Tag Archives: Carolina Panthers

Patriots Defense Looks Ready For 2019 With 10-3 Win Over Carolina

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots improved to 3-0 in the preseason with a 10-3 win over the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night. 

As we’ve seen during the first two preseason games with mainly the backup defense, the starting unit played for the first time and was dominating, holding Carolina to just 29 yards in five first-half drives. The Panthers could only manage two first downs and were 0-5 on third downs, managing just 1.7 yards per play. 

Once again, despite not having “a dominant pass rusher” the unit hounded Cam Newton for a few series before he left with a foot injury after being sacked by Adam Butler. Newton played in his first preseason action after offseason surgery. 

The starting unit registered three sacks with Butler, Michael Bennett, and Kyle Van Noy taking down the Panthers’ QB. Ufombra Kamalu had the Patriots other sack. Carolina only had a total of 99 yards of offense with 48 passing and 51 rushing and could only muster seven first downs in the entire game.

Other observations include:

Brady Looks Sharp In Preseason Debut:

Tom Brady and much of the first unit offense were in for three series and scored one touchdown, with the other two drives wiped out by penalties. With no Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, and Josh Gordon [NFI] in the lineup, Brady was targeting mainly Phillip Dorsett [5 targets, 5 catches for 41 yards] and rookie Jakobi Meyers.

Meyers got off to a rough start with Brady. He stopped running on a deep route, had a drop on a drag route where the pass was slightly behind him and had another pass batted away by cornerback James Bradberry. 

Brady ended up 8-12 for 75 yards, his two best throws were an 18-yard laser down the seam to Ryan Izzo and a nicely zipped pass on the outside to Dorsett. He looks ready to go. 

Dorsett and Michel Shine in Early Action: 

Dorsett was targeted five times by Brady and twice by Stidham and hauled in all seven passes thrown his way.  He looked quick off the line and sure-handed as he and Brady were locked in one another. It was a good veteran performance as he stepped up with all of the other players missing and with Harris missing, Dorsett has solidified his grip on a roster spot. Many have him neck and neck with Harris. He didn’t hurt his chances with a solid game tonight.

Michel looked quick to the hole, decisive and elusive. He made people miss with some outstanding, explosive cuts and looks absolutely ready for the regular season. While he had just 36 yards on 10 carries, those numbers are skewed somewhat as he had two runs including a really nice 30-yard run wiped out by a holding penalty downfield, [Meyers] and was stuffed on the goal line twice, once where the TE [Saubert] missed his block.  

Starting Offensive Line Play Encouraging, Backups…Not So Much:

The Patriots starting unit did a good job of protecting Brady and other than some holding penalties that have to be cleaned up, did a nice job of opening holes for Michel and the running game. And this was against a very good Carolina front seven. 

The starting unit of Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon was solid overall. Wynn, other than a whiff on a screen to Dorsett once again appears to be well on his way after his injury last summer that wiped out his rookie season.

The backup offensive linemen had a rougher evening. Carolina sacked Jarrett Stidham five times and registered eight QB hits. While two of the sacks were the result of the rookie QB holding the ball too long, this wasn’t a great night for the backups.

Injuries Pile Up:

There were several players who didn’t suit up on Thursday night. N’Keal Harry, Maurice Harris, Josh Gordon [NFI], Cam Meredith [PUP], Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater, Obi Melifonwu, Patrick Chung, Trent Harris, Martez Ivey, Yodny Cajuste [NFI], Matt LaCosse, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers. Edelman, James White, and Demaryius Thomas dressed but didn’t play.

During the game, Kyle Van Noy, Nate Ebner, Damien Harris, Ben Watson, Gunner Olszewski, Lance Kendricks, and Stephen Anderson all left with injuries. Van Noy and Ebner returned, the rest did not. Brandon King was carted off with what appeared to be a serious leg injury. 

Quick Hitters:

Jarrett Stidham – once again appeared good, not as good as last week but his protection wasn’t nearly as strong. Belichick made the decision to replace Brady not with Brian Hoyer, but with the rookie. This was a chance to see what the rookie can do against the better players who will be there in the fall. They know what they have in Hoyer, so he sat. Stidham completed 15-19 for 134 yards. He hit some tight windows.

Gunner Olszewski – had a really good night in the punt return game. He called for a fair catch on his first where it appeared he had plenty of room to run, but after that he had four returns for 63 yards. He caught one pass for 15 yards from Stidham and it was then that he was injured and didn’t return.

Stephen Gostkowski – missed a field goal for the third straight game although this one was firmly on the hands of rookie Jake Bailey who put the ball down with the laces facing the kicker….”laces out Dan!” This will have to be cleaned up moving forward.

Jake Bailey – Speaking of the rookie, despite his gaffe holding for the field goal, he was outstanding in his punting, averaging 48 yards in his four attempts, putting two inside the 20-yard line and with excellent hang time. The Panthers had just five yards on three punt returns, because of how long the ball was in the air. 

Calvin Munson – continues his strong summer. He appears quick and is all over the field. He had four tackles, one for a loss, plays special teams and with King down, may just crack the 53-man roster.

Jakobi Meyers – After an inauspicious start with Brady, the rookie WR settled down with Stidham and made seven catches 74 yards. He’s shown good chemistry with Brady during joint practices, he’ll have to learn from this and shake it off. 

Penalties – The yellow flags continue to pile up against the Patriots, this has to be a very sore spot with Belichick and the coaching staff. Last week they got flagged numerous times for hands to the face, tonight it was holding. However, the Panthers did challenge two non-call Defensive Pass Interference plays and both were upheld.

The Giants come in a week from tonight for the final preseason tilt. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

What to Watch For, Preseason Week 3 Patriots vs Panthers

Steve Balestrieri
August 22, 2019 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots are taking on the Carolina Panthers tonight in Foxboro for the third preseason game for both teams. This is the week that the starters traditionally see a lot of game action. But I have always disliked the term “dress rehearsal”, so for the eighth year in a row here at PatsFans.com, I’ll use my favorite quote from Willie Nelson. My wife and I spent time back and onstage with Willie at one venue and partied on his bus with him at others. [Those are stories for a different time.] But Willie’s words ring true.

“There are no dress rehearsals, we are professionals and this IS the big time”

So, both teams’ starters should see about a half of work and maybe a series in the second half to get acclimated to the entire process. This will be Cam Newton’s first game action this year after off-season shoulder surgery. So, he may not be as apt as he’s shown in the past about tucking the ball away and running with it. This will also be Tom Brady’s first preseason action this summer.

So, what are we looking for from a Patriots perspective tonight? 

Can Brady and the New Faces Click on Offense?

Julian Edelman came off of NFI on Monday, Demaryius Thomas was removed from PUP on Tuesday. I don’t imagine either will play. Josh Gordon is still on NFI and has already been ruled out of tonight’s game. N’Keal Harry just returned to practice this week and may not play either. 

