Ok, we recovered all right from our 1-4-1 heartbreak of Thanksgiving weekend, scraping out a .500 week last week. That's better, but still losing juice. There are some nice nuggets on the NFL board this weekend, so let's get right into it with six good NFL plays, as we await college bowl season to begin...
CHIEFS -7 over Ravens
There is no doubt that Lamar Jackson has done some remarkable things in his first few games as a starting quarterback in the NFL, pumping some life back into a Ravens squad that was flailing a bit when Joe Flacco went down with a hip injury three games ago. Of course, much of that is centered around Jackson's running the football, and running and running some more. It doesn't seem very sustainable. Also, those wins have been over some sad sacks (Bengals, Raiders, Falcons, combined 11-25 on the season). The Chiefs are a different animal, and while not they're not even average defensively, the Chiefs should slow down Jackson and, in turn, score enough points to where a touchdown is too small a number to pass on them as the favorite laying the points.
Panthers -1 over BROWNS
The Browns are a frisky 4-7-1 team, no doubt, although the Texans may have given the blueprint to teams for the remainder of the season on how to slow down Baker Mayfield (rush three or four, drop everyone else in confusing coverage packages). The Panthers have lost four in a row, losing three games under a one score margin after getting blown out by the Steelers by 31 a few weeks ago. At 6-6, the Panthers are on the cusp of having their season ended, so they should be extra desperate for this win, especially with two games against New Orleans looming for them in Weeks 15 and 17. This is a must win for the Panthers. Also, Carolina matches up nicely with the Browns, with their third-rated rushing offense (via Football Outsiders' DVOA) against the Browns' 26th rated run defense.
Broncos -5.5 over 49ERS
Since Brandon McManus missed that 51-yard field goal against the Texans a few weeks back, the Broncos have been one of the hottest, most impressive teams in the league. Last week, they were a winner for us as a 4.5 point favorite in Cincinnati, an easy 24-10 winner. This is a similar spot, playing as a road favorite against a team that's playing out the string with a backup QB. Case Keenum has recovered from his rocky start, going four straight games without a turnover. The Broncos win and cover easily here, and jump firmly into a pole position for the final AFC playoff spot.
COWBOYS -3.5 over Eagles
I wish this spread were a field goal, but oh well. The Cowboys have won four in a row, including a win over these Eagles in Philly a few weeks ago. The Cowboys can take control of this division with a home win on Sunday, which would push them to 8-5 on the season, and push the Eagles to 6-7, creating a two game edge with three to go. Dallas should be able to run the football on an Eagles defense that is a shell of what it was last season, and the Eagles banged up secondary should allow Dak Prescott to make the throws necessary for a Dallas cover.
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RAIDERS +12.5 over Steelers
Here's the thing — yeah, the Raiders are 2-10, and yes, Jon Gruden is a punch line right now. However, if you're betting them, since they're double digit underdogs every week, all you need is for Derek Carr to generate some offense, and you'll likely be covering the number, especially when they're at home. To wit, since that embarrassing 34-3 loss to the Niners a month ago, the Raiders are a late field goal by the Chargers and a defensive touchdown at the end of the loss to the Ravens away from being 4-0 ATS. They hung in nicely with the Chiefs at home this past Sunday, losing 40-33. Yeah, that just means they're just 2-2 ATS the last four weeks, but they're hanging around in games. The Steelers have a look ahead situation with the Patriots coming up in Week 15, and they'll be without James Connor, who hurt an ankle against the Chargers on Sunday night. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I love the Raiders in this spot catching double digits.
SEAHAWKS -3 over Vikings
Wait, gambling gods, are you telling me that I get to bet against FUGAZI FRANCHISE QB Kirk Cousins in yet ANOTHER prime time spot where there is a TON to play for? And I'm laying just a field goal with a hot Seahawks team with the best home field advantage in the league? You are WAY too kind. Thank you, gambling gods.
Last Week: 3-3
Season Record: 43-38-3 (53.1 percent)
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.