NFL against-the-spread picks: Can Russell Wilson save the Seahawks?

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Nobody expected Russell Wilson back this soon. The Seattle Seahawks are happy he's a quick healer. 

Wilson injured his finger against the Los Angeles Rams on Oct. 7 and had surgery the next day on a ruptured tendon. He was expected to miss at least six weeks. He has been cleared to return Sunday, a little more than five weeks after surgery. 

Nobody who watched Geno Smith would say that's a bad thing. But as the Seahawks prepare to play the Green Bay Packers as 3.5-point underdogs at BetMGM, there are reasons to wonder if the Seahawks will be great right away. 

The first part of that is they weren't great when Wilson was healthy. Seattle was 2-3 when Wilson hurt his finger. The defense wasn't great, though it has gotten better in the past three games. Wilson was his normal great self, but the Seahawks offense was good and not great. The Seahawks refuse to commit to a pass-heavy offense, which will always hold them back a bit. 

The second part is that Wilson did have a major injury to his throwing hand. We can't act like that didn't happen and it might not be a factor. It's great that he bounced back so quickly. Hopefully he's as good as ever. But we don't know, especially in the first game back. He did rush back, which is admirable. And sometimes that isn't a good thing. 

The last part of the equation is the Packers. They have covered the spread each game since Week 1. They didn't have Davante Adams and others two weeks ago and covered (and won straight up). They didn't have Aaron Rodgers last week and covered. It's a tough, good team. I assume Rodgers will be back after his one-week COVID-19 hiatus. We haven't been given a reason to believe he won't be. 

I'll take the Packers, believing Rodgers will be back and ready to go, and Wilson might not be 100 percent in his first game back (there could also be some rust for running back Chris Carson, who might play Sunday). The Packers have been on quite a run and I don't think this is the week it ends. 

Russell Wilson is expected to start on Sunday for the Seahawks. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Russell Wilson is expected to start on Sunday for the Seahawks. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Here are the picks for Week 10, with the point spreads from BetMGM

Ravens (-7.5) over Dolphins

I wouldn't blame you if you passed on this game. In fact, I might encourage it. 

Cowboys (-8.5) over Falcons

Matt Ryan has been very good lately, even without Calvin Ridley. Maybe it's a mistake to take the Cowboys, who saw their ATS streak snapped last week in an ugly loss to the Broncos. I'm still going to bet on a Cowboys rebound, assuming their offense puts up a ton of points on a still-suspect Falcons defense. 

Titans (-3) over Saints

I'd assume Trevor Siemian starts for New Orleans, since we haven't heard otherwise. The Saints' late rally Sunday counts but also doesn't erase three bad quarters of football before that. I don't think a thinned-out Saints offense can do enough with Siemian at QB. 

Colts (10.5) over Jaguars

I don't love the Colts laying this many points, but the Jaguars' offense really is bad. And I don't think the Jags can replicate last week's defensive effort against the Colts' O-line. 

Browns (+1.5) over Patriots

Breaking a big rule here and buying into something we saw last week. The 2021 NFL is a week-to-week league and nothing seems to stick. Still, I liked what I saw from the Browns. I don't know how this happened, but I finally believe it: The Browns are a better offense without Odell Beckham Jr. Much better. And Baker Mayfield is a much better quarterback without OBJ. I think they get a big win here. 

Jets (+13) over Bills

Maybe we have to give up the idea that the Bills are great. They have flashes but they also look bad at times. This line, and the fact that the Bills are still co-Super Bowl favorites at BetMGM, basically ignores last week's loss to Jacksonville. I'm not willing to forget it that easily. 

Lions (+8.5) over Steelers

The Steelers will be an auto-fade if the line gets near a touchdown or more. They're going to win games but most of them will be close. Also, the Lions are in the best scheduling spot you'll see, in terms of rest: They came off a bye while the Steelers played a game Monday night that wasn't decided until the end. 

Buccaneers (-9.5) over Washington

I don't have any conviction on this game, but my betting podcast partner Scott Pianowski made a good argument for the Bucs. That's enough for me. 

Panthers (+10) over Cardinals

Maybe the Panthers will be energized with P.J. Walker starting for Sam Darnold. We read too much into sideline interactions, but I think Robby Anderson's outburst was saying something. We've seen plenty of teams cover in their first game with a backup QB, or some other adversity. 

Chargers (-3) over Vikings

As Charles Robinson pointed out on the Sunday podcast last week, the Vikings are our "good bad" team this season. Their record stinks but they have led every game by at least 7 points and have lost five close games. It's a well-worn line by now, but they could easily be 8-0. Even if the Vikings have been a bit unlucky (not wholly unlucky, the coach and quarterback have some responsibility), I can't quit the Chargers. Someday, maybe I'll kick the habit. 

Broncos (-2.5) over Eagles

What we saw last week from the Broncos was fluky. I have no problem saying that will be their best performance (and the Cowboys' worst performance) of the season. However, that doesn't mean the Broncos haven't turned some corner. They did look really good, after all. If you're betting on an underdog getting less than a field goal you believe they will win, and I can't get there with the Eagles. 

Chiefs (-2.5) over Raiders

I'd understand every argument for the Raiders. My reasons for taking the Chiefs are that I think the tax put on them by oddsmakers is mostly gone now. A 2.5-point spread reflects the Chiefs taking a step back. The line before the season was Chiefs -7.5. Also, I wonder if the Raiders have been through too much this season and might be emotionally worn down. It would be totally understandable. They're having a 1993 Houston Oilers type of season with non-stop drama. 

Rams (-4) over 49ers

Last week might have been the week I gave up on Kyle Shanahan being a good coach. I overrated him too. Meanwhile, the Rams are a team that beats up on bad teams and isn't so great against good teams. The good news is they play a bad team this week. 

Last week: 7-7
Season to date: 72-63-1

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