After two-thirds of the season, it’s time to evaluate my performance this season. It’s been . . . decent. I’m just a smidge under .500 on the year, so I’m basically the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of making picks. But that’s not a terrible place to be. The Bucs are still going to make the playoffs this year, although it’s going to be by default. But it does mean that I still have the chance to improve my performance, elevating myself to maybe the Cincinnati Bengals of picks instead. And it’s all going to start now, this week when I achieve my first perfect week of the season. Now, that would be impressive. The redemption tour starts now with these 15 picks.
Buffalo Bills (-4) over New England Patriots
The Pats haven’t been able to get the best of the Bills very much since Tom Brady left New England and Josh Allen turned into one of the best players in the game. They were able to get one on them last year, but that was a gimmicky game where the Pats just ignored the forward pass like it was the 1940s. This game will probably be a much more normal contest, which definitely favors the Bills. They are the better team in this matchup, which would also be true for about 29 other matchups. There is little reason to expect New England to put up enough points to hang around in this game. And since the winning football is almost always the team that scores the most points, I don’t see the Pats being that team, hence my selection of the Bills to win by four.
Minnesota Vikings (-3) over New York Jets
I’m not ready to buy into the Jets just yet, even if Mike White looks like the second coming of Joe Namath. And since the Vikings got back on track with a big Thanksgiving win over the Pats, I have full confidence in them in this matchup. Yes, the Jets’ defense is pretty good. But you know who else is good? Justin Jefferson. Dalvin Cook. T.J. Hockenson. And yes, even Kirk Cousins. The Vikings have to win this game if they want people to take them seriously as a playoff threat come January. This game may end up being a lot closer than people expect, especially people that haven’t realized the Jets aren’t terrible anymore, but the Vikings should still have what it takes to come out of this one with the win.
Baltimore Ravens (-8.5) over Denver Broncos
If you need an explanation for this pick then you clearly haven’t been paying attention to anything in the league this year. I have also declared that I will not pick the Broncos again this year, and so far nothing they’ve done recently has given me any reason to go back on that. I’m at least excited to see the Ravens against this good Broncos defense. This will be a true test of how well this offense can function with receivers like Demarcus Robinson and DeSean Jackson (yes, that DeSean Jackson). The good thing for the offense is that they only need about 14 points to guarantee a win because there is no way the Broncos are going to be able to score more than two touchdowns on this Ravens’ defense.
Atlanta Falcons (+1.5) over Pittsburgh Steelers
That win on Monday night was nice but not nice enough to convince me that the Steelers are the better team in this matchup. The Falcons are even at home in this game, so having them as an underdog seems a bit perplexing. The Falcons, as I have mentioned plenty of times, just seem to constantly find ways to keep games close, so doing so against a team led by Kenny Pickett shouldn’t be much of an issue. Atlanta continues to do two things: run the ball and cover the spread. I’m predicting both things happen in this game.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-1.5) over Detroit Lions
Football is a lot of things. It’s a complex sport that relies on 11 people operating as a cohesive unit. It’s also a game that hinges a lot of momentum, no matter what the analytics people say otherwise. The Jaguars have some pretty good momentum following their game-winning two-point conversion over the Ravens last week. That’s the type of momentum that can carry over into the next week and swing a potentially close matchup. And since the spread between the Jaguars and Lions is just one-and-a-half points, this is clearly believed to be a close matchup. It’s hard to go against the Lions, who have been prone to playing tight games, but it’s hard to imagine them covering this spread without a win. Plus, they’re getting dangerously close to hitting the over on their 6.5-win total and I was very confident that they wouldn’t do that, so I need them to drop some games down the stretch. Losing this game would be a great start.
Philadelphia Eagles over Tennessee Titans (+5.5)
The Eagles are showing that they may not be invincible with their performances lately. A loss to the Commanders, a win over the Colts that was way too close for comfort, and a seven-point win over the Packers with an injured Aaron Rodgers do not necessarily inspire a ton of confidence. I still think they’re the better team than the Titans, but I don’t believe that enough to trust them with a five-and-a-half-point spread. The Titans are also the Kings of keeping it close and playing competitive games but the thing that sets them apart from the other teams that do that like the Falcons and Lions is that they’re actually good. Tennessee doesn’t always play the sexiest brand of football, but it’s effective. This game could get ugly, and ugly games usually end up getting decided by just a few points, which would lead to a Titans’ cover.
Houston Texans (+7) over Cleveland Browns
There are several reasons why I’m taking the Texans here, and none of them are because of actual, on-field football (because the Texans are bad at that). The Texans need to win this game to take a stand of morality against the Browns and Deshaun Watson, who will be making his season debut following his lengthy (but not long enough) suspension. Everybody is going to pick the Browns because of Watson and his ‘revenge game.’ But can it really be a revenge game if you got to leave the worst team in the league and then sign a $230 million contract? And when the general public seems to have an inside track on a particular outcome happening, things tend to go the other way, hence my belief that the Texans will spoil Watson’s big day. Also (this is the same thing I said a few weeks back when I picked Houston and was terribly wrong), the Texans will have to win more than one game this year, so why not this week?
Washington Commanders (-2.5) over New York Giants
I gave some attention to both of these teams in my playoff predictions article earlier this week since both of them are currently in playoff spots. But, in that piece, I decided that only one of them would probably end up making it, and I settled on the Commanders. So, in order for that to happen, I really need Washington to get the win in this one. That isn’t an outlandish thing to hope for, though. The Commanders have been playing really well lately and have covered in every game since Taylor Heinicke took over at quarterback. The Giants will probably revert back to being the Giants we’re used to at some like in Cinderella when everything turns back into a pumpkin at midnight (that’s definitely what happens, right?). And when the familiar Giants return, they will definitely do things like lose this very important divisional matchup.
