Five picks against the NFL spread, that’s what we do here. Keeping with the shape of the season, we’ll be primarily on underdogs. When in doubt, friends, take the points.
Raiders +2.5 vs. Chiefs
Kansas City has been the NFL’s worst bet for a calendar year. I’m going to sit back in the packed zone and force them to shoot me out of it. The Raiders offense surely doesn’t miss Jon Gruden — Vegas has 400-plus yards in three straight games. Vegas also played better at New York than the final score suggests.
Lions +8.5 at Steelers
Pittsburgh has a well-earned reputation of playing down to its level of competition, and winless teams coming out of their bye are traditionally a good side to invest on (the line is giving you a healthy head start). And maybe the Lions shouldn't be winless, anyway; by Pythagorean, they should have 1.6 wins, and it took a miracle for the Ravens to escape Detroit with a victory. The Lions occasionally get blown out, but the team hasn't quit on Dan Campbell.
Patriots -1.5 vs. Browns
Two teams stylistically similar, looking to protect and maybe hide their quarterbacks while running games and defenses prevail in the end. I was an eyelash surprised the Patriots didn’t get the standard -3 here, as I have the teams equal in my ranks. New England’s gradually improved as the season has ambled along, a hallmark of a Bill Belichick team.
Jets +12 vs. Bills
New York’s offense has been frisky with every non-Wilson quarterback, and Buffalo’s offense has been missing something most of the year. Josh Allen’s negative-play avoidance is flat year over year, but the explosive plays have vanished. After being 14 percent ahead of the field in YPA last year, he’s now five percent below the mean.
Titans -3 vs. Saints
I’d hesitate on this game if Taysom Hill were starting, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time before Trevor Siemian is exposed. Tennessee’s defense was a hot mess in September, but it’s rallied nicely, holding the Chiefs, Colts, and Rams well under their seasonal averages.