Tag Archives: AFC South

My NFL Picks Week 13: Teams continue jockeying for playoff seeding

The byes are done as we enter the last month of the NFL regular season and teams make a final push to make the playoffs or improve their seeding. A battle of NFC division leaders gets the week underway when the Cowboys host the Saints on Thursday night. The Sunday schedule is highlighted by an interconference game pitting the Vikings against the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, and the Sunday night contest sees two potential playoff teams in the AFC meeting with the Chargers — minus RB Melvin Gordon — visiting the Steelers. The last game of the week is a divisional battle in the NFC East with the 6-5 Redskins taking on the disappointing 5-6 Eagles in Philadelphia. I went 6-9 last week, giving me an overall record of 85-101 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Thursday Night Football

Saints at Cowboys (+7.5) – The Saints are continuing to roll over their opponents, and the Cowboys are the next team in their path. The Cowboys have won three in a row to take over first place in the NFC East, but I’m not sure they can stop the offensive juggernaut that is QB Drew Brees and the Saints. I expect the Saints to win the game, and think they barely cover.

Sunday 1PM games

Ravens at Falcons (+1.5) – The Ravens are expected to give rookie QB Lamar Jackson another start under center, which gives them a more explosive offense than they have with QB Joe Flacco. I think Jackson will be able to move the ball down the field against a subpar Falcons defense, but it won’t be easy for him to keep up with veteran QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones on the other end of the field. I think the Falcons win the game, so I’ll take the points.

Bills at Dolphins (-5.5) – Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill returned last week in the team’s loss to the Colts. This week, he faces a better defense but a worse offense with the Bills. Neither team has a great offense, so I don’t think either team can win by a sizable margin, so I’ll take the points on the road in the divisional matchup. 

Bears at Giants (+4.5) – Backup QB Chase Daniel led the Bears to a win on Thanksgiving and it’s unknown if he’ll start again this week or if QB MItchell Trubisky will return from his injury in time for the weekend. Either way, I think QB Eli Manning will have a hard time finding much success in the passing game against the tough Bears defense. If the Giants are going to be successful this week, it’ll be because RB Saquon Barkley has another big game. I don’t think he’ll play well enough to keep the Giants close to the Bears, so I’m giving the points.

Broncos at Bengals (+3.5) – The Bengals suffered a big loss last week when QB Andy Dalton suffered a broken thumb that ended his season. QB Jeff Driskel took over for the rest of the game and will continue to draw starts, and the team signed QB Tom Savage to serve as Driskel’s backup. Driskel performed decently last week against the Browns, but he’s still a step down from Dalton and should have a negative impact on the whole Cincinnati offense. You should expect to see a bigger workload on the ground for RB Joe Mixon, but the passing game will suffer — especially if WR A.J. Green remains unable to play, and with Dalton out for the year the team may hold Green out for the remaining games as well. The Bengals are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, while the Broncos have won two in a row, thanks in part to the play of RB Phillip Lindsay. I think the Broncos extend their winning streak and cover the 3.5 points.

Browns at Texans (-6.5) – With their win over the Titans on Monday night, the Texans became the first team in NFL history to win eight straight games after starting the season 0-3. Now at 8-3 and in control of the AFC South, the Texans are looking to keep their winning ways alive against a Browns team that has won two straight. Texans RB Lamar Miller is performing well of late, including with a 97-yard touchdown run last week, which gives the team another strong offensive weapon to go along with QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins, with DE J.J. Watt and LB Jadeveon Clowney leading the defense. The Browns have a pretty good defense, though, so they may be able to keep the game relatively close. Texans win but Browns cover.

Rams at Lions (+9.5) – This seems to be a bit of a mismatch between the offenses, as the Lions aren’t nearly as good as the Rams. I think the Rams, coming off their bye, should win easily with QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley leading the way. LIons WR Marvin Jones is out for the season after being placed on IR, which should open up more opportunities in the passing game for WR Kenny Golladay. I just don’t think the Lions’ offense is in the same class as the Rams, so I’m giving the points on the road.

Cardinals at Packers (-14.5) – The Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the league, but I don’t know how the Packers can be favored by more than two touchdowns against any team right now. QB Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have many reliable options in the passing game, other than WR Davante Adams. And that is even truer if WR Randall Cobb isn’t ready to go this week. RB Aaron Jones is stepping up in the ground game. RB David Johnson is really the best part of the Cardinals’ offense, as QB Josh Rosen hasn’t been putting up impressive numbers so far in his rookie year. The Packers should win the game as they hope to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but I’m taking the points.

Colts at Jaguars (+3.5) – The Jaguars  are in a tailspin right now. They’ve lost their last seven games, and this week announced they’re benching QB Blake Bortles and fired their offensive coordinator. And they will be without RB Leonard Fournette this week as he serves a one-game suspension for his role in a fight in last week’s game against the Bills. With Bortles losing his starting job, head coach Doug Marrone and the Jags are turning to QB Cody Kessler to try to reinvigorate the offense. With Fournette out, RBs Carlos Hyde and T.J. Yeldon will split the running back duties. The Colts have won their last five contests, but TE Jack Doyle suffered a kidney injury in their game last week, and that has ended his season. That means TE Eric Ebron, who already has 11 touchdowns this season, is in line for a bigger role in the offense. With the state of the Jaguars right now, I expect the Colts to win the game, and I think they cover the spread, as they hope to keep pace in the AFC playoff picture.

Panthers at Buccaneers (+3.5) – The Panthers are looking to end their current three-game skid and stay in the Wild Card picture in the NFC. The Buccaneers could be a good opponent for them to try to get back on a winning track. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey is coming off a terrific game in which he had more than 100 yards rushing and receiving, and WR D.J. Moore is becoming a reliable pass-catcher for QB Cam Newton, as he has had at least 90 receiving yards in each of his last two games. The Bucs’ only big playmaker is WR Mike Evans, and I don’t think they’ll be able to put enough points on the board to beat the Panthers. I’m giving the points. 

Sunday 4PM games

Jets at Titans (-9.5) – The Titans are coming off a Monday night loss that hurt their chances of making the playoffs. They’re a better team than the Jets, but I don’t know that they’re almost 10 points better. Titans win the game, but I’ll take the points.

Chiefs at Raiders (-14.5) – Here’s another game with a two-touchdown spread. The Chiefs are coming off their bye and looking to avenge their 54-51 loss from two weeks ago, but I find it had to pick any team to win by at least 15 points. The Raiders could be the worst team in the league at this point, but because the spread is so high I’m taking the points.

Vikings at Patriots (-6.5) – The Vikings have a good defense and have some good playmakers in the passing game with WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, so I think they’ll be able to keep up with QB Tom Brady and the Patriots enough to keep the score within a touchdown, though the Patriots likely win the game outright.

