It’s shaping up to be another wild weekend across the NFL. With just three weeks left in the regular season, plenty of divisional and wild-card races are still undecided across the league. 24 of the league’s 32 teams could consider themselves realistically alive for a playoff berth. The stakes are high which should lead to some exciting football.
Unfortunately, we’ll be dealing with COVID once again this weekend. Ian Book looks like he’ll start after Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian tested positive for the Saints. The Chiefs could be without their top two playmakers in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. Most other teams will be missing some key players as well.
We’re taking a look at six games on this weekend’s schedule and try to navigate all of the narratives, motivation and information. By talking through the games, we might find an edge that is worth attacking. All betting lines are as of Thursday afternoon and courtesy of BetMGM.
We’re taking a look at two NFC East matchups here. The Philadelphia Eagles are a 10-point home favorite over the New York Giants in a must-win game for the Eagles. Elsewhere, the Dallas Cowboys look to clinch the division. Dallas is a 10.5-point favorite over the Washington Football Team. Which double digit home favorite are you backing?
Pete: For the sake of this exercise, I’m going to assume that at least one of Taylor Heinicke or Kyle Allen is cleared in time to play. Garrett Gilbert was fine on Tuesday night, but he is what he is. I like Washington to keep it close against the Cowboys here. Dallas has not been impressive since the early part of the season on offense. It feels like every part of their offense has regressed since the beginning of the year and at the top of that list is Dak Prescott. They should be able to win the game but I’m not convinced it will be in comfortable fashion. I don’t love the Eagles, but if I had to pick one of these teams I’m going with them. This is more of a fade of the New York Giants who are playing some pathetic football in the last few weeks. Daniel Jones might not be very good, but at least the Giants weren’t a complete tire-fire when he was under center. Whether it’s Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm, neither one inspires confidence to score even double digits. Give me the Eagles.
Can Dak Prescott break out of his slump this week against the Football Team? (Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Greg: Washington hasn’t lost by more than two scores since Week 6. That’s a low standard to judge a team by, but my point is that they don’t lay down for opponents, even when they’re severely outmatched like they are in this contest. Reeling off four wins in a row with a depleted roster was an impressive feat. Are they done overperforming? Possibly, but I’m not rushing out to bet against them as double-digit dogs. The Giants have gone 0-3 with Mike Glennon as their starting quarterback, getting outscored 78-36. They can’t even average a baker’s dozen worth of points per game with him. Just a regular dozen, Pete! The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing yards per game and are averaging 214.4 yards on the ground since Week 8. New York’s 26th-ranked rushing defense is about to get battered like Santa Claus at a Philly game. Give me the Eagles.
Would you rather back the Baltimore Ravens or Buffalo Bills as a road underdog in a key divisional matchup?
The Baltimore Ravens are a 3-point road underdog against the Cincinnati Bengals. The winner of this matchup will find themselves atop the AFC North. Elsewhere, the Buffalo Bills are a 2-point underdog against the New England Patriots. If the Bills can pull out a win, they’ll pull even with the Patriots in terms of record. New England still has the tiebreaker. Which road underdog would you rather back?
Pete: I think I like both underdogs here, but I’m also uncertain if I should like either underdog. We don’t know if Lamar Jackson will play for the Ravens, but after Tyler Huntley’s performance in the last 1.5 games, the impact of that seems a lot lower than originally thought. The quarterback situation isn’t what is giving me pause about the Ravens, it’s the fact that they had 13 healthy defensive players at practice on Thursday. Then again, the Bengals have been committed to running the ball at an insanely high rate despite the fact they have a stud quarterback and three very good wide receivers. Zac Taylor is probably the main reason that I’m hesitant to completely believe in this Bengals team. On the other side, I’m not sure how much stock, if any, we should put into the first meeting between the Bills and Patriots. That game was played in terrible conditions and the Patriots still barely escaped with a win despite the fact the conditions definitely benefited them. I’ll take the Bills to win this game straight up and have slightly more confidence in Buffalo than I do the Ravens. Give me Buffalo.
Greg: If Cincinnati passes on less than 55-60% of their offensive plays, they’re officially the dumbest coaching staff in the league. Baltimore allows the least rushing yards per game, but their secondary is in shambles. Betty White’s birthday candles don’t get burned as much as the Ravens. This is such a smash spot for Joe Burrow. Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins should run wilder than an Arkham Asylum break-out. It wouldn’t shock me to see Buffalo win in New England. Josh Allen’s skillset is tough to defend and nearly impossible to stop when he catches a heater. I’m taking the Bengals and I’m already planning my celebration.
Would you rather lay double digits on the road with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Los Angeles Chargers?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look to bounce back after a shutout loss that resulted in a rash of impactful injuries. The Buccaneers are a 10-point road favorite over the Carolina Panthers. Elsewhere, the Chargers look to get back in the win column against the Houston Texans. The Chargers are a 10-point favorite in Houston. Which large road favorite would you rather back?
Pete: There’s two narratives at play here with the Buccaneers. Tom Brady off an embarrassing loss sounds like a good narrative to back. However, it’s been a while since we’ve seen Tom Brady not be surrounded by an all-star collection of weapons. Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette are out and Mike Evans seems questionable at best. It’s also worth noting that the Panthers have completely fallen apart and Matt Rhule’s stock has come crashing down very quickly. With the Chargers, they’ll likely be without key players such as Joey Bosa, Austin Ekeler and Corey Linsley. Then again, Justin Herbert and Keenan Allen should be enough to roll against a Texans team that currently has 21 players on the COVID list. Give me Los Angeles.
Greg: Ooof, this is a tough one. I think Brady bounces back, but how big? The Panthers are giving up 30 points per game over their last four, so there’s definitely an opportunity there for him to put his name back at the top of the MVP race. Losing Chris Godwin hurts and he may be without Mike Evans as well, but Antonio Brown and Tyler Johnson are solid receivers. The Leonard Fournette absence is probably the most underrated one. Ronald Jones is a good runner but a zero in pass protection. Their margin of victory likely comes down to how much pressure their front seven gets through Carolina’s weak offensive line. It could get uglier than a Cam Newton touch pass. Would you take Davis Mills over Zach Wilson? Straight up trade, right now. Am I going to get fired for even asking such a question? He’s been one of the better rookie quarterbacks and it’s not like he has a stellar supporting cast. The spread in this Texans game could hinge on how many of their players end up missing due to COVID-19. The Chargers have only played one chump team this season and they beat them by 16 after being up by 30 with five minutes left. We know how much Brandon Staley likes to go for it on fourth down. Houston ranks 29th in opponent fourth down conversion percentage (64.7%). I’ll roll with the Chargers.