The weird thing about betting on/picking the NFL is you literally have to adjust your perception of every single team on a week-to-week basis. You cannot be comfortable with an opinion on an NFL team in 2020. There’s too much variance. There are two big lulls we hit — four weeks in and eight weeks in. We’re coming out of the second lull right now and it’s important to reimagine everyone’s identity.
It’s a pretty difficult exercise, because we have steadfast opinions about all these different clubs. The Pats suck, the Vikings suck, etc. But that’s not true. Are the Bears a great defense (sans Akiem Hicks)? Are the Jaguars suddenly (and mystically) good against the run? How will the Saints offense look with Jameis instead of Brees? Will the Ravens let Lamar run??
There are plenty of questions left unanswered right now but Week 11 might hold a clue. Maybe. Below I’ve got projected scores for every single game plus best bets that I like. I might add some or change them depending on weather so make sure and listen to the Pick Six Podcast best bets show with me, Pete Prisco, R.J. White and Kenny White every Friday. We’re an absurd number against the spread for the year so come hang. Let’s have a week.
Arizona (6-3) at Seattle (6-3)
Thursday, 8:20 p.m. ET (Fox/Amazon/NFL Network)
If you’re reading this column, it means that it’s Thursday, which means a couple of things. One, this game is tonight! Two, it’s not too late to bet the over (57 preferably, 57.5 is fine too and I think it goes into the 60s so don’t be shy here). Three, there are props to be had. Make sure and listen to the Pick Six Podcast preview of this game to get those props locked in early. They’ll move throughout the day and the good ones will go up. DeAndre Hopkins number (89.5) is dumb but I’m not sure how you don’t take the over against this Seahawks secondary. Kyler Murray’s rushing number is wrong too — a lot of times these props are based on a full season average plus some regression, etc. Kyler is averaging 67.1 rush yards per game over the season. But over the last four games his rush attempts have spiked to 11.5 and his rush yards per game are up to 77. Over on both look good at William Hill right now in my opinion. He just ran 14 times for 67 yards versus the Seahawks. This game is in Seattle, it’s a prime-time game and it should get weird. I’ll take the points, but prefer the value in playing over the total and the props.
Projected score: Cardinals 34, Seahawks 31
Best Bet: Over 57, Kyler Murray over rush yards 57.5
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New England (4-5) at Houston (2-7)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
How do you take Houston here? Bill O’Brien is long gone, so that’s good for not having to coach against Bill Belichick, but he’s replaced by Romeo Crennel, another former Patriots assistant. The Texans are the worst team in football against the run in my opinion and the statistics conveniently back it up. I question whether Josh McDaniels will bother letting Cam Newton run a bunch here — it feels like a 150-yard game from Damien Harris, honestly. Deshaun Watson will get his too, so I think the over is the best play in the event the “Bad Pats” come to play. But New England should win this game handily with its strength matching up well against Houston’s biggest weakness.
Projected score: Patriots 31, Texans 24
Best Bet: Over 49, Damien Harris rush yards over (take it blind)
Atlanta (3-6) at New Orleans (7-2)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
My podcasting pal Brady Quinn swears up and down the Falcons are playing better defense lately and he might not be wrong! Let’s not worry about the opponent, but the Falcons haven’t allowed more than 23 points since Raheem Morris took over. Unfortunately for the sake of this game, we have a major wild-card in play: Jameis Winston. I find it fascinating what Sean Payton will do with Winston. Conventional wisdom would tell you … absolutely nothing? Will Payton uncork Winston against a defense he thinks he can beat and start throwing deep? That would fly in the face of everything the Saints have done the last five years. I think it’s more likely Jameis is given strict instructions to 1) jam a slant to Michael Thomas, 2) hit Alvin Kamara over the middle or 3) get benched for Taysom Hill. Whatever the case may be, the Saints are probably underrated coming off a Drew Brees injury so I’ll take them here. I think there should be some points too.
Projected score: Saints 38, Falcons 31
Best Bet: Over 50.5, really like any Michael Thomas over on catches less than 7.5
Tennessee (6-3) at Baltimore (6-3)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Big time rematch here between the Titans and Ravens on the heels of Tennessee’s win in the playoffs. Also a massive four-week running battle between me and picking the Ravens against the spread. I am losing every which freaking way on these guys. But I’m going to double down here on Baltimore. This is The Lamar Jackson Game. Which is a thing I’m going to tell myself every week until it happens, apparently. Tennessee is a good patient for it though — they’re not good on defense. And Lamar owes them one. This should be a shootout, but the heavy running lean by both sides, plus the disaster of a serious under if Tennessee gets up big early, makes me just look at Baltimore. And maybe Lamar rushing yards over here, with the number suppressed.
