Last week served as an excellent reminder that no bet is safe in an NFL game.
We had the Steelers (+1) against the Titans, and Pittsburgh jumped out to a 14-0 lead in that game and led 27-7 early in the third quarter. Then, just as you began to think you were safe, Tennessee did that thing it does where it comes back. Finally, with the Steelers holding onto a 27-24 lead late and only needing to avoid doing something stupid, Ben Roethlisberger threw into coverage in the end zone when he didn't have to and was picked off. Thankfully, Stephen Gostkowski missed a game-tying field goal attempt as time expired, and we escaped with the cover.
The same could not be said of what happened in Los Angeles. When the Jaguars blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown in the third quarter to go up 21-16, you might have thought your Jaguars (+7.5) ticket was safe. When they responded to a Chargers touchdown with another of their own and pulled off the two-point conversion to go up 29-22 with 18 minutes to play, you felt safe.
But you weren't. The Chargers scored 17 unanswered, and the Jaguars went from winning by seven to losing by 10.
It's never over in the NFL until it's over, and I'm keeping that in mind as I look at my 11-9-1 mark on the season.
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It's clear that the Patriots aren't The Patriots this year. Cam Newton had a great start but has come crashing back down to Earth in recent weeks. Still, if there's any time I want to be on the Patriots to bounce back, it's here. Bill Belichick has been a monster ATS throughout his tenure with the Patriots, but he's been even better as an underdog, going 13-6 ATS since 2010. Off a loss, his teams have gone 24-14 ATS over that same period. Plus, if there's a game for the Patriots offense to get right, it's against this Bills defense. The Buffalo defense ranks 26th in rush defense DVOA, and that's something we know Belichick will be happy to exploit on Sunday. Temperatures will be in the 40s, and it's going to be windy in Buffalo on Sunday, and that's when Belichick relies on his rushing offense. Patriots 23, Bills 17
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The Raiders were smoked last week, losing to Tampa 45-20. That makes the Raiders appealing to me in this spot because I think they're a better team than the Browns. I mean, this is the same Raiders team that beat the Chiefs at their own game a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Cleveland is 5-2, but it's five wins have come against the Bengals (twice), Cowboys, Washington and Indianapolis. Only the Colts qualify as quality competition there. Also, I know there's the narrative that Baker Mayfield might be better off without Odell Beckham, but I have a hard time buying into the idea that the Cleveland offense is better without its best weapon in the passing game. Raiders 27, Browns 24
It's a low total, but I'm confident these teams can stay under it. The Bears offense stinks (26th in DVOA), but the defense is fine (6th in DVOA). Then there are the Saints. The narrative that Drew Brees doesn't play as well outside the Superdome is a bit overblown, but what isn't is the fact that Brees doesn't perform as well in cold weather. On Sunday afternoon, the current forecast for Chicago calls for temperatures in the thirties and 20 mph winds blowing through Soldier Field. That will go a long way to affecting both offenses, as well as special teams units. Saints 20, Bears 16