Week 11 saw the return of significant season-ending injuries and Week 12 is back to screwing with the schedule. After losing Joe Burrow and Rex Burkhead, among others, to injury last week we might lose an entire game due to COVID. An outbreak at the Baltimore Raves facility that has claimed Lamar Jackson and forced a shutdown until at least Monday. This obviously puts their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in even further doubt after the game was already moved from Thursday.
Moving that game may have been for the best. It was another week of taking it on the chin, going 1-3 in Week 11 which was an improvement over the week before. Undeterred, we must forge on with a two-game primetime slate. There’s still plenty of opportunities to make some money this week and if anyone is going to make it, it might as well be us (for a change, sheesh).
Staying on Schedule with Week 12 Primetime Moneymakers
Chicago Bears (5-5) at Green Bay Packers (7-3)
Spread: Packers -9
What a fall from grace it’s been for the Chicago Bears (5-5 ATS) who began the season 5-1. They went into their bye on a four-game losing streak and with a loss to the Minnesota Vikings for the first time since 2017. As usual, their defense is among the best, ranking fourth in defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders and sixth in scoring. But their offense checks in at 29th in DVOA and 31st in scoring. You see the problem. Now, they turn back to opening-day starter Mitchell Trubisky with Nick Foles still on the mend. They also don’t know if Akiem Hicks will be available to stop the run.
The Green Bay Packers (6-4 ATS) should be 8-2. Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s fumble in Packer territory in overtime allowed for a game-winning field goal by the Indianapolis Colts. All three of Green Bay’s losses have been of a confounding nature for various reasons. They still rank ninth in total DVOA and second in offense DVOA. Their (sometimes glaring) weakness is their defense. After making tremendous strides last season, they have regressed some. They still rank 18th in defense DVOA (15th in 2019), but aren’t getting to the quarterback in the same way as before. Still, the trio of Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones is as good of an eraser as there is.
There isn’t much mystery here as the Packers have owned the Bears since Bret Favre’s time in Wisconsin with some highly critical games along the way including an NFC Championship. Chicago hasn’t beaten Green Bay since 2018 and, with the current state of both teams as it is, they don’t appear poised to snap that streak in 2020. Trubisky, who was already benched this season, has only thrown four touchdowns (with three interceptions) in five games against the Packers. So it’s unlikely he is the answer to their scoring woes, let alone breaking out of their slump. This game opened at Packer -7.5 and has only grown. Follow that lead and take Green Bay laying the points. We’re leaving totals alone this week for…reasons.
Seattle Seahawks (7-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)
Spread: Eagles +5
It was around this time last week that we were on the brink of eulogizing the Seattle Seahawks (6-4 ATS) in advance of their matchup with the Arizona Cardinals. “Let Russ Cook” took a backseat as Russell Wilson tied a season-low with 28 pass attempts and set a new season-low with 197 yards. The Seahawks still managed a 28-21 victory in primetime. Seattle is much like Green Bay in that they are carried by their offense. They rank fourth in offense DVOA but 23rd in defense DVOA. So perhaps they can find a happy medium between letting Russ cook and their run-heavy approach of the past two seasons.
Carson Wentz is fighting for his career as a starter with the Philadelphia Eagles (3-7 ATS) while they are fighting for the crown in the worst division in football. With a win, the Eagles would take over first place from the Washington Football team by virtue of having a tie in place of a loss. It’s a dubious honor but a loss could usher in the start of the Jalen Hurts era in Philly. The Eagles defense ranks 30th in DVOA thanks in no small part to Wentz’s league-leading 14 interceptions. But their defense ranks 13th bolstered by their stout run-stopping ability.
The Eagles have lost and failed to cover in each of their last two games and neither contest was against top-tier competition. On the other side, the Seahawks bounced back from implosion but have failed to cover on the road since Week 4 in Miami. Philadelphia is also getting healthier at wide receiver and tight end. Can they offset the juice seemingly added to Seattle’s pass rush by the addition of Carlos Dunlap? This feels like a trap after opening at -2.5, but home dogs have covered over 50 percent of the time making Philly plus the points feel best. Both defenses shut down the run meaning more passing which usually means more points. Pound the over.
