I hope you aren’t too hungover from college football’s championship weekend, because we got another stacked NFL slate. We went 2-3 last week and ended on one of the worst bad beats ever (thanks Zay Flowers).
While everyone on Twitter has spent their time arguing whether the committee made the right decision for the CFP, I’ve been in the lab crafting some NFL plays.
Without further ado, here we go.
Denver at Houston
Spread: Houston (-3)
I was really stunned when the line opened at Houston -3.5. Houston quarterback CJ Stroud continues to be a great story. but I’m still not comfortable playing them as a favorite. Denver is one of the most improved teams in the league. Denver has won five games in a row and their defense has allowed only 16.0 points per game during that stretch. The way you hurt the Denver defense is in the running game. Denver’s secondary and pass rush have been good. I think they give Stroud some challenges here. I like backing Russell Wilson as a short underdog. We will continue to ride Denver’s winning streak here.
The pick: Denver (+3)
Atlanta at New York (Jets)
Spread: Atlanta (-2)
It’s the Desmond Ridder vs Trevor Sieman bowl. It took me a minute to stomach the thought of writing this preview. We are going back to New York here. They rank 32nd in offensive EPA and they have the worst quarterback in the NFL. Atlanta is coming off an emotional home divisional win against New Orleans. They have to travel on the road and play in cold, rainy, and windy conditions. Atlanta has a solid running game but New York has a top of the line run stop unit. Robert Saleh and the coaching staff are coaching for their lives. I know Atlanta is fighting for a playoff spot as well. New York has the better defense. Sieman can provide a spark to the New York offense (it’s hard to imagine that he could be worse).
I love the opportunity to fade Ridder as a road favorite. We will take New York here.
The pick: New York (+2)
Indianapolis at Tennessee
We are going to take the home team in this divisional matchup. Indy has overperformed this season. I know Zack Moss ran for 165 yards the last time these two teams met, but Tennessee is a different team in Nashville. They are 4-0 straight up and ATS at Nissan Stadium. I like Tennessee’s matchup on the line of scrimmage. Indianapolis ranked 26th in run defense EPA and Tennessee will be the team controlling the ball. Tennessee’s defense ranks 11th against the run.
Also, I just don’t trust Gardner Minshew on the road. On the road Minshew is averaging 6.0 yards per attempt versus 7.6 and has an even TD/Interception ratio 1:1. Take Tennessee in this tough divisional matchup.
The pick: Tennessee (PK)
Arizona at Pittsburgh
Spread: Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Pittsburgh fans were exhilarated when the franchise moved on from offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The fans were proven right when Pittsburgh scored 16 points against Cincinnati-matching their season average. Najee Harris showed some pop in the running game averaging a season high 6.6 yards per carry. Essentially, everything else was the same. Pittsburgh continued to falter on third down and in the red zone. Pickett continued to look like a below average quarterback. Arizona hasn’t been great since Kyler Murrary returned from injury. This is simply too many points to lay for Pittsburgh’s offense. They rank 28th in points per game and 25th in yards per play. Arizona has enough weapons to score a couple touchdowns. That will be more than enough.
The pick: Arizona (+6.5)
San Francisco at Philadelphia
Spread: Philadelphia (-3)
Philadelphia has the league’s best record but they don’t look like the NFL’s best team. In last week’s article, I mentioned Philly has been outgained by 100 yards or more in three out of their last four wins. That same scenario happened again last Sunday. Philadelphia escaped in overtime against Buffalo. Buffalo outgained them 505 yards to 385. Philly needed to make a 54-yard field goal to force overtime.
You have to ask the question, how many tricks can Philly pull out of their hat?
On the other side, San Francisco looked like a Super Bowl contender in their 31-13 win at Seattle on Thanksgiving. San Francisco ranks 1st in the NFL in EPA on offense and 4th in EPA on defense. They are the better football team. I like them in this spot. San Francisco has the rest advantage playing on Thursday while Philly had to battle Buffalo in overtime.
San Francisco has revenge on their mind after last year’s NFC Title game. I think San Francisco starts out fast. We will take them -1.5 in the first half. Philly has been incredibly lucky to find ways to win at the end of the game. We are going to avoid that and cash out ticket at halftime.
The pick: San Francisco (-1.5)
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter - @AMontgomeryLive