Week 10 of the NFL season got underway on Thursday night with the Carolina Panthers pulling off an outright victory as a 2.5-point home underdog against the Atlanta Falcons. As has been the case all season long, the underdog and the under was the right side. There's still 13 games on this week's schedule between Sunday afternoon and Monday night. Today, we're taking a look at three pairs of games with similar point spreads and deciding which side we'd rather be on if we were forced to pick between the two.
Detroit Lions or Denver Broncos?
The Detroit Lions picked up their second win of the season last weekend when they beat the Green Bay Packers. This week, Detroit visits the Chicago Bears. While they've lost two straight games, there's no denying that Justin Fields has taken a huge step forward over the last few weeks. The Lions are a 3-point road underdog in Chicago. Elsewhere, the Denver Broncos return from a bye week and it appears Russell Wilson will be wearing a wristband. The Broncos are 3-point road underdogs in Tennessee against the Titans. Last week, Tennessee pushed Kansas City to overtime on the road with Malik Willis under center. It looks like Ryan Tannehill will return this week. Which road underdog would you rather bet?
Greg: Is this line giving too much respect to the Lions or not enough to the Bears? Chicago’s defense has given up a combined 84 points in the two games they’ve played since trading Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith. Granted, that was versus two good offenses, but, man, this is a really bad unit now. It’s not like Detroit’s is much better, though. These two teams are similar in that they have offenses that can move the ball and defenses that can’t stop anyone. Kudos to Matt Eberflus for finally tailoring the Bears offense to Justin Fields’ strengths. Have you ever seen a quarterback convert more third-and-longs with his legs? I’m excited to see what his ceiling is and I won’t be betting against him when he faces bottom-tier defenses like the Lions.
Is it just me or does it feel like it’s been months since the Broncos last played? Not having Denver on a slate is like when you’re a kid and your mom goes out of town and you don’t have to eat any vegetables. Broncos-Titans is a dumpster filled with week-old vegetable soup. Denver has one of the league’s best defenses, but they can be run on, giving up the 12th-most rushing yards per game (122.6). Call me Shania Twain, because the 21 points Russell Wilson put up on the Jags in London doesn’t impress me much. Tennessee’s defense leads the NFL in success rate and it sounds like Ryan Tannehill will be back under center after missing a couple games with an ankle injury. I literally just stated that I wouldn’t do this, but give me the Lions.
Pete: Detroit is coming off a surprising win as a home underdog against the Packers, but at this point, it feels like beating the Packers is no accomplishment. I don't believe the Lions' defense fixed itself magically and am chalking up last week as more of an indictment on Green Bay. You can't help but like what you've seen from Justin Fields in recent weeks. I lean Bears here, but as Greg mentioned, there's serious concerns about that defense after they shipped out their two best players on that side of the football. This game has shootout potential.
We were both on the Titans last week and it still feels like they're being underrated. Is Mike Vrabel against Nathaniel Hackett the biggest coaching mismatch of the season? With the Titans laying just three points at home, you're going to tell me these teams are just about equal on a neutral field? Hard disagree. It's going to be ugly, but I see the Titans winning a 21-13 type of game. I trust Vrabel and Derrick Henry more than I can trust the Bears right now. I don't love either of these underdogs, but if I had to pick, I'm on Detroit as well.
New York Giants or Las Vegas Raiders?
The New York Giants are 6-2 and coming off a bye week. They host the worst team in football this week, but the Giants are just 4.5-point home favorites against the Houston Texans. Elsewhere, it's a battle of two franchises that appear to be collapsing on themselves. Jeff Saturday, Sam Ehlinger and the Colts head to Las Vegas, where the Raiders are a 4.5-point home favorite. Which home favorite would you rather back?
Greg: The Giants, at 6-2, coming off a bye, hosting the worst team in the NFL, are less than five-point favorites?! The Vegas vibes are immaculate, this is the wavy game of the week. I can already see the “easy money” bros ripping up their betting slips and jamming the WFAN phone lines. Nearly half of survivor pool entries are on New York. More often than not, this ends as poorly as a Plaxico Burress night out on the town. Dameon Pierce runs for 125-plus against a Giants defense that ranks 27th in rushing EPA.
