Home team in CAPS:
Vikings (-3.5) over BEARS
Minnesota is anything but golden when faced with legitimate foes able to produce relentless defensive performances. In their better seasons, Chicago has made its bones with better defensive editions.
The home side understands the tradition and seeks to sustain it, but this season’s sheer talent gap looks to be a tad too wide to be counted upon. Look for Dalvin Cook and the Vikes to secure this one.
The deadly combination of the Giants’ defensive deterioration — in tandem with the marked Cowboys improvement up and down the line this season — has generated a marked competitive gap in this storied NFC East rivalry. Dak Prescott rates several cuts above either of the two most-prominent Giant signal-callers, with scant relief in sight.
DOLPHINS (-9.5) over Jets
Miami earned their recent bye, homestanding after cresting with five consecutive wins to bring themselves back to the relative league upper crust. QB Tua Tagovailoa can make those sharp, shorter pass patterns pan out, with the time to throw. The Jets need to advance, with boosts in their offensive skill positions.
BILLS (-10.5) over Panthers
Carolina has clearly seen its best days of this particular season, leaving the Buffalo crowd. There’s clearly enough of a talent gap between the superior Bills and the worn-down Panthers to likely generate a workmanlike double-digit decision.
Cardinals (-13.5) over LIONS
Hard-pressed to assure gilt-edged security either way, given the market offered, especially with the Detroit having assured itself the avoidance of a winless season. Arizona has been sheer dynamite on the road all season, and have little desire to get in its way as it maintains momentum and keeps the pursuing Rams at bay within the NFC West.
STEELERS (+1) over Titans
At this point in time, many folks reckon that Pittsburgh shouldn’t be an underdog, so long as it harbors tangible postseason hopes — though it needs some things to go its way. Titans QB Ryan Tannehill been good to us as an underdog, but the visitor’s injury list remains significant.
JAGUARS (-4.5) over Texans
One gets the feeling that morale among the Jags figures to take a distinct move toward the upside, once former coach Urban Meyer was urged to look in a different direction regarding any future employment. We’re not sold on the theory that the Texans can do anything about it … at least, against this outmanned opponent. Davis Mills? Eh.
RAVENS (+5.5) over Packers
This handicap is a handful to hand a side with a defense as ornery as the one fielded by Baltimore. Green Bay would love to get away with this and maintain its lofty NFC standing without seriously jeopardizing Aaron Rodgers’ well-being. Not anticipating a slugfest, by any means.
Bengals (+2.5) over BRONCOS
Cincinnati QB Joe Burrow is the most dangerous operative on the field, in a good way. We await the pinky on his throwing finger to be fully healed, soon enough — check status. WR Ja’Marr Chase is a serious weapon, as is RB Joe Mixon for the visitors. The Bengals’ best is better than anything Broncos.
Falcons (+9.5) over 49ERS
Hope Atlanta has enough left after last week’s full-bore surprise win to hang close to a hefty favorite that has performed with much greater distinction away from NoCal than where Tony Bennett left his heart. Like Ol’ Man River, QB Matt Ryan keeps rolling.
BUCCANEERS (-10.5) over Saints
New Orleans welcomed a functioning Alvin Kamara back last week, which will most likely make this outing more competitive than it might have been without him. Still, the Bucs look to hang up a daylight win, for payback — and optimal playoff positioning.
BROWNS (-3) over Raiders
With some 20 Browns players unlikely to see action due to COVID issues, favoritism is temporarily shifted to the Silver and Black — but not for long, which speaks volumes. QB Nick Mullens the likely starter for Cleveland. The Southern Miss product and former 49er played in majority of league games in 2018 and 2020. Browns look cheap here.
EAGLES (-5.5) over Washington
Though a few of the walking wounded on defense are expected back for this, Washington is hurtin’ — despite its gameness and best intentions, with a chunk of its optimum roster unavailable due to COVID, including QBs Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen. Ex-Texas Longhorn Garrett Gilbert may be best available option for underdog.
RAMS (-5.5) over Seahawks: Though the Rams have COVID issues — which prompted this game’s delay to Tuesday — this seems a reasonable spot for the home side to overcome, against aging talent cluster which saw its best days more than a few seasons ago. Price seems fair.
Last week: 10-3