With the Lions on their Bye week, our SideLion Report writing staff focused on some other key NFL matchups for our weekly picks.
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Nov 3, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) takes a handoff from quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the second half of a football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. The Falcons won 43-28. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay-38, Tennessee-30. The Packers’ offense hasn’t been great this year, but they won’t have to be on Sunday. The Titans have one of the worst pass defenses in the league. On the other side of the ball, Tennessee will look to establish the ground game early. If they’re successful, we could have an upset on our hands. The Packers are 1-2 on the road this year and that lone win was a squeaker against a 2-6 Jaguars team. Meanwhile, the Titans have managed to score a bunch of points these past five weeks, averaging 31 ppg. That said, the Packers are the better team and I expect they will prove that this weekend.
New York-27, Cincinnati-23. Cincinnati has been up and down this year en route to a 3-4-1 record, but the offense is always a threat with AJ Green and company. In New York, the Giants are putting together a nice run of games after a 3-week skid. After three straight wins against the Ravens, Rams and Eagles, Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York offense (not a band name) is going to score against the Bengals. It’s just a matter of whether or not Andy Dalton can keep up. In the end, I don’t think they will.
New England-24, Seattle-23. The Seahawks are finally getting back into rhythm, despite some controversial non-calls that propelled them to wins over the Bills and Falcons. However, the Patriots just seem incapable of slowing down this season. They will inevitably hit a wall, but Brady has a 133.9 QB rating since returning from his 4-game suspension to start the season. Brady, who many consider out of the MVP running because of the deflation scandal and missed games, can make a loud statement with another impressive performance and a win over the Seahawks. Seattle, meanwhile, can still make a run in the NFC despite a loss. And when you’re 0-4, always pick the Patriots.
Washington-21, Minnesota-17. The Vikings are in a dangerous situation where they could fall out of 1st place in the NFC North with a loss. Sam Bradford had a quiet, but good statistical performance in the Vikings’ loss to the Lions. This game should be a low-scoring defensive battle. The Redskins at 4-3-1 aren’t world-beaters, but they’re better than they’re being given credit for in a tough NFC East. Kirk Cousins has weapons to spread the ball around to, and the Redskins can run the ball effectively with Matt Jones and Chris Thompson each averaging 4.6 YPC. While it’s hard to imagine a Mike Zimmer-coached team losing four straight games, offensively, I just don’t think Minnesota can keep up. The Vikings will end up trading touchdowns for field goals. And with kicker Blair Walsh in a slump, I’m going with Washington to pull out a close game.
Atlanta-31, Philadelphia-27. Game of the week? Atlanta boasts the number one offensive DVOA in all of football, and is averaging 6.8 yards per play according to NFL.com, the most since the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf.” Philadelphia comes into the game with the number one defensive DVOA in football, and are 3-0 at home this season. In the battle of the opposite heavyweights, one usually falters. In this instance, I expect the Eagles’ defense to be the one who stalls. The Eagles have been up and down all season, with their wins coming big, and their losses close, so don’t expect a blowout. The Eagles are coming off of two straight divisional losses as well, and are eager to get back on the winning side. It might not happen this week, though. Kyle Shannahan and the Falcon’s offense are humming.
Dallas-28, Pittsburgh-27. Ben Roethlisberger did not look like himself last week against a stellar Baltimore defense, but has another week to get healthy after his surgery a few weeks ago. Pittsburgh has also lost three straight games, albeit only one of those coming with Big Ben starting. Dallas has been one of the most consistent teams, especially considering the league-wide parity this season. Their defense, led by former head coach of the Lions Rod Marinelli, hasn’t given up a 100-yard rusher or receiver this year according to NFL.com. However, with Morris Claiborne and Barry Church not expected to play, at least one of those claims could wash away. Both Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown could be in for big days.
New Orleans-24, Denver-20. New Orleans has been red hot in the past few weeks. The Broncos defense is still great, but slightly banged up going into this game. Most importantly, cornerback Aqib Talib, who does a lot for this defense on the outside. This injury will allow Drew Brees to play like Drew Brees is expected to play. With the offensive weapons of Brandon Cooks, Mark Ingram, Coby Fleener, Willie Snead and rookie Michael Thomas who had a stellar week 9 this should be a fun one to watch. When the Broncos offense matches up with the Saints D, it still should be entertaining, as their skill levels seem to be even on this side of the ball. Still, I’m going with the Saints because they can put up points and are playing in front of that New Orleans crowd.
Tampa Bay-27, Chicago-17. Well, Chicago finally has Jay Cutler back. I’m sure a lot of the fans aren’t excited to see him back on the field, but I know Alshon Jeffery is. With Cutler back, Jeffery finally found the end zone for the first time all season, and expect him back there again this Sunday. As for the Buccaneers, Mike Evans had a day last Thursday, even if the team didn’t perform too well. This game may not look good on paper, but both big arm quarterbacks playing for teams that probably won’t make the playoffs means that there should be a lot of attempts at big exciting plays. I think the Tampa connection of Evans and Jameis Winston will work out a little better, capturing a victory at home.