As winter closes in so does the NFL regular season, leaving us with fewer games and less daylight and with that in mind I shall try to get through these picks quick enough to get what I need to done during daylight finished, so on to picks and first this week’s trivia question. I should mention that Dan is sticking to his decision to pick against his instincts this week despite this failing on Thursday.

‘Which team ended last season with 5 straight wins having starting it 1-10?’

I’m pretty damn certain about this question as I remember this being a thing and me writing about Jimmy Garoppolo having an unbeaten record at the start of this season. That may not have lasted, but the answer is the San Francisco 49ers.

‘Easy one this week – I suppose they can’t all be ridiculously difficult every week! The answer is the San Francisco 49ers whose season was seemingly saved by the introduction of Jimmy G from the Patriots!’

Falcons @ Packers (-5.5)

So this week’s picks start with a strange line given that the Atlanta Falcons have managed very little this season and for some that is to do with more than just the injuries that have plagued them. This week they face a Green Bay Packers team who just fired their coach for the ignominy of losing to the now three win Arizona Cardinals. Last week’s loss was the first of the season at Lambeau Field and it seems reasonable to expect a reaction but is it enough to cover this large a line. It seems dangerous to pick it to happen after last week’s loss but I do not trust Matt Ryan outside of a dome, and in a cold Green Bay I have a number close to this one and so swinging for the fences I’m going with the Packers bouncing back.

Gee’s Pick:       Packers
Dan’s Pick:       Packers

Jets @ Bills (-3.5)

This a horrible line as neither team exactly inspires confidence and though I may well lean towards the Bills, the New York Jets actually rank a little better by overall DVOA but they haven’t even been losing productively given that Sam Darnold has missed the last three games through injury. I don’t necessary like it, but I’m going to back the home team and hope that extra half point doesn’t bite me.

Gee’s Pick:       Bills
Dan’s Pick:       Jets

Panthers @ Browns (+1.5)

I really don’t know what to make of a Carolina Panthers team who have now lost four in a row and there are talks of Cam Newton having shoulder soreness. They may not be completely out of the playoff race now, but they can ill afford to lose against a Cleveland Browns team who lost pretty soundly against the Texans last week. The Panthers are still ranked better than the Browns but home underdogs are often pretty tempting and the Panthers are a pretty woeful 1-5 on the road. I’m hesitating on this one, which is never good so I’ll grab the points for the home team going against a poor road team and hope the Panthers don’t suddenly turn things round.

Gee’s Pick:       Browns
Dan’s Pick:       Browns

Colts @ Texans (-4.5)

The problem I have with this game is that I’m not sure which team is going to turn up as going into last week I was pretty confident in the Colts development on offence and the defence was doing enough for them to win but they got shut out by the Jaguars. Meanwhile the Houston Texans have now won nine straight and are putting themselves in contention for a bye week come the playoffs. This is the third of a three game home stand and I fancy the Texans to run out winners but this line feels big to me, or at least it would have until the performance of the Colts last week. I don’t know if the Colts will get back centre Ryan Kelly this week and in the end I have to respect the records and trajectory of both teams and so I’m nervously going with the Texans.

Gee’s Pick:       Texans
Dan’s Pick:       Colts

Ravens @ Chiefs (-6.5)

This is a really interesting matchup as it features two top ten teams by DVOA but there is still twenty-six percentage points between their overall DVOA values. The Chiefs got their tenth win of the season last week, but they gave up a lot of points to the Raiders and they can’t be happy with their receiving options given they signed just Kelvin Benjamin after he was released by the Bills. The Baltimore Ravens have won three straight since starting Lamar Jackson at quarterback who has given them something at quarterback even if it has been more to do with his legs than throwing ability. I like the Chiefs to run out winners, but the line concerns me as although the Chiefs have a really good home advantage, the Ravens have been really competitive and I can see this one being close. That said the Chiefs have won every game at home by at least a touchdown and that’s enough for me.

Gee’s Pick:       Chiefs
Dan’s Pick:       Ravens

Patriots @ Dolphins (+8.5)

The records of these teams may say one thing about this game, but for whatever reason the Patriots consistently have problems when vising Miami and having only won one of their last five games visiting the Dolphins so I think this line is way too big. It’s more than possible that the Patriots will beat this trend and win this game, but I’m not predicting they will do it by nine points. You also have to respect Dan’s commitment to his alternative pick strategy as I think this is the first time I’ve seen him not pick the Dolphins and I don’t think this is the week to break that trend.

Gee’s Pick:       Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:       Patriots

Saints @ Buccaneers (+8.5)

This is another big line, which this make this game a tricky one to pick. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off a win against the Panthers that gives them a two game winning streak as they host the New Orleans Saints. The Saints were not themselves last week against the Cowboys and have had nine days to get over only their second loss of the season and get right. Weirdly the Saints’ only other loss this season was to the Buccaneers in week one and so this divisional game is definitely making me pause with the pick. I could regret this as the Buccaneer pass defense is not good but on the road I’m suddenly hesitant about the Saints even if I do expect them to win.

