These three defenses should rise to the occasion on Sunday, making their teams the best bets of the week.
Chicago Bears (-3) at Miami Dolphins
The Bears bring their fearsome defense into Miami off a bye week to face the reeling Dolphins on Sunday.
Chicago’s stoppers, led by Khalil Mack, do just about everything well. They’re second in the league in yards per game allowed, third in points per game allowed, and fifth in yards per play allowed. They also rank second in sacks (18). This does not bode well for Ryan Tannehill and his lackluster unit, which is 28th in points per game and 30th in yards per game.
The Bears’ offense was on fire against Tampa two weeks ago, as Mitchell Trubisky threw six TD passes in the first half. That probably won’t happen again, but Chicago’s scorers have been respectable this year, rating ninth in points per game. Their rush attack, led by Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, is just outside the top 10 in yards per game. The Bears have been tough to get off the field too, as they’re second in the NFL in time of possession.
Expect Chicago to stifle the Dolphins’ offense en route to a comfortable victory.
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The pick: Bears -3
Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins (-1)
Both the Panthers and Redskins didn’t play all that well off their early-season byes, as Carolina needed a 63-yard field goal to get by the hapless Giants, while Washington was bulldozed by Drew Brees and the Saints.
Still, the respective results speak for themselves, and it looks like the Panthers are being seriously undervalued by bookmakers.
Carolina’s defense is allowing teams just a 30.8 percent conversion rate on third down and is the least penalized after five weeks. They’ll get a boost this week from Thomas Davis, the Pro Bowl linebacker who’s returning off a four-game suspension. The Redskins’ rushers were dominated by the Saints’ stoppers on Monday (39 yards); expect that to continue here.
By contrast, Carolina boasts the league’s best rushing attack at 154 yards per contest. Expect Cam Newton and company to cruise to an easy ‘W.’
The pick: Panthers +1
Buffalo Bills at Houston Texans (-10)
The Texans are favored by far too many points in a meeting between two of the most disappointing teams in the league.
Houston’s offense, led by DeShaun Watson, has looked disjointed for most of 2018. Lamar Miller has been dinged up and Watson has taken a beating, as he’s been hit a league-high 53 times. If Buffalo gets to the quarterback like they should, they could increase their NFL-best forced fumbles mark (10). The Bills’ defense is among the more underrated units in the league, as they’re fifth in yards per play allowed.
Buffalo wisely tweaked their gameplan in a win against Tennessee last week, feeding LeSean McCoy the ball 24 times while allowing Josh Allen (60.4 passer rating) to throw just 19 times. Playing the ball-control and field-position game will be crucial in this battle between two low-scoring offenses.
The Bills are nothing special, but the Texans shouldn’t be double-digits over anybody this year.
The pick: Bills +10