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The Thursday night game was tense and went to the wire, but between injuries and Covid-19 it maybe never truly took off. Both sides were dealing with injuries, the Green Bay Packers lost perhaps the best receiver in the NFL as well as their defensive coordinator to the Covid-19 list, whilst the Cardinals were already dealing with JJ Watt gone for the rest of the season and the loss of their starting centre Max Garcia before DeAndre Hopkins aggravated a hamstring injury that had put him on the injury report during the week. The Packers perhaps unsurprisingly focussed on running the ball and dominated the time of possession as Aaron Rodgers found himself dealing with an increased number of drops and unusually managing the offence rather than being the fulcrum. We shall have to see how much the loss of JJ Watt and other injuries hurt the Cardinals defence over the coming weeks, but after a spectacular route where Hopkins slowed and then used a burst of pace to get away from the Packer’s corner to catch a deep pass he tweaked his hamstring and came out the game. Kyler Murray threw for two hundred and fifty yards but no touchdowns and two interceptions, the last of which saw Murray on the wrong page with AJ Green and Rasul Douglas sealed the 24-21 win for the Packers inside his own end zone.

It will be a hard loss for the Cardinals to take, and even though they are in a very good position, they will need to regroup and come out firing given how the injury list has grown recently. The Packers lost tight end Robert Tonyan to an ACL tear in this game, but will get Devante Adams back from the Covid-19 and you would expect them to keep finding ways to win this game. The Packers are in complete control of their division, while the Cardinals are looking back at the 6-1 Rams but with how the teams are positioned in the NFC it would be a surprise to see the Cardinals slip out of contention and there could very easily be a rematch of this contest in the playoffs come January.

Early Games:

The early games are a bit of a mixed bag. It was always going to be tough to compete with the Thursday night game this week, but for me the tie of the early games is the Tennessee Titans heading to their divisional rivals the Indianapolis Colts. The Titans are coming off wins against the Bills and the Chiefs having won three straight and look to have found themselves whilst the Colts are two games back have won three out of their last four games following an 0-3 start to the season. The DVOA rankings still don’t like the Titans, placing them twentieth overall while the Colts are fifteenth, but the interesting thing is the consensus line sees the Colts as favourites, whilst in our competition the Colts are getting points. That’s usually an almost certain pick opposite to the consensus but the Titans offence has found its feet again in the last few weeks having started slowly under new offensive coordinator Todd Downing, and whilst Carson Wentz has looked better with Frank Reich’s Colts as he recovers from his various early season injuries, he still looks to be a player who tries to do too much. I could be wrong as this game pits Derick Henry against the Colts’ best in the league rush defence by DVOA, but it was Ryan Tannehill who dominated the Chiefs last week and I’m not that convinced by the Colts offence just yet.

Points from the rest:

  • The Falcons have thought their way back to 3-3 and are actually above the Panthers in the NFC South thanks to having a bye and only having three losses with rookie tight end Kyle Pitts finding his way in the last couple of games. The Panthers are really struggling without Christian McCaffery and for the second straight season their newly acquired quarterback is not doing what they hoped. After a promising start Sam Darnold has reverted to type and was sat down during the game last week so it’s hard to have faith in a team slipping back as they are.
  • The Bills are incredibly healthy on defence and ranked first by DVOA, which is also their overall ranking. The Dolphins are struggling on defence mightily, which is a bit of surprise given how they’ve been previously under Brian Flores’s tenure with the team, while Tua Tagovailoa has shown promise in the last couple of weeks but has to cut out the silly interceptions. I wonder if the Dolphins will keep it closer than the huge line, but Dan was very firm that the Bills always beat the Dolphins and it is hard to predict an upset in this one.
  • I thought the Bears would do better against the Buccaneers than the line suggested last week but I was very wrong. The problem this week is that they welcome a 49ers team who have not exactly been great either and are struggling with their own quarterback play. I’m a bit hesitant to make a call on this one with the Bears getting so many points at home, but some of the numbers say 49ers so that’s where I’m picking.
  • I am really not sure what to make of the Steelers as much as I love Mike Tomlin. Their defence is still top ten but the offence has really not improved from last year. A trip to Cleveland is an odd proposition at the moment given how beat up the Browns offence is while their defence is not quite living up to what we expected coming into the season. This could be one I get very wrong as I’m going against the numbers but coming off a bye I’m edging to the Steelers to keep this one within a field goal.
  • The Eagles are not a good football team, and neither are the Lions but it feels like the Lions are at least committed to their coach Dan Campbell and if the Lions are going to get a win this season then this has to be one of their best opportunities.
  • The line worries me a little in the Bengals visit to the Jets, but the Bengals beat the Lions soundly when they were meant to and then beat the Ravens the following week. I’m hoping they are too new to winning to be complacent against the Jets, but they should win this one, even if they don’t manage the trouncing the Patriots pulled off last week.
  • The only interest I had in the Texans against the Rams would have come if Tyrod Taylor was going get back on the field, but as it looks like he is still not going to play because of his hamstring injury you can only see the Rams winning this one. Surprises happen but you need more at quarterback than what rookie Davis Mills can provide to cover this line yet alone win.

