I kept my Thursday streak alive, hitting my trifecta of picks, as the Bengals got back to even with a 27-15 win over the Dolphins in Cincinnati on Thursday Night Football. Cincy played well and it was a big win for them after starting 0-2 on the season. Still, the headlines were rightfully focused on Tua Tagovailoa’s head injury that left the league and the Dolphins’ organization with a massive black eye in primetime.
Since recording the podcast, news broke that the NFL Players’ Association exercised its right to terminate the “unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant” who cleared Tua to return to Sunday’s game against the Bills and subsequently gave the green light for Thursday’s game against the Bengals.
Late in the first half, as many fans feared heading into the matchup, Tua was sacked and whipped around, hitting his head on the turf once again. This time, it was much worse than Sunday. Tagovailoa lay on the field, motionless for about 12 minutes before he had to be stretchered off the field and transferred to the University of Cincinnati Trauma Center. It was an incredibly sobering reminder of how volatile football can be. It was also, unfortunately, something that seemingly everyone outside of Miami thought was a very real possibility.
I sincerely wish Tua all the best in his recovery and I hope he is truly okay for the sake of his life much more than for the sake of him getting back on the field. He has been one of the more polarizing players in the league and even though he threw a bad interception, I was remarking on all the things I liked about his game. Miami actually was in a position to take the lead on the drive that Tua was injured, but Jason Sanders missed the 52-yard field goal.
Cincy answered with a 59-yard Tee Higgins TD on their next drive and it looked like they might be able to cruise. However, Teddy Bridgewater showed why he has been successful in this league and lead a TD drive to get it close before the half. Their defense came out in the second half and held Cincy in check, even taking the lead on a FG late in the 3rd quarter.
In the preview for this game, I pointed to the Bengals’ commitment to the ground game. Even though they haven’t had a ton of success on the season they would stick with it, and they did. Joe Mixon only had 61 yards on 24 carries, but he did score and his physicality made the Fins’ defense have to respect the Bengals in short-yardage situations. Cincy has been having issues protecting Joe Burrow, but one of the other things I pointed out was the Dolphins’ general lack of pressure on opposing QBs despite blitzing more than the other teams that beat the Bengals this season. They only sacked Burrow once and he was able to have a solid workman-like game. He hit the big throws he needed to and didn’t make any major mistakes.
(-165) MIN Vikings 2-1 @ (+140) NO Saints 1-2 (+3, O/U 41.5)
We talked about it on the podcast, but it’s official now. Andy Dalton is getting the start for the Saints as Jameis Winston nurses his back injury. He’s not the only one either. Wide receiver Michael Thomas, G Andrus Peat, and S Marcus Maye are all out, and WR Jarvis Landry and RB Alvin Kamara are questionable. I get burned by the Vikings quite a bit and the Saints are capable of competing in this game, but the injury issues may be too much to overcome in an otherwise close matchup.
Pick: MIN | ATS: MIN -3 | O/U: Over 41.5
(-120) CLE Browns 2-1 @ (+100) ATL Falcons 1-2 (+1, O/U 47)
The Falcons have shown their mettle each week this season, taking the Rams and the Saints to the brink and besting the Seahawks in Seattle last week. They have an effective and explosive offense centered around their run game, but nobody runs it better than the Browns. The issue for the Browns is injuries along their defensive line. Myles Garrett is out after a car accident, Tayven Bryan is out too, and Jadeveon Clowney is still questionable. These teams are actually very similar in terms of scoring and yardage, on both sides of the ball and that’s why it’s a 1-pt spread. My gut says Browns.
Pick: CLE | ATS: CLE -1 | O/U: Over 47
(+130) WSH Commanders 1-2 @ (-155) DAL Cowboys 2-1 (-3, O/U 41.5)
It’s a weird day when I am inclined to favor Cooper Rush over Carson Wentz, but here we are. Wentz was sacked a whopping 9 times last week against Philly and he was sacked 5 times a week prior vs the Lions. That’s a bad recipe vs a Dallas defense that just sacked Daniel Jones 5 times on Monday. Even though the Washington offense is better on paper, they have to figure out their protections and get the run game going. That’s a tall order against the Cowboys right now.
Pick: DAL | ATS: WSH +3 | O/U: Under 41.5
(+150) SEA Seahawks 1-2 @ (-178) DET Lions 1-2 (-3.5, O/U 48)
The potent Lions offense is decimated coming into this one, down Amon-Ra St. Brown, D’Andre Swift, DJ Chark, Jason Cabinda, and Jonah Jackson. Josh Reynolds is questionable. Jamaal Williams is a good backup RB who can handle the #1 duties, but converting 3rd downs is going to be much tougher. As evidenced in many games this season, key injuries are a major hurdle no matter your opponent. And Seattle finally saw some signs of life last week from their offense. Plus they are healthy. The Detroit defensive front can be a problem, but this could be a game where Seattle finally gets rolling on the ground.
