Chiefs at Jets, 12:00 p.m. CT, Sunday
Ever since the Steelers traveled to Kansas City on October 15 and laid the blue print as to how to beat the Chiefs, Andy Reid’s squad has been leaking oil. In that game, Pittsburgh played a soft zone and let Kansas City run all the misdirection it wanted. It didn’t work because the Steelers kept everything in front of them and simply made plays when they needed to. Since that game, the Chiefs are 1-5, averaging 18 points per game during that span. Alex Smith also has a four touchdown-to-four-interception ration, a 6.3 yards per attempt averaging, and a 78.7 passer rating during his last four games. It’s not just Smith either: Kareem Hunt has rushed for 173 yards in his last four games and Tyreek Hill has had more than 68 yards receiving just once in his last eight games. That explosive KC team we saw in the first five weeks of the season is long gone.
Meanwhile, the Jets have lost by more than five points only once since Week 3. Josh McCown has thrown a career-high 17 touchdown passes and Robby Anderson has at least one touchdown reception in his last five games. The Jets have been competitive all season, including last week when they held a fourth-quarter lead versus the Panthers. I love them as a home dog here.
My Prediction: New York Jets +3
Patriots at Bills, 12:00 p.m. CT, Sunday
Favorites have been killing Vegas bookmakers for weeks, so perhaps I should be cautious in taking the biggest public favorite in the Patriots. That said, the Bills just aren’t that good. I just went over the Chiefs’ issues so I’m not going overboard when it comes to handicapping Buffalo’s win in Kansas City last week. The bottom line is this: When the Bills have had success this year they’ve feasted on turnovers. The problem for them is that the Patriots have committed a league-low seven turnovers this season. New England doesn’t beat itself and while I’m a tad apprehensive to lay such a big number on a road favorite, I might as well do it with Tom Brady and Co.
My Prediction: New England Patriots -8.5
Vikings at Falcons, 12:00 p.m. CT, Sunday
If you listened to me a few weeks ago on either “The Turn” or “The No Huddle” I noted how much I loved the Vikings as a small home favorite versus the Rams. That’s because I hated the matchup for the Rams, who become one dimensional when you take away Sean McVay’s running game and subsequently, his play-action. In that game, Minnesota bottled up Todd Gurley and forced Jared Goff to throw into tight windows, which he couldn’t, mainly because his offensive line gave him zero time. Granted, the Rams didn’t have the benefit of playing the Vikings at home. The Falcons do. Atlanta also has the reigning MVP at quarterback in Matt Ryan and a weapon in Julio Jones that is coming off a monster game against the Bucs. Still, what the Rams and Falcons do offensively is very similar stylistically. If Minnesota can contain Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, then the Vikings should be able to get after Ryan and force him into a mistake or two. Plus, in big, physical corner Xavier Rhodes, Mike Zimmer has a corner that can match up with Jones in the passing game. I hate this match up for Atlanta.
My Prediction: Minnesota Vikings +3
Bucs at Packers, 12:00 p.m. CT, Sunday
The Bucs are 4-7 and quite frankly, I don’t even think they’re that good. They’ve been out-gained in their last four games but somehow have two wins during that span. I believe they’re fool’s gold. They’re 28th in rushing and will be without Doug Martin (concussion), center Ali Marpet (knee), and right tackle Demar Dotson (knee). Their backup center, Joe Hawley (illness), is also questionable, and DeSean Jackson (foot, probable) isn’t 100-percent. Oh, but Jameis Winston is back. He hasn’t played in a few weeks and even when he did play he wasn’t good. The Packers were shutout two weeks ago at home by the Ravens but Tampa Bay doesn’t have Baltimore’s defense and Brett Hundley showed a pulse a week ago on the road versus the Steelers. I’ll gladly lay the 2.5 points.
My Prediction: Green Bay Packers -2.5
Lions at Ravens, 12:00 p.m. CT, Sunday
I thought Detroit’s season was last Thursday on Thanksgiving Day. Show up and beat the Vikings and we’ll talk about the Lions as a serious wild card contender in the NFC. Instead, the Lions did what they always do: Fell behind early, scrambled late, and couldn’t make one or two more plays to get a win. They’ll be competitive today in Baltimore because the Ravens have no passing game. But without Haloti Ngata (biceps), the Lions have been dead last in run defense since Week 5. The Ravens don’t need Joe Flacco to do anything but hand the ball off to Alex Collins and throw short to Danny Woodhead, because the Lions aren’t moving the ball on this Baltimore defense.
My Prediction: Baltimore Ravens -2.5
Panthers at Saints, 3:25 p.m. CT, Sunday
I’m tempted to take the Saints but after losing last week to the Rams and nearly losing two weeks ago at home to the Redskins (they needed a miracle comeback in the final minutes), I wonder if New Orleans is starting to leak oil. Thus, instead of taking another side, I like the total in this matchup. In the last six meetings between these two teams in New Orleans, the over is 5-1. In the last six meetings between these two teams overall, the over is 5-1. Drew Brees and Co. hung 30-plus points on this Carolina defense early in the season on the road and now face a Panthers team that appears to be wearing down defensively. The over is also 13-5-1 in the Saints’ last 19 home games and is 5-1 in the Panthers’ last six games coming off a win.
My Prediction: Panthers/Saints over 48
Eagles at Seahawks, 7:30 p.m. CT, Sunday
The line in this game opened at Philadelphia -6 and is now all the way down to Seattle +3.5 at some sports books. Yikes. That indicates major sharp action on the Seahawks, so tread lightly. Last week Auburn was a 2.5-point favorite versus Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and then the wiseguys started to hammer the Dawgs. By kickoff on Saturday, Georgia was a 1.5-point favorite. Then again, Ohio State opened as a 7-point favorite versus Wisconsin before sharp money took that line all the way down to 3.5 by kickoff. The Buckeyes still won by six.
What’s my point? Sharps lose, too. Do you like the matchup or not? Don’t always bet the line. I’m going to take my own advice on this one. Seattle’s offensive line is a joke and has Russell Wilson running for his life every week. To Wilson’s credit, he still finds ways to make miraculous plays and should be in the MVP discussion.
That said, the Eagles defensive line is one of the best in football and should feast on the Seahawks’ front five. Philly also has the linebackers and defensive backs to hang in coverage, as well as a quarterback playing at an MVP-like level. Seattle is usually the place where opposing QBs go to struggle but Matt Ryan just one there two weeks ago on Monday night, where Wilson had been undefeated. I liked the Eagles at -6 and I still like them now, despite the sharp money being on the Hawks.
My Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles -3.5
Steelers at Bengals, 7:30 p.m. CT, Monday
I know better than to go “Johnny Public” with both the Sunday night and Monday night games but I’m going to do it anyway. Following back-to-back wins against the Broncos and Browns the last two weeks, plus a narrow loss to the Titans on the road, some are suggestion the Bengals are back in contention. Yeah, except for the fact they were out-gained in all three of those games, including the two wins versus Denver and Cleveland. Don’t let the Steelers’ near-loss to the Packers last week fool you: They’ve out-gained their last three opponents and are starting to hit their stride. The big plays allowed by the defense against Green Bay are worrisome but Mike Tomlin will have ironed out those issues by Monday night. The Steelers are 20-7-2 against the spread in their last 29 games versus the Bengals, including 16-3-2 at the betting window in their last 21 trips to Cincinnati.
My Prediction: Pittsburgh Steelers -4.5