We'll get to the picks in just a moment, but first, since it is officially Star Wars week with "The Rise of Skywalker" hitting theaters on Thursday, I do have to ask one important question. What do you think will be higher by the end of the month: my season-long winning percentage with my five weekly best bets or The Rise of Skywalker's approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes?
As of Wednesday night, "The Rise of Skywalker" has earned a 59 percent with 213 reviews counted. As of Wednesday night, my best bets have a winning percentage of 48.7 percent -- thanks to my 1-9 start to the season in Week 1 and 2, which is pretty much the equivalent to beginning a nine-movie series with "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones." If I were to go 10-0 in the final two weeks of the season, I'd finish with a 54.7 winning percentage, so I'd need some help from the critics who have yet to file their reviews.
Maybe -- since the likelihood of me posting a 10-0 record over the next two weeks remains slim -- the better measurement is the audience score, which won't start to trickle in until later on Thursday. That's a more interesting question because it's basically asking if you think negativity of Star Wars fans (never underestimate it) will outdo my picks (which have been dreadful this year). Do me a favor and don't answer that question.
May the Force be with us all. Please let "The Rise of Skywalker" be good. Please let me finally climb above .500 this season with my best bets. And please, J.J. Abrams, let Rey live happily ever after.
Anyway, if you want to avoid melting down, make sure and check out our full Pick Six Podcast show in the player below while you peruse the best bets below.
Onto the picks.
Last week: 3-2
This year: 36-38-1
1. Texans at Buccaneers Over 49.5
Even without Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Jameis Winston should remain just as explosive and turnover-prone as he's been all season, which is good news for the over. In the past two weeks, Winston has thrown for 914 yards, eight touchdowns, and four interceptions. Unsurprisingly, the Buccaneers' last two games have totaled 128 points -- or 64 points per game. Also unsurprisingly, the Buccaneers' have seen their games go over 11 out of 14 times.
Winston should be able to do damage against a Texans defense that ranks 27th in DVOA. On the other side of the ball, the Texans' offense should be able to keep pace with the Buccaneers -- partly because Winston figures to hand them advantageous field position given his penchant for turning the ball over (he leads the league with 24 interceptions), but also because they're a good offensive team. They're ranked 10th in points per game and now that Will Fuller is back healthy, I think they'll continue to improve. Don't underestimate just how much Fuller changes that offense. Not only does he offer Deshaun Watson a deep option, he also helps open things up for both DeAndre Hopkins and Kenny Stills, who caught two touchdowns last week.
Expect a high-scoring game in Saturday's early game.
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Conversely, we should not expect many points to be scored in Saturday's second game. It's a matchup between two of the league's best defenses, with the Patriots ranking first in DVOA and points allowed and the Bills ranking fourth and second in those same respective categories. It's also a matchup between two middling quarterbacks with neither Tom Brady nor Josh Allen playing particularly good football for most of this season, even if Allen did play well by his standards over an eight-game stretch earlier this season. By DVOA, these offenses rank 14th (New England) and 22nd (Buffalo).
It should come as no surprise to hear that nine of the Patriots' 14 games have gone under. The same is true for 11 of the Bills' 14 games.
The only concern here is that both of these defenses could get in on the scoring. The Patriots' lead the league in takeaways and we just watched the Bills notch five takeaways in their win over the Steelers. But while both of these quarterback aren't playing well, they're also not really turning the ball over. Since his three-interception nightmare against the Patriots back in Week 4, Allen has thrown three picks in 10 games. And Brady's interception rate of 1.3 is his lowest since 2016. Keep in mind that in their last matchup, when Allen did turn the ball over three times, only 26 points were scored between the two offensively challenged teams.
Expect another low-scoring defensive struggle.
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The Ravens are only 8-6 against the spread, but they're 7-1 in their past eight games. We just watched them cover a 17-point spread against the Jets. This is almost as big of a mismatch.
By DVOA, the Ravens are first. The Browns are 19th. The Ravens have outscored their opposition by 215 points this season -- or an average of 15.4 points per game. The Browns have been outscored by 32 points this season -- or an average of 2.3 points per game. The Ravens have the league's best player in Lamar Jackson, one of the league's best offensive lines, and a defense that is peaking. Since their last meeting with the Browns in Week 4, the Ravens have allowed 15.7 points per game. We all know how dominant the Ravens' rushing attack is and wouldn't you know it, the Browns' defense happens to be 28th against the run by DVOA.
This should be a bloodbath.
The Cardinals aren't good, but they are good at covering, boasting an 8-5-1 record against the spread. The Seahawks might be good, but they struggle to cover against the spread when they're favored, owning a 4-5-1 record in such games. What this Seahawks team does so well is win close games. They've only won one game all season by 10 points or more, which happened to come against the Cardinals back in Week 4. But since that game, Kyler Murray has taken significant steps forward in his development.
The Seahawks should win, but the Cardinals should be able to hang around.
Obviously, this game isn't Patrick Mahomes vs. Mitchell Trubisky in the sense that the quarterbacks don't actually play directly against each other. In reality, it's Mahomes vs. the Bears' defense and Trubisky vs. the Chiefs' defense -- which doesn't make me feel any better about the Bears' chances to keep this close.
While the Bears' defense has regressed, as Will Brinson likes to repeatedly remind me of on the Pick Six Podcast, they're still very good. The only problem being, Mahomes is pretty much matchup proof, as his performance against the Broncos in a Hoth-like snowstorm reminded us this past weekend. One way or another, Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense will get theirs.
The problem for the Bears is that their terrible offense will be going up against a Chiefs defense that is peaking. The Chiefs are up to 11th in defensive DVOA. The Bears just struggled mightily against a Packers defense that was ranked 20th in that same advanced metric. They struggled because their quarterback is unable to hit the kinds of passes that NFL quarterbacks are supposed to hit nine out of 10 times. That's a problem, especially when he's going to be tasked with keeping pace with a quarterback who hits the kinds of passes that NFL quarterbacks aren't supposed to be able to hit.
I don't think this game will be particularly high scoring, but I think the Chiefs will land somewhere between 20-30 points and the Bears will be stuck around 10. It's not Mahomes vs. Trubisky, but the difference in quarterback play combined with the ascent of the Chiefs' defense is too difficult to ignore. Sometimes it really is as simple as: one quarterback is lightyears better than the other.