Your three best bets around the NFL for the holiday weekend.
Detroit Lions (-5) at Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have been completely dominated in consecutive weeks, scoring just 14 total points against the Bears and Vikings. It looked like the team mailed it in against Minnesota after hearing that head coach Marvin Lewis is stepping down after this season. By contrast, the Lions look highly-motivated after two straight wins to keep themselves alive in the wild card hunt.
Matt Stafford leads the Lions’ fifth-rated passing attack into battle against a Cincinnati squad that’s allowed over 330 yards in each of their last nine contests. He should be able to find Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. early and often against the Bengals’ shoddy secondary. And while Detroit’s defense has been a liability this season, Andy Dalton and the Bengals (29th in scoring) are ill-equipped to take advantage of it. The Lions are the best bet of the week.
The pick: Lions -5
Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins (-3.5)
The Redskins took care of business at home last Sunday against the Cardinals; an especially bad road team. History should repeat itself as the Broncos, losers of eight straight away from home prior to a primetime road win in Indianapolis last week, travel to Washington.
Brock Osweiler will be under center for Denver this week, and while he looked good in relief of Trevor Siemian against the Colts last Thursday, he still carries a woeful 75.9 passer rating for the season. The Redskins have allowed a meagre 159.5 passing YPG in their last four contests, which makes Osweiler’s job that much more difficult.
Washington hasn’t been great at protecting the football this year (minus-3 turnover differential), but they’re far better than Denver (minus-15, second-worst in the league), and that could make the difference this Sunday. Look for Kirk Cousins to snap out of his two-game skid (323 passing yards combined) and propel the Redskins to victory.
The pick: Redskins -3.5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (-10)
Ten points is a lot to give up in a divisional tilt, but the Buccaneers are trending so poorly at the moment it’s hard to endorse them at all.
Tampa has covered in just one of their last eight road games and has dropped four of their last five ATS against Carolina. Their latest loss to the Panthers came in October, where they were suffocated on offense (lost 17-3). Jameis Winston and his fifth-rated passing attack might be able to beat Carolina down the field a few times, but it won’t matter when Cam Newton and company are piling up points of their own.
The Panthers, who’ve covered in six of their last seven games, should shred the Bucs on the ground as they face the league’s 23rd-ranked run stoppers. Expect Carolina to control the clock (second in time of possession this year) and clinch a playoff berth.
The pick: Panthers -10
Best of the rest (picks in bold)
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens (-13.5)
Minnesota Vikings (-9) at Green Bay Packers
Los Angeles Rams (-6.5) at Tennessee Titans
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-5.5)
Los Angeles Chargers (-6.5) at New York Jets
Miami Dolphins at Kansas City Chiefs (-10)
Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots (-11.5)
Cleveland Browns at Chicago Bears (-6.5)
New York Giants at Arizona Cardinals (-3.5)
Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) at San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys (-5)
Pittsburgh Steelers (-9.5) at Houston Texans
Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles (-9)