Tag Archives: Super Bowl LIII

Super Bowl LIII Preview: Can Goff, Rams upset Brady and the Patriots?

It’s Super Bowl week as the playoffs conclude NFL season comes to an end, with a champion soon to be determined in Super Bowl LIII. This year’s title game pits the two No. 2 seeds against each other. That means the Patriots are representing the AFC and the Rams are the NFC representatives at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. This is the Patriots’ third straight Super Bowl appearance, and they have gone 1-1 in their last two. It is the ninth Super Bowl in total for the combo of head coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady. The Patriots are going for their sixth championship total, which would tie them with the Steelers for the most all-time. The Rams’ last appearance was in Super Bowl XXXVI, when the then-St. Louis Rams lost to the Patriots in Brady and Belichick’s first Super Bowl. This is the Rams’ fourth Super Bowl appearance; they are 1-2 to date, with their win coming in Super Bowl XXXIV.

The Patriots jumped out to an early 14-0 lead against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship, but the Chiefs came back to tie the game and force overtime. The Patriots ended up winning the game 37-31 when RB Rex Burkhead had a two-yard rushing touchdown after a nearly five-minute drive to open the overtime period after the Patriots won the coin toss. Brady threw for 348 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. RB Sony Michel ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. WR Julian Edelman was Brady’s top receiver, catching seven of his 10 targets for 96 yards, while TE Rob Gronkowski had 79 yards on six receptions, and WR Phillip Dorsett was the recipient of Brady’s only touchdown pass; it was Dorsett’s only reception of the game, a 29-yard catch. RB James White, who usually has a lot of receptions was targeted just six times, catching four of those balls. The defense had four sacks — two from LB Kyle Van Noy — and a forced fumble, also by Van Noy, but no interceptions.

The Rams also needed overtime in the NFC Championship to get past the Saints, but unlike the Patriots they were in a hole early in the game and had to come from behind to pull it out. The Saints had a 13-0 lead after the first quarter, which the Rams cut to 13-10 at halftime. The score was 23-23 at the end of regulation — thanks in part to an uncalled pass interference that is one of the most controversial plays in recent memory — and K Greg Zuerlein won the game for the Rams with a 57-yard field goal — his fourth of the game — on the team’s first offensive drive of the extra period. Goff threw for 297 yards with a touchdown and an interception. RB Todd Gurley only touched the ball five times, accounting for 13 total yards and a touchdown, and backup RB C.J. Anderson had 16 carries for 44 yards. WR Brandin Cooks led the team with seven receptions for 107 yards and TE Tyler Higbee caught the only touchdown pass from Goff and caught all four of his targets, but he had just 25 yards receiving. WR Gerald Everett had two catches for 50 yards, including a 39-yarder. The defense had two sacks — 1.5 from DT Ndamukong Suh — and a forced fumble with an interception. The INT was a big one, as S John Johnson picked off Drew Brees in overtime to give the Rams the ball for what became the game-winning drive.

The Patriots are favored by 2.5 points after the game opened as a pick ’em, with an over/under of 56.5, a point lower than where it opened.

With an over/under that high, you know that this is expected to be a shootout. A key to the game for the Rams will be Gurley’s health. He didn’t play much in the conference championship game, which was thought to be related to the knee injury he was dealing with late in the regular season, but he was not on the team’s initial injury report for Sunday so he appears to be healthy and ready to go. If that is the case,you can expect him to get significantly more than the five touches he had last time out. For the Patriots, Gronkowski was dealing with injuries for much of the season, but he had his best outing in more than a month in the AFC title game so he may be healthier than he has been in a while. Both teams have good offenses and kickers, with Stephen Gostkowski on the Patriots and the Rams’ Zuerlein. So the X factor in the game may be the defenses. Defensive players to watch for for potential gamemaking plays include Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore and the Rams’ Suh and DT Aaron Donald.

On the sidelines, it’s hard to go against Belichick, who may be the best head coach in NFL history, but Rams head coach Sean McVay is among the best young coaches in the league. When it comes down to it, I think the Rams have the more talented roster, but it’s hard to go against Brady and Belichick, especially given Belichick’s tendency to be able to successfully take away the opponent’s best offensive weapon. The Rams were my pick to win the Super Bowl in the preseason, and I’ll stick with that. It should be a close game, but I’ll take the 2.5 points and go with the Rams to win the game outright, 31-27, which would go over the 56.5

Rams (+2.5), over 56.5

(Spread and over/under from Vegas Insider)

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My NFL Picks: Conference Championships — Young quarterbacks battle Super Bowl-winning vets

Three of the four underdogs won on the road in the wild card round, but things were different in the divisional round when all four home favorites won. That means that the top two seeds in each conference will be playing each other for the right to head to Atlanta to play in Super Bowl LIII on February 3. In addition to both conference championship games pitting the No. 1 and 2 seeds against each other, both feature an all-time great veteran quarterback with at least one Super Bowl ring facing off with a young quarterback with a bright future in the NFL.

The Sunday doubleheader kicks off in New Orleans, with QB Drew Brees and the top-seeded Saints hosting the No. 2 seed Rams, led by QB Jared Goff. When these teams played each other back in Week 9, the Saints won 45-35. The Rams are looking to make the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2001 season, while the Saints are looking to return to the title game for the first time since they won it in the 2009 season. In the nightcap, QB Tom Brady leads the Patriots — who are in the AFC championship game for the eighth straight season — into Kansas City to take on QB Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, who hope to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time in nearly 50 years.

