My second week of predictions could have been better, admittedly. I went one for four overall last week, with the Dolphins earning me a push (no win, no loss) with a late touchdown and two-point conversion. I predicted correctly that the Rams would beat the New York Giants, winning 51-17 during that game. In the Falcons-Panthers game, I did not realize the Falcons were playing the third game of a brutal three game road set. The Falcons looked tired and out of sync, especially offensively. In the Buccaneers-Saints game, I thought Tampa Bay would play like their life depended on it. However, they laid another egg and with their record at 2-6 and quarterback Jameis Winston injured, their season is essentially over. Lastly, on Monday Night, the Lions were put in a do or die situation and ended up pulling through. The Packers offense struggled again, and I think we are starting to see the Packers are an average football team without future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Having learned from last week’s mistakes, I am more confident in my picks this week, so here we go!
- Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Atlanta Falcons: This line surprised me. I’m getting points with Dallas even though they have a better record and will come into the game feeling more confident than the Falcons. First off, the Falcons are coming off a brutal stretch where they had to play three straight road games. The Falcons have lost 4 out of their past 5 games, with their only win coming against the Jets in New York that was played in a monsoon. Meanwhile, Dallas is starting to find its rhythm especially on offense, winning their last three games in a row. I also like Dallas’s ability to run the football even with superstar running back Ezekiel Elliott starting his six game suspension this week. The Falcons give up over 110 rushing yards per game, meaning Dallas will be able to control the clock. I also like that Dallas has pass rushers Demarcus Lawrence and David Irvin to put pressure on Falcons QB Matt Ryan. I like the Cowboys to hand Atlanta a fourth straight loss. Cowboys 31, Falcons 27
- Los Angeles Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars (-3.5): I’m taking the Jacksonville Jaguars to cover at home against the Chargers. LA has the disadvantage of flying cross country to play the Jaguars. I know the Chargers are coming off a bye, but that doesn’t change the fact they give up over 130 rushing yards per game. The Jaguars are going to feed rookie star running back Leonard Fournette, who should come into the game with a chip on his shoulder after being suspended last week for a “violation of team rules.” While the run defense for both teams ranks bottom of the league, the Jaguars are a force defending the pass. They only give up 183 passing yards a game, and are led by cornerback Jalen Ramsey. They also have a fierce pass rush that leads the league with 35 sacks. And when Philip Rivers doesn’t have time to throw, that’s when he starts to turn the ball over. Chargers 16, Jaguars 20
- Cincinnati Bengals at Tennessee Titans (-4.5): I’m taking the Titans in this AFC matchup. The Bengals record is a little bit inflated, as two of their three wins have come against Colts and the Browns, two of the worst teams in the league. This is the Bengal’s second straight road game, while this is the Titan’s second straight home game. Marcus Mariota hasn’t had the breakout year everyone thought he would, but he’s played well at home this season. The Bengals run defense isn’t as stout as it usually is, considering they give up over 115 yards per game on the ground. This is important for the Titans because their offense tends to be most productive when they can run the ball effectively with running backs Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. This is a must win game for the Titans. If they want to solidify their spot as 1st place in the AFC South, they must win this game. Bengals 19, Titans 26
- New England Patriots at Denver Broncos (+7.5): Look, I know the Broncos have lost 4 straight games and that their offense has scored an average of 17.3 points a game over their last four. However, the Broncos are still 3-1 at home, and Denver is loaded defensively, led by Super Bowl MVP Von Miller. I’m throwing out that game last week against Philly, which was really their only poor defensive performance this year. The Broncos should be able to pressure Patriot’s quarterback Tom Brady, who has been sacked and pressured often this year. Also, the Broncos were just humiliated last Sunday in Philadelphia. The Patriots’ defense isn’t good enough to win this game on the road by more than a touchdown. I think the Pats win, but it’s a close game. Patriots 23, Broncos 19
- Miami Dolphins (+9) at Carolina Panthers: This line was a shocker to me. Miami is getting nine points at Carolina on Monday Night Football. This is my most confident pick of the week. Both teams have a hard time running the football. Neither team will be able to control the time of possession. Over Carolina’s last four games, they are averaging 15.7 points per game. Carolina doesn’t have the offense to put teams away and they are wildly inconsistent as an offensive unit. Meanwhile although Miami lost on Sunday Night Football at home against the Raiders, their offense started showing signs of life. Granted, it was against a porous Raiders defense, but it was good to see Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler connecting with his receivers. I like Carolina to win this game, but the Dolphins will cover. Dolphins 15, Panthers 22
photo contributed by Redlands Bulldog photographer Joe Kim