After a second straight 2-3 week, there's not much more to say other than ... well, words I'm not allowed to say in this space.
It's perhaps fitting that the Packers -- a team that has caused me more sports pain than any other team ever -- let me down with one of the worst offensive displays of the Aaron Rodgers era and that the Broncos -- the team that betrayed Jay Cutler, my favorite athlete ever -- wrecked another one of my best bets. It might be fitting given just how bad this season has gone for yours truly, but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow.
There's not much more to say other than, in the words of the great Philip Jennings, "deep sigh." See the tweet below for context and if you don't mind skipping over the part where I list my overall record this season, that'd be great too.
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Onto the picks.
Last week: 2-3
This year: 18-26-1
1. Cardinals +4.5 at Buccaneers
The Cardinals are 6-3 against the spread, including 6-2 as underdogs, meaning, well, they've very well used to being an underdog, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise given just how bad they were a season ago. But this year's version of Arizona isn't terrible. They've already matched last season's win total and they've demonstrated the ability to hang tough with most teams. The only three opponents who have covered against the Cardinals are the Panthers, Seahawks, and Saints. Two of those teams, the Seahawks and Saints, are almost assuredly going to the playoffs and the Panthers are very much in the playoff mix at 5-3. The Buccaneers are not in the playoff mix. And it's a little surprising to see that they're 4.5-point favorites given that they're both 2-6 overall and 2-6 against the spread, including 0-2 as the favorite.
With Kyler Murray getting better as his rookie season progresses and with David Johnson ready to make his return, joining Kenyan Drake in what is suddenly one of the league's top backfields, the Cardinals are poised to hang with an explosive, but volatile Buccaneers' offense. In Murray's last five starts, he's averaging 231.6 yards per game, and he's thrown five touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's taking care of the ball. If there's one thing Jameis Winston is consistent at it's turning the ball over. Since he entered the league as the top-overall pick in 2015, nobody has thrown more interceptions or fumbled more than him. So far this season, he's tied for the league lead in interceptions.
And so, I'm taking the Cardinals to cover the 4.5-point spread. I just don't trust Winston enough to cover against a team that might not be good, but has proven the ability to cover the spread as the underdog.
2. Falcons at Saints -13
It's a monster spread, but the Saints are really that good and the Falcons are really that bad. Not to mention, there's a chance Matt Ryan will miss another game, which would result in Matt Schaub starting against a Saints defense that is sixth in DVOA. We just saw the Saints, in Drew Brees' long-awaited return, cover a 12.5-point spread against the Cardinals. They should be able to do it again. The Saints are 6-2 against the spread and all six of those wins have come in their past six games. They're also getting healthy. Tight end Jared Cook practiced in full on Wednesday and running back Alvin Kamara was
The Falcons, meanwhile, are a catastrophe. They third-worst defense by DVOA -- only the Bengals and Dolphins have been worse -- and they're going up against a team that has scored more than 30 points in each of their past two games.like deck chairs on the Titanic. It really won't matter until they outright replace Dan Quinn and infuse the roster with some much-needed talent. The Falcons are 1-7 overall and 2-6 against the spread. Their defense is the league's
I think the Saints will win in a blowout, regardless of the Falcons' quarterback situation.
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3. Ravens -10 at Bengals
Another big number, but with the Bengals prepared to start rookie Ryan Finley over Andy Dalton, I think the Ravens will cover. I just don't know how the Bengals offense will keep pace with a Ravens offense that is facing the league's second-worst defense by DVOA. The Ravens just took down the NFL's best defense by DVOA on Sunday night. Imagine what they'll do to the Bengals' defense.
If Dalton were starting, I'd like the Bengals' chances to backdoor their way into a cover, but I can't trust Finley or a rushing attack that is averaging a league-low 59.5 yards per game. The Ravens should be able to build an early lead and when that happens, Finley will be forced to air it out. I don't trust that Finley, a fourth-round pick making his NFL debut, is ready to keep the Bengals in a game against one of the league's best teams.
Ravens win in a blowout and Jackson is given ample opportunity to pad his stats as he looks to chase down Russell Wilson in the MVP race.
For the first time since he dislocated his kneecap, Patrick Mahomes practiced in full on Wednesday, which bodes well for his status on Sunday. If Mahomes plays, the Chiefs should be able to beat the Titans by at least six points. Even if Mahomes can't play and Matt Moore fills in once again, I'll still like the Chiefs' chances. Without Mahomes for nearly three full games, the Chiefs went 2-1 -- both in terms of overall record and against the spread. Moore has averaged 219.7 yards per game and has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions in Mahomes' place. He has no business being this good considering he wasn't even supposed to be playing football this year, but because he has Andy Reid designing the offense, he is this good. Even if it's Moore under center, I have confidence in the Chiefs' offense to do damage against a decent, but not great Titans defense (12th by DVOA) that struggles against the pass (20th by DVOA).
But for once, their defense might actually be a reason to take the Chiefs. Don't look now, but the Chiefs are close to having a top-10 defense. By DVOA, they're actually ranked one spot ahead of the Titans' defense at No. 11. The Titans' offense has looked better in recent weeks since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter, but they're still 22nd by DVOA. It's not like Tannehill has transformed them into a prolific offense. They're scoring 23.3 points per game over the past three weeks, which is fine against some teams, but not against the Chiefs.
I know the Chiefs are better on the offensive side of the ball and I think there's a chance they're better than the Titans on the defensive side of the ball. With the reigning MVP likely returning, I'll take the Chiefs to win by a touchdown against an inferior team. I just don't think the Titans can keep pace with the Chiefs.
5. Seahawks at 49ers over 46.5
In addition to being a great divisional matchup between an undefeated team and a 7-2 team, I also think this will be a shootout.
We know the 49ers' defense has been great, but we also just watched them lose linebacker Kwon Alexander for the season during a game in which they allowed a season-high 25 points to rookie Kyler Murray, who was without David Johnson. Now, this same 49ers defense -- a great defense still, don't get me wrong -- has to go up against the frontrunner for MVP in Russell Wilson, who has accumulated 22 touchdowns and only one interception, and has the Seahawks ranked third in offensive DVOA. It doesn't matter how great the 49ers defense actually is. With Wilson under center, the Seahawks are going to get theirs. Wilson is just about matchup proof.
And the 49ers should be able to get theirs too. For one, they're finally getting healthy. Joe Staley and Kyle Juszczyk are supposed to return from injury, and there's an outside chance Mike McGlinchey will return too. Two, they're going up against a Seahawks defense that is sneakily one of the worst defenses in football (27th in DVOA). We just saw how much success Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo were able to enjoy against a Cardinals defense that ranks 28th in DVOA. They should be able to do it again against a similarly bad defense.
Give me the over in what should be a shootout between the league's best quarterback (right now, anyway) and one of the league's best offensive coaches against a terrible defense.