Some weeks you gets the bear and some weeks the bear gets you. Last week Nostrathomas was shredded by the week of upsets. Underdogs went 10-4 in Week 9, one of the most successful weeks for “dogs” in two seasons.
Week 10 started with another underdog not just covering but winning outright. The Baltimore Ravens were favored by 7.5 points but were dominated by the Miami Dolphins 22-10.
The result of the latest NFL chaos in Week 9, Nostrathomas’ overall picks record took a dive. I’m now at 85-51 straight-up and 63-69-2 against the spread. I’ve fought my way back once though. Time to do it again. Let’s peer through the crystal beer mugs and see what the NFL has in store for us in Week 10.
Game of the Week
Kansas City Chiefs vs Las Vegas Raiders +2.5 (Sunday Night Football, Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, NV)
The Las Vegas Raiders are 5-3 and the Kansas City Chiefs are 5-4, and in last place, in the AFC West. Both teams need a win in this game to stay in playoff contention in a crowded AFC postseason race.
I said this in a tweet last week and still hold that when people look at the Chiefs, they’re seeing the last two Super Bowl editions and not the reality of 2021.
In 2019 and 2020, Kansas City’s offense was a video game that could almost score at will with Patrick Mahomes as the “human cheat code”. But those were also teams that could shut opposing offenses down. The 2019 Chiefs were seventh in points allowed and the 2020 version were tenth.
In 2021, Kansas City is currently 27th in the NFL in points allowed. They are also 29th in turnover margin. Yes, the Chiefs have played some tough teams in the first half of their schedule but they faced some tough opponents in the first half of last season and went into their Week 10 bye with an 8-1 record.
If you think I’m being tough on Kansas City, yes I am but I’m not going to spend this game capsule singing the praises of the Raiders either.
Needing a win against a losing opponent, Las Vegas came out of their Week 8 bye and laid an egg last week in the Meadowlands against the New York Giants. It’s possible Las Vegas was looking ahead to this game but that is inexcusable. The Raiders are not good enough to be looking past anybody.
There are two keys to this game. One is that Las Vegas can get to opposing quarterbacks without having to blitz. According to Profootballreference.com, the Raiders have the lowest blitz percentage in the league but they’re sixth in percentage of pressures per dropback.
Kansas City is seventh in percentage of pressures per dropback but are third in the league in percentage of pass plays where they blitz.
Getting pressure on Patrick Mahomes without having to bring an extra man has been the blueprint for defenses in containing him since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed everyone how last season in Super Bowl LV.
The second key is, The Chiefs are dead last on defense in rushing yards per attempt allowed. They are also 31st in the league in sacks. The only way Las Vegas get stopped on the ground is if they do it to themselves.
Can the Kansas City Chiefs fix their problems and recover their Super Bowl form of the past two seasons? Sure, anything’s possible but I’m finished with looking at this team through a filter of past greatness. It’s time to wake up to the current reality. These Chiefs are pretenders until they prove otherwise.
Take the Las Vegas Raiders to win at home and cover.
Las Vegas Raiders 25 Kansas City Chiefs 21
New Orleans Saints vs Tennessee Titans -3 (1PM ET; Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN)
Are the Tennessee Titans the sexy team that everyone wants to see emerge from the AFC for Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium? No, but they have a great personality. Tennessee has beaten the Seahawks in Seattle in overtime, the Indianapolis Colts twice, the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams on their way to their 7-2 record, tops in the AFC through nine weeks.
The New Orleans Saints are one of the biggest mysteries of the 2021 season. Just looking at the statistical analysis, they should be one of the best teams in the NFL. In Week 8 the dismantled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and in Week 9, came back from an 18 point fourth-quarter deficit only to lose 27-25 to the Atlanta Falcons on a final second field goal.
The Saints are the best team in the league on defense in rushing yards per attempt allowed, but with Derrick Henry hurt, Tennessee isn’t overly worried about moving the ball on the ground. The Titans had three backs combine for 69 yards rushing last week against the Rams. Tennessee will use their defense to grind opponents into making mistakes and turn those into touchdowns.
One of New Orleans’ problems is they have a receiving group that did quarterback Trevor Siemian no favors last week until late in the fourth quarter when Atlanta had switched to mostly zone defenses. Press them and they aren’t capable of making a play.
