Last Week: 10-4 Season Record: 79-50
For my Thanksgiving picks, which you can read here, I went 2-1, hitting on Vikings over Lions and Chargers over Cowboys, and missing on Redskins over Giants (those goddamn G-Men). The bye weeks are over so you can expect these picks segments to be a little longer again. So with that bit of housekeeping, let’s get to the picks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6) vs Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
I really have no idea what to make of the Buccaneers. They somehow seem to be playing a little better without Jameis Winston, though the margin of difference is pretty small. Their victories over the Jets and Dolphins were pretty unimpressive, but I doubt they’re complaining. But defensively they’ve stepped up the last couple weeks and that’s thanks in large part to the improved health of linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David. They also luck into a Falcons team that will be without star runningback Devonta Freeman, however Atlanta has a pretty damn good secondary option in Tevin Coleman. This will be Coleman’s chance to showcase what he can do in a lead role, essentially an audition to become the main man when his contract expires after next season, or to become trade bait this offseason. I think he has a solid game and I’ve got the Falcons taking this one at home.
Projected Score: Falcons 27 Buccaneers 20
Cleveland Browns (0-10) vs Cincinnati Bengals (4-6)
Josh Gordon is practicing again for the Browns but he won’t be eligible to return until next week against the Chargers, so if I’m a Browns fan, I’m keeping an eye on practice reports and how he’s looking. He could be a huge boost for this Browns offense that has absolutely nothing going for them. The defense isn’t terrible, which is why I think they will compete with the Bengals a little better than they did earlier in the season when Cincinnati won 31-7, but I don’t expect them to be much better. The Bengals have been a frustrating team offensively this season but one constant is that the defense has been playing well. I’ve got the Bengals dropping the Browns to 0-11.
Projected Score: Bengals 34 Browns 14
Tennessee Titans (6-4) vs Indianapolis Colts (3-7)
The Titans are coming off a Thursday Night drubbing at the hands of the Steelers. Marcus Mariota had one of his worst games as a pro, throwing four interceptions in the defeat. It gets easier this time around and he’s going to have significantly more time to prepare for the Colts than he did in the short week leading up to the Steelers. The Colts defense is very unimpressive but they played well against the Tom Savage-led Texans. That’s like saying I beat a folding chair in a game of basketball, but still, anytime you can hold an NFL offense to 14 points, you’ve done your job. Neither defense is particularly impressive overall, but I trust Mariota to bounce back this week and I think the Titans come away with the W.
Projected Score: Titans 28 Colts 21
Buffalo Bills (5-5) vs Kansas City Chiefs (6-4)
This is a battle of two teams that are as ice cold as they come. Buffalo has lost three in a row, each by double digits, and the Chiefs have lost 4 of their last 5, including losing to the lowly Giants in OT last week and making me look like a moron. So one of these teams will likely be ending their streak of suckitude, unless of course this game ends in the dreaded tie. God I hate ties. For Buffalo, the Nathan Peterman experiment could not have been more of a disaster. The rookie out of Pittsburgh threw 5 first half interceptions and got benched for the incumbent Tyrod Taylor in the second half. Why Taylor was benched in the first place is beyond me, it’s not like he was the reason the Bills were trending the wrong way, he’s been having a solid season. For that reason, I’m going with the Chiefs. There’s too much discord in Buffalo right now.
Projected Score: Chiefs 24 Bills 17
Miami Dolphins (4-6) vs New England Patriots (8-2)
Jay Cutler is out with a concussion for the Dolphins so Matt Moore will take his place, which has been pretty hit-or-miss in the past. Yes Moore has more familiarity with the Dolphins system, but he still lacks the talent that Cutler has (I see you sniggering over there. Stop it, I said Cutler is talented, not good, there’s a difference). But they won’t stand a chance against the Patriots regardless of who is at quarterback (unless they managed to make a Tom Brady clone). No matter how many injuries New England may have at any given time, and they have a bunch right now, they aways seem to find the guys to make it work. Lately it’s been guys like Rex Burkhead that have been Bill Belichick’s mismatch of the week. The Raiders didn’t have an answer for either Burkhead or Brandin Cooks or any other Patriots skill players. I’ve got New England.
Projected Score: Patriots 38 Dolphins 21
Carolina Panthers (7-3) vs New York Jets (4-6)
Is it me, or does Carolina not “feel” as good as their record might indicate? The Titans fall into the same category as teams that don’t seem very impressive, yet are still in a good position in the standings. Carolina only trails superpower New Orleans by a game for the division lead, but that’s mainly due to their defense, which has been about as spectacular as it was when they made their run to an NFC championship in 2015. Carolina’s defense has held their opponents without an offensive touchdown in 4 of their 10 games this season, which is amazing if you think about it. They face a Jets team that is quite frankly a lot better than they should be. I would argue that this is the least talented roster in football yet they still find themselves hovering around .500. You have to respect the job head coach Todd Bowles has done this season given their lack of impact players, but I don’t think he’ll be enough to get the Jets past the Panthers this week.
Projected Score: Panthers 31 Jets 17
Chicago Bears (3-7) vs Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)
The Bears finally let Mitchell Trubisky loose in their last couple games, actually allowing him to throw the football. He’s been solid in his opportunity, definitely showing signs of promise. The Bears didn’t need to rely on him too heavily last week as Jordan Howard was having a monster game with 125 rushing yards on only 15 carries. Trubisky himself had a solid day running the football as well, as he ran for 53 on 6 carries. They’re going to struggle to find those same lanes against the Eagles, however. Jim Schwartz’s defense manhandled the Cowboys offense last week and if anything, it’ll be an easier time this week against the Bears. Carson Wentz has kept up his torrid pace and I don’t see this Bears defense slowing him down. I’ve got the Eagles.
