I’ve read MVP cases for Todd Gurley, Tom Brady, Alex Smith (not so much anymore) and others, but what and where the heck are the Seattle Seahawks without Russell Wilson? Laying face down in a ditch with Pete Carroll AWOL at spiritual yoga retreat?
In case you missed it on Thursday night, first game of the NFL’s Week 10 and the sports betting slate, the Seahawks were locked in a tight game at the Arizona Cardinals, leading 15-10 and facing a 2nd and 21 from their own 44, when Wilson did this:
Just incredible. Aaron Rodgers has sneaky speed and an uncanny ability to maneuver in the pocket and buy time, but holy heck, Wilson is a quarterbacking Houdini. On the next play, he found Jimmy Graham for a two-yard touchdown pass and Seattle held onto a cover (-6) until the Cardinals scored in the final minute to pull within 22-16. BUT… the Seahawks blocked the extra point! Some folks who had only 5.5 on Arizona got screwed while many more were saved by the push. A reminder that every single point matters, especially in the era of 33-yard extra points. Now let’s get to the rest of the slate.
NFL Week 10 Picks, Projections, Saints-Bills Clash, New York Road Favorites, Bucs Sink, Rams Rise
Green Bay Packers (+5.5) at Chicago Bears: The Bears have been great at home this season: 4-0 against the spread, 3-1 straight up with their only loss due to a dropped would-be winning TD pass in the final seconds. With Aaron Rodgers on the shelf, these teams are quickly racing in different directions — as the double-take-inducing line indicates. Chicago has thus far asked rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky to do very little, but at least they did add another decent wide receiver to the fold in a trade with the Chargers, bringing to Chicago the field-stretching Dontrelle Inman.
This game figures to bring a heavy duty workload for RB Jordan Howard (Chicago is rushing over 60% of the time since Trubisky took over) and he’ll probably wear down a Packers rush defense (on a short week) that figures to spend a lot of time on the field, given QB Brett Hundley’s major limitations. Also Chicago is healed up after the bye and returning some starters on the offensive line while the Packers have lost starting right tackle Brian Bulaga (ACL) for the season. Score projection: Bears 24, Packers 17
New York Jets (-2.5) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are roadkill, the kind that’s mangled on the side of the highway and disturbing to look at. Given his poor play (through an injury) and fantastically awkward attempt to motivate his teammates at New Orleans, I don’t think Ryan Fitzpatrick starting in place of Jameis Winston is much of a downgrade.
Jameis Winston with an … interesting pump up speech. ? pic.twitter.com/z0tESHAA6k
— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 5, 2017
Although Bucs star WR Mike Evans is now suspended after an extracurricular blindside hit on Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore — a confrontation that Winston instigated from the sideline! It’s chaos in Tampa Bay under likely-to-be-fired HC Dirk Koetter. The Jets surely have shortcomings (secondary) but they’re at least playing hard and have been covering spreads: 6-2-1 versus Tampa’s 1-6-1. This is a DOUBLE JOURNEYMAN VETERAN QB REVENGE GAME as Jets QB Josh McCown faces his old team and likewise for Fitzpatrick. But the Tampa defense is an abject disaster (30th in defensive DVOA). We may see some real points here (total is 43.5). Score projection: Jets 31, Bucs 20
New Orleans Saints (-3) at Buffalo Bills: This is a fairly good spot for Buffalo, coming home after a mini-bye after getting shredded on a standalone Thursday night game at the Jets. The Saints have progressed into serious NFC contender range, powered by an awesome RB double punch of Mark Ingram and offensive ROY candidate Alvin Kamara, plus Drew Brees of course and a solid offensive line. And by now you may have heard that the Saints’ defense is league average if not better, although they are much more susceptible to running games (28th in rushing DVOA), which is about all Bills have. THAT SAID… Buffalo brought over big body WR Kelvin Benjamin from Carolina (getting up to speed) and QB Tyrod Taylor looks to be getting top receiving option, TE Charles Clay, back this week. I’m laying off a side here but because this could be a major ground game on both sides. I’d take a good look at the under (46.5), maybe in a teaser leg that takes you to 52.5. Score projection: Saints 23, Bills 22
