The NFL season is just about at its halfway point, and quite honestly, we still don’t know who’s good.
Well, actually, we can pretty safely say the New England Patriots are a good football team, and so are the Dallas Cowboys, maybe? After that, it’s a bunch of question marks and horrible, horrible teams.
And the league wonders why ratings are down.
Here at NESN.com, we’re not really ones to talk, as it’s been a struggle for our three football prognosticators and their weekly picks. That being said, they’re ready to turn the corner and have a big second half, starting with this week.
Here’s how the standings shape up through eight weeks.
Mike Cole: 7-6 (48-71-3 overall). His continued effort to save face before the season ends continued with the only winning mark of the week.
Ricky Doyle: 6-7 (54-63-3). He’s cooled some after a hot start, but he’s gotta feel good about the lead.
Andre Khatchaturian: 4-9 (52-65-3). After making a push for the top, he picked a bad time for a rough week.
And here are their Week 9 picks, with lines courtesy of our friends at OddsShark.com.
THURSDAY, NOV. 3
(-3.5) Atlanta Falcons (5-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4), Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Falcons. It’s always tough going on the road and winning a divisional Thursday night game, but the Bucs defense is just a few days removed from Derek Carr carving it up to the tune of 500 yards and four touchdown passes. Now Tampa Bay gets Matt Ryan? Mercy.
Ricky: Falcons. Atlanta’s offense is just too much in this matchup. Simple as that.
Andre: Falcons. Last season, the Bucs had one of the best defenses in terms of yards per play. This year, they have one of the worst (5.9 yards per play, 26th) and it’s mainly because of their pass defense, which is allowing a whopping eight yards per play. That’s not going to fly against the Falcons’ explosive offense, which averages 9.4 yards per pass attempt — easily the best mark in the league.
SUNDAY, NOV. 6
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) at (-2.5) Baltimore Ravens (3-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Steelers. Doesn’t matter much who’s under center for Pittsburgh here, because the Ravens aren’t very good. The Ravens’ three wins this season came against mostly bad teams and by a combined 13 points. Even without Ben Roethlisberger and on the road, the Steelers just have more talent.
Ricky: Steelers. Maybe it’s injuries to his supporting cast. Maybe it’s a slow return from tearing his ACL last season. Or maybe it’s just natural regression at age 31. Either way, Joe Flacco has been awful this season. Plus, the Ravens are 2-11-1 against the spread in their last 14 home games, so I’m not putting too much stock into the home-field advantage here despite it being a divisional game.
Andre: Steelers. How bad is Flacco? Let’s put it this way: The Ravens have won the turnover battle 8-5 over the last four games, but they’ve lost every game. Flacco wasn’t even able to throw a touchdown against the extremely shaky Jets secondary, so the Ravens don’t really have the quarterback advantage even with Landry Jones under the center. I like the Steelers to regroup after two straight losses (and three straight against Baltimore) and steal an ugly game on the road.
Philadelphia Eagles (4-3) at (-3) New York Giants (4-3), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Giants. New York’s coming off the bye, and the Eagles had a long night in Texas on Sunday. The Giants also are among the best teams in the NFL when it comes to yards per completion allowed, so if anyone can take away Philly’s short passing game, it’s Big Blue.
Ricky: Giants. The Eagles showed some holes Sunday night, and you have to wonder whether Carson Wentz has a good enough supporting cast, especially among that receiving corps.
Andre: Eagles. Wentz showed he can perform at a winning level against lethal pass rushes when he avoided any sacks and won in Dallas. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have 22 sacks on the season (third-most), while the Giants only have nine sacks (31st), despite the second-most hurries. The Eagles have also had the Giants number in the last decade, winning 13 of the last 16 meetings.
New York Jets (3-5) at (-3) Miami Dolphins (3-4), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Dolphins. In its two games before the bye, Miami proved it can be an effective offense when Ryan Tannehill has time to throw the ball. Between that, and the emergence of Jay Ajayi, it’s hard to see the struggling Jets keeping pace here.
Ricky: Dolphins. The Dolphins will find it much more difficult to control the clock against the Jets’ top-ranked run defense, which means Ryan Tannehill will need to make plays through the air. Fortunately for Miami, New York’s pass defense is extremely vulnerable with an aging Darrelle Revis.