Last week, I went 3-1 picking games, but 0-4 against the spread and 2-2 on over/unders. Through the first two weeks of the postseason, that puts me at 4-4 straight up, 1-7 against the spread and 4-4 on over/unders.

No. 2 seed Los Angeles Rams at No. 1 seed New Orleans Saints (-3, over/under 56.5)

When these teams played each other in Week 9, the Saints won 45-35 at home. Both quarterbacks put up big numbers in that one, with Goff throwing for 391 yards and three touchdowns and Brees tossing four touchdowns on 346 passing yards. Saints RB Alvin Kamara ran for a couple of touchdowns in that game, but the player of the game was Saints WR Michael Thomas. He caught 12 of his 15 targets for 211 yards and a touchdown. But Rams WR Brandin Cooks also had a good game, securing six receptions for 114 yards and a score. The Rams had WR Cooper Kupp in that game, but they’ll be without him in the conference title game as he has been out since the middle of the season with a season-ending injury. 

The Superdome is a tough place for opponents to play; the Saints are 6-3 at home this season, including last week’s win over the Eagles. And this should be another shootout, as it was when these teams met during the regular season. They combined for 80 points in that contest, and they probably won’t reach that total again, but both teams certainly have the ability to score in the 30s. The Saints were middle-of-the-pack in points allowed during the regular season, and the Rams were 20th in the category. When it comes down to it, I think the Saints have the overall advantage in the passing attack. I’ll take Brees and his experience over Goff — even though Brees didn’t play as well in the second half of the season — and Thomas was one of the best receivers in the league this year. I’ll take him over Cooks or Robert Woods. The Rams may have a slight advantage at the running back position, though. Kamara is good, but Rams RB Todd Gurley — when healthy — is probably better than him. That “when healthy” qualifier is key because Gurley has been dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of the Rams’ last two regular season games, but he played through it last week against the Cowboys to carry the ball 16 times for 115 yards and a touchdown. Backup RB C.J. Anderson has played surprisingly well in his three games with the Rams, totaling at least 20 rushes, 123 yards and a touchdown in all of those contests. That is a good insurance policy to have in case Gurley can’t carry the full workload in the running game. Although neither team has a great defense, the Rams have the best defenders in the game with DTs Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh, although CB Eli Apple has played well for the Saints since they acquired him from the Giants before the trade deadline.

These teams are pretty evenly matched, and I would normally pick the Saints at home, but the Rams were my preseason Super Bowl pick and I’m going to stick with them. I’m going to count on the Gurley-Anderson combo to lead the offense. Plus, I expect the Rams to focus on stopping the run to try to make Brees beat them because he hasn’t played that well recently. I’m expecting a close game, but not as high-scoring as their first meeting. I’ll go with the Rams 35-30.

Rams (+3), over 56.5

No. 2 seed New England Patriots at No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs (-3, over/under 56)

Getting home-field advantage could be big for the Chiefs because the Patriots were 9-0 at home this season — including last week’s victory over the Chargers — but just 3-5 away from Gillette Stadium. One of the Patriots’ home games was a Week 6 tilt in which they edged the Chiefs 43-40. Mahomes threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns in the loss, with Brady going for 340 yards with just one touchdown. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt had nearly 200 all-purpose yards for the team, but he is no longer with the Chiefs after being released late in the regular season. WR Tyreek Hill had a big game, catching seven balls for 142 yards and three scores. TE Travis Kelce had 61 receiving yards on five catches. For the Patriots, RB Sony Michel carried the ball 24 times for 106T yards and two touchdowns. The Pats’ leading receiver was TE Rob Gronkowski, who had three receptions for 97 yards. WR Julian Edelman had the home team’s only touchdown through the air as one of his four catches that totaled 54 yards. WR Chris Hogan caught all four of his targets for 78 yards.

Earlier in the week, it looked like there could be bitter cold and/or snowy conditions for the game on Sunday evening, but more recent forecasts have bumped the temperatures up into the 20s and done away with the calls for snow. So it doesn’t look like the weather will play as much of a factor in the game as it appeared earlier, but Brady and the Patriots are used to playing in cold and snow anyway, so it probably wouldn’t have negatively affected them much. The Patriots theoretically have the defensive advantage in this game, having given up nearly 100 fewer points during the season than the Chiefs did, but it’s hard for defenses to keep the Chiefs from scoring a lot and they scored more points against the Patriots than any other team this season.  So I’m not sure how much of an advantage that will be. The Chiefs’ offensive weakness is in the running game, but RB Damien Williams did run for 129 yards and a touchdown last week against the Colts. That was one of four rushing touchdowns in the game as the Colts held Mahomes without a passing touchdown. But Kelce had a big receiving game with 108 yards on seven receptions. The running backs were also a big part of the Patriots’ win over the Chargers last week. Michel had 129 rushing yards with three touchdowns, and RB James White caught 15 of his 17 targets for 97 yards. But Edelman had an even better receiving game, with 151 yards on nine receptions.

 I expect the Patriots to go with a similar game plan as last week, relying on Michel to run the ball and short passes to White to move downfield. The Chiefs, meanwhile, should rely on Mahomes’ arm to get the job done, mixing in Williams’ work on the ground. I think the Chiefs get the win at home, 35-27, to advance to Atlanta.

