It feels like just last week I was writing my preseason predictions, and picking Week 1’s NFL matchups. Now, a week before Thanksgiving, as most of the country turns to colder weather, we have just six weeks left in the NFL’s regular season.
Six weeks to decided these six burning questions:
- Who wins the AFC South? This week, the Texans and Colts face off on Thursday Night Football to determine who will hold first place in the AFC South at 7-4. The loser will still have a chance at the playoffs, but the Titans will also look to enter that race if they can beat the Jaguars on Sunday.
- Can the Eagles win the NFC East? After a tough loss to the Patriots, the Eagles host another tough foe in the Seahawks. But their final schedule couldn’t be softer: the Giants twice, the Redskins, the Dolphins, and an all-important matchup with the Cowboys in Week 16. They’ll control their own fate, with Dallas likely to lose to the Patriots this week.
- Will the Raiders make the playoffs? At 6-5, the Raiders are in a prime position to make a playoff push in the season’s final six weeks. A win would tie their record with the Chiefs for the AFC West lead, and Oakland is also currently tied for the AFC’s 6th seed.
- Will the 49ers or Seahawks win the NFC West? Seattle took Round 1 head-to-head, with one more matchup remaining. This week, both teams look to keep pace against stiff competition: the Eagles and Packers.
- Who gets home-field in the NFC? The Saints, Packers, Vikings, 49ers, and Seahawks all have shots at first-round byes and home-field advantage in the playoffs. The 49ers currently lead the race, but three games against the Packers, Saints, and Ravens could change that dramatically.
- Will the Bengals finish the season winless? The Bengals have six games left, with four coming at home. They only lost by 7 to the Raiders last week. Will they win a game this season? Maybe even.. this week? They have a chance in five of their last six games: Steelers, Browns twice, Jets, and Dolphins. They also play the Patriots.
Week 1: 9-6-1
Week 2: 9-7
Week 3: 11-5
Week 4: 6-9
Week 5: 10-5
Week 6: 9-5
Week 7: 10-4
Week 8: 12-3
Week 9: 9-5
Week 10: 4-9
Week 11: 11-3
Overall Record: 100-62-1 (62.0%)
Week 10 was my worst of the season, but I responded with Week 11 being one of my best weeks yet: 11 wins and 3 losses. It also gets me to 100 wins on the season, as compared to 62 losses, so I’m picking games at a respectable 62% rate.
I missed on:
- Dolphins over Bills: I thought maybe Miami would push their win streak to three.
- Panthers over Falcons: After beating the Saints and Panthers, are the Falcons better than we thought?
- Steelers over Browns: “My gut is saying the Browns win at home, but the Steelers keep winning when I pick against them. After beating the Colts and Rams, maybe I should give Pittsburgh a little more credit.” I should have trusted my gut.
Thursday Night Football
Indianapolis Colts (6-4) at Houston Texans (6-4)
Line: Houston Texans (-3.5)
Thursday Night Football brings us an all-important matchup that will shake up the AFC South and the AFC Wildcard race. If the playoffs started before this game was played, the Colts would be the AFC South winner and the Texans would also qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard team.
The winner of this game will take control of the division, while the loser will have to battle with the Bills, Raiders, Titans, and Steelers: five teams will be vying for just two wildcard spots.
Neither team is playing their best football right now, though if you look at just last week, the Colts were way better than the Texans. All in all, I expect a close, tough football game. I have Deshaun Watson leading Houston to a key win, but he’ll have to fight for it, as his defense doesn’t do a great job against the Colts.
Texans win 33-27, Texans win ATS
Sunday Day Games
New York Giants (2-8) at Chicago Bears (4-6)
Line: Chicago Bears (-6.0)
I’ve seen many Giants fans pointing to this game as an opportunity to end the misery of their six-game losing streak. I don’t really talk to Bears fans much, but I’d imagine they’re thinking the exact same thing with the Giants on the schedule.
Chicago has underachieved massively (plug for my preseason predictions if you want a good laugh: I had the Bears in the Super Bowl.) However, they’re still a superior team when compared to the 2-8 Giants. Unless Daniel Jones has a big day, which I wouldn’t expect against this defense, I think the Bears are the team that gets a much needed win here.
Bears win 17-13, Giants win ATS
Oakland Raiders (6-4) at New York Jets (3-7)
Line: Oakland Raiders (-2.5)
Playoffs? The Jets have won back-to-back games over the Giants and Redskins, and Sam Darnold and Jamal Adams have Jets fans thinking about the playoffs?
Make no mistake, the Jets have been playing better recently. But going 2-1 against the Dolphins, Giants, and Redskins, who hold a combined record of 5-25, is hardly reason to look to the postseason.
