For a second consecutive week, the N.F.L. does not have an obvious contender for a great game. All of the matchups seem one-sided, and no shake-ups at the top of the league seem imminent. That being said, mismatches can turn into upsets when teams do not take their preparations seriously, so some of these games could turn interesting in a hurry.
Last week’s record against the spread: 7-5-1
Overall record: 64-65-3
Texans at Rams, 4:05 p.m., CBS
Line: Rams by 12
It is easy to get caught up in focusing on what has changed for an improving team than on the foundation of its success. In the case of the Rams (6-2), an uptick in offense has managed to steal attention from a defense that has been quietly excellent for years.
Everything starts up front for Los Angeles, with Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. Donald, the team’s mammoth defensive tackle, is not only rated as the top defensive lineman by Pro Football Focus, but he is also the highest graded player at any position. Traditional statistics for interior linemen fail to capture a player’s true value, but Donald manages to be one of the few defensive tackles who is elite in stopping both the pass and the run. If you watch enough Rams games you know that despite being 285 pounds, he does not embarrass himself or his team when he drops back into coverage.
Donald and Brockers are an ideal pairing inside, and they are complemented on defense by several other top-level players including a star-studded secondary that features Lamarcus Joyner, John Johnson, Kayvon Webster and Nickell Robey-Coleman. While the defense has struggled some to stop the run, it has been tremendous against the pass, allowing an average of 223.6 yards a game through the air and an opposing quarterback rating of 75.6, which is the fourth lowest mark in the N.F.L. They are a top-six team in both interceptions and sacks, and their average of 19.4 points allowed a game is good but also inflated by a pair of high-scoring wins against San Francisco and Dallas.
All of that should add up to a horrible day for the Texans (3-5). Tom Savage is not a good quarterback regardless of opponent, but with him running away from Donald and trying to throw into tight coverage, he should be especially bad.
Here’s the tricky thing about picking this game: 12 points is an enormous spread, even at home, and Jared Goff, while vastly improved from last season, is still inconsistent. There is not much concern that the Rams could lose, but a few garbage-time touchdowns are likely to swing the spread in favor of Houston. Pick: Texans
Cowboys at Falcons, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Falcons by 3
Atlanta’s season can be summed up in one play from last week: Matt Ryan throwing a perfect 40-yard pass to a wide-open Julio Jones in the end zone, and Jones simply dropping the ball. It was such a painful and shocking turn of events — the play came on fourth down with the Falcons (4-4) trailing by 10 points — that Kurt Coleman, a defensive back for the Panthers, walked over to console Jones. Such is life for Atlanta a year after a magical run to the Super Bowl ended with a brutal collapse. There is some intrigue in this game still, as neither team knows if Ezekiel Elliott will be allowed to play, but with the recent improvement the Cowboys (5-3) have shown on both sides of the ball, Dallas should be in line for a road win regardless of what happens in Thursday’s court hearing. Pick: Cowboys
Patriots at Broncos, 8:30 p.m., NBC
Line: Patriots by 7.5
Before anyone gets too excited about the Patriots (6-2) drastically cutting down the number of passing yards the team allowed in its last two games, it is worth noting that they gave up an average of 138.5 rushing yards a game in the two wins. New England’s defense might just not have that higher gear, but it is not as if the Broncos (3-5) and Brock Osweiler present much of a challenge. Add in C. J. Anderson working his way through an ankle injury and Denver does not seem to have the personnel to keep up with New England, no matter how bad the Patriots’ defense is. Pick: Patriots
Vikings at Redskins, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Vikings by 1
The error margin for Case Keenum has been reduced to zero. If Keenum, a career backup, wants to remain at starting quarterback for the Vikings (6-2), he will need to keep winning. Teddy Bridgewater has been cleared to play, and unless his knee injury has turned him into an entirely different quarterback, he represents an enormous upgrade for Minnesota. With that in mind, the Redskins (4-4) could be a problem for Keenum because they are far more talented than their 4-4 record indicates. Their four losses have come against the Eagles (twice), the Chiefs (when that team looked unbeatable) and the Cowboys. Last week’s win over Seattle showed that they are resilient and that Kirk Cousins continues to be fearless. Taking too many chances against Minnesota’s secondary could be dangerous, but a Redskins win, and Bridgewater’s return to the field a week later, seem well within the realm of possibilities. Pick: Redskins
Saints at Bills, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Saints by 2.5
The Saints (6-2) are a passing team that loves playing indoors, so a trip to Buffalo on a chilly Sunday afternoon should present an interesting test. A huge factor in how they fare, though, will come in which version of the Bills (5-3) shows up. Two weeks ago, Buffalo looked great and easily beat the Raiders, but last week, they were hardly competitive against the Jets, allowing 194 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. It is that rushing success by the Jets that the Saints may want to pay attention to: In Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, they have the running backs to exploit the same weakness. Another win would be seven in a row for New Orleans. More important, it would improve the team’s road record to 4-1. Pick: Saints
Steelers at Colts, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Steelers by 10.5