So, this will be a really big test for Jakobi Meyers, going against the top Carolina defense as Brady’s go-to receiver. Phillip Dorsett and Braxton Berrios should also get a lot of snaps with the first unit. 

This should be a good time to see how Sony Michel and Damien Harris are used out of the backfield in the passing game, something they’ve worked on this summer. We know James White’s value there, but the coaches made a concerted effort to by more unpredictable this summer. Michel and Harris should handle the bulk of the work in the running game. Isaiah Wynn’s workload should increase this week and we want to see how he handles this as well as how he holds up against a stout Panthers defense.

Matt LaCosse is back on the field after being injured in Detroit, and this is his opportunity to shine. No one has really stepped up at tight end this summer, so this a big chance to carve out a role with the team. 

How Well the Front Seven [Starters] can Create Pressure:

We’ve seen the top guys dominate in workouts and joint practices. The second and third-tier guys have looked really good in preseason games, but now the starters get to show their stuff. And they get a good test against a Panthers team that has given them problems in the past.

With players like Micheal Bennett, Dont’a Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy getting into their first game action of the year, mixing in Jamie Collins, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, and John Simon, we’ll get a better idea on how they are planning on using these players. In particular, will the coaches continue to be aggressive and we’ll be wanting to see the personnel groupings that they will rollout.

This front seven looks deep and versatile, with guys like Chase Winovich, Shalique Calhoun, and Derek Rivers coming on later to spell the starters, the 2019 front seven is as deep a unit the Patriots have had since the 2003-2004 teams.

Watching the Starting Secondary Gel On the Field:

This secondary unit of the Patriots is one of the more stronger ones in the league and arguably the deepest secondary unit that Bill Belichick has coached since he took over the reins of the Patriots in 2000.

Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty give the team their top three boundary corners. Jonathan Jones has easily bested former 2nd round pick Duke Dawson for the top slot corner. Now watching the starters and their communication with Devin McCourty and Pat Chung at safety is a step. This unit hasn’t played together in a game since the Super Bowl. This is a big week of preparation for the season. Many of them probably won’t play next week. 

Dawson should see plenty of reps in the second half as he’s one of the guys who is fighting for a roster spot. Joejuan Williams, the rookie 2nd round CB, who has improved markedly since training camp began and Keion Crossen should also see a lot of work in the second half.

Special Teams Get Ready For Week 1:

With the release of Ryan Allen, Jake Bailey has won the starting punting position. But the pressure doesn’t let up now, it just gets even tougher. He’s replacing a very popular player with the fanbase and this will be his first game action in Foxboro. He’ll also be tasked with holding on field goal and extra-point attempts. It will be important for him to get off to a good, clean start.

Stephen Gostkowski has missed field goals in each of the first two games, whether that was all on him or something in the exchange between Joe Cardona and his new holder Bailey will bear watching. For all of the fans who would like to see the third most accurate kicker in NFL history replaced, who is out there and most importantly available? Other than the Ravens’ Justin Tucker, Gostkowski is right up there with the best kickers in the game. With a better career accuracy average than the guy he replaced 14 years ago.

The kick return game will bear particular watching tonight. Braxton Berrios or Gunner Olszewski’s roster spot may depend on how well they produce in the kick return game. 

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

Patriots – Panthers Preseason Week 3, What to Watch For

Steve Balestrieri
August 23, 2018 at 7:30 am ET

The Patriots and Panthers meet in the preseason Week 3 matchup and a very important one in more than one aspect this week. This is the final tuneup for the starting units for both teams, what has normally been deemed a dress rehearsal for the regular season. The starters will mostly sit next week as the players on the bubble will get one more chance to show what they have before the final cut downs to the 53-man roster begin.

Last season, Cam Newton and the Panthers shredded the Patriots in Foxboro and Newton afterward didn’t even consider New England a playoff team, calling their game against the Eagles, “the first playoff team we’ve faced.” If this were a regular season game, that would get a bit of play with Bill Belichick and the coaches but this won’t be the case. However, he’ll be sure to remind them of what the Panthers did to them that day.

So, from a Patriots perspective, here are the things to watch for this week as the Pats try to prepare themselves for the regular season.

Newton Presents First Test Against a Mobile QB: The Patriots are going to face a mobile quarterback for the first time this summer and will be facing one against DeShaun Watson and the Texans to start the season. With no joint practices, the Patriots defense has had to face only Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer, for the most part, this summer, other than their two preseason tilts, neither against a mobile QB.

In the game last year, won by Carolina on an FG by Graham Gano as time ran out, Newton sliced and diced the Patriots defense, going 22-29 for 316 yards with three TDs and one Interception. He also ran eight times for 44 yards and a touchdown. The designed runs and QB draws the Panthers ran last year will be a big focus of the defense this week. The Pats were sliced and diced on those last year, as well as the defensive backfield breakdowns where Carolina hit big play after big play.

Newton should play well into the second half of this one and this will be a big test for the young defenders and prepare them for Watson, although he may not taking off and running as much, at least early in the season after tearing his ACL last season.

With this first matchup in mind…

Carolina TEs, RBs Against the NE LBs in Space: This is a very big test for the linebackers this week who looked suspect against the Redskins but much better against the Eagles a week ago. With Newton’s legs, he will stress the second level of the defense as he is a threat to take off and run at any time. But he also has great targets in the passing game at the tight end position with Greg Olsen and RB Christian McCaffrey.

Both are a tough assignment in any scenario, McCaffrey caught 80 passes out of the backfield in 2017 and Olsen who missed nine games due to injury in 2017 is a huge target for Newton and will be looking to set the tone for the season with a strong game this week.

The Panthers looked to upgrade their backfield this spring and brought in former Broncos RB C.J. Anderson who is a dual threat to run or catch a pass out of the backfield. He had 28 catches a year ago.

This week’s test will be a big barometer for the Pats LBs, considered a weak spot a year ago. Dont’a Hightower should see the field extensively in the first half, but we also expect to see what rookie LB Ja’Whaun Bentley can do against this talented group. Kyle Van Noy and Marquis Flowers should also see plenty of snaps against Newton.

Time For Decker, and Dorsett to Show Up: Time is running short for Eric Decker and Phillip Dorsett if they want to make the 53-man roster. Kenny Britt had a very impressive spring until, in the last minicamp drill, hurt his hamstring. It was deemed at the time minor. He’s been invisible ever since and hasn’t practiced all summer. He was released on Wednesday.  

Decker was signed after Jordan Matthews hurt his hamstring and was released. To say that he hasn’t stood out is an understatement. He’s yet to catch a pass in two preseason games and has shown a tendency for drops, both in practice and in the game. Both of these players could use at least a couple of receptions to show up on the scoresheet to give the coaches some confidence heading into September.  

Decker was signed to a very team-friendly contract and his only guaranteed cash was his $75,000 signing bonus. There is no dead money involved with him. He can be cut loose with no salary cap hit if the coaches decide to release him.

