We’ll start things off with my a matchup between the Steelers and Jets as Pittsburgh continues its push for the postseason.
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Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets
This game features two teams that have been ravaged by injuries this season. Unlike the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have rebounded nicely after the season-ending injury to Ben Roethlisberger, the New York Jets have floundered after some bad injury luck earlier this season. Sam Darnold‘s bizarre diagnoses of mono, followed by a dreadful performance in primetime where he was terrorized by the Patriots defense, has defined Gangreen’s season. On the other side, Mike Tomlin’s steady hand has guided the Steelers to the brink of the postseason despite key injuries to Roethlisberger, top wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, and lead running back James Conner. The Steelers defense has also been a big reason why the team has stayed in the hunt. Pittsburgh is ranked third in the NFL allowing just 4.8 yards per play. The low total in this game leads me to believe that Pittsburgh’s defense will control the tempo. I think Darnold will be on the run for most of the game and the Steelers get the job done.
PICK: Steelers -3
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans
I don’t trust Tennessee Titans after what I saw last week. They seem to be capable of getting to the top of the mountain but are incapable of taking the final step to reach the summit. It’s not for lack of talent, Ryan Tannehill looks revitalized and is completing 71.5% of his passes this season while Derrick Henry has solidified himself as an every-down back and A.J. Brown has emerged into a legit threat on the outside. We know what we are getting with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense, which is arguably the most consistent unit in the league. New Orleans is 6th in the NFL averaging 6.0 yards per play and have an underrated hammer at running back with Latavius Murray. If the Saints take an early lead, expect to see a lot of Murray as the Saints need to keep winning if they want to keep pace with the two top dogs in the NFC. With Green Bay facing a tough matchup at the Vikings on Monday night, this could be Sean Payton’s best shot at getting a first-round bye. Take the Saints.
PICK: Saints -3
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
This is a massive revenge spot for the Baltimore Ravens. Their loss to the Cleveland Browns way back at the beginning of the season is the last time the Ravens suffered a setback. Baker Mayfield had his best passing game of the season, throwing for 342 yards with a touchdown and adding another score on the ground. I’m betting on Mayfield not being able to repeat that performance against a streaking Ravens defense that is allowing just 13.6 points per game over the last 5 games. Lamar Jackson has already clinched the MVP award in my eyes and has nothing more to prove here. However, I do like that the Ravens are coming off 10-days rest after their win last Thursday over the Jets. I’ll take the rested Ravens to exact revenge against Baker and the Browns. I also think the first half spread is a good bet, as I can see Baltimore getting off to a fast start but the back door being open in the second half if Jackson heads to the bench.
PICK: Ravens -9.5
Carolina Panthers at Indianapolis Colts
The wheels have fallen off for both the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers in 2019. Both teams have been cursed with quarterback issues, with Andrew Luck’s retirement and Cam Newton’s nagging injuries forcing both teams to go in different directions. Newton’s contract is not guaranteed in 2020, so he’s likely played his last game in Charlotte. That vacancy is part of the decision-making process which has led to rookie Will Grier getting the start under center. The third-round pick out of West Virginia is an intriguing prospect and had a very successful collegiate career in Morgantown. This is a tough spot for Grier’s first career start, against Colts’ defense that will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after getting embarrassed by Drew Brees on national TV. I like to back teams after playing their worst week, as it gives you the most bang for your buck with line value. I think this is a good week for Marlon Mack to get going against a Carolina defense allowing 140.2 rushing yards per game. Swallow the points and take the home favorite.
PICK: Colts -6.5
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks must avoid a letdown game against the Arizona Cardinals. With a monster matchup against the 49ers looming next week, which will likely decide the fate of the NFC West, Seattle must win to keep pace with San Francisco atop the division standings. The Seahawks will be without wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was suspended again by the NFL this week for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. I’m a little concerned about Seattle’s injury report, especially on the defensive side. Jadeveon Clowney is doubtful with a core injury while Griffin (hamstring), Quandre Diggs (ankle), and Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) are all questionable. Offensive lineman Duane Brown has already been ruled out. Meanwhile, Arizona seems to be improving every week and put together an impressive performance last Sunday in a wire-to-wire win over the Browns. I like the matchup with Kenyan Drake against a banged-up Seahawks defense. It’s a dangerous spot for rookie quarterback Kyler Murray, but he is starting to become a presence in the running game, and I like getting more than a touchdown in a divisional game.
PICK: Cardinals +7.5
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