New England Patriots -6.5 versus Oakland Raiders
(game to be played at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico)
After the Patriots manhandled the Broncos on Sunday Night Football, they decided to stay in Denver before flying back home. Why? Because coach Bill Belichick decided to keep his team practicing in a high-altitude-enviornment like the one they’ll see at Mexico City. Smart play by “the Hood,” but that’s no surprise. Remember when the Patriots started the season 2-2 and people said that this defense was probably the worst in the NFL? That was cute. Since then, New England has won five straight with their opponents highest point total being 17. Meanwhile, the L.A. Raiders were supposed to be a top contender in the AFC and they have fallen miserably short. The Raiders are currently 4-5 and a loss this Sunday can pretty much wrap this season up. The Marshawn Lynch experiment is turning out to be a bust, Derek Carr is looking like a shell of himself from last season (13 TD’s, 7 INT’s); and the leading receiver on a squad that has Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper is tight-end Jared Cook. The Oakland pass defense is gives up the highest completion percentage to it’s opponents (71%), has recorded no interceptions on the season and is tied with the Giants in sacks (13) which puts them dead last in that category as well. Gross. Did you even notice how we didn’t mention Tom Brady once in this article? Yeah. Tom Brady.
The Pick: New England -6.5
Detroit Lions -3 at Chicago Bears
It’s time for the hopeful and misguided Chicago Bears fan to realize the truth about their team. They are below average. As a Bears fan myself, I knew this before the pre-season, but many others let their minds wander to a false state of grandeur. Now, the Bears are looking to play out the season, but whether or not they do it respectfully is what really matters. With head coach John Fox just waiting for this season to end so he can move on with his life in retirement, the Chicago Bears have a defense that is pretty-decent -but also a lot of smoke and mirrors. The Bears pass defense is ranked in the top ten when it comes to passing yards allowed, but they are letting opponents complete 65.5% of their passes and at seven yards a clip. The Bears’ rush defense is better-than-average allowing 3.9 yards a rush but this should all work out in favor of the Detroit Lions, who can’t run the ball, so they abandon it early – and usually end up airing it out most of the game. Detroit’s receivers are averaging 11.9 yards a catch. At the end of the season, Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford may be responsible for having two 1000 yard receivers in Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. Detroit’s in the top 10 in rush defenses which will give Bears running back Jordan Howard some fits, as he is the only source of offensive power on this roster. The Bears tendency on defense of either missing tackles or letting opponents break out of tackles will be something to watch out for with the speedy players like Golladay, Tate and Abdullah for the Lions.
The Pick: Detroit -3
Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 at Cleveland Browns
This is a big number for the Jaguars to cover. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing. Eh, they’re playing the Browns. . . The Jaguars are toting around the number one pass defense in the NFL which is mostly due to cornerbacks AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey. Offensively, they try to manage the game around their quarterback rather than let their quarterback manage the game. Blake Bortles is on thin-ice to be the starting quarterback in Jacksonville next year – but that’s next year. This season, Bortles is the man under center, but it’s more about the guys in the backfield. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette has been as good as advertised (albeit he did get benched one week for violating team rules) but the Jaguars must be feeling cautious of not over-using him, as head coach Doug Marrone has hinted at spreading the ball among all three backs including Chris Ivory and TJ Yeldon. As a team the Jaguars are averaging 4.8 yards a rush and because it is what they want to do, the Browns actually pose a threat to their success on the ground. The Browns have consistently been in the top five of the NFL when it comes to rush defense, allowing only 3.1 yards a rush. The Browns are getting back wide receiver Corey Coleman this week, which will be good to see considering Duke Johnson, the number two running back on the depth chart, is the team’s leading receiver. At the end of the day, who cares? DeShone Kizer is still there throwing to the wide-outs with his 4 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
The Pick: Jacksonville -7.5