Here are this week’s picks against the spread courtesy of Confessions of a Sportscaster and yours truly, followed by Week 10’s Predictive Yards per Play Rankings at the very end if you’re interested. Last week, I went 10-4 and Lucas went 5-9, so Lucas’s lead got a little less lopsided. He still leads by four games overall with seven weeks left. This week, we only disagree on three games, which are…detailed below for your enjoyment, along with the eleven games we agreed upon.
Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans (+3.5)
Lucas: Colts. Look, I have no idea what happened to Indy on Sunday either (my supervisor from Indy blames himself for not being able to watch much of it until the very end), but if Tennessee can’t beat freaking Jacksonville, unless the spread is really huge, why should I pick the Titans?
Nathaniel: Titans. The Colts have had one of the highest variance defenses in the league this season – they’ve alternated between looking dominant (at San Francisco and home against Denver) and looking awful (the opener against Oakland and last week’s blowout loss to the Rams). Ryan Fitzpatrick will give them plenty of chances to look good tonight, but he’s also capable of putting up big numbers if their level of play is like last week’s.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1.5)
Lucas: Buccaneers. It’s amazing that, at least for a week, this was the “stable” football team compared to its opponent. Don’t know that we can say that here, but I figure Revis Island becomes a bit of a hotspot again.
Nathaniel: Buccaneers. The wheels have completely fallen off in Atlanta, which is probably a better harbinger for their chances next season than if they had gamely held down the fort after Julio Jones’ injury and wound up in the neighborhood of 7-9. The way things are going now, it certainly looks like a top-five draft pick and an opportunity to properly revamp a truly awful defense is in play for the Falcons. This is really a game where it would be in both teams’ better interests to lose.
New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (+1.5)
Lucas: Jets. Based on the last two weeks, I can’t take the Bills seriously. Then again, when could any of us take the Bills seriously?
Nathaniel: Jets. After each of their nearest foes for the last wild-card slot in the AFC lost last week, the Jets somehow, someway have become a favorite to make the playoffs. That they’ve been able to do this with yet another shaky quarterback and lack of talent at the skill positions speaks to how good a coach Rex Ryan really is. Playing at Buffalo’s been tricky for everyone this season, but EJ Manuel’s scattershot accuracy doesn’t inspire much confidence right now.
Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears (-2.5)
Lucas: Bears. Josh McCown has looked pretty good when pressed into service. Were this game in Baltimore I’d think twice, but the Ravens aren’t the same team away from M&T.
Nathaniel: Bears. The one-two punch of Charles Tillman’s torn triceps and being swept by the Lions probably leaves too steep a climb for the Bears to make their way back into the playoffs this year. The Ravens hardly seem like the type of team who can exploit the Bears’ rash of injuries of defense, however, so that truth may not yet be apparent on Sunday.
Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals (-6.5)
Lucas: Browns. Maybe I’m putting too much faith in a not-that-great Cleveland team. Maybe it’s more so “Cincy has found ways to lose two games they could (and maybe even should) have won.”
Nathaniel: Browns. It’s probably a bit much to think the Browns will actually win outright in Cincinnati (though I am leaning towards them being able to cover), but if they could accomplish that, they would accomplish a season sweep of the Bengals and their next two games are home dates against the Steelers and Jaguars. If the Bengals aren’t careful Sunday, the AFC North could actually turn into a real race again.
Detroit Lions at Pittsburgh Steelers (+2.5)
Lucas: Lions. Did I Google “Pittsburgh Steelers Bee Uniforms” before the season, find this news article about how they’re wearing them this week, then set a reminder on my phone to make sure I didn’t pick Pittsburgh out of sheer spite against those hideous things? Of course not; that would be silly. I remembered that they were wearing them this week without needing the reminder on my phone to go off, then still picked against Pittsburgh out of sheer spite against those hideous things.
Nathaniel: Lions. There’s no team in the league that hopes Aaron Rodgers’ recovery from his fractured collarbone continues to drag longer and longer than the Lions – each passing week that Scott Tolzien starts makes the first Lions’ division title in 20 years look all the more likely.
Oakland Raiders at Houston Texans (-6.5)
Lucas: Raiders. I’m sorry, but why is Houston favored by this much, exactly? Not that I trust the Raiders either after they choked away the Giants game, but I’m taking the points.
Nathaniel: Texans. Terrelle Pryor’s been electric as a runner this year, but only Brandon Weeden and Josh Freeman have lower Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt figures as passers this season. If he is truly going to be the Raiders quarterback of the future, he has to start doing more through the air or I’d have to believe Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie would take a long look at this year’s deep quarterback class in the draft.
Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5)
Lucas: Redskins. Don’t get me wrong, Nick Foles has looked good. But this has the makings of a shootout much like we had in Week 1, only this time I think RG3 has the firepower from the get-go to keep up.
Nathaniel: Redskins. In a vacuum, the fact that the Eagles have four home games remaining out of their final six games overall would make them the NFC East favorite over the Cowboys. Well, that and the fact they’re a considerably better team than the Cowboys. But so far this year, the Eagles are 0-4 at home and their tendency has been to start wobbling as soon as the public starts to believe in them again. If the Redskins lose this game, they’re done: they’d be 2.5 games behind the Eagles and would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker. So for this week, erring on the side of desperation doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars (+6.5)
Nathaniel: Cardinals. Arizona is suddenly 5-4, owners of possibly the best defense in the league and just a game back in the wild-card chase. It seems next-to-impossible that they could really catch Carolina or San Francisco by year’s end, but their schedule isn’t too taxing the rest of the way. They get to face Indianapolis and San Francisco at home and the Eagles in Philadelphia, which is where you apparently want to play the Eagles this year. I can’t imagine them beating the Seahawks in Seattle in Week 16 unless the Seahawks have home-field advantage all wrapped up by then, but every other game remaining on Arizona’s schedule is winnable the rest of the way. Don’t sleep on them.
San Diego Chargers at Miami Dolphins (+1.5)
Lucas: Chargers. I like what Phillip Rivers has done this year. That, and until Miami gets its collective crap together, I’m not sure I can trust them.
Nathaniel: Chargers. Possibly an AFC Wild-Card elimination game for the loser, although the Jets aren’t likely to run away from anyone in December. The Chargers don’t have near enough a pass rush to take advantage of the Dolphins’ terrible offensive line – but then again, the Dolphins probably don’t have near enough offensive firepower to take advantage of the Chargers’ horrible defense.
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants (-6.5)
Lucas: Giants. Look, I love how well the Immortal Scott Tolzien did filling in for Seneca Wallace, given the circumstances (you know, other than that one pick). And I know Eli is prone to throwing picks, but Green Bay’s defense is awful, and Scott Tolzien isn’t Aaron Rodgers. Thus:
Nathaniel: Packers. Scott Tolzien’s arm strength (or lack thereof) last Sunday made Jeff Tuel look like Jeff George, but the Giants’ offense simply can’t be trusted to cover even a medium-sized line like this right now. The NFL’s decision to flex this from Sunday Night Football a few weeks ago looks more prescient by the second.
Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (-13.5)
Lucas: Seahawks. Christian Ponder is not going into CenturyLink and winning a football game there. Heck, I don’t think this is much of a game.
Nathaniel: Seahawks. A contrarian might point to Seattle’s last two home victories (decided by a total of ten points) and decide to take a calculated risk on the Seahawks sleepwalking through another first half at home and allowing the Vikings to cover. I am not that contrarian.
San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints (-3.5)
Lucas: Saints. After a year off, we’re back to the “These guys scare me” Saints instead of the “Our assistant head coach moonlights as a janitor on Tuesdays” Saints. The Superdome is this year’s Georgia Dome, and San Francisco doesn’t seem as good this year.
Nathaniel: Saints. The Saints remain the #1 team in this week’s Predictive Yards per Play rankings after having just about as dominant a performance from the line of scrimmage as you can possibly have against the Cowboys. The 49ers should be able to take advantage of the Saints’ one weakness – run defense – but it’s another question entirely as to whether Colin Kaepernick can match Drew Brees throw for throw.
Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (-8.5)
Lucas: Chiefs. I don’t think Kansas City wins in Denver, but I do think with as shaky as Denver’s defense is, combined with KC’s defense being pretty good.
Nathaniel: Chiefs. Given Denver’s offensive performance in their last four games, this will likely be a low-scoring game, which would obviously favor Kansas City. Since they put up 51 points on the Cowboys in Week 5, the Broncos have had below-average Predictive Yards per Play averages in each of their last four games. It didn’t matter as much because they were playing bad defenses, but performing at that same level Sunday night against the Chiefs would make the dropoff look much more glaring. So while it’s still tough for me to imagine Kansas City strolling into Denver and coming away with a victory, this line looks eminently coverable.
New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers (-2.5)
Lucas: Panthers. “Do not believe in you, Riverboat Ron! Believe in the me that believes in you! Your going-for-it-on-4th-and-short is the going-for-it-on-4th-and-short that will pierce the plane of the end zone! WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK I AM?!”