The other missing WR has been Phillip Dorsett. He was regularly one of the best receivers on the field during the early days of training camp. He’s cooled way off since then and you never hear his name called. He’s been virtually invisible in the preseason as well.

Carolina’s defense looks to be very solid in the front seven but there are questions for the unit in the secondary. They’ll be looking to solidify things back there while the Patriots and Brady are looking to find out who’s going to be ready to go Week 1.

These two guys have to build some chemistry with QB Tom Brady heading into the regular season. Neither of them are filling anyone with confidence that they’re ready to do so, once the games are for real. Friday night is a big game for both and the clock is ticking.

Patriots Running Game vs Panthers Defense: The New England running game has looked good thus far this preseason with Jeremy Hill and James White leading the way. Rookie Ralph Webb, and veterans Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden have also been productive in spurts thus far this summer.

However, Sony Michel, the Pats first-round draft pick has been absent since August 1 when he left practice early after injuring his knee. Later, it was reported that he had fluid drained from it and he’d be out “about 10 days”. We really don’t expect to see Michel until the regular season. Rex Burkhead has been out with what has been termed a slight tear in his knee. He returned to practice Sunday and has been limited in practice since then. It seems doubtful that he’ll play on Friday.

Missing two of their key pieces at the running back position really limits the offense, because we’ve yet to see what they can do with all of their weapons present. The Panthers run defense was stout last year allowing only about 80 yards per game which was 11th best in the NFL last year.

I’d look for Hill and White to get the majority of the early work with Gillislee and Webb, both fighting for roster spots to go all out when they’re in the game. Carolina’s front seven, led by Luke Kuechly is very stout and will be a good barometer for the ground game this week. They were mostly solid last week but did give up a few big runs.

Young Players Get a Big Game to Step Up: The bottom end of the 53-man roster is still wide open for the Patriots and there are still plenty of roster spots that are far from settled. For some of the younger players, playing the Panthers in a dress rehearsal is a huge opportunity to show what they can do.

On offense, the aforementioned Webb at running back is a long-shot to make the roster. However, if Michel or Burkhead isn’t ready to start the season, that may open the door a crack for him to work his way into a roster spot  Wide receivers Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron are definitely on the bubble right now. Neither has shown much in the passing game while both have punt return capabilities, they haven’t stood out as a positive there either. Berrios has been banged up and is now back at practice and this will be a big game for both to showcase their talents.

On defense, Bentley has already solidified a roster spot. Now he’s playing to earn reps with the starting unit. But some other young players have plenty to play for. Keionta Davis, the productive edge rusher from Chattanooga who missed all of his rookie season with a bulging disc in his neck, has shown up and fighting for a roster spot. He’s still on the outside looking in, but he and Vincent Valentine are looking to turn some heads.  

In the secondary, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Duke Dawson, by virtue of his draft status are locked for the roster. Veterans Jonathan Jones, and Cyrus Jones have just returned to practice after off-season surgeries cut their 2017 short. They’re fighting it out with newcomer Jason McCourty and rookies J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen as well as Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz and Ryan Lewis. Those eight are probably fighting it out for three slots. It will be intriguing to watch.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

New England Patriots 2018 Preseason Schedule Announced

Steve Balestrieri
April 11, 2018 at 6:34 pm ET

The NFL announced the 2018 preseason schedule earlier today and the Patriots preseason slate has several familiar foes.

The Pats will be at home for their first two weeks of the preseason against the Washington Redskins and then against the Philadelphia Eagles in a rematch of the two Super Bowl teams in Week 2. They then travel to Carolina in Week 3.  And it wouldn’t be preseason with finishing off with the New York Giants in Week 4 at the Meadowlands. The exact dates and times will be announced at a later date.

According to the Patriots website, their three most frequent preseason opponents in franchise history are the Giants (27), Eagles (22) and Redskins (21).

The Patriots held joint practices together at their training camp location in the 2014 summer before the regular season. The Patriots hosted the Philadelphia Eagles for joint practices also during 2014 in front of huge crowds on the Gillette practice fields.

It will be the fourth time in five years, they’ve met Philadelphia in the preseason’s Week 3 and the 14 years in a row that the Patriots and Giants finish their preseason slate playing one another.

We’ll post the dates of the games as soon as they become available. Now the countdown begins for minicamp and of course training camp.

NFL Playoff Picture for Week 17

John Morgan
December 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm ET

The 2017 NFL regular season wraps up on Sunday afternoon. There is not as much drama this year compared to the week 17 of many previous seasons. The 2017 NFL playoff picture is relatively settled. In the AFC there are four teams battling for two wild card spots. The NFC still has one division title up for grabs, but has just two teams competing for one final playoff slot.

For the sake of clarity and sanity, ties have been omitted from the scenarios below.

 

AFC Playoff Picture for Week 17

12-3 New England Patriots
15½ point home favorites vs Jets.
Have clinched AFC East and a first round bye.
Clinch the #1 seed with either a win, or a Pittsburgh loss.

12-3 Pittsburgh Steelers
7 point home favorites vs Browns.
Have clinched AFC North and a first round bye.
Need a win plus a Patriots loss for #1 seed.
Are the #2 seed in any other scenario.

10-5 Jacksonville Jaguars
3 point underdogs at Tennessee.
Have clinched AFC South and #3 seed.
Locked into the #3 slot.

9-6 Kansas City Chiefs
3½ point underdogs at Denver.
Have clinched AFC West and #4 seed.
Locked into the #4 slot.

9-6 Baltimore Ravens
9½ point home favorites vs Cincinnati.
Become #5 seed with either a win, or losses by both Buffalo and Tennessee.
Become #6 spot with loss, and either Buffalo or Tennessee loses.
Miss playoffs with a loss, plus both Buffalo and Tennessee win.

8-7 Tennessee Titans
3 point home favorites vs Jacksonville.
Become #5 seed with a win, plus Baltimore loses.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus Baltimore wins.
Can still become #6 seed despite a loss if both Bills and Chargers lose.
Eliminated with a loss, plus a win by either the Bills or Chargers.

8-7 Los Angeles Chargers
8 point home favorites vs Oakland.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both Tennessee and Buffalo lose.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both Tennessee and Baltimore lose.
Chargers are eliminated with a loss, or if Tennessee wins, or if Buffalo wins and Baltimore loses.

8-7 Buffalo Bills
2½ point favorites at Miami.
Clinch #5 seed with a win, plus losses by both Baltimore and Tennessee.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus Baltimore loses.
Become #6 seed with a win, plus both the Titans and the Chargers lose.
Eliminated with either a loss, or if the Titans and Ravens both win, or if the Chargers and Ravens both win.

 

NFC Playoff Picture for Week 17

13-2 Philadelphia Eagles
3 point home underdogs vs Dallas.
Have already clinched NFC East and #1 seed.

12-3 Minnesota Vikings
12 point home favorites vs Chicago.
Will be the #2 seed unless they lose, Carolina wins, plus the Saints and Rams both lose.