Baltimore Ravens (6-4) at Pittsburgh Steelers (10-0)
Spread: Steelers -4.5
This on-again, off-again affair is back on again for primetime after being moved from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon, now to Tuesday night following an outbreak of COVID among the Baltimore Ravens (4-6 ATS). In the midst of what would be considered a down year offensively, the Ravens will face an undefeated opponent having not been allowed to practice until Monday at the earliest. On top of that, even if they end up playing the game, Baltimore’s 23rd ranked offense (DVOA) will be led by Robert Griffin III as Lamar Jackson has tested positive. They’ll be relying on their defense that ranks seventh in DVOA a little more than usual.
“Undefeated” might as well be a four-letter word as you won’t find many teams that will ever entertain the idea. The same goes for the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-2) who are having an incredible season. They’re third in total DVOA, first in defense DVOA, fourth in scoring offense, and first in scoring defense. This is a well-rounded machine even if it isn’t always well-oiled. Pittsburgh has scored at least 24 points in every game this season while allowing an opponent to score more than that just once. The Steelers also lead the league in sacks, just one more thing for fill-in RGIII to worry about come (hopefully) Tuesday night.
There is no way the Ravens can be as prepared to play this game as they need to be to have a chance. And that’s before factoring in a backup quarterback. When these two teams met back in Week 8, the Steelers came away with a 28-24 victory on a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown pass to Chase Claypool late in the fourth quarter. It won’t get that close this time with the way this game is shaping up. 4.5 might not be enough for the Ravens to cover the first quarter, take Pittsburgh. And if you’re feeling frisky take the under. Baltimore might have trouble hitting their implied total of 20.5 and Pittsburgh could turn to James Conner and the run early with the Calais Campbell set to miss another game.
Another week in the NFL meant another string of brutal injuries. Odell Beckham is out for the season after tearing his ACL and Kenyan Drake will miss time with an ankle injury. We also got word on Wednesday that the Houston Texans shut down their facilities following a player having a positive COVID test. Fortunately, they are on their bye week so we should avoid any rescheduling. That’s assuming the Green Bay Packers, their Week 7 opponent, don’t have any positives pop up.
We broke even last week, bringing us to 4-6. It’s a feat only possible due to the flexing of Bucs-Raiders out of primetime. That game and the Thursday game (Giants-Eagles) came through against the spread. The Cardinals made a statement over the Seahawks, as did the Rams over the Bears. But those just added to the loss column for our purposes. Nailing the total has been a challenge too, but we still hit .500 there too. As usual, there’s money to be made so we might as well make it!
Primetime Moneymakers Week 8: Highly Favored
Atlanta Falcons (1-6) @ Carolina Panthers (3-4)
Spread: Panthers -2.5
What more can you say about the Atlanta Falcons (2-5 ATS)? Rarely is scoring the go-ahead touchdown a recipe for disaster. But that’s what happened after Todd Gurley fell into the end zone against the Lions. Atlanta’s 27th-ranked (DVOA) defense allowed Matthew Stafford and the Lions to march 75 yards in five plays and the game-winning touchdown. Their pass defense has been particularly atrocious, ranking 32nd in yards and touchdowns allowed.
The Carolina Panthers have been a mixed bag this season. They are 3-4, which isn’t great. But they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record. Teddy Bridgewater is second in the league in completion percentage but has only thrown eight touchdowns to five picks. Mike Davis has filled in admirably with Christian McCaffrey out of the lineup. But the dynamic back has an outside shot at playing in this one. He missed the first meeting between these two teams, which the Panthers won 23-16.
It’s almost impossible to put money on the Falcons. They have blown leads in every way imaginable. After getting a brief respite in interim-head coach Raheem Morris’ first game; a 40-23 washing of the likewise bombing Minnesota Vikings. Carolina’s offense is 10th in DVOA (Atlanta is 23rd) and their defense is 23rd (27th for Atlanta). There could be a lot of points put up, but the under hit last time they met. Avoid the spread and take the Panthers moneyline. The under is also appealing, though the offenses are far superior to the defenses in this one.
Dallas Cowboys (2-5) – Philadelphia Eagles (2-4-1)
Spread: Eagles -7.5
What’s more ridiculous? That the Philadelphia Eagles play in primetime in back-to-back weeks? Or the Dallas Cowboys getting another primetime game at all? Whatever, we’ll hold our nose and take a swing. Philly (2-5 ATS) eeked out a victory against the wayward New York Giants. Carson Wentz threw just one (or fewer) interception for just the third time this season and the Eagles (25th in DVOA) ascended to first in the NFC East in the process. Now they’ll get a shell of the Cowboys.
