Writing a picks column this early in the week is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes you get to take advantage of questionable lines before they shift drastically, and you can look like a genius. Other times, thanks to mid-week shake ups, you end up backing Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler. Week 9 was the latter, and helped me go an abysmal 4-8-1 against the spread. But since about half the league’s great players are already hurt, I doubt any more bombshells can hurt my Week 10 picks. So let’s get to it.
Thursday, November 9
Seattle Seahawks (-6) at Arizona Cardinals
Want to hear something odd? A win for the Cardinals here will pull them into a tie with Seattle. It doesn’t seem like this Arizona team should have four wins, but when those victories have come against opponents with a combined 5-30 record, it makes a little more sense. The four losses Arizona has suffered came at the hands of competent football teams and by an average of nearly 21 points. However, I’m not sure I’m ready to call the Seahawks a competent team, especially after sticking with kicker Blair Walsh following Sunday’s meltdown. Home ‘dogs are 3-1 this year on Thursday nights, so side with a Cards D that can hassle a Seattle offense that usually doesn’t wake up until the fourth quarter.
Pick: Cards (+6)
Sunday, November 11
New York Jets (-1.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is my favorite game of the week: a battle between the two Vinny Testaverdes of our era. Both Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick will play their former team this Sunday; although when you’ve played for eight and seven different teams, respectively, that’s a pretty common storyline. Fitzy led the Jets to a ten-win season back in 2015 with a loaded receiving corps, and this year, McCown is having an even better year throwing to a cast of no-names. Fitzpatrick will have to learn to incorporate less accomplished receivers into the Buccaneers offense this week, as number one wideout Mike Evans is suspended. Facing a powerful Jets defensive line and with no run game to help him, New York fans may see the 2016 version of Fitzy, the one that threw six interceptions in one game.
Pick: Jets (-1.5)
New Orleans Saints (-2) at Buffalo Bills
A rare November outdoor game in the northeast for New Orleans brings back one of our favorite debates: can the Saints play in cold weather? As a team that has been winning with a dominant run game and suffocating defense, one would certainly think so. However, they’re playing a Buffalo team that follows the exact same formula, and is undefeated at home this season. Throw out the stinker they put up on Thursday night; the Bills should be favored here. Take advantage of the fact they’re not.
Pick: Bills (+2)
Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (-5)
For the second straight week, the Titans find themselves favored by a weird number. This team is too talented to be just a field-goal favorite, but too inconsistent to be favored by a touchdown. Take last week’s game against Baltimore; Tennessee had every opportunity to put the game away by the fourth quarter, but their offense disappeared for the second half, and allowed the Ravens to cover late. The Bengals offense never showed up to Jacksonville last week, so A.J. Green got himself sent home early. Luckily, Green’s dust up with Jalen Ramsey won’t cost him any more time. Unluckily, the Bengals still have no blocking or run game, and these offensive struggles mean their defense is always on the field. Green will have an outstanding day against Tennessee’s secondary, yet the Titans should still cover this one.
Pick: Titans (-5)
Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-4)
Sunday’s bombshell that Leonard Fournette would not be dressing made me very confident in my Cincy pick, but the Jaguars s*** all over it anyways. A top-notch run game and pass defense, as well as some shifty playmakers at wide receiver mean this team can overcome no Fournette for a game, and overcome Blake Bortles for 16 games. In fact, the way the schedule is shaping up, the Jags could finish the year hosting their first playoff game since 1999. Their Week 10 meeting with the Chargers is just one of three games over their final eight that I could actually see them losing. But considering the trouble L.A. has had getting its ground game going, I’ll roll with Jacksonville.
Pick: Jaguars (-4)
Minnesota Vikings (-2) at Washington
Kirk Cousins was pressured on over 40-percent of his dropbacks against Seattle in a gutty 17-14 road win. That percentage could get even worse against a well-rested Vikings defense coming off a bye. Everson Griffen has at least one sack in every game this year, and will easily add to that streak if former teammate T.J. Clemmings is still at left tackle for Washington. Despite the challenge facing Cousins and the offense though, I’m going to side with Washington after an encouraging performance by their defense. Having both Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland back in the secondary made a huge difference, and should help this team shutdown Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen.
Pick: Washington (+2)
Cleveland Browns at Detroit Lions (-10)
The Lions are coming off a dismantling of the Packers at Lambeau, even though their red zone offense was still shaky. The Browns are only 3-7 ATS in their last ten games as a double-digit dog. Even with the benefit of enormous spreads, it’s still impossible to make a case for Cleveland. Maybe if that AJ McCarron trade had gone through? Nah!
