Raiders Set Sights on Cleveland. Can the Patriots Shut Down Taylor & Will Jags Fans Find Festive Cheer Against Houston?!
Las Vegas Raiders (6-7) @ Cleveland Browns (7-6) (Raiders -1.5)
In a normal week this wouldn’t even be up for discussion. The Browns 1.5 point underdogs? Man for man, they’re a better team! The problem is, they won’t have a number of their best players on the field, Saturday. Among those currently on the Covid list are QB Baker Mayfield, WR Jarvis Landry, TE Austin Hooper and David Njoku and LT Jedrick Willis. Head Coach Kevin Stefanski has also tested positive for covid while the likes of Kareem Hunt and Troy Hill are carrying injuries.
The Raiders are 1-5 over their last 6 games. They were crushed by the Kansas City Chiefs last week BUT if they are to somehow make a late push for a wild card spot, they won’t have a better opportunity than this.
Since their week 8 bye, Vegas has a point differential of -91 – that’s the worst in the NFL! They’ve scored more than just 16 points in a game once in their last 6 outings. Admittedly, none of this makes the Raiders an attractive prospect but consider their opponents.
Last weekend’s 24 points against Baltimore marked only the second time in 8 games that Cleveland had reached that mark. Now they’re missing a number of key players AND their head coach. As bad as the Raiders have been since week 8, this is still the NFL. Vegas are drinking in the last chance saloon as far as playoff hopes are concerned. In the week they’ve been confirmed as Super Bowl hosts in 2024, take the Raiders to cover this spread!
New England Patriots (9-4) @ Indianapolis Colts (7-6) (Patriots +2.5)
The New England Patriots come into this matchup as the no. 1 seed in the AFC, riding a 7 game win streak. They’ve won 8 straight games against the Indianapolis Colts and they are 6-0 on the road this season.
After a 1-4 start, the Colts have won 6 of their last 8 games. In that span they’ve only once failed to score fewer than 30 points and running back Jonathan Taylor has been one of the best players in the entire league! This season he’s the league leader in scrimmage yards (1684), rushing yards (1348) and touchdowns (18). He’s one of only 5 players, all time, with a rushing touchdown in 10 straight games in a season. In short, stop Jonathan Taylor and you likely grind the Colts to a halt.
The Patriots bring with them the NFL’s league leading defense in points allowed. They average just 15.4 points per game. In their last 5 games, they’ve given up just 36 points! They’re own running game isn’t too shoddy either. They’re run game ranks 9th in the NFL – in fact they relied so heavily on it in their last game against Buffalo, they threw the ball just 3 times en route to a 14-10 victory!
This might end up being the game of the weekend. It’s certainly one of the most anticipated. New England are coming off a bye week. That means Bill Belichick has had an extra week to scheme for Carson Wentz and if we know anything about a Belichick defense, we know he takes away an opponent’s best player – that’s Jonathan Taylor. As much as Carson Wentz has improved this year, I am taking Bill Belichick’s defense to come out on top in that matchup everytime.
Houston Texans (2-11) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-11) (Jaguars -3.5)
It’s been a week of change in Jacksonville. Just 11 months after Urban Meyer was appointed the Jaguars new head coach, owner Shad Khan fired him. It comes amid a backdrop of several off field stories surrounding Meyer and a dismal season which has resulted in just 2 wins. The Urban Meyer experiment has been a disaster and it doesn’t sound as if many of his players are disappointed to see him go. From the emergence of a video of Meyer in a bar with a woman who was not his wife after deciding not to fly back to Jacksonville with the rest of team following a loss in Cincinnati to allegations of kicking a player in pre-season to stories alleging, he called his assistant coaches losers. Meyer has managed to make himself headline news since taking over in Jacksonville while his rookie no. 1 overall pick, QB Trevor Lawrence has barely been mentioned. It’s fair to suggest there’s an air of relief this decision has been made and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that translate to a performance on the field against Houston this weekend.
The Texans have named Davis Mills their starting QB for the remainder of the season after benching Tyrod Taylor but last weekend they lost 33-13 to Seattle after being shut out the week before.
This game, as both teams records suggest, is unlikely to be a classic but it maybe that we see a releasing of the shackles in Jacksonville with Urban Meyer no longer in situ.
Davis Mills has yet to win a game as a starter in the NFL. Jacksonville has dropped their last 7 games to Houston. Something has to give. My bet is that Jags fans finally have something to cheer!