Here we go again: it’s November, and after underwhelming starts, we’re talking about New England and Pittsburgh as the teams to beat in the AFC. Will this ever end? Pittsburgh starts out the week against Carolina, and they are 5-2-1 without Le’Veon Bell. Antonio Brown was busted for speeding today, but somehow I doubt that will keep him from going off on the Panthers. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick gets to beat one of his former players, Mike Vrabel, when the Patriots head to Nashville to beat down the Titans. Okay, a look now at the games:
Last week: 3-3
New England (-6.5) at Tennessee
Did you read the headline? This is the time of year where it’s not even worth showing up for teams like the Titans when the Patriots are your opponent. It’d be a nice sentiment for Mike Vrabel to beat his old coach, Bill Belichick, but it’s not going to happen. The schedule-makers didn’t do the Titans any favors having to play New England on a short week. Pick: Patriots.
New Orleans at Cincinnati (-5.5)
This looks too easy. The Saints are coming off an emotional high in beating the 8-0 Rams, and the Bengals are coming off a bye. A.J. Green being out hurts, but isn’t Dez Bryant’s injury also a letdown for the Saints? This has the feel of a game that will be closer than it’s supposed to be. Pick: Bengals.
Atlanta (-6) at Cleveland
The Falcons are finally starting to look like the team many expected. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, so are the Browns. Atlanta can’t afford to choke this opportunity away, even though it’s in its nature. The Browns are looking for any good vibes they can get in the post-Hue Jackson era, but they don’t figure to be able to keep up with the Falcons if their offense is humming. That was the case last week when the Browns fell to the Chiefs. Pick: Falcons.
Buffalo at New York Jets (-7.5)
Josh McCown might have some rust to shake off, and the Bills may have a shot to hang around in this one thanks to some addition by subtraction. Benching Nathan Peterman automatically makes the Bills a more competent team, and the Jets are reeling coming off an ugly loss in Miami last week in which their offense did absolutely nothing. This should stay close throughout. Pick: Bills.
Seattle (buying to +10 at -140) at L.A. Rams
It’s been an emotional week in Los Angeles, and that means things could go either way for the Rams. In terms of football the Rams missed practice and are also coming off a stinging defeat to the Saints. They always seem to beat the Seahawks, even when they were the lowly St. Louis Rams, and did so earlier this year, 33-31. They should get the sweep, but it might be a grind for the Rams given how things have gone this week. Pick: Seahawks.
Dallas at Philadelphia (buying to -7 at -130)
The Cowboys have been getting smacked around, and it’s really about time the Eagles start to look like last year’s version at least somewhat. Dallas probably won’t be able to keep up with Philly’s high-powered offense, as was the case last year on Sunday night in Dallas. Carson Wentz and the Eagles know that they have to have this one with a very tough schedule ahead. Pick: Eagles.
Carolina at Pittsburgh (buying to -3 at -130)
The Steelers are the Steelers again. The Panthers are good, but going on the road on a short week to take on a hot team is asking a lot. This feels like one of those games where a critical Cam Newton mistake will end up being the difference. Carolina is 6-2, but other than digging out of a self-inflicted 17-point hole in Philadelphia, they don’t really have any signature wins yet. Pick: Steelers.