|At Least It's Grand|
This is all happening against a backdrop of dropping ratings and not terribly interesting storylines, which means it's even harder to figure out who is for real, and who is just getting fortunate with turnovers and flags. I thought I was getting the hang of things, but then last week happened, where momentum just kept going up and down.
Well, back at it and back on the horse, especially as we're deep into the realm of teams with unequal rest. Some teams do well with it, while others sleep their way into sorrow. And with that... on to the picks!
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Atlanta at TAMPA BAY (+3.5)
Time for the Falcons to start coming back to the pack, especially when it comes to road work on slow tracks against teams that give them trouble historically. The Bucs aren't healthy in the running game, but they are well and truly due for a home win, and the Falcons could come in flat after surviving the Packers this week.
Bucs 30, Falcons 27
PITTSBURGH (+2.5) at Baltimore
A bit of a faith pick in QB Ben Roethlisberger coming back quickly and well from injury, and finally have a good game on the road... but the Ravens aren't good, and it's past time for the Steelers to show their quality, especially when they finally have the best trio in the NFL (Ben, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell) in the lineup.
Steelers 34, Ravens 26
DALLAS (-7) at Cleveland
OK, I give up. The Cowboys are the best team in the NFC, able to win even when they don't play a clean game because they get breaks and calls, and the defense makes just enough plays to win games. In a road game where their fans will outnumber Cleveland's, they'll be smart enough to run it a lot, WR Dez Bryant will have the rust shaken off, CB Joe Haden won't be able to keep up, and so on, and so on. I'm totally not picking against them to jinx them.
Cowboys 27, Browns 20
Jacksonville at KANSAS CITY (+9)
The Chiefs' defense is really starting to feel its oats, and against the super mistake-prone Jags at home, they're going to run up a big lead and grind them into hamburger. The usual Jag back-door cover doesn't happen this time.
Chiefs 34, Jaguars 20
NY JETS (+3.5) at Miami
In the first half of the Cleveland game, the Jets were stumbling, bumbling, and lifeless, with the Browns looking like they were finally going to get a win, right in the middle of the Indians' World Series appearance to boot. But then the second half started, the running game and defense made a few plays, and this veteran team with strong line work finally started to look like last year's team. Against a Dolphins club that is utterly erratic and needs a dominant running game to succeed, I think they get it done again.
Jets 24, Dolphins 16
PHILADELPHIA (+2.5) at NY Giants
Philly's third straight game against a team coming off the bye -- thanks, NFL, Philly Fan has nothing to worry about when it comes to paranoid conspiracy theories! -- is a leap of faith, in that I just think they've got a better collection of talent, and will bounce back. The Giants are favorites and should be, especially at home and off a bye, but they can be one-dimensional with a weak running game, and the OL doesn't give enough time for the deep routes that break games for them. Against the Eagle DL and blitz schemes that can do major damage, I think they get it done. Oh, and it would also be nice if they don't fumble the damn ball with a fourth quarter lead, too.
Eagles 27, Giants 20
DETROIT (+6) at Minnesota
Minny's got a two-game losing streak, big problems in the offensive line, and a defense that's older than most people realize, which mean that they aren't getting better as the season moves on. With a short week against a best in career Matthew Stafford (who is proving that a QB who trusts many WR options is more dangerous than one who forces the ball to WR1 -- no one tell Dak Prescott about this, please), I think the line's too high.
Vikings 24, Lions 20
CAROLINA (-3) at LA Rams
Did the Panthers get well last week with their win against Arizona? The Rams on the road may be a tougher test, but this is an offense that is just easier to game plan against. Besides, Jeff Fisher is not so secretly terrible as a coach, and just the kind of guy that inspires a flat first half after a bye.
Panthers 27, Rams 22
New Orleans at SAN FRANCISCO (+3.5)
The Niners have been a train wreck for so long now that people are talking about Chip "Nero" Kelly bouncing to college, which means that it's time for them to come through with an unexpected win against a terrible road team that's coming off a massive win. The Saints don't have a good running game right now, which is the best way to turn the Niners into a speed bump, and their defense isn't smart or good enough to stop Kelly's 3 years past its prime schemes. Besides, QB Colin Kaepernick has to have a few moments of triumph as White America's most hated player.
Niners 26, Saints 24
TENNESSEE (+5.5) at San Diego
Long rest, a possibly forced move to RB2 / Actual RB1 Derrick Henry, and a Charger team that's probably feeling too filled with themselves after finally winning a close game in Atlanta. I get that the Charger DL is much improved, but the LBs aren't, and this one has tight all day cover written all over it.
Chargers 24, Titans 20
Indianapolis at GREEN BAY (-7)
Dome team on the road, a Packer club that can get after passers with weak O-lines, and QB Aaron Rodgers looking like his old self? Time for the Packers to actually get well, and for the Colts to continue stumbling their way through the wasted years of Andrew Luck's life.
Packers 34, Colts 24
DENVER (-1) at Oakland
Sunday Night for the suddenly prosperous Raiders, who have been road warriors and have a shot at seizing control of the West with a win over the sputtering defending champions. Unfortunately for the home team, Denver's defense travels, and the Raider defense has real issues getting off the field. Denver's history in Oakland is robust, and young teams usually struggle under the lights when they aren't used to it.
Broncos 26, Raiders 24
Buffalo at SEATTLE (-7)
If the Bills were healthy, I'd like their chances for a back-door cover, because the Seahawks OL and QB just aren't operating at a high level right now. But with multiple WR injuries, a slowed LeSean McCoy and Charles Clay, and the exceptionally long road trip, I think the Hawks extend the lead late.
Seahawks 27, Bills 17
Last week: 5-7-1