As we move to November, contenders will emerge and pretenders will fade off in the NFL.
It's the same when it comes to picking games.
I am traditionally a slow starter, trying to feel out the early part of the season. So, naturally, I expect to pick things up as we head into the final two months of the season.
I got a head start on it last week. I went 12-2 straight up and 10-4 against the spread. That's the best week I've had so far, and it came in October.
That's why I am so excited about this week's picks. It's my time, a time to be a contender.
The real contenders will emerge from those games.
And, this week, I plan to be one of them.
This is a dog for a Thursday night game, featuring the two Bay Area teams. Both are building to the future, with big problems this season. San Francisco quarterback C.J. Beathard will likely be a game-time decision. If not, it's Nick Mullens making his first NFL start. The Raiders are so bad on defense that it won't matter. The 49ers win an ugly one at home.
Pick: 49ers 23, Raiders 17
Result: 49ers 34, Raiders 3
The Bills will be starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback in this one. Oh, boy. He's been awful in his career, and there is no reason to think that will change against a good Bears defense. But the Buffalo defense is playing well. I think they hang around in this one. Bears take a close, ugly game.
Pick: Bears 19, Bills 13
Buccaneers at Panthers (-6)
Ryan Fitzpatrick is back in at quarterback for the Bucs, but he faces a tough challenge against an improving Panthers defense. Carolina's offense has been impressive the past five quarters and Cam Newton is having an MVP-like season. Carolina is the better team and it will show.
Pick: Panthers 31, Bucs 23
The Browns made a coaching change, firing Hugh Jackson and making Gregg Williams the interim coach. That could help give the Browns some life, but this is a brutal way for Williams to get his Browns coaching career going. Patrick Mahomes can light it up. Look for Williams to blitz him a bunch, but Mahomes will get this best of this game.
Pick: Chiefs 32, Browns 20
It will be Brock Osweiler again at quarterback for the Dolphins, but that's not the team's biggest issue. That is the defense. But the Jets are limited on offense, so look for the Dophins to play better on that side of the ball this week. Miami will win it to get to 5-4.
Pick: Dolphins 23, Jets 17
This is always a war, no matter where it's played. The Ravens won the first meeting earlier this season, and I think they will do the same here. Their defense was off last week against the Panthers, but that unit will bounce back here against Ben Roethlisberger. The Ravens will win a tough, physical battle.
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Pick: Ravens 21, Steelers 17
Neither of these teams looked good last week in losing. The Vikings haven't looked as good as expected on defense, but I think that will change here. The Lions have no offensive identity and the Vikings will take advantage of that. Look for Minnesota to get back on track.
Pick: Vikings 24, Lions 16
This matches a good offense in the Falcons against a good defense in the Redskins. Atlanta is coming off a bye, so they will be rested. Matt Ryan has been outstanding, but that Washington defense has been impressive. Even so, I think Ryan will get the best of the Redskins here. Falcons take it.
Pick: Falcons 24, Redskins 23
The Texans will be rested after playing last Thursday and they will have a new receiver in Demaryius Thomas, who was traded to the Texans by the Broncos this week. He will help the passing game replace Will Fuller, who tore an ACL last week. But this game will be about the Denver defense. I think Von Miller and company will come up big against Deshaun Watson.
Pick: Broncos 26, Texans 21
The Chargers are coming off a bye, but they are facing a hot team, one that is improving by the week. The Seahawks are running the ball and Russell Wilson has been outstanding. But I think Philip Rivers will get the best of this battle. The Chargers will take it.
Pick: Chargers 27, Seahawks 24
Rams at Saints (-1.5)
This game will go a long way in deciding home-field advantage in the playoffs in the NFC. The Rams are the last undefeated team and they are winning with their offense. But this is a real challenge on the road in a tough environment. I think Sean Payton and Drew Brees will get the best of Sean McVay and Jared Goff. The Saints will win it.
Pick: Saints 34, Rams 30
This will be a treat to watch since it's just the second meeting between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. It could be the last as well. So enjoy it. I will. I think both quarterbacks will light it up through the air, but the Patriots at home coupled with the Packers playing consecutive road games will make for a tough go for the Packers. Patriots will take a close one.
Pick: Patriots 37, Packers 33
Both teams are coming off a bye, so they will be rested. This will be the first game for Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper, who came over in a trade from Oakland. He will help the offense, but I think this will be more about Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys will control the game flow and win it with their defense.
Pick: Cowboys 23, Titans 20