Chiefs (-3), over 56

By the end of the night Sunday, we’ll know which teams will be playing in Super Bowl LIII. If my picks end up being correct, it’ll be the two young guns in Goff and Mahomes each playing in their first title game.

(Spreads and over/unders from Vegas Insider)

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My NFL Picks: Divisional Playoffs — Rivers battles Brady for spot in AFC Championship

With the Wild Card round in the rear-view mirror, there are four games left to determine which teams make it to the conference championship games. QB Nick Foles led the Eagles to an upset over the Bears last week to keep alive the Eagles’ hopes for repeating as Super Bowl champs, but they’ll have to beat QB Drew Brees and the Saints in the weekend’s final game to advance to the conference final. In the earlier game on Sunday, Chargers QB Philip Rivers looks to slay his postseason demons when he heads to Massachusetts to take on QB Tom Brady and a Patriots team that seems like it could be easier to beat than it has been during much of the Brady-Belichick dynasty. The weekend begins with resurgent QB Andrew Luck leading the Colts into Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, with likely MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. In the late Saturday game, the Cowboys look to get back to the NFC title game for the first time since the 1994 season with QB Dak Prescott battling QB Jared Goff and the Rams.

I didn’t get off to a good start with my picks last week, going 1-3 both against the spread and straight-up, but I was 2-2 on over/unders. Let’s see if I can do better with the four divisional games.

Saturday

No. 6 seed Indianapolis Colts at No. 1 seed Kansas City Chiefs (12-4, AFC West champions) (-5.5, over/under 57)

In his first full season as a starting quarterback, Mahomes exceeded all expectations by throwing 50 touchdown passes, and in his first career playoff game he faces another surprising quarterback in Luck, who many people weren’t sure if he could return from his shoulder injury and play at a high level. Mahomes’ top targets on the season were WR Tyreek Hill and TE Travis Kelce, who combined for 190 catches and 22 touchdowns. For the Colts, WR T.Y. Hilton is coming off a Wild Card game in which he had five receptions for 85 yards, while TE Eric Ebron continued to find the end zone, securing one of his three receptions against the Texans for a touchdown.

Counting last week’s win over the Texans, the Colts have won 10 of their last 11 games, but I think the success ends this week. While the Chiefs’ defense isn’t good, I think Mahomes and the rest of the offense will be able to put enough points on the board to win the game. I do, however, think the Colts keep it close enough to cover. And both of these teams have good offenses, so I’m going over the 57.

Colts (+5.5), over 57

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No. 4 seed Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 seed Los Angeles Rams (13-3, NFC West champions) (-7, over/under 49.5)

The Rams begin their playoff run at home against a Cowboys team that beat the Seahawks by two points last week. Goff threw for nearly 4700 yards and 32 touchdowns during the regular season, despite losing one of his top receivers WR Cooper Kupp about midway through the season. He still has WRs Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, who each surpassed 1200 yards on 80-plus receptions during the year. RB Todd Gurley sat out the team’s last two games with a knee injury, but he is expected to start on Saturday. For the Cowboys, RB Ezekiel Elliott is coming off a 137-yard game on 26 carries with a touchdown, and WR Amari Cooper had seven catches for 106 yards, nearly half of Prescott’s 226 passing yards.

I think the keys to victory for the Cowboys will be another good game from Elliott and a strong defensive performance. I think the Cowboys will keep it close, but I expect the Rams to win the game, and I think both teams can reach the mid 20s, so I’ll go over 49.5.

Cowboys (+7), over 49.5

Sunday

lacne

No. 5 seed Los Angeles Chargers at No. 2 seed New England Patriots (11-5, AFC East champions) (-4, over/under 47.5)

The Chargers beat the Ravens on the road a week ago, now they have to head back east again, this time to try to topple Brady and the Patriots. Brady threw just 29 touchdown passes, his fewest in a full season since 2013. Part of the reason for that is because TE Rob Gronkowski only played in 13 games and WR Josh Gordon played in 11 before leaving the team to deal with personal issues. Brady’s leading receiver was RB James White, with 87 catches, followed by WR Julian Edelman, who caught 74 balls in 12 games. Those two players accounted for 13 of Brady’s 29 touchdowns. Rookie RB Sony Michel led the team with 209 rushes for 931 yards and six scores. Last week, the Chargers only had 243 total yards of offense, but the defense held the Ravens to 229 yards and caused the Ravens to turn the ball over three times.

Despite the Patriots’ struggles this season, the Chargers’ defense will probably have a harder time than it did last week against rookie QB Lamar Jackson. On offense, the Chargers are expected to get back TE Hunter Henry, who missed the entire regular season and last week’s Wild Card game with a torn ACL. His return should give the Chargers’ passing attack a boost. On the other side of the field, Gronkowski hasn’t had more than two receptions in a game since Week 14. Even though the Patriots traditionally do well in home playoff games, this isn’t the same Patriot team as in the past and I think they are vulnerable. I think Rivers leads the Chargers to another win on the road to advance to the conference championship game for the second time in his career. Chargers cover and win outright, and I’ll take the over. 

