Last week ATS: 2-0-1 (minus the Denver pick, which was made before it was announced they had no QBs available)
Overall ATS: 22-19-2
1. Indianapolis Colts (-3) at Houston Texans
The Colts have got to start/continue winning. With five games left they play the Texans (twice), Raiders, Steelers and Jaguars. Somewhere in that bundle of 5 games they are probably going to have to win 3 to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs, and the only pushover comes Week 17 at home against Jacksonville. That game might mean something and it might mean nothing at all.
The Texans got started a bit too late — at 4-7 they aren’t a threat to make the playoffs — but they’ve been playing tougher since Bill O’Brien got fired. They’ve won 4 of their last 7 games and their only losses came to the Titans, Packers and Browns — all 8-win teams.
Houston is going to be without their best playmaker in Will Fuller, who got suspended for the rest of the year, and they recently released WR Kenny Stills. That leaves stud QB DeShaun Watson with an underperforming running back (David Johnson) and limited playmakers on the outside. I think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, but diminished options it’s going to be tough to put points on the board against a Colts defense that just got embarrassed in Week 12.
Score prediction: Colts 27, Texans 20
2. San Francisco 49ers (+3) vs. Buffalo Bills
The Bills are clearly one of the three- or four-best teams in the AFC, but I’m not sure this game means as much to them as it does the 49ers. At 5-6 San Francisco is a game of the 7th-seed in the NFC, while the Bills are a game ahead of the Dolphins in the AFC East with a Week 17 matchup on deck. Being this is a Monday Night game, the Bills will also be at a disadvantage of having their body clocks three hours ahead playing out west.
The 49ers haven’t had the prettiest road to their 5-6 record, but now that they are hear who’s to say they can’t close the year 9-7? After the Bills they close with Washington and Dallas (who they will be favored to beat), before closing with Arizona and Seattle. With a win over the Bills there is a path to the 49ers running the table, which would almost certainly propel Kyle Shannahan to winning Coach of the Year.
Score prediction: 49ers 24, Bills 20
3. Tennessee Titans (-5.5) vs. Cleveland Browns
This isn’t complicated. This is football. Last week when I picked the Titans (+3) on the road against the Colts, I said: Still, the NFL is a tough guy sport, and the Titans have perhaps the most Tough Guy Coach in the entire league. You can pretty much copy and paste that for why I like them to beat up on the Browns this week.
Week 13 is where we start to separate the fake ones from the real ones, and it just so happens that I think the Browns are fake and the Titans are real. Cleveland is 1-3 against teams that are .500 or better in 2020, and a perfect 7-0 against teams with losing records. Further, in their three losses — vs. the Ravens, Steelers and Raiders — they have produced a total of 19 points (6.3 per game).
That last stat isn’t entirely relevant, since the Browns are a lock to generate more than 6.3 points this Sunday, but I do think it highlights just how pathetic their offense has performed against playoff-caliber competition. It’s probably an overreaction that this line is 5.5 points instead of 3.5 (which it was last week), and at the same time I think the Titans are in a different class than Cleveland and I don’t really care what the line is.
Score prediction: Titans 28, Browns 17
4. Washington Football Team (+10.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers
I don’t have much brilliant insight here aside from the fact that the Steelers have had their schedule jerked around due to the Ravens having COVID issues and Washington is on extended rest (since they played last on Thanksgiving).
So Pittsburgh will be playing on four days rest and the Football Team will be playing on 10 days rest. Not only that, at 4-7 Washington is fighting for first place in the NFC East. I’m not saying the team formerly named the Redskins is going to go into Pittsburgh and win, but goddamn it wouldn’t it be crazy if Alex Smith cemented his Comeback Player of the Year award with a wild 16-14 win capped off by a last second field goal? It would be awesome.
Score prediction: Steelers 23, Football Team 17