49ers at Seahawks (-10.5) – The Seahawks are looking to win their third straight game as they try to keep pace in the NFC Wild Card race, and I think they get the win over the 49ers but I don’t think they win by double digits, so I’ll take the points on the road.

Sunday Night Football

Chargers at Steelers (-3.5) – The Chargers are expected to be without Gordon for several weeks, leaving RBs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson to bulk of the workload in the running game. The Steelers, meanwhile, have the main cogs of their offense with QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner and WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers should have enough offensive firepower to hold off the Chargers and cover the 3.5 points. I’ll go with the Steelers in what could be the best game of the week.

Monday Night Football

Redskins at Eagles (-6.5) – One game separates these teams in the division, and the Eagles are looking to pick up the win to improve to .500 at 6-6. With QB Colt McCoy starting for the Redskins, the Eagles are probably the better team, but the teams are pretty evenly matched so I’m not sure that they’re a touchdown better than Washington. Eagles get win, but I’ll take the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 12: Key NFC East matchup highlights Thanksgiving tripleheader

Week 12 features an underwhelming slate of games on Sunday, with the Chiefs and Rams both on bye and three games on Thursday, with Redskins-Cowboys a key game in the NFC East. The Seahawks visit the Panthers in what could be Sunday’s most intriguing game with both teams looking to stay alive in the NFC Wild Card race with their respective divisions all but out of reach for them. And the Monday nighter features the AFC South-leading Texans looking to increase their two-game lead over the third-place Titans. I went 4-9 last week, giving me an overall record of 79-92 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Byes: Chiefs, Rams

Thanksgiving

Bears at Lions (+4.5) – The Bears picked up a key victory over the Vikings on Sunday night, but it may not have been all good news for the NFC North leaders QB Mitch Trubisky suffered a right shoulder injury, leaving his availability for Thursday’s game in question given the team’s short week. If he can’t go, backup QB Chase Daniel will get the start. Trubisky is day-to-day, but I don’t think he’ll play, so I’m going to take the points although I think the Bears could still win a close game with Daniel under center.

Redskins at Cowboys (-7.5) – The Redskins’ lead in the NFC East shrunk to one game on Sunday with their loss to the Texans and the Cowboys’ winning at the Falcons. The Redskins suffered an even bigger loss, though, when QB Alex Smith suffered a broken tibia and fibula that ended his season. That leaves QB Colt McCoy as their starter, and they signed QB Mark Sanchez — who hasn’t thrown a pass in a regular season game since 2016 — to back him up. With McCoy getting the start, and injuries to the offensive line, I don’t think the Redskins will be able to score many points this week. While I’m not confident in this pick, I’m going to give the points with the Cowboys at home.

Falcons at Saints (-13.5) – The Falcons are coming off back-to-back losses to the Browns and Cowboys, and now have to head to New Orleans to take on the hottest — and perhaps best — team in the NFL, as the Falcons look to get back on a winning track to remain in the playoff hunt in the NFC. All signs point to this being a blowout, but with a division rivalry and a desperate Falcons team, I can see them putting up a respectable point total, especially since QB Matt Ryan can be good. Saints win, but I expect it to be closer than people think.

Sunday 1PM games

Jaguars at Bills (+3.5) – Both of these teams made the playoffs last year but sit at 3-7 so far in 2018, with the Jaguars a big disappointment this season sitting in last place in the AFC South. The Jaguars obviously aren’t as good as anticipated this year, but they’re still better than the Bills. I’ll go with the road team here.

Browns at Bengals(-3.5) – The battle of Ohio sees the Bengals needing a win to stay alive in the AFC playoff hunt. The Browns are coming off their bye, while the Bengals lost to the Ravens last week. The Browns surprisingly beat the Falcons in their last game, but that was an aberration as they haven’t played well lately other than that game. I’ll give the points. 

Raiders at Ravens (-10.5) – The Ravens picked up a win as rookie QB Lamar Jackson made his first start on Sunday with QB Joe Flacco out with a hip injury. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jackson get the start again this week. Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap, the Ravens should be able to beat the disappointing Raiders. But I don’t think Baltimore’ s offense is good enough to pick up them giving 10.5 points, so I’ll go with the Raiders and take the points.

Patriots at Jets (+9.5) – This is another big spread, but I’m more confident in the Patriots to be able to cover it than I am for the Ravens in the previous game. It is unknown if the Patriots will have TE Rob Gronkowski this week, but they may see the return of RB Rex Burkhead, who has begun practicing this week as he looks to come back from his stint on IR. Even without Gronk, the Patriots have enough weapons in WRs Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon, RB Sony Michel, and of course QB Tom Brady to be able to beat the Jets. The only question is what the margin of victory will be. I think the Patriots can win by 10, so I’ll give the points — though it’ll likely be close.

Giants at Eagles (-6.5) – The Eagles got torched by the Saints last week and their hopes of making the playoffs are slipping away, while the Giants have won two in a row after starting the season 1-7. If the Giants win this game, the two teams will have identical 4-7 records — which nobody could have expected before the season began. The scuffling Eagles team knows that it that needs to win this game to have any chance at making the playoffs. So I expect QB Carson Wentz to lead them to victory, but I’m not confident that they’ll win by a touchdown so I will take the points with the Giants.

49ers at Buccaneers (-3.5) – The Buccaneers have been switching between QBs Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston as their starter, and it appears that Winston is back to the top of the depth chart after he performed well on Sunday when he came into the game in relief of Fitzpatrick. Winston has, however, been prone to turn the ball over this season but I don’t see the Raiders being able to take advantage of that. I’ll go with the Bucs in Tampa.

Seahawks at Panthers (-3.5) – These teams are in similar situations in which they know they can’t win their respective divisions but still have a chance to make the playoffs as a wild card and thus need to win this game. The teams are pretty evenly matched, but the Panthers have more playmakers on offense, so I’ll go with them at home.

Sunday 4PM games

Cardinals at Chargers (-12.5) – The Cardinals aren’t a good team and probably don’t have much of a chance to win this game, but I’m not sure that the Chargers will win by 13 points so I’m going to take the Cardinals and the points.

Steelers at Broncos (+3.5) – Both teams are coming off of come-from-behind victories last week, but I don’t think the Broncos are in the same class as QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB James Conner, WR Antonio Brown and the rest of the Steelers. I think this spread is kind of low, so I’ll go with the Steelers.

Dolphins at Colts (-9.5) – The Colts are on a four-game winning streak and in the thick of the playoff chase in the AFC, including in second place and just two games behind the Texans in the AFC South. They have an identical 5-5 record as the Dolphins, but the teams are going in opposite directions of late. Even so, I don’t think the Colts are good enough to win the game by double digits against a Dolphins team that is trying to stay in the AFC playoff picture. Colts win the game, but the Dolphins cover.

