Home team in CAPS:
RAVENS (-10.5) over Giants
Based on latest reports, Giants QB Daniel Jones is expected to be sufficiently recovered from hamstring issues to start, with Colt McCoy in reserve. Baltimore is banged up as well, but it’s seasons ahead of visitors on their franchise-development curve. The Giants likely would need to have meaningful influence on game’s tempo, and it’s not certain they’ll manage that.
Browns (-9.5) over JETS
They’re not going to shove the Clevelanders out there on the bargain counter, especially with the J-E-T-S flying high after erasing the goose-egg in their “W” column. So long as reasonable weather holds, Brownies offense should keep up the good work against this modest defense. Points don’t come easy for the Jets.
Falcons (+10.5) over CHIEFS
The presence of a generational quarterback like Patrick Mahomes builds considerable confidence in his teammates and the Chiefs’ coaching staff. Over the past month and a half, Kansas City’s ability to turn on the heat when facing stiff second-half challenges has been most impressive. Matt Ryan has a puncher’s chance to hang in, given prevailing market range.
Colts (+2) over STEELERS
It would help the Steelers to get their minds straight, given that Mike Tomlin told JuJu Smith-Schuster to restrain himself from dancing on any opposition field logos. The Steelers’ decline could accelerate otherwise, given the stiff opposition they now face. Indy is more reliable in its dome, but barring wretched weather, a mature, controlled, defense-oriented Colts approach should serve.
Bears (-7.5) over JAGUARS
With the Packers visiting Soldier Field next week, it’s classic look-ahead spot for the Chicagoans, who are looking to stage a flying finish to take down Arizona for the last NFC playoff musical chair. But! Since QB Mitch Trubisky has meaningfully stepped up his game in the season’s last quarter, the visitors’ momentum has accelerated markedly.
TEXANS (-8) over Bengals
We endorsed the Bengals on Monday night as home ’dogs versus the Steelers — and they made it look easy. We’re compelled to believe Cincy may be more than a little giddy in the wake of that performance over its most-despised rival, though we’re nervous about laying generous points with the Texans defense.
WASHINGTON (-2) over Panthers
The downtrodden NFC East is the Football Team’s to lose, and with a trip to Philadelphia next week, you must respect its chances, especially against the problematic Carolina defense. If QB Alex Smith is physically capable, he’ll start, while RB Antonio Gibson’s a maybe. RB Christian McCaffrey’s out — again — for the Panthers.
Broncos (+3.5) over CHARGERS
It takes a lot for us to go with the wildly unbalanced offense when they’re favored against an underdog sporting superior balance. That compels us to lean to Drew Lock and the Broncs, taking points, in this late-season tilt matching non-postseason prospects. Respect QB Justin Herbert, but Bolts’ head coach is scant help.
Eagles (-2.5) over COWBOYS
To apply Stengelese to the NFL: “Can anyone here win this game?” Since his concussion break, Andy Dalton has gone on an impressive late-season run under center for Dallas, and you can’t knock the Cowboys’ raw talent, though their defense remains a horror show against any franchise fielding something resembling an offense.
Rams (+1.5) over SEAHAWKS
The invaders from the Golden State will be looking to settle into their best stride to deliver a push into the postseason. A win here draws them even with Seattle (already assured some measure of postseason positioning) in the NFC West standings, and would provide them a tiebreaker edge for postseason seeding. Los Angeles’ superior stop unit and younger roster appeal.
PACKERS (-3.5) over Titans
The fact that Pack is NFC’s top power-rated squad by more than one major grading source tells you plenty about the conference’s relative weakness. Aaron Rodgers’ ball-control game-planning works much better at Lambeau, though the Titans are tough nuts to crack behind still-underrated QB Ryan Tannehill — and you get RB Derrick Henry in the bargain!
Monday NIght Football
Bills (-7) over PATRIOTS
When virtually your entire audience is inclined to swing on the same NFL side once they’ve absorbed the market openers — and key national media prognosticators join the party — any value on that side tends to evaporate, rapidly. The market also is projecting that Bill Belichick is likely to serve up Jarrett Stidham under center for the home pups.
Last week: 7-5-1. 2020