Each week brings its own set of interesting storylines, and NFL Week 10 is no different. After opening the week with just two road favorites on the docket, there are now four. There is one pick ‘em game to keep things interesting, as well.
We had a good showing in Week 9, going 7-5-1 against the spread and 10-3 straight up. We’re now 64-53-3 (54.7 percent) so far on the season, and 35-23-1 (60.3 percent) in games where my predicted spread value is two points or more away from the Vegas point spread (there are six such games this weekend).
For my pick of the Thursday Night Football game, as well as win probabilities for each game, find me on Twitter at @EricEager82.
[Editor’s note: Analyst Eric Eager utilizes Pro Football Focus’ NFL Premium Stats in his predictive model. For more on Premium Stats, click here.]
Texans (-1.5) at Jaguars
Prediction: Texans win by 1
The Jaguars struggled mightily last week at Kansas City, failing to win a game against an opponent missing its top QB, RB, WR, and TE, and best defensive player by the game’s end. That said, the Texans have yet to win a game this season on the road, and Brock Osweiler has yet to click with star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, generating just a 47.8 quarterback rating on potential connections so far this season (fourth-worst rating among qualifying WRs). If the Jaguars' back seven (with overall grades greater than 70.5 for each of them) can neutralize Hopkins, Jacksonville has a chance to steal this one at home.
Chiefs at Panthers (-3)
Prediction: Panthers win by 1
It’s really difficult to pick against the Chiefs at this point. After winning last week with a depleted lineup, it appears they’ll get some subset of Alex Smith, Spencer Ware, Jeremy Maclin, and Justin Houston back this week from injury. While the Panthers have won two in a row, they still face an uphill battle back to relevancy in the NFC. Carolina’s tackles, none of which have pass-blocking efficiency marks higher than 29th in the league, will have a hard time with the Chiefs’ trio of Houston, Tamba Hali, and Dee Ford. Ford, specifically, has produced 10 sacks and 32 total pressures overall this season, good for eighth in the league among 3-4 OLBs. Look for a low-scoring affair in Charlotte.
Broncos at Saints (-3)
Prediction: Broncos win by 1
The Saints are back to 0.500 after winning four of five, and return home to face a Denver team whose flaws become pronounced in games against high-scoring teams. New Orleans’ defense has improved in recent weeks, and may be able to have success against a Denver passing game leaving quite a bit to be desired. This meeting will likely be decided on the other side of the ball, where the Saints' offensive line (second in the league in overall pass-blocking efficiency) will have to hold up against Von Miller (90.1 overall grade), DeMarcus Ware (81.0), Shaq Barrett (80.1), and Shane Ray (75.1) to supply enough time for Drew Brees and his receivers to operate. Look for an exciting one this weekend down south.
Rams at Jets (-1.5)
Prediction: Jets win by 1
It looks like Ryan Fitzpatrick will be healthy enough to start this one for the Jets, giving us a game with two veteran quarterbacks starting over younger, more promising alternatives. The defensive lines will be the units to watch in this one, where the Jets’ Leonard Williams (83.8 overall grade) and Sheldon Richardson (80.9) will be looking to match the incomparable Aaron Donald of the Rams. Donald is generating pressure at a rate that is 4 percentage points higher than any other defensive tackle so far this season. With Nick Mangold’s continued absence bleeding into this week, look for the Rams to keep this one close in the Big Apple.
Falcons (-2) at Eagles
Prediction: Eagles win by 1
The Eagles’ fall from grace has them in last place in the suddenly-strong NFC East at the halfway mark. Rookie QB Carson Wentz opened it up a bit last week, averaging more than 11 yards per target against the Giants. This came at a cost, with two key interceptions keeping the Eagles' an arm’s length away from victory at MetLife Stadium. The Falcons' defense has improved quite a bit from last year, with eight starters owning overall grades above 75.0. The Eagles will need Fletcher Cox (86.2 overall grade) to have a big game against the Falcons’ weak link up front, where Chris Chester ranks just 53rd among guards in pass-blocking efficiency and has a run-blocking grade of 44.0. This should be a great game in Philadelphia this weekend, as the Eagles have one of the lowest win probabilities (50.16 percent) of any favorite I’ve had so far this season.
Vikings at Washington (-2.5)
Prediction: Vikings win by 1
This is the third straight week we’ve backed the Vikings, and if they play like they have the last two, this may be the last time. Minnesota began to move the ball offensively in the second half against Detroit, but fell prey to questionable play calling and poor play from the kicking game. Washington is coming off a bye, and presents some issues for the Vikings’ stout defense. Specifically, if star tight end Jordan Reed (10th among TEs with 1.89 yards per route run) gets the better of Harrison Smith and/or Anthony Barr, it will be a long day for the Vikings. However, with Trent Williams (the league’s best tackle so far this season) suspended, look for the Vikings to lay enough pressure on Kirk Cousins to mitigate some of Washington’s passing effectiveness and cover on the road.
