This NFL season has forced me to go through the entire grief cycle. I’ve come to terms with the fact that it hasn’t been my year and that the things I thought I knew to be true haven’t been. Although, realizing that I’m already in the “acceptance” stage when it’s just Week 8 might force me back into “depression.” Either way, here are some picks — made without any of my strongly held misconceptions from earlier this season:
Despite preseason prognostication, the Jets somehow won’t go 0-16 this season. Their surprisingly solid campaign under Josh McCown has ruined more than its fair share of survival pools. Also, instead of re-emerging as the best team in the NFC, the Falcons look to be a shell of their former selves, particularly on offense. Steve Sarkisian replacing Kyle Shanahan as o-coordinator has been underwhelming. And if we know anything about Sark: When things go bad, they go really bad (and then somehow he gets a better job). Give me the home team and the points.
One convincing win in Santa Clara and the Cowboys are favored by a couple points on the road against a divisional rival? Doesn’t add up to me when, before last week, Dallas was the team that couldn’t close out a pair of good teams and was exposed in Denver. He can’t beat Carson Wentz and the Eagles, but Kirk Cousins is still a top-tier quarterback capable of piling up points against an average-at-best defense. Meanwhile, Ezekiel Elliott can’t reasonably expect to feast against a top-10 run defense like he did at Levi’s Stadium. Losing Mason Foster hurts the Washington defense, but they’ll have Josh Norman back to lock down Dez Bryant.
Colts/Bengals — over 42
On its face, this feels like the riskiest bet I’ll make this week. The Bengals have a bottom-10 scoring offense and are volatile at best. The Colts’ attack isn’t much better. It’s Indianapolis’ ineptitude on the road that swayed me. In three away games this season, the Colts have allowed an average of 42.67 points. It’s still a gamble that a not-terrible Andy Dalton shows up for the contest. But consider this: Brian Hoyer looked serviceable against Indy this season, and that was at Lucas Oil Stadium. I think the Red Rocket can get the job mostly done and a couple big plays from TY Hilton or Marlon Mack makes the over hit.
Texans/Seahawks — under 45.5
If Deshaun Watson can continue to make NFL defenses look like they should be playing in the ACC Atlantic this week, I’ll never bet against him again. After their only hiccup of the season — allowing the Titans to score 33 points — the Seahawks defense allowed 35 points over its next three games (including limiting the darling LA Rams to 10 points at the Coliseum). As long as Russell Wilson and the offense don’t go absolutely bonkers, this should stay under this relatively high total.
I’ve been wrong about New Orleans all season. The Saints defense is hardly recognizable after years of being one of the worst in the league. The offensive production has been there as long as Drew Brees and Sean Payton have, and now they actually have a linebacker corps to go with an above-average defensive line. They’ll welcome the Chicago Bears, who have a rookie under center and John Fox as the head coach — which is to say, they won’t score many points. As long as Brees and his dynamic attack can get a couple touchdowns on the board, this promises to be a comfortable cover.
Week 7: 1-4