Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints (Lions -4)
Both teams come into this one on the back of disappointing Thanksgiving week losses and while the Lions’ form this year affords them a little breathing space in their division, the same can’t be said of the Saints.
Two redzone turnovers – 1 going for a pick 6 – against their nearest rivals in the NFC South, cost them the game and ultimately means they’re now chasing the Atlanta Falcons. It was another game where they suffered a string of injuries as well – most notably to WR Chris Olave who left with a concussion. With their best CB Marcus Lattimore already sidelined, the prospect of facing this Lions team is a daunting one.
For their part, Detroit got out of jail when beating the Bears two weeks ago. On Thanksgiving Day against the Packers, they weren’t so fortunate. QB Jared Goff has committed 6 turnovers in their last 2 games (3 interceptions and 3 fumbles) – that’s just not good enough and against this Saints defensive front, ball security needs to be much improved. In fact, that’s the only way I see the Saints having a chance to win this game. If their defense can steal some possessions, they’re in the game. If Goff and the Lions look after the ball, there’s only one winner.
New Orleans struggle to get the ball into the endzone – highlighted last week when they scored 15 points…. all field goals. Detroit’s offense is explosive. Whether it’s Montgomery and Gibbs out of the backfield, Amon-Ra St. Brown at receiver or rookie tight end Sam LaPorta – they have playmakers. Against a depleted Saints team, that’s just too much fire power. Even in the error strewn 2 game run, if Green Bay had settled for field goals instead of touchdowns, Detroit likely go on to win the game, as they did against Chicago.
This maybe close in the first 2 quarters but expect to see Detroit pull away in the second half.
PICK: Detroit Lions -4
Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans (Broncos +3.5)
The Denver Broncos are the hottest team in football right now. They’re riding a 5 game winning streak – a streak that leaves them 2 games back of AFC West leading Chiefs. Defensively, they’ve been outstanding and that was on display again in last weekend’s win over Cleveland. They force turnovers and give the offense short fields to work with. In addition, Russell Wilson is no longer turning the ball over, as he did in the first quarter of the season and is looking increasingly comfortable in this offense. Helped by the outstanding form of receiver, Courtland Sutton.
Now they go into Houston – arguably the surprise package of the season – to face rookie sensation CJ Stroud and the Texans. Last weekend’s loss to the division rival Jaguars was a blow to their playoff hopes but you take this team lightly at your peril. CJ Stroud has his own downfield playmaker – rookie receiver Tank Dell. However, the Broncos secondary is now playing at a level we were accustomed to seeing in the last couple of years. Through the first 5 games of the season, this unit as a whole, played at an historically bad level – remember against the New York Jets, they gave up 23 points in one half of football! They gave up 70 to the Dolphins. Since week 6, they’ve taken the ball away 14 times and have a +9 turnover differential. Opponents have only scored 7 touchdowns in 22 trips to the redzone and if you’re keeping the opposition off the board, you don’t have to do so much to win games at the opposite end of the field. That’s where this matchup may pose a problem.
The Houston Texans offense ranks in the top 10 overall, in passing and in putting points on the board. They’ve only been held to fewer than 20 points twice all season and have scored 111 points in their last 4 games This maybe why they are favoured in this game and if they can match Denver in turnovers they have every chance. That being said, don’t expect a blowout win either way. This will likely be a hard fought, tight, tense game and could easily come down to a game winning field goal as time expires.
PICK: Denver Broncos (+3.5)
San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles (49ers -2.5)
Without question this is the game of the week! A repeat of last season’s NFC Championship game and it pits, what are likely the two best teams in football right now, head to head.
It may come as a surprise to see the Eagles start out as underdogs, considering they’re on home turf and, by 2 games, they currently hold the best record in football. They’ve already beaten both the Bills, Dolphins and Cowboys at the Linc this season – and they took care of the 49ers with a place in the Super Bowl on the line last year.
This is why the stakes are so high. If Philly win, they’ll believe they’ve taken a giant step to securing home field advantage in the playoffs. If San Franciso win, it blows the playoff picture wide open for the number 1 seed in the NFC – especially when you consider next week, the Eagles travel to Dallas.
In their favour, is the outstanding record Philadelphia have put together over the last two years. More impressive, the manner in which time and time again, they find ways to win games this season, when the odds seem to be stacking up against them.
On the other side of the coin, many people believe 49ers are the best team in football when healthy. They’ve added to an already imposing defensive unit by bringing in Randy Gregory and Chase Young BUT they’ve lost safety, Talanoa Hufanga. Potentially, a major blow when going up against Philadelphia’s ariel threat. It’s going to be a fascinating matchup. All season long, opponents have been able to make plays against Philadelphia’s secondary (ranks 29th) but they are stout against the run (3rd). RB Christian McCaffrey is clearly one of San Francisco’s biggest weapons and already has 15 TDs.
How do the Eagles prepare for him and how do they game plan for Samuel, Ayiuk and Kittle? Well, last season, they knocked Brock Purdy out of the game and that ultimately scuppered the 49ers. Purdy is key, if he settles into a rhythm and stays healthy, the 49ers will exploit the deficiencies in the Eagles secondary. The 49ers have a defense, which ranks 5 overall, 2nd against the run, 1st in points allowed (15.5ppg) and is no. 1 in takeways. This is another issue this season for Philadelphia, Jalen Hurts has turned the ball over. This is the best team Philadelphia have faced this year. The only other defense they’ve faced, which is comparable, is that of the New York Jets – and they inflicted the Eagles only loss of the year on them.
PICK: San Francisco 49ers -2.5