Green Bay Packers (-4) over Chicago Bears
Sometimes, things are as simple as they seem. This game is one of those times. Aaron Rodgers could have ten broken fingers and a ruptured spleen and I would still pick him to beat the Bears. As he has literally shouted into the faces of their fans, he owns the Bears. It also helps that the one bright spot for Chicago recently, Justin Fields, is battling his own injury and may not be 100 percent, or even play, on Sunday. Sure, the Packers aren’t the same team that we’ve seen win countless games over the past few years but they’re still the Packers. And as long as the Packers are still the Packers and the Bears are still the Bears, I’m picking the Packers.
Seattle Seahawks over Los Angeles Rams (+7.5)
Recency bias alert. I’ll admit, this pick doesn’t make much sense. But maybe, just maybe, the Rams found something with Bryce Perkins at quarterback last week. I mean, they did almost cover a 15.5-point spread against the Chiefs, that must be worth something. The Seahawks have also looked a bit worse recently. Not bad enough to lose to the Rams, but maybe bad enough to not cover against them. I’m also just banking on the NFC West providing another weird and unpredictable game, which it is full of, and Sean McVay continuing to baffle Pete Carroll on the field, which should lead to the Seahawks winning a one-score game.
San Francisco 49ers over Miami Dolphins (+3.5)
This will be an incredibly entertaining game. We’ve got a great offense going up against an elite defense. We’ve got superstars on both sides of the ball ready to make some plays. And we’ve got Mike McDaniel trying to return home and take down his former mentor like this is some sort of Star Wars movie (does that happen in Star Wars?). I also love the fact that Miami is getting three-and-a-half points (which is the best spread in football). I always like to take the points when I think either team can win, so this works out perfectly. But, on the field, I still think the 49ers are better. I’m also more confident in the 49ers being able to slow down the Dolphins’ offense, which is incredibly similar to their own, than the Dolphins being able to slow down the 49ers’ offense. Obviously, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle have the ability to break this game open and dominate it themselves, but so do Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk. So, for maybe the first time, the Dolphins don’t actually have the advantage in that department. This should be a fun game, and a close game, and a game where the former boss shows his protégé that the torch hasn’t been passed just yet.
Los Angeles Chargers (-1.5) over Las Vegas Raiders
I feel pretty confident in this pick except for one thing: Josh Jacobs is an absolute madman. He absolutely murdered the Seahawks last week (complete with an 86-yard death blow) and now gets to face a worse rush defense. But I still trust the Chargers to score more points than the Raiders, even with Jacobs going off. Maybe my faith in Justin Herbert needs to be scaled back a bit. Nah, I don’t think so. He’s got Keenan Allen back and he’s still got Joshua Palmer, Gerald Everett, and Austin Ekeler (who is fourth in the league in receptions by the way). The Chargers should be able to use their electric passing attack to take advantage of a vulnerable Raiders’ secondary. And that should be able to cover for whatever they give up on defense to a pretty good Las Vegas offense. If this spread were larger then maybe I’d be warier of picking the Chargers, but at one-and-a-half, I feel pretty good about this.
Kansas City Chiefs (-2.5) over Cincinnati Bengals
Revenge is a dish best served cold. It’s only going to be in the 30s in Cincinnati on Sunday, but that should be cold enough for the Chiefs to get their revenge for what the Bengals did to them in the playoffs last year. After getting dominated in the second half of the AFC Championship Game last year, I’d imagine the Chiefs will be looking to lay the smackdown in this rematch. We’ve seen how dangerous the Chiefs are when they’re just normally motivated for a game, so imagine what they’re going to look like when they have revenge on their mind. This should be a wildly entertaining game, though. The Bengals look like they’re going to get Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Mixon back, giving Cincinnati a complete offense with them, Joe Burrow, and Tee Higgins. And those four better be up for the challenge because there will probably be plenty of points scored in this game. I think the Chiefs will win a close game, but still win by enough to cover the spread. I could see this game coming down to the final drive, and I’m predicting that Chris Jones is going to make a game-winning or game-sealing play on that crucial drive.
Dallas Cowboys (-10.5) over Indianapolis Colts
It feels like sometimes the NFL gives us these crappy primetime games so we won’t be ungrateful when the other games in those slots only turn out to be good and not great. It’s like when a parent gives their kid a terrible gift so they’ll appreciate the socks they got in their stocking (I realize this is a terrible parenting strategy but I think it’s at least a decent analogy). This game will not be fun. It’s going to go one of two ways, and neither will be exciting. Either the Cowboys will play well and simply steamroll a bad Colts team (which will be great for my fantasy team since I have the Cowboys’ defense). Or the Colts will somehow manage to keep this game close, which will likely result in a very sloppy and low-scoring game. I’m anticipating, and hoping, for the first outcome, so that’s why I’m picking the Cowboys, even with a fairly large spread.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers over New Orleans Saints (+3.5)
There are only two possible explanations for the league putting this game on Monday Night Football. The first is that every team has to play at least one MNF game and this was just their way to check that box off for both these teams (which is true and definitely the reason). The other is that the NFL for some reason thought it was 2020 and that both of these teams were still good (which is definitely not the reason). I’m taking the Saints here because this game seems like a coin flip to me, and they’re the ones getting the points. This could definitely be a close game, either because both these teams are divisional rivals that know the other very well, or because both offenses kind of stink at the moment and may not be able to put up enough points to make this more than a three-point game.