Projected score: Ravens 28, Titans 21
Best Bet: Pass but like the over and Lamar
Cincinnati (2-6-1) at Washington (2-7)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Yeesh. The Joe Burrow-Chase Young battle is everything you expected it to be. Washington has more at stake here, so I will take WFT’s but i don’t feel comfortable fading Burrow, frankly, ever. The one thing I do love here? Washington’s defensive front is stout and Cincy’s OL is not very bueno. I am laying the points, although I do think the maxim I wanted to use last week — “Washington shouldn’t be favored!” — and didn’t should apply here. Hard pass all the way around.
Projected score: Washington 24, Bengals 21
Best Bet: Nope.
Pittsburgh (9-0) at Jacksonville (1-8)
1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Another clear-cut “what do you do with this game?” game. Jacksonville was giving up when they started Jake Luton, except they’ve covered two straight and have been competitive! There’s a decent chance Doug Marrone is a really good coach who just happens to also be terrible at job selection. This should be a bloodbath but the Jags are frisky and Mike Tomlin’s teams love to struggle in Florida and in California when giant spreads are involved. I won’t take anything here but I am intrigued by what Heath Cummings and Frank Stampfl floated on the podcast Thursday — the Jags have quietly been good against the run and Ben Roethlisberger might just be calling the plays on offense now. My favorite play here is a Big Ben over passing yards on anything 260 or less plus Big Ben over 1.5 TDs.
Projected score: Steelers 28, Jaguars 21
Best Bet: Big Ben overs above unless they’re much higher or super juiced
Detroit (4-5) at Carolina (3-7)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
This game is off the board and you legit can’t handicap it until you know what the status of Matthew Stafford and Teddy Bridgewater are. Having said that, I’ll take the Lions getting points because both of these teams aren’t good on defense and there’s a much better chance of Teddy not playing than Stafford. Additionally, give me the over prop on D’Andre Swift rush yards as long as it’s below 65. There’s not total here but if it’s high 40’s or low 50’s the under is a sneaky play. Two bad defenses but kind of methodical offenses.
Projected score: Lions 21, Panthers 17
Best Bet: D’Andre Swift overs, all of them (take them on Friday, rush yards, receiving yards, receptions, anytime TD, just take them)
Philadelphia (3-5-1) at Cleveland (6-3)
1 p.m. ET (Fox)
Went out for takeout on Wednesday and heard an Eagles fan saying he “just wanted the draft picks.” Yikes! Keep an eye on this game for the weather, because we’ve seen serious wind in Cleveland create two absolute monster locks for the under the last two weeks. Vegas reacted when bad weather seemed apparent in this one by shrinking the total (46 or so now) but it looks like just rain and some 9-10 mph wind. That shouldn’t prohibit points. What will? The Eagles not allowing people to run on them. Philly locks down running backs and the Browns love to run. I’m not touching either of these terrible teams, but I want a piece of the under if the weather gets bad. Otherwise just steer clear.
Projected score: Eagles 21, Browns 20
Best Bet: Nope.
Miami (6-3) at Denver (3-6)
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
One of the most important things you can do as an NFL analyst, in my opinion, is change your opinion. The Dolphins are good. I was wrong the last few weeks. Brian Flores pulled a string on this team and put Tua in to spark the offense and it was a brilliant move. The defense cooks. The Chargers literally said they were “pretty confused out there” after getting whipped by Miami. WHAT?? That happens maybe once or twice every couple of years when an offense admits to getting completely punked by a defense from a surprise schematic perspective. Flores is cooking. I don’t want the Dolphins bloggers and the reptiles ( 😘) coming after me. Miami rolls here against either Drew Lock or Brett Rypien. (Postscript: please don’t complain that I jinxed you by finally picking you as a road dog in a spot where it seems pretty obvious to take the Broncos.)
Projected score: Dolphins 21, Broncos 10
Best Bet: Play the Dolphins DST in DFS, sure give me Miami too ATS just for the snakes
N.Y. Jets (0-9) at L.A. Chargers (2-7)
4:05 p.m. ET (CBS)
This over should be a pretty big smash I think. It’s under 50 and the Chargers love to get in shootouts. Their Week 1 game featuring Tyrod Taylor finished with 29 points and since then here are their totals: 43, 37, 69, 57, 68, 61, 57, 50. Do the Jets suck? Yes the Jets suck. Joey Bosa being cleared from concussion protocol will create problems for Elite Joe Flacco. Guys … I think I’m going to do it. I’m actually doing it. I am betting on the New York Jets and Adam Gase. We’ve reached the point of the season where it’s perfect to take them. They’ve shown some life, the Chargers don’t want to win and just cut Samson’s hair. Look at Herbert’s eyes. He knows he’s the guy in charge of dragging the Titanic off the ocean floor and it just hit him in the face, hard. It’s too much for one man to deal with. I also love the over here and Denzel Mims to go off. Whatever number you see on Keenan Allen catches is too low unless it’s like 10.5. Since Herbert took over at QB here are Allen’s targets in full games played: 10, 19, 11, 13, 12, 11, 7. Do not fade Keenan Allen.
