With six teams on byes and several handicapping riddles on the board, this is another tough week to find five sides worth playing.
The Lions looked appealing at plus-3 before the line dipped to 2½ early in the week, but quarterback Matthew Stafford is out with a back injury and Detroit is now getting 6½ points at Chicago. I’ll pass. Mitchell Trubisky will be able to turn on the TVs because the Bears are getting a gift and will stop their four-game losing streak.
A week after New England went down, San Francisco is the sole survivor as the last unbeaten team in the NFL. The 49ers rank No. 1 in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense (12.8 points per game), but they faced only one above-average QB (Jared Goff) in the first eight games.
No player has been better than Russell Wilson to this point. Seattle is a mediocre team in most aspects but is 7-2 mostly due to its quarterback. Wilson has 22 touchdown passes with one interception and his passer rating (118.2) ranks No. 1 in the league. Wilson is 15-7 ATS as a road ‘dog, including 4-0 ATS when getting six points or more.
Wilson is the midseason MVP, and my best bet will be the Seahawks as 6½-point road ‘dogs on Monday night. Four more picks for Week 10:
* Bills (plus-3) over BROWNS:
There is a long list of problems in Cleveland. Start at the top with Freddie Kitchens, who’s a walking clown show as a head coach, and Baker Mayfield, who ran his mouth too much in the offseason and is getting humbled. Mayfield has completed 58.7 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He would love to have Daniel Jones’ numbers right now. The Browns also have a lot of talent — somehow they blasted the Ravens in Baltimore — and a sense of desperation. This is it. It’s time to show up or give up on the season. Amid rumors of unrest in the locker room, this still is a decent spot for Cleveland, which is winless at home.
Admittedly, Buffalo is too popular and appears to be a square underdog play. (Illinois and Kansas State were public ‘dogs Saturday and both covered.) The Bills might not be the real deal. Josh Allen is another struggling second-year quarterback, and the run defense is suddenly springing leaks. It helps the Browns that Kareem Hunt, the league rushing leader in 2017, gets activated from suspension this week. Buffalo has faced a much softer schedule with its six victories at the expense of opponents with a combined record of 9-42. With the dysfunctional 2-6 team favored against the playoff-bound 6-2 team, some bettors will call this a classic trap game. I have reservations about this pick, but I’ll take a field goal with the better coach, Sean McDermott, and better overall defense.
* Cardinals (plus-5½) over BUCCANEERS:
Arizona’s high-profile rookies — quarterback Kyler Murray and coach Kliff Kingbury — have not been out of their league. After a poor preseason, Arizona appeared to be a team to fade yet is now 6-3 ATS. Murray has been better than expected and Kingsbury’s offense is surprisingly effective. The Cardinals averaged 7.1 yards per play and scored 25 points against San Francisco in Week 9. Murray has completed 64.2 percent of his passes with a modest nine touchdowns and four interceptions. The Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston has 59.3 percent completions with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Winston looks more like the rookie.
The Cardinals are 3-1 ATS as road ‘dogs, failing to cover only at New Orleans. Tampa Bay is 2-6 ATS this season and 1-3-1 ATS as a home favorite dating to last season. This is the Bucs’ first home game since Week 3, when they were 5½-point favorites in a 32-31 loss to the Giants. Tampa Bay attracted sharp money the past two weeks and found ways to fail to cover both times. Believe in the Cardinals or not, laying points with Winston is rarely a profitable strategy.
* Falcons (plus-13½) over SAINTS:
I bet the Giants -2½, but with the line moving to 3 I'll drop the Giants here and use the Falcons. Caesars sportsbook briefly moved to 14 this morning and I would consider betting this at the best number, but it’s only a contest pick. New Orleans has won and covered six straight — and the Saints are my midseason favorites to win the Super Bowl — so this is not a team to fade. Matt Ryan is returning, however, and he might provide enough of a boost for Atlanta to cover what is a huge number for a division game.
* COWBOYS (-3) over Vikings:
I have flipped sides on this one, but Minnesota’s injury news is the main reason. Adam Thielen has been ruled out and Kirk Cousins will miss his top receiver. Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott have been delivering for Dallas, which is 3-1 straight up and ATS as a home favorite. This is only a contest pick, with the number likely to close 3½.
Last week: 4-1 against the spread