Sunday Night Football

Packers at Vikings (-3.5) – The Packers find themselves in third place in the NFC North and, at 4-5-1, on the fringe of the wild card race. The Vikings are looking to bounce back from a Sunday night loss to the Bears to maintain their hold on the NFC’s second wild card. It’s hard for me to go against Packers QB Aaron Rodgers when he knows he needs to win a game for his team. Even though they’re road dogs, I think the Packers will win the game outright so I’ll take the points.

Monday Night Football

Titans at Texans (-6.5) – The Texans are on a seven-game winning streak, which ties the franchise record, and could put some more distance between themselves and the Titans in the division with a win on Monday night. The Titans had a disappointing loss against the Colts on Sunday after convincingly beating the Patriots in their previous game. Titans QB Marcus Mariota left Sunday’s game with an elbow injury, and it is uncertain if he will be able to make the start this week. With it being the Monday night game, he has an extra day to rest and rehab, so i think he’ll be able to play. But if he’s not at 100%, he may not be able to do much against a good Texans defense that saw rookie S Justin Reid score on a 101-yard pick-six last week. I’ll give the points.

My NFL Picks Week 11: Chiefs visit Rams in potential Super Bowl preview

There are six teams on bye this week, but with the Patriots the only contender not playing, there’s no shortage of meaningful games on the docket for Week 11. The week begins on Thursday night with the Packers heading to Seattle to take on the Seahawks in a game between a pair of four-win teams looking to stay in the NFC playoff race. The featured doubleheader game is another contest between NFC contenders with the Eagles visiting the Saints. The Sunday night game — Vikings at Bears — could go a long way in determining who eventually wins the NFC North, but the game of the week is on Monday night when two 9-1 teams meet. In a game that was originally scheduled to be played in Mexico City but moved to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions at Azteca Stadium, the Rams host the Chiefs in a game that could be played again in Atlanta in early February at Super Bowl LIII. I went 7-7 last week, giving me an overall record of 75-83 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Byes: 49ers, Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots

Thursday Night Football

Packers at Seahawks (-2.5) – This is a road game for the Packers in a tough stadium for visitors, but I still think they may be a better team than the Seahawks. Seattle has played better of late, but they don’t really have any playmakers. They don’t have a bona fide starting running back, with RB Chris Carson‘s status uncertain, leaving RBs Mike Davis and Rashaad Penny to split the carries if he can’t go. QB Russell Wilson doesn’t have any star receivers, with WR Doug Baldwin having a down year. The Packers, meanwhile, have QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has gotten better as the season has progressed and he has gotten more opportunities. Likewise, RB Aaron Jones is starting to put up some good numbers in the ground game. I think the Packers win the game, so I’ll take the points.

Sunday 1PM games

Cowboys at Falcons (-3.5) – The Cowboys had an impressive, and needed, win over the Eagles on Sunday night, while the Falcons lost a road game against the Browns in a game in which the offense wasn’t as prolific as it usually is. The Falcons are a better team at home, and I think QB Matt Ryan and WR Julio Jones are going to have a good game. The Cowboys offense — led by QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott and WR Amari Cooper — could rack up some points, as well, against a Falcons defense that struggles. I don’t think the Cowboys can match up with the Falcons, core, though. Falcons win and cover in the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Bengals at Ravens 
(-3.5) – The Bengals are coming off a game in which they gave up more than 50 points to the Saints, which led to their defensive coordinator being fired. Now they face a Ravens team that could be without QB Joe Flacco, who is dealing with a hip injury. If he can’t play, that could mean rookie QB Lamar Jackson would get his first career start, unless the Ravens decide instead to turn to QB Robert Griffin. The Bengals are dealing with quarterback issues of their own after they benched QB Andy Dalton during last week’s blowout loss. Neither team has a great offense, so I’m going to bank on the Ravens’ better offense to lead to the win. I’ll go with the home team.

Panthers at Lions (+3.5) – Like the Bengals, the Panthers gave up more than 50 points last week. But that was against an explosive Steelers defense, and this week they face a Lions offense that isn’t at the same level as the Steelers. The Panthers still scored 21 in the loss on Thursday, and that was coming off of games in which they scored 36 and 42. The Panthers have a good offense with QB Cam Newton, RB Christian McCaffrey and TE Greg Olsen, with WRs D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel becoming a bigger piece of the offensive attack in recent games. For the Lions, rookie RB Kerryon Johnson has had his touches increasing over the last several games, but WRs Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones have been inconsistent. That’s not good because they need to step up in the wake of the Golden Tate trade last month. I think the Panthers win this game easily, potentially by double digits, so I’ll give the points on the road. 

Titans at Colts (-2.5) – The Titans are riding high after beating the Patriots on Sunday by a score of 34-10, while the Colts squeaked by the Jaguars by a field goal after nearly giving up a sizable lead. Titans QB Marcus Mariota has been playing well lately, and RB Dion Lewis has been seeing an increasing number of carries in recent games. I’m going to take the points.

Buccaneers at Giants (-0.5) – The Buccaneers are expected to start QB Ryan Fitzpatrick again, even though the team scored just three points in a loss to the Redskins last week. If he doesn’t play well, he may not have a long leash with QB Jameis Winston waiting the wings. The Giants picked up their second win of the season on Monday night and now face a short week. Despite the win last week, I still don’t have much faith in Giants QB Eli Manning. RB Saquon Barkley is the best offensive player on either team, but I’m not sure if he’ll be enough to get the Giants another win, with WR Mike Evans catching passes on the other side. I’ll take the Bucs on the road.

Steelers at Jaguars (+5.5) – The Jaguars have lost five straight games, and now their defense — which isn’t nearly as good as it was a year ago — has to go against a Steelers team that scored six touchdowns on offense last Thursday night, giving them a few extra days to prepare for this game. The Steelers are now officially without RB Le’Veon Bell for the season after he failed to sign a contract with the team prior to Tuesday’s deadline, meaning RB James Conner will definitely be the starter for the rest of the season, barring injury, but he is currently in the league’s concussion protocol; the team expects him to be ready for Sunday’s game. Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette performed well last week in his return to the field after missing several games. But he is the extent of the Jags offense, while the Steelers have QB Ben Roethlisberger and WRs Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster in addition to Conner. I think the Steelers win easily,

Texans at Redskins (+2.5) – A couple division leaders are playing each other in this game, with the Texans coming off their bye and looking to extend their win streak to seven games. They’ll likely get back WR Keke Coutee from his hamstring injury, and WR Demaryius Thomas should be more involved in the offense after having more time to learn the playbook since being acquired from the Broncos at the trade deadline. And the Texans, of course, have QB Deshaun Watson and WR DeAndre Hopkins leading the offense. The Redskins still don’t have much of a passing game, with RB Adrian Peterson continuing to be the team’s lead running back. I think the Texans are the better team on both offense and defense, so I’ll give the points.

