Last week: 8-6, pushing the season forecast to 107-70
Please be good to one another on Thanksgiving and remember it’s a holiday about family, friends and what binds us together more than it’s about what you’re eating or what two disparate groups of people did some 400 years ago.
- Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (+3): What’s left of the Lions host the Bears in the battle for last place in the NFC North. David Blough will get his first career snap when the Lions get the ball. The undrafted rookie from Purdue is the starter for Detroit with Matthew Stafford out and Jeff Driskel unable to roll. I saw Blough in Browns camp this summer and he’s not without some potential, but with as many as nine other regular starters out for the Lions, it’s asking a lot to stuff a loss on the Bears.
Bears 20, Lions 10
- Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys (-7): Jerry Jones fired off some serious ammo at his head coach, Jason Garrett. I believe Jerry’s rant pays dividends and his Cowboys realize the tenuous nature of their hold on first place. I also think they match up well against the Bills as long as Zeke Elliott runs well. If you’re like my family, you will be eating or napping through most of this game. Buffalo’s moribund offense occasionally punctuated by a “WOW” throw from Josh Allen will do that. Make sure grandma doesn’t choke on her pie...
Cowboys 23, Bills 17
- New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (+7): Two weeks ago the Falcons were a 1-win team and making a change on the defensive coaching staff. They went into New Orleans and spanked the high-flying Saints. Then they did it again the following week to Carolina. The worst scoring defense in the league won those two games by a combined score of 55-12.
Back to reality. Last week the Buccaneers routed Dan Quinn’s squad 35-22. Reality will really bite in the form of Saints revenge. There won’t be enough $6 beers in the beautiful new Falcons stadium to keep folks interested in this one for long.
Saints 41, Falcons 20
- San Francisco 49ers at Baltimore Ravens (-6): Cue the “Super Bowl preview” cut from the sports broadcaster of your choice. And in this case it might actually come to fruition. I’m partial to San Francisco here for one key reason: their defensive line can control Lamar Jackson (relatively speaking) without needing to commit backers and DBs out of their coverage areas. Jackson can nullify that by attacking deep quickly, and he’s good at it. But the Browns throttled the Ravens by doing that and the 49ers have better breadth of defensive talent than the Browns do. On the flip side, the Ravens--like most teams--have no answer for George Kittle.
49ers 26, Ravens 24
- Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5): Mike Tomlin deescalated this matchup some by benching QB Mason Rudolph. There will still be plenty of bad blood just two weeks after the Myles Garrett melee.
To try and focus on the Xs and Os, which is something Browns rookie coach Freddie Kitchens desperately wants to do too, the visitors from The Land have the advantage in just about every matchup. Baker Mayfield has looked great lately, while Kareem Hunt has added a dimension as a receiver out of the backfield that defenses simply cannot account for. Pittsburgh can win if the pass rush impacts Mayfield and the Browns lose their collective cool. They’re favored in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1989 for good reason, even sans Garrett.
Browns 27, Steelers 20
- Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts (-2.5): History can be important to study. The Colts have won 17 of the last 20 meetings between these two teams. Two of the three Titans wins came in the 2017 season when Andrew Luck was out. Even though the Titans are trending up since making the switch to Ryan Tannehill and the Colts are banged up and appear maxed out early, I still believe in the history angle. I did graduate from college with a degree in history, after all…
Colts 21, Titans 20
- New England Patriots at Houston Texans (+3): Bill Belichick vs. Bill O’Brien is not the battle of wits I’m hoping to watch this weekend. Not that I don’t think BOB and his talented Texans can win on their friendly turf. They probably should expect to win. But Belichick always has something ready to pull out against his old proteges, and the Texans are too variable of a performer to trust.
Patriots 22, Texans 17
- Philadelphia Eagles at Miami Dolphins (+9.5): The Eagles offense is struggling, but they’ll manage to find a way to double up the Dolphins.
Eagles 32, Dolphins 16
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-1): About the only thing less appealing than this matchup of middling Florida teams is sweet potato casserole. You know, the stuff that looks like what a jaundiced calf defecates, only with marshmallows added? Keep that stanky stuff to yourself, Aunt Gladys…
Buccaneers 30, Jaguars 28
- Green Bay Rodgers at New York Giants (+6.5): Aaron Rodgers is coming off arguably the worst game of his career. It was technically one of the worst games by any QB in modern NFL history; Rodgers became the first quarterback in over 50 years to complete 20 or more passes in a game and finish with less than 100 net yards (including sack yardage). Alas, the Giants are not the 49ers on defense. Expect the Packers to bounce back. Big.
Packers 35, Giants 16
- Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (+2.5): AFC West Apathy Bowl! Nobody will ever accuse Philip Rivers of apathy, and that will be enough to surpass the poorly quarterbacked Broncos.
Chargers 19, Broncos 13
- Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-10): A peel behind the process veil here. Normally, I type out all the games and then write up the capsules for each game sort of randomly, but not immediately as I type out the teams. But this one screamed overreaction to Oakland’s terrible loss last week so badly that I am writing this as soon as I typed it in and breaking all sorts of my routine. Oakland might have been exposed a bit against the Jets, but that was last week. I don’t see this Chiefs team being 10 points better than anyone still sniffing playoff vapors right now, and the Raiders are very much alive...but only if they win here. Gruden will have his Raiders ready enough that I love getting the 10 points. Wouldn’t surprise me if they win outright, but the forecast models still heavily lean towards the home team.
Chiefs 36, Raiders 31
- Washington at Carolina Panthers (-10): The Josh Norman revenge game might inspire the volatile CB to try a little more effort than he showed in literally not moving a muscle during a special teams rep in Washington’s win over Detroit last week. Maybe. Probably not enough to help win the game against his ex’s in Charlotte.
Panthers 27, Washington 11
- Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (+3): Just a hunch that the Rams continue the Downward Spiral. The Hurt continues for The Fragile Rams. This is not a Pretty Hate Machine on my part, it’s just All That Could Have Been is now Closer and Down In It. Somebody find Jared Goff The Perfect Drug.
This forecast brought to you by Nine Inch Nails…
Cardinals 32, Rams 28
- New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5): Want to tell how a team has no direction? Check out how the Bengals are handling their quarterback situation. Andy Dalton, who was about No. 26 on their list of problems this season, is now back in as the starter after being benched by rookie coach Zac Taylor. All benching the perfectly average Dalton did was prove that Ryan Finley is a colossal waste of a fourth-round pick. Bringing Dalton back, as Taylor has now done with tail firmly between legs, is proof the organization has no plan. The Jets’ plan might not be working all that well on the whole, but they’ve won three in a row and are good enough to not fall into the deathtrap that is the winless Bengals.
Jets 32, Bengals 20
- Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-3): I’m trying to figure out how Booger McFarland and Joe Tessitore will mangle the call in this game. And that’s sad, because this is a great matchup between two playoff contenders with some compelling storylines on each side. I like Booger to some extent and Tessitore was very good on college calls with Matt Millen, but it just doesn’t work well when thrust upon an unsuspecting nation.
Seahawks 28, Vikings 24
Ohio State 31, Michigan 24 and I’ll be at this one. I expect Michigan’s offense to find some success over the middle but Ohio State’s offense to find a little more attacking down the field.
Alabama 35, Auburn 10. You can’t bring bad QB play into a game against Nick Saban.
Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 21. The winner here gets Clemson next week.
Memphis 38, Cincinnati 30
Wisconsin 25, Minnesota 21
Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35. Bedlam, baby.