The D in ‘Big D’ must stand for despair. After losing star quarterback Dak Prescott to a gruesome ankle injury a couple of weeks ago. Dallas (0-7 ATS) saw replacement Andy Dalton take a cheap shot from Washington Football Team linebacker Jonathan Bostic. He’s now in concussion protocol and, as of Wednesday, wasn’t practicing. In steps rookie seventh-round pick Ben DiNucci at quarterback. He took as many sacks as he had completed passes last week and the Eagles pass-rush is still fierce. They’re third in sacks and fifth in ESPN’s Pass Rush Win Rate.
Listen, nothing has been easy for the Eagles this season. They have been one of the most inconsistent and injury-riddled outfits in the NFL. This one, though, might be the gimme-est of gimmes. A third-string quarterback making his first NFL start playing behind a porous offensive line and backed by an even more porous defense is food for the battle-tested Eagles. Dallas hasn’t covered all season and you shouldn’t expect them to now. The Cowboys likely struggles should also suppress the score here, putting the under in play.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-2) – New York Giants (1-6)
Spread: Giants +10.5
Antonio Brown made headlines this week when he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-3 ATS), further solidifying the deepest stable of weapons in the NFL. Tom Brady is having a throwback campaign and has thrown 18 touchdowns (second in the NFL) to just four picks. Brown won’t play in this one but the Bucs boast the sixth-best offensive DVOA without him. Add that to their defense (first in DVOA) and it’s a tall task for any opponent.
Daniel Jones has regressed this season. Granted, New York (4-3 ATS) has suffered as devastating injuries as any team. Saquon Barkley comes to mind. But Jones is throwing fewer touchdowns and more interceptions and still has a fumbling problem. The Giants are 30th in offensive DVOA. That defense (19th in DVOA) won’t be able to save them. They were able to keep it close against the Eagles last week. That probably won’t be the case against the Bucs.
To put it in no uncertain terms, this should be a blowout. Tampa has scored 23-plus points in every game but one while the Giants have allowed 22-plus in four of seven contests. New York was able to move the ball and even put up points against the Eagles. Tampa, the number one overall team in total DVOA, is a different animal entirely. 10.5 might not be enough for the Giants to cover this week, friends.
Continuing on our trip around the NFL to explore the best, worst, and next move for every team in free agency. We began by going over the Norths; both AFC and NFC. Our last installment covered the AFC East; a division rife with change the past 18 months. Next up, we will dissect the NFC East where it appears to still be a two-team race.
Free Agency Best and Worst: NFC East
Best Move: Replenishing the D-Line
The phrase “the rich get richer” comes to mind with this. After the Dallas Cowboys ranked 10th in opponent rushing yards per attempt and 11th in total rushing yards in 2019, the need for interior defensive linemen didn’t seem immediate. While they lost Maliek Collins to the Las Vegas Raiders, they have Antwaun Woods returning and drafted Trysten Hill in the second round.
That didn’t stop them from snatching up Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe, both of whom played with the Carolina Panthers last season. The other interesting point about the signings is the scheme. It’s been reported that Dallas won’t be changing schemes but these signings (Poe in particular) signify there will be at least some clear 3-4 principles.
Worst Move: Ignoring the O-Line
NFL life giveth and it taketh away. That has to be the mantra for Cowboys fans who had to watch their All-Pro center, Travis Frederick, suddenly retire after seven years in Texas. Frederick (who missed all of 2018 with Guillain-Barre) is not the only loss on the line either, just the most significant.
Dallas also lost guard Xavier Su’a-Filo and tackle Cameron Fleming. Both are reserves but they do have 18 starts over the past two years between them for Dallas. Interior lineman Joe Looney was brought back. But with a guaranteed hole at center, Looney’s role off the bench needs filling in addition to those other guys. Once a strength, the offensive line is now a huge question mark.
Next Move: Find a Pass-Rusher
With Dallas signing Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, fans can finally cross ‘playmaking safety’ off their wishlist. However, they lost 19.5 of their 39 sacks in just Quinn, Collins, and Michael Bennett. Dallas has largely ignored their pass rush outside of