The NFL has been incredibly unpredictable over the past two weeks due to COVID-19, but the changes the league has made in protocols should help bettors, fans and teams moving forward. #DajaniDimes went 9-7 against the spread last week, which isn't something to be proud of but it felt OK considering every pick was a shot in the dark due to the virus.
A quick appreciation of John Madden, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 85. I wouldn't be writing this column or working for CBS Sports if it wasn't for him. The impact he had on the game of football during his coaching career and after truly can't be measured. The 'Madden' video game brought more fans to the table than you would imagine.
Let's jump into the picks. Peep the season stats below.
Top five picks record: 42-38
Overall ATS record: 114-125-1
Straight up record: 149-90-1
2020 ATS record: 125-120-9 (2 official picks missed due to COVID rescheduling)
All NFL odds are via Caesars Sportsbook
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Buccaneers may not have head coach Bruce Arians on the sideline this Sunday but that's fine because Tom Brady is an assistant head coach. The Buccaneers are missing several key players like Chris Godwin, Lavonte David and Leonard Fournette, but how much does that matter when they are facing a bad opponent? The Buccaneers beat the Carolina Panthers by 26 last week. Ke'Shawn Vaughn scored a 55-yard touchdown, Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for 101 yards and Cyril Grayson flashed with 81 yards on three receptions.
The pick: Buccaneers -13
Projected score: Buccaneers 30-13
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Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Texans are coming off of a surprising 41-29 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. Rex Burkhead rushed for 149 yards and two touchdowns. While he's known for his time with the New England Patriots, he's actually having a career year at the age of 31! This Texans team isn't one of the best in the league, but you absolutely can't sleepwalk past them. Keep an eye on rookie quarterback Davis Mills, as he's making a case to be a part of the team's future.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo reportedly suffered a chipped bone and torn ligament in his right thumb, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. He's going to try to tough it out, but he didn't look too great against the Tennessee Titans. If Trey Lance starts, he's not guaranteed to be an automatic upgrade either. Bottom line, this spread is too big in my opinion.
The pick: Texans +12.5
Projected score: 49ers 23-20
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Saints are going to be pissed off. Sean Payton was forced to trot out practice squad guys earlier this week, as the Saints were destroyed in front of a national audience. New Orleans will be getting several players back including presumably quarterback Taysom Hill. The Panthers haven't covered a spread since Nov. 14, when Cam Newton injected energy into this franchise against the Arizona Cardinals. It hasn't happened since. COVID-19 details obviously determine how we play this game, but I think we may have caught Vegas slipping here. The Saints are playing for the postseason while the Panthers are wondering if their head coach will be around next year.
The pick: Saints -6.5
Projected score: Saints 27-20
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Cardinals are floundering. I made them a best bet last week because I had faith in their talent, but they were unable to defeat a shorthanded Indianapolis Colts team. In fact, they made Carson Wentz look like an amazing quarterback. As for the Cowboys, they couldn't be more confident after a 56-14 beatdown of the Washington Football Team. I don't think the Cowboys are a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but I will definitely jump on them covering six points against a deflated Cardinals team in Dallas.
The pick: Cowboys -5.5
Projected score: Cowboys 35-26
Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
I don't think the Browns are making the playoffs, but don't tell them that. The Steelers likely won't either, and they haven't recorded many great wins at home this season. You could point to their last 'W' against the Titans, but Pittsburgh had just 168 yards of total offense! I hate to bet against Ben Roethlisberger in what should be his final home game, but I think he goes out on a loss.
Pittsburgh's defense stood tall in its first matchup with Cleveland earlier this year, pressuring Baker Mayfield and bottling up Nick Chubb. I don't think that happens again. The Steelers now have the statistically worst run defense in the NFL with an average of 142.7 rushing yards allowed per game. Dalvin Cook went for 205 yards and two touchdowns three weeks ago, D'Onta Foreman rushed for 108 yards two weeks ago and then the Kansas City Chiefs just flattened the Steelers this past Sunday.
The pick: Browns -3
Projected score: Browns 23-17
Other Week 17 picks
Bears (-6) 20-10 over Giants
Buccaneers (-13) 30-13 over Jets
Titans (-3.5) 28-23 over Dolphins
Patriots 27-16 over Jaguars (+15.5)
Chiefs (-5) 35-28 over Bengals
Bills 30-20 over Falcons (+14.5)
Chargers (-5.5) 28-21 over Broncos
Seahawks (-7) 28-20 over Lions
Rams 27-26 over Ravens (+3.5)
Packers (-6.5) 30-23 over Vikings
Colts 27-20 over Raiders (+8)