Last week was the weekend of the backup QBs, and for a brief moment it looked like last night's game would continue the success story of Mike White and the Jets of Newark Airport.
White was doing a nice job under pressure, stepping up in a muddy pocket to complete a couple of big throws, including a TD to a wide open Elijah Moore; his ability to get Moore more involved in the pass game is a signal of the difference between him and Zach Wilson at the moment. But White hit his hand while throwing and had to leave the game; journeyman Josh Jefferson replaced him, and the 45-30 scoreline flatters the Jest, who got their offense going once the Colts had run through them to build a big lead.
The run game with Jonathan Taylor and Nyheem Hines cut through the Jets, whose front was supposedly Robert Saleh's strongest unit. We've got a couple of more backups coming up on the horizon this week, which makes some of the predicting difficult.
But not as difficult as last week. I don't know how to take the Cowboy win; in the end, I was betting against myself just to stay afloat, but advising anyone to bet the Lions was something I regret. They reverted back to type after their solid performance in losing to the Rams and were blown out to kingdom come by the Eagles.
The Eagles? I am trying hard not to let recency bias affect my looking at Philly this week against the Chargers. I had the Steelers win OK, but tried to get cute on the over; it tempts me again this week but I won't make a fool of myself and recommend it to you.
Sunday, 18:00 - Ravens can outwit struggling Vikings
Houston (1-7) at Miami (1-7)
Apparently, the Dolphins wanted Watson to settle all the civil suits outstanding against him before they would trade for him, which doesn't account for the criminal complaints as yet unresolved nor the inevitable action by the Comish to "protect the shield". Meanwhile, on the field, this is not a game players' mothers are clamouring to get tickets for.
Denver (3-4) at Dallas (6-1)
The most impressive thing about the Cowboys' win with Cooper "Color" Rush at QB was the way Randy Gregory stepped up alongside rookie Micah Parsons on defense, Cedrick Wilson was a game-breaker at wide receiver and the way the O-line functioned with backups at both tackle spots after Tyson Smith's latest injury. They are talking about Dak's return, but even without his presence, Dallas look solid.
Minnesota (3-4) at Baltimore (5-2)
A tough loss to Dallas at home, but it won't get easier for the Vikes on the road. Right now their offense seems too predictable, and I would guess the Ravens have tried to work some new passing twists into this week's game plan, as running is going to be hard. Their running backs remain the same as Gnat Coombs' 2018 fantasy team's, but the line has "Spare" Tyre Phillips back and the secondary remains likely to keep Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson in check. The line rose from 5.5 to 6, but as long as it's less than a TD I like the Ravens. Mark Andrews (13/10) and Thielen (6/4) are the usual suspects for TDs, but Tyler Conklin at 9/2 intrigues me.
Value Bet: Back Baltimore (-6 at 9/10)
New England (4-4) at Carolina (4-4)
Stephon Gilmore Bowl! The ex-Pat corner will make his season debut as the situation is too good to miss, and his preying on rookie QB Mac Jones would be a fairy-tale nightmare for Bill Belichick. The Pats will have more trouble establishing their run game against the Panthers, but that's where they will begin, and see if they can attack the Panthers at the second level with Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith and maybe even N'Keal Harry who remarkably is still on the team after the trade deadline. I think this is a close game: I liked the Panthers +4 on Wednesday; that's now down to 3.5 as other bettors did too, but I still might go over 41.
Buffalo (5-2) at Jacksonville (1-6)
Josh Allen Bowl! The Buffalos have had better results from their Josh Allen, and that ought to continue, though it's the Bills' D that ought to define this game. If the line dropped below 14.5 I might go there; it's tempting even at that.
Cleveland (4-4) at Cincinnati (5-3)
Pivotal game for both teams. Are the Bengals for real? Can the Browns regain their offensive rhythm? Can their D play up to the level advertised after the new acquisitions? Grant Delpit at safety is matched against his college teammates Joe Burrow and JaMarr Chase, but Myles Garrett to me is the key to the contest. Note Cleveland DT Andrew Billings used to play in Cincy, and Bengals' DT Larry Ogunjobi played for the Browns. Small world in the AFC North.
Overs in Falcons at Saints is this week's Best Bet
Atlanta (3-4) at New Orleans (5-2)
The Passing Primate, Trevor Siemian makes a certain amount of sense to start for the Saints, but look for Sean Payton to play some Taysom Hill.
The over/under here seems vulnerable, no matter who's at QB for the Saints, as Atlanta's D is leaky, but Matt Ryan could produce a couple of scores. Consider Hill (15/8) Kyle Pitts (5/2) and Mark Ingram (3/1) as anytime TD scorers.
Best Bet: Atlanta/New Orleans Over 42 at 9/10
Las Vegas (5-2) at NY Giants (2-6)
If the Giants moved to Atlantic City this could be Casino Bowl, as each spin of the coaching roulette wheel fails to land on Joe Judge's number. A bye week might be the time for all that post-Gruden momentum to dissipate, and I always worry about the red-eye effect of flying west to east on the bio-rhythms, but still.
LA Chargers (4-3) at Philadelphia (3-5)
I took the over (50) as a best bet on the podcast and I still think this is more likely to be a sloppy shootout than anything else. The Ravens and Pats both ran the Chargers into the ground; I don't see Gainwell and Scott doing the same, but as I pointed out last Sunday on twitter, Jordan Howard is rested and ready.
Green Bay (7-1) at Kansas City (4-4)
The Packers were one-point dogs, and a natural bet, before Aaron Rodgers' positive test for Covid, but now they're +7.5. How much do you like Jordan "Brother" Love? The Chiefs have been unable to pull away from anyone lately (20-17 last week at home vs the Giants) but Love as a first-time starter gives them a better chance to cover.
Arizona (7-1) at San Francisco (3-4)
Kyler Murray has an injured ankle but may be ready to play; he didn't practice Thursday but Kliff Kingsbury concludes he might not need practice. Colt McCoy might be thinking last week would have been a better week to pick up on the backup QB juju but he's not a bad fit for a spread offense (though he's not a running threat). DeAndre Hopkins also didn't practice yesterday and the line switched from the Niners being home dogs by a point to the Cards getting two. Elijah Mitchell, the best remaining RB for SF is also questionable for Sunday; with JJ Watt out the run game would be the Niners' key.
Monday, 01:20 - Rams an outside bet to cover handicap
Tennessee (6-2) at LA Rams (7-1)
What would have been the game of the week has lost some lustre with the injury to Derrick Henry. The line actually dropped the Titans from 7.5 to 7 point dogs, this after the Rams' traded for Von Miller and the Titans signed Adrian Peterson. I think Miller helps LA a little more.
Outside Bet: Back LA Rams -7 @ 9/10
Chicago (2-6) at Pittsburgh (4-3)
I love that moment in the second half where Big Ben creaks over to the sidelines and they plug the charger into the outlets on his neck and he comes back to lead the Steelers to a late TD. That should be enough against the Bears. I also lean toward the over (39.5) here, thinking the smart guys are reading too much recency bias into last week's 15-10 slugfest with the Browns.
Bye Weeks: Tampa (6-2), Seattle (3-5), Washington (2-6)
Bye Bye Week: Detroit (0-8) The Lions are +7.5 against the bye week. Take the bye.