Pick: SEA | ATS: SEA +3.5 | O/U: Over 48
(+162) TEN Titans 1-2 @ (-195) IND Colts 1-1-1 (-3.5, O/U 43)
This game looked much better on paper when the schedules were printed than it does now. It’s still important for their division and it will be interesting to see who seizes the chance. Both teams came away with their first wins of the season last week and got some oxygen back in the locker rooms. Both teams have some injuries on defense, so I would take the over here. Indy has the edge in offensive and defensive yardage, plus their win is much better (KC > LVR). My gut said Titans, but my brain said shut up.
Pick: IND | ATS: TEN +3.5 | O/U: Over 43
(+130) CHI Bears 2-1 @ (155) NY Giants 2-1 (-3, O/U 39)
Two of the biggest surprises at this point in the season are the Bears and Giants, both 2-1. I don’t view either of them as legitimately good teams at this point but the Giants are close to that mark than the Bears. New York’s biggest issue, as it was for much of last season, was keeping their talented players on the field. Sadly, Sterling Shephard blew his ACL on a seemingly innocuous non-contact play and is done for the year. Young playmakers Kadarius Toney and Wan’Dale Robinson are out as well and they struggled last season under those circumstances. Chicago won’t have David Montgomery carrying the ball but Khalil Herbert has been effective in his stead. The G-Men have Saquon on the other side of the equation though. Both teams run it well and don’t defend the run, so I expect some fireworks. The Giants will, however, throw the football on occasion while Justin Field went 8/17 in a win against HOU last week. I’m in a New York state of mind.
Pick: NYG | ATS: NYG -3 | O/U: Over 39
(+222) JAX Jaguars 2-1 @ (-278) PHI Eagles 3-0 (-6.5, O/U 45.5)
I never would have thunk it a few weeks ago, but this could very well be the game of the week. Trevor Lawrence is coming off the best game of his career, going 28/39 for 262 yards and 3 TDs vs the Chargers, but his best day is just another day at the office for Jalen Hurts who has more passing yards on fewer attempts and the dual threat of his running skills. The Jags have been my underdog pick in back-to-back weeks and they are coming together nicely. Their defenses are about the same in total yards but Jacksonville has stuffed the run, allowing only 55-YPG, and run it well. The Eags are building on their success from last year rushing for over 150 YPG and they have a solid pass defense, so that’s the stuff to watch. They both played the Commanders in Washington with JAX losing and PHI cruising, so that’s a good example of where these teams are at. Anything can happen but I like the Eagles to win.
Pick: PHI | ATS: JAX +6.5 | O/U: Over 45.5
(+158) NY Jets 1-2 @ (-190) PIT Steelers 1-2 (-3.5, O/U 41.5)
It’s Zach Wilson time for the Jets as they head to Pittsburgh. It will be interesting to see who the Jets are with him under center this season because they have a lot of talent but Wilson’s track record is bad to this point. Plus, Joe Flacco was playing solid (although not winning). The Jets really should be 0-3 which leads me to think I should go with the Steelers, but they have been unimpressive as well but at least they are consistent about it. They don’t score much but they average more than NYJ and give up fewer as well. The Steelers’ biggest issue is that their defense can’t give their mediocre offense much help with T.J. Watt still out. Mike Tomlin knows this is a gift game and until Wilson proves it, I will go with what I know. Plus it’s a good spot for Najee Harris to finally have a game.
Pick: PIT | ATS: PIT -3.5 | O/U: Under 41.5
(-165) BUF Bills 2-1 @ (+140) BAL Ravens 2-1 (+3, O/U 51)
This is another game of the week candidate and a rematch from the playoffs a couple of years ago. Somehow, these teams haven’t seen each other since then. It’s nice to have a matchup between two competitive but also respectful teams and fan bases. Both of these teams can score, averaging more than 30-PPG, but the Bills give up about half as much while putting up more yards and surrendering fewer. Beyond that, Buffalo’s defense shuts down what the Ravens do best (that’s running the ball) and the Ravens’ defense is worst where the Bills’ offense is strongest (passing). Both these teams lost to the Dolphins and the Bills are still nursing some injuries that plagued them in that loss. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a ball control type approach once again and some defensive reinforcement would go a long way. I like the Ravens, and Lamar Jackson is playing fantastic football right now, but the Bills have good schemes in place. Seeing some key guys returning gives me hope.