The Saints will also be without Alvin Kamara (knee) for this game. He was gashing the Falcons on the ground all game last week. Mark Ingram will take over at running back.
The Tennessee Titans are on a roll. Take them to win and cover.
Tennessee Titans 27 New Orleans Saints 21
Jacksonville Jaguars vs Indianapolis Colts -10.5 (1PM ET; Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN)
I know, we got roasted picking the double-digit favorites last week and the Jacksonville Jaguars pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season in Week 9 against the Buffalo Bills. They kept the explosive Buffalo offense out of the end zone in a 9-6 victory.
The one thing that Indianapolis’ offense does better than nearly every team in the league, including the Bills, is run the football. Jacksonville is actually third in the league on defense in rushing yards per attempt allowed, about the only thing that they do well but the Colts have one of the best offensive lines in the league and Jonathan Taylor running behind it.
That line is also why Carson Wentz has been improving by the week at quarterback. He spread the ball around to 10 receivers last week in the team’s 45-30 win over the New York Jets, and New York only scored 30 thanks to two garbage time touchdowns.
Indianapolis is coming together as a team and I triple-dog-dare the Jaguars to repeat what they did against Buffalo last week.
Indianapolis Colts 32 Jacksonville Jaguars 17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers -9.5 vs Washington Football Team (1PM ET; FedEx Field, Washington D.C.)
I know! You’re saying, Nostrathomas, didn’t you learn your lesson last week? You’ve now taken another team favored by two scores to win and cover.
You’re probably also saying, you fool, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Rashard Robinson have been declared out and Chris Godwin is questionable.
Yes, but look at it this way, Tampa Bay is coming off their bye week, their secondary is getting healthier and Tom Brady still has Mike Evens and Cameron Brate to throw to with Leonard Fournette pounding it out on the ground.
The Buccaneers are also facing a gawd-awful football team this week. The Washington Football Team put up 10, 10 and 13 points in the three games before their bye week. They also have a defense that has to be the worst that head coach Ron Rivera has played in or coached, in his entire career.
Taylor Heinicke will not be pulling out a backdoor cover this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Washington Football Team 17
Best of the Rest
Cleveland Browns vs New England Patriots -2.5 (1PM ET; Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA)
This is nearly an impossible game to pick. Browns running back Nick Chubb is out due to being on the Covid-19 reserve list. For New England, both of their top running backs, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson are both questionable due to concussions.
Last week, Cleveland pulled together their list of walking-wounded and thrashed the Cincinnati Bengals 41-16. D’Ernest Johnson is going to have to carry the load for the Browns this week like he did two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos
The Patriots are at home and they’re slightly stronger defensively than Cleveland and their offense has been improving over the past month.
I’m taking New England to win and cover in what should be a hard-hitting defensive struggle. The over/under for this game is 45. If you’re feeling daring, take the under.
New England Patriots 23 Cleveland Browns 20
Detroit Lions +8 vs Pittsburgh Steelers (1PM ET; Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA)
The Pittsburgh Steelers played last Monday night and had to fight down to the final seconds to emerge with a 29-27 win over the Chicago Bears. The Detroit Lions are coming off their bye week.
Breaking news this week is that Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is out due to Covid-19. Mason Rudolph will get the start for the Steelers.
You never know what you’re going to get week-to-week with Detroit. Well, you know you’re going to get a loss but you don’t know if the Lions will fight to the last unbitten ankle or get blown-out.
Heavy sharp money came in on Detroit and pushed the spread down from -10 to -8. The Steelers still have a formidable defensive front but it’s too much to ask for them to cover the eight points with Rudolph at quarterback and receiver Chase Claypool out.
Take Pittsburgh to win but the Lions to keep it close.
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 Detroit Lions 16
Atlanta Falcons vs Dallas Cowboys -8 (1PM ET; AT&T Stadium, Dallas, TX)
This spread opened with Dallas favored by 9.5 but has dropped to eight as of this writing.
The Atlanta Falcons clawed their way back to the .500 mark and playoff relevancy last week with a last-second 27-25 win over the New Orleans Saints.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys needed two garbage-time scores last week just to make the final score look more respectable in their 30-16 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Matt Ryan does wonderous things through the air for Atlanta’s offense but the Falcons can not run the ball effectively and struggle on defense to stop the run.