Cleveland Browns (+12) at Detroit Lions: Ready to plug your nose? It’s Browns or bust here. They’ve covered only two of eight games this season but they’re coming out of a bye against a still-somewhat-overrated Lions team. Good chance Cleveland has its top defenders back and rested here, LB Jamie Collins (shoulder), DE Myles Garrett (ankle) and DB Jason McCourty (ankle), and they’ve been successfully stopping the run. Still, Matthew Stafford is definitely going to rack up some yardage via Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. Struggling Browns rookie QB DeShone Kizer is the major concern, and of course ironman LT Joe Thomas is in the shop for the rest of the season, but 12 points leaves high backdoor cover potential. I’m not wholeheartedly suggesting you take the Browns unless we’re talking pool play, I just wouldn’t lay the full box of donuts on Detroit. Score projection: Lions 27, Browns 17
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Cincinnati Bengals (+4.5) at Tennessee Titans: The Bengals are a sinking ship and we’re seeing the same frustration from top WR A.J. Green (ejected for fighting with Jalen Ramsey last week) as we have from Mike Evans. The Bengals’ offensive line is a mess and they can’t run the ball, so why not target Green 20 times a game? I really don’t know what to make of the Titans (3-4-1 ATS) either. DeMarco Murray is playing through an injury (DNP on Thursday), but the receiving corps looks more formidable with rookie Corey Davis back alongside Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker and TE Delanie Walker. Could they go pass-first? Titans lead the league in offensive variance (per Football Outsiders), meaning they’re basically a football playing rollercoaster and I’m not interested in getting nauseous. Score projection: Titans 26, Bengals 20
Los Angeles Chargers (+3.5) at Jacksonville Jaguars: My oh my oh my, the (playoffs-bound?!) Jacksonville Jaguars have become a publicly-backed team! Understandably so because their defense is an absolute juggernaut and probably the best in the entire NFL. They are just stacked at every level and that means they’re likely to play tight games even when they don’t win.
— Dan Hanzus (@DanHanzus) November 8, 2017
The Chargers’ defensive strength is its secondary and pass rush… which doesn’t do them much good against a run-first Jags squad poised to give a rested Leonard Fournette 25 carries here (4.6 per carry average). This one just seems kind of simple to me, so let’s talk caveman style: Jags rush good! Jags defense so good. Chargers run not good. Grunt. Phillip Rivers is never afraid to chuck a longball or throw into tight coverage, so if Los Angeles gets behind, I think we’re looking at a two-plus INT game. I don’t love laying the hook but remember when the Jags win, they’ve been winning big. Score projection: Jaguars 27, Chargers 17
Minnesota Vikings (-1.5) at Washington Redskins: Winners of four straight and cover-ers of three in a row, the NFC North front-running Vikings are fresh off their bye. Although the name Case Keenum doesn’t spark much excitement, he’s been a middle-of-the-pack starter, which is great for a backup. (Keenum: 64% completions, taken only 5 sacks in 238 dropbacks for second best rate in the league.) They’re balanced and solid in all three phases. Washington is coming off a huge road win in Seattle, but as evidenced in that same gutsy road win — by a M*A*S*H unit no less — I don’t think this a team where we have to be concerned about a letdown. Washington is getting healthier (they couldn’t get more injured) on the offensive line and in the secondary. With Philly at 8-1, the Redskins know they’re competing for a Wild Card and can’t afford to fall to 4-5. This will be a tight game. Score projection: Redskins 21, Vikings 20
Pittsburgh Steelers (-10) at Indianapolis Colts: Ten points on the road? Ten points on the road. I know the Colts are wreck. And I envision the Colts in deep trouble with the league’s worst sack rate allowed (11%) on offense against a sack-happy Steelers squad. But I just can’t bring myself to lay double digits on a Pittsburgh team that’s notorious for lackadaisical road performances. Score projection: Steelers 26, Colts 20
(4 p.m. E.T. games)
New York Giants (-2.5) at San Francisco 49ers: Giants head coach Ben McAdoo’s real estate agent had better get his place up for sale. He’s in over his head in the Big Apple, a lame duck coach who inspires no confidence for this sorry 1-7 squad that heads cross-country to face the absolutely dismal San Francisco 49ers. What happens when a train wreck meets a dumpster fire? I’m thinking the train rubble wins.
