Shit is getting real. This week’s slate has blockbuster matchups as well as some really great under the radar, must-win games. Here’s how I’m guessing they might go down along with a bold prediction or two.
@ Atlanta -3 vs. Cowboys
Atlanta has been under the radar in their wretchedness. Aside from a win over the Panthers and a must-win against Washington two weeks ago, they simply haven’t come through. After losing all momentum last week versus the Browns, they are faced with another must win, this time at home against Dallas. The Cowboy’s have been better of late but Atlanta’s desperation and offense are likely too much for Jason Garrett and company to overcome. Atlanta to comfortably cover.
@ Ravens -5.5 vs. Cincinnati
A huge AFC North matchup. The Ravens are a game behind the Bengals and now get them on their home field. There are some hurdles to overcome for both teams as Baltimore will be starting either Lamar Jackson and/or RG3, while the Bengals are missing perennial offensive MVP AJ Green. Guessing at the future, I’d expect Harbaugh to craft a game plan based on a ball control offense that takes advantage of his mobile back up QBs particular skill sets, while leaning heavily on his defense. This seems like a winning formula versus average Andy and absent AJ. Ravens to cover and then some.
Bold prediction: Monster week for Alec Collins.
Lamar Jackson skeptics have to re-evaluate their hate after this one as Jackson should fare better with consistent snaps and series. It’s difficult to be accurate coming in cold for the occasional cameo play. This will be his first real audition tape since the pre-season. The end is nigh Joe.
Panthers -4.5 @ Detroit
This is the time of year where desperation and fighting for playoff lives becomes a supreme motivator. The Panthers go to Detroit coming off a big loss against the Steelers. Detroit is just a strange team, The Lions have a lousy three wins, but two of those wins came against the Packers and Patriots though, so you never really know what they are going to give you. Four and a half is plenty to give t home, but this Panthers team has plenty of weapons to unleash Detroit’s fast track. This could be a high scoring, fun game to watch. In the end I expect Cam and the Panthers to be too much. Panthers to cover.
Texans -3 @ Washington
Two teams sitting atop their divisions who I would guess don’t finish the season there. The Texans have a list of fluky wins, a lousy offensive line and a banged-up offense. Washington has a decimated offensive line, modest offense and sometimes great defense. This seems to be a battle of which offensive line can be less-worse and I would anticipate a season-high game penalty total, with neither team getting into any sort of rhythm. Last week Washington’s offensive line survived the lowly Buccs defense, I’d expect the Texans are able to expose them this week. Texans to cover.
Bold prediction: The Washington fade begins and excellerates from here. Sell anything you own not named Guice.
@ Giants -2.5 versus Buccaneers
From two average teams somehow atop of their divisions, to two shitty teams, right where they belong. The Giants have a little momentum from recent weeks while the Buccs seem determined to get themselves a new coaching staff. Another high scoring shootout affair for Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Eli, faced with the Buccaneers embarrassing defense should be able to get out of his own way and allow his elite weapons to score big. Giants to cover.
@ Colts -1.5 vs. Titans
An underrated matchup of two teams who seem to be slowly but surely getting better under the guidance of their new coaching staffs. The Colts are a game behind the Titans who are chasing the Texans, so both should be considerably motivated. The inventive offensive staffs should also make this one pretty entertaining. I’ll opt for Andrew Luck over the less consistent Mariota here. Colts to cover.
Steelers -5 @ Jacksonville
The division leading Steelers off an impressive win over Atlanta versus a Jacksonville Jaguars team that has shat the bed all season long. The Jags do seem to get themselves motivated for big matchups, however, and any game involving the Steelers fits that description. With their backs against the wall and their wobbling reputations at stake I’m guessing the Jags put up a good showing at home. Jags to cover.
Bold prediction: I’m not sure if it’s this week or next, and truly wish no ill will on James Conner, but would it not be fitting if the Steelers had a sudden and desperate need for LeVeon Bell the moment he became unavailable?
@ Cards -5.5 vs Raiders
Sigh. It’s garbage time from the opening kickoff onwards. I’ll opt for the revamped Cardinals to cover.
@ Chargers -7 vs. Broncos
The Chargers are trying to keep pace with a Chiefs team that has a solid chance of losing this week, so LA won’t be flat for this one. The Broncos, meanwhile have held tight more often than not and generally put up good showings versus division foes. This is probably a much better game than expected. The Chargers will win but I’d expect the Broncos to hang around and cover.
@ Saints -7.5 versus Eagles
Defending Super Bowl champs giving 7.5 points while they are still in the running to win the NFC East seems high. This is a huge test and a watershed game for the Eagles season. Last week I guessed that with Alshon and Wentz healthier, and Tate indoctrinated into the offense, the Eagles would win and start their second half surge. This week I’m doubling down. I still believe the Eagles are going to figure this thing out and win the division. Eagles to at least cover, if not win.
Bold prediction: Watch for Dwayne Washington down the homestretch. He’s a former receiver, big bodied RB who could fill the Mark Ingram role for the Saints next year, should the veteran depart for greener pastures.
@ Bears -2.5 vs. Vikings
A game Minnesota absolutely needs. The Vikings pathetic offensive line will be up against a tremendous pass rush on the road. It’s now or never time for Zimmer to figure this one out and I he and Cousins have enough magic to pull it out this week. Vikings to cover.
@ Rams -3.5 vs. Chiefs
The game of the season so far. I’m not sure who gets the W here at all but we all win as spectators, in what should be an offensive explosion of a game. Three and a half points is just enough for me to opt for the Chiefs as I expect this one comes down to a last second kick. KC to cover.