Winter is coming, meaning I only have a few more chances to salvage my season of best bets.
With only four weeks remaining, I have 20 more best bets to make before the postseason. This season hasn't gone as planned due to my 1-9 start, but thanks to a slow, but steady climb (a ton of 3-2 weeks) without any major setbacks (I've yet to go 1-4 or 0-5 since Week 3), I'm on the verge of going over .500 for the first time all season. Last year, I was lucky enough to post a 49-35-1 record. Barring an 18-2 finish to the season, I won't be matching last season's total. At this point, it's all about climbing my way to respectability. I'm almost there.
Onto the picks.
Last week: 2-3
This year: 31-33-1
I said this on The Pick Six Podcast's bonus YouTube show: Mitchell Trubisky's ceiling is Dak Prescott's floor. That's the biggest reason why I like the Cowboys to cover and win on Thursday. Even if Trubisky plays well by his standards, as he did on Thanksgiving, the Bears will have the worst quarterback in this game.
There's no doubt the Cowboys, at 6-6, are underachieving, but if there's one thing they've been able to do, it's beat up on bad teams. Their wins have come against the Giants (twice), Redskins, Dolphins, Eagles, and Lions. They've won those games by an average margin of 17.8 points.
The Bears are not a good team, even though they have the same record as the Cowboys. They've surged in recent weeks namely because they've had the chance to play Daniel Jones and the Giants, and the Lions with Jeff Driskel and David Blough. Stopping Prescott -- the league's best quarterback by DYAR -- won't be as easy. And I just don't trust Trubisky to play his second straight decent game.
Also, it's worth noting that this isn't really a short week for either team, as both played on Thanksgiving. So it's not like the Cowboys will be disadvantaged by being forced to travel on a short week. They should be well rested.
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I was prepared to back the Patriots, but after watching how the Texans took apart the Patriots' top-ranked defense, I changed my mind. I think Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are going to put up a ton of points, and I don't think the Patriots' offense can keep up.
The Chiefs have even more speed than the Texans, who did well to get Duke Johnson involved in the passing game in the early going against the Patriots' linebackers. Andy Reid should target that area with his running backs. The Texans also found some success with their tight ends as Darren Fells caught a 13-yard touchdown. The Chiefs have Travis Kelce. They also found some success downfield with Kenny Stills catching a 35-yard touchdown moments after Will Fuller failed to come down with a deep touchdown of his own. The Chiefs have Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Sammy Watkins. And it's not like Mahomes hasn't found success against a Bill Belichick defense before. In two meetings last year, the Chiefs scored 71 points.
The difference was, the Patriots were actually able to go punch-for-punch with the Chiefs last year. This year, I don't think they can. The Chiefs' defense is improving. They're actually up to 15th in DVOA. While the Patriots will probably be able to run on the Chiefs, if they fall into a deficit, I don't think they'll be able to mount a comeback by throwing on them. The Chiefs are sixth against the pass by DVOA. And we all know about Tom Brady and the Patriots passing attack's issues this year.
It never feels good to bet against the Patriots, but I do think Mahomes and Reid will finally bring them down so long as they can generate close to their normal output of points. As Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson have proven in recent weeks, great quarterbacks can put up points against this defense. It's Mahomes' turn on Sunday.
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Here's what we know about the Chargers: They almost exclusively play in close games. Ten of their 12 games have been decided by one score. On the road, five of their six games have been decided by three points or fewer. Overall, the Chargers are also 2-8 in one-score games. As running back Austin Ekeler so eloquently put it after their latest late-game calamity against the Broncos, "It seems like we're literally trying to figure out every way you can possibly lose a game."
The Jaguars, meanwhile, should be better after they made the switch back to Gardner Minshew. In 10 quarters with Nick Foles, the Jaguars weren't competitive, getting outscored by 67 points. But with Minshew, the Jaguars have been competitive. Minshew has a 4-4 record as the starter and only one of those losses came by multiple scores.
In short, I think this will be a close game. I trust the Jaguars to, at the very least, only lose by a field goal. And I trust the Chargers to find a way to lose the game. It's just what this team is.
This is a simple case of the Steelers having one of the league's top defenses (third in DVOA) and a terrible offense guided by a terrible quarterback (right now, it's Devlin Hodges, who Mike Tomlin described as someone who won't kill his team ... right before he went out there on Sunday and threw a terrible interception in the fourth quarter with the Steelers protecting a one-score lead).
We just watched the Cardinals get destroyed up front by the Rams, allowing six sacks, which made it impossible for Kyler Murray to do much of anything. I think he'll be in for another rough outing against a defensive front that includes T.J. Watt (12.5 sacks), Bud Dupree (8.5 sacks), and Cameron Heyward (7.0 sacks). As a team, the Steelers have generated the third-most sacks in football. And they're going up against an offensive line that has allowed the fifth-most sacks. I love what Murray's done this season, but I also think he'll be under siege on Sunday.
Despite the Cardinals' defense ranking 29th in DVOA and 31st in points allowed, this Steelers team just isn't built to score many points. Even though their defense has generated a league-high 30 takeaways, the Steelers are averaging the ninth-fewest points per game.
Nine of the Steelers' 12 games this season have gone under.
5. Lions at Vikings Over 43
The Vikings' past four games have all gone over with an average total of 54.5 points.
That's partly due to a Vikings offense -- led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has gone from overrated to underappreciated, and running back Dalvin Cook, who despite picking up an injury on Monday -- that is scoring 26.6 points per game while ranking sixth in DVOA. They should be able to put up points against a Lions defense that just got shredded by Mitchell Trubisky, is allowing 26.3 points per game, and ranks 28th in DVOA (Matt Patricia: defensive mastermind!).
It's also partly due to the Vikings' defense not being as good as they usually are under Mike Zimmer. Instead of being one of league's top defenses, they're merely a good defense, ranking 11th in points allowed and 11th in DVOA. Over their past four games, they're allowing 27.5 points per game. Heck, even Brandon Allen led the Broncos to 23 points against the Vikings.
While the Lions are still without Matthew Stafford, they should be able to put up enough points for the over to hit. In his NFL debut, Blough wasn't afraid to throw the ball downfield against a good Bears defense, a mindset that benefits both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. After getting bulldozed by the Seahawks' running game and trying to protect the deep areas of the field, the Vikings might be more comfortable daring Blough to beat them -- and I think the Lions' receivers are good enough to do some damage.
The Vikings will win big with a huge offensive outing against a bad defense, but the Lions will also chip in with enough points of their own for the over to hit.