Week 10 pretty much has it all: Falcons-Panthers on Thursday night. Our first Germany game, featuring Tom Brady and Geno Smith. And the dramatic debut of Jeff Saturday as the Colts head coach. What more could you want?
Lines are from FanDuel. Stats are from TruMedia/Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted. On to the picks!
Week 9 records: 7-4-2
Season record: 73-59-4
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (+3)
We’re likely looking at a rain-filled NFC South matchup featuring QBs Marcus Mariota and PJ Walker. This feels like the game that will really give Al Michaels second thoughts about his decision to move to Amazon to call Thursday Night Football.
These two teams played a couple weeks ago, and the Falcons escaped with a wild 37-34 win. Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t play in that game, but he’s back now and scored a couple touchdowns last week.
I was initially leaning Panthers here but I think the Falcons will be able to run the ball, and the Panthers just looked so listless in last week’s loss to the Bengals. I’ll take Atlanta.
The pick: Falcons (-3)
Seattle Seahawks vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3)
The Seahawks have a disparity between how the advanced metrics view them and how the betting markets view them. Football Outsiders, for example, gives Seattle an 89.3 percent chance to make the playoffs. FanDuel has the Seahawks at -250, which equates to just a 71.4 percent chance.
me? I’m buying this team. Last week, Geno Smith threw a pick-six in the third quarter. The Seahawks offense responded by stringing together three straight touchdown drives to put the Cardinals away. And the defense is playing so much better than it did early in the season.
As for the Bucs, I don’t know how encouraged they should be by their win over the Rams last week. Yes, they got the W, but they scored six points in the first three quarters and for most of the game looked like the disappointing team we’ve seen all season.
This would have sounded ridiculous before the season, but nine weeks in, it’s true: I trust the Seahawks more.
The pick: Seahawks (+3)
Jacksonville Jaguars at Kansas City Chiefs (-9.5)
Play this season out 100 times and I think that in most cases the Jaguars are over .500 after nine weeks. They are 1-6 in one-possession games after rallying for a 27-20 win over the Raiders last week. Only five teams move the ball at a more consistent rate than Jacksonville.
The Eagles’ offense is coming very close to overtaking the Chiefs and Bills in terms of earning 1st downs on a given series
I am very surprised at how high the Bengals and Browns (and Jaguars!) are on here pic.twitter.com/Csf8nIJVt9
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) November 8, 2022
I’m tempted to pick the Jaguars to make a late playoff push even though they’re sitting at 3-6. The only problem? They have the third-toughest remaining schedule, according to Football Outsiders.
Patrick Mahomes put the Chiefs on his back last week. He dropped back to pass 78 times against Tennessee—the most for any quarterback in a single game in TruMedia’s database, which goes back to 2000. He threw for 446 yards, but it was Mahomes’s legs (63 yards rushing) that lifted the Chiefs to a victory over the Titans.
I don’t see the Jaguars defense slowing Mahomes down, but I think Jacksonville will be able to move the ball on offense and limit Kansas City’s possessions.
The pick: Jaguars (+9.5)
Houston Texans at New York Giants (-5.5)
The Giants are coming off the bye and are well-positioned to make a playoff push in the NFC. They’ve got a 73.6 percent chance to get in, according to Football Outsiders.
The Texans do one thing well: run the ball. But they had all kinds of protection issues in last week’s loss against the Eagles. Rookie RB Dameon Pierce could have another big game here, but was limited in Wednesday’s practice with injuries, and the Giants’ aggressive defensive scheme should be able to force Davis Mills into at least a handful of negative plays.
The Giants have a great shot to improve to 7-2 here.
The pick: Giants (-5.5)
Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears (-3)
In last week’s loss to the Dolphins, Justin Fields had the highest expected points added on scrambles of any quarterback in a single game over the last 10 years. Fields looks like a special runner, and the Bears are wise to (finally!) lean into that. In their last four games, the Bears are performing like a top-10 offense in EPA per drive.
The Lions are coming off their second win of the season, but their offense has been unable to capture the magic it had early on, and I’m not ready to assume Detroit’s defensive issues are fixed just because they beat the Packers.
Fields makes plays with his legs all afternoon, and the Bears win by a touchdown.
The pick: Bears (-3)
New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers (+1.5)
The Steelers defense will look different than when we last saw it a couple weeks ago before the bye. It sounds like Pittsburgh could get edge defender TJ Watt back, and the team added cornerback William Jackson III at the trade deadline.
The Saints fell to 3-6 after a blowout loss to the Ravens on Monday night. With all four teams under .500, the NFC South is still up for grabs, but per Football Outsiders, the Saints have just a 13.8 percent chance to make the playoffs.
I don’t trust this Steelers offense, but I’m not taking Andy Dalton on the road against Mike Tomlin.
The pick: Steelers (+1.5)
Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins (-3.5)
If you’re a Dolphins fan, you have to be excited about Mike McDaniel. You’re getting a better version of Tyreek Hill than we saw in Kansas City. The Dolphins are second in offensive DVOA. And Tua Tagovailoa is currently first among all starting quarterbacks in EPA per pass play. McDaniel is scheming to his players’ strengths and maximizing the talent on the roster. That’s good coaching.
It would probably surprise a lot of people to hear that the Browns are actually fourth on offense in EPA per drive. If you would’ve told me before the season that Cleveland was going to be 3-5, I would’ve assumed that the offense without Deshaun Watson was a mess. But that hasn’t really been the case.
I don’t trust the Browns defense to slow down Miami’s offense, but I think Cleveland will be able to run the ball and put up points against an underperforming Dolphins defense. This feels like a field goal game to me.