Gee’s Pick:       Buccaneers
Dan’s Pick:       Saints

Giants @ Washington (-0.5)

So Washington are down to their third string quarterback signed a couple of weeks ago and last week lost both offensive guards in a game for the second time this season. It looks like the injuries have finally reached a critical mass for Washington, even if it does seem to have taken longer than might have been expected. This week they welcome a New York Giants team who rank better by DVOA and have won three out of their last four games. This won’t exactly help the Giants get a quarterback in the off-season but I think it does gives them a slight edge in this game and so I’m going to nervously grab the half point seeing as I do have to pick this game even if it feels like a stay away.

Gee’s Pick:       Giants
Dan’s Pick:       Giants

Bengals @ Chargers (-14.5)

I want to break my own rules on this game as this line is too high because of course it is, except the Bengals have now put AJ Green on IR for the season and their defense has been rotten all year. Even the Chargers problems at home will not crop up in this one as I can’t see Bengals fans travelling in the numbers that some other team’s fans have to LA given the size of some of the road losses the Bengals have this season. My numbers say that this line is too big, but I don’t care as nothing in the losses to the Browns and Broncos since Dalton went down makes me think the Bengals can hang with a team like LA even if the line screams trap.

Gee’s Pick:       Chargers
Dan’s Pick:       Bengals

Broncos @ 49ers (+5.5)

This is a really interesting game to pick (I know but bear with me) as the Denver Broncos have a really good DVOA ranking, like fifth in the league and whilst I don’t think they are actually playing like that they have won three straight and have one of the rookies of the year in undrafted running back Philip Lindasy. They travel to face a San Francisco 49ers team who have some deeper problems than the offensive injuries as the defense is only ranked twenty-fifth by DVOA. The line is high enough to make me wonder, but with the Broncos’ pass rush and ability to run the ball I’m backing them to cover this one, although somewhat nervously.

Gee’s Pick:       Broncos
Dan’s Pick:       49ers

Eagles @ Cowboys (-4.5)

This is a huge game in terms of playoff races as the Cowboys can pretty much sew up the division if they can make the most of their momentum and beat the visiting Philadelphia Eagles whose title defense has suffered from injuries and departures, leaving their hopes of the playoffs hanging by a thread. The Eagles may have won two straight divisional games but the Cowboys will be rested and have the defense to contain an Eagles team who struggle to stretch the field in the passing game. I like the Cowboys to win this game but I’m not sure that in a divisional game that this might not be too many points to give away and with the importance of this game I’m going to back the Eagles to keep it closer than five but I could be very wrong.

Gee’s Pick:       Eagles
Dan’s Pick:       Eagles

Lions @ Cardinals (+2.5)

The Arizona Cardinals got a win last week against the Packers in Green Bay, but that hasn’t changed their position at the bottom of the DVOA rankings yet the Detroit Lions are closer to them than you might have expected given how they started the season. However, with injuries on offence and the trade of Golden Tate things are not going well for the Lions on offence whilst the defense currently ranks twenty-ninth by DVOA. The points are tempting as I have no faith in the Detroit Lions who have managed to confound with some wins against good teams but are 4-8 for a reason. I want to stay away from this game and for that reason and that reason only I’m taking the home underdog.

Gee’s Pick:       Cardinals
Dan’s Pick:       Cardinals

Steelers @ Raiders (+11.5)

I don’t know quite what is going on with the Pittsburgh Steelers but the combination of Ben Roethlisberger on the road with James Conner suffering a high ankle sprain means that whilst I think the Steelers will beat the Oakland Raiders, this is way too many points to hand a Raiders team who finished seven points behind the Chiefs last week. The Steelers’ defense is much better than the Chiefs, but with the Raiders getting this many points against a road team that don’t always travel well I’m going to nervously back them to keep it within twelve.

Gee’s Pick:       Raiders
Dan’s Pick:       Steelers

Rams @ Bears (+3.5)

The Sunday night game should be a cracker as the LA Rams take their best record in the league to Chicago to face a Bears team who hope that the return of Mitchell Trubisky rights the ship after last week’s loss to the Giants. Both sides will feature well schemed offences and a pass rushing terror but I have more faith in the Rams to run out winners given they are further down the path with their current coaching staff. This is a really tempting amount of points and I am a sucker for a home underdog anyway, but that extra half point has me wondering if the Bears really can cover. In the end I don’t know what Trubisky will look like if he does play and so I’m going to plump for the Rams but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bears make me look stupid.

Gee’s Pick:       Rams
Dan’s Pick:       Bears

Vikings @ Seahawks (-3.5)

The final game of the week sees the 6-5-1 Minnesota Vikings travel to take on 7-5 Seattle Seahawks in what should be a cracking game. The problem for the Vikings is that their offence hasn’t quite come together this year despite the addition of Kirk Cousins and their defense is not the same as it has been in recent years. The Seahawks meanwhile have got their defense playing tougher than their DVOA  ranking of sixteenth would suggest and they have also got their offense playing better with Russell Wilson playing efficiently thanks to a productive running game. I like the Seahawks in this game and although the extra half point does give me pause, I think they have been the more consistent team recently and will cover this one.

Gee’s Pick:       Seahawks
Dan’s Pick:       Vikings