New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons (Saints +1.5)
Both teams are coming off a bye and if the Saints can get the win in Atlanta, it give them as huge advantage in the race to win the division as well.
These two meet in the regular season finale but with no team in the NFC South holding a winning record, a 2 game lead with 6 weeks left to play would be massive.
The Falcons will be desperately hoping that Taylor Heinicke is good to go after exiting the week 10 loss to the Cardinals with a hamstring injury. If not, it’ll be Desmond Ridder who starts. Their last outing saw an increased workload for rookie running back Bijan Robinson and he’ll likely be leaned on again against a New Orleans defense which ranks in the top 10 of all major defensive categories – except when stopping the run. Against the run, they are 20th, giving up 113 yards per game.
The frustrating thing for the Falcons this season is they find ways to lose games. Against Arizona they gave up an improbable game winning drive, allowing Kyler Murray to run halfway around the field untouched. Against Minnesota, they couldn’t find a way to stop Josh Dobbs – despite barely knowing the Vikings playbook. They’ve lost 4 of their last 5.
Now they come up against a Derek Carr led offense, which has scoring threats – most notably Alvin Kamara and Chris Olave. There is a question mark over Carr’s availability as he goes through the NFL’s concussion protocol but if he’s not cleared, it’ll be Jameis Winston who starts. New Orleans problem this season has been converting drives into touchdowns – they average 21.4 points per game, but their defense keeps them in games and that has allowed them to be competitive in just about every outing. Align that with the fact that the Falcons struggle to create turnovers (just 10 all season) and the Saints look better equipped for this game.
PICK: New Orleans Saints +1.5
Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos (Broncos under 19.5 points)
The Denver Broncos are the hottest team in football right now – riding a 4 game win streak! A streak which has catapulted them into the thick of the playoff race and just 2 games back from the AFC West leading Chiefs.
Their defense has been outstanding in this stretch. Never giving up more than 22 points in a game and claiming 12 takeaways in the last 3 games. Theres been a lot of talk around Russell Wilson and his improved play recently but it’s Vance Joseph’s unit which has emerged as the strength of this team.
There remains concerns about the Broncos offensively and they’ve had the bounce of the ball in the last 2 outings. Game winning drives which have featured fumbles bouncing out of bounds, outstanding catches, big pass interference calls – not to mention that retaken missed field goal when Buffalo had 12 men on the field. Through it all, they’ve averaged 22 points per game in this 4 game win streak – never scoring more than 24.
Don’t expect this to be a high scoring affair. Cleveland have a rookie thrust into the spotlight and now Dorian Thompson-Robinson faces a unit which has proved too good for both Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. For that reason, Kareem Hunt and Jerome Ford to be employed early and often in the ground game and expect the Browns to look to keep this one tight.
The fact that they can employ this gameplan can be attributed to having the best defense in football right now. Myles Garret leads this unit with 13 sacks and he was a game wrecker in last weekend’s win over Pittsburgh. Cleveland are ranked 1 overall, 1 against the pass, 11th against the run and 6th in points allowed (18 per game). They’ve already held the 49ers to 17 points this season, Cincinnati to 3 and shut out the Cardinals.
You’d think the greater experience in Denver’s team will be enough to get them the win but getting to 20 points could be a struggle.
PICK: Denver Broncos under 19.5 points
Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles (Bills over 23.5 points)
Last week was a “must win” against the Jets and the Bills got the “W.” Now they face the best team in football, who are fresh off beating the Chiefs and a defense which shut out Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense in the second half – in Arrowhead stadium.
It was noticeable last Sunday, how Josh Allen showed a little more patience and was perhaps a little more conservative in the passing game. There was an interception though, to sit alongside his 3 TD passes in their 32-6 win. However, you feel they need to play a clean game if they’re to pull off a shock win in Philadelphia. That said this is still an offense which is 7th best in scoring this season, scoring nearly 27 points per game.
That’s significant when you consider the defense they play against this weekend. As good as the Eagles are, they’re Achilles heel maybe in defending the pass. They’re the best in the NFL against the run but against the pass…. they rank a lowly 28th. Remember, they’re coming into this matchup on a short week as well after winning in Kansas City, that is also likely to be a factor after what was an intense, physical game.
For that reason, I think we will see a high scoring, entertaining affair on Sunday. The belief the Eagles must have after the manner in which they beat the Chiefs must be through the roof right now. Whether it’s against KC, Dallas, Washington…. whoever it might be, they find a way to win. In 3 of their last 4 games, they’ve scored at least 28 points. Well, if it turns into a shootout, you know Bills QB Josh Allen is going to sling the ball around – and a few weeks ago, Dallas proved you can move the ball on this secondary. Indeed, but for a severe case of the dropsies, the Chiefs may well have won last Monday. Whether the Bills have enough to win is open to debate, but they will put points on the board.
PICK: Buffalo Bills over 23.5 points