 Chargers (+4), under 47.5

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No. 6 seed Philadelphia Eagles at No. 1 seed New Orleans Saints (1-3, NFC South champions) (-8, over/under 51)

When these teams met during the regular season, the Saints won 48-7 in Week 11. Like that game, this one is at the Superdome, where the Saints traditionally play better than they do on the road. Saints WR Michael Thomas had 125 receptions for 1405 yards and nine touchdowns during the season. RB Alvin Kamara added another 81 catches for 709 yards, despite the fact that Brees didn’t put up the kinds of numbers we have come to expect from the future Hall of Famer. In the Eagles’ upset of the Bears last week, Foles continued his impressive play, throwing for 266 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The running game was virtually nonexistent, though, with just 42 yards on 23 carries. That is where the Eagles’ biggest weakness lies with a committee made up of RBs Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood and Josh Adams.

Counting last week, the Eagles are on a four-game winning streak, but I think that ends in New Orleans. The game won’t be as much of a blowout as it was last time, but I still think the Saints can win by a double-digit margin, so I’ll pick them to cover, and I’ll go slightly under the 51. 

 Saints (-8), under 51

So this outcomes would set up a NFC Championship between the Rams and Saints, the top two seeds in the conference, in New Orleans, while the AFC title game would feature the fifth-seeded Chargers heading to Kansas City to take on the top-seed Chiefs on the road to Super Bowl LIII and an NFL championship for one of the remaining teams.

(Spreads and over/unders from Vegas Insider)

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My NFL Picks: Wild Card and Playoff Predictions — The Eagles look to repeat in a stacked NFC

The 2018 NFL regular season is now in the books, and it’s time for the playoffs to get under way. Only five of this year’s 12 playoff teams were in the postseason last year, meaning seven teams are returning to the tournament after at least one season out of the playoffs. The defending Super Bowl champion Eagles needed some help in Week 17, but they ultimately snuck into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed to look to successfully defend their title. The other holdovers from last year are the Rams and Saints in the NFC and the Patriots and Chiefs in the AFC. The teams returning to the postseason after an absence are the Colts, Texans, Chargers and Ravens in the AFC, and the Bears, Seahawks and Cowboys in the NFC. The Eagles are the only team returning from last year’s postseason that did not earn a first-round bye. The Chiefs hold the No. 1 seed in the AFC, with the Patriots behind them at No. 2, and the top two spots in the NFC went to the Saints and Rams, respectively. The 12 teams entering the postseason are all hoping to make it all the way to Super Bowl LIII at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

I didn’t have a good year picking games against the spread during the regular season, going 129-127 — although I went 14-2 in Week 17 — but I was better picking straight up, with a 156-98-2 record.

Now we’ll get to my detailed Wild Card picks, followed by how I think the whole postseason will go.

Saturday

No. 6 seed Indianapolis Colts (10-6, Wild Card) at No. 3 seed Houston Texans (11-5, AFC South champions) (-1.5, over/under 48.5)

This is one of the most unlikely playoff matchups we could have expected to see early in the season after the Texans began the season 0-3 and the Colts were 1-5 in their first six games. Both teams also had nice bounce-back seasons after finishing with identical 4-12 records a year ago to get to double-digit wins this year. A big piece of the improvement for both teams was the return to health for their quarterbacks, with Colts QB Andrew Luck returning to the field after missing all of the 2017 season with a shoulder injury and Texans QB Deshaun Watson playing his first full season after missing more than half of his rookie campaign with a knee injury.

Neither team should be worried about the performance they’ll get out of the quarterback position. Luck is the likely Comeback Player of the Year award winner after throwing for 4,539 yards and 39 touchdowns in a season in which people weren’t sure how he’d do after missing more than a year since he last played. Watson also had a good season, throwing for 4,165 yards and 26 touchdowns, with just nine interceptions. He is also a threat on the ground, with 551 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

The running game is where the Colts have their biggest question mark on offense, with their 1,718 rushing yards good for just 20th in the league, with their 13 rushing touchdowns ranking middle-of-the-pack. RB Marlon Mack did have two of his best games late in the season, running for a season-high 139 yards and two touchdowns in Week 15, and putting up a 119-yard performance in Week 17. Backup RB Nyheim Hines started four games, but never ran for more than 78 yards in a contest. The Texans were eighth in the league with 2,021 yards, but they only had 12 touchdowns on the ground. Their workhorse was veteran RB Lamar Miller, who had four games in which he ran for more than 100 yards in his 14 starts, including a season-best 162 yards in Week 12. Backup RB Alfred Blue started two games but didn’t have much success, with a total of 499 rushing yards on the season.

The Colts’ receiving corps was top-heavy this season, led by WR T.Y. Hilton, who had 76 catches for 1,270 yards and six touchdowns. TE Eric Ebron was the other significant part of the passing game, totaling 66 receptions for 750 yards and an impressive 13 touchdowns, which were not only a career-high but more than his total number of scores in his four seasons with the Lions combined. The Texans have been hit hard by injuries in the receiving game. WR DeAndre Hopkins, who is the team’s top receiver, is pretty much the last  man standing. He had 115 receptions this season for 1,572 yards and 11 touchdowns. WR Keke Coutee, who has missed the past five games with a hamstring injury, has 28 catches for 287 yards and a touchdown in six games, including two starts. Miller and TE Ryan Griffin added 26 and 25 receptions, respectively. WRs Will Fuller and Demaryius Thomas are both out after suffering season-ending injuries. 