The current Giants players don’t care about positioning for a high draft pick and at this point will play for their jobs and next contract, and the Giants simply have more talent and impact players than San Fran. Niners rookie starter C.J. Beathard is taking a beating behind the Niners Joe Staley-less offensive line and they’ve got nothing on offense besides Carlos Hyde. San Francisco has scored exactly 10 points in three straight, getting lit up in each contest and failing to cover. I’m a sucker for home dogs but think we see a nice Giants bounce back after getting embarrassed at home 51-17 by the surging Rams. Score Projection: Giants 28, 49ers 17
Houston Texans (+11) at Los Angeles Rams: Former Texans QB T.J. Yates is now the current Texans backup for the statuesque Tom Savage; Yates shared in first-team reps this week and unless Savage shows some miraculous improvement, I think we’ll once again see Bill O’Brien give Savage the hook (as he did for Deshaun Watson in Week 1!) at halftime or sooner. Consider this mind-boggling stat from Rotoworld’s Rich Hribar: Houston has scored a touchdown on three of 50 possessions with Savage under center for his career. Which means we’re probably looking at a Texans first half deficit of about…10 to 17? Once posted, I’ll be looking at the first half line on this Rams team leading the league in first half scoring (20.1).
At least Yates has played in this offense before and will give DeAndre Hopkins chances to make plays. “With Hop, it’s not hard to get back into a rhythm,” Yates said. “I’ve known him a long time. He’s an easy guy to throw to. He’ll help you out if you’re a little off. He’s just a phenomenal receiver.” I’d rather play that first half line than the game but here goes. Score Projection: Rams 34, Texans 21
Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Atlanta Falcons: According to IsEzekielElliottSuspended.com, the answer is yes. Good grief. And now Jerry Jones is leading a revolt against Roger Goodell’s contract extension. I just had to let out my dismay with all of this drama. The Falcons are mired in full-blown Super Bowl Hangover Mode, evidenced no better than by Julio Jones’ surprising drop of a sure touchdown pass last week.
Opponents just feel bad for them at this point; Kurt Coleman consoled Jones after the All-Pro receiver whiffed. “I saw his body language” Coleman said. No one felt worse than he did. I was obviously happy that he didn’t catch the ball, but also I offered him encouragement.” This is a do-or-die game for 4-4 Atlanta who will get buried in the NFC South with a loss. Meanwhile Dallas has to march on despite losing their star rusher, but fortunately Dak Prescott has shown he’s capable of picking up the slack. The task would more difficult without Dez Bryant (knee/ankle, questionable). Too much uncertainty here for my taste, so I’ll just be watching for the intrigue, but do think the Falcons get stuck with a fork. Score Projection: Cowboys 27, Falcons 24
Sunday Night Football
New England Patriots (-7.5) at Denver Broncos: Turns out Brock Lobster is just as bad as we remembered. And the Broncos defense is not immune to getting absolutely hammered as evidenced by the 50-burger Philly dropped on them last week. This team knows it’s going nowhere given the sorry state of their quarterback room and offense in general. The Patriots are going to attack Denver with a short passing attack, probably through receiving-running backs James White and Dion Lewis, with a very healthy dose of Rob Gronkowski against a D hemorrhaging yardage to tight ends.
What if anything can Denver do offensively against a mediocre Patriots defense? Remember Houston (with Osweiler under center) did give New England a bit of a scare in the Divisional Round last year, but Houston’s defense wasn’t so depleted then and Osweiler, well, didn’t do much except turn the ball over three times. I have trouble bringing myself to lay 7.5, yet, a fully depleted Giants team did annihilate Denver 23-10 in Denver in Week 6 for Big Blue’s only win of the season. Score Projection: Patriots 27, Broncos 17
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Monday Night Football
Miami Dolphins (+9) at Carolina Panthers: This week in Carolina, the enigmatic Cam Newton ruffled some feathers by likening the team to the Titantic. Linebacker Thomas Davis didn’t love that reference. Titanic or USS Monitor or a plucky pontoon boat, the 6-3 Panthers are looking pretty good overall and will get back star TE Greg Olsen after their Week 11 bye.
Look for another heavy dose of Christian McCaffrey receptions against a weak Dolphins passing defense and probably some deep shots to Devin Funchess and rookie Curtis Samuel. The Fins post-Jay Ajayi offense will feature more passing to the running backs as well. Did you happen to catch Miami’s backdoor cover against Oakland last Sunday night? It will be a taller task against Carolina’s defense but it’s a live possibility. The Panthers haven’t really blown anyone out with the exception of the awful Bucs and 49ers in Week 1. We very well might see another 20-3 but that 39.5 total is dangerously low. Why are the Dolphins on prime time in back to back weeks? Come on, schedulers. Score Projection: Panthers 24, Dolphins 14
Happy Week 9 to you all. Hit me up on Twitter with any thoughts, comments, concerns, questions, compliments or dad jokes.
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