With the NFL season coming round the final turn and into the stretch, the runners and riders are starting to get interesting.
Of course the riders have changed a little this week, with the Giants firing their coach and GM, and interim coach Steve Spagnuolo reinstating Eli Manning as QB, and the Browns starting their bi-annual cleanout of a failed front office.
I was very much torn picking the Cowboys at the Giants: New York can play defense (they held the Chiefs to three field goals in New Jersey three weeks ago) and if for some emotional reason Eli or the team around him decides to rise to the occasion they could give the Cowboys all sorts of trouble. Or not. I'm going to ponder that one as I give you the tips I've already decided on.
Yes, I'm going back to the well again after the Texans and Titans were so obliging with my best bet under last week. The Texans are strong defensively, the Niners less so, but they can play the run and Lamar Miller is Houston's most consistent weapon. You'd say DeAndre Hopkins except it's Tom Savage getting him the ball.
Jimmy Garropolo has never lost an NFL start (two with New England, last week with the Niners) but he has fewer weapons to play with. Still, I can see both offenses misfiring, settling for field goals, and coming in closer to 40 than 44.
I like the way the Cards' D matches up with the Titans lack of receiving weapons; if they can hold the running game in check and do the bare minimum to protect Blaine Gabbert a home win looks good. In fact, I like this one enough to suggest that you consider the moneyline at 13/10 if you think the Titans will fail to keep up offensively. The Over 44 at evens might tempt you too.
I don't see a runaway win here, but the Vikings can stop almost any offense. The uncertainty is that there is a limit to how much you can gameplan against Cam Newton; he doesn't do the spectacularly unexpected every week as he did when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl, but he is always capable of hitting a couple of long passes and unleashing a couple of longish runs, even against good defenses.
Carolina may be able to slow down the Minnesota run game, but I figure the Vikes will be able to find spots in the zone to pick apart.
Seattle (+2.5 at 10/11) is a pretty good shout as well: these two teams are pretty even, and the Russell Wilson advantage over Blake Bortles might be balanced by the home field.
New England's spread over Miami has dropped to 10.5 points. Normally I'd jump at that, but in steamy hot Miami in December the Pats can sometimes have trouble adjusting.
Oh yes, and the Giants. They're getting 3.5 at 10/11. That's tempting. And if you think about that, you have to wonder about going under 41 also at 10/11. They don't call this outside bets for nothing.