The Steelers (6-2) have settled into a groove. Their defense shuts things down, keeping the score nice and low, and their offense, despite the presence of three of the N.F.L.’s biggest stars, does just enough to win. Whether it is the aging of Ben Roethlisberger, tension among players or their opponents adjusting to a unit that has been together for several seasons, they just don’t run up the score the way they used to. Going on the road against the Colts (3-6) does not present a true upset opportunity: The Steelers are extremely likely to win, but a spread of 10.5 points seems high considering Pittsburgh’s track record. Pick: Colts
Seahawks at Cardinals, 8:25 p.m. (Thursday), NBC
Line: Seahawks by 6
The Seahawks (5-3) are one game removed from a four-game winning streak, but the defense has taken a huge step back in the last few weeks: Both the Texans and the Redskins showed no fear in throwing directly into Seattle’s secondary. Injuries are a factor, with Earl Thomas out and Richard Sherman playing through injuries, but it is still shocking to see teams have so much success throwing the ball against them. Drew Stanton of the Cardinals (4-4) is not an aggressive passer like Deshaun Watson or Kirk Cousins, so the same level of exploitation should not be expected. Arizona will probably try to make up for that by running early and often with the veteran back Adrian Peterson, and while he has performed well since coming over from New Orleans, he may not find as much room to run this week. Thursday games are messy, but Seattle has had success in Arizona, and if it wants to avoid falling way behind the Rams in the N.F.C. West, this game needs to be something of a statement. Pick: Seahawks
Chargers at Jaguars, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Jaguars by 4
The Jaguars (5-3) had a nearly perfect defense with one glaring flaw: It could not stop the run. A trade for Marcell Dareus, a run-stopping defensive tackle who was a known quantity to Coach Doug Marrone, may not deserve all the credit for last week’s effort (29 rushing yards allowed), but if he has whipped the unit into shape, Jacksonville will be hard to score upon.
The Chargers (3-5) are an interesting test for that theory, as Melvin Gordon, their star running back, is the type of player who would have torched the Jaguars in previous weeks. If Dareus stops him, then Jacksonville’s run of losing in even-numbered weeks of the season may finally end.
On offense, the Jaguars should get a nice boost from Leonard Fournette, who showed up to practice on time during the week, which will get him back on the field after he was held out for a violation of team rules. Pick: Jaguars
Browns at Lions, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Lions by 12.5
The Lions (4-4) may not look like a playoff contender, with a .500 record and several frustrating losses, but they have been considerably better than their record, and last week’s win at Green Bay opened the door for them to go on a winning streak ahead of their Week 12 showdown with division-leading Minnesota. The Browns (0-8) are a speed bump on that path. Detroit will probably not cover the 12.5-point spread, but if it cares about its playoff hopes it will win the game. Pick: Browns
Jets at Buccaneers, 1 p.m., CBS
Line: Jets by 2.5
With Jameis Winston having been shut down for at least two weeks, the Buccaneers (2-6) will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. It is a downgrade from Winston at full strength, but probably an upgrade from the way Winston had played since injuring his shoulder. Add the revenge factor of Fitzpatrick’s playing against the Jets (4-5), who discarded him a season after he set the franchise single-season record for passing touchdowns, and this could turn into a mild upset. Pick: Buccaneers
Packers at Bears, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Bears by 5
The statistics for Mitchell Trubisky are not that much better than those for Brett Hundley, but the difference between them is that Trubisky, the rookie quarterback for the Bears (3-5), is trying to overcome his subpar wide receivers, while Hundley, a third-year backup for the Packers (4-4), has teammates on offense that made Green Bay a Super Bowl contender until Hundley replaced the injured Aaron Rodgers. Hundley’s lack of production has partially been a result of an ultraconservative game plan, but an opportunistic Bears defense may make him pay if he tries to be aggressive in his third career start. Pick: Bears
Bengals at Titans, 1 p.m., Fox
Line: Titans by 4.5
The Bengals (3-5) got a huge boost for this matchup when the N.F.L. chose not to suspend A. J. Green over his fight during a loss to Jacksonville last week. His presence gives Cincinnati enough offense to compete, and while the Titans (5-3) have won back-to-back games, they have put little distance between themselves and their lowly opponents (Baltimore and Cleveland). This will probably be another close game. Pick: Bengals
Giants at 49ers, 4:25 p.m., Fox
Line: Giants by 1
With how poorly the 49ers (0-9) have played in almost every facet of the game, having a reason for optimism is a welcome change. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, acquired in a recent trade with New England, represents that optimism, but San Francisco has yet to make any commitment about when, or if, he will play. If the young and talent-deprived team insists on sticking with C. J. Beathard for another week, the Giants (1-7) are destined for their second win. Pick: Giants
Dolphins at Panthers, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Line: Panthers by 9
For a second consecutive week, a prime-time audience will be forced to endure the atrocious offense of the Dolphins (4-4). It was supposed to be a breakout season for Miami, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill leading several star-level wide receivers and a young Pro Bowler at running back in Jay Ajayi. Instead, Tannehill is out for the season, Ajayi was traded to Philadelphia and the Dolphins’ wide receivers are left shuffling along for a team that often struggles to score in double digits. The Panthers (6-3) are inconsistent and frustrating, but their defense may look to prove a point by making this game a laugher. Pick: Panthers.
Published at Thu, 09 Nov 2017 17:26:06 +0000