Packers (-2.5) at Titans
Prediction: Packers win by 4
The Packers are another team that our model has been bullish on at times this season, and this week we have them covering as road favorites. The Titans are certainly making improvements this season, with an offense that ranks among the top four in the league in cumulative grading so far. It’s unclear if their strength will exploit a significant weakness in Green Bay’s defense, however, as the Packers have Mike Daniels anchoring the middle, generating eight run stops to go with his fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity mark among 3-4 defensive ends. What happens on that side of the ball is all window dressing compared to the big issue—the play of Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers regressed a bit last week against the Colts after a couple of solid performances in a row. If he returns to playing well (which I think he will), the rest of the Packers will follow suit in Nashville.
Bears (-2) at Buccaneers
Prediction: Buccaneers win by 2
Tampa Bay came back down last Thursday against the Falcons, surrendering a surgical effort to Matt Ryan in Tampa. The Bears’ passing game doesn’t have that kind of ceiling on a week-to-week basis, meaning that a Buccaneers team that has scored 34, 24, and 28 points the last three weeks should score more than enough points to be competitive in this one. It will be up to Mike Evans, fifth in the league in receiving yards and first in touchdowns so far, to get the best of veteran Tracy Porter—who has surrendered just 1.19 yards per coverage snap and an 83.7 rating into his coverage this season—to propel the Bucs to a win in this one.
Dolphins at Chargers (-4)
Prediction: Chargers win by 5
The Chargers remain competitive in arguably the best division in football by leveraging the strengths of their last two first-round picks. Running back Melvin Gordon, with the fourth-highest grade among all running backs, is second in the league in yards after contact (483), fourth in missed tackles forced (25), and first in rushing touchdowns (nine), giving this offense another dimension. Edge player Joey Bosa has been every bit as good, with a pass-rushing productivity mark (14.6) near the top of his position group. If Bosa and the Chargers’ front-seven can contain Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi—the league’s leading rusher over the last four weeks—San Diego should be able to handle Miami at Qualcomm Stadium.
49ers at Cardinals (-13.5)
Prediction: Cardinals win by 13
This is one of the bigger numbers we’ve seen so far this season. The 49ers seem to have earned it, though, generating a win probability (19.02 percent) this week that’s lower than even the Browns’ was Thursday night. Losing Arik Armstead, the league’s most efficient pass-rusher among 3-4 defensive ends so far this season, makes San Francisco’s proposition of slowing David Johnson and the Cardinals’ offense even more dicey. One level further, it’s unlikely that Gerald Hodges (74.0 overall grade), Nick Bellore (46.7), and Michael Wilhoite (32.6) will provide any resistance against Johnson in the passing game, where his 1.80 yards per route run and 407 receiving yards are fourth and first among running backs so far this season, respectively. Look for the Cardinals to control this one in one of the least-compelling games so far this season.
Cowboys at Steelers (-2.5)
Prediction: Cowboys win by 1
Despite owning a 7-1 record, the Cowboys remain relatively undervalued here on the road against a Pittsburgh team that played flatly against Baltimore last week on the road. The Cowboys' cornerbacks have been a huge revelation this year, but face their biggest test this week against Antonio Brown and without Morris Claiborne. If Brandon Carr, allowing just 1.10 yards per route run this season, can continue his renaissance and slow Brown even marginally, this game could come down to a battle between two of the league’s premiere running games. While Ezekiel Elliott is probably not as good of a running back as Le’Veon Bell at this point, Dallas has a slight edge up front, and I think this is the difference for the Cowboys this week.
Seahawks at Patriots (-7.5)
Prediction: Patriots win by 7
The Seahawks' offense came alive last week against Buffalo, with Russell Wilson playing his best game so far this season by a wide margin. Seattle's defense gave up some yards and points to Tyrod Taylor and the Bills, leaving their ability this week to slow Tom Brady on the road in question. With Julian Edelman banged up, the advantage for the Patriots in the passing game is inside the hash marks, with Rob Gronkowski (3.56 yards per route run) and Martellus Bennett (2.54) being the two most efficient tight ends in the league so far this season. While K.J. Wright (90.2 overall grade) and Bobby Wagner (89.5) have been tremendous thus far, the questionable nature of the pass-rush without Michael Bennett should give New England an opportunity to more than duplicate the Bills’ offensive effort this Sunday night, making a Seattle upset a long shot.
Bengals at Giants (pick ‘em)
Prediction: Giants win by 5
For different reasons, the Bengals and Giants remain more than alive in the playoff picture at the halfway point of the season. The Giants have improved substantially defensively, with a pass-coverage grade that’s second-best in the NFL so far at this point. If they can slow down A.J. Green (90.3 overall grade) at all, it will be difficult for the Bengals' offense to keep up with that of the Giants. While the Giants have significant talent to oppose Green, the Bengals will struggle to match wits with Odell Beckham Jr., as their top two cornerbacks have earned overall grades below 50.0. A mistake-free game by Eli Manning should be enough for the Giants to cover this one at home.