Just 64 games remain in the 2019 NFL regular season and for some teams, their hopes of extending the season past New Years Day could go from slim to non-existent this weekend.
Some have already conceded their pursuit of the Lombardi trophy, most recently the Carolina Panthers who at 5-7 were almost certainly set for an early end to their season.
Outside of the miserable NFC East, pretty much any team at 6-6 has to be thinking they need to win out from here to try and control their own destiny and any side with more losses is going to need some breaks to make the playoffs.
It’s another Monday full of excellent games starting with the Saints-49ers, then the Patriots-Chiefs and then finally the Rams and Seahawks.
It’s a potentially defining week in the NFL and we’ve got your previews and plays right here.
There’s two pretty solid theories pulling me in either direction for this game and honestly you could make a decent case either way. The first theory is the fact that Dallas only wins against non-playoff teams and the second is that the entire NFC East is rubbish outside of their division. Chicago actually looked pretty decent on Thanksgiving, albeit against a third string quarterback, and you have to feel nervous backing Mitch/Mitchell Trubisky in primetime. Not to mention Chicago’s 2-4 record against the spread at Soldier Field. At the end of the day, Chicago won’t be going to the playoffs so take Dallas at the line and cross every finger/toe you can find.
In a vacuum this game screams “Lions Upset” given they will be on 10 days rest while the Vikings are coming back from a draining Monday night game in Seattle and seem primed for an upset. With limited options at quarterback and an 0-4 record in the division, it’s not a smart play to back the Lions outright here but I do think they are every chance to keep it close. Seven of their eight losses have been by a touchdown or less and with little more than pride (and a few contracts) on the line, they should at least run the Vikings close here.
If Houston is able to replicate its offensive performance against the Patriots, beating the Broncos and covering this line should be no trouble. The problem with that is the Texans history of massive letdowns and the Broncos looking ok with rookie Drew Lock at the helm. A week after they beat the Chargers in LA, they stumbled at home to Carolina, after a road upset win in Kansas City they couldn’t back up in Indianapolis a week later and their next game after dominating the Jaguars in London saw them pummelled by the Baltimore Ravens. A win over the Broncos would also give Houston their longest winning streak of the season. They are the better team here and I’ll back them to win but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they fall into a win rather than crushing an overmatched opponent.
Tampa might be an up and down team in terms of wins and losses but they’ve done a pretty good job hitting the over in their games so far this season. In 12 games they’ve gone over nine times (insert Ferris Bueller gif here) and you have to expect more points when they take on the Colts at home. Indianapolis has been able to stay competitive throughout this season thanks to the rest of the roster stepping up post Andrew Luck’s retirement and they are still a chance of stealing a postseason berth. It’s a big ask for them though with a 2-3 record on the road and Tampa should enjoy playing in front of their home fans. I’ll give the edge to the Buccaneers in a high scoring contest that should see both teams around the 30 point mark.
At some point in time, the 49ers are going to have to beat the Saints if they want to reach the Super Bowl, of course winning this game might give them a slightly easier path to Miami. It would give them a tiebreaker advantage over their Bayou based competitors and put the pressure on Seattle ahead of their Week 17 showdown. The problem with that though, is the Saints just seem to find ways to get by, even if they only put up 279 yards of offence like they did against the Falcons. I like the 49ers defence to keep this one close, and probably low scoring but the Saints will find a way to get over the line.
The Packers are back at home and ready to take on a Washington side suddenly on a winning streak after turning to rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Of course those wins have come over Detroit and Carolina so you have to at least pencil in an asterisk on those and chances are the Packers won’t forget to show up like they did against the 49ers a fortnight ago. If the visitors are serious about preserving their draft pick, they’d be well served to consider letting the Lambeau chill get to them here. 13 points is a big spread but it’s time for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to step up and keep their lead in the NFC North.
In the battle for Ohio bragging rights, there will be no real winners to come from sitting through this one. We at least knew the Bengals would be horrendous this year as Zac Taylor works through the “How to be an NFL Head Coach” manual. Cleveland on the other hand has had some fleeting moments of being a worthwhile watch but at 5-7 have to be considered disappointments. There’s not a lot of value in this game, maybe the Bengals pinch it but I can’t back them with any sort of confidence and the Browns are way too short. Save yourself some unnecessary stress and steer clear of this one.