11-4 Los Angeles Rams
3½ point home underdogs vs San Francisco.
Clinch the #3 seed with a win, or with losses by both Carolina and New Orleans.
Drop to #4 seed with a loss, plus a win by either Carolina or New Orleans.

11-4 New Orleans Saints
7 point favorites at Tampa Bay.
Become #3 seed with a win, plus loss by Rams.
Win NFC South and #4 seed with either a win, or Carolina loss.
Become #5 seed with a loss, plus a Carolina win.

11-4 Carolina Panthers
3½ point underdogs at Atlanta.
Clinch #2 seed and first round bye with a win, plus losses by the Vikings, Saints and Rams.
Win NFC South and #3 seed with a win, plus losses by both the Saints and Rams.
Win NFC South and #4 seed with a win, plus loss by Saints.
Become #5 seed with either a loss, or a New Orleans win.

9-6 Atlanta Falcons
3½ point home favorites vs Carolina.
Make the playoffs as #6 seed with either a win, or a Seattle loss.
Miss the playoffs with a loss, plus Seattle wins.

9-6 Seattle Seahawks
9½ point home favorites vs Arizona.
Make the playoffs as #6 seed with both a win, plus Atlanta loss.
Miss the playoffs with either a loss, or an Atlanta win.

 

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

John Morgan
December 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm ET

NFL Week 17 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead’ Betting Lines: Pats favored by 16 vs Jets

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has published their latest NFL Advanced Betting Lines. These early odds were posted a day after the Week 15 games finished. Keep in mind these odds were listed prior to any of this week’s injury reports, as well as any of the Week 16 games. Also known as Look-Ahead lines, they give the adventurous sports fan an opportunity to wager on games up to twelve days away from being played. Early lines offer a short opportunity to get a jump on odds that could become less favorable after Sunday’s games.

Handicapping games in the final week of the regular season can be a tricky proposition. Motivation could be difficult for a team that has played for the goal of making the playoffs for months, and suddenly finds themselves eliminated. A bad team might play loose and try things they normally wouldn’t, catching an opponent off guard. Good teams locked into a specific playoff slot may opt to rest players who would have otherwise started. The line in the Eagles-Cowboys game reflects that concept.

In Week 16 ten road teams are favored to win. That number falls back to a more typical number in Week 17, with five home dogs. The Saints are the biggest road favorite, minus 8½ points at Tampa Bay. The largest spread of the week is in Foxboro, where the Patriots are favored by 16 versus the Jets. That game is one of four double-digit spreads. The narrowest odds are with Houston as a one-point underdog at Indianapolis.

The most important games of Week 17 loom to be Carolina at Atlanta (-3½) in the NFC, and Jacksonville (-3½) at Tennessee in the AFC.

All games will be played on Sunday, December 31. There are no night games.
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on CBS

New York Jets at New England Patriots (-16)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-3½) at Tennessee Titans
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (-15)
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (-11)
Buffalo Bills (-2½) at Miami Dolphins
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-1)
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Early Games on Fox

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons (-3½)
New Orleans Saints (-8½) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings (-12)
Dallas Cowboys (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions (-9)
Washington Redskins (-3) at New York Giants
 

NFL Week 12 Early Odds – Late Games

Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Chargers (-7), CBS
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (-7), Fox
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-2½), CBS
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (-7), Fox

 

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16

 

NFL Playoff Picture Entering Week 16

John Morgan
at 2:00 pm ET

Entering Week 16 five teams have clinched a playoff spot. The Patriots, Steelers, Jaguars, Eagles and Vikings have all punched a ticket for the post season. Philadelphia is the only team thus far to earn a first round bye.

In the AFC six teams have been eliminated: the Browns, Colts, Texans, Broncos, Bengals and Jets. The Dolphins and Raiders are technically alive, but comatose and on life support. The Chargers are not in much better shape, even though they are only one game behind the Chiefs in the AFC West. Most likely it is Ravens, Titans and Bills battling for two wild card spots.

The Giants, Bears, Forty Niners, Bucs, Cardinals, Skins and Packers are all officially eliminated. Dallas, Seattle and Detroit face tall odds to get in. Philadelphia and Minnesota have won their divisions and will host at least one playoff game. The only way the Rams don’t win the NFC West is to lose twice while Seattle wins twice. The NFC South is probably going to send three teams to the playoffs. Games involving the Saints, Panthers and Falcons are the most intriguing over the next two weeks. Atlanta is at New Orleans this week, and then the Falcons host Carolina next week.

For the sake of clarity (and sanity), I will not consider ties in the following playoff scenarios. Yes, I know they can happen: just ask Donovan McNabb.

 

AFC Playoff Picture

#1 (11-3) New England Patriots
Home vs 8-6 Bills, home vs 5-9 Jets.
Have clinched AFC East and at least #3 seed.
Clinch #2 seed with win, plus a loss by either Jacksonville or Pittsburgh.
Clinch #1 seed with win, plus losses by both Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.
Clinch #1 seed with two wins regardless of what else happens.

#2 (11-3) Pittsburgh Steelers
At 4-10 Texans, home vs 0-14 Browns.
Have clinched AFC North and at least #3 seed.
Clinch #2 seed with win, plus Jacksonville loss.

#3 (10-4) Jacksonville Jaguars
At 4-10 49ers, at 8-6 Titans.
Clinch AFC South and #3 seed with either a win, or a Tennessee loss.

#4 (8-6) Kansas City Chiefs
Home vs 6-8 Dolphins, at 5-9 Broncos.
Clinch AFC West and #4 seed with a win, plus a Chargers loss.

#5 (8-6) Tennessee Titans
Home vs 10-4 Rams, home vs 10-4 Jaguars.
Clinch playoff spot with a win, plus losses by both the Bills and Ravens.

#6 (8-6) Baltimore Ravens
Home vs 3-11 Colts, home vs 5-9 Bengals.
Clinch playoff spot with two wins.

#7 (8-6) Buffalo Bills
At 11-3 Patriots, at 6-8 Dolphins.

#8 (7-7) Los Angeles Chargers
At 5-9 Jets, home vs 6-8 Raiders.
Eliminated with a loss.
Can win AFC West and #4 seed with two wins, plus two losses by Kansas City.
Scenario #1 as a wild card: win twice, Titans lose twice, Ravens win or lose out (don’t go 1-1), and Bills lose at least once.
Scenario #2 as a wild card: win twice, Ravens lose twice Titans win or lose out (don’t go 1-1), and Bills lose at least once.

#9 (6-8) Oakland Raiders
At 12-2 Eagles, at 7-7 Chargers.
Can only be a #6 seed, or miss playoffs.
Eliminated with a loss.
To make the playoffs the Raiders need to win twice while Buffalo and Tennessee both lose twice, Miami wins twice, and Baltimore wins at least once.

