NEW ENGLAND (8-2) -16.5 vs Miami (4-6)
42 degrees and windy in New England. Jay Cutler may get the start despite being in the concussion protocol all week. Our prediction: Miasma scores less than 10. Belichick credited for amazing defensive turnaround. New England keeps scoring because Miami is the worst 4-6 team in history. That’s the best part of Miami’s season. They’ve been the worst “X and X” team in history ever since week 6, when they were 4-2 and got blown out 40-0 in London by the mediocre Ravens. Then a close loss to the Raiders, a blowout by Carolina, and a close loss to Tampa Bay. They play the Pats twice in the next 3 weeks, on their way to being the worst 4-9 team in history. Against the Pats in week 14, Miami may be only the 3rd 17+ point home underdog since 2003. The good news? The other two teams both covered. The bad news? Weeks 12 and 13 must happen first.
Our “Give In To the Dark Side” Pick of the Week: Patriots -16.5
PHILADELPHIA (9-1) -13.5 vs Chicago (3-7)
These picks are late because we’re trying to find a reason to take the Bears. We’ve come up with nothing. Which sucked until we realized that this is exactly why the Bears will cover.
If Philly watched the rest of the NFC East collectively throw up on themselves on Thanksgiving, they should be resting easy about their upcoming division win. So, the trap looms.
Philly has been dominating games on the ground. 145 ypg while allowing only 71. They’ve given up a full 100 yards fewer on the ground than the next best rushing defense (Carolina), but also have the fewest carries against because their offense scores right off the bat and forces teams into playing catchup through the air. Opponents have thrown it more against the Eagles than any other team. The Bears have the 9th best rushing defense in yards per play. We think this will matter.
If the Mitchell Trubisky Experience continues to develop, and the team protects the ball, we think this game will be close.
Pick: Bears +13.5
ATLANTA (6-4) -9.5 vs Tampa Bay (4-6)
We think Atlanta will keep rolling here. Looking at their schedule they have to start right away. They’ll need to go 4-2 the rest of the way to make the playoffs, and have the Saints twice, the Bucs twice, Minnesota, and Carolina. Yikes. If they don't roll over the Bucs this week the fans can get ready to complain about parking at Braves games next year.
Pick: Falcons -9.5
Carolina (7-3) -4.5 at NY JETS (4-6)
The Panthers must keep pace too. Cam Newton gets Greg Olsen back this week after his week 1 injury, which we like as another option in the passing game. Maybe now when McCaffrey’s in the game teams won't automatically know it’s a pass play.
The smart money says that the Jets are a good play as a home underdog, since they play with passion and Carolina has a nasty habit (for bettors) of playing down to their competition. But we think something else is at play here. The NFC South is a really strong division, and the Panthers have only a slightly easier schedule remaining than the Falcons. It’s likely that these 3 teams (Saints, Panthers, Falcons) will beat each other up over then next 6 weeks to get to the playoffs. The result is that they separate from the bad teams and push each other to a 3-way tie at 11-5.
Pick: Panthers -4.5
KANSAS CITY (6-4) -9.5 vs Buffalo (5-5)
Andy Reid’s bye week record got a black mark last week when the Chiefs put up a terrible 12-9 loss to the Giants. We’re going to give his bye week record a bye and say that he might not have noticed that the Giants game was an actual NFL game. Eli Manning tried to wear the orange practice jersey in the first series, you know the one that the QB wears in preseason so the other players know not to hit him? Eli figured that if he did that it would save him having to turn his back and throw the ball at the ground when the pass protection breaks down. Crazy thing is that it worked.
The Chiefs have every right to be furious at their performance last week. And the one before that, and that, and that, and that. They’re 1-4 in their last 5, with losses to the Raiders, Cowboys, and Giants. They beat the Broncos and had a close loss to the Steelers (who sometimes don't show up). That followed a 5-0 start including victories over the Pats, Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, and pre-Watson-injury Texans.
Even if that September team is the real Chiefs, we don't see why this is the week that the offense gets started again. Even against the Bills, who are starting a really pissed-off Tyrod Taylor. A Bills victory here gets them back over .500 and on the inside track to a wild-card spot. Which is as ridiculous as it sounds, but we like them to cover 9.5.
Pick: Bills +9.5
Tennessee (6-4) -3.5 vs INDIANAPOLIS (3-7)
This line opened at 4.5 and moved almost immediately to 3.5. The tickets are basically even, but 80% of the moneyline bets are on the Titans. We think it means that the public sentiment is on the Titans to win by 3.
Tennessee can and should walk into the playoffs by going 3-1 in their next 4, against Indy, Houston, Arizona, and the 49ers. They close their season with the Rams and the Jaguars, two defenses that will shut them down.
The Colts are coming off the bye and a strong 20-17 loss to the Steelers. Before that, the knock on them was that they played bad teams close and got blown out by good teams. That explains their -101 point differential, second worst in the league (Cleveland, -109). We think it’s a misleading stat in this case. Tennessee shouldn’t be giving anybody points on the road.
Pick: Colts +3.5
CINCINNATI (4-6) -8.5 vs Cleveland (0-10)
80% of both the tickets and the straight bets are on Cincinnati. It’s a rule of thumb that when 80%+ of the tickets are on one side, the sharp money will take the other side. Doesn't hold here, because the pros have all but abandoned the Browns. Not even +300 odds are enticing people to pick the Browns. There’s no value there because they’re 2-8 against the spread, also last in the league. They’re losing games by an average of 10.1 points, and losing against the spread by an average of 4.4 points/game. This implies that they’ve been an underdog by an average of 5.7 points. So, do you really think the Bengals matchup is tougher than the Browns average game this year? We don’t either.
Pick: Browns +8.5