It’s one of the most uncertain weeks in modern NFL history, but we’ll plow through and try to find some winners in the heap. Let’s be careful out there.
Bills -11.5 versus Panthers
The number sounds high at first blush, but when the Bills win this year, they tend to win big — their margins have been 35, 22, 40, 18, 15, 28 and 25 points in victories. Cam Newton’s lost 11 straight quarterback starts for Carolina, and while QB wins are not always a reliable stat in the micro, they say something in the macro. And it’s not like P.J. Walker is a savior, should he get into the game.
Buffalo is ready to take out some frustrations Sunday.
Lions +12.5 versus Cardinals
The challenge for the Cardinals will be to maintain focus, fresh off a Monday night gut punch from the Rams, and staring at a Saturday game with Indianapolis — that’s Christmas Day. Say whatever you want about the talent in Detroit, the Lions always play hard for Dan Campbell. Detroit is also 8-5 against the spread.
Bengals +3 at Broncos
I can’t let go of the idea that Cincinnati has some upside for its season, while the Broncos do not. The Bengals average 8.5 YPA against 7.2 for their opponents, a major advantage. The key is for Joe Burrow to be decisive in the pocket, and keep the sacks and negative plays at bay. Denver’s pass rush is middle of the pack, a favorable draw.
Saints +10.5 at Buccaneers
It’s no fun going up against the Tampa Bay offense, but New Orleans has defended Tom Brady & Friends better than anyone over the last two years. Brady has seven picks in the last three New Orleans games (team-versus-team history is generally worth looking at for divisional foes only), and even in Tampa’s playoff win last year, Brady had a pedestrian 6.03 YPA.
Look, Tampa’s the better team; that’s why the line is so big. But the Saints can keep this within reach.
Ravens +6.5 versus Packers
It sounds like Tyler Huntley will be needed again, not that he was bad in relief last week. This pick is a nod towards the Baltimore infrastructure; I don’t know how the Ravens are going to cover Davante Adams, either. But this is a big number to be spotting a team that generally plays well at home.