#10 (6-8) Miami Dolphins
At 8-6 Chiefs, home vs 8-6 Bills.
Eliminated with a loss.
Scenario #1 as a wild card: win twice, Titans lose twice, Bills lose to Pats, Chiefs lose to Broncos, and Raiders lose at least once.
Scenario #2 as a wild card: win twice, Ravens lose twice, Bills lose to Pats, Chiefs lose to Broncos, and Raiders lose to Chargers.

 

NFC Playoff Picture

#1 (12-2) Philadelphia Eagles
Home vs 6-8 Raiders, home vs 8-6 Cowboys.
Have clinched NFC East and at least #2 seed.
Clinch #1 seed with either a win, or a Vikings loss.

#2 (11-3) Minnesota Vikings
At 7-7 Packers, home vs 4-10 Bears.
Have clinched NFC North.
Clinch #3 seed with either a win, or a Rams loss.
Clinch #2 seed with both a win, plus a Panthers loss.

#3 (10-4) Los Angeles Rams
At 8-6 Titans, home vs 4-10 49ers.
Clinch a playoff spot with losses by the Falcons, Panthers and Lions.
Clinch the NFC West and #3 seed with either a win, or a Seahawks loss.

#4 (10-4) New Orleans Saints
Home vs 9-5 Falcons, at 4-10 Bucs.
Clinch at least #5 seed with a win over Atlanta.
Clinch NFC West and at least #4 seed with win over Falcons, plus Panthers loss.

#5 (10-4) Carolina Panthers
Home vs 4-10 Bucs, at 9-5 Falcons.
Clinch playoff spot with a win.
Clinch at least #5 seed with a win, plus Saints loss to Falcons.

#6 (9-5) Atlanta Falcons
At 10-4 Saints, home vs 10-4 Panthers.
Clinch playoff spot with a win.

#7 (8-6) Detroit Lions
At 5-9 Bengals, home vs 7-7 Packers.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice while Falcons lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, and either Saints or Panthers lose twice, and either Seahawks or Cowboys win twice.

#8 (8-6) Seattle Seahawks
At 8-6 Cowboys, home vs 6-8 Cardinals.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Must win twice plus Rams lose twice to win NFC West and #4 seed.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice, Panthers lose twice, and Saints lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, Lions lose at least once, and one of Panthers, Saints or Falcons lose twice.

#9 (8-6) Dallas Cowboys
Home vs 8-6 Cowboys, at 12-2 Eagles.
Eliminated from playoffs with a loss.
Scenario #1 as wild card: win twice, Panthers lose twice, and Saints lose twice.
Scenario #2: win twice, Lions lose at least once, and of Panthers, Saints or Falcons lose twice.

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

 

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

John Morgan
December 22, 2017 at 8:01 pm ET

NFL Week 16 Odds, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

Week 16 is unique, with neither Thursday nor Sunday night football – but with two games on Monday. Five teams have clinched a playoff spot and 14 others are still in contention for the post-season. There are plenty of intriguing games worth watching this weekend and next before the playoffs commence. The theory of home field advantage will be put to a test during these three days. Road teams are favored in ten of the sixteen games this week.

There is another oddity about this week’s schedule. Of the four games between teams with winning records, none are on in primetime – and three are broadcast in the early time slot. Fox has always had an affinity for NFC East teams due to their large market sizes. But if the network is not going to make the best game of the week (Falcons at Saints) their showcase game, then give it up to be flexed to Saturday night. Net result is that the two best games (NO-Atl and Patriots-Bills) are on at the same time. Those two back-to-back would have made for superior programming.

To see what games are being broadcast in your area, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

 

National Broadcasts

3-11 Indianapolis Colts at 8-6 Baltimore Ravens
4:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NFLN; Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Ravens favored by 13½; over/under 41 points; money line -1000, +675

Baltimore has averaged 31 points over their last five games, in large part to an NFL-best plus-17 turnover differential. The Raven defense ranks 4th with 18.3 points per game and has a league best 33 takeaways. I don’t see how the Indy offense (16.1 ppg, 31st) can keep this game close.

Pick: Ravens 31, Colts 13
Ravens -13½, over 41

 

11-3 Minnesota Vikings at 7-7 Green Bay Packers
8:30 pm ET Saturday 12/23 on NBC; Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth
Vikings favored by 9; over/under 41 points; money line -430, +340

The Vikings are playing for at minimum a first round bye, while Green Bay is eliminated. Minnesota’s defense will dominate a team that may be giving second stringers playing time with an eye on 2018.

Pick: Vikings 27, Packers 13
Vikings -9, under 41

 

11-3 Pittsburgh Steelers at 4-10 Houston Texans
4:30 pm ET, Monday 12/25 on NBC/NFLN; Mike Tirico, Kurt Warner
Steelers favored by 9½; over/under 45 points; money line -450, +350

I’m interested to see if Pittsburgh comes out with their hair on fire after last week’s last second loss. Or will the Steelers play down to their opponent’s level, as they often do. Pittsburgh is notorious for not playing well on the road either, and no Antonio Brown does not help matters. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Pittsburgh comes out flat, but Houston has lost too many key players over the course of their season.

Pick: Steelers 24, Texans 20
Texans +9½, under 45

 

6-8 Oakland Raiders at 12-2 Philadelphia Eagles
8:30 pm ET Monday 12/25 on ESPN; Sean McDonough, Jon Gruden
Eagles favored by 9; over/under 47½ points; money line -400, +330

Oakland is all but mathematically eliminated, and traveling cross country for a meaningless game. Philly wants to clinch the number one seed in the NFC and Nick Foles (4 TDs last week) showed the 31.3 ppg offense is still in capable hands. The Eagle defense should be able to handle Oakland and control this game.

Pick: Eagles 34, Raiders 17
Eagles -9, over 47½

 

Early CBS Games

8-6 Buffalo Bills at 11-3 New England Patriots
Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Patriots favored by 12; over/under 47½ points; money line -750, +525

This should be a great game, as both teams have plenty to play for. The Patriots need two wins to insure home field throughout the playoffs. Buffalo needs a victory (and help) to make the playoffs. To add to the drama this is a revenge game for the Bills after the hit three weeks ago that resulted in Rob Gronkowski’s suspension. Sean McDermott came up with a great defensive game plan for Buffalo in the last meeting; it will be interesting to see what he has in store Sunday.

Pick: Patriots 27, Bills 20
Bills +12, under 47½

 

7-7 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-9 New York Jets
Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Chargers favored by 7; over/under 42½ points; money line -300, +250

After a surprisingly good start, the Jets are 2-7 in their last nine games. As the season has progressed their lack of quality depth has become apparent. The Chargers are in a must-win spot here; the Jets can go back to their original plan of tanking the 2017 season.

Pick: Chargers 27, Jets 17
Chargers -7, over 42½

 

6-8 Miami Dolphins at 8-6 Kansas City Chiefs
Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Chiefs favored by 10½; over/under 43½ points; money line -550, +425

Dolphins on the road outdoors in cold weather equals a Miami loss. Kansas City has finally righted their mid-season swoon with home victories over the Raiders and Chargers. Make it three in a row for the Chiefs.