Pick: Lions (-10)
Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (-5)
If this line looks peculiar to you, it might be because the Bears haven’t been favored over the Packers since 2008! That was Aaron Rodgers’ first season as a starter, and he was a four-point dog to a Chicago offense led by Kyle Orton and a rookie running back named Matt Forte. In terms of offensive production, Bears fans must be longing for those days. Mitch Trubisky may represent the future, but in the present, Chicago can’t do diddly-poo offensively. The same goes for Green Bay, which has averaged 17 points in two home games under Brett Hundley. Both of these offenses should continue to struggle, but only one of these defenses has shown the ability to make impact plays, so side with the home Bears who have eight takeaways and ten sacks over their last three games.
Pick: Bears (-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) at Indianapolis Colts
The Colts mustered their third win of the season last weekend, but that won’t result in any momentum for this struggling team. Indy followed their first two wins with 28 and 14-point losses. I often talk in this column about how frustrating the road Steelers can be, but Pittsburgh is typically very competent playing indoors. In their last four games under a dome, they’re 4-0 straight up and ATS.
Pick: Steelers (-10)
Houston Texans at Los Angeles Rams (-11)
Oh cruel fate! This could’ve been the shootout of the season. Instead, it marks the first time the Rams have been favored by double digits since 2013, and just the second time in the last 13 years. And if you saw the way they dismantled a completely disheartened Giants team, you understand why they’re such an enticing bet. The Texans briefly had hope for their post-DeShaun Watson season, before Tom Savage fumbled away any realistic chance at playoff contention. Now a banged up Houston D playing out the string will have to try to hold the league’s top offense to under 20 points to stand any chance in this one. Not happening.
Pick: Rams (-11)
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (-1.5)
The scrappy, close-loss Niners of the early season are a thing of the past. After putting up just 10 points in each of their last three outings, there’s no reason to even consider this team until they turn to Jimmy Garoppolo, which may not come until 2018. The Giants are equally miserable in all situations (even 3rd-and-33) but considering this is basically a neutral field, siding with the points in a matchup between two garbage teams is usually a good idea.
Pick: Giants (+1.5)
Dallas Cowboys at Atlanta Falcons (-3)
What a difference Sean Lee makes to the Cowboys defense. Dallas had their two worst efforts with him out of the lineup, and since he returned after the bye week, they’ve held three straight opponents under 20. Atlanta returns home desperate for a win, but incapable of putting four quarters of strong football together. After weeks of fans clamoring for the Falcons to just “throw it up to Julio Jones,” the receiver had his highest yardage total on the season, but also dropped an easy touchdown that could’ve won the game. Whether the Super Bowl hangover is real or not, there’s a stink around this team that’s keeping me away from them.
Pick: Cowboys (+3)
New England Patriots (-7.5) at Denver Broncos
If you got burned by that Denver pick last week, this is your chance to get that money back before Brock Osweiler goes away for good. You’ll hear a lot about Tom Brady’s struggles at Mile High in the build up to this game, but that concern can be disregarded, because New England may never need to throw the ball. The aging Broncos defense finally broke down, surrendering 419 total yards (including 197 rushing) and seven touchdowns to the high-flying Eagles. Sure, it was their third-straight game on the road, but we also saw the Giants chew up Denver with the ground game in the Broncos’ last appearance at Mile High. Throw in New England’s 12-5 record after the bye under Bill Belichick, and you get a game I will be throwing in every teaser and parlay I make this week.
Pick: Patriots (-7.5)
Monday, November 12
Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers (-9)
Perhaps I was just weary from watching football all day, but did Jay Cutler actually look good on Sunday night? The numbers say yes (34 of 42 for 311 yards and 3 TDs). Sure, he threw a lot of checkdowns to a new backfield of Damien Williams and Kenyon Drake, but the Dolphins still finished with their highest yardage total on the season. If Adam Gase can get the penalties under control, there may be hope for this offense yet. Carolina also rediscovered what it meant to have offensive success, running the ball effectively against the Falcons after benching Jonathan Stewart. However, Miami is a little more stout against the run, so those who were curious to see which receiver will step up without Kelvin Benjamin, this is the week to find out. As for the spread, it’s a bit too high for Carolina. Four of their six wins have come by six points or less, and they’ve yet to cover as a home favorite this season.
Pick: Dolphins (+9)