Last week: 9-5, keeping the season forecast a sunny 42-25
With no Thursday game this week due to the rescheduling for COVID-19 issues, we get another week of two Monday night games. After the successful Tuesday night experience in Tennessee, here’s hoping the league continues to stay flexible for the rest of the year.
- Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-3.5): Myles Garrett returns to Pittsburgh. While the national media--and segments of the local media in both cities--focus on that sideshow, those who actually care about football can look past the bluster and see what should be a fantastic matchup.
The Steelers are unbeaten and just might be the best team in the NFL. The speed on both sides of the ball has proven lethal to all comers in 2020. They’ll be challenged by the Browns\\\' power run game and play-action from Baker Mayfield to Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. The Cleveland offensive line has been lights out, an excellent potential foil to T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree and the ominously effective Steelers pass rush.
Garrett will get attention during the game for his league-leading 33 QB pressures and his advantage over the Steelers offensive tackles. He’ll have to be fantastic because the biggest weakness on either team is the Browns middle-of-field pass coverage. If Ben Roethlisberger has time to attack safety Andrew Sendejo and the rotating cast of slot CBs, it’s going to be a long afternoon for the visitors. Garrett will need help to carry the Browns to just the second win in Pittsburgh this century. They’ll come close but won’t quite smoke the victory cigar.
Steelers 34, Browns 30
- Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1.5): Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady square off. Get Troy Aikman and Joe Buck some extra towels in the booth. You’ll need a sneeze guard on your television to keep from getting hit by all the slobbering adulation over the future Hall of Fame QBs from the fawning fanboys in the booth.
Hopefully it doesn’t obscure what should be a really good matchup. Rodgers is playing fantastic and the Packers offense is humming along beautifully. But the Buccaneers have a lot of firepower too, and the Green Bay defense has not played well.
The Packers get an extra boost from coming off a bye week and getting healthier on both sides of the ball. The scheduling quirk helps them, but not as much as Jaire Alexander picking off Brady in the fourth quarter to end the Buccaneers’ last gasp will.
Packers 31, Buccaneers 27
- Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers (+3.5): Things are not going well for the reigning NFC champs, and this game could very well be the de facto death knell for San Francisco’s playoff aspirations. The Rams are playing well on both sides of the ball, something the 49ers have yet to really do in any one game this year. Between the injuries and the bullseye on their back for their outstanding 2019, these 49ers are in real trouble.
Rams 28, 49ers 23
- Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers (-2.5): I don’t know what’s harder to fathom, the Bears being 4-1 or the Panthers winning three in a row without Christian McCaffrey. I do know which is more sustainable, and it’s not the Panthers impressive run sans the NFL’s best offensive weapon.
Bears 22, Panthers 20
- Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts (-8): There might not be a bigger mismatch in the NFL this weekend than the Colts defensive front, led by DeForest Buckner, against the Bengals offensive line, led by, uh, hmmm...Bobby Hart? Insert spit-take laughter GIF of your choice here while you offer up prayers for Joe Burrow.
Colts 24, Bengals 14
- Denver Broncos at New England Patriots (-10): The status of this game remains very much in doubt with the Patriots ongoing COVID-19 issues. Cam Newton will be back for New England, and that helps the cause if the game does get played on Sunday. The injury-ravaged Broncos have only beaten the witless Jets. They haven’t really been competitive in the two preceding games, and now they have the shadow of RB Melvin Gordon getting a DUI looking over them. If you’ve still got the Patriots to use in survivor fantasy pools and don’t want to wait for them to play the Jets, this is a good time to use them.
Patriots 26, Broncos 13
- Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles (+9): Baltimore’s pass defense will make life even more miserable for the struggling Carson Wentz and his replacement WRs. This one doesn’t figure to be much of a competition unless the Ravens offense allows it to be one by not playing well.
Ravens 25, Eagles 9
- Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (-3): The Titans responded quite well to the COVID-induced delay by whacking the Bills from the unbeaten ranks on Tuesday night. Now Mike Vrabel’s team has a short work week to get ready for the Texans, who look reinvigorated with Bill O’Brien out of the picture. I don’t sense the Titans will let down, but it’s tough to see them getting up as high as they did for the return from the early bye. I smell the upset.
Texans 27, Titans 24
- Detroit Lions at Jacksonville Jaguars (+3.5): Two of the NFL’s most inept defense square off in Duval in a game that was supposed to be played in London. More to the point, I was supposed to be in London covering the game. Instead of being in soggy, grey London I’ll be watching from soggy, gray Grand Rapids.
At least I’ll see a lot of points. The Lions should score more of them, especially coming off a bye week. I’ll take Matthew Stafford throwing with no pressure to Kenny Golladay and T.J. Hockenson over Garnder Minshew targeting D.J. Chark and James Robinson while having enough time to spell Tottenham forward and backward in the pocket. One but of insurance on the Lions front: the Jaguars have been the worst at field goals this year, making a close game that much tougher to win. Even against a Detroit team that is historically inept at holding leads.
Lions 36, Jaguars 34
- New York Jets at Miami Dolphins (-9.5): The Dolphins are favored for the first time since the 2018 season. That they’re favored by nearly double-digits tells you just how dysfunctional the winless Jets truly are. I won’t rain on the Dolphins glory here.
Dolphins 33, Jets 12
Washington Football Team at New York Giants (-2.5): At some point the Giants are going to win some games. It won’t be many, but this should be the first of them as long as Daniel Jones stops fumbling and survives the Football Team defensive front. First offense to 16 wins!
Giants 22, Football Team 16
- Atlanta Falcons at Minnesota Vikings (-3.5): I never pick against an interim coach in the first week on the job. That’s the only reason the forecast here is for a little sunshine in an otherwise dreary season for Atlanta.
Falcons 31, Vikings 25
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (+3.5): I cannot wait for bonus Monday football! Give me Patrick Mahomes vs. Josh Allen as an appetizer and I need no main course. And with each team coming off losses where their defenses looked quite vulnerable, I expect a lot more focus from each squad on doing the fundamentals and playing smarter football. The Le’Veon Bell addition to the Chiefs adds even more intrigue. As long as he averages more than the 3.3 yards per carry he’s posted since 2017, he’ll help the Chiefs quite specifcally in games like this one.
Chiefs 32, Bills 28
- Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys (+2.5): With all the focus on Dallas and replacing Dak Prescott that will rightly come to this game, for prediction purposes, it’s more fitting to look at the Dallas defense. Arizona’s offense has quietly unperformed expectations. The Cardinals have failed to hit the “over” in any game this year, and Kyler Murray’s second season hasn’t been as dynamic as hoped. If they can’t get it rolling here against what Dallas somewhat comically calls defense, it’s time to really worry about the Cards. I don’t doubt Andy Dalton’s ability to keep up, especially with all those talented targets that the Cardinals won’t be able to cover.
Cowboys 38, Cardinals 30
All odds are from BetOnline as of Wed. at 4 p.m. ET