We’ll start things off with my favorite pick of the week which features the surging Oakland Raiders traveling east to take on the underdog New York Jets.
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Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
This is a major lookahead spot for the Oakland Raiders. With the playoffs hanging in the balance, Oakland must avoid peering ahead to next week’s showdown against the first-place Kansas City Chiefs and keep their eyes fixated on an improving New York Jets squad, led by a resurgent Sam Darnold. However, there are two major mismatches here that favor the home team. First things first, Oakland’s defense, most notably their secondary, has been shredded this season. The Raiders are ranked 28th in the NFL allowing 262.2 passing yards per game. The emergence of Jamison Crowder has been a story for the Jets offense. The slot man has found the end zone in three straight games and I expect that streak to continue on Sunday against the porous Raiders secondary. On the other side of the ball, Oakland’s strength offensively has been their ground attack, but the Jets have also been great at stopping the run this season. New York ranks second in the league in rush defense DVOA, thanks in large part to nose tackles Folorunso Fatukasi and Steve McLendon. The Jets also lead the league in stuff percentage, which is defined as plays where the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage, at 34%. This could be the toughest run defense rookie running back Josh Jacobs has faced this season and I give the Jets a major edge in the trenches. Take the points and fade the Raiders. Don’t forget the sprinkle the moneyline.
PICK: Jets +3
Denver Broncos at Buffalo Bills
This will be the last potential layup on the Buffalo Bills schedule until a Week 17 tilt against the New York Jets as the opponents get much tougher during the month of December. That creates a potential lookahead spot on Sunday as the Denver Broncos come in playing fairly decent football. As good as Denver played in the first half last week against the Vikings, that’s how bad they played in the second half in coughing up a 20-0 lead against Minnesota. Despite the collapse, you can’t overlook the play of Brandon Allen and Courtland Sutton, who have found nice chemistry together. Sutton had nine grabs for 113 yards and a touchdown in the 27-23 loss to the Vikings. The bad news for Denver though, Buffalo is ranked third in the NFL allowing just 197.8 yards per game through the air. The low total suggests this game will be a slugfest, and I have to side with Buffalo at home and fade the line movement, which has pushed the number from Bills -5.5 all the way down to Bills -3.5. Josh wins the battle of the Allen quarterbacks, swallow the points and take the favorite.
PICK: Bills -3.5
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals
It’s hard to make a case to back either side here. The Cincinnati Bengals offense has been an absolute disaster this season. Ryan Finley has not played well in relief of long-time starting quarterback Andy Dalton with just 282 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in two games since taking over. The Steelers defense is one of the best units in the NFL and I don’t expect Cincinnati to have much success moving the football. On the flip side, the Pittsburgh Steelers are shorthanded again on offense and will be without suspended center Maurkice Pouncey and their best two playmakers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner, who are both out with injuries. The Steelers won this game 27-3 earlier this season with all three of those players in the lineup. I think it’s safe to say fewer points will be scored this time around, which means the under is a very safe play. Look to play it at all three levels, especially the first quarter and first half.
PICK: Under 37.5
Detroit Lions at Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins appear to have totally given up, evident by the offensive line ignoring quarterback Dwayne Haskins and his cry for help in last Sunday’s loss. That being said, I’m not sure I can lay more than a field goal with Jeff Driskel and a wildly inconsistent Detroit Lions squad. The Lions sole road win this season came back in Week 3 with a 27-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, but that was with a healthy Matthew Stafford under center. Also, the Redskins defense is statistically better than the Lions, which might not mean much if Haskins continues to struggle, but it is worth noting that Washington has a chance to move the ball in this game if they can figure out which way is up. The Redskins have lost nine straight home games, a streak their fans are well aware of, as evident by an increased lack of support at FedEx Field. However, betting the NFL is all about finding value and buying low, and I feel we have it here with Washington. Nobody is looking to bet on the Redskins but after a huge week for the public chalk last Sunday, I’m going with a contrarian approach in what on paper appears to be a close game. Take the points.
PICK: Redskins +3.5
Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans
The line movement towards the Tennessee Titans was very telling for me in this game. The fact that a divisional game between two fairly evenly matched teams cleared the key number of Titans -3 should raise a red flag for anyone looking to back the Jacksonville Jaguars. It might not be pretty, but Tennessee is 3-1 since Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter. Tannehill is completing 71.4% of his passes and has exceeded expectations with his ability to lead the offense. The key in this game though comes down to stopping Derrick Henry, who has proven to be a runaway freight train at times. Henry is coming off an outstanding performance in the 35-32 win over the Kansas City Chiefs two weeks ago that saw him rush for 188 yards on 23 carries with two scores. The Jags have one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL allowing 134.6 yards per game on the ground. I think Henry has another huge day as Tennessee comes off the bye and covers the number. Make it six straight losses for the Jags in Nashville. Swallow the points.
PICK: Titans -3.5
Follow Jared Smith on Twitter: @jaredleesmith