Pick: Chiefs 27, Dolphins 14
Chiefs -10½, under 43½

 

5-9 Denver Broncos at 6-8 Washington Redskins
Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta
Redskins favored by 3½; over/under 40½ points; money line -180, +160

Washington is again in a difficult position due to injuries on their offensive line. Denver has finally got it together the last couple of weeks, just in time to win enough games to miss out on a top-5 draft pick.

Pick: Broncos 20, Redskins 17
Broncos +3½, under 40½

 

0-14 Cleveland Browns at 4-10 Chicago Bears
Tom McCarthy, Steve Beuerlein
Bears favored by 6½; over/under 38 points; money line -280, +240

Chicago has played well at home this year, beating the Steelers and Panthers. Their home losses have all been close (an average of 5 points), and mostly to good teams (Falcons, Vikings, Packers). Cleveland’s 0-16 parade plans remain intact.

Pick: Bears 24, Browns 13
Bears -6½, under 38

 

Early Games on Fox

9-5 Atlanta Falcons at 10-4 New Orleans Saints
Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Saints favored by 5½; over/under 52½ points; money line -240, +200

Set your DVR so you can record and watch this game after the Patriots-Bills ends. Two weeks ago the Falcons beat the Saints 20-17 in Atlanta. It is really difficult to sweep a good division rival. The Falcons should be able to keep it close, especially now that RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) has been cleared to play.

Pick: Saints 27, Falcons 24
Falcons +5½, under 51½

 

10-4 Los Angeles Rams at 8-6 Tennessee Titans
Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston
Rams favored by 6½; over/under 47½ points; money line -290, +240

On one hand you have a west coast team having to travel 2000 miles and play a game three hours earlier than usual. On the other hand the Rams are a far superior team than the Titans. LA is back in sync now that Robert Woods is back on the playing field.

Pick: Rams 24, Titans 20
Titans +6½, under 47½

 

8-6 Detroit Lions at 5-9 Cincinnati Bengals
Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
Lions favored by 4; over/under 44 points; money line -210, +180

This will be the final home game for Cincy head coach Marvin Lewis. Maybe he and Jeff Fisher can form a speaking tour and teach people how to retain a job much longer than they deserve.

Pick: Lions 24, Bengals 17
Lions -4, under 44

 

4-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 10-4 Carolina Panthers
Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber
Panthers favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -475, +375

Can somebody please explain to me why Carolina LB Thomas Davis was originally suspended for two games, rather than one? I think Roger Goodell uses one of those magic eight-balls from the sixties when deciding his punishments.

Pick: Panthers 34, Bucs 17
Panthers -10, over 46½

 

Late Games

10-4 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-10 San Francisco 49ers
Andrew Catalon, James Lofton (CBS)
Jaguars favored by 4; over/under 42 points; money line -210, +175

When Jimmy Garoppolo was traded, Pats fans wished him well. Now Patriot Nation is full of hand wringing seller’s remorse. The Niners have won three in a row since inserting Jimmy G as their starting quarterback, after a 1-10 start. Jacksonville could be in for a battle on the road here, especially if the Jags have to count on Blake Bortles at critical junctures.

Jaguars 23, Forty Niners 20
Niners +4, over 42

 

8-6 Seattle Seahawks at 8-6 Dallas Cowboys
Joe Buck, Troy Aikman (Fox)
Cowboys favored by 5; over/under 47½ points; money line -240, +200

Dallas has won three straight and have RB Ezekiel Elliott for this game. His presence completely changes the Cowboy offense. Seattle’s defense is just a shell of its former self to injuries. Is it time to replace Pete Carroll?

Pick: Cowboys 27, Seahawks 17
Cowboys +5, under 47½

 

2-12 New York Giants at 6-8 Arizona Cardinals
Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth (Fox)
Cardinals favored by 3½; over/under 40 points; money line -185, +165

Ho hum, a battle of two under achieving teams. Giants are the bigger mess right now and on the road.

Pick: Cardinals 24, Giants 13
Cardinals +3½, under 40

 

 

NFL Week 12 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 26, 2017 at 6:00 am ET

More than half of the remaining NFL Week 12 games have odds of seven or more points. On paper there are few competitive games, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. Last week the Chiefs were double-digit favorites but lost to a one-win Giants club in disarray. Washington was an injury riddled 7½ point road dog up against a hot team on a seven game winning streak. The 4-5 Skins were up by 15 with less than two minutes to play and nearly upset the Saints before losing in overtime in one of the season’s most exciting games. On the other hand there are the Patriots, who have not lost since October 1st – and have covered the spread four weeks in a row.

Should the Patriots-Dolphins game turn into a blowout, there may be some competitive games in the early time slot. Buffalo is at KC in a battle between two fading teams. Tampa Bay at Atlanta could be interesting should the Falcons have a letdown after winning at Seattle. In the late time slot the Saints at Rams should be a great game. The night games are nothing special. Green Bay at Pittsburgh would have been a good game if Aaron Rodgers was the QB rather than Brett Hundley. Monday night it is Houston at Baltimore. The only reason to watch that is to witness a potential John Harbaugh meltdown and another Baltimore loss.

Unfortunately New England fans are once again saddled with Ian Eagle and the incompetent Dan Fouts as the broadcast crew for Sunday’s game. It boggles my mind that somebody at CBS considers this pair to be their second best set of announcers. How can anyone possibly consider those two to be better than Greg Gumbel and Trent Green, or Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon?

For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

Early Games on CBS

4-6 Miami Dolphins at 8-2 New England Patriots
Patriots favored by 16½; over/under 47½ points; money line -1900, +1000

The Patriots have often struggled against quarterbacks that they have little film to review for tendencies and weaknesses. Does that mean that Matt Moore will lead the Dolphins to an upset? Of course not. The offense is clicking despite several injuries, and the defense has made a 180 turn from the first month of the season.

Pick: Patriots 38, Dolphins 17
New England +16½, over 47½

 

0-10 Cleveland Browns at 4-6 Cincinnati Bengals
Bengals favored by 8; over/under 38 points; money line -410, +340

DeShone Kizer has thrown 14 interceptions, most in the NFL. Cleveland’s defense has been decent, but having to overcome all those turnovers is too much to ask for.

Pick: Bengals 24, Browns 13
Cincinnati -8, under 38

 

5-5 Buffalo Bills at 6-4 Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs favored by 10; over/under 46½ points; money line -500, +400

Buffalo HC Sean McDermott may be in over his head. With a 5-4 record and the Bills holding onto a wild card spot, he inexplicably benched QB Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is not an elite quarterback by any means, but the replacement was a 5th round rookie going on the road to make his first NFL start. Nathan Peterman proceeded to throw an interception on four of the first five drives, and was mercifully yanked after his fifth pick. McDermott’s reasoning was that he wanted to see what Peterman had and how he could do. Isn’t that what a blowout game in the fourth quarter is for? Or preseason? Or games in December after you have been eliminated from the playoffs, as opposed to a midseason game when you have a winning record?

