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Week Nine, Post Thursday Night

November 1st, 2019

Every now and then, I manage to back into a set of football picks that creates the illusion I know something. Week eight was one of those.

I went 13-2 picking straight up last week, 12-3 against the spread. Which means I should just quit right now, because I’m not going to perform anywhere close to that well again this season.

But I’m not smart enough to quit.

Nearly halfway through the season, I currently stand at 84-36-1 (.698) straight up and 65-55-1 (.541) with the spreads. (This not counting the Thursday night game for week nine, which I got right both straight up and against the spread.)

Time to destroy everything I’ve built. Here’s what not to expect during the weekend ahead.

Houston (-1.5) vs. Jacksonville at Wembley Stadium, London
The Jaguars don’t actually have to win this game in order to stay alive in the AFC South. But they kind of have to win this game to stay alive in the AFC South. A loss here would put them two and a half games (by virtue of the season sweep) behind the Texans, and more likely than not two behind the Colts. That’s probably more than they could hope to make up over the final seven weeks of the season (barring a sweep of Indy, which is unlikely). In Jacksonville, I’d probably take the Jaguars. Home field in a division match and all that. On a neutral field, though, I think this one goes to the better team. That’s Houston (if not necessarily by much). Texans by a field goal.

Washington (+9.5) at Buffalo
As long as the Bills win the games they should win, they’ll land at 10-6 or 11-5, which ought to be enough to secure the AFC five seed. This is one of the games the Bills should win. And they should win it handily. I think there’s very little chance they squander the opportunity. Buffalo by 14.

Tennessee (+3.5) at Carolina
This game’s a bit of a coin toss, frankly. I think I like the Tennessee defense to carry the day. Titans by a point.

Chicago (+5) at Philadelphia
The Bears defense may be able to keep Chicago in this game into the fourth quarter. Or the Eagles defense might keep Chicago in this game into the fourth quarter. Either way, it comes out Philadelphia by three.

Minnesota (+1.5) at Kansas City
The Vikings ought to be good enough to win this game. On paper, it sort of looks like the Vikings might be good enough to win this game. But I just don’t believe the Vikings really are good enough to win this game. Chiefs by four.

NY Jets (-3) at Miami
With a loss here, the Dolphins would be the first team officially eliminated from contention in their division in 2019. That’s a distinction of sorts, right? New Jersey by one.

Indianapolis (-1) at Pittsburgh
The Colts are a better team than they get credit for being. The Steelers get credit for being a better team than they are. Indy by six.

Detroit (+2) at Oakland
It’s not so much that I think the Lions are better than the Raiders. It’s more that I think the Raiders are worse than the Lions. Detroit by three.

Tampa Bay (+5.5) at Seattle
I can think of only two things that can make this a game. There’s the possibility that the Seahawks are looking past a weak opponent to next week’s critical meeting with the 49ers. And there’s the chance Seattle fails to take advantage of any of the multiple interception opportunities Jameis Winston offers them. That first thing could happen, maybe. But even then, Seahawks by nine.

Cleveland (-3.5) at Denver
I know the prevailing opinion is that the Broncos had quit on the season even before they lost their starting quarterback. And that the Browns somehow must be better than their record indicates. I’m just not sure either of those things is true. The Denver D still plays like they mean it. And things in Cleveland appear to be unraveling fast. The Browns also are playing a second straight road game. And there’s that thing where a loss to the Patriots (though it’s one of the most predictable results in football) seems to do weird things to some players’ heads. I think Cleveland finds a way to drop this one. Denver by three.

Green Bay (-3.5) at LA Chargers
I’ve been trying to envision a path to victory for the Chargers. I don’t think there is one. Packers by 10.

New England (-3) at Baltimore
The big three predictives say this is New England’s game to lose. Passer rating differential, Patriots +19.8; scoring differential, Patriots +7.7; takeaway-giveaway differential, Patriots +15. The eyeball test says this is a challenge for the New England defense. I don’t know what kind of career Lamar Jackson is going to have, but I do know that Jackson is an exceptionally talented athlete who’s playing great football this season. I suspect New England will have an answer or two for Jackson and the Baltimore offense. And my guess is it will involve unusual packages that disguise coverage and emphasize speed. If that works, and if the Patriots offense can take advantage of a weak Ravens D — with long, time-consuming scoring drives — New England should be able to advance to 9-0. Patriots by a touchdown.

Dallas (-7) at NY Giants
If there’s a reason to believe the Giants can compete, it hasn’t been revealed to me. Cowboys by two touchdowns.

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