Panthers @ Falcons (-2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Falcons
Dan’s Pick:      Falcons

Dolphins @ Bills (-13.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Dolphins
Dan’s Pick:      Bills

49ers @ Bears (+3.5)

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

Steelers @ Browns (-3.5)

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

Eagles @ Lions (+3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Lions
Dan’s Pick:      Lions

Titans @ Colts (+1.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Titans
Dan’s Pick:      Titans

Bengals @ Jets (+10.5)

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

Rams @ Texans (+14.5)

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

Late Games:

There are two particularly interesting games in the late slate. The Patriots at Chargers should be a good test of both the Patriots defence going against Justin Herbert and whether they can take anything from the blueprint the Ravens used to so thoroughly beat the Chargers before their bye last week, and what rookie quarterback Mac Jones can do against Brandon Staley’s defence. It is interesting that for all the two high looks that Staley’s success with he Rams last seasons seems to have brought to the league, the Chargers defence is only ranked sixteenth in the league and there do look to be flaws in the Chargers offence though Herbert continues to impress. I can totally understand the Chargers being favourites, but this line seems high to me even if the Pats only wins so far this season have come against the Jets and Texans.

The other late game I’m particularly interested in is the Buccaneers visit to the Saints, which I have set as my pick for Dan to watch this week. I’m mostly keen to see whether the Saints defence can continue the success they enjoyed in the regular season last year against Brady, or whether the Bucs have moved on so much that last season is immaterial. The Bucs offence currently ranks first by DVOA whilst the Saints defence ranks third. It feels clear to see that Sean Payton cannot change Jameis Winston, and so a lot of the Saints success will rely on Alvin Kamara, although it was interesting to see the Saints trade to get Mark Ingram back from the Texans and you have to imagine that is to lessen the workload of Kamara as he has been such a large part of the Saints offence in recent weeks. Even missing Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski on offence it feels like the Bucs will have too much on offence, and while the line does make me pause, the Saints were only able to beat the Seahawks who were starting Geno Smith at quarterback by a field goal last week.

Points on the Rest:

  • I’m watching the Jaguars go against the Seahawks this week as Dan is curious about what will happen, as am I. The Seahawks look to be in real trouble without Russell Wilson, whilst the Jaguars will be rested after their win in London against the Dolphins and subsequent bye, but it’s hard to have that much faith in either of them in their current form.
  • The Broncos are trading and making moves like they are in win now mode, and I’m sure that Vic Fangio feels like he is fighting for his job. I’m not sure what to expect from the Football Team with the focus in recent days rightfully returning to the absence of a written report into their toxic working environment in the wake of the Jon Gruden email links. On the field it feels like after a strong first season, that Ron Rivera is struggling to build in Washing and the defence that was so good last year is only ranked twenty-eighth by DVOA this season. I feel like the Broncos have a slight edge in this one, and against another team I might be concerned about this line, but I can’t back Washington without getting more points than this.

Patriots @ Chargers (-5.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Patriots
Dan’s Pick:      Chargers

Jaguars @ Seahawks (-3.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Jaguars
Dan’s Pick:      Seahawks

Washington @ Broncos (-2.5)

Gee’s Pick:      Broncos
Dan’s Pick:      Broncos

Buccaneers @ Saints (+4.5)

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

Sunday Night Football:

Cowboys @ Vikings (+2.5)

It looks like the Cowboys could be resting Dak Prescott given they have a solid hold of the NFC East and they won’t want him aggravating his calf injury if they don’t need to, even if they have stated that if it was the playoff he would be playing. The Vikings have been playing well on offence this season, and their defence is almost quietly sixth in the league by DVOA. A lot depends on who is playing for the Cowboys in this game, but given the lines I’m seeing online it appears the assumption is that Prescott won’t be and so I have to take the Vikings getting points in these circumstance.

Gee’s Pick:      Vikings
Dan’s Pick:      Cowboys

Monday Night Football

Giants @ Chiefs (-9.5)

I’m really not sure what to do about this line as the Giants are not a good football team, but they are coming off a very good win against the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Chiefs looked broken against the Titans last week, but equally the week before they scored a lot of points late and beat Washington by a lot, even if it was a tight game in the third quarter. I’m pretty certain the Chiefs bounce back with a win as I don’t trust the Giants, but this is a lot of points to lay for a team who str definitely struggling this year. Equally, the Giants have been competitive with teams around them and lost big to better teams. The numbers I use have this as a marginal advantage to go with the Chiefs, and I don’t really want to back them, but I just don’t have enough faith in Daniel Jones on the road given the Giant’s injuries and what’s been going on. I will probably kick myself about this one Tuesday whatever the result.

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

DVOA is Football Outsiders statistic for measure a team’s success on every play versus the league average and you can read more about it and other football topics at https://footballoutsiders.com.