Sunday 4PM games

Broncos at Chargers (-7.5) – The Raiders Broncos are coming off their bye looking to bounce back from two straight losses heading into the off week, while the Chargers are riding a six-game win streak into this home game. The Chargers should win the game with QB Philip Rivers, RB Melvin Gordon and WR Keenan Allen leading the way. The Broncos have a decent offense, as well, so I think they can keep it close enough to cover the spread.

Raiders at Cardinals (-3.5) – Neither of these teams is very good, but the Raiders seem to be regressing as the season goes on, and they may be the worst team in the league at this point. The Cardinals at least have a couple of playmakers with RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald, so I’ll give the points at home.

Eagles at Saints (-8.5) – The Saints have won their last eight games since dropping their season opener to the Buccaneers, and their offense is firing on all cylinders.They signed veteran WR Brandon Marshall this week after last week’s signing of WR Dez Bryant didn’t work out when he tore his ACL in practice before even playing a game for the team. That’s just giving the team wide receiver depth, though, as QB Drew Brees, WR Michael Thomas and RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram are the keys to the offense. It won’t be easy for the Eagles to head down to the Superdome to face the Saints, who could be the best team in the league. I expect the Saints to win the game, so it’s just a question of whether the Eagles can keep it within nine points to cover the spread. The Saints have scored at least 43 points in three of their last five games, so I think they’ll easily get past the Eagles too. I’m going with the home favorites.

Sunday Night Football

Vikings at Bears (-2.5) – This game is for first place in the NFC North, and I think the Bears have the advantage. I think they have the better team on both sides of the ball, and Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky has more upside than Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. The Vikings will need to count on WR Adam Thielen to make some big plays if they want to win this game, but the Bears’ defense won’t make it easy for him. The Vikings may be hard-pressed to put a lot of points on the board. Bears cover.

Monday Night Football

Chiefs at Rams (-2.5) – IThe week ends with one of the most anticipated games of the season, with two 9-1 teams facing off against each other. QB Patrick Mahomes leads WR Tyreek Hill, RB Kareem Hunt and the rest of the Chiefs into Los Angeles to take on a Rams team that was dealt a significant blow last week when WR Cooper Kupp suffered a season-ending injury. While that hurts the team, it’s not devastating because they still have a couple star receivers in Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, with QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley also among the top players in the league at their positions. This game has shootout written all over it, so it could be the type of game where the last team to possess the ball wins it. I don’t think it’ll come down to that, though. I think the Rams could win by seven to 10 points, so if they’re essentially giving a field goal I’ll give the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 10: Panthers-Steelers on Thursday highlights a weak slate

Week 10 doesn’t have many good games on the schedule, and the best of the 14 contests looks to be the Thursday nighter, which has the Panthers visiting the Steelers in a battle of two potential playoff teams. Other games to watch for this week include the Saints visiting the Bengals and the Cowboys at the Eagles in an NFC East showdown on Sunday night. The rest of the games either involve two bad teams or don’t look to be competitive with a good team against a mediocre team. I went 9-4 last week, giving me an overall record of 68-76 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Byes: Broncos, Ravens, Texans, Vikings

Thursday Night Football

Panthers at Steelers (-4.5) – The Panthers are coming into their own on offense, as TE Greg Olsen is getting healthier every week and appears to be playing at the top of his game at this point. Combined with QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey, they can put points on the board. The Steelers also have a good offense. RB James Conner continues to start with RB Le’Veon Bell still not with the team, and WR Antonio Brown continues to be one of the best pass catchers in the league. This should be a high-scoring game. I think the Panthers are the better team and will win the game outright, so if they’re getting points I’m taking them.

Sunday 1PM games

Falcons at Browns (+4.5) – The Browns started the season decently, but they seem to be regressing as the year goes on. In their first game under interim head coach Gregg Williams, the Browns got RB Duke Johnson more involved in the action along with rookie RB Nick Chubb, but the offense still isn’t great. The Falcons, on the other hand, are coming off a 38-point performance against the Redskins in what was their third straight win, and QB Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass to WR Julio Jones for the first time this season. WR Calvin Ridley also remains heavily involved in the offense. Atlanta’s defense leaves something to be desired, but I don’t think the Browns will be able to take advantage of it. Falcons win and cover.

Bills at Jets 
(-7.5) – Neither of these offenses was very good last week, as Bills QB Nathan Peterman continues to struggle and Jets QB Sam Darnold threw four interceptions against the Dolphins, including a pick-six that was the only touchdown of the game for either team. Darnold will miss this game with a foot injury, meaning veteran QB Josh McCown will see his first game action of the season. This will likely be a sloppy game with not many points scored. Neither of these teams has scored more than 10 points in either of their last two games, which is why I think a 7.5-point spread is a lot for this game. Even though the Bills likely won’t score a lot, the Jets probably won’t either. Because of that, I’m going to take the points even though I think the Jets win a bad game.

Lions at Bears (-6.5) – The Lions are looking tot avoid a three-game losing streak, but it won’t be easy on the road against a tough Bears defense. The Lions’ offense didn’t excel last week in their first game after trading WR Golden Tate, while the Bears thrashed the Bills 41-9. The Bears did lose G Kyle Long to IR with a foot injury, which hurts the defense but I don’t think it’ll be enough to allow the Lions to score a lot of points. I think the Bears win by at least a touchdown to cover the spread.

Saints at Bengals (+4.5) – The Saints are coming off a convincing win against the previously undefeated Rams, but now they head out on the road to face a 5-3 Bengals team that will be without injured WR A.J. Green, meaning guys like WRs Tyler Boyd and John Ross will have to pick up some of the slack in the receiving game and RB Joe Mixon will also need to take on a bigger piece of the workload on offense. QB Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati offense are likely going to be involved in a shootout with Saints QB Drew Brees and his top receiver Michael Thomas, who set a franchise record with 211 receiving yards on 12 catches Sunday, for his third game this season with at least 100 receiving yards. The Saints added to the offense this week, signing free agent WR Dez Bryant, but it is unlikely he will play this week after having limited practice with the team; if he does suit up, he will probably be limited and not see many snaps, so he shouldn’t have much of an effect on the game. Still, I think the Saints offense is too good for the Bengals to keep up so even though it’s an outdoor game on the road — a situation Brees sometimes struggles in — I think the Saints cover.

Patriots at Titans (+7.5) – TE Rob Gronkowski and RB Sony Michel missed the Patriots’ game against the Packers on Sunday night, but they still won the game. Michel looks like he’s on track to the return to the field this week, but there is more uncertainty surrounding Gronk. The Titans are coming off a win against the Cowboys on Monday night in which they had a couple of early turnovers before settling into a groove with QB Marcus Mariota eventually accounting for three touchdowns, two passing and one rushing. Monday night’s win ended a three-game skid for the Titans, but I think they’ll start another losing streak because I don’t see Mariota keeping up with Patriots QB Tom Brady. Patriots win the game and barely cover.

