Last week: 3-1, missing on the Vikings
Only one of the four games this weekend features a line less than a touchdown. The odds here are from BetOnline as of Friday at 7:42 p.m. ET
- Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers (-7): I like the Vikings to pull the stunner. Why? Their defensive front can get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo without needing to bring extra help. Garoppolo for all his beauty and his impressive season still doesn’t handle pressure all that well. I think Kirk Cousins rises to the occasion for the second week in a row.
Yeah, I know. I really did type that. I even read it aloud to myself and noted the patent absurdity that most of you reading this will feel. I’m prepared for this forecast to look especially foolish, like calling for a beach day here in Holland MI -- Cousins’ hometown -- in January. Grab your wetsuit!
Vikings 22, 49ers 20
- Tennessee Titans at Baltimore Ravens (-10): The Titans have the right mix of style and talent to give the Ravens some problems. Derrick Henry can break off big plays in the run game, the Titans OL blocks well, and they have a big-play receiver in rookie A.J. Brown who can thrive off play-action and across the middle. That’s the exact recipe the Cleveland Browns used when they curbstomped Baltimore back in Week 4. That happens to be the last time the Ravens lost.
Since that time, we’ve seen the Baltimore defense tighten on the outside with Marcus Peters beautifully integrating in as the standout CB they sorely needed. His presence allows the safeties to focus more on the run game and slowing down the NFL’s rushing champ. The key to beating the Ravens is to outscore them rather than trying to stop them from outscoring you, a subtle but very important philosophical tilt. Unless there’s a special teams gaffe or weird Ravens turnover, the home team has too much firepower. They withstand a valiant charge from Mike Vrabel’s game Titans.
Ravens 30, Titans 24
- Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5): Houston won the first meeting during the season, a 31-24 win in Kansas City in Week 6. It can be done again, but it will not be easy for the Texans. In that game, Houston’s rushing attack repeatedly gashed the Chiefs porous defense. It could have actually been worse for the Chiefs but DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller both dropped red-zone passes that stalled would-be touchdowns, too.
The Chiefs have quietly played much better defense of late. They’re playing like a coordinated unit rather than 11 guys wearing the same uniforms. Youngsters in the secondary, Juan Thornhill and Charvarius Ward, have stepped up and emerged as impact talents. Losing Thornhill to a torn ACL really hurts, and it gives the Texans offense some hope--especially if Fuller can start and finish a game. I think the matchup of Chris Jones and the Chiefs DL against a young Texans OL that gave up 7 sacks last week and doesn’t consistently open holes for Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson is the big key.
That Mahomes guy might have something to say, too…
Chiefs 33, Texans 17
- Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers (-4.5): The Packers always beat Seattle in Green Bay. It’s happened eight times in a row, including playoff games. They’re taking the ball and they’re going to win, as Matt Hasselbeck once famously uttered in one of those losses.
I just don’t see the Seattle offense finding success. It’s great that Marshawn Lynch is back, but he wasn’t good last week. Their offensive line wasn’t either. Green Bay’s defense can shut them down and render the Seahawks offense a version of Russell Wilson hero ball. Wilson will have some heroics, but the Packers and Aaron Jones will have more. This game has the smallest line but I think it’s the biggest mismatch of the weekend.
Packers 30, Seahawks 14
College Playoff Championship
LSU’s pass defense is the deciding factor in the mathcup between the No. 1 pick of 2020 (Joe Burrow) and the No. 1 pick in 2021 (Trevor Lawrence).
LSU 33, Clemson 30