The Cowboys will do with Ezekiel Elliot that New Orleans should have done with Alvin Kamara last week. Put the ball in his hands and let him tear through a weak Falcons front.
Dallas gets back on track this week with a convincing victory.
Dallas Cowboys 30 Atlanta Falcons 20
Buffalo Bills vs New York Jets +12.5 (1PM ET; MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ)
You don’t want to overreact to what a team did the previous week but the Bills losing to Jacksonville after going into the game as -14.5 favorites was absurd. The point spread almost beat the actual number of points scored by both teams in that game. The spread could have been the over/under.
Buffalo knows that they have no more margin of error with the Patriots on their tail in the AFC East but, except for a couple of exceptions, the Jets have hung tough with their opponents all season.
Bills win but don’t expect the Jets to make it easy.
Buffalo Bills 26 New York Jets 17
Carolina Panthers vs Arizona Cardinals -10.5 (4:05PM ET; State Farm Stadium, Glendale, AZ)
All Arizona did last week is roll into Levi’s Stadium with backup quarterback Colt McCoy and without wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and A.J. Green, was grind down the 49ers 31-17.
Based on all the double-digit covers last week, public money has been coming in heavy on Carolina this week but for crying out loud, P.J. Walker is starting this game at quarterback for the Panthers. Carolina has also only scored 3, 19 and 6 points in the last three weeks.
Yes, the Cardinals have a Week 11 game in Seattle against the Seahawks that could cause them to overlook Carolina put I still can’t make myself pull the trigger on taking the Panthers and the points.
I’ve been harping all season on people around the NFL not realizing how good this Cardinals team is. Take them to win convincingly.
Arizona Cardinals 30 Carolina Panthers 13
Minnesota Vikings vs Los Angeles Chargers -3 (4:05PM ET; SoFi Stadium, Los Angeles, CA)
The Minnesota Vikings have been playing everybody close this season even though they’ve only won three of eight games. The big question for this game is which Chargers team shows up. The one that beat the Chiefs, Raiders and Browns in a three-game stretch or the one that lost to the Ravens and Patriots.
It’s a tough one to pick but there are a couple of trends to fall back on. Minnesota is 0-5 this season against teams with a winning record. The Chargers are 5-3. The Vikings are also on a six game losing streak after playing an overtime game.
Los Angeles Chargers 25 Minnesota Vikings 21
Seattle Seahawks +3.5 vs Green Bay Packers (4:25PM ET; Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI)
The Seattle Seahawks have barely survived their three-game, Geno Smith era at quarterback and get Russell Wilson back for this key NFC battle. Unfortunately for Seattle, the Packers are getting Aaron Rodgers back under center.
Even playing the last three games with Smith under center, Seattle goes into this game with the edge statistically. Also, they have won six of their last eight games when coming out of their bye week.
Take the road dogs to win.
Seattle Seahawks 23 Green Bay Packers 20
Philadelphia Eagles +2.5 vs Denver Broncos (4:25PM ET; Empower Field at Mile High Stadium, Denver, CO)
Here is another game where both teams have been highly inconsistent this season. Last week, Denver traveled to Dallas and crushed the Cowboys 30-16 while the Eagles lost a tough game at home to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Denver is dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur testing positive along with four players. The Broncos are also dealing with injuries to starting tackles Garrett Bolles and Bobbie Massie.
Philadelphia is coming into this game relatively healthy and are stronger overall on offense than the Broncos.
The Eagles are another road dog that you can pick to win this weekend.
Philadelphia Eagles 23 Denver Broncos 17
Los Angeles Rams -4 vs San Francisco 49ers (Monday Night Football; Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA)
The San Francisco 49ers get another chance to win a home game this week against their division rivals the Los Angeles Rams.
For those of you keeping track at home, San Francisco has lost eight straight and 11 of their last 12 games at Levi’s Stadium.
Look for the Rams to get back on track after getting crushed at home by Tennessee last week.
Los Angeles Rams 28 San Francisco 49ers 20
Point spreads are from VegasInsider.com and are accurate as of this writing.
You can follow Tom Pollin on Twitter for sports or general interest talk @tjpollin