Jaguars at Colts (-2.5) – This is an important game for both of these teams — each currently at 3-5 — as they look to stay alive in the AFC South race. The Jaguars have lost four in a row, but they should get RB Leonard Fournette back in the backfield after he has missed the last several games with a hamstring injury, but the defense hasn’t been living up to expectations and QB Blake Bortles isn’t very good. The Colts have the better offensive attack with QB Andrew Luck, but their defense is inferior to Jacksonville’s. In this case, I’m going with the better defense. I’ll take the points. 

Cardinals at Chiefs (-16.5) – This is one of the biggest spreads you will ever see in an NFL game, and there is a huge discrepancy in the offenses of these two teams. The Cardinals cut veteran QB Sam Bradford this week, leaving rookie QB Josh Rosen as the unquestioned starter. QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Kareem Hunt and WR Tyreek Hill can put a lot of points on the scoreboard for the Chiefs, but the Cardinals have a couple playmakers of their own with veteran WR Larry Fitzgerald and RB David Johnson, so I think they can stay within the 16.5 points. The Chiefs will easily win the game, but I’ll go with the Cardinals here.

Redskins at Buccaneers (-2.5) – The Redskins didn’t look great in their Week 9 loss to the Falcons, and they lost a couple of their offensive linemen to injuries that will hurt the offense, particularly with veteran RB Adrian Peterson. But the Buccaneers don’t have the same level of offense as the Falcons, so Washington won’t need to score as much this week to have a chance to win. I think the Redskins could win the game, so I’m taking the points on the road.

Sunday 4PM games

Chargers at Raiders (+9.5) – The Raiders looked terrible last Thursday, losing 34-3 to a 49ers team that played QB Nick Mullens in his first career start. Now they’re facing a better Chargers team led by veteran QB Philip Rivers and WR Keenan Allen. The Chargers will be able to score on the Raiders’ defense, so I think they can win by double digits and I’m giving the points.

Dolphins at Packers (-9.5) – QB Brock Osweiler is making his fifth consecutive start for the Dolphins, who won the low-scoring game against the Jets last week. This week, they are going against a much better offense in the Packers. They placed WR Geronimo Allison on IR, but WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who had three catches for 101 yards last week, will look to take up much of the hole his absence will leave in the offense. Some of Green Bay’s defenders, including LB Blake Martinez, may miss this week’s game with injuries they suffered in Week 9. That could help the Dolphins get an ettra score or two. I expect the Packers to win the game, but I’ll give the points.

Seahawks at Rams (-9.5) – The Rams suffered their first loss of the season last week against the Saints, so they’re looking to get back to their winning ways against the division-rival Seahawks, who are .500 and looking to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. RB Mike Davis is taking over as the lead back for the Seahawks, but he isn’t in the same league as Rams RB Todd Gurley, who is just one of many weapons they have on offense. Rams win the game, but the Seahawks should stay within 10 points to cover the spread.

Sunday Night Football

Cowboys at Eagles (-6.5) – The Eagles had a Week 9 bye, while the Cowboys are coming off a short week after losing to the Titans on Monday night. Philadelphia is playing its first game since acquiring WR Golden Tate in a trade with the Lions before the trade deadline. That gives QB Carson Wentz another pass-catcher he can throw to, in addition to TE Zach Ertz and WR Alshon Jeffery. The Cowboys have struggled to score since putting up 40 against the Jaguars a few weeks ago. Eagles win and cover.

Monday Night Football

Giants at 49ers (-2.5) – It’s a 1-7 team taking on a 2-7 team to end the week’s action. The Giants are coming off their bye, while the 49ers have extra rest after their convincing win over the Raiders last Thursday night. Mullens will get his second career start for the 49ers after his impressive debut outing in Week 9. He has a good chance to outperform veteran Giants QB Eli Manning, and if the Giants are to win the game it will likely be due to a good performance from RB Saquon Barkley. I don’t expect that to happen. Give me the 49ers at home.

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My NFL Picks Week 9: Rodgers meets Brady as the Packers visit the Patriots

Week 9 is the first of two weeks this season in which six teams are on a bye. Despite that, there are some big games on the slate for this weekend. There’s an important AFC North battle as the Steelers face the Ravens in Baltimore, and a potential NFC Championship preview in New Orleans with the Saints hoping to hand the Rams their first loss of the season. And the Sunday nighter is an interconference game pitting two of this generation’s best quarterbacks against each other. Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers into Foxborough to take on Tom Brady and the Patriots. I went 9-5 last week, giving me an overall record of 59-72 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Byes: Bengals, Cardinals, Colts, Eagles, Giants, Jaguars

Thursday Night Football

Raiders at 49ers (-2.5) – The first game of the week features the two Bay Area teams in a contest that likely won’t have much interest — outside of for gambling purposes — for people not in Northern California because the teams have one win apiece. Neither team is good, so I’m going to go with the team getting the points, the Raiders.

Sunday 1PM games

Falcons at Redskins (-1.5) – This spread is kind of surprising. The Falcons are on the road, but they’re coming off the bye and they have the better offense in my opinion. The Falcons have the best quarterback and pass-catcher in Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, respectively. The Falcons’ defense isn’t great, but I don’t think Redskins QB Alex Smith will be able to take full advantage of it. I think the Falcons will win the game outright, so I’m taking the points.

Bears at Bills (+8.5) – The Bills stayed surprisingly close to the Patriots for three quarters on Monday night before New England pulled away for a 25-6 victory. But with QB Derek Anderson suffering a concussion in the game, QB Nathan Peterman is back as Buffalo’s starter this week. Facing a tough Bears defense, that will likely result in at least a couple of interceptions. I think Bears QB Mitch Trubisky will be able to put up enough points that the Bears could win by double digits. I’ll give the points.

Chiefs at Browns (+8.5) – The Browns fired both head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley on Monday, then named defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as the interim head coach. Having such a tumultuous week won’t help the team perform well against a 7-1 Chiefs team that has one of the top offenses in the league behind QB Patrick Mahomes, RB Kareem Hunt, WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce. Browns QB Baker Mayfield won’t be able to come close to keeping up with all the scoring the Chiefs are likely to do in the game. Chiefs win big on the road.

Lions at Vikings (-4.5) – The Lions are coming off a loss to the Seahawks in which they scored just 14 points, then on Tuesday they traded WR Golden Tate to the Eagles. Despite that trade, they still have two good receivers with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay, but that duo is likely inferior to the Vikings’ top two receivers, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. And the Vikings have a better defense and running game — especially if RB Dalvin Cook is healthy enough to return to action this week — so I think the Vikings win the game and cover the 4.5 points.

Jets at Dolphins (-3.5) – The Dolphins have lost two in a row and four of their last five games after starting the season 3-0, now they face a 3-5 Jets team at home. The Dolphins have announced that QB Ryan Tannehill will not return from his shoulder injury this week, meaning QB Brock Osweiler will get the start for a fourth straight game. For the Jets, it’ll be rookie QB Sam Darnold under center. Both of these teams have middling offenses, so I think it’ll be a close game with neither team pulling away from the other. Dolphins win the game, but I’ll take the points with the Jets.