Projected Score: Eagles 30 Bears 20
Seattle Seahawks (6-4) vs San Francisco 49ers (1-9)
The Seahawks made a good comeback attempt against the Falcons on Monday Night Football but came up just short (literally, Blair Walsh’s potential game-tying field goal didn’t quite reach the crossbar). It’s impressive they were able to keep it close without Kam Chancellor or Richard Sherman in the secondary, just goes to show how deep Seattle’s back four are. They were also able to hold Matt Ryan under 200 yards, which is something that can’t be taken lightly. CJ Beathard has been announced as the starting quarterback after the bye week following San Francisco’s first win of the season over the Giants, one that was much earned. I’ve said many times during this picks segment, the 49ers really aren’t that bad. Are they good? No, but they’re not 1-9 bad. Maybe 3-7. They had that stretch earlier in the season where they lost 5 straight games by 4 or fewer points, so I felt really good for them when they finally got on the board (which I predicted, thank you very much). But I don’t think they’ll be able to beat the Seahawks. Seattle showed last week that they can still compete defensively without two of their best guys and the 49ers don’t have the weapons on offense to prove otherwise.
Projected Score: Seahawks 27 49ers 7
New Orleans Saints (8-2) vs Los Angeles Rams (7-3)
Oh shit, Rams have back-to-back games against the elites of the NFC. This is where Sean McVay has to show he’s for real as a head coach. The Rams have been slaughtering some pretty bad teams this season and their best win of the year is over the Jaguars. Yes they are good, but they still are an inconsistent team. The Saints have been as good as any team in football, but defensively they may be vulnerable this week. Star rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore and his battery mate Ken Crawley are both out this week so I expect the Rams to try and target Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods a little more frequently (bet Buffalo is really steaming watching these guys have success in LA). I’m still going to give the edge to the Saints, though I think this will be a lower scoring game. The backfield duo of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara have been dynamite this season and despite how good the Rams have been on defense, I’m not so sure they can stop these guys.
Projected Score: Saints 20 Rams 16
Jacksonville Jaguars (7-3) vs Arizona Cardinals (4-6)
As I mentioned above, the Jaguars have been inconsistent this season, though I think they may have broken their string of good-bad-good-bad, as they’ve won 4 games in a row, mostly on the strength of their defense. They’ve allowed a grand total of 31 points in those 4 games, including a shutout of the Colts. The Cardinals are going to struggle mightily offensively, though I wouldn’t say they were abysmal last time out against the Texans. Sure they lost, but Blaine Gabbert seemed competent enough as the Cardinals quarterback. I think he’s going to struggle against his old team, though, and I have the Jaguars winning their fifth in a row and getting to win number 8 for the first time since 2010.
Projected Score: Jaguars 33 Cardinals 14
Denver Broncos (3-7) vs Oakland Raiders (4-6)
The Broncos are going to roll with Paxton Lynch from here on out, it seems. That’s a smart move, in my humblest of opinions. Your season is pretty much lost and you spent a first rounder on this kid, what have you got to lose? If he performs well, great. If he doesn’t, there’s a talented crop of quarterbacks entering the NFL in 2018. Like a few other teams I’ve talked about today, the Broncos really aren’t as bad as their record might indicate, but they’ve had so many problems at quarterback that it has held this team down and crippled them to the point of near disaster. They’re going to have problems with the Raiders, though. Yes, Oakland lost to New England 33-8, but Marshawn Lynch was getting a good push all game and Derek Carr wasn’t getting a ton of help from his receivers. Plus Belichick just straight up out-coached Jack Del Rio. I don’t think Vance Joseph can out-coach Del Rio the way the Hoodie did and I’m taking the Raiders.
Projected Score: Raiders 21 Broncos 10
Green Bay Packers (5-5) vs Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2)
Just when I start to have a little bit of confidence in Brett Hundley, he goes and does that. The Packers were shut out by the Baltimore Ravens in Lambeau last week and Hundley was terrible. 21-36 for 239 yards (not that bad) with no touchdowns and 3 interceptions (very bad). Now yes, I understand the Ravens have a good defense and can fluster any good quarterback. But when you have guys on offense like Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Randall Cobb at your disposal, you should at least be able to score SOMETHING! That’s why I anticipate this game being a blowout. Unlike the Ravens, the Steelers have a ton of weapons on offense in Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and the emerging Juju Smith-Schuster. Hundley just can’t keep up with that.
Projected Score: Steelers 41 Packers 17
Houston Texans (4-6) vs Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
The Texans are coming off a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, the first this season for Tom Savage. Savage was actually pretty good in that game, too. 22-32 for 230 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 pick. The Ravens are a bit tougher defensively, as evidenced by their shutout of the Packers at Lambeau. Defensive coordinator Dean Peas’ group have allowed the third fewest points and the sixth fewest yards this season so I don’t anticipate a lot of offensive success for the Texans. Offensively, Danny Woodhead is making his way back and could create some mismatches for Joe Flacco to exploit. Houston is pretty depleted on defense but can still hold their own. Despite that, I’m taking the Ravens this week. They’re more of a safe bet.
Projected Score: Ravens 23 Texans 13
Those are my picks for this week. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.