Ed: Goodness gracious, how bad a week did Jazz and I have? I only got two picks correct … and I’m writing this week’s open thread, which tells you something. My 2-5 score from last week puts my season record at 39-31. My Steelers won last Sunday but even that turned out to be short-lived, as they played poorly in a disastrous game in Cleveland. At least my week wasn’t as bad as Myles Garrett’s, but … that’s his own fault.
Jazz: I am apparently the Beto O’Rourke of football prognostication. After a soft start and then a surge into the top tier, I’ve sunk back into the swamp. Going 1-6 last week leaves me at 38-32. Still above .500, but only Ed’s nearly as awful results keep me within striking distance. I’m not sure which story from last week was more critical… the beatdown in the Steelers’ game or the miracle in New Jersey. Either way, there are a lot of upsets going on in the NFL.
Ed: The Steelers have this weekend off having pre-emptively lost on Thursday, but perhaps the long rest will have them interested in Colin Kaepernick’s workout yesterday. Mason Rudolph clearly isn’t the answer for a playoff run, although to be fair, neither would Tom Brady be with an O-line performance like Pittsburgh’s on Thursday. Anyway, we have the Jets at Redskins (1 pm ET, Fox) in the early bracket, with the Redskins slight favorites. The Jets are winless on the road, but the Redskins are winless at home, and the Jets are coming off a big win over the Giants. I’ll go with the slight upset and pick Jets over Redskins 20-14. Here in sunnycold Minnesota, we have the Broncos at Vikings (1 pm, CBS), which shouldn’t be tough to predict. The Vikes are unbeaten at home and desperately need to keep winning, while Denver’s having a lost season. Vikings 33-17 over the Broncos.
Jazz: The Steelers game was fascinating in a horrible way, a subject I’m writing about today. But that’s all in the (recent) past now. The Jets are playing the Redskins after an encouraging win against the Giants. But just yesterday we managed to lose yet another center to injury, so we’re starting an outside linebacker off of the practice squad at center. I’m predicting a buttfumble disaster scenario. I’ll take the Redskins over the Jets 23-11. The Broncos are set up to be spoilers more than anything else this season. But for all the surprises they’ve been able to launch, it won’t be enough to take down Minnesota. Give me the Vikings over the Broncos 23-17.
Let’s swing our helmets, er, gaze to five more of the most interesting games on tap …
- Cowboys at Lions (1 pm, FOX) – I was all set to pick the Lions in an upset, and in fact had picked them, when I found out Matthew Stafford had been ruled out for today. Seldom-seen third-year QB Jeff Driskel will take the helm instead for Detroit. Jazz was kind enough to let me rethink this pick, so I’ll choose Cowboys over Detroit 27-10. (Jazz also suggested I rethink my Jets pick with the new chaos at center, but I HAVE A FEELING about that one. Anyway, Jazz is a cool guy, but you knew that already.)
- Texans at Ravens (1 pm, CBS) – As much as I’d love to see the Texans win this one, Baltimore’s on a roll and playing at home. Ravens 35-27 over the Texans.
- Patriots at Eagles (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Pats are playing lights-out defense, which will be the difference in this game. Patriots 30-20 over the Eagles.
- Bears at Rams (8:20 pm, NBC) – Both of these teams should have been doing better at this stage of the season. Da Bears have a slightly stingier offense, but the Rams’ offense is far more potent. Rams 21-17 over Da Bears.
- Chiefs at Chargers (8:15 pm Monday, ESPN) – The Chargers’ defense has been tough, giving up fewer than 20 points per game, and they’re ranked fifth against the pass. Still, it’s tough to pick against Patrick Mahomes, who’s telling people he’s feeling better than at any other time of the season, and he’s got both Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce on hand. I’ll play this one safe and pick Chiefs over Chargers, 28-20.
- Cowboys at Lions (1 pm, FOX) – I’d have taken the upset and picked the Lions here were it not for their QB Matthew Stafford suddenly going out to injured reserve. Without that engine driving the train, I think Dallas has a clear field to pick up a win here. Cowboys over Lions 30-17.
- Texans at Ravens (1 pm, CBS) – These are both good teams leading their divisions this year. But the Ravens have been putting a lot more points on the board while allowing roughly the same amount as the Texans. When you add in the home field advantage and the revigorated excitement of Baltimore’s fans, I have to go with a close one and say that the Ravens beat the Texans 30-27.
- Patriots at Eagles (4:25 pm, CBS) – The Patriots record is far better than the way they’ve been playing, but that doesn’t mean they are an easy mark. The Eagles have been it and miss at times, but New England’s defense against the run will lock up Philadelphia. I’ll take the Patriots over the Eagles 31-20 in a fairly easy outing.
- Bears at Rams (8:20 pm, NBC) – This is a game with two powerful defenses, but two offenses with many questions to answer. Given all of the shifts in personnel, I have to believe that the Vegas line has it right and Los Angeles has a leg up here. I’ll go with the Rams over the Bears 20-13 in a defensive struggle.
- Chiefs at Chargers (8:15 pm Monday, ESPN) – This could be one of the more surprisingly exciting MNF games this season. The Chargers have been surprisingly resilient while the Kansas City has solidified their lead in the division. The Chiefs put up more points on average, but their defense allows more points than Los Angeles. (Still not used to saying that city name about the Chargers.) I’m going to go out on a limb here and pick the Chargers to hand a second straight loss to the Chiefs 31-24.