I’ve been a bit under the weather the past few days, so in lieu of an intro this week, I’ll just start things off with a couple of timely tweets, then get right down to business with this week’s picks.
“I say, if your knees aren’t green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life.” – Calvin, to Hobbes
And, away we go.
Winners in Bold:
Miami at Buffalo
That was a neat trick that Miami pulled last week, coming back in the 4th quarter against Washington, then “going for the win” (sarcastic quotes/italics alert), with a 2-point attempt that was so ineptly conceived that it had no chance of succeeding. And so, Miami’s pursuit of the first-overall pick in the 2020 draft remained on course, but they still made it look like they weren’t tanking. Facing Buffalo’s punishing defence this week, Miami won’t have to fake losing; they should be beaten quite soundly.
Jacksonville at Cincinnati
Jacksonville got rid of supremely talented Jalen Ramsey, which was necessary, even though the relationship never should have deteriorated to that point. Ramsey would probably still be happily playing for Jacksonville if Doug Marrone weren’t such a terrible coach. After a tough outing against New Orleans last week, Gardner Minshew and the Jags’ offence should bounce back against a Cincy squad that is severely limited due to a plethora of injuries.
Minnesota at Detroit
Detroit got robbed by the officials last week against Green Bay; it’s just a fact. A loss is a loss, though. Meanwhile, people are starting to get high on Kirk Cousins again, after a couple of good outings against some overmatched defences. I’m sorely tempted to take Detroit in this one, but their defence is a bit too banged-up to hold off Minnesota for four quarters.
Oakland at Green Bay
This game has the potential to be a lot closer than people think, mostly due to the fact that Green Bay’s receiving corps has so many injuries. Also, Oakland’s players really seem to be buying into Jon Gruden’s program, as evidenced by the way they’ve competed thus far. I expect a close game, and would not be surprised to see Oakland pull an upset here. The Pack will need to get a supreme effort out of their defence, and Aaron Rodgers, to defend their home turf.
LAR at Atlanta
How the mighty have fallen. Atlanta can’t seem to stop anyone on defence, while LA’s offence looks to be a shambles. LA will get a reprieve, as their offence should be able to get going against Atlanta. One win won’t solve all their problems, though.
Houston at Indianapolis
This is one of the most intriguing matchups of the week, and one of my toughest picks. Both teams are solid on both sides of the ball. Both are dealing with some key injuries, as most teams are at this point. If I’m going to give a slight edge to one team, it would have to be Houston, based on the fact that Deshaun Watson seems to be able to do anything right now, and he’ll be facing a hobbled Indy defence. Should be a great game.
San Francisco at Washington
I’m still not completely sold on San Fran’s offence, but their defence sure seems to show up each week, and they should have little difficulty shutting down Washington’s offence.
Arizona at NYG
Arizona comes to town on a bit of a hot streak, and with CB Patrick Peterson back in the fold after serving a six-game PED suspension. New York is coming off a 35-14 loss to the Pats that wasn’t as bad as the score indicates. Big Blue entered the 4th quarter against the defending champs down by only one score, and their defence only gave up three TDs, New England having scored one each on defence and special teams. Particularly encouraging was how well LB Alec Ogletree and CB Janoris Jenkins played, as well as little-used LB David Mayo, who saw significant playing time due to injuries. As well, Daniel Jones, though the numbers don’t show it, hung in like a champ and took his lumps against one of the best defences in the league, with most of his best offensive supporting cast injured. Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Wayne Gallman should all be back this week, which should jump-start the offence significantly. Fun fact: with Philly and Dallas playing each other this week, New York could finish the day tied for second place in the NFC East.
LAC at Tennessee
Well, it looks like Tennessee is ready to move on from Marcus Mariota. That’s too bad. By most accounts, he’s a talented kid, with a great work ethic, and nice to boot. Unfortunately, too much coaching inconsistency, coupled with some injuries, stunted his growth as a QB. It would be nice to see him end up with a team that could straighten him out and help him achieve his potential. In the meantime, Tennessee has decided to go with Ryan Tannehill. The Bolts come to town reeling, after back-to-back losses in which their offence couldn’t find its groove. LA has to know that they have a huge chance to jump right back into the AFC West race with Patrick Mahomes out for at least a few weeks, so I expect them to come out blazing, and to leave it all on the field.
New Orleans at Chicago
There’s a good chance that Mitchell Trubisky plays in this one. Trubisky, Chase Daniel, whoever, Chicago’s offence is putrid, and with New Orleans fielding on of the best defences in the league, it’s hard to imagine where Chicago’s points will come from. That’s not saying that New Orleans’s offence shouldn’t struggle, what with facing Chicago’s beastly defence without Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. Steady Teddy Bridgewater, Latavius Murray, Michael Thomas, and the rest should be able to do enough against a Chicago defence that will be without Akiem Hicks.
Baltimore at Seattle
For all the talk of Lamar Jackson being the “next big thing,” Baltimore’s offensive output on the scoreboard has been mostly “meh” this season. Seattle definitely has the defence to keep Baltimore from scoring too much, and Russell Wilson should be able to manufacture enough scoring drives against Baltimore’s mediocre defence even without TE Will Dissly.
Philadelphia at Dallas
Another intriguing, important divisional matchup, which unfortunately is diminished by injuries to both squads, makes for a difficult pick. After starting 3-0, Dallas has lost three straight, including getting beaten soundly at home by Green Bay, and on the road against NYJ, in games where both the offence and defence started off slowly. Philadelphia has had an up-and-down season, as they’ve battled injuries on both sides of the ball. This week, Philly will go without four starters on defence, including their top two CBs. However, Dallas has a lot of key injuries on offence, particularly on their offensive line, and I think that Philly’s depth at Safety will afford them the ability to get pressure up front and pressure Dak Prescott. Philly’s offence will be the healthiest it’s been in a while, so another slow start by Dallas’s defence would prove costly.
New England at NYJ
The return of Sam Darnold last week paid huge dividends for New York in a number of ways. He looked confident and poised, spreading the ball around and sustaining drives, particularly one that produced a Field Goal late in the 4th quarter to extend their lead to eight points. Darnold’s ability to move the ball helped New York’s defence produce its best result this season by taking the pressure off them and by giving them more time to rest between Dallas drives. Darnold will be in tough against a New England defence that is among the best in the league, and is well-rested and mostly healthy. Also helping New England’s cause is the return to practice of Rex Burkhead and Phillip Dorsett, signalling their possible availability. New York always plays its A-game when facing the Pats, and playing at home with Darnold running the offence should produce a more competitive contest than their Week Three tilt.