Andre: Dolphins. Ajayi probably won’t rush for 200 in this one against a Jets rush defense allowing the fewest yards per play this season (3.3). But the Dolphins have a 7.8 percent sack percentage (third-best) and despite having a bye week already and playing one fewer game than most teams, they lead the NFL in hurries with 62 — nine more than the Giants, who have the second-most hurries. Good luck, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
(-7) Dallas Cowboys (7-1) at Cleveland Browns (0-8), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Cowboys. The injuries to Morris Claiborne and Barry Church are reason to lean toward taking the points, but in order for Cleveland to make those injuries mean something, the Browns need the football — which might be tough against that Cowboys offense.
Ricky: Browns. A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Why not this week? The Cowboys are due for a letdown, right? So we’ll say the Browns keep it close.
Andre: Cowboys. The Browns allow 4.8 yards per rush attempt (fourth-most). Zeke will be well-fed in this one. I would say this has backdoor cover written all over it, but Dak Prescott is fighting for his job and he’s not going to take a minute off in what could be his last game as starter.
Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5) at (-9) Kansas City Chiefs (5-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Chiefs. Jacksonville is averaging just over four points per first half on the road this season, which means the Jags probably will be looking up at KC at halftime The Jaguars usually turn it on in the second half, but that could be tough this week on the road against a Chiefs team allowing just 6.7 second-half points per game at home.
Ricky: Chiefs. Kansas City is dominant at home and Jacksonville is brutal on the road. Maybe firing their offensive coordinator will give the Jaguars a shot in the arm, but it’s hard to imagine it happening this week … or perhaps as long as Blake Bortles remains under center.
Andre: Chiefs. The Chiefs haven’t turned the ball over in three games, and that should continue with Nick Foles replacing Alex Smith, who will miss the game with a head injury. On the other side of the ball, the Chiefs lead the league with 11 interceptions and are going up against the turnover-prone Blake Bortles.
(4-4) Detroit Lions at (-6) Minnesota Vikings (5-2), Sunday, 1 p.m.
Mike: Lions. My advanced handicapping statistics (don’t ask) indicate these teams are much closer than maybe the records indicate. Is playing in Minnesota worth six points? I don’t think so, especially not with how porous the Vikings’ offensive line looks.
Ricky: Lions. I would have felt much differently about this game just a few weeks ago. But the Vikings’ flaws — patchwork offensive line, no rushing attack, lackluster quarterback play — have been exposed, and it’s hard to predict at this point what Minnesota’s offense will look like now that offensive coordinator Norv Turner resigned Wednesday. Give me the points.
Andre: Lions. Sam Bradford struggles to move the ball when he’s under pressure and the Lions can get some pressure up front (18 sacks) against a struggling Vikings offensive line. Every Lions game has been decided by seven points or less, so I think Matt Stafford and the Vikings’ inept offense makes it a close game.
(-3) New Orleans Saints (3-4) at San Francisco 49ers (1-6), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Saints. I think this game will be close, as the line indicates. The Saints obviously are a different team out of the dome, but there’s a case to be made for the 49ers as the worst team in the NFL.
Ricky: Saints. Carlos Hyde is banged up and San Francisco’s quarterback play isn’t good enough to take advantage of New Orleans’ soft defense.
Andre: Saints. The 49ers are nothing special defensively (5.8 yards allowed per play — 22nd) and Drew Brees is looking like vintage Drew Brees (72 percent completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, 4 interceptions in the last four games.) The Niners haven’t looked competitive at all, losing by an average of 17 points during their six-game losing streak.
(-3) Carolina Panthers (2-5) at Los Angeles Rams (3-4), Sunday, 4:05 p.m.
Mike: Rams. I’m making this pick not knowing who the Rams will start at quarterback (while also knowing said QB likely will stink), but I think the Rams find a way to win this on defense against a Carolina team I’m not ready to believe in.
Ricky: Panthers. Sometimes, it takes one win to get back on track. I don’t expect the Panthers to suddenly morph back into their 2015 selves, but their defense has something to build on after last week’s win over the Cardinals.