Steelers at Ravens (-2.5) – It’s almost always a close game when these division rivals meet. These teams are going in opposite directions heading into this game; the Steelers are on a three-game winning streak, while the Ravens have dropped their last two. At 4-4, the Ravens are looking to get the win to stay in the playoff race, but I don’t think they’ll do it. They have a good defense, but I think the Steelers will be able to put points on the scoreboard with the offense led by QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Antonio Brown and RB James Conner, who has performed well filling in for RB Le’Veon Bell through the first half of the season. Steelers win the game on the road.

Buccaneers at Panthers (-6.5) – The Buccaneers benched QB Jameis Winston during Sunday’s loss to the Bengals after he threw four interceptions, and he will start this week’s game on the bench after the team announced that QB Ryan Fitzpatrick — who threw two touchdowns in relief of Winston last week — will get the start. It won’t be easy for Fitzpatrick, though, because he’ll have to try to keep up with a Panthers offense that is rolling of late. QB Cam Newton has TE Greg Olsen back from his foot injury, and  he also has RB Christian McCaffrey — one of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL — and rookie WR D.J. Moore, who had 90 receiving yards in his first career start last week. Carolina has too much firepower on offense, so I’ll give the points.

Sunday 4PM games

Texans at Broncos (-2.5) – The Texans and Broncos made a trade on Tuesday, with Denver sending WR Demaryius Thomas to Houston for a fourth-round draft pick, and he’ll get a chance to face his old team in his first game with his new squad. Thomas fills a hole in the Texans’ receiving game after WR Will Fuller suffered a season-ending ACL tear late in Thursday night’s win against the Dolphins. He’ll form a strong one-two punch in the receiving game with WR DeAndre Hopkins for QB Deshaun Hopkins to throw the ball to. And the Texans have gotten their running game going in the last couple of games with RB Lamar Miller gaining at least 100 yards in the last two games. For the Broncos, the Thomas trade leaves WR Emmanuel Sanders as the No. 1 pass catcher for QB Case Keenum, but it’ll also open up an opportunity for rookie WR Courtland Sutton to get more involved in the action coming off a career-best 78 receiving yards last week. As for this game, the Texans are the better team on both sides of the ball and should win the game — which would be six in a row — so I’m taking the points.

Chargers at Seahawks (-1.5) – The Seahawks have gotten better of late, going 4-1 since their 0-2 start, but the Chargers are on a four-game win streak and coming off their bye as they head to Seattle for this interconference affair. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon missed the team’s last game in Week 7 with a hamstring injury, and his status for Sunday is still up in the air. If he can’t go, that’ll hurt the Chargers’ chances of pulling off the victory on the road. Even without him, I think the Chargers may be the better team than the Seahawks. I expect a close game and I’m going to take the points.

Rams at Saints (-1.5) – The Rams needed a late fumble from former Packers RB Ty Montgomery — who they traded to the Ravens on Tuesday — to keep their undefeated season intact last week. Now QB Jared Goff, RB Todd Gurley and the rest of the Rams face another tough test against QB Drew Brees and the Saints in a potential playoff preview. The Rams added to their defense this week by trading for LB Dante Fowler from the Jaguars. The Rams still don’t know if they will have WR Cooper Kupp, who missed last week’s game, when they head to the Superdome this week in what should be a shootout between two of the league’s best offenses. Brees should have his full complement of offensive weapons, including RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, as well as WR Michael Thomas. This should be a high-scoring game, but I’m going to give it to the Saints at home to end Los Angeles’ hopes of going 16-0.

Sunday Night Football

Packers at Patriots (-5.5) – This is another game that should feature a lot of scoring as Rodgers and Brady start against each other for just the second time in their illustrious careers. The Packers are coming off a close loss to the Rams, while the Patriots beat a bad Bills team on Monday night. The Patriots are unsure about the status of RB Sony Michel, but he has been practicing this week after missing Monday night’s game. The Packers have a good offense, but I think the Patriots have the advantage, with Brady having WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski catching passes from him. Neither defense is great, but the Packers’ defense got worse this week when they traded S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the Redskins. This should be a close game, so I’ll take the points with the Packers but I think the Patriots win the game.

Monday Night Football

Titans at Cowboys (-6.5) – Both teams enter the Monday night contest after their byes, which means the Cowboys will be playing their first game with WR Amari Cooper, who they acquired for a first-round pick in a trade with the Raiders during their Week 8 bye. The Cowboys hope Cooper fills a hole in the passing game that the Cowboys have had all season long without a true No. 1 receiver for QB Dak Prescott. The Titans are having a disappointing year at 3-4 under first-year head coach MIke Vrabel. At home, I think the Cowboys can win by a touchdown, so I’m going to give the points.

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My NFL Picks Week 8: NFC contenders do battle with Packers-Rams and Saints-Vikings

There are a couple big games in the NFC this week with potential playoff teams facing off against one another. But Sunday starts with a Sunday morning contest from Wembley Stadium between the defending Super Bowl champions and last year’s runners-up in the AFC as the Eagles play the Jaguars in London. But the week’s featured games are in the late-afternoon slot and on Sunday night. The first of the two sees the Packers visiting the Rams, the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL this season. Then the Sunday nighter pits the Saints against the Vikings in Minnesota in what is a rematch from last season’s playoffs. I went 8-6 last week, giving me an overall record of 50-67 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Byes: Chargers, Cowboys, Falcons, Titans

Thursday Night Football

Dolphins at Texans (-7.5) – After starting the season 0-3, the Texans have won four in a row to take over first place in the AFC South. This week, they get Week 8 underway by welcoming one of their former quarterbacks, Brock Osweiler, who is going to get another start as he continues to fill in for injured QB Ryan Tannehill. He has performed pretty well in his first two starts, but he faces a formidable defense in the Texans, who have DEs J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney. I think the Texans win at home, but I think the 7.5-point spread may be a bit high, so I’ll take the points.

Sunday 9:30AM game (London)

Eagles at Jaguars (+2.5) – The Jaguars were a trendy Super Bowl pick in the preseason after falling a game shy of playing in Super Bowl LII in February. But they’re 3-4 through the first seven weeks of the season and are in danger of not even making it to the postseason. The Eagles are also underachieving and hold the same record. The Jaguars will again be without RB Leonard Fournette, but they will have recent trade acquisition RB Carlos Hyde in the backfield along with Rb T.J. Yeldon. Jacksonville benched QB Blake Bortles in favor of QB Cody Kessler during last week’s game, but Bortles will get the start again this week. For the Eagles, the receiving game is doing well with WRs Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery, along with TE Zach Ertz, but the running game hasn’t been great since RB Jay Ajayi went on IR. It’s a battle of two struggling teams, but I like the Eagles better. I think they win, and cover.

