Posted on December 7, 2016, by Travis Pulver
Every football fan likes to think he or she knows the game. They all like to think that they are aware of what is going on in the game, who’s playing well, who isn’t, and who is due for a big game, and who is getting lucky. They like to think they know enough to pick who is going to win week in and week out.
But can they do it against the spread?
Picking against the spread is a whole other animal. Being able to say the Browns are going to lose is one thing, but will they lose to the Giants by more than 6.5 points? Most people would have probably said yes, and they would have been right, but would they have picked the Vikings to cover the three-point spread against the Cowboys?
Picking winners is challenging, but doing it against the spread adds another depth to the challenge. What’s life without a little challenge in it?
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs (-3), Thursday, 8:25 PM
There’s nothing like a division rivalry with control of the division on the line to make a game interesting. Derek Carr and the Raiders have had the hot hand lately, but the no-mistakes style of the Chiefs has been tough to beat.
Kansas City beat the Raiders in Oakland by 16 earlier this season, but since then Derek Carr has had the Raiders playing better than ever. They gotten out to big leads, lost them, but then have had a knack for retaking the lead in the end. However, the one team Carr has had issues with is the Chiefs.
The Chiefs are better suited for keeping a game close, but the Raiders are better suited for overcoming a late deficit. Expect this one to be close, but don’t be shocked if Oakland wins by 4.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) at Buffalo Bills, Sunday, 1 PM
Pittsburgh has the playmakers to score on any given play. Buffalo has the potential to grind opposing defenses into the ground and then surprise them with a big play in the passing game. The problem is, you can’t count on either offense to show up.
Pittsburgh hasn’t looked good since they destroyed the Chiefs. Yes, they are riding a three-game winning streak, but against some pretty bad teams (that includes the overrated Giants). With Buffalo, you just don’t know what you are going to get. Yes, the running game will be strong, but you can’t count on the passing game to produce.
Their defenses are ranked 12th (Buffalo) and 14th (Steelers), and the game will come down to whose can play better. Ben Roethlisberger would love to prove to the world that he and his team are a team to be reckoned with. Look for them to win by seven.
Denver Broncos at Tennessee Titans (-1.5), Sunday, 1 PM
Whether it’s Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch behind center will not matter in this game. Gary Kubiak keeps such tight control over the offense that neither will be able to use their talent and skill to the best of their ability. But with no running game to speak of, that is what Kubiak needs to do—let his quarterback play.
Marcos Mariota is capable of creating and making big plays, but the Denver defense is capable of shutting him down. But can they shut down him and DeMarco Murray? For a half—yes. But a whole game? No. Denver’s defense will keep it close, but look for Tennessee to win by four.
Washington Redskins (-1) at Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, 1 PM
Sometimes it is hard to figure out how the odds makers decide on a spread. Yes, the Redskins are riding a two-game losing streak into the game, but the Eagles have lost seven of nine with a rookie quarterback that looks more and more each week like he barely played a down in the preseason.
Philadelphia still has a good defense, and it will limit Robert Kelley, but Kirk Cousins is going to light them up. Washington wins this one by two touchdowns.
Arizona Cardinals at Miami Dolphins (-2.5), Sunday, 1 PM
There will not be a game with two teams that do not have a clue who they are like this one. Much was expected of Arizona entering the season, but they’ve been a big disappointment. Nothing has been expected of Miami, but then the Dolphins went on a tear winning six in a row.
But then the old Dolphins turned in a stinker against Baltimore last week, and the Cardinals showed up against the Redskins. So—who’s going to show up this week?
That is a mystery, but if you must pick this one, the only constant is David Johnson. Even if nothing else works for Arizona on offense, he is good enough to cover the spread if not win the game for the Cardinals.
San Diego Chargers at Carolina Panthers (-1), Sunday, 1 PM
It is hard to have any faith in the Carolina Panthers these days, but at the same time, the Chargers are not a great team either. But the Charger do have a slim, outside shot at making the playoffs. After the pathetic effort the Panthers turned in against the Seahawks last week, all it will take is a couple of quick touchdowns by Phillip Rivers and company to put this one away.
Carolina may be playing at home, but that will not help the Panthers. Look for San Diego to get ahead early and cruise to a 14-point win.
Cincinnati Bengals (-4.5) at Cleveland Browns, Sunday, 1 PM
The Bengals have not looked the same without their former offensive coordinator who hasn’t done much to help the Browns this season. Up until last week, it looked like the Bengals were as good as done without A.J. Green in the lineup. Then again, defeating the Eagles is not much of an accomplishment.
Cincinnati should destroy the Browns, but the Browns could get a boost with the return of Robert Griffin III this week. If the good version of him shows up, this could be the week where Cleveland finally wins. At the least, they’ll cover the spread.
If he doesn’t—better luck next year Browns fans.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions (-8), Sunday, 1 PM
On paper, the Lions should be able to beat the Bears by eight points—but they will not. Mathew Stafford has been playing well overall, but the Lions offense has sputtered for a couple of quarters in just about every game this season but last week. The win over New Orleans also happens to be the only game the Lions have played this year decided by more than a touchdown.
