San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars (49ers -3)
Two teams coming off a bye. 2 teams on top of their divisions. 2 teams with lofty ambitions come playoff time but also 2 teams who’ve been heading in different directions in recent weeks.
5 weeks into the season the San Francisco 49ers were seen as the best team in football but 3 straight defeats alongside injuries to key players have changed all that. They did get a lift on their bye week though – returning to top spot in the NFC West, thanks to Seattle’s heavy loss in Baltimore and there is hope that veteran left tackle, Trent Williams could return to protect QB Brock Purdy’s blind side this weekend.
In contrast the Jags couldn’t have headed into their bye in better form! 5 straight wins – 4 effectively on the road with 2 of them coming in London and a 20-10 win in Pittsburgh. Their defense leads the NFL with 18 takeaways this season and now they get to go up against a quarterback who’s thrown 5 interceptions in his last 3 games.
A word of caution though, no doubt the bye week has given Niners’ HC Kyl Shanahan an opportunity to regroup and re-assess. If Williams does return at LT, that’s a major boost and look for Purdy to look to exploit the middle of the field against a defense which ranks 30th against the pass.
This is a different test for Trevor Lawrence and the Jaguars offense. They are middle of the road this year in just about every major offensive category and while Travis Etienne leads the team with 7 touchdowns, he’s going up against a defense which ranks 4th against the run, giving up 86 yards a game.
If San Francisco win this, everyone will feel they are still the team we thought they were. If Jacksonville get the W, then everyone starts looking at them as serious contenders. Ultimately, you don’t become a bad team overnight. I think the bye week came at the perfect time for the 49ers and I think they get back to basics this weekend. Especially if Trent Williams suits up, that’s a huge advantage for San Francisco – and we haven’t even mentioned Christian McCaffrey yet with his 9 TDs this season.
PICK: San Francisco 49ers -3
Detroit Lions @ LA Chargers (Lions -1.5)
The Lions are coming off a bye. The Chargers are on a short week, coming off back to back wins.
Their defense was stout in beating the Jets on Monday night, claiming sacks, forcing turnovers and their special teams scoring touchdowns. They are going to need more of the same against the Lions.
Detroit have already been into Kansas City and Green Bay and walked away with the W – they dominated the Raiders before going into their bye and now they had an extra week to get players like Amon-Ra St. Brown and some offensive lineman healthy again. They already rank in the top 9 in all major offensive categories – including 2nd overall. Their defense is stout in defending the run. Who is one of the Charger’s biggest playmakers? Running back, Austin Ekeler. Well Detroit rank 2nd, giving up just under 77 yards per game.
Both of these teams know how to put points on the board – and average 25 points per game BUT it’s in these scenarios where you look for the defense to stand up and be counted. The bottom line is Detroit’s defense has improved immeasurably this year – they only give up 20 points per game (and that includes the 38 Baltimore put on them in week 7!) The Chargers rank 30th in overall defense, 32nd in pass defense and give up around 22 points per game.
The Lions come out of the bye week the way they went into it – with a win!
PICK: Detroit Lions -1.5
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (Cowboys -16.5)
Could the season get any worse for the New York Giants? Hammered 30-6 on the road by the Las Vegas Raiders last weekend and losing starting QB Daniel Jones for the year with a torn ACL. Now they head back out on the road to face a Dallas Cowboys team who hammered them 40-0 in week 1 at MetLife stadium and probably have a chip on their shoulder after last weekend’s defeat in Philadelphia.
It all means that undrafted rookie QB Tommy DeVito likely starts with a total of 27 passing attempts to his name – 1 passing TD and 2 interceptions. Their best offensive lineman, left tackle, Andrew Thomas is out with a hamstring injury. As is tight end Darren Waller (hamstring) and now he’s got to face one of the best pass rushing units in football.
Dallas are 5-3 this season but they are 11-0 when playing at home, in a run stretching back to the beginning of last season. While their offense averages 27 points per game (3rd) this season, at home, in the 3 games they’ve played they scored 30, 38 and 43 points against the Jets, Patriots and Rams respectively.
Contrast that with a Giants offense which is dead last in scoring (11.2ppg), passing and total offense. This is a mismatch!
Expect the Giants to try and lean on Saquon Barkley and look to get a run game going which is 13th best in the NFL (113.9ypg) but if they fall behind early, that likely puts pressure on DeVito to make plays and that’s when this Dallas defense comes into its own. It’s a scenario we saw in week 2 when the Jets went to Dallas and it didn’t end well for them or their quarterback, Zach Wilson. This maybe even worse!
PICK: Dallas Cowboys -16.5