Sunday 1PM games

Jets at Bears (-6.5) – The Bears fell a yard short of forcing overtime against the Patriots last week, and now they face a Jets team that isn’t early as good as New England. LB Khalil Mack and the Bears defense should be able to perform well against Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold, and with the way Bears QB Mitch Trubisky has been playing in recent weeks, the Bears should be able to score enough points to cover the 6.5-point spread.

Buccaneers at Bengals (-4.5) – The Bengals were embarrassed at the Chiefs in primetime on Sunday night, losing 45-10. But now they return home to play a worse team in the Buccaneers. Offense is an area of strength for both teams, so there could be a lot of points scored in this one. I believe in the Bengals’ offense more, especially on the ground behind RB Joe Mixon, and the combination of QB Andy Dalton and WR A.J. Green should be able help the Bengals come out on the top. I’m giving the points.

Browns at Steelers (-8.5) – There was speculation that Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell might end his holdout and join the team during the team’s bye last week, but that did not happen to RB James Conner will remain the starter heading into Sunday’s game. And, of course, there’s no question that the Steelers have one of the league’s best receivers with WR Antonio Brown catching passes from QB Ben Roethlisberger. The Browns traded Hyde to the Jags last week, opening the door for rookie RB Nick Chubb to finally take over the bulk of the carries on the ground. He did well with his expanded role last week and will look to repeat that this week. Despite that, I expect the Steelers to win the game, but I don’t know that they’ll cover the spread, so I’ll take the points.

Broncos at Chiefs (-10.5) – The Chiefs just beat the Bengals by 35 points on Sunday night and now play a Broncos team that, despite scoring 45 against the Cardinals last week, isn’t very good. The Broncos offense isn’t close to being at the same level as the Chiefs, who have QB Patrick Mahomes leading the way, with WR Tyreek Hill, RB Kareem Hunt and TE Travis Kelce also at or near the top of the league at their respective positions. This should be an easy win for the Chiefs, and I think they cover the double-digit spread.

Seahawks at Lions (-2.5) – The Seahawks are coming off their bye and, after having their last game in London, they face the Lions on the road. Seattle’s offense has improved as the season has gone on, but I don’t think Seattle’s players can match up with the Lions’ playmakers, notably WR Kenny Golladay and rookie RB Kerryon Johnson. I’ll go with the home team.

Redskins at Giants (+0.5) – This is a surprising spread. The Redskins are 4-2 and are favored by less than a point against a one-win Giants team in what is essentially a pick ’em. The Redskins have a better team at nearly every position but RB, where the Giants’ rookie Saquon Barkley is outperforming the Redskins’ veteran Adrian Peterson, who is playing better than many expected him to this season. I’ve never been a fan of Redskins QB Alex Smith, who isn’t anything special, but he’s definitely better than Giants QB Eli Manning at this point in the latter’s career. Manning’s poor play limits the upside of WRs Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard. Redskins easily win on the road.

Ravens at Panthers (+1.5) – The Ravens suffered a heartbreaking loss last week when K Justin Tucker missed a game-tying PAT — the first time in his career he has missed an extra point. On the other end of the spectrum, the Panthers came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Eagles, 21-17. If the Panthers want to win back-to-back games, they’ll have to get past a tough Ravens defense. I think they’ll be able to do it with QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey leading the offense. I’ll go with the favorites at home.

Sunday 4PM games

Colts at Raiders (+2.5) – The Raiders are playing their first game since trading WR Amari Cooper to the Cowboys earlier in the week. They also placed RB Marshawn Lynch on IR, weakening an offense that already wasn’t very good. That limits the weapons available to QB Derek Carr. WRs Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson will get a bigger workload, as will RBs Jalen Richard and Doug Martin. It’ll be tough for that group to compete with the Colts’ offense, led by QB Andrew Luck and WR T.Y. Hilton. I’ll give the points on the road.

Packers at Rams (-9.5) – Two of the best teams in the conference meet in this potential playoff preview that also pits one of the best quarterbacks of the last decade-plus against a star of the future, with Packers QB Aaron Rodgers leading his team into battle to oppose QB Jared Goff and the strong Rams offense. Goff has better players around him, including RB Todd Gurley and WR Brandin Cooks, so I give the Rams the edge in this matchup. However, I find it hard to pick any team that’s favored by nearly 10 points against a team led by Aaron Rodgers. Rams win the game, but I’ll take the points.

49ers at Cardinals (-0.5) – The two worst teams in the NFC West are playing each other in the final game of the Sunday afternoon slate. Both teams are coming off of blowout losses at home in Week 7. In a pick ’em between two bad teams, I’m going to go with the team with the best player on offense. That is Cardinals RB David Johnson, so I’ll go with the home team.

Sunday Night Football

Saints at Vikings (-0.5) – The Saints are slight favorites on the road in this playoff rematch from January. The Saints definitely have the more explosive offense of these two teams — with QB Drew Brees, RB Alvin Kamara and WR Michael Thomas — but the Vikings have the better defense. On offense, Minnesota will again be without starting RB Dalvin Cook, but RB Latavius Murray has done well in Cook’s absence in recent weeks. And the Vikings have WR Adam Thielen, who has been among the top players at the position this season. But he has QB Kirk Cousins throwing him the ball, and Cousins is clearly a level below Brees. I’m going with the better offense to outperform the better defense. Give me the Saints.

Monday Night Football

Patriots at Bills (+14.5) – The Bills lost to the Colts 37-5 last week and now have to face a better team in the Patriots, so it’s not surprising that the line is nearly 15 points. With QB Derek Anderson expected to start again this week for Buffalo, it probably won’t be much better. For the Patriots, TE Rob Gronkowski should return to the lineup after missing Week 7, but rookie RB Sony Michel is likely going to sit out the game after suffering a leg injury last week. I typically don’t like giving double-digit points, but I’m going to make an exception in this case. I’ll go with the Patriots.

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My NFL Picks Week 7: Brady leads Patriots into Chicago, Chiefs try to rebound from first loss

One of the best games of Week 7 is in the early Sunday slot when the Patriots — coming off a tough Sunday night game against the Chiefs — head to Chicago to take on the Bears, who are coming off an overtime loss to a Brock Osweiler-led Dolphins team. Two four-win teams meet in Baltimore when the Saints, coming off their bye, take on the Ravens. The Cowboys and Redskins do battle in a NFC East rivalry game, and the Sunday night contest pits two of the AFC’s best teams against each other with the 4-2 Bengals visiting the Chiefs, who are playing in their second straight Sunday nighter coming off their first loss of the season. I went 8-7 last week, giving me an overall record of 42-61 for the season. As always, I’m using the lines from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick ‘Em game. My picks are in bold and my survivor pool pick (straight up, not ATS) is in red

Byes: Packers, Raiders, Steelers, Seahawks

Thursday Night Football

Broncos at Cardinals (+2.5) – A couple of struggling teams meet in the Week 7 opener, with the 2-4 Broncos visiting the 1-5 Cardinals. Both squads are coming off close losses in Week 6, but I think the Cardinals are on the upswing while the Broncos are headed in the opposite direction. Arizona has young QB Josh Rosen, RB David Johnson and emerging WR Christian KIrk, and QB Case Keenum hasn’t been doing much for the Broncos and has led to questions about whether he’s close to being benched in favor of QB Chad Kelly. Given that, and the Cardinals being at home, I’m going to take the points.