Every Lion’s win but last weeks was decided by a late fourth quarter score. Should the Lions offense click like it did against New Orleans, they could do it again, but the Bears play decent defense. They certainly did earlier this season when they beat the Lions 17-14 with Brian Hoyer at the helm.
The only chance the Lions have of covering this spread will be if the Matt Barkley that stunk it up against Green Bay shows up. If the one that nearly engineered a comeback against Tennessee does, the Lions will certainly not cover the spread—and may even lose.
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts (-6), Sunday, 1 PM
When Indianapolis came to Houston earlier this season, the Texans got lucky late in the game and pulled out a win. After being counted out earlier this season, but then fighting back to pull into a tie for first after beating the Jets, the Colts could not be riding a bigger high. But will it be enough for the Colts to take over the AFC South with a win this week?
Houston’s only won once in Indianapolis, and with how the offense is playing, they will have a hard time winning this week. Their best chance involves them putting a ton of pressure on the Andrew Luck—which will be a little harder if Jadeveon Clowney misses another week. Jonathan Joseph has not been ruled out, but with cracked ribs and a bruised lung it’s hard to imagine he’ll play.
Even without Clowney, the Colts offensive line is terrible. Anyone that points to how they played last week against the Jets is delusional. It was the Jets—the pathetic, terrible Jets! Houston will put up more of a fight and will lean on the defense and Lamar Miller to do it. If Indianapolis wins, it will not be by more than a field goal.
Minnesota Vikings (-3) at Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, 1 PM
There was hope for Jacksonville when the season started, but that hope quickly eroded. Minnesota still doesn’t have much of an offense, but the defense will easily shut down Blake Bortles and whatever running game the Jaguars mount. The only question is whether Sam Bradford can do enough to beat the spread.
With the playoffs on the line, the answer to that will be yes. It may not be pretty, but the Vikings will take this one by at least seven.
New York Jets at San Francisco 49ers (-1), Sunday, 1 PM
It’s a miracle that the San Francisco 49ers are not favored by more in this game. Did the oddsmakers not watch how the Jets played on Monday night? The defense was flat, the offense was almost nonexistent, and will be starting Bryce Petty for the first time. It would be nice to think the Jets would play it smart and try to run it down the throats of the 49ers defense (like everyone else).
But the Jets have not given us much of a reason to think they’ll do anything smart. Look for Colin Kaepernick to give the media a good reason to talk about him with a blowout win.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3), Sunday, 4:25 PM
No one can throw the ball quite like Drew Brees, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been playing some really good football of late. The defense has been getting the job done, the running game has been doing enough, and Jameis Winston has the passing game clicking. The biggest problem the Bucs may have is the fact that the game is at home where they have played their worst.
The Saints don’t have much of a running game and will have to count on the passing game to win. If the defense can stifle Drew Brees like it did Russell Wilson, this one will be easy. That is, as long as Winston doesn’t turn the ball over a lot.
Tampa Bay did a good job against Phillip Rivers last week, and it’s not hard to see them do the same against Brees. Look for the Bucs to win by seven.
Atlanta Falcons (-5) at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, 4:25 PM
A few weeks ago, this one would have been easy to call. Atlanta was clicking on all cylinders and playing like a team that wants to win the division, but in recent weeks it has become hard to know what version of the team is going to show up. However, this week they are playing a team with a rookie quarterback that has three starts under his belt.
If Jared Goff could count on a running game to help him out, this one could be interesting. But Todd Gurley has been mailing it in this year. Atlanta is going to cover the spread with ease.
Seattle Seahawks (-2.5) at Green Bay Packers, Sunday, 4:25 PM
The big question with this one will be how much the Seahawks defense misses Earl Thomas. Aaron Rodgers has shown some promise in recent weeks, but with Michael Bennett back in the lineup for Seattle, he is going to have a tough time getting anything done this week.
Rodgers will do enough to make it interesting, but with Thomas Rawls finding his game again last week the Packers are in for a tough one. Seattle may not cover the spread till the second half, but they will certainly do so en route to a ten-point win.
Dallas Cowboys (-3.5) at New York Giants, Sunday, 8:30 PM
Dallas hasn’t lost since the last time they played the New York Giants, but in that game, the world had yet to realize how good Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott can be. The Giants were able to exploit the Dallas defense in that game to victory and would love to do the same again—but they will not.
The Cowboys will look to control the clock a lot more than they did the first time by feeding Elliot the ball and letting Prescott work his magic in the running game as well. Manning will try to pick the Dallas secondary apart and he will have some success, but not enough to cover for the Giants pitiful running game.
Dallas wants to prove it is the dominant team in the NFL after nearly losing to the Vikings. They will—by 14.
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-8), Monday, 8:30 PM
If there is one thing, any NFL fan knows it is that all the Patriots need is Tom Brady to win. Having Rob Gronkowski would be nice, but not necessary. He’ll have no trouble tearing the Ravens defense apart. While Joe Flacco looked like a stud against Miami, he will not look like once against the Patriots defense.
The only problem the Patriots may have is a tendency to play down to the competition—but it will not happen this time. New England will win cover the spread, but not by much.