With Detroit and Atlanta kicking off at 9:30 in the morning, it’s extra important to get the picks up today. With a relatively strong contingent of home underdogs this week, including the Falcons assuming they were actually playing at home, maybe the models will have a good week. It has yet to happen, and they lost the Thursday night game again, but you never know. Weirder things have happened.
According to 538, your high-playoff-leverage games this week are Carolina-Seattle, Green Bay-New Orleans, Philly-Arizona, Baltimore-Cincinnati, and Detroit-Atlanta. Two of those, though, are somewhat misleading. Philly-Arizona and Baltimore-Cincy have high probabilities due just to the teams involved. The Eagles and Cardinals both need wins because the NFC has too many potential playoff teams, and they need to keep up a division lead to ensure they don’t have to fight for a wild card spot. The game might also decide the tiebreaker between the two of them. Ravens-Bengals is really just an issue of who will win the division, as the AFC North is very clumped right now, although whoever doesn’t could potentially have to fight out a wild card spot with Buffalo or Kansas City (or other members of the division). The other three games have implications for lots of other teams. Green Bay, Detroit, Carolina, and New Orleans all still have shots at winning their division, but their records or team quality aren’t strong enough to ensure a wild card spot if they lose. Atlanta, at 2-5, isn’t out of the NFC South race; someone in that division could easily get in at 8-8 and keep a 9-7 (maybe even 10-6) NFC North or West team out. NFC teams gotta win.
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Checking in on one of our favorites topics, there are 5 home underdogs this week. Atlanta would be even if the game were actually in Atlanta instead of London (3.5 dogs plus home field makes it a pick ’em at best), Tennessee, Carolina, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh make up your contrarian pick list. Of those, the models think Carolina has the best chance of covering their game. That’s tough, going up against the Seahawks. Seattle still seems like a decent team despite their 3-3 record. Carolina has been inconsistent. If they show up, it feels like they can certainly keep it within a touchdown and maybe even win. If they don’t, who knows. My second pick might be the Titans, just because the line is close to even (the models think it’s about right). But with a new rookie QB, it’s tough to feel good about that.
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Your exciting games for the week (besides Broncos-Chargers, which already came through) are Carolina-Seattle, Pittsburgh-Indy, and New Orleans-Green Bay. That last one has far and away the highest over/under of the week, and I believe is the highest of the season so far. On the flip side, please stay away from Jets-Buffalo.
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And finally we have the SuperContest picks, which have not been super at all. Luigi is going with Carolina +5, Buffalo +3, Atlanta +3.5 (because it thinks they’re at home), Jacksonville +6, and Minnesota +2.5. If you wanted to swap in for the Falcons, next up would have been the Chargers, and now would be Baltimore +1. Yoshi 2 similarly has Carolina, Atlanta, Jacksonville, Buffalo, and San Diego +7.5. Swapping out Atlanta would mean moving in Washington +9. Yoshi 1 is going with Minnesota, Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo, and San Diego. The Atlanta swap would be Oakland +6.5. So it looks like the Chargers’ failure to get a junk touchdown is going to hurt the picks this week. Let’s hope some of these dogs come through. Except for the Falcons, of course.