Finally, the home teams had a big week in the National Football League.
Week 9 saw Arizona cover as significant home underdog on Thursday night, and then teams playing at home on Sunday went 11-0 against the number. Road teams have still been dominant in 2019, but perhaps we will continue to see some more regression to the mean over the next few weeks.
Six teams are on a bye this weekend, so it is a bit lighter slate Sunday afternoon, but there are a number of quality matchups nonetheless.
It is hard to get too excited about endorsing the “Monsters of the Midway,” who enter their Week 10 contest against the Lions on a four-game losing streak, but I expect them to end their skid Sunday afternoon.
The Bears take on a Detroit team that started off the year 2-0-1 but has lost a number of close games since. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been productive, but the Lions’ lack of a running game and poor defense have been major issues. The Lions bring into Chicago the third-worst defense against the pass, the sixth-worst against the run and are only averaging 96 yards per game on the ground.
The Bears have struggled against the run since Akeem Hicks was sidelined with an elbow injury and have a bottom-tier passing offense, but should enjoy this matchup in a desperate spot for both NFC North teams. Look for Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to have his best game of the season and the Chicago defense to rise to the occasion after showing some signs of life in the second half against Philadelphia last week.
Matt Nagy will make it three straight against Matt Patricia with a win and cover at Solider Field.
Pick: Chicago -2.5
Minnesota consistently plays well at U.S. Bank Stadium and can beat bad teams away from home, but the Vikings have struggled against quality competition on the road. They are winless in their last 14 games outdoors on the road against teams with a winning record and are 0-13-1 against the number in those contests.
Mike Zimmer’s team comes off a tough loss in Arrowhead to Matt Moore and the Chiefs. Now the Vikings must head to Dallas to take on a Cowboys team that has been far from perfect but has started to play defense at the level I expected. With Adam Thielen likely to miss this one with a hamstring injury, look for the Cowboys to sell out to stop the running game of Minnesota and make Kirk Cousins beat them down the field.
From The Aftermath: The #Vikings only had WR Adam Thielen (hamstring) for a few plays yesterday after he took himself out because he wasn’t ready to play. Good chance they pull back and let it heal. pic.twitter.com/GG0Icrb1ZF
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 4, 2019
The Cowboys will move the ball well against an overrated Vikings defense and win their third in a row.
Pick: Dallas -3
The Ravens showed the NFL they are serious contenders in the AFC with a dominating victory over the previously undefeated Patriots on Sunday night. I was not a believer that Lamar Jackson was a good enough quarterback to take this team deep into the playoffs, but his ability to make plays with his legs reminds me of Michael Vick and gives Baltimore a shot each and every week. All that said, Baltimore is in a massive letdown spot Sunday afternoon against the winless Bengals.
Cincinnati comes off their bye week and is turning to rookie quarterback Ryan Finley. The Bengals played the Ravens tough in their first encounter (a 23-17 loss in Baltimore) and have a good enough front four to hang in there with the impressive Baltimore rushing attack.
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 16, 2019
It may not be pretty, but I like the Bengals’ chances to keep it close and cover against the Ravens for the second time this year.
Hold your nose and take the points.
Pick: Cincinnati +10
Arizona enters its Week 10 contest against the Bucs on a two-game losing streak, but the Cardinals have played pretty well against two of the best teams in the NFC the last two weeks. They were in the game for much of their tussle with the Saints in Week 8, before New Orleans took control late, and then played toe-to-toe with the undefeated 49ers but ran out of time in a 28-25 loss.
The Cardinals now head to Tampa on extra rest to take on a group that has lost four in a row, including two tough ones in Tennessee and Seattle. The Buccaneers sit at 2-6 and have virtually no shot at making the playoffs. I expect them to struggle to get up for this one.
Look for Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray to feast on Tampa’s awful pass defense and keep his team in the game throughout.
Pick: Arizona +4.5
I loved the Steelers’ chances to win this division when the season commenced, but that was before they lost Ben Roethlisberger to injury in their Week 2 matchup against the Seahawks. Credit Pittsburgh for winning its last three games to keep hope alive in the Steel City, but I have serious concerns about the play of quarterback Mason Rudolph, who was fortunate to beat the Colts and Brian Hoyer last Sunday.
Rudolph and the Steelers host a Rams team that is coming off its bye week and should be ready to make another run to the playoffs in the top-heavy NFC. The Rams can ill afford to lose this game.
With extra time to prepare, I will take Sean McVay versus Mike Tomlin every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Pick: Los Angeles -3.5
Monday night should be a great one, as MVP candidate Russell Wilson will head to San Francisco to take on the undefeated 49ers.
The Niners have done it with defense and their rushing attack for the most part in 2019, but we saw quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo play one of his best games of the year last Thursday night (317 yards and four touchdowns through the air) against the Cardinals. His success should continue in prime time, as he takes on a Seattle defense that bears no resemblance to the “Legion of Boom.”
This throw from Jimmy Garoppolo to Emmanuel Sanders is one of the best I’ve ever seen. And to accomplish this on third down after only a week’s worth of work together? Unreal. They’re going to light it up. #49ers
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) November 1, 2019
The Niners defense has been awesome, but it lost a key contributor in Kwon Alexander. A torn pectoral injury will sideline him for the remainder of the season. San Francisco will still be tough to block up front, but I expect Wilson to make enough plays to keep Seattle in this one with its offense.
The Niners have scored 51 and 31 in their last two games at Levi’s Stadium and should have serious success again. I am not willing to lay the points, but this one should go over the total.