denying her a third shrimp cocktail in 15 minutes is going to make her trigger-happy. Seattle is a tough cookie even coming off the disheartening loss to the Chargers.
Fortunately for the Rams, Jared Goff remains great and Cooper Kupp appears healthy again. Going home and reestablishing some routine will help bring back the spark to the loaded Rams.
Rams 27, Seahawks 20
- Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-7): The Cowboys get a short week to lick their wounds and bring their sputtering offense to the Eagles nest. Philadelphia is coming off a bye week, which gave them extra time to incorporate noted Cowboy killer Golden Tate into their offense. With Detroit in Week 4, Tate caught all eight passes thrown his way for 132 yards and 2 TDs. The Cowboys defense is playing well, but they do not have an answer for someone with Tate’s particular set of skills other than getting Carson Wentz on his butt before he can find Tate eviscerating the secondary 15-20 yards down the field.
Eagles 23, Cowboys 13
- New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (-3): I’ll miss this scintillatingly awful matchup while I’m attending a concert by the New York-based band Coheed and Cambria. Those NY ties are the only reason I’m picking the Giants. Nick Mullens comes back to earth.
Giants 20, 49ers 17
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