Sunday 9:30AM game (London)

Titans at Chargers (-6.5) – The second London game of the season sees a couple of AFC teams taking each other on. The Chargers have gotten off to a good start this season behind veteran QB Philip Rivers and RB Melvin Gordon, and the Titans have struggled in recent weeks despite leading the AFC South at 3-3. The Titans are coming off a shutout loss to the Ravens, who sacked QB Marcus Mariota 11 times. The Titans don’t have any playmakers on offense, so I’m going to go with the Chargers and give the points.

Sunday 1PM games

Bills at Colts (-6.5) – The Colts haven’t been good so far this season so I would normally be hesitant to pick them to win by a touchdown, but the Bills are going to start veteran QB Derek Anderson — who hasn’t started a regular season game since Week 13 of the 2016 season — rather than QB Nathan Peterman with rookie QB Josh Allen sidelined for the next two or three games. In a matchup of Anderson, who just signed with the Bills last week, against Colts QB Andrew Luck, I’m going to have to give the points at home.

Patriots at Bears (+3.5) – Last week was probably the worst game the Bears have played this season, losing to Osweiler and the Dolphins in overtime. QB Mitch Trubisky came back to Earth in the game after a six-touchdown performance in Week 4, prior to the team’s bye. After losing to Osweiler, the Bears now have to deal with QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Julian Edelman, RB Sony Michel and the rest of the Patriots. That’s a tough task for a good Bears defense. I’m going with the Patriots on the road to cover.

Browns at Buccaneers (-3.5) – The Buccaneers came out on the losing end of a shootout with the Falcons last week, but this week they face a significantly less-powerful offense in the Browns. The Bucs lack a good run game, but QB Jameis Winston has some good weapons in the passing game, including WR Mike Evans and TE O.J. Howard. The Bucs don’t have a great defense, but I don’t think the Browns will be able to capitalize on that so I’m going to go with the Buccaneers to snap their three-game losing streak.

Lions at Dolphins (+0.5) – Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with his lingering shoulder injury, which means Osweiler will get a second straight start. Despite Osweiler leading the Dolphins to a win last week, his track record in the league isn’t great so I give the advantage to the Lions. I’m going with the road team.

Vikings at Jets (+3.5) – This will be a tough test for Jets rookie QB Sam Darnold, facing a stout Vikings defense. On offense, Vikings RB Dalvin Cook remains a question mark in terms of his health after he was inactive for last week’s game. RB Latavius Murray would get another start if Cook again sits. Even if Cook doesn’t play, the Vikings receiving corps led by WRs Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs should be able to put enough points on the board for the Vikings to cover the spread on the road.

Panthers at Eagles (-4.5) – This looks like it should be a close game with a couple of three-win teams battling it out. The Panthers got TE Greg Olsen back from his foot injury in Week 6, and he played well in his first game in a few weeks. For the Eagles, RBs Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood are doing a decent job of filling in for injured RB Jay Ajayi. I think the Eagles win the game, but I expect it to be by a field goal or so, so I’ll take the points.

Texans at Jaguars (-4.5) – The Jaguars are coming off a surprising 40-7 thrashing at the hands of the Cowboys, while the Texans have won their last three contests after starting the season 0-3. The Cowboys game was the second straight in which the vaunted Jaguars defense allowed the opposition to put up at least 30 points. Texans QB Deshaun Watson struggled in Week 6 as he dealt with a chest injury. Facing a struggling Texans offense could be what the Jaguars defense needs to get back on track. If the Texans are going to win the game, it’ll likely be because of a good game by DE J.J. Watt and the defense getting to QB Blake Bortles. I think the Jaguars win, but it’ll probably be a close, low-scoring game so I’ll take the points with the Texans.

Sunday 4PM games

Saints at Ravens (-2.5) – The Ravens defense has played well so far this season but faces a tough matchup with QB Drew Brees and the Saints, who are coming off their bye. I think the Saints offense — with WR Michael Thomas and RBs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram — is too good for the Baltimore D to be able to stop it. I expect the Saints to win the game, so I’ll take the points.

Cowboys at Redskins (-1.5) – The Cowboys are coming off a surprising 40-7 victory over the Jaguars and now head into FedEx Field to take on the division-rival Redskins. If the Cowboys play like they did last week, they should easily win this game. Even though I don’t expect another 40-point performance, I think the Cowboys are the better team and could win outright, so I’ll take the points with the road team here.

Rams at 49ers (+10.5) – The 49ers came surprisingly close to beating Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Monday night, and may have earned the victory if the defense did a little better down the stretch in the game. Now they have another similarly tough challenge with another good offense with the Rams, who are the lone undefeated team remaining in the NFL. The Rams will be without WR Cooper Kupp, who has been ruled out for Sunday with a knee injury. That’ll mean more targets for WR Brandin Cooks from QB Jared Goff and potentially more work for RB Todd Gurley, who ran for a career-high 208 rushing yards against the Broncos last week. The 49ers kept it close with Green Bay last week and I think they can do the same this week. Rams win the game, but I’ll take the points.

Sunday Night Football

Bengals at Chiefs (-5.5) – The Chiefs faced off against a potential playoff foe in the Patriots last week and now have another potential playoff opponent this week when the Bengals come to town. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes goes against another veteran thrower this week with Bengals QB Andy Dalton opposing him. The Bengals have the better defense of these teams, but the Chiefs have better playmakers with Mahomes, WR Tyreek Hill and RB Kareem Hunt. Dalton’s best pass-catcher is WR A.J. Green, with RB Joe Mixon leading the ground game. I’m giving the points with the Chiefs at Arrowhead.

Monday Night Football

Giants at Falcons (-6.5) – These are two of the more disappointing teams in the NFC, with the Giants having just one win through six games and the Falcons with two victories. Neither team has a great defense, and the big difference offensively is at quarterback, with Eli Manning struggling for the Giants and Matt Ryan having one of his typically good seasons for the Falcons. Atlanta will again be without RB Devonta Freeman , who was placed on IR this week, and will rely on RBs Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith in the running game, with Ryan throwing to WR Julio Jones and TE Austin Hooper, who had a touchdown on nine catches last week. The Giants’ best player on offense is clearly rookie RB Saquon Barkley, but I don’t think he’ll have a good enough game to be able to keep the Giants close to the Falcons, who I think could win by 10 or more. I’ll give the points.

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