They’ll have a chance at a third straight win, but Oakland is playing well-rounded football right now. They have a slight disadvantage as a West Coast team playing at 1 PM in 40 degree weather, but I think they’ll overcome it to elevate their record to a respectable 7-4.
Raiders win 24-17, Raiders win ATS
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-7)
Line: Atlanta Falcons (-4.5)
I often rant and rave about how the Buccaneers can give any team a good team, no matter how good they are. In that sense, there’s no reason to count them out against a Falcons team with the exact same record.
But Atlanta has been dominant in back-to-back wins over the Saints and Panthers, and here, they complete a clean sweep of all three divisional foes in three weeks.
Falcons win 30-17, Falcons win ATS
Denver Broncos (3-7) at Buffalo Bills (7-3)
Line: Buffalo Bills (-4.0)
Last week, I picked the Dolphins to upset the Bills, and Buffalo responded with a blowout. This week, the 7-3 Bills play another team well under the .500 mark. I won’t pick against them again, will I?
Buffalo’s offensive output of 37 points over Miami was easily their best of the season, but I think Denver’s defense brings a tougher challenge. Brandon Allen may be able to make just enough happen on the road and outscore his opposing Allen, Josh.
This one may just be my gut, but I don’t think the Bills pull it off.
Broncos win 23-20, Broncos win ATS
Pittsburgh Steelers (5-5) at Cincinnati Bengals (0-10)
Line: Pittsburgh Steelers (-6.5)
Here it is, the upset special of the week. Yup, I’m going with the winless Bengals over the 5-5 Steelers. Last week, Cincinnati had it’s best shot in weeks, losing 17-10 to the Raiders. This week, they run into a confused and vulnerable Steelers team.
I think the Mason Rudolph-Myles Garrett altercation will have adverse effects on both teams that were involved. It’s hard to say, it’s not the physical tolls but the mental effects it might have on the players, specifically Rudolph at quarterback. And Mason wasn’t playing well either before the infamous fight, with four interceptions thrown against the Browns defense.
With two career starts under his belt, rookie Ryan Finley breaks through on his third try for his first NFL victory. The Bengals are currently the last team to be either winless or undefeated: but I have that 0 being changed this week.
Bengals win 22-17, Bengals win ATS
Miami Dolphins (2-8) at Cleveland Browns (4-6)
Line: Cleveland Browns (-10.5)
The Dolphins put together an unlikely two-game win streak over the Jets and Colts, but had a reality-check loss to the Bills last week. On the other side, the Browns have bounced back from a four-game slide with a two-game win streak of their own.
I think the game could be closer than the spread suggests: there’s no reason to believe the Browns are going to show up to 100% of their capabilities. But I still think Cleveland is the safer bet here.
Browns win 23-20, Dolphins win ATS
Carolina Panthers (5-5) at New Orleans Saints (8-2)
Line: New Orleans Saints (-9.5)
With Kyle Allen starting the year 4-0 as the Panthers starter, I thought Carolina was headed for a great season. They’ve lost to a few good teams, and find themsleves at a crossroads at 5-5.
Unfortunately, the Saints are a very good team, and playing them in New Orleans is a tall task for anyone. I think Christian McCaffery and Carolina’s offense can make it a good game, but the Saints come out on top for the 9th time in eleven games.
Saints win 27-24, Panthers win ATS
Seattle Seahawks (8-2) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
Line: Philadelphia Eagles (-1.0)
The Eagles are just narrow one-point favorites at home, insinuating Vegas recognizes the 8-2 Seahawks as the better team but gives Philadelphia the slight edge at home. Last week, the Eagles hosted the Patriots. They went up 10-0 on New England before losing 17-10. They way they lost was concerning, but the final score against one of the NFL’s best teams wasn’t that bad.
I think Russell Wilson and the Seahawks find more success in Philadelphia than Brady and the Patriots did last week. The deciding factor of the game will be if the Eagles can score consistently or if they’re relegated to spurts of on and off offense. I can more likely see the latter, and the Seahawks emerge with a quality win.
Seahawks win 26-17, Seahawks win ATS
Detroit Lions (3-6-1) at Washington Redskins (1-9)
Line: Detroit Lions (-3.5)
Since a 2-0-1 start, Detroit has fell victim to bad officiating, bad defense, a tough schedule, and some tough outcomes.
That’s not to say most of the Lions problems aren’t internal, but for a 3-win team, the Lions are way better than their record suggests. They catch a break with a hapless Redskins team, temporarily ending the woes of their current 1-6 stretch.
