BENGALS (+3½) over Jets: Though they still have two shots at the Browns and a pleasant December visit by the Dolphins in view, there’s no time like the present for Cincinnati to sidestep 0-16 possibility. Andy Dalton’s return from the bullpen gives the home underdog optimal chance for victory, and the home side fields some semblance of a defense — up against a side short of sustained rushing power.
Packers (-6½) over GIANTS: The Packers haven’t been quite so imposing on both sides of the ball as they were through the season’s opening weeks. Aaron Rodgers figures to rebound off a bad loss at San Francisco, and the Giants can’t be thrilled about going into this battle without Golden Tate.
Panthers (-10) over REDSKINS: Washington’s second win (at home, over the banged-up, regressing Lions) is scant comfort for the home-dog fanciers. Not thrilled with this caliber of road lay with a side playing out the string, but with home ’dog trotting out an epic project at quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, The ’Skins are not our ideal vigorous home ’dog.
49ers (+6) over RAVENS: Take note: The NFC is markedly deeper than is the AFC, which has the Patriots and Ravens, and that’s it. And Bill Belichick’s stop unit is broadly superior. Chiefs, huh? What defense? San Francisco is new to the penthouse this half-decade, but their rise this season was broadly anticipated, given the strong, canny dealing/player evaluation by the franchise’s front office. Look behind labels.
COLTS (-2¹/₂) over Titans: Slight lean to home side, given surface line value and Indianapolis’ sustained knack for making good versus divisional foes.
DOLPHINS (+9¹/₂) over Eagles: Marked favorites seeking refuge from the frozen North have long been vulnerable against seemingly inferior warm-weather sides this time of year. Philadelphia is injury-ravaged (no Jordan Howard), though Dallas’ sustained issues dangle hope for Philly that the NFC East title remains within reach.
Buccaneers (+1) over JAGUARS: Tampa Bay was pounded to perdition by touts at the market’s opening, as the Jaguars remain the league’s poster boys for sheer franchise mediocrity. So long as Jameis Winston doesn’t turn the ball over more than, say, once, hard-pressed to envision Tampa losing, given their superior skill people … big if, we know.
Browns (-2) over STEELERS: Those who’ve resisted the grossly premature siren songs singing praises for these Browns throughout this season have ducked trouble, since Cleveland has covered just four times this year despite the bull stories. Even with quick revenge motivations for the Steelers, compelled to call for a Cleveland seasonal sweep, given newbie QB Duck Hodges draws the starting assignment for home side.
CARDINALS (+3) over Rams: The visitors continue to disappoint — not surprising, since they were gifted their Super Bowl ticket in last year’s conference championship game. The Cards’ ground game has improved, and are you convinced Jared Goff can take full advantage of Arizona’s secondary?
Raiders (+10) over CHIEFS: Oh, hosannas, Andy Reid off a bye, shiver me timbers. The Chiefs coach has a sparkling history using extra time to maximum effect — though we remind that in the majority of such cases, Reid fielded a defense markedly superior to his wormy ’19 model. The Raiders are improved beyond question, and will be embarrassed off plotz at JetLife. Tread with caution, though, given likely cold-weather effects on Left Coast visitors.
Chargers (-3) over BRONCOS: The Bolts have revenge working for an ugly Week 5 home loss. Other than their sizeable wins over the Packers and the Dolphins, every Chargers game this season featured a final margin within a touchdown — nothing new for these visitors. Philip Rivers gets a cookie, if (when!) the Broncos activate rookie QB Drew Lock and begin to find out just what they’ve got there.
Patriots (-3) over TEXANS: Houston continues to top the AFC South, though the division remains tighter than paint on a fence, and the Texans need it much more within their division than do the Pats — so long as Tom Brady and Co. continue to take care of business, and if flu bug effects are minimal. Defense travels — and the Pats remain strategic masters of whatever Belichick puts his mind to.
Vikings (+3) at SEAHAWKS: It’s likely to be chillier than we’d prefer at game time, but Kirk Cousins hasn’t taken a false step at quarterback in weeks — even as much as we respect Russell Wilson and the Seahawks in prime-time, stand-alone games. The Vikings and Packers are tied atop the NFC Central, but Green Bay has the easier path, and Minnesota is under greater pressure to avoid wild-card status.
Last week: 5-8.
Follow Richard Witt on Twitter: @rich_witt1
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