It’s not a great week for games ... I feel like I say that every week. But this week it holds some salt. Eight games of the 12 left to play have spreads of a touchdown or more.
Playoff implications abound just because the shape and scope of the playoff picture is still taking shape. Every win and loss affects that. However, there’s only one game left between two of the league’s better teams, one true battle among the upper echelon of teams in the NFC.
Saints (+2) over RAMS
This looks like a tossup in every sense of the label.
Good defense? Check.
Multi-faceted offenses? Check.
Smart coaching? Check.
The Rams probably have a slight edge in the eyes of bookmakers just because they’re at home. However, the Rams are also dealing with more woes on the injury front right now, specifically with their No. 1 wide receiver, Robert Woods. He’s out with a shoulder injury, one that could keep him on the shelf through the middle of December, including another critical matchup in Week 14 against the Eagles.
Los Angeles’ secondary is also banged up. They could be down to their fourth cornerback opposite Trumaine Johnson.
Both of these teams run the ball exceptionally well. Rams running back Todd Gurley is tied for the NFL lead in rushing touchdowns with eight. He just so happens to be tied with Saints RB Mark Ingram. Along with rookie Alvin Kamara, the Saints’ running backs have been the most productive offensive players in the league since October.
The Rams happen to be allowing an average of more than 120 rushing yards per game. Latavius Murray ran for 95 yards and two rushing scores in the Vikings’ win over the Rams last week.
All that has me leaning toward the Saints in this one.
Underdog picks for the adventurous gambler
Bills (+10) over CHIEFS
Nathan Peterman will be on the bench when this game kicks off, where he should be. The Bills’ temporary insanity has nothing on the Chiefs’ run of incompetency lately. Kansas City turned a 5-0 start into a 1-4 run, which also matches their total against the spread in those last five games. They were 10-point favorites against the Giants last week, and look how that turned out.
Browns (+8) over BENGALS
Of all the underdog picks this week, this is the one I’m least confident about. I’ve just been burned too many times picking the Browns. They’re a bad team. But so are the Bengals. Winning is probably too much to ask for Cleveland, but they should be able to cover an eight-point spread.
49ERS (+6.5) over Seahawks
Seattle has 11 players on injured reserve this season. Another three are ruled out this week, including safety Kam Chancellor. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is dealing with a hamstring injury, and newly acquired left tackle Duane Brown’s ankle is bothering him.
Could the 49ers possibly put together consecutive wins? Lol, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. But they can cover the spread, thanks to the Seahawks’ injury list.
There’s not much to say about these games. Sure, the underdogs here could upset the apple cart, and one of them probably will. But is there one of those underdogs you feel confident enough to pick? Not me.
Panthers (-5.5) over JETS
Titans (-3) over COLTS
RAIDERS (-4.5) over Broncos
Jaguars (-5.5) over CARDINALS
RAVENS (-7) over Texans
Big spreads, but don’t bother
STEELERS (-14) over Packers
How this game didn’t get flexed out of primetime I don’t understand. The Packers are 1-4 straight up and against the spread without Aaron Rodgers. They’re averaging 13.4 points per game in those five games. Green Bay with no Rodgers to protect itself from Mike McCarthy and Dom Capers might not beat the Browns.
Don’t bet against the Steelers in primetime either. Pittsburgh is 9-0 in its last nine primetime games, covering the last six, and winning by an average margin of 15.9 points in those nine games.
EAGLES (-13.5) over Bears
Sure, go ahead and bet that John Fox can keep it within a pair of touchdowns against the best team in the NFC. It’s your money.
PATRIOTS (-16.5) over Dolphins
The Dolphins won’t have Jay Cutler this week, so I was actually tempted to change this pick. They’re better off with Matt Moore under center. This is still the Dolphins we’re talking about though. Scoring on the Patriots will be a problem.
FALCONS (-10) over Buccaneers
Atlanta has shaken off that whole 28-3 thing. Now, they have a real chance to make it back to the playoffs for another disappointing exit.