The N.F.L. is down to one unbeaten team (the San Francisco 49ers), and you will have to wait until Monday night to see it play. This week’s games do not offer a lot of must-see matchups, but viewers should be buoyed considerably by the return of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
Here is a look at N.F.L. Week 10, with all picks made against the point spread.
Sunday’s Best Games
Vikings at Cowboys,
As the Cowboys (5-3) went through a three-game losing streak, it was easy to wonder if their strong start to the season had been a mirage. Instead, it appears those three losses, in which Dallas dealt with injuries on its offensive line, were the anomaly. Back at something close to 100 percent, the Cowboys have rolled to consecutive wins with a combined score of 74-28.
Dallas’s hallmark this season has been the big play. Led by Amari Cooper, who is expected to play this week despite a bruised knee, the Cowboys’ wide receivers have produced 31 receptions of 20 or more yards through eight games, which is just eight short of the 39 they had in 2018. Cooper and Michael Gallup have done a great job of generating yardage after the catch, and quarterback Dak Prescott has thrived in Kellen Moore’s offense without taking away much productivity from Ezekiel Elliott and the running game.
The Vikings (6-3) are, in many ways, a similar team. Kirk Cousins has made good use of his star wide receivers while Dalvin Cook has churned out a league-leading 894 rushing yards. Both teams have above average defenses and, according to The Upshot, both face an extreme change in their postseason chances depending on the outcome. A win will give either team a 76 percent chance of a postseason berth, while a loss will drop Dallas to 53 percent and Minnesota to 49 percent.
With a close point spread and evenly matched teams, going with the home team seems right, especially with wide receiver Adam Thielen expected to miss the game for Minnesota. Pick: Cowboys -3
Panthers at Packers,
The Packers (7-2) started the year looking much improved on defense, but their enthusiasm has waned from week to week. They are still allowing fewer points per game (21) than they did last year (23.5), but their ranking in terms of total yardage allowed per game has declined from 18th in 2018 to 26th this year. Last week, those defensive shortcomings were evident as Green Bay was crushed after its offense pulled a disappearing act.
This week may not be any easier. Green Bay struggles to defend running backs, and the Panthers (5-3) have the most versatile and productive back in the N.F.L.: Christian McCaffrey, who is on a pace to make a serious challenge at Chris Johnson’s single-season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509, set in 2009).
That being said, consider this: Aaron Rodgers was embarrassed last week, and he now gets to face a middling defense at home. Pick: Packers -5
Chiefs at Titans,
Patrick Mahomes, who sustained a dislocated kneecap in Week 7, will start for the Chiefs (6-3). Matt Moore had a terrific run as a fill-in, but there’s no question that Kansas City’s prospects improve dramatically with the reigning winner of the N.F.L.’s Most Valuable Player Award under center. The Titans (4-5) have improved offensively since Ryan Tannehill took over as quarterback, and their defense makes you work for every yard. With Mahomes back, this is an easy call. Pick: Chiefs
Rams at Steelers,
It’s impossible to know how good the Los Angeles Rams (5-3) are. They opened the season 3-0, then dropped three straight, the same pattern as the Cowboys. That they won their last two games ahead of their bye week was nice, but it’s hard to put too much stock in wins over Atlanta and Cincinnati, which have one win between them. Playing the Steelers (4-4) is the closest thing to a real test Los Angeles has had in close to a month. Pittsburgh has generated an impressive 22 turnovers this season, and while the Steelers are not explosive on offense, they tend to get the job done, which makes them an odd fit as an underdog at home. Pick: Steelers +3.5
How Important Are This Week’s Games?
Sunday’s Other Games
Ravens at Bengals,
The Ravens (6-2) beat the previously 8-0 Patriots in Week 9 and will try to keep their concentration up this week when they face the 0-8 Bengals. The contrast is extreme, and while Baltimore found plenty of running room against New England, it’s almost scary to think how much could be available against Cincinnati. Sure, opponents have run to chew up the clock against the Bengals, but that is not the only contributor to their league-worst 177.6 rushing yards per game allowance. The Ravens’ offense has averaged an N.F.L.-best 204.9.