The Dolphins might have accidently found their quarterback! With the “Tanking for Tua” plan well and truly in the ground after his injury and the Dolphins actually winning a few games they might have their future signal caller in punter Matt Haack. His little pitch to kicker Jason Sanders was better than some of the throws we’ve seen from Fitzpatrick and Rosen. Alright, padding aside, the Jets have given up, Miami is at least fighting for Brian Flores which is a feat in & of itself. Dolphins to win outright, even in Metlife Stadium.
This was actually one of the quicker games to find a play for and it’s all down to David Tepper’s decision to let Ron Rivera go during the week. Carolina has lost its last four, but has not looked all that bad in two of those games and this could be the wake up call they need to get over the line here. Atlanta is a struggling team with plenty of talent but I like the Panthers as the more motivated side here.
If this preview was being written at the start of the season, it probably would have been all of 2 lines talking about how uninspiring this clash was. Now though, it’s a must watch game with two seemingly playoff bound AFC teams facing off. Baltimore has been pencilled in to have home field advantage in the playoffs but needs to win out to ensure they can hold off the chasing pack while Buffalo still has a faint chance of stealing the AFC East from New England. At this time of year, it’s worth monitoring the weather forecast, especially in the north east where Buffalo can produce some less than ideal playing conditions. At the moment it looks like it will be actually pretty pleasant by their standards and that should help the Ravens out. Until they fail to show up for a game, I’m not backing against them.
I’ve been a bit hesitant to get on board with the whole “Minshew Mania” thing this season but whether its due to health, scheme or Nick Foles’s deal with the devil for Super Bowl 52 finally expiring, the rookie is a better option for the rest of the season. Something isn’t right with Phillip Rivers and the LA offence either with nine turnovers in their last three games. With neither side really setting the world alight here, I’ll back the home underdog as a value play. Mostly because the price on a “less than 40% full stadium” was about $1.0001.
There’s four games in the late window but this is the only game really worth tuning into. If it is anything like either meeting last year we should be in for a memorable match between two sides that have given each other fits over the years. It’s all set up perfectly for the Chiefs here, New England is rattled after coming off a loss, Brady is at his wits end with his receivers and they know how to get after New England’s defence. Kansas City’s speed means they should be able to score a few touchdowns on the Patriots defence, but their defence has been atrocious, especially against the run and it could be the perfect time for something/anything to click for the New England offence. It might involve putting seven offensive linemen out there and just letting them clear holes for the Patriots running backs, Brady might show a little bit of pliability when it comes to working with his young receivers or something else might pop up. I just can’t back against the Patriots at Gillette.
It’s not going to lead to the biggest payout but backing the Steelers outright should be one of the smarter plays of the week. Arizona has been entertaining but unsuccessful as they build their offence around Kyler Murray, but the rookie is probably going to have a tough time against the Pittsburgh pass rush. With the move to Duck Hodges on offence, it means they have a quarterback who, despite his limitations, can avoid the major screw ups that plagued Mason Rudolph. A Cardinals backdoor cover, even on such a small line so I’ll just take the Steelers outright.
You have to give the Raiders credit, they’ve done much better than anyone expected of them this season and at 6-6 they have done enough to give cause for optimism in 2020. It seems like the injuries have caught up with them though and now it’s a case of getting through the rest of the season in as close to one piece as possible. Tennessee meanwhile is flying with three straight wins and looking capable of getting the sixth seed if they can continue with this hot streak. Derrick Henry is a wrecking ball right now and the Raiders will have a hard time bringing him down. I’ll expect him to run the Titans to another victory.
Last time these two sides faced off, it was one of the most frustrating beats in recent memory if you backed the Seahawks at the line. As 1.5 point favourites, the Seahawks won by a single point, so do you want to take them at a similarly small line? Well maybe, it sure seems like the only reason that line is so small is because the Rams looked decent against a mediocre Cardinals side that looks ready for the offseason. Neither side can really afford to lose this one so the desperation on display should make this a really good one to watch. I’m not going to get hooked into the line on this one and instead back Seattle in a high scoring encounter.
On its own, this is a game that probably would have been a stay away but with the news about Daniel Jones and his ankle injury, I can’t turn down the chance to back against Mr .500 Eli Manning. It’s a sad day for those who wanted him to finish with a 116-116 record as a starting quarterback but on the plus side, we get to see another NFC East primetime match. This one won’t set any offensive records, Eagles in a low scoring battle.