This Tua Tagovailoa thing has my head twisted sideways. I always understand playing the rookie quarterback and/or giving the young guy reps. But it's really weird when you're 3-3 and sitting a game back of first place. Are the Dolphins confident Tua can take them to the playoffs? Should they be? Kurt Warner made a great point about 2004 -- the Giants were 5-4 and hanging in there and benched him for Eli Manning anyway. If the Dolphins miss the playoffs but Tua is the GUY moving forward, it's a great move.
It just feels like there's a little bit of downside here given the early schedule for the Dolphins and the next four games. They just played the Jags and Jets over the last four games. Now they have the Rams, Cardinals, Chargers and. Broncos in four straight games.
Let's say Tua looks incredible -- it won't matter. But if he isn't good, people will lose their minds over the Dolphins benching Fitz. And if he's just OK and the team loses more games before the break, fans won't be happy. QB Wins are dumb but they get assigned anyway. Optics matter!
I'm fine going to the rookie here, but it will be a highly scrutinized situation over the next several weeks. I'd be worried about being scrutinized but my picks were nuclear last week. Let's stay hot.
All odds are via William Hill Sportsbook.
N.Y. Giants (1-5) at Philadelphia (1-4-1)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Eagles, -4.5
The trends here don't favor the Eagles, with Carson Wentz performing very poorly as a big home favorite. Since 2018, Wentz is 12-21 ATS overall, 7-14 ATS as a favorite (including 0-3 ATS this season in that spot) and 5-12 ATS at home. Yikes. But both Wentz and Doug Pederson have been fantastic on short rest and on Thursday nights -- Wentz is 4-0 ATS and Pederson is 5-0 ATS and the Eagles are covering by double digits in every one of those spots. More importantly, they get to face off against fumble machine Daniel Jones, who is being protected by a very questionable offensive line. The Eagles have one of the most dangerous defensive lines. The Giants are probably a better defense than people think, but they're still not good. Jones could storm through the backdoor here potentially, but I'm going to take the Eagles with Lane Johnson and DeSean Jackson likely to play.
The Pick: Eagles 28, Giants 14
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Dallas (2-4) at Washington (1-5)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Washington (pk)
Why are people still giving the Cowboys credit for anything? Yes, Washington is a bad team, but the Cowboys are awful. They're not "loaded with talent and trying to figure it out" folks. They are just BAD. The offensive line is in shambles right now and Andy Dalton simply isn't a good quarterback when he faces a ton of pressure. The Washington Football Team can generate pressure quickly, and I expect them to get after Dalton. The Cowboys can kind of score late, because they have good wide receivers, but Jerry Rice/Randy Moss/Terrell Owens wouldn't matter much here with Dalton under assault from a very good front seven. Kyle Allen and Terry McLaurin might have a big game here to surprise some people.
The Pick: Washington 24, Dallas 17
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Bills (4-2) at N.Y. Jets (0-6)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Bills -13
Don't want to oversimplify things here, but I've said it multiple times and I'll say it again: I will not back the Jets against the spread as long as Adam Gase is the coach. They are 0-6 straight up and 0-6 against the spread. There's plenty of backdoor potential but I'm not going to get in the way of the Trevor Lawrence Steam Train.
The Pick: Bills 27, Jets 11
Pittsburgh (5-0) at Tennessee (5-0)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Titans -1
Fascinating game! The Titans are one of the best running teams in football. The Steelers are the best run defense in football. My two biggest questions are: 1) how does Tennessee attack the Pittsburgh defense and 2) how much does Devin Bush's absence impact the Steelers D? On the former question, I sort of feel like Arthur Smith is going to attack early with Ryan Tannehill and the pass game to loosen up the front seven and then pound the ball with Derrick Henry. I don't know that, but it's what I would do. On the latter, we saw the Steelers lose Ryan Shazier and their defense completely fell off a cliff, basically until things clicked for Bush last year as a rookie. He was playing some outstanding football -- how much will it matter for this defense? We won't know until Sunday. I think it matters a lot and we get a shootout -- since Ryan Tannehill took over as the Titans starter, the over is 13-2 for Tennessee.
The Pick: Titans 38, Steelers 35
Carolina (3-3) at New Orleans (3-2)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Saints -7.5
Very concerned about taking Carolina here with how well Sean Payton and Drew Brees have performed against the spread following the bye in recent years, going 9-2 ATS in their last 11 games. But Teddy Bridgewater getting a touchdown or more is just an auto-bet at this point, given how well he's performed against the spread as a starting quarterback, going a ridiculous 30-10 ATS! I also think the Saints defense won't be magically fixed off the bye and Michael Thomas coming back might be BAD for New Orleans here, because they'll feed him the ball instead of just letting Alvin Kamara run wild against a bad Panthers rush defense. This feels like a backdoor/witching hour special for Bridgewater to me.
The Pick: Saints 31, Panthers 24
Cleveland (4-2) at Cincinnati (1-4-1)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Browns -3
Color me petrified to get off the Joe "Backdoor" Burrow bandwagon here, but I'm going to go with the Browns in a bounce-back spot here. Cleveland will be especially run heavy in this game, trying to keep Baker Mayfield from throwing too much (I would bank on one or two shot plays) and if the Browns don't stink against the Steelers while the Bengals keep it close against the Colts, this line is very different. The Browns should run the ball aggressively here, and Burrow will need to be efficient again in order to keep it within three points. You can't pick the Bengals to lose and the Browns to cover -- that's too fine a margin. I'm taking a side here with a Browns team that has beaten up bad competition in the last three years.
