Believe it or not, the NFL season is almost halfway done — and what a weird and wild trip it’s been so far.
It’s still hard to make sense of the 2017 campaign, as injuries and uneven play have made it difficult for any one team to separate from the pack and solidify itself as a legitimate Super Bowl favorite. There are a handful of teams — like the Patriots, Steelers and Eagles — starting to rise to the top, but all of those teams have their own question marks, too.
That’s made trying to predict what will happen from week to week in the NFL near impossible. But the NESN.com trio of Mike Cole, Ricky Doyle and Andre Khatchaturian are back once again this week to make their picks against the spread.
Here’s how they fared last week.
Mike Cole: 6-7-1 (49-50-3 overall)
Ricky Doyle: 5-8-1 (46-56-3)
Andre Khatchaturian: 5-8-1 (46-53-3)
And here are their Week 8 picks with lines courtesy of OddsShark.
THURSDAY, OCT. 26
Miami Dolphins at (-3) Baltimore Ravens, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. Miami might actually be better with Matt Moore under center, and the Ravens have 11 — count them, 11 — “key players” questionable for Thursday night. Related: “Thursday Night Football” is bad.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Ravens are allowing an NFL-worst 145.3 rushing yards per game. Moore needs to give the ball to Jay Ajayi and get out of the way.
Andre: Ravens. Joe Flacco stinks, but he’s at home playing against a team that allows a league-high 71.1 percent completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks. The Dolphins still average the fewest yards per play in football and even with Moore at the helm, they’ll struggle against a pretty solid defense.
SUNDAY, OCT. 29
(-9.5) Minnesota Vikings at Cleveland Browns, 9:30 a.m. (in London)
Mike: Browns. One of the only things the Browns do well is stop the run, allowing a league-best three yards per carry. If they can keep that up against a Vikings team averaging 147 yards on the ground per game over the last three weeks, they’ll have a chance to keep it close-ish.
Ricky: Vikings. My guess is the Browns suck on any continent.
Andre: Vikings. Browns quarterbacks have thrown 17 picks this season. For whatever reason, Hue Jackson still is going with DeShone Kizer instead of Cody Kessler, who’s the only Browns quarterback who has more touchdowns than interceptions dating back to the start of last season. The Browns have lost four games by three points this season, but they won’t last against a Vikings team with a stout defense and a mistake-free offense.
(-4) Atlanta Falcons vs. New York Jets, 1 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. The Falcons’ offense has to get it together at some point, right? And don’t sleep on that defense. Atlanta’s speed on defense can give the Jets some fits.
Ricky: Jets. Maybe someone put something in my Halloween candy, but I’ll take the points here, if for no other reason than the Jets are home and the Falcons’ offense looks all discombobulated under Steve Sarkisian.
Andre: Falcons. Despite their struggles, the Falcons still have the NFL’s best yards-per-play differential. All three of the Jets’ wins have come against bad quarterbacks (Jay Cutler, Blake Bortles and DeShone Kizer). Matt Ryan shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball.
Carolina Panthers at (-2.5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m.
Mike: Panthers. Cam Newton actually has been much better on the road this season, and Carolina has been a good bet as an underdog recently, covering the spread in seven of its last nine games. It also looks like Luke Kuechly will be back.
Ricky: Panthers. The Bucs have the worst defense in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA ratings. Sure, Newton is incredibly inconsistent, but this is one of those matchups where the “Superman” version of No. 1 will show up.
Andre: Bucs. Jameis Winston is quietly putting up great numbers with seven touchdowns and just one pick in the last four games. Meanwhile, Newton continues to struggle with turnovers and getting protection. Carolina’s once-stellar defense has only forced four takeaways all year.
Chicago Bears at (-9) New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m.
Mike: Saints. The Bears won last week despite gaining just five first downs, thanks to two scores on defense. Won’t be as easy this week against Drew Brees.
Ricky: Saints. Mitch Trubisky will need to throw the ball more than seven times this week. The problem with that is the Saints’ pass defense has been playing well during New Orleans’ four-game winning streak, now ranking sixth in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders.
Andre: Saints. Brees is getting excellent protection this season. He hasn’t been sacked more than once in a game this year. He’s historically an accurate quarterback who likely won’t give the Bears any defensive touchdowns like the ones they’ve been getting lately.
Indianapolis Colts at (-10.5) Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bengals. The Colts’ offensive line is atrocious, and there’s no reason to think things will be any different on the road, either. And after Indy was torched by the likes of Allen Hurns, Eric Decker and Marquise Goodwin in recent weeks, expect a big week from A.J. Green.
Ricky: Bengals. This speaks volumes about the Colts. When they lose, they lose big. With the exception of a three-point defeat in Week 2, their other four losses have been by 37 points, 32 points, 14 points and 27 points, contributing to an NFL-worst minus-103 point differential (the second worst belongs to the Cardinals — who beat the Colts in Week 2 — at minus-72). Don’t be scared by this spread.
Andre: Colts. Yes, the Colts’ offensive line can’t stop a nosebleed and the team’s quarterbacks have been sacked a league-high 28 times, but the Bengals should never be double-digit favorites against any team. As bad as the Colts have been, Jacoby Brissett has been good in terms of protecting the ball — something Andy Dalton has struggled with all year.
