Jazz: I’m kicking off the NFL thread this week having barely squeaked out a win, going 6-1 in another satisfying round and bringing me to 60-38 on the season. Of course, Ed is still banging out good predictions as well, so I’m still trailing him by a couple. We have a few weeks left. Is there still hope? Well, there’s probably more hope for me than the Jets. Which reminds me, I need to stock up on gin. #sigh
Ed: My week didn’t go too badly either, but at 5-2 I just missed out on the week’s bragging rights. My season record moved to 62-36, but Jazz has three weeks to catch up to me. The playoff push will produce some surprises, though, so I’d better be upping my game the next three weeks. Speaking of which ….
Jazz: The Jets played Baltimore on Thursday night and the less said about that the better. Suffice to say that I won’t need to make reservations for any playoff tickets. The Steelers host the Bills in Pittsburgh tonight (8:20 pm, NBC) and this game will be interesting because if Pittsburgh can win they will be essentially tied with the Bills for the first wildcard slot. Buffalo, on the other hand, could actually move into a tie with the Patriots if they beat the Steelers and New England drops one more game. Pittsburgh is a slight favorite and that seems like a safe bet because as good as the Bills have been playing, they’re not as good on the road. I’ll take the Steelers over the Bills 24-21. The Vikings visit the Chargers (4:05 pm, CBS) with Los Angeles fresh off a huge win but it was over the Jaguars. They’re just not in Minnesota’s league this year (both literally and figuratively) so I’ll take the Vikings over the Chargers 31-19. And since the Jets aren’t playing, let’s toss in the Giants who welcome the Dolphins (1:00 pm, CBS) in a game few will care about. New York has looked nearly as bad as the Jets, but the Dolphins have managed to do even worse. Also, three of Miami’s starting receivers are questionable to play today. I’ll go with the home team and take the Giants over the Fins 20-17.
Ed: The Steelers and Bills actually match up pretty well against each other, which prompts the question as to what this game would be like if Pittsburgh had all its starters on offense. James Conner might be back, but Vance McDonald and JuJu Smith-Schuster are both out. Still, the Steelers’ D playing at home will be enough for a 20-17 Steelers win over the Bills. Can the Vikings play well on the road in Los Angeles? They’re unbeaten at home but they’re only 3-4 outside of Minnesota, which doesn’t exactly instill confidence. However, they get Adam Thielen back and the Chargers usually find a way to lose. Vikings 28-23 over the Chargers. Finally, Eli Manning will get his second start in a row against the visiting Dolphins, who won two of their three games against quality opponents (Eagles and Colts). The Giants nearly won last week, but I think the Dolphins have more more focus. Dolphins 23-20 over the Giants.
Jazz: Here’s four more games, three of which may be consequential coming down the stretch.
- Bears at Packers (1:00 pm, FOX) – Chicago has won three in a row and have been looking good enough to compete in this game. But this is still Green Bay we’re talking about, playing at home in December. It was tempting to take Chicago as an upset pick here but I got cold feet at the last moment. (Get it? I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.) Give me the Packers over the Bears 17-13.
- Texans at Titans (1:00 pm, CBS) – The Texans have been hot and cold for several weeks now. Meanwhile, Tennessee has won six of their past seven games, allowing far fewer points on average. This game is for first place in the AFC South, and I’ll go with the Titans over the Texans 27-21.
- Rams at Cowboys (4:25 pm, FOX) – The Rams started out well and haven’t lost much momentum this season. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are the only first place team in the league with a less than .500 record. Los Angeles’ ground game should match up well against them. I’ll take the Cowboys over the Rams 31-21.
- Colts at Saints (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – Not much to say here. The Saints are on their way to the playoffs with a good shot at the Superbowl. The Colts… aren’t, barring some kind of miracle. Saints over the Colts 34-14.
- Bears at Packers (1:00 pm, FOX) – Da Bears score 19 points a game, Da Pack scores 24 points a game. Playing at home adds to Green Bay’s advantage. Packers 27-20 over the Bears.
- Texans at Titans (1:00 pm, CBS) – The Texans looked hot in beating the Colts and Patriots, but then stumbled against the lowly Broncos. Tennessee’s on a tear and they’re home for the fist time in three weeks. Titans over the Texans 27-24, possibly in OT.
- Rams at Cowboys (4:25 pm, FOX) – The Cowboys have spent 2019 shooting themselves in the foot. They’re tops in the league in offense on yards gained, but drop to ninth in points scored. The Rams still score fewer points per game, but they’ve looked sharp the last two weeks by giving the ball more to Todd Gurley. Dallas only has a middling rush defense, so I’ll pick Rams over Cowboys 23-17, and Jason Garrett out the door shortly afterward.
- Colts at Saints (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – Their defenses are almost tied with each other statistically, but it’s the offenses that distinguish the two. Drew Brees may not be unbeatable in the Superdome, but he’s close enough to it to matter in this game. Saints 35-21 over the Colts.