Projected score: Chargers 31, Jets 28
Best Bet: Jets +8.5, Over 46.5, Over Keenan Allen catches (any number under 10.5)
Dallas (2-7) at Minnesota (4-5)
4:05 p.m. ET (Fox)
I keep saying this on the podcast every week but it’s imperative: over the next three weeks the Dalvin Cook rush yards over is free money. Assuming he is healthy they need to make it 125 yards to get me off it. Dallas, Jacksonville and Carolina? They are going to FEED Dalvin over the next three weeks. If they do, they’ll win. If they win, they’ll be 7-5. If they’re 7-5, they’re back in playoff contention. If they’re back in playoff contention, they can upset someone in the wild-card round. If they upset someone in the wild-card round, the Bucs can beat them by 25 in the divisional round. It’s set in stone. They’re slaughtering Dallas and Dalvin is going ham wild. Take the over on Alexander Mattison rushing yards too if you want. They’re all hitting. In all seriousness, the Vikings know how they’re getting back in this and it involves Dalvin getting 30 touches per game over the next month. They don’t feel bad because he got paid. It’s happening so just indulge yourself.
Projected score: Vikings 27, Cowboys 14
Best Bet: Dalvin over rush yards or rush attempts, take them every week for the next three weeks
Green Bay (7-2) at Indianapolis (6-3)
4:25 p.m. ET (Fox)
The wrong team can’t be favored here because the right team is favored. But people are going to pound the Packers and that’s the wrong move. The Colts are good, guys. They’re just good. This is not a Philip Rivers thing either. The defense is GREAT. Matt Eberflus isn’t getting enough head coach buzz right now. As long as Darius Leonard isn’t on the injury report they will shut down the Packers run game. I think Jonathan Taylor might break out here and I firmly believe the Packers get another pop in the mouth, curl up and go to sleep while the Colts roll.
Projected score: Colts 31, Packers 10
Best Bet: Colts -2 (2u)
Kansas City (8-1) at Las Vegas (6-3)
8:20 p.m. ET (NBC)
There is no possible way for me to stress this enough: Jon Gruden has been WILDLY successful in his return to coaching, is a top-five play-caller in the NFL right now and Derek Carr has vastly exceeded expectations, particularly in terms of his deep ball passing. The Raiders are good and they’re going to the playoffs. They might make a run depending on the matchup, because if they’re healthy Josh Jacobs can eat. But they are going to get blown out here. This is a smash spot for the Chiefs. First of all — and I will always tip my cap to Nick Kostos as a co-writer for the hit jingle — AN-DY REID, OFF THE BYE. Andy Reid coming off the bye is as big an NFL trope as Jimmy Graham playing basketball in high school or Ryan Fitzpatrick going to Harvard. But one of these is important for the spread, and it’s not Jimmy G slamming all over Goldsboro (shoutout Wilbur’s BBQ). The Raiders also took a victory lap around the Chiefs stadium, which Reid mentioned several times this week. Jon Gruden wasn’t thrilled when asked about it. Patrick Mahomes is starting to really cook and it’s prime time. Hammer the Chiefs before it gets to seven.
Projected score: Chiefs 37, Raiders 28
Best Bet: Chiefs -6.5 (2u)
L.A. Rams (6-3) at Tampa Bay (6-3)
8:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
What a delightful Monday Night Football game. This could be the NFC title game. And I have to be honest, the Rams defense has me kind of thinking they can make a run in the division, the conference and maybe even win a title. Sean McVay is fantastic. He “slid” and the Rams won nine games. Now they’re quasi-struggling on offense, depending on the week. But the defense is starting to get loose. Jalen Ramsey should be getting some Defensive Player of the Year recognition. He’s locking people down. It’s pretty hard to get DPOY love when you’re next to Aaron Donald. But that’s how well Ramsey is playing, and it’s creating problems for opposing offenses. This game is coming down to Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. I don’t think they’re there yet. Give me the Rams outright. Don’t take any rushing overs though.
Projected score: Rams 31, Buccaneers 28
Best Bet: Rams +4 (sprinkle on Rams ML)