Separation Week in the NFL includes several big contest. In the AFC, Kansas City plays Pittsburgh at home in an AFC Divisional Round rematch. If the Chiefs win it, they will get to 6-0 and have the head-to-head tiebreaker over presumptive preseason favorites New England and Pittsburgh. If the Steelers can win, things obviously tighten up quite a bit.
That’s not the only key contest. Thursday opens with a game where the winner moves atop the NFC. The Rams and Jaguars meet with the winner getting to 4-2, while the Saints and Lions play what could prove a crucial one as the season progresses. The Vikings try to keep the Packers within reach at home, and the Jets try to take over first place in the AFC East. Yes, that last one is a real sentence in 2017.
Let’s get to the picks.
Last week: 8-5-1 ATS
Overall: 37-24-1 ATS
Philadelphia (+3.5) at CAROLINA
I was torn on this game, but then I saw this.
And so while I’m pulling for the Eagles, I also think they could get spanked without one of the their top two remaining backs, an offensive tackle and a defensive lineman. Nevertheless, I’ll go with the Eagles +3.5.
SUNDAY 1 PM
Cleveland (+9.5) at HOUSTON
Der Kizer has been deposed. It now falls on Kevin Hogan to be the hero for Cleveland. Meanwhile, you might have heard that the Browns could have drafted Deshaun Watson. Browns +9.5.
New England (-9.5) at NY JETS
The battle for first place in the AFC East, as we all suspected. The Jets’ demise starts here. Patriots -9.5.
Miami (+11.5) at ATLANTA
How bad are the Dolphins? They lost to the Jets and only scored on the final play. Then they got shutout by the Saints. At least Jay Cutler won’t get booed this week. Falcons -11.5.
Detroit (+5) at NEW ORLEANS
The Saints have totally turned their season around and given the fanbase hope after an 0-2 start. Detroit, meanwhile, has lost some close games after a good start. Stafford is banged up, but he’s due. Lions +5.
Green Bay (-3) at MINNESOTA
Aaron Rodgers is right near the top in MVP consideration early on, after another big road win at Dallas. Meanwhile, it’s Case Keenum time in Minnesota again for the foreseeable future, as Sam Bradford did not look right last week. Keenum actually looked good and Diggs/Thielen/Rudolph is an underrated group of receivers. I like the points in the rivalry game. Vikings +3.
Chicago (+6.5) at BALTIMORE
Hey, the positive is this one isn’t in primetime. Mitchell Trubisky doesn’t have many weapons and is going to make mistakes in his first road start. Ravens -6.5.
San Francisco (+10) at WASHINGTON
Kyle Shanahan returns to Washington, where he was offensive coordinator when the team drafted Kirk Cousins (and some other guy). Will Cousins be his future quarterback as well? The 49ers have lost two straight games in OT, and if they do it again, you know what that means? A cover. 49ers +10.
SUNDAY 4:05/4:25 PM
LA Rams (+2.5) at JACKSONVILLE
As we all suspected, the winner of the Rams-Jaguars game will get to 4-2. It’s a mild upset that this game didn’t end up in London. The Jaguars defense is legit, and the Rams’ offense is still ranked near the top of the league. The biggest question is whether Jacksonville can continue to hide Blake Bortles. Rams +2.5.
Tampa Bay (-2) at ARIZONA
Adrian Peterson will wear yet another uniform, and the good news for him is he gets two bye weeks this year. Cardinals +2.
Pittsburgh (+4.5) at KANSAS CITY
Pittsburgh dominated this game in the playoffs but couldn’t score touchdowns. But, this is a Chiefs team on a mission. Go against them at your own risk. Chiefs -4.5.
LA Chargers (+3) at OAKLAND
Derek Carr should be back in what seems like a must-win for both teams. Something about the Raiders just didn’t seem right before the injury (what the heck has happened to Amari Cooper?) and the Chargers seem to be better on the road since they don’t actually have a home. Chargers +3.
NY Giants (+12) at DENVER
Everyone is writing the Giants off. They are in turmoil, and Beckham is out for the year. This line has shot up to the biggest of the week, while Denver is coming off a bye week. I think this is the time the G-Men begin to shine (at least against the spread). Giants +12.
Indianapolis (OFF) at TENNESSEE
This one’s off the board as Mariota is a game-time decision for Monday Night. I like the Titans to win either way, by a larger amount if Mariota can play. The Colts have the worst point differential in the league (yet are 2-3 with 3 point wins over the Browns and 49ers).