Jazz: So much for being off the bubble in writing the NFL thread. After handing it off to Ed for a week, I came back slightly. Of course, last week’s NFL schedule wasn’t exactly a festival of nail-biters. Ed and I wound up taking the same teams in all but the Dallas game and the Cowboys somehow came through for me. My 5-2 week got me to 39-31, back above .500 for the time being. The good news is that after the disastrous beating the Jets took at the hands of the Bills, they have a bye this week so at least they can’t lose again.
Ed: Hello to all from my vacation! Thankfully my strategic choices dropped me in behind Jazz again, after the Eagles flopped out on me. (Grr.) My 4-3 week put me at 38-32 for the season. With the Steelers clicking and a few days off the grid (mostly, anyway), it’s hard to get too unhappy about a couple of blown predictions. Until today, anyway.
Jazz: The Steelers are in the early game slot this week playing the Jaguars on the road(1:00 pm, CBS). Pittsburgh is hanging onto a one-game lead in the AFC North but the Bengals are close on their heels so they don’t want to make the mistake of looking past the struggling Jaguars. Jacksonville is still a talented, dangerous team and they do better at home, particularly with Leonard Fournette rushing. Still, the Steelers score a lot more points than the Jaguars so I’ll take Pittsburgh 24-17. The Vikings are under the lights in the Sunday Night Football game, going to Chicago to meet Da Bears (8:20 pm, NBC). Chicago is a slight favorite, particularly with Khalil Mack being healthy again. The Vikings are only one game behind Da Bears and they really need to pull this one out. Sadly, they’ll come up short. Give me Chicago in a fast-paced game, 27-24, possibly in overtime.
Ed: A Week 2 win over the Patriots made everyone pay attention to the Jags, but they’ve lost six out of seven since and five in a row, and that’s not all because of Leonard Fournette’s absence. They’ll try playing pound-and-ground against the Steelers, but Pittsburgh’s #4 rushing defense will have something to say about that, too. The Steelers’ #4 offense will also have a few things to say on the way to a 30-20 win. The Vikes have a tough game in Chicago against a Bears team that matches up well with them. Minnesota was won four of their last five and were (kinda) competitive against the red-hot Saints two weeks ago. I’ll go with the upset here and pick the Vikings on the road, 27-24.
Jazz: Here’s five more games to get us to our usual seven:
- Cowboys at Falcons (1:00 pm, FOX) – The Cowboys are still within striking distance of the Redskins while the Falcons don’t look to be in striking distance of even a wildcard slot in their tough division. But they’re a strong team and actually a slight favorite. But the Cowboys’ offensive line is healthy again and Dak Prescott shouldn’t spend as much time on his butt today as he did the last time these two teams met. Plus, with Ezekiel Elliott back carrying the ball I think their urgency will put them over the top. I’ll take a slight upset pick here and go with the Cowboys 27-20.
- Bengals at Ravens (1:00 pm, CBS) – These two teams are fighting it out to try to catch the Steelers and the Bengals need this game very badly. But the Ravens are only a game behind them despite having dropped three in a row. This may just come down to home field advantage so I’m going to take Baltimore to sink the Bengals’ dreams in a home win, 24-20.
- Titans at Colts (1:00 pm, CBS) – This game has playoff implications because both the Titans and Colts are on winning streaks and still have a shot at catching the Texans if they slip up. In terms of stats they’re so close this is another game that may come down to home field advantage. I’ll go with that and pick Indianapolis in another close one, 20-17.
- Raiders at Cardinals (4:05 pm, CBS) – This was just a fun game to pick because both teams are so bad this season and are mostly playing for pride at this point. The Raiders have come close to winning in some of their recent games, however. Still, I think Arizona will be too much for them at home. I’ll go with the Cardinals 29-21.
- Chiefs at Rams (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – The Monday night game is supposed to be played in Mexico City, but it’s been moved back to Los Angeles. The Rams and the Chiefs are both about as close to going undefeated as possible and this should be a high scoring affair. I decided to just flip a coin here and will go with the home team again. Rams win it 37-33 and it should be a fun one to watch.
- Cowboys at Falcons (1:00 pm, FOX) – Dallas ground out a win last week mainly on their defense, but Atlanta’s got a better offense than Philly does. The Falcons’ problems will be with their 30th ranked defense. Dallas’ offense may be underperforming this season, but this is their best chance to get it on track. Cowboys 30-23 over the Falcons.
- Bengals at Ravens (1:00 pm, CBS) – I know how I want to see this play out, with a Bengals loss that puts both teams well behind the Steelers. (Scratch that — can we arrange to have them both lose? That’s what I’d prefer.) Baltimore is starting a new QB for the first time since 2015, although Lamar Jackson has taken some wildcat snaps this season already. Jackson gets to start against the league’s worst defense (and worst pass defense), but that doesn’t mean he won’t make mistakes out there. However, Cincinnati’s mediocre offense won’t get much done against a still-formidable Ravens D, so let’s cross our fingers and pick Baltimore in a 16-9 yawner.
- Titans at Colts (1:00 pm, CBS) – Any team that beats the Patriots gets my vote the next week. Tennessee’s defense might be able to ground Andrew Luck’s offense, or at least that’s the way I’m picking. Titans 28-23 over the Colts.
- Raiders at Cardinals (4:05 pm, CBS) – See what happens when we let Jazz pick the games? You’d all better be rooting for me this week. The biggest winners of this week’s Sadness Bowl will be the other games playing at the same time. Arizona has the worst offense in the league in total yardage and only just misses in points per game to Buffalo for 32nd. Oakland scores a field goal more per game but gives up five points more per game than Arizona. But even beyond the stats, the Cards seem to be playing with a focus on developing Josh Rosen, while the Raiders sometimes look as though they’re mailing it in. (Don’t @ me, Raiders fans. You know what I mean.) I’ll go with the Cards and home-field advantage 17-14, in overtime, on a last-second field goal after a scoreless second half. With 10 fans in the stands.
- Chiefs at Rams (Monday, 8:15 pm, ESPN) – The reason this one got moved back to LA is because the Mexico City stadium’s field was completely torn up by that other game the rest of the world calls “football.” The Rams have a better home-field advantage, but will they take advantage of it? Their previously strong defense has begun looking ragged, having given up 93 points in the last three games. The Chiefs’ D has only given up 30 points or more twice this season — once to the Patriots and once to the Steelers. Of course, their competition hasn’t been as tough of late, either. Still, I’ll go with the intangibles here (meaning my gut instinct) and pick the Chiefs, 33-24, even in the Colosseum.