Bengals -3 versus Redskins (in London)
Let's start across the pond again, even if that ugly display last week might have scared away the English from our brand of football forever. With the disclaimer that it was against Cleveland, the running game display from Cincinnati last week was encouraging as Jeremy Hill was effective as a hammering change of pace behind recent starter Gio Bernard, who also has been playing well. Now they get a soft Washington defense that ranks 31st against the run according to Football Outsiders. The Bengals haven't been nearly as good as usual on defense this season after losing some players to free agency, but they catch somewhat of a break with running back Matt Jones out this week. If they can get some pressure on Kirk Cousins, I think they can force some erratic throws and get the win.
|A.J. Green's juggling history came in handy during this Hail Mary to end the half.|
The team that beat Washington last week is now on the road after three straight tight wins at home, and I think Matthew Stafford's fourth quarter heroics come to an end here. Houston pass defense is a strength (7th in DVOA) that matches up well here, and they have fared much better at home than on the road overall. Detroit missing Darius Slay, their best defensive back by far, is a huge loss that sets up Brock Osweiler for a bounce back game, and the Texans should win the battle on the ground both ways.
Patriots -6 at Bills
Yes, I know Buffalo dealt New England their only loss of the season, and I definitely know Bill Belichick knows it, meaning I would not be surprised if he takes any opportunity to tack on some extra points that might not be needed. That's partly why I'm not afraid to lay this many points on the road, but mostly I just feel that the Bills are a flawed team going against the Super Bowl favorites. The Patriots missed a lot of tackles and let the game get away from them early in the last week before Tom Brady returned from suspension, but now he's got the offense playing at a high level to give the defense some margin for error. Buffalo's foolish decision to push LeSean McCoy while dealing with hamstring issues predictably led to further damage, leaving them without their best player against a tough run defense that ranks 5th in DVOA. Without many weapons in the passing game, I don't think they will take advantage of New England's lack of a great pass rush.
Raiders +1.5 at Buccaneers
Oakland has been playing great on the road, going 4-0 despite the 10:00 AM start times, and they stayed in Florida rather than make multiple cross-country flights after their dominant performance in Jacksonville last week. Their corners played to their potential against the Jaguars' big receivers, and I think they can match up decently enough against Mike Evans this week. I don't believe that Jacquizz Rodgers can keep up this workhorse performance on the ground, so perhaps the Raiders can turn in back to back good performances on defense. On the other side, Derek Carr and this potent offense should be able to move the ball against this defense, especially with some deep balls against Tampa's safeties.
|Khalil Mack is starting to pick up sacks, and this is another good chance to add to that total.|
Minnesota blew their chances early in last week's game before their tackles were exposed against a great Philadelphia pass rush in comeback mode, but I expect Mike Zimmer to have his team ready to make up for their first loss. If they can get back to their ball-protecting ways and avoid an early deficit, this is a decent spot to get their struggling run game going against a rush defense that's #20 in DVOA. Meanwhile, the Vikings defense is so good that I think it should almost be expected to generate a turnover against a quarterback like Jay Cutler. His return to the starting lineup is likely a downgrade after Brian Hoyer was quietly playing well, and their running game is back to being a complicated situation with Jeremy Langford returning to practice this week. Chicago may have home field advantage, but the talent deficit is enough that I don't think that will matter.
Last week: 3-1-1
Season total: 24-21-1