Nathaniel: Panthers. Carolina’s win at San Francisco was a loss for the rest of the NFC because there may not be a more balanced team in the whole conference. Now after beating the 49ers, a playoff berth of some type seems likely and a dark horse Super Bowl contender appears to have been born.
Lucas: 77-71 (5-9 last week)
Nathaniel: 73-75 (10-4 last week)
Offensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 10:
|Rank||Team||Yards||Plays||Passing TDs||INTs||Rushing TDs||Fumbles||SOS||Predictive Yards per Play|
|1||New Orleans Saints||3804||613||25||7||6||6||-0.01||6.69|
|2||San Diego Chargers||3559||592||18||7||4||7||-0.29||6.65|
|3||Green Bay Packers||3780||603||16||7||8||13||-0.08||6.53|
|15||San Francisco 49ers||2894||536||9||6||15||12||0.33||4.92|
|16||New England Patriots||3250||633||13||6||10||12||0.08||4.90|
|18||St. Louis Rams||3165||634||17||6||3||15||0.16||4.62|
|22||Kansas City Chiefs||2856||596||9||4||7||9||-0.03||4.42|
|23||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2698||591||12||7||2||12||0.20||4.41|
|27||New York Jets||2981||591||8||13||5||10||0.01||4.16|
|32||New York Giants||2873||569||11||17||6||15||-0.39||3.26|
Defensive Predictive Yards per Play Rankings, through Week 10:
|Rank||Team||Yards||Plays||Passing TDs||INTs||Rushing TDs||Fumbles||SOS||Predictive Yards per Play|
|3||San Francisco 49ers||2851||587||10||10||8||13||0.11||3.95|
|6||New York Jets||2927||586||17||5||5||14||0.10||4.30|
|8||New York Giants||2967||613||14||8||6||15||0.05||4.32|
|9||Kansas City Chiefs||2942||575||9||12||2||15||-0.46||4.34|
|13||New England Patriots||3249||643||13||12||4||12||-0.11||4.67|
|16||St. Louis Rams||3518||614||15||11||11||17||0.06||4.80|
|17||New Orleans Saints||2858||530||9||9||8||11||-0.31||4.81|
|19||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||2997||564||17||9||4||8||0.19||4.90|
|27||Green Bay Packers||3175||558||17||3||7||9||0.02||5.66|
|32||San Diego Chargers||3547||551||14||4||6||9||-0.03||6.75|
Predictive Yards per Play Differential, through Week 10:
|Rank||Team||PY/P Diff.||Remaining SOS||Projected Wins|
|1||New Orleans Saints||1.88||11.75||11.98|
|5||San Francisco 49ers||0.97||7.27||10.08|
|6||Green Bay Packers||0.87||-21.30||9.03|
|12||New England Patriots||0.23||9.02||10.33|
|15||Kansas City Chiefs||0.08||4.45||12.60|
|17||San Diego Chargers||-0.10||-7.84||7.81|
|18||New York Jets||-0.14||-8.28||8.44|
|20||St. Louis Rams||-0.18||20.54||6.12|
|24||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-0.48||14.91||3.09|
|29||New York Giants||-1.06||-3.86||5.21|
Projected AFC Playoff Picture, through Week 10:
- Kansas City (12.6 wins)
- New England (10.3 wins)
- Cincinnati (9.6 wins)
- Indianapolis (9.1 wins)
- Denver (12.3 wins)
- NY Jets (8.4 wins)
In the hunt: San Diego (7.8 wins), Baltimore (7.6 wins), Tennessee (7.6 wins), Cleveland (7.5 wins), Miami (7.1 wins), Houston (6.9 wins)
Mediocre: Pittsburgh (6.3 wins), Buffalo (6.2 wins), Oakland (5.1 wins)
Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Jacksonville (2.4 wins)
Projected NFC Playoff Picture, through Week 10:
- Seattle (13.4 wins)
- New Orleans (12.0 wins)
- Detroit (10.6 wins)
- Philadelphia (8.2 wins)
- Carolina (10.3 wins)
- San Francisco (10.1 wins)
In the hunt: Arizona (9.1 wins), Green Bay (9.0 wins), Chicago (8.9 wins), Dallas (7.6 wins), Washington (6.5 wins)
Mediocre: St. Louis (6.1 wins), NY Giants (5.2 wins)
Teddy Bridgewater Sweepstakes: Atlanta (4.6 wins), Minnesota (3.8 wins), Tampa Bay (3.1 wins)