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Philadelphia at DETROIT (-2.5)
There's a reasonable chance that the Eagles will dead cat bounce now that they are away from their mean mean mean fans, who don't seem to say nice things when they pay to see a fraud. But the Lions have a WR1 in Calvin Johnson and a tolerable QB in Matthew Stafford, which is more than DC Billy Davis can scheme for, since it might involve doing something more than lining everyone up against the man they are supposed to guard, and seeing what happens. Oh, and the defense has been a sieve since Jordan Hicks went down, nine quarters ago, because DeMecco Ryans is old and sad, and Kiko Alonso is gun-shy about injury.
Lions 31, Eagles 20
CAROLINA (+1.5) at Dallas
Good heavens, America, this is a 10-0 team visiting a 3-7 outfit. The 10-0 team is from a good division; the 3-7 outfit is from a dumpster fire. You have to love how Vegas sets lines based on what the betting public goes for, and just how many delusional Cowboys fans are out there.
I get that the 3-7 team has to run the table and got back QB1 last week, but CB Josh Norman might make WR Dez Bryant disappear, LB Luke Kuchley might end TE Jason Witten, and then it's Tony Romo throwing to Colt Beasley and handing off to Darren McFadden for the meh. That's not generating more than 20 points. And QB Cam Newton is playing the best ball of his life, and will get more than that. Give him some short fields with turnovers, and he may get a lot more.
Panthers 26, Cowboys 16
Chicago at GREEN BAY (-8.5)
Two things happened in last week's Packers-Vikings game. The first was that the Pack found their running game, with RB Eddie Lacy looking useful again. The second was that their pass rush showed up on defense. All of a sudden, this team looks a lot more like the unbeaten outfit that started the year, and at home against their ancestral punching bag (at least during the entire Jay Cutler era), it's going to eventually be a runaway. Chicago is better than expected, but when push comes to shove, Cutler is Cutler.
Packers 34, Bears 20
OAKLAND (-1.5) at Tennessee
Coin flip game, so give me the road team with a handful of playmakers. Oakland has also looked more able to handle road games than in past years, though their pass defense is far from airtight.
Raiders 24, Titans 20
Buffalo at KANSAS CITY (-6)
Would be a more intriguing game if QB Tyrod Taylor was healthy, or if the Bills had won in New England. KC has been on fire for the better part of a month, and HC Andy Reid has a long history of coaching rings around sideshow types like Rex Ryan. Add in the fierce KC crowd, and they'll cover, but I'd feel better about this line if RB Charcandrick West was 100%.
Chiefs 24, Bills 16
Tampa at INDIANAPOLIS (-3)
Tempted to go with the road team here, as they certainly looked great last week with two healthy WRs and RB Doug Martin giving QB Jameis Winston all the support he could want. But the Colts at home will have a home field advantage, and might actually disguise a coverage or two, perhaps with a defense that doesn't give up first downs as if they were business cards at a convention. Besides, the every/other rule of the NFL has to come into play at some point.
Colts 26, Bucs 20
NY GIANTS (-2.5) at Washington
Can Big Blue save the world from having to think any more than is absolutely necessary about which NFC lEast team will be one and done in the playoffs? A win in DC would sure help matters a lot, and with the team coming off a bye, getting a semblance of a pass rush from Darwin Award winner Jason Pierre-Paul, and a chance at the aerial attack that they've been hoping for all along might be enough. These games are always a sluggish mess, though. Fitting for this division.
Giants 27, Racial Slurs 19
New Orleans at HOUSTON (-3)
The Saints try for a dead cat bounce from their suddenly Ryan-free defense, but they've never been a very good road team, and the Texan defense has been showing some teeth recently. Combine that with the actual best WR in the NFL -- imagine what DeAndre Hopkins could do with an actual QB -- and it's a win for the home team.
Texans 27, Saints 20
MINNESOTA (+1) at Atlanta
If there's an NFC team disappointing its fanbase more than Philadelphia, it might be Atlanta, who are doing everything they can to squander a fast start into a collapse. Last week saw them blow a game to the Luck-less Colts while coming off a bye, while this one will see them just flat-out lose to an angry Vikings team. Not having RB and TD spirit animal Devonta Freeman also won't help.
Vikings 23, Falcons 20
St. Louis at CINCINNATI (-8.5)
Did Jeff Fisher take evil pills when no one was looking? First he chuckles while Teddy Bridgewater gets concussed, then he keeps QB2 Case Keenum in the game when the guy is obviously addled. All of this is squandering the great gift that is RB Todd Gurley, but the Ram franchise has a long and proud history of wasting quality RB play. As for the Bengals, close but not quite in their vengeance game against Carson Palmer and the Cards next week, and ready to put up a big number on a Ram team that's looking quitterish to me. Especially on the road.
Bengals 34, Rams 13
San Diego at JACKSONVILLE (-3.5)
There ain't no quit like a team that's leaving town quit, and the Chargers are halfway on the bus, by all indications. Last week's de-pantsing at home to the Chiefs was dog ugly, and it won't get better with a 10am PST / 1pm EST game against the frisky Jags, who can do some things. Like win this game easily, for one.
Jaguars 27, Chargers 17
Miami at NY JETS (-3.5)
Boy, the AFC lEast really is just a festival of sad, isn't it? The Jets have been squandering a tolerable start, while the Dolphins have been up and mostly down all year. I believe in the Jets' talent level more, and think a home game will be OK, but this isn't exactly a high confidence pick.
Jets 26, Dolphins 19
ARIZONA (-10.5) at San Francisco
Niners have been friskier than expected with QB Blaine Gabbert under center, but the Cardinals are a complete team, and the Niner skill guys wouldn't frighten in pre-season. Winning time for real contenders, especially if they want to get a first round bye.
Cardinals 31, Niners 17
PITTSBURGH (+3.5) at Seattle
Gut-check time for the potentially playoff-free Seahawks, and they'll also have to live without RB Marshawn Lynch. Back-up Thomas Rawls has been solid, but back to back and with a weak offensive line is a different matter entirely. Look for QB Ben Roethlisberger to do 300+ yards of damage in his first game in Seattle, with lots of action and suspiciously loud calls for HEATH Miller from Road Steeler Fan. There's a reason why Super Bowl Loser is such a hard beat to bounce back from. And jeez, NFL, all of two 4 pm games this week. Screw you people.
Steelers 34, Seahawks 20
New England at DENVER (+3)
The increasingly battered and bloodied unbeaten Pats come to Denver not to face Peyton Manning, but QB2 (secretly the best QB on the roster) Brock Osweiler. Denver needs the game, has the kind of defense that can mess with tempo, and will benefit from Osweiler's mobility in a close and hard-fought game that will, in the long run, mean a lot more to Denver than New England.
Broncos 27, Patriots 24
Baltimore at CLEVELAND (-2.5)
Matt Schaub! Josh McNown! The worst telecast in the NFL, only because they have a half dozen braying jackasses in the pre and post game! Yet another game after something like a half dozen better ones on your screen for two out of the last four days! Two teams with massive injury and instability issues playing for nothing! Are you ready for some self-hate? I know I am... going to be watching something else. Give me the team with less Schaub. Always.
Browns 23, Ravens 16
Last week: 9-4-1