The Texans have the advantage defensively. They allowed 316 points, the fourth-fewest in the league, and were 12th in yards allowed. The Colts were just ahead of the Texans in the latter category, ranking 11th, but they were 10th with 344 points given up to opponents. Texans DE J.J. Watt played in his first full season since 2015, and put up good numbers coming off injuries in recent years. He forced seven fumbles and recorded 16 sacks. DE Jadeveon Clowney added nine sacks — .5 off his career high — in 15 games. DE Denico Autry led Colts defenders with nine sacks in 12 games. Both teams accounted for 15 interceptions, which was tied for ninth-most in the league.

Both teams have a good offense, but the Colts are healthier — especially among their receivers. The Texans will be relying on rookies like WRs DeAndre Carter and Vyncint Smith and TEs Jordan Thomas and Jordan Akins to catch passes from Watson. Watt also suffered a hand injury in Week 17’s win over the Jaguars. The severity is unknown, but it would be surprising if it is bad enough to keep him out of a playoff game. If he isn’t able to play at his full potential, the Texans’ defense may have to rely more on CB Tyrann Mathieu and S Justin Reid, who had a good rookie season. The teams split their season series, with the Texans winning an overtime thriller, 37-34, in Indianapolis in Week 4, and the Colts won the return contest in Week 14 by a 24-21 margin. The offensive line is a concern for the Texans, as Watson was sacked more than any other quarterback in the league this season, but I think they’ll be able to overcome it against the Colts. These teams are pretty evenly matched, and I’d expect another close game. I think the Texans’ defense may end up being the difference, stopping the Colts late in the game to solidify the victory. I’ll go with the Texans to win, 27-24, to barely cover the spread and make the over. 

Texans (-1.5), over 48.5

No. 5 seed Seattle Seahawks (10-6, Wild Card) at No. 4 seed Dallas Cowboys (10-6, NFC East champions) (-1.5, over/under 43)

Both teams are returning to the postseason after a one-year absence, with each improving from 9-7 last season to 10-6 this year. Like the Colts and Texans, the Seahawks got off to a slow start in 2018, losing their first two games and being just 3-3 going into their Week 7 bye. But a late push — going 6-1 in their last seven games — earned them a Wild Card and the fifth seed in the NFC. The Cowboys were 3-4 going into their bye in Week 8, but they went 7-2 after the bye to ultimately win the NFC East, helped in large part by the acquisition of WR Amari Cooper, who the Cowboys traded for from the Raiders before the trade deadline.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw for 3,448 yards and 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions — both career highs. He also ran for 376 yards on 67 carries. For the Cowboys, QB Dak Prescott threw for a career high with 3,885 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran the ball 75 times, going for 305 yards and six scores. Like with the AFC game earlier in the day, there should be a good quarterback matchup in this one.

The Seahawks led the league in rushing with 2,560 yards, and their 15 touchdowns were tied for the 11th most in the league. The Cowboys ranked 10th in the category with 1,963 yards, and their 13 touchdowns on the ground ranked them in the middle of the league. RB Chris Carson led the Seahawks’ ground game, running for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. RB Mike Davis started the two games Carson didn’t and played in 15 total contests, gaining 514 rushing yards and four touchdowns. RB Rashaad Penny added another 419 yards and two scores. On the other side of the field, Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball 304 times in 15 games, gaining 1,434 yards and running for six touchdowns. Prescott was the next most productive rusher, and the only other Cowboy to get double-digit carries was RB Rod Smith, who started in Week 17, and had 127 rushing yards and a touchdown on 44 runs during the season.

The Cowboys didn’t have a true No. 1 receiver in the first half of the season, but then they traded for Cooper. In nine games with the Cowboys, he caught 53 passes for 725 yards and six touchdowns — leading the team in the latter two categories. Elliott led the team with 77 catches, going for 567 yards and three touchdowns. WR Cole Beasley had 65 catches for 672 yards and three scores. Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett led the team with 57 receptions, for 965 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 13 games, WR Doug Baldwin added 50 catches for 618 yards and five scores. Davis also had 34 receptions, in addition to his workload in the running game.

The Cowboys had a surprisingly strong defense this season, ranking sixth with 324 points allowed and seventh in yards allowed. The Seahawks weren’t far behind, placing 11th with 347 points and 16th in yardage. The Seahawks had two players with at least 10 sacks, DE Frank Clark led the team with 14 and DT Jarran Reed totaled 10.5 sacks. DE Demarcus Lawrence racked up 10.5 sacks to lead the team, with DE Randy Gregory next on the list with six sacks in 14 games. Both teams were in the bottom half of the league in interceptions; the Seahawks had 12 — which tied them for 18th in the league — and the Cowboys were tied for 26th with just nine interceptions on the season.

These teams both have pretty balanced offenses, though the Cowboys may rely too much on Cooper in the passing game, and good defenses so this should be a close game. The teams met in Seattle in Week 3 with the Seahawks winning 24-14, but the Dallas offense is different now than it was then. The Cowboys also have the benefit of home-field advantage this weekend. I think the Cowboys get the victory 27-24, to cover and hit the over/under number.