It’s a mismatch made in fantasy football heaven, and even with the wild card of how Cincinnati’s offense will differ with Ryan Finley replacing Andy Dalton at quarterback, it still has the makings of a blowout. Pick: Ravens -10
Falcons at Saints,
Teddy Bridgewater helped keep the Saints (7-1) in first place in the N.F.C. South while Drew Brees recovered from surgery on his thumb, but the team did not score at its normal rate — through eight games, it is 15th in the N.F.L. in points per game (24.4). That ranking could improve in a hurry. Over the next four weeks, the Saints face Atlanta (31.2 points allowed a game), Tampa Bay (31.5), Carolina (25.5) and then Atlanta again. Scoring 30 or more points in a win at home should be easy enough for New Orleans, but with Matt Ryan expected to be back for the Falcons (1-7), this game could be more of a shootout than a blowout. Pick: Falcons +13
Bills at Browns,
The Bills (6-2) have been thoroughly outplayed only once this season (a Week 8 loss to Philadelphia). In the other games, Buffalo’s defense put on a show and its offense found a way to survive. The Browns (2-6), meanwhile, seem to find new dysfunction weekly. Their losing streak, which began in October, was understandable considering the opponents (San Francisco, Seattle, New England), but turned ugly when Brandon Allen and the lowly Broncos stretched it to four games. Cleveland has a ton of talent, but it does not appear that quarterback Baker Mayfield knows what to do with it. Pick: Bills +2.5
Cardinals at Buccaneers,
Over the last five weeks, the Cardinals (3-5-1) have established that they can beat bad teams (wins over Cincinnati, Atlanta and the Giants) and lose to good ones (New Orleans, San Francisco). The Buccaneers (2-6) are an interesting challenge as they are nowhere near as bad as the teams Arizona beat, but nowhere near as good as the teams that beat Arizona. Linebacker Shaquil Barrett and Tampa Bay’s defense can put a lot of pressure on Arizona’s Kyler Murray, but his Cardinals counterpoint, Chandler Jones, could play an even larger role, rattling Jameis Winston into the game-changing turnovers that the Buccaneers quarterback is famous for. Pick: Cardinals +4
Dolphins at Colts,
You might think Las Vegas would ease up on the Dolphins (1-7) after they secured their first win of the season, but oddsmakers have instead made them double-digit underdogs to the Colts (5-3), even though there is ambiguity as to whether Indianapolis will have its starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, or if Brian Hoyer will have to start in his place. The Colts are a much better team than Miami, and should absolutely be expected to win, but the uncertainty of their quarterback situation makes a close game more likely. Pick: Dolphins +10.5
Lions at Bears,
The Bears (3-5) have been reeling during their four-game losing streak. Mitchell Trubisky even asked for the televisions in the team’s practice facility to be turned off so he didn’t have to hear the criticism. A home game against the Lions (3-4-1) could be a huge morale boost, as Detroit allows an average of 424.1 yards of offense a game, which is 31st of 32 teams. But should Chicago fail to make something work with Trubisky or David Montgomery against a defense that porous, then the TV criticism would appear to have a point. Pick: Lions +2.5
Giants at Jets,
The Jets (1-7) muscled their way into a discussion of the N.F.L.’s worst teams with a loss to Miami last week, while the Giants (2-7) are merely bad. That this game will be played up into some sort of event is mostly a factor of the teams’ proximity to New York City. Pick: Giants -2.5
Seahawks at 49ers,
The 49ers (8-0) were running away with another huge win last week, right up until the fourth quarter when Arizona reeled off 11 consecutive points. San Francisco still won, but considering how dominant the team has been on both sides of the ball this season, that the Niners struggled at all was noteworthy. This week, the 49ers face the Seahawks (7-2), an N.F.C. West division rival that may not have the defense it once did, but has so much offense that it has hardly seemed to matter. Richard Sherman is thriving in the secondary of the 49ers, which should come up repeatedly during this game.
It has been a dream season for Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who is leading the N.F.L.’s starters in touchdown passes, passer rating, touchdown percentage and interception percentage. San Francisco is by far the best defense he has faced, and Sherman will most likely be fired up to beat the team that thought he was washed up. Pick: 49ers -6
While agreeing with Jon Gruden that Thursday games tend to be sloppy messes, we picked Chargers -1. The game was as ugly as expected, with Philip Rivers throwing three interceptions — and having two others wiped away by penalties — while the Raiders committed a season-high 12 penalties for 97 yards. But Gruden’s views on Thursday games likely improved somewhat when Josh Jacobs, Oakland’s sensational rookie running back, sliced through the Chargers’ defense for a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes of a 26-24 victory.
How Betting Lines Work
A quick primer for those who are not familiar with betting lines: Favorites are listed next to a negative number that represents how many points they must win by to cover the spread. Rams -3.5, for example, means that Los Angeles must beat the Steelers by at least four points for its backers to win their bet. Gamblers can also bet on the total score, or whether the teams’ combined score in the game is over or under a preselected number of points.
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