Speaking of vibes, how about that Colts locker room? Jim Irsay’s tanking signals can be seen from space. Josh McDaniels may have to move there if he can’t win this game. The only thing the Raiders defense does well is stop the run, so Sam Ehlinger will have to put the team on his back. We’ve seen how that’s worked out so far. Josh Jacobs should have a big day against a Colts defense that’s 31st in rushing success rate. I’m on the Raiders.
Pete: You're spot on, this Giants-Texans line reeks. However, we have to acknowledge the fact that the betting market has been wrong about the Giants all season long. If you've bet the Giants all season, your wallet is pretty fat right now (6-2 ATS). I don't think this lunch-pail group led by Brian Daboll is going to come out flat or overlook their opponent at home. Then again, the Giants don't win by much margin. I swear I won't bet this game, but for the purpose of this exercise, I'm being forced. I think I lean Giants.
In the other beautiful matchup on deck, the narratives and vibes are immaculate. Let's start with the Colts hiring Jeff Saturday, a move that simply can't be explained. Him coaching and Sam Ehlinger at quarterback screams tanking. But is there an interim coach bump here? The Raiders aren't exactly having a banner season or week either. Blake Martinez retired midseason, which is never a good sign. Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller hit IR. Don't discount the idea that this 2-6 team might be considering the tank as well. I want nothing to do with either of these teams that look to be on the precipice of caving in on themselves, so I'll reluctantly roll with Big Blue.
Jacksonville Jaguars or Washington Commanders?
The Jacksonville Jaguars got back in the win column last week after they erased a 17-0 deficit against the Las Vegas Raiders. Their reward is a trip to Arrowhead, where the Jaguars are 9.5-point road underdogs against the Kansas City Chiefs. Elsewhere, Taylor Heinicke is coming off his first loss of the season. It's likely that'll turn into a losing streak, as the Washington Commanders are 11-point underdogs in Philadelphia against the Eagles. These are the two biggest underdogs of the week, which one would you rather back?
Greg: I like both of these dogs. Kansas City gives up the eighth-most points per drive and will be without defensive end Frank Clark for another game. Travis Etienne Jr. runs wild in this one, and Trevor Lawrence torches a Chiefs secondary that’s 19th in EPA per dropback. Patrick Mahomes is the eternal flame who’s always torching, so he’ll get his as well, but I think the Jags are super live to pull off the upset.
I’m curious to see how Nick Sirianni addresses Philly’s deficiencies against the run with Jordan Davis out. They’re fourth-worst in rushing success rate after letting the Texans romp all over them for 168 yards. If I’m Ron Rivera, I’m grinding this game out on the ground. You don’t want Taylor Heinicke testing the best secondary in the NFL when you can kill them in the run game. Washington’s defense isn’t good enough to shut down the Eagles entirely, but they’re good enough to get some key stops. I think Jacksonville has a better chance of winning straight up, but Washington is more likely to cover. I’m taking Command.
Pete: Jacksonville's offense actually isn't bad at moving the ball. They struggle once they get in the red zone. However, the Jaguars rank top-5 in first downs per game. I don't expect them to struggle moving the ball against a Kansas City defense that ranks 23rd in DVOA. It'll be a matter of whether they settle for field goals, get in the end zone or turn the ball over. This Jacksonville team plays close games. Their last six games have been decided by seven points or less. I like the Jaguars quite a bit here.
As you mentioned, the best way to attack Philadelphia right now is on the ground. However, Washington ranks 25th in yards per rush attempt. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Commanders keep this close, but the Eagles had a mini-bye week after playing on Thursday last week and play this game at home in primetime. I can see Taylor Heinicke getting a bit overwhelmed and the Commanders offense struggling mightily. Eleven points is a lot of points, but I don't see how the Commanders score much more than like 14 points here. Maybe their defense keeps it close, but I'd rather take the Jaguars here.