Cowboys (-1.5), over 43

Sunday

No. 5 seed Los Angeles Chargers (12-4, Wild Card) at No. 4 seed Baltimore Ravens (10-6, AFC North champions) (-2.5, over/under 41.5)

The Chargers have made it to the postseason for the time since the 2013 season as veteran QB Philip Rivers continues to vie for his first Super Bowl appearance. The Ravens last played in the postseason in the 2014 season. Perhaps the best thing to happen for the Ravens this year was veteran QB Joe Flacco — the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII — getting injured, giving them a chance to give rookie QB Lamar Jackson a chance at the starting job, which he has not relinquished despite Flacco’s health improving. That sets up a quarterback matchup of old school vs. new school, with Rivers facing off with Jackson.

The two quarterbacks in this game have wildly different styles. Rivers had a typically strong season for him, throwing for 4,308 yards and 32 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. But he had just 18 rushes on the season for seven yards. Jackson, on the other hand, is known for his running ability and actually led the Ravens with 147 attempts in which he totaled 695 yards and five touchdowns in his seven starts and sporadic snaps taken in the other nine games. In terms of passing, Jackson was 99-for-170 for 1,201 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions.

The Chargers’ 1,873 rushing yards placed them 15th in the league, while the Ravens were second — helped by Jackson’s numbers — with 2,441 ground yards. Chargers RB Melvin Gordon was limited to 12 games this season, running for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. Backup RBs Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson started the four games Gordon missed; Ekeler made three of the starts, and played in 14 games overall, rushing or 554 yards and three touchdowns. In 13 games — one start — Jackson totaled 206 yards and two scores. Ravens RB Gus Jackson had 137 rushes for a team-high 718 yards with two touchdowns in 11 games, including six starts. RB Alex Collins made 10 starts, compiling 411 yards on 114 carries and found the end zone seven times.

WR Keenan Allen led the Chargers in the receiving game, with 97 catches for 1,196 yards and six touchdowns. Gordon added 50 receptions for 490 yards and four touchdowns. WRs Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams put up similar numbers; MIke had 43 catches for 664 yards and 10 scores, while Tyrell caught 41 balls for 653 yards but just five touchdowns. Veteran TE Antonio Gates, who contemplated retirement before TE Hunter Henry suffered a season-ending injury before the season, had 28 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns. WR Willie Snead was the Ravens’ top pass-catcher, recording 62 receptions for 651 yards and a touchdown. WR Michael Crabtree had 54 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns, with WR John Brown adding 42 catches for 715 yards and five scores. Rookie TE Mark Andrews had 34 receptions for for 552 yards and three touchdowns despite getting the start in just three of his 16 games.

The Ravens have the clear advantage on defense. They allowed the second-fewest points in the league at 287 and they led the NFL in yards allowed with 4,687. The Chargers ranked eighth with 329 points, and they were ninth in opponents’ yardage, so they were good but still at a level below the Ravens. DE Melvin Ingram was Los Angeles’ sack leader with seven. Ravens DE Za’Darius Smith led his team with 8.5 sacks. Both teams were tied for 15th in the league with 13 interceptions.

The Chargers will be able to move the ball against a tough Ravens defense if they want to win the game. They had a top 10 scoring offense during the season, so they’re able to put points on the board, but they were able to put up just 10 points in a Week 16 loss to the Ravens at home. The Chargers may get Henry back from his torn ACL, but if he plays he probably won’t be very effective in his first game action of the season. The Chargers have to head across the country and play an early game, which is being played at 1pm Eastern, which will be 10am on their body clocks coming from the West Coast. I think that plays a factor in the end result. I expect the Ravens to win a low-scoring affair, 24-17, to just miss the over/under number.

 Ravens (-2.5), under 41.5

No. 6 seed Philadelphia Eagles (9-7, Wild Card) at No. 3 seed Chicago Bears (12-4, NFC North champions) (-6, over/under 41)

This game has the biggest spread of the four games this weekend, which isn’t surprising because I think this is the biggest mismatch as an Eagles team with a quarterback who is potentially not 100% faces the best scoring defense in the NFL. Eagles QB Nick Foles left last week’s game early with bruised ribs, but he is expected to be ready to play this week. Among the Bears defenders he’ll be opposing is LB Khalil Mack, who they traded for prior to the start of the season. The Eagles are in the postseason for the second straight year, and looking to defend their Super Bowl LII title, while the Bears are playing into January for the first time since the 2010 season, when they made it to the conference championship. They’re looking for their first Super Bowl title since 1985.

For the second straight year, Foles stepped in as the Eagles’ starting quarterback for injured QB Carson Wentz. Foles made five starts this season — in Weeks 1 and 2, then again in Weeks 15-17 — and threw for 1,413 yards and seven touchdowns, with four interceptions. With Wentz not expected back for the postseason, QB Nate Sudfeld will be Foles’ backup if his ribs get worse or he suffers a new injury. The Eagles went 4-1 in his starts. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky started 14 games and took a step forward from his rookie season. He threw for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. 

The Eagles were 28th in the league this season with 1,570 rushing yards, while the Bears’ 1,938 yards on the ground put them in 11th place. The Eagles’ rushing woes were caused in part by injuries to RBs Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. RB Josh Adams, who only started five games, was the Eagles’ leading rusher with 511 yards and three touchdowns on 120 rushes. RB Wendell Smallwood, who started six games, ran the ball 87 times for 364 yards and three touchdowns. RB Jordan Howard was the Bears’ leading rusher, with 250 carries for 935 yards and nine touchdowns. RB Tarik Cohen had 99 rushes for 444 yards and three scores. Trubisky ran for 421 yards and three touchdowns on 68 carries.

