WHAT A HORRIBLE week.
The loss of Deshaun Watson to a torn ACL means that football just isn’t as much fun now as it was in week eight when he and Russell Wilson went toe-to-toe in one of the best games of the season.
It came on the same day we learned that Andrew Luck would miss the entire 2017 season and — though overall injuries are down — adds to the list of high-profile players who have suffered season-ending injuries this year:
Odell Beckham Jr
Any of the above could have walked into the NFL All-Pro team this year and they absolutely would have made this weekend’s slate of games that much better. I mean, instead of Watson v Luck this week we’re likely to get Tom Savage v Jacoby Brissett.
It’s disappointing, but the NFL carries on regardless.
Sunday – 6pm
Atlanta Falcons (-2) @ Carolina Panthers
The Atlanta Falcons have somehow managed to reach the mid-way point of the season before playing their first divisional game and they look anything but the offensive juggernaut they were last year. Carolina play their second AFC South game in as many weeks and will look to home comforts despite an up-and-down season.
Verdict: Panthers against the spread
Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans (-7)
Given the quarterback situation in Houston, this is an incredibly generous spread even if the Colts are amongst the worst teams in football if not actually the worst. However, they do have a quarterback in Brissett who looks more reliable than Savage or whoever Bill O’Brien chooses to start.
Verdict: Colts against the spread
Cincinnati Bengals @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-5.5)
We saw just a few weeks ago what a stifling defence can do to the Bengals offence and there are none better in the league against the pass than the self-christened Sacksonville. The one area of weakness for the Jags is defending the rush, so will Joe Mixon finally have the breakout game he believes is there?
Verdict: Jaguars to cover
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints (-6.5)
That New Orleans are in the top-half of Football Outsiders Defensive DVOA should be, quite simply, terrifying for the rest of the NFC as the Saints traditionally make the postseason when their defence is in any way decent. For the Bucs, the darlings of August thanks to Hard Knocks, this feels like a lost season.
Verdict: Saints to cover
LA Rams (-3.5) @ New York Giants
A New York Times article this week described Rams punter Johnny Hekker as, pound for pound, the most valuable player in the NFL. For this reason alone, you should probably want the Giants to win this week. However, having failed to trade for a wide receiver before the deadline, Big Blue will continue to struggle to score enough points to be competitive against the league’s better teams.
Verdict: Rams to cover
Denver Broncos @ Philadelphia Eagles (-7.5)
The Eagles are my favourite team to watch in football right now and it’ll be very interesting to see what the addition of Jay Ajayi does for the league’s second highest scoring team. The Broncos are on a skid and, if Brock Osweiler is the answer, you’re asking the wrong questions.
Verdict: Eagles to cover
Baltimore Ravens @ Tennessee Titans (-3.5)
With Houston and Indy without their starting quarterbacks, the Titans know a wildcard spot is, at the very least, a realistic goal this season as any team finishing 8-8 or better in the AFC has a shout. The Ravens are coming off the back of what was a surprise 40-0 win — given their offensive struggles — and have had a long rest.
Verdict: Ravens against the spread
Sunday – 9.05pm
Arizona Cardinals (-2.5) @ San Francisco 49ers
Another team that lost their franchise quarterback, the Cardinals have at least had a bye week to recover from their London hammering and prepare for this game. We may not see the 49ers’ new acquisition, Jimmy Garoppolo, in this game, but he will almost certainly be their quarterback of the future.
Verdict: 49ers against the spread
Washington @ Seattle Seahawks (-7.5)
You’d almost feel sorry for Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins missing out on the 49ers’ gig until you remember the amount of cash he’s made in his career despite being more middle of the road than cats eyes. Seattle, as Seattle is wont to do, is clicking into gear just when it matters.
Verdict: Seahawks to cover
Sunday – 9.25pm
Kansas City Chiefs @ Dallas Cowboys (-1)
Once again, the will-he-won’t-he saga that is the Zeke Elliott suspension rumbles on but the second-year back is free to play in this game against a Chiefs defence ranked 31st against the run by Football Outsiders. KC got back to winning ways last week but how much of that was down to Denver errors?
Verdict: Dallas to cover
Monday – 1.30am
Oakland Raiders (-3) @ Miami Dolphins
Few teams have been more disappointing in 2017 than Oakland and if they can’t get it done against a Dolphins teams that just shipped 40 points to the Ravens, they might as well give up. For Miami, a season that started brightly is starting to become ‘one of those years’.
Verdict: Oakland to cover
Tuesday – 1.30am
Detroit Lions (-2) @ Green Bay Packers
ESPN must wish it can flex Monday Night Games. A Detroit team on a three-game losing streak taking on a Packers team — minus Rodgers — that has lost two-in-a-row does not pretty TV make. However, like the AFC, there are no clear-cut wildcard teams in the NFC so this game could prove crucial.
Verdict: Packers against the spread
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