Pick: Chiefs 31, Bills 20
Kansas City -10, over 46½

 

Early Games on Fox

3-7 Chicago Bears at 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles favored by 14; over/under 44½ points; money line -1100, +700

Philly has won eight in a row and is coming off a huge win over division rival Dallas. The Eagles will be on the road for the next three games, playing the Rams, Seahawks and Giants. The Bears have already taken advantage of superior opponents in trap games twice, defeating the Steelers and Panthers. While an upset would be shocking, A close game would not be a surprise.

Pick: Eagles 24, Bears 20
Chicago +14, under 44½

 

4-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 6-4 Atlanta Falcons
Falcons favored by 9½; over/under 48½ points; money line -475, +375

In their victory last week at Miami the Bucs allowed three pass plays of over 40 yards. That kind of pass defense is going to be in a world of hurt against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Atlanta offense.

Pick: Falcons 30, Bucs 21
Tampa Bay +9½, over 48½

 

7-3 Carolina Panthers at 4-6 New York Jets
Panthers favored by 5½; over/under 40 points; money line -250, +210

Will Carolina be well rested or rusty coming off the bye? If the Panthers are looking ahead to next week’s game at New Orleans, the fundamentally sound Jet defense could cause enough problems to pull off an upset.

Pick: Panthers 20, Jets 17
New York Jets +5½, under 40

 

6-4 Tennessee Titans at 3-7 Indianapolis Colts
Titans favored by 3; over/under 45½ points; money line -165, +145

The Titans bounce back from last Thursday’s loss to Pittsburgh by feasting on an inferior opponent.

Pick: Titans 24, Colts 17
Tennessee -3, under 45½

 

Late Afternoon Games

6-4 Seattle Seahawks at 1-9 San Francisco 49ers
4:05 ET on Fox
Seahawks favored by 6½; over/under 45½ points; money line -300, +250

The 49ers may be able to keep it close thanks to all the injuries on Seattle’s defense. The Niners just don’t have enough talent to beat the Seahawks though.

Pick: Seahawks 27, Niners 20
Seattle -6½, over 45½

 

8-2 New Orleans Saints at 7-3 Los Angeles Rams
4:25 ET on CBS
Rams favored by 2½; over/under 53½ points; money line -145, +125

By far the best game of the week. The Rams have beaten only one good team all season (Jacksonville), and were a bit disappointing in last week’s loss at Minnesota. I’m expecting them to bounce back at home against New Orleans. The Saints defense has been opportunistic (ten interceptions, 13 takeaways) but could be overpowered here. New Orleans gave up 31 points at home to the injury riddled Redskins last week, and haven’t faced an offense this good since their week two loss to the Patriots.

Pick: Rams 31, Saints 27
LA Rams -2½, over 53½

 

7-3 Jacksonville Jaguars at 4-6 Arizona Cardinals
4:25 ET on CBS
Jaguars favored by 5½; over/under 38 points; money line -240, +200

The Jaguar defense is allowing just 14.1 points per game, by far the lowest in the NFL. Jacksonville should be able to feast on Blaine Gabbert and an anemic Arizona offense that has scored more than 21 points just twice all year.

Pick: Jaguars 20, Cardinals 13
Jacksonville -5½, under 38

 

3-7 Denver Broncos at 4-6 Oakland Raiders
4:25 ET on CBS
Raiders favored by 5; over/under 43 points; money line -240, +200

Remember when the experts declared the AFC West to be the best division in the NFL before the 2017 season began? Not much of that talk now, thanks to these two disappointing teams that failed to live up to the hype. Denver has lost six in a row, their worst losing streak since 1990. They could actually benefit from Tim Tebow at this point.

Pick: Raiders 24, Broncos 21
Denver +5, over 43

 

Prime Time Games

5-5 Green Bay Packers at 8-2 Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday night at 8:30 pm ET on NBC
Steelers favored by 14; over/under 43½ points; money line -1000, +600

Last week Pittsburgh was able to stop Tennessee’s running game, force the Titans into predictable pass plays, and take advantage of poor down-and distance situations. That resulted in four Marcus Mariotta interceptions and a 40-17 victory. The same formula worked for Baltimore last week in their 23-0 rout over the Packers as Green Bay turned the ball over five times. No reason to believe this game won’t be more of the same.

Pick: Steelers 31, Packers 10
Pittsburgh -14, under 43½

 

4-6 Houston Texans at 5-5 Baltimore Ravens
Monday night at 8:30 pm ET on espn
Ravens favored by 7; over/under 38 points; money line -320, +260

Tom Savage has ten turnovers (3 picks, 7 fumbles) in just 125 pass attempts. He has been sacked 13 times and is averaging a league-worst 4.54 yards per dropback. This all plays right into the strength of Baltimore’s defense, to force turnovers (an NFL-best 23).

Pick: Ravens 24, Texans 13
Ravens -7, under 37

 

NFL Week 10 Odds, Predictions and Picks against the spread

John Morgan
November 12, 2017 at 7:00 am ET

NFL Week 10 has plenty of interesting story lines. On Sunday night the Patriots travel to their house of horrors, Denver’s Mile High Stadium. The Pats are 2-6 since 2005 in Colorado, and 4-18 in the Rockies since 1969. Despite that alarming trend the Patriots are 7½ point favorites as of Saturday night.

Since their week five bye the Broncos have been in a free fall with no end in sight. First there was a 13-point loss to the Giants, giving Big Blue their only win of 2017. That was followed by a shutout loss to the Chargers, then a five-turnover debacle against KC. Last week the one strong point for Denver, their defense, allowed 51 points. It was the most points allowed by the Broncos since 2010. On top of that the 28 point differential was the worst for Denver since the 2011 season of Tim Tebow.

There are plenty of other games worth watching as well. In the early time slot Minnesota is at Washington, and the Saints travel to Buffalo on a six-game winning streak. Then in the late afternoon time slot Dallas travels to Atlanta without Ezekiel Elliott. Roger Goodell wanted the NFL to have 12-month headlines, but these questionable suspensions and subsequent court cases are crushing the popularity of the sport. The week wraps up with Miami at Carolina on Monday night.

Most of the country will get Pittsburgh at Indy early on CBS. Fox has the early time slot split between the Saints-Bills in the east, and Minnesota-Washington in the west. The Pats-Broncos game is available most everywhere, though Hartford is stubbornly (and stupidly) opting to air the Giants game instead. smh…. For a full list of announcers and to see what games are being broadcast in your are, please check JP Kirby’s 506 Sports.

 

Early Games on Fox

6-2 Minnesota Vikings at 4-4 Washington Redskins
Vikings favored by 1½; over/under 41 points; money line -125, +105

Washington has had injuries throughout their entire offensive line this season. They get three starters (LG Shawn Lauvo, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff) back this week. That should significantly help matters, but LT is still a sore spot. Minnesota Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen already has ten sacks, and will make LT TJ Clemmings look incompetent.