Lions win 33-20, Lions win ATS
Jacksonville Jaguars (4-6) at Tennessee Titans (5-5)
Line: Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
While the Texans and Colts are busy squaring off for first place in the AFC South on Thursday Night, the Jaguars and Titans also have an important matchup. This is the Jaguars last chance to get back into the division race. For the Titans, getting to 6-5 would mean both a chance in the division and a shot at a wildcard berth.
Overall, the Titans have just been playing better football lately, especially after switching from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. Nick Foles return didn’t exactly ignite the Jaguars offense last week. The Titans roll to another win.
Titans win 27-17, Titans win ATS
Dallas Cowboys (6-4) at New England Patriots (9-1)
Line: New England Patriots (-6.5)
This may be the best game of the week: two of America’s favorite teams, both with Super Bowl aspirations, set for a back-and-forth affair in the afternoon timeslot which is, fittingly, America’s game of the week. Both teams have a great shot to win this tight matchup:
Is what I would say if I was a Cowboys fan.
Yes, the Patriots have shown their vulnerability this season, with a loss to the Ravens, and a comeback needed to defeat the Eagles. Even the Giants played the Patriots tight into the fourth quarter.
But coming off a loss and a near-loss, I don’t expect the Patriots to play around. They’re still undefeated at home this season, and I think they keep their foot on the gas for all four quarters. Their defense contains Prescott and Elliot, while their offense does “Just New England things” en route to an easy victory for Brady and Belichick.
Patriots win 37-17, Patriots win ATS
Sunday Night Football
Green Bay Packers (8-2) at San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
Line: San Francisco 49ers (-3.0)
The home team being a three-point favorite means that in a neutral site, the game would be a pure toss-up. And that’s a great way to look at this game between of the NFC’s best teams.
At 9-1, you can’t deny the 49ers are great. Yet, after a couple close calls against the Cardinals and a loss to the Seahawks, they’ve looked human. But at their best, they could be the best team in the NFL.
The Packers can play with the best of them as well, but don’t always look incredible. Still, they’ve managed just one less win than the 49ers this season.
Jimmy G hasn’t been playing as well as his opposing quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. Both defenses are good, with the 49ers being a bit better.
Man, if you can’t tell, I think this is a really tough game to call.
I am going to go with the Packers, but I don’t have any advanced stats or well-thought out matchups on the field to point to: just a gut feeling. The 49ers lose a heart-wrenching game, and at 9-2, they feel like they could easily be 11-0.
Packers win 27-20, Packers win ATS
Monday Night Football
Baltimore Ravens (8-2) at Los Angeles Rams (6-4)
Line: Baltimore Ravens (-3.0)
Russell Wilson. Tom Brady. Deshaun Watson. Those are just the opposing quarterbacks in three of the last four games for Lamar Jackson and the Ravens: all wins. In fact, after starting 2-2, Baltimore has rattled off six straight wins.
I understand rushing quarterbacks can’t always succeed forever, but I see no reason to think Jackson will be contained this season. He’s taking the league by storm and making defenses look silly with his legs and his arm.
The Rams should be a fun matchup: their defense isn’t playing great, but they have the personnel to make some big plays. If they can’t contain Jackson early, it’s going to be a highlight reel night for the Ravens offense. And as they’ve been playing this season, there’s no way the Rams keep up. Can’t believe I’m saying that as earlier this week, we remembered the Rams 54-51 win over the Chiefs in 2018.
Ravens win 33-24, Ravens win ATS
Teams on Bye
Kansas City Chiefs (7-4): After a Monday night victory in Mexico over the Chargers, the Chiefs can rest easy: for now. Though they likely dashed the Chargers hopes in the AFC West, the Chiefs could find themselves tied with the Raiders at 7-4 if Oakland defeats the Jets this week.
Minnesota Vikings (8-3): Everyone is talking about the Packers, Seahawks, 49ers, Saints, and even Cowboys before they mention the Vikings. At 8-3, they have not only a shot at the NFC North, but a first-round bye if they keep playing well. Their next game in Seattle will be a tough one.
Arizona Cardinals (3-7-1): The Cardinals record isn’t great, but it doesn’t really tell the story of how well Kyler Murray and this Arizona team has been playing. Three of their losses came by a score or less, as they nearly knocked off the 49ers a couple weeks ago. Of course, their defense has been atrocious, holding them back.
Los Angeles Chargers (4-7): Monday Night’s heartbreaker in Mexico may have been the final nail in the coffin for this Los Angeles team. If you flip that outcome in favor of the Chargers, as well as their loss to the Titans on a goal-line fumble, the Chargers would be 6-5, tied with the Chiefs for 1st place in the AFC West. An unlucky season for Philip Rivers and the Chargers.
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Header photo credit: Via ESPN