The pick: Browns (+3.5)
Minnesota Vikings at Buffalo Bills (-3.5)
All eyes in Buffalo are on Josh Allen. He’s officially day-to-day with an elbow injury, but the low number here indicates a belief out of Vegas that Allen is in danger of missing this game. If that happens, the Bills would turn to Case Keenum. Buffalo had a number of other starters listed on Wednesday’s injury report.
The advanced numbers are not kind to the Vikings. They are 7-1 but rank 18th in DVOA. Minnesota is now 4-0 in games decided by seven points or fewer.
This is a tough call. On one hand, the Bills are so banged up and could be without Allen. On the other, Keenum would still have a lot of talent around him. And are the Vikings really going to go 8-1? I have no feel on this game. When in doubt, take the points.
The pick: Vikings (+3.5)
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans (-2.5)
Mike Vrabel showed once again on Sunday night that he’s capable of doing more with less. The Titans were basically without a passing game, and they still pushed the Chiefs to overtime on the road. It’s unclear whether Ryan Tannehill will return for this game. If not, the Titans will lean on rookie Malik Willis once again.
As for the Broncos, they won in London against the Jaguars before last week’s bye. Denver’s defense ranks second in EPA per drive, but the Broncos traded edge rusher Bradley Chubb at the bye and will now have to find pass rush elsewhere.
This feels like it’s probably going to be an ugly, low-scoring game that comes down to the wire. I’ll take the points.
The pick: Broncos (+2.5)
Indianapolis Colts at Las Vegas Raiders (-5.5)
What a week for the Colts. They’ve gone from Matt Ryan and Frank Reich to Sam Ehlinger and Jeff Saturday in a span of 10 weeks. They’ll have a first-time play-caller (assistant QB coach Parks Frazier), a first-time head coach (Saturday), and a quarterback making his third career start in this game. I don’t think the Colts will get the bump that some teams get from an in-season coaching change. Reich was not doing a great job, but I think he was well-liked by the players in that locker room.
As for the Raiders, well, this is a pretty wild and telling note.
Number of games #Raiders lost after leading by 17+ in 628 regular season and playoff games before Josh McDaniels arrived: 3
Number of games Raiders lost after leading by 17+ in 8 games w/ Josh McDaniels as head coach: 3
— Josh Dubow (@JoshDubowAP) November 6, 2022
Coaching has been an issue for the Raiders. But they’ve also been pretty unlucky. Vegas is a league-worst 0-5 in games decided by seven points or fewer this season.
It feels like everyone is going to be on the Raiders here, and I usually like to avoid sides like that, but this Colts situation just has “train wreck” written all over it.
The pick: Raiders (-5.5)
Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams (-1.5)
Sean McVay announced on Wednesday that Rams QB Matthew Stafford is in concussion protocol. If Stafford can’t go, John Wolford will likely be the starter.
Last week’s loss to the Bucs felt like it might have been essentially a season-ender for the Rams. Their offense currently ranks 30th in EPA per drive, ahead of only the Steelers and the Colts. The Rams have been outscored by 42 points on the season, which ranks 27th.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, continue to operate like one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NFL. This feels like an Aaron Donald “don’t forget about me!” game where he just wrecks possession after possession for the Cardinals.
Even if they’re rolling with a backup QB, I like the Rams here.
The pick: Rams (-1.5)
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers (+5)
How dire are things for the Packers? They have lost five in a row and are currently +470 to make the playoffs. That equates to roughly a 17.5 percent chance. They had 389 yards in their loss to the Lions last week, but Aaron Rodgers had three interceptions and missed a number of throws.
The Cowboys look like legit Super Bowl contenders. They’re 6-2 and still get a shot to steal a game off the Eagles in Week 16.
An ugly loss here (to their former coach, Mike McCarthy, no less) would be rock bottom for the Packers, and maybe that’s what we’ll see. But they’ve moved the ball a little better the last two weeks. This feels like the pick I’m most likely to regret come Sunday evening, but I’m taking Green Bay to be competitive here.
The pick: Packers (+5)
Los Angeles Chargers at San Francisco 49ers (-7)
The 49ers feel like a team that’s about to go on a run. They had a bye last week, and Kyle Shanahan now could get Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk on the field at the same time.
As for the Chargers, the good news is that Justin Herbert looked healthier than he had in a while during last week’s win over the Falcons. The bad news is the Chargers have an injured and underperforming defense that ranks 29th against the run.
I generally don’t like to fade quarterbacks like Herbert when the line’s this big, but there’s really no reason to trust the Chargers. My only question with the 49ers is whether their top-end players can stay healthy, but going into this game they look to be at full strength.
The pick: 49ers (-7)
Washington Commanders at Philadelphia Eagles (-10.5)
When these two teams faced off in Week 3, the Eagles took a 24-0 lead into halftime and never looked back, winning 24-8. They sacked Carson Wentz nine times in that game and had 17 quarterback hits. Taylor Heinicke can make more plays out of structure than Wentz, but the Eagles should still have a big advantage with their pass rush.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles offense just hasn’t had a bad game yet. DeVonta Smith had eight catches for 169 yards in the first meeting. On the season, Jalen Hurts ranks first in Pro Football Focus’s adjusted completion percentage, which strips away drops, spikes and throwaways. The Eagles offense is third in EPA per drive, behind only the Bills and Chiefs.
If Heinicke makes some second-reaction plays and Washington’s defensive line pressures Hurts, this could be a competitive game in the fourth. But there’s little reason to doubt the Eagles here, based on what we’ve seen through nine weeks.
The pick: Eagles (-10.5)