Pick: Vikings 23, Redskins 17
Minnesota -1½, under 41

 

4-4 Green Bay Packers at 3-5 Chicago Bears
Bears favored by 5½; over/under 37½ points; money line -250, +210

It would be no surprise whatsoever if the Pack finishes the season in last place in the NFC North. Perhaps then they can use their early draft picks to shore up that Swiss cheese offensive line. Here’s a question: will Brett Hundley be able to make the roster on a CFL or Arena league team in 2018?

Pick: Bears 20, Packers 17
Packers +5½, under 37½

 

3-5 Cincinnati Bengals at 5-3 Tennessee Titans
Titans favored by 4½; over/under 40½ points; money line -220, +180

Cincinnati has given up 25 ppg over the last three weeks, losing two of three since their bye. Two of those games were against Jacksonville and Indianapolis, neither of which are offensive juggernauts. More alarming was the Bengals regression on offense last week, with a mere eight first downs and seven points scored.

Pick: Titans 20, Bengals 17
Cincinnati +4½, under 40½

 

6-2 New Orleans Saints at 5-3 Buffalo Bills
Saints favored by 3; over/under 47½ points; money line -145, +125

The Saints are overdue for a letdown loss, but will it come now? Here is dome team playing outside up north in the last half of the season against a team coming off an embarrassing loss. I just don’t think that the Bills can keep up with the New Orleans offense though. The Saints have a balanced attack and are playing complimentary football. That is something they have lacked since winning the Super Bowl eight years ago. Logically the Saints win, but I’m taking the Bills to bounce back in a slight upset. Buffalo wins their fifth straight home game.

Pick: Bills 24, Saints 20
Buffalo +3, under 47½

 

Early Games on CBS

6-2 Pittsburgh Steelers at 3-6 Indianapolis Colts
Steelers favored by 10; over/under 45 points; money line -500, +400

Pittsburgh has a tendency to play down to the level of their opponents on the road. That doesn’t mean the Colts will pull off the upset though; they are still awful. Indy has an atrocious minus-98 point differential already. To place that in perspective that is worse than even the one-win Giants, or the winless Browns and Niners.

Pick: Steelers 27, Colts 20
Indianapolis +10, over 45

 

3-5 Los Angeles Chargers at 5-3 Jacksonville Jaguars
Jaguars favored by 4½; over/under 41 points; money line -210, +180

RB Leonard Fournette will have fresh legs after three weeks off. He faces a Charger run defense that is allowing 4.6 yards per carry (28th) and 135 yards per game (31st). The Jacksonville defense is for real, allowing an NFL-best 14.6 points per game.

Pick: Jaguars 24, Chargers 13
Jacksonville -4½, under 41

 

4-5 New York Jets at 2-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jets favored by 2½; over/under 43½ points; money line -140, +120

Tampa Bay’s defense has been a sore spot all season. The Buccaneer defense generates no pass rush, with a league-worst eight sacks on the season. That has resulted in 7.9 yards per pass attempt (28th) and 24.8 points per game (26th). Give journeyman QB Josh McCown enough time and he will avoid critical mistakes and do just enough to win.

Pick: Jets 24, Bucs 20
Gang Green -2½, over 43½

 

0-8 Cleveland Browns at 4-4 Detroit Lions
Lions favored by 11; over/under 43½ points; money line -625, +450

The Cleveland defense has actually played well this year. The Browns are allowing only 2.9 yards per rush (1st) and 4.9 yards per play (8th). The offense though ranks at or near the bottom in nearly every statistical category. Detroit may be inconsistent, but they have far more talent and should win easily.

Pick: Lions 31, Browns 13
Detroit -11, over 43½

 

Late Afternoon Games

3-5 Houston Texans at 6-2 Los Angeles Rams
Rams favored by 11½; over/under 45½ points; money line -675, +475

This would have been a really great game to watch. Unfortunately it’s Tom Savage at QB rather than DeShaun Watson, and JJ Watt and Whitney Houston are sidelined as well. The Rams put up 51 points last week and now have to be considered a genuine contender to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. QB Jared Goff’s numbers through eight games: 2,030 yards passing with 13 TD against only 4 INT. Goff also leads the NFL with 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 13.8 yards per completion.

Pick: Rams 27, Texans 13
Los Angeles -11½, under 45½

 

5-3 Dallas Cowboys at 4-4 Atlanta Falcons
Falcons favored by 3; over/under 48½ points; money line -150, +130

The Dallas offense has been clicking, and the Atlanta defense has been missing. The Cowboys will be without RB Ezekiel Elliott however. Perhaps more importantly all-pro LT Tyron Smith will also be inactive due to a groin injury. Atlanta needs to get their offense back in gear to keep their playoff hopes reasonably alive.

Pick: Falcons 28, Cowboys 27
Dallas +3, over 48½

 

1-7 New York Giants at 0-9 San Francisco 49ers
Giants favored by 2½; over/under 42 points; money line -145, +125

Week after week I keep picking Santa Clara to win a game. Week after week the Miners find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Now they host Team Turmoil, traveling three time zones. The G-men have given up on their season and their coach is Dead Man Walking. The legend of Jimmy Garoppolo in the City by the Bay commences. Only masochists would tune in to watch a game between two teams with a combined 1-16 record.

Pick: Niners 3, Giants 2
Niners +2½, under 42

 

Prime Time Games

6-2 New England Patriots at 3-5 Denver Broncos
Patriot favored by 7½; over/under 44½ points; money line -320, +260

New England fans are rightfully going to temper their expectations based on the Patriots history in Denver. The Broncos have not looked good since their week five bye. Denver has lost four straight, turning the ball over 13 times in that span. To win they will need their defense to come through against a Patriot offense that is without WR Chris Hogan (shoulder). Danny Amendola has been playing through a knee injury, so the Pats could rely more on James White in the passing game. The Broncos can’t focus on stopping both Rob Gronkowski and the Patriot running backs at the same time. Brock Osweiler and the Denver offense will make a critical gaffe or two against Matt Patricia’s defense.

Pick: Patriots 31, Broncos 17
New England -7½, over 44½

 

4-4 Miami Dolphins at 6-3 Carolina Panthers
Panthers favored by 9; over/under 38½ points; money line -450, +350

Continuity on offensive lines is a key to productivity. Miami will make two changes to their OL this week, adding LG Ted Larsen but losing RT Ja’Wuan James. That could be problematic against a Carolina defense that is allowing only 17.7 ppg.

Pick: Panthers 24, Dolphins 17
Miami +9, over 38½

 

Bye Week:
4-5 Baltimore Ravens
6-3 Kansas City Chiefs
4-5 Oakland Raiders
8-1 Philadelphia Eagles

 

For a sneak peak at next week’s games, check out NFL Week 11 Early Advanced ‘Look-Ahead Lines: Patriots favored by 6 vs Raiders in Mexico City.