Andre: Rams. Neither team can really move the ball. Even though the Panthers won in Week 8, Cam Newton still struggled, going 14 of 27 with no touchdowns. Aaron Donald is one of the best in the game at providing pressure, so I think Newton struggles again and the Rams feed off home energy and and force a few turnovers against a team that has a minus-7 turnover differential (T-28th) to win the game.
Tennessee Titans (4-4) at (-5) San Diego Chargers (3-5), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Titans. The spread just seems a little too high for me. The Chargers just had a bruising divisional game against the Broncos, while Tennessee had a few extra days of rest after basically coasting to a Thursday night home win. Also, Marcus Mariota eats up pedestrian offenses, as indicated by his 121.9 passer rating over the last three weeks.
Ricky: Titans. Nothing the Chargers do surprises me anymore. At their peak, they look like a playoff contender. At their worst, they look like a team angling for a top-five draft pick. As such, it’s hard to give up so many points here, especially with the Titans’ offense improving a lot since the beginning of the season. Marcus Mariota is playing some of his best football yet, and Tennessee’s running back combo of DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry is legit.
Andre: Titans. The Titans have the NFL’s third-best rushing attack in the league at 4.9 yards per carry. The Chargers also have turned the ball over 17 times in the last six contests and it’s cost them a number of games. The Chargers still can win this game because the spread is rather large, but it’ll be a close one.
Indianapolis Colts (3-5) at (-7) Green Bay Packers (4-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Mike: Packers. Two or three weeks ago, the Packers covering a seven-point spread would be insane. Now, not so much. Despite losing last week, it looks like they’ve figured out some things on offense, and that should continue this week against a woeful Colts defense.
Ricky: Packers. The Colts’ pass defense stinks and cornerback Vontae Davis’ status is up in the air (concussion protocol). Aaron Rodgers is going to do some damage at home against a lackluster opponent. Expect plenty of points in this game.
Andre: Packers. Green Bay has been decent at getting to the quarterback with a 7.5 percent sack percentage, and this week the flood gates open for them when they take on the Colts, whose offensive line has allowed an NFL-most 31 sacks. Rodgers will also build on his success from Week 8 and feast on a pass defense allowing 7.9 yards per play (10th). Both quarterbacks play well in a shootout, but Luck makes a few more mistakes.
Denver Broncos (6-2) at (PK) Oakland Raiders (6-2), Sunday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Broncos. Denver’s defense just keeps it in football games, and this won’t be any different. Derek Carr’s having a great season, sure, but his career stats against the Broncos (57 percent completion percentage, 72.0 passer rating, 4.86 yard per attempt) don’t inspire enough confidence to take the Raiders.
Ricky: Broncos. Not to discredit Carr’s huge performance in Week 8 — I think he’s a legitimate up-and-coming franchise quarterback — but the big numbers came against a bad Buccaneers defense, and he’ll be going up against the other side of the spectrum in Week 9. Plus, the Raiders committed way too many penalties last week, and that lack of discipline will hurt them in big games against divisional opponents.
Andre: Raiders. Oakland hasn’t played a Sunday night game since 2006, so you know the O.co Coliseum will be rocking. The Raiders’ defense allows the most yards per play, but like the Bronces they force turnovers, and I have more faith in Carr than Trevor Siemian.
MONDAY, NOV. 7
Buffalo Bills (4-4) at (-7) Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1), Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Mike: Seahawks. The question I keep coming back to with this matchup is, which team has the bigger or greater flaws? The injuries put the Bills over the top, and taking Seattle at home in primetime makes me feel a little better about taking the Seahawks.
Ricky: Bills. Seattle’s sputtering offense makes it way too difficult to bank on the Seahawks covering a spread this big.
Andre: Bills. Russell Wilson hasn’t thrown a touchdown in three games and he might not throw another one next week, either, against a ferocious Bills pass rush that is tied for the league lead with 26 sacks. Seattle’s defense is scary in its own right (22 sacks, 4.9 yards allowed per play) and I don’t think Tyrod Taylor will have many answers either. I do love the Bills rush attack, though, and it will be the difference-maker in keeping this game close.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images