Los Angeles Chargers at (-7.5) New England Patriots, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chargers. We know the way to beat the Patriots is make Tom Brady uncomfortable, and the Chargers’ duo of Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa has that capability. They might not win, but L.A. has the ability to keep it close.
Ricky: Chargers. Just when the Patriots’ defense turned a corner, they lose arguably their most important defensive player, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, reportedly for the season. That’s a huge blow, especially right before facing a competent Chargers offense.
Andre: Chargers. Philip Rivers has eight touchdowns and just one pick in the last four games and he shouldn’t have any problem moving the ball against the Pats, who rank dead last in yards allowed per play. The Chargers also are fourth in the league in sack percentage and 18 of their last 23 games have been decided by one score or less.
Oakland Raiders at (-3) Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m.
Mike: Bills. The Raiders average 6.1 yards per play at home, but it’s a much different story on the road, where they gain 4.5 yards per play. Won’t be any easier against a Bills team that leads the NFL in turnover differential (plus-10), not to mention the possibility of rain in the forecast.
Ricky: Bills. Buffalo’s defense boasts the league’s fifth-best passer rating against. The Bills also trail just three teams with 13 takeaways, suggesting a few turnovers — in addition to the rain that Mike mentioned — could be in the forecast against the Raiders, who are a much different team on the road.
Andre: Raiders. Tyrod Taylor has been sacked on 10.1 percent of dropbacks this season. Derek Carr thrives in the Eastern Time Zone (10 touchdowns, 2 interceptions with a 4-1 record since the start of last season). And for what it’s worth, the winning team on “Thursday Night Football” is 5-1 the following week.
San Francisco 49ers at (-13) Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Mike: 49ers. The Eagles are on a short week and might have some trouble to adjusting to life without left tackle Jason Peters. And that’s a lot of points.
Ricky: 49ers. Too many points. Simple as that.
Andre: 49ers. I was very confident the 49ers would cover a six-point spread against the Cowboys last week, but they lost by 30. I’m going to give them one more chance. This is a team that prior to last week had lost five consecutive games by three points or fewer, so they know how to keep a game close.
Houston Texans at (-6.5) Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. This would be a much more interesting matchup if Houston still had J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, and this is the sort of week the Texans will really feel those absences. Deshaun Watson has been great, but he hasn’t played a defense like the Seahawks in an environment like this yet.
Ricky: Seahawks. An opposing rookie quarterback hasn’t won in Seattle since 2011 (Andy Dalton). Also, Russell Wilson never has lost at home to an AFC team (11-0). Expect the streaks to continue Sunday when the Legion of Boom has its way with Watson and Co.
Andre: Texans. This might be a very low scoring game because Watson hasn’t seen a defense like Seattle’s and Wilson tends to struggle against teams that aren’t the Colts, 49ers or Giants. The Texans have enough firepower on both sides of the ball to keep it close.
(-2.5) Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Redskins. The Cowboys have beaten some bad teams, while the Redskins have lost to some good ones (Philly twice, Oakland, the Rams and Kansas City). They’re closer than the records indicate, and Kirk Cousins is playing much better (119.7 passer rating over last four games) of late.
Ricky: Cowboys. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week of his banged-up offensive line, “I don’t have any linemen.” That’s not ideal, especially on a short week against the Cowboys, who finally have both Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens on the field at the same time.
Andre: Cowboys. The Cowboys’ line does an excellent job in protecting Dak Prescott (only seven sacks allowed). In the last three games, they’re averaging 6.5 yards per play and Ezekiel Elliott has been on fire lately, recording 584 total yards with six total touchdowns over the last four.
(-3) Pittsburgh Steelers at Detroit Lions, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. We’re finally starting to see the Steelers we thought we’d see, and while this has all the makings of a trap game, I just don’t think the Lions are very good.
Ricky: Steelers. Because JuJu Smith-Schuster got his bike back.
Andre: Steelers. The Lions have an atrocious -0.9 yards-per-play differential, which is third to last, and the Steelers allow the fewest yards per play. LeVeon Bell has racked up 383 total yards over the last two games. The Lions also don’t really get to the quarterback, so that’s a plus for the struggling Ben Roethlisberger.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30
Denver Broncos at (-7.5) Kansas City Chiefs, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. Trevor Siemian had everyone believing he might be halfway decent after Denver throttled the Cowboys in Week 2. Since then, however, he’s completed just 62 percent of his passes with five interceptions and just two touchdown passes.
Ricky: Chiefs. The Broncos are averaging just 10.5 points per game over their last four games, in large because opponents can bottle up Denver’s running attack and know Siemian probably isn’t going to beat them through the air. With games against the Eagles and Patriots looming after this difficult road matchup, it’s a scary time for Denver.
Andre: Chiefs. Vance Joseph isn’t having “the time of his life” these days. His defense only has four takeaways all year, which is second-to-last, and Siemian has just two touchdowns and five picks in the last four games. Alex Smith is known for protecting the ball and the Chiefs are third in the league in turnover differential.
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images
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