Well, I stunk again last week. If you are sticking with me in this column, you are a glutton for punishment and I sincerely hope that I reward your loyalty at some point here soon. Last week we went 0-3-1 and we are now four games under .500 the season. Brutal.
I am four under for the season picking every game and same thing with the best bets. Very disappointing. All you can do is keep chopping wood and plugging ahead and this week there’s going to be a bit of a common theme with these pics. The weather is starting to turn in the holiday season and I am really favoring by and large teams that can run the football and do so in a multitude of ways.
Chiefs (8-1) at Raiders (6-3)
Okay in this instance the Raiders run the ball better than the Chiefs but it’s not going to matter. I can understand Las Vegas taking a victory lap for beating Kansas City earlier this year at Arrowhead but they ain’t sweeping the Chiefs. The Chiefs are better on special teams, the Chiefs are better on defense and the Chiefs are better on offense. There’s plenty of motivation for Kansas City and they already got their mulligan out of the way and they’re catching the Raiders on a week in which they basically had no defensive players in the building at all due to COVID-19. I’m sorry that matters. Beating the Chiefs twice when you have no pass rush to speak of just isn’t going to happen and you also aren’t going to keep the game close that way either. The Raiders have just 11 sacks on the season they don’t have anyone you have to worry about in that regard really besides Maxx Crosby and even he is a try-hard guy. Kansas City’s offensive line is as healthy as it’s been in a long time and I think this is going to be a bloodbath.
My pick: Chiefs -8
Patriots (4-5) at Texans (2-7)
New England’s offensive line is healthy and Cam Newton understands what he has to do to win which basically translates to taking care of the football. The Texans don’t turn you over very much, they can’t stop the run and they are going to get bullied in this game with heavy jumbo formations. Bill Belichick ran it 39 times against the Ravens last week and he might run it 45 times this week. Cam Newton will be a handful himself in the run game and Burkhead and Harris are no joke right now. New England can sense that its season is once again vibrant and alive and it doesn’t matter that they don’t really throw to wide receivers or tight ends and it doesn’t really matter what their offensive limitations are. Defensively they’re in good shape because the Texans can’t run the ball at all and the strength of the New England defense is the secondary. I expect this to be another lopsided affair.
My pick: Patriots -1.5
Cowboys (2-7) at Vikings (4-5)
Yes, Dalvin cook was bottled up last week by the Bears, but Chicago is a pretty unique defensive team and they are doing special stuff on that side of the ball and this is a very different scenario this week. Cook will get going and this young Vikings team loaded with rookies will continue to excel and stay on their uptick. They see a schedule for them that will allow them to get back in the NFC playoff race and the Cowboys cannot stand up against the type of volume in the run game that the Vikings present. Kirk Cousins knows he just needs to be a point guard and not force anything. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen will be an absolute handful for this Cowboys defense.
My pick: Vikings -7
Packers (7-2) at Colts (6-3)
Frank Reich will keep this team balanced and he will continue to pound the ball on the ground as he has the last two weeks. The Colts had great success on the ground against the Ravens and then again against the Titans. Hines is thriving right now on short passes and Philip Rivers won’t scare you down the field but he doesn’t have to here. He will hit the open receiver underneath in four and five wide receiver sets to neutralize the pass rush and the Colts will use three running backs to wear down the Packers behind their dominant offensive line. I still have pretty significant questions about Green Bay and I don’t think they can play much from behind and I expect them to have to in this game.
My pick: Colts – 2
Eagles (3-5-1) at Browns (6-3)
No one in the NFL is running the ball better than the Browns right now when you look at the totality of their attack. Having Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb back behind a fully healthy offensive line and a full complement of tight ends puts this team right in their comfort zone. It allows them to stick to their identity. And while the Eagles are strong upfront, their deficiencies at linebacker and problems with their secondary stopping the run will be exploited here. There will be opportunities for the Browns tight ends to pick up yards in chunks and Cleveland will stick to its formula which includes Baker Mayfield not throwing the ball more than 20 times. If you drop back to pass too much, guys like Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox will change the game but Kevin Stefanski is well aware of that and will play to those strengths. I don’t know what’s going on with Carson Wentz right now but it’s nothing good and Myles Garrett is going to be a problem for the Eagles.
My pick: Browns – 3