Pick: BUF | ATS: BUF -3 | O/U: Over 51
(-250) LA Chargers 1-2 @ (+205) HOU Texans 0-2-1 (+5.5, O/U 45)
It is pretty close to must-win territory for the Chargers after the Jags came into town and punked them in SoFi last week. Joey Bosa is on IR, big surprise, so it’s time for Khalil Mack to step it up. Keenan Allen is still out but Corey Linsley should play. I imagine we should finally see the Austin Ekler game for the Bolts as Houston gives up 200+ rushing YPG and generally are worse everywhere in comparison to the Chargers. The Justin Herbert rib injury is the catch. If he feels okay and plays well, it should be pretty smooth. It’s the best team that Houston has faced and the worst that LA has, but I have to hedge my bets here.
Pick: LAC | ATS: HOU +5.5 | O/U: Under 45
(-105) AZ Cardinals 1-2 @ (-115) CAR Panthers 1-2 (-1, O/U 43.5)
I never know what to think of the Cardinals. One week they are pulling off a miracle, and the next week they don’t even find the end zone. I have never been high on this Cards team, even after a couple of hot starts in recent years. They should be 0-3 but they have played all playoff teams from last year. The Panthers are right there with them but against all non-playoff teams and barely hung on against the Saints last week. Arizona is chewed up, especially at WR. A.J. Green is out and both Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore are questionable, but I could see them trying to win on the ground. CMC is going to be questionable all the time now, and if he’s out then they are in more trouble. Road wins are never easy, especially when injured, but I have to follow the strength of schedule math.
Pick: AZ | ATS: AZ -1 | O/U: Over 43.5
(+360) NE Patriots 1-2 @ (-480) GB Packers 2-1 (-9.5, O/U 40)
The Patriots have little-to-no business competing in this one on the road at Lambeau. They are pretty close in terms of just yardage numbers, but the Pats won’t have Mac jones, Jakobi Meyers, or Lawrence Guy, with some other key questionable mixed in. Green Bay is very healthy by comparison and coming home after finally beating Tampa. Brian Hoyer has played for Belichick and had success in the past, so maybe it’s not a completely lost cause but I won’t go for it.
Pick: GB | ATS: GB -9.5 | O/U: Under 40
(+118) DEN Broncos 2-1 @ (-140) LV Raiders 0-3 (-2.5, O/U 45)
This was supposed to be a marquee matchup but, instead, it’s the Raiders just fighting to save their season. As bad as they have looked, on the whole, I would say that they have still maybe been better than Denver despite the records. The Broncos’ defense has been excellent though and allowed their offense to struggle, and struggle it has. I wasn’t high on Russell Wilson being a quick fix for Denver but I didn’t imagine it being this poor. He isn’t turning the ball over and he’s 19th in the league in yardage, but he’s is 27th in completion % and that’s likely because he has been sacked the 8th most in the NFL. The Broncos are mid and Vegas has to be all-in to win this game. Necessity is a hell of a drug in football. I am 0-3 picking the Raiders this season, but I have to hit on one of them, right?
Pick: LVR | ATS: LVR -2.5 | O/U: Under 45
(-110) KC Chiefs 2-1 @ (-110) TB Buccaneers 2-1 (-1, O/U 46)
It’s a Super Bowl LV rematch as Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs go down to Tampa Bay to face Tom Brady and Bucs. These teams haven’t played since then and a lot has changed for both. Two of the top weapons are gone on each side and the defenses have seen some turnover as well. These squads are 1-1 in the Tampa Tom era but it wasn’t competitive last time out with the Lombardi on the line. Both teams are also coming off their first losses of the season last week, but the quality of L goes to TB. Kansas City is mostly okay injury-wise but Harrison Butker is still hurt and it did make a difference in their Week 3 loss. Akiem Hicks is out for the Bucs but, even so, their defense has been excellent, and only gave up 14 to the Packers in their Week 3 loss. It also looks like they will get some combo of Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Chris Godwin, and the now un-suspended Mike Evans back. That news moved the spread in Tampa’s favor but it should be a good game.
Pick: TB | ATS: TB -1 | O/U: Under 46
(+105) LA Rams 2-1 @ (-125) SF 49ers (-1.5, O/U 42.5)
Last on the menu, we have another intriguing rematch of the NFC title game last year as the Rams go to Santa Clara to face the 49ers. When Jimmy G first saved the day against the Seahawks in Week 2, it looked like business as usual. However, after the Week 3 disaster against Denver, I have no idea what this team is going to look like. The Rams are missing two starters along the left side of their O-line and that’s a major issue against a defense like the 49ers, but SF also has Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead questionable. I was prepared to go with the Rams but those two injuries for LA gave me pause. The Rams shored up the sack issues after week one, but this isn’t good against a very strong 49ers defense. Plus, the Niners had won 6 in-a-row going into that NFC title game and have always posed a problem for Sean McVay. I’m torn more because of the offensive ineptitude displayed by the Niners against Denver.
Pick: SF | ATS: SF -1.5 | O/U: Under 42.5
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