Well, well, well. Once more we get a Patriots-Steelers match-up with big implications. Now, it’s not quite the same as last year when the two met for the AFC Championship Game. But, the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is on the line. Pittsburgh’s offense, Antonio Brown in particular, has been explosive over the past four weeks. In that span, Brown has caught 39 passes for 627 yards and six touchdowns. The Steelers have won all four games.
One thing that Bill Belichick has made his living on over the years however, is taking away the other team’s best weapon. So, it wouldn’t shock me to see Brown’s run of hot play to cool down a bit this weekend. One thing is for sure. We’ll see points put up. In the last four meetings, the average combined point total is 57.7. So, sit back, kick your feet up, and enjoy the fireworks from Heinz Field this Sunday. To the tiers.
No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games I’m so confident about that I’d wager my life’s savings on them, if I had a life’s savings to wager.
Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, ‘I’m feeling pretty… pretty good’ about these games.
Heads or tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another, and you should pick with caution, even after heeding my expert advice.
All lines courtesy of Sportsline. All times Eastern.
Denver Broncos @ Indianapolis Colts (), Thursday, 8:25 p.m.
Level of Confidence: Feeling Pretty Pretty Good.
ATS & Straight up: Broncos
The Broncos seemed to finally snap out of it last week against the Jets. The defense was once again ferocious and the offense was at least competent against New York. The defense was the star, giving up just 100 yards total to the Jets and they should be able to handle a Colts attack that has scored 20 or fewer points in five straight games.
No Way We Can Lose…Locks of the Week
Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions (-5.5), Saturday 4:30 p.m.
Straight up: Lions
Mitch Trubisky had his best performance of the season last week against the Bengals, completing 25 of 32 attempts for 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He gave the Lions all they could handle the last time these teams played with Detroit escaping with a 27-24 win. Expect a similar game here. The Lions win to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, but the Bears make ’em sweat it out.
San Diego Chargers @ Kansas City Chiefs (+1.5), Saturday 8:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Chargers
The Chargers are the hottest team in the NFL right now. Winners of four straight while giving up 13 or fewer points in each of their last three games. Philip Rivers struggled the first time these two met, throwing three interceptions, but I’d expect him to have a much better outing this time around, especially considering the fact that he hasn’t thrown more than one interception in any other game this season. Chargers take over the AFC West lead.
Green Bay Packers @ Carolina Panthers (-5.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Packers
So you’re telling me that Aaron Rodgers is back and you’re giving me five and a half points? Look, Carolina’s defense has been solid, but this feels like a Rodgers comes back and rips off three straight wins to get Green Bay into the playoffs situation. Give me the Pack.
Feeling Pretty…Pretty Good
Houston Texans @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-11), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Jaguars
Jacksonville’s defense is dominant and now they face a Texans team likely down to their 3rd-stringer in T.J. Yates? Seems like a recipe for disaster. Oh, and when these teams met in the first game of the year, the Jags racked up 10 sacks. They may not hit that number this time around, but the defense should continue to roll.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Minnesota Vikings (-10.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Vikings
Injuries are piling up for Cincinnati, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Adam Jones is on IR, while Vontaze Burfict, Dre Kirkpatrick, Shawn Williams and Carlos Dunlap are all questionable to play this Sunday. That doesn’t bode well as they prepare to face a Vikings offense that has scored 20 or more points in eight of its last nine games.
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (-2), Sunday 4:05 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Rams
Seattle got the best of Los Angeles at the Coliseum in a defensive struggle, 16-10, earlier this season. Both teams are coming off tough losses last week, but the Rams always seem to find a way in recent years to beat Seattle when you’re not expecting them to. With the injuries on Seattle’s defense and the Rams offense exploding for 35 points in a loss last week, the Rams feel like the right side here.
Tennessee Titans @ San Francisco 49ers (-2), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Titans
The 49ers have played well with Jimmy Garoppolo under center, looking much more competent on offense and the defense benefiting from not having to spend the entire game on the field. But, even with an injury to Marcus Mariota, this Titans running game should be able to control the game and get Tennessee a win.
Heads or Tails…Toss Up
Miami Dolphins @ Buffalo Bills (), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Dolphins
The Bills scraped out a 13-7 win last week in a blizzard, but QB Nathan Peterman was lost to a concussion. If neither he or Taylor can go, that leaves the QB duties to Joe Webb. That doesn’t inspire confidence. The Dolphins seem to have found a new play maker in RB Kenyan Drake and WR Jarvis Landry continues to be his reliable self. I said earlier in the season I wouldn’t pick the Dolphins to win again. I’m going back on that statement here. Watch them make me look stupid again.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants (+7.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Eagles
The Eagles game plan will look a bit different with Nick Foles under center than it did under Carson Wentz. I’d imagine a lot heavier load will be placed on their trio of running backs, LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement. Those three, plus a solid defensive performance should be enough to carry Philly to a win here against a Giants team that just wants to get the season over with.
Arizona Cardinals @ Washington Redskins (-4.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Redskins
Washington got blasted by the Chargers out in L-A after getting worked by Dallas the week prior. We’ve noted the Redskins walking wounded roster in this space before, and it hasn’t gotten much better. The Cardinals are nearly as banged up. This game feels like a low-scoring affair, decided by a late field goal.
New York Jets @ New Orleans Saints (-16), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Saints
The Jets lost starting QB Josh McCown to a broken hand last week against the Broncos. That means in steps either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. Hence, the 16 point line here. Neither guy inspires much confidence. The Saints sustained a bunch of injuries in Thursday night’s game against the Falcons and are far from full strength. They’ll win, likely comfortably, but 16 seems too high.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns (+7), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Ravens
Poor, poor Browns. Everything seemed to be on track for a win last week. Deshone Kizer was playing well, Isaiah Crowell put up over 100 yards and Josh Gordon had his first TD since coming back. Then, they fell apart. This week, they’ll face a much more difficult Ravens defense, albeit one that just gave up 506 yards passing to Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night. Once again, Cleveland stays in the game before falling at the end.
New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers (+3), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Patriots
New England had one of those hiccups they always seem to have against the Dolphins on Monday night. They may have been looking ahead to this week. Can you blame them? The Steelers offense has been clicking on all cylinders while the defense clearly misses injured LB Ryan Shazier. This could be a high-scoring affair, but the Patriots seem to have Pittsburgh’s number in this series winning each of the last four meetings.
Dallas Cowboys @ Oakland Raiders (+3), Sunday 8:30 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Raiders
The Cowboys stayed alive for the playoffs with their win last week, but it took a late surge to beat a bad Giants team on the road. Now, they face a Raiders team that got embarrassed early by the Chiefs before coming back late. Oakland’s been hard to figure out this year, and their defense has been abysmal, but they’re still in the playoff race. But, they badly need wins. Desperation wins the day here and the Raiders get the win.
Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6), Monday 8:30 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Falcons
The Falcons, thanks to their win over the Saints and the Seahawks loss to the Jaguars, took over the 6th and final playoff spot last week. With Seattle having a tough match-up at home against the Rams on the docket, this game in Tampa is a perfect opportunity to maybe put a bit more distance between themselves and the pack behind them. Atlanta took home a 34-20 win just a few weeks ago, and I’d expect more of the same here.