Eagles TE Zach Ertz had a career year en route to being the team’s top pass-catcher, recording 116 receptions for 1,163 yards and eight touchdowns. Next up was WR Alshon Jeffery, who had 65 catches for 843 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games. WR Nelson Agholor added 736 yards and four scores on 64 catches. Rookie TE Dallas Goedert caught 33 balls for 334 yards and four touchdowns. In eight games with the Eagles after being traded by the Lions, WR Golden Tate had 30 catches for 278 yards and a touchdown. Cohen was the Bears’ leading pass-catcher with 71 receptions for 725 yards and five touchdowns. WR Taylor Gabriel wasn’t far behind him, with 67 catches for 688 yards and two touchdowns. WR Allen Robinson had 55 receptions for 754 yards and four scores in 13 games, while TE Trey Burton added 54 catches for 569 yards and six touchdowns. WR Anthony Miller had 33 catches for 423 games and seven touchdowns in 15 games, but just four starts.

The Bears had the NFL’s best scoring defense, allowing opponents to score just 283 points, and they ranked third in yards allowed. The Eagles were 12th with 348 points allowed and 23rd in opponents’ yardage. In addition to having the allowing the fewest points, the Bears had the most takeaways, becoming just the fourth team in the Super Bowl era to lead outright in both categories. Acquiring Mack had a big impact on the team’s strong defensive performance; he forced six fumbles and recorded 12.5 sacks in his first season with the team. DT Fletcher Cox led the Eagles with 10.5 sacks, and DE Michael Bennett wasn’t far behind him with nine. DE Chris Long added another 6.5 sacks.

Foles is 9-2 as a starter over the last two seasons, including last year’s postseason, but this will be one of his biggest challenges in that stretch as he faces the dominant Bears defense. The lack of a bonafide No. 1 running back could hurt the Eagles because the Bears will be able to focus on defending against the passing game. I think the Bears win easily, 28-17, to cover both the spread and the over/under.

 Bears (-6), over 41

Based on the above picks, here is how I see the rest of the postseason playing out:

Divisional Round

Chiefs beat the Ravens
Texans beat the Patriots
Rams beat the Bears
Saints beat the Cowboys

Conference Championships

Chiefs beat the Texans
Rams beat the Saints

Super Bowl LIII

Rams beat the Chiefs

(Spreads and over/unders from Vegas Insider)

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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 2: Patriots-Jags AFC Championship rematch on tap

Week 1 is always a tough one to pick games because you don’t know what to expect from teams coming out of the gate when many stars don’t play much during the preseason. Given that, I did respectably last week with a 9-7 record against the spread. This week has a couple of big games on tap, including the Vikings visiting the Packers — and a potentially-not-100% Aaron Rodgers — in a battle of teams that should compete for the NFC North title and an AFC Championship rematch with the Patriots heading to Jacksonville to take on the Jaguars, who will be likely without star RB Leonard Fournette. The Sunday night game features an NFC East rivalry as Odell Beckham and the Giants visit Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys. 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

Ravens at Bengals (+0.5) – The Ravens looked impressive in Week 1 with a 47-3 victory over the Bills, but QB Andy Dalton and the Bengals will pose a greater challenge, especially with home-field advantage in Cincinnati. Bengals RB Joe Mixon last week looked like he’s poised for a breakout season and if he can have a similar performance this week, it’ll make it that much harder for the Ravens to go 2-0. I’m still not necessarily buying into the Ravens. I’m going to take the Bengals at home on a short week.

Sunday 1PM games

Panthers at Falcons (-5.5) – The Falcons didn’t look good last week, losing to QB Nick Foles and the Eagles in the season opener. Falcons QB Matt Ryan couldn’t get the ball to star WR Julio Jones in the end zone, which was also an issue for the pair last season. The Panthers beat the Cowboys in Week 1 but struggled offensively, scoring just 16 points behind QB Cam Newton. The Panthers are without TE Greg Olsen, who suffered a foot injury in Week 1 that will keep him out of action for several weeks.  I think this will be a close game, so I’ll take the Panthers and the points but the Falcons could win the game.

Chargers at Bills (+7.5) – That’s a big number for a West Coast team to give on a cross-country trip to the northeast, but the Bills really didn’t look good last week. The Bills have announced that after one start from QB Nathan Peterman they have decided to go with rookie QB Josh Allen for his first NFL start in Week 2 as the Bills have decided to go in another direction under center. The Chargers are coming off a loss to the Chiefs, but the Bills appear to be one of the worst teams in the league and I don’t trust either of their quarterbacks, so I’ll give the 7.5 points.

Browns at Saints (-8.5) – The Browns may not have won last week, but they didn’t lose either, so their tie with the Steelers ended their losing streak but extended their winless streak. They’re still looking for their first win since 2016, but I don’t think they’ll get it this week. The Saints’ defense looked bad against the Buccaneers last week, but they still have a good offense led by QB Drew Brees and RB Alvin Kamara, which should be able to outscore the Browns to pick up New Orleans’ first win of the season. This is another big number that’s giving me pause, but i think the Saints will barely cover it, so I’ll go with the Saints at home.