The Pick: Browns 31, Bengals 24
Detroit (2-3) at Atlanta (1-5)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Falcons -2
This SHOULD be the shootout of the week, but be careful. The Falcons and Vikings went way over last week, but it took a bunch of pretty crazy garbage time touchdowns from both teams for it to happen. This is a massive over-correction on Atlanta -- it shouldn't be nearly a field goal favorite when home field doesn't matter. The Lions could -- and some would say should -- easily be 4-2 and the line would be completely different if that's the case. Matt Ryan's big game last week was impressive, but I like the Lions off a bye here coming into Atlanta and putting up points early. If things start slow, feel free to live bet the over and/or take the second half over. I'll be happy just taking the Lions here.
The Pick: Lions 34, Falcons 31
Green Bay (4-1) at Houston (1-5)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Packers -3.5
This is the trickiest game on the slate this week. It sure feels like this should be the "Steelers vs. Browns" situation from last week where the better team lights up the worse team. The Packers are -3.5 against a 1-5 Texans team? That's free money. Except it sounds like David Bakhtiari is very unlikely to play here, which could cause serious problems for the Green Bay offense. It's going to be hard to get away from Aaron Jones in DFS because of how bad the Texans are against the run. But the loss of Bakhtiari should be a red flag for both Jones and Aaron Rodgers here. We've seen a hint of J.J. Watt having a huge quintessential J.J. Watt game but haven't gotten the full dose. This feels like it could be it. Expect a ton of points regardless of the game script -- Houston can lob them up quick with Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller/Brandin Cooks and Green Bay could answer with Rodgers/Davante Adams. Call this a Spidey Sense game but I think Houston finds a way to win.
The Pick: Texans 31, Packers 28
Seattle (5-0) at Arizona (4-2)
4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)
Point spread: Seahawks -3.5
Honestly, I don't know what to do with this game. The Cardinals are a more balanced team, right? The defense looked pretty good against the Cowboys on Monday night, but I'm not sure that actually means anything. The Seahawks were dominant before their bye, but they also don't have any defense. Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins should give them trouble. You can get deep on these guys and feast on outside corners and the Cards have the personnel to try it. I don't think Arizona comes out with a statement but I do think it can sneak in the backdoor if Seattle is up. Arizona is sneakily 6-0 to the under this season, by the way, so it will be interesting to see if that holds up against a high-scoring Seahawks team.
The Pick: Seahawks 24, Cardinals 21
San Francisco (3-3) at New England (2-3)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Patriots -2.5
Let's take a walk down narrative street and imagine what happens if the Patriots lose this game. There will be legitimate "the Pats dynasty is DEAD" stories floated everywhere. There's also an incredibly interesting revenge narrative here for multiple parties. Jimmy Garoppolo was traded by the Patriots to the 49ers, but he shouldn't be mad about it. Does Bill Belichick actually want to beat him? Do not sleep on the Deebo Samuel monster game here after the Pats took N'Keal Harry over him. Kyle Shanahan lost a Super Bowl to Belichick but he had the Pats on the ropes until the Falcons defense completely caved. I'm gonna take the rapidly improving 49ers team over a Pats team that is starting to struggle, even with Cam Newton back under center.
The Pick: 49ers 24, Patriots 17
Kansas City (5-1) at Denver (2-3)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Chiefs -9.5
The Broncos just beat the Patriots in New England. That is going to cause a significant amount of inflation for this line. Yes, the Chiefs seem like a "running team" right now, but anyone upset over that is being ridiculous. Opposing defenses are backing up, giving Kansas City room to run and it is gashing them. Denver will do the same. If the Broncos creep in, Patrick Mahomes will go up top on them. This feels like the Chiefs somehow covering in the second half easily despite the Broncos sort of staying in the game.
The Pick: Chiefs 31, Broncos 14
Jacksonville (1-5) at L.A. Chargers (1-4)
4:25 p.m. ET (CBS)
Point spread: Chargers -7.5
There are two teams you don't bet on this year: the Jets and the Jaguars. And we have a 1-4 Chargers team favored by more than a touchdown. Do you realize how bad the Jags are??? Justin Herbert is going to take some shots down the field against them, hit a few big plays, the Chargers are going to run the ball a ton with Justin Jackson and the Jaguars won't be able to respond because they are not good and the Bolts have a good pass rush. Betting on the Jaguars is a sure-fire speed train to death.
The Pick: Chargers 28, Jaguars 14
Tampa Bay (4-2) at Las Vegas (3-2)
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
Point spread: Buccaneers -3.5
Why am I the only one who sees the weird circular way in which this game exists? Back in 2001, Tom Brady beats Jon Gruden in the Tuck Rule Game to kick off the Patriots dynasty, snuff out Gruden's run with the Raiders because he gets traded to the Buccaneers and now almost 20 years later, they meet up in Brady's first year post-Patriots with him playing for the Bucs and Gruden back coaching the Raiders. Time is a flat circle, I guess. Either way, I'll take the Bucs here big, with Tampa being excellent against the run and the Raiders offensive line limited in practice and potentially this game with COVID issues. Gruden wants to run with Josh Jacobs and I don't think he can. The Bucs will get a lead early and it won't bode well for Derek Carr.
The Pick: Buccaneers 28, Raiders 21
Chicago (5-1) at L.A. Rams (4-2)
8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Point spread: Rams -6
As we have previously established, I will be picking the Bears to win and cover even in spots I don't think they will win and cover. It's a win/win for me. I don't think they win or cover here, but I'm picking them anyway. I think the under hits and Chicago probably keeps it close, but I wouldn't want to bet on Nick Foles against Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. You can do that! I'll sit back here and root for the Bears to win, which is a thing I am definitely rooting for.
The Pick: Bears 10, Rams 7