Vikings at Packers (-0.5) – Rodgers is unlikely to be at full strength for this game after dealing with an injury in Week 1 against the Bears. That will hurt the Packers against a good Vikings defense. If I knew Rodgers was fully healthy, I’d probably go with the Packers, but I don’t think he is so I’m going to go with the road team at Lambeau.

Texans at Titans (+2.5) – The Titans were dealt a couple of injuries in Week 1, with TE Delanie Walker suffering a season-ending ankle injury and QB Marcus Mariota dealing with an elbow injury. Mariota’s status for this week’s game is unknown, which opens up uncertainty about how the Titans will perform if backup QB Blaine Gabbert draws the start. The Texans didn’t look great in their Week 1 loss to the Patriots, but QB Deshaun Watson is coming back from an injury of his own that caused him to miss the second half of the 2017 season. I think the Texans will win the game whether Mariota or Gabbert plays, but the chances of a Texans win goes up if Gabbert starts.

Colts at Redskins (-5.5) – The Redskins looked better than expected last week in beating the Cardinals 24-6. RB Adrian Peterson surprised by gaining nearly 100 yards on the ground, and QB Alex Smith had a good start in his team debut. The Colts had an early lead against the Bengals but ended up losing after being outscored 17-0 in the fourth quarter. It’s that subpar defense that gives the Redskins an advantage and leads me to think the Redskins will win the game and cover the 5.5 points.

Chiefs at Steelers (-5.5) – The Steelers were without RB Le’Veon Bell last week as he continues his holdout, but RB James Conner had a good showing in Bell’s absence. It wasn’t enough to beat the Browns, though, as the teams ended up tying. The Chiefs present a much bigger challenge for Pittsburgh, and I think the Chiefs could win the game outright so I’ll take them with the points.

Dolphins at Jets (-2.5) – The Jets put up 48 points against the Lions in Week 1, so they may be better than people gave them credit for entering the season, but they’re not that good. After throwing a pick-six with his first career pass, Jets QB Sam Darnold ended up throwing a couple touchdown passes to his teammates and RB Isaiah Crowell had a good showing on the ground, running for more than 100 yards and a couple touchdowns. After that showing last week, I think the Jets can beat Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins, covering the spread in the process.

Eagles at Buccaneers (+3.5) – Like the Jets the Buccaneers overperformed last week, but i’m buying it even less with the Bucs than I did the Jets because of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been a fairly pedestrian quarterback throughout his NFL career. While Foles, who also isn’t great, is expected to get another start for the Eagles I think the defending Super Bowl champions are the better overall team than the Bucs, so I’ll go with them to cover on the road.

Sunday 4PM games

Lions at 49ers (-5.5) – After giving up more than 40 points to the Jets at home in Week 1, the Lions are hitting the road to take on QB Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers. Last week’s results notwithstanding, the 49ers have a better offense than the Jets and should provide another tough challenge for the Lions defense. Lions QB Matthew Stafford needs to play better than he did last week to keep his team in it. I’ll give the points with the home team.

Cardinals at Rams (-12.5) – I’m all-in on the Rams this season — I even picked them to win Super Bowl LIII — and I fully expect them to win this game against a Cardinals team that struggled last week in their first game with QB Sam Bradford. But I always have a hard time giving a lot of points, like the 12.5-point spread in this game. So I’m going to go with the Cardinals and hope Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the rest of the Rams offense don’t go off too much in a blowout.

Raiders at Broncos (-5.5) – Neither team looked very impressive last week and I don’t have high hopes for either team this season, so I think it’ll be a pretty close game. I don’t have a strong opinion either way, but I’ll take the points since I think it’ll be close.

Patriots at Jaguars (+2.5) – This AFC Championship rematch likely won’t be as competitive as it otherwise might have been if Fournette can’t play, which I don’t think he will. That means RB T.J. Yeldon will get the bulk of the work on the ground, which should be a big workload considering the team usually likes to limit the amount of passing plays for QB Blake Bortles. On the other side of the field, the Patriots defense looked good in Week 1, and combine that with QB Tom Brady, TE Rob Gronkowski and the rest of the offense, and I don’t think this game is going to be particularly competitive. I’ll give the points on the road.

Sunday Night Football

Giants at Cowboys (-2.5) – Neither offense looked good last week, so this could be a low-scoring game. While I don’t think Eli Manning is a good quarterback anymore, I think the Cowboys have two of the best offensive players in this game with Beckham and rookie RB Saquon Barkley. The Cowboys don’t have any good receivers after losing TE Jason Witten and WR Dez Bryant in the offseason. They’ll have to rely on Elliott if they want to have much success. I think the Giants will win the game outright, so I’ll take the points.

Monday Night Football

Seahawks at Bears (-3.5) – This is a matchup of teams that fell just short of winning last week, with the Bears losing a 20-0 lead in the second half of their game with the Packers. Since I don’t have much faith in either team, I’ll take the home team and hope QB Mitch Trubisky can get something going for the Bears.

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5th Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Playoff predictions and Super Bowl LIII winner

Time to finish up the season preview posts with my projected NFL playoff bracket for the coming season. I’ve determined what records I think every team will end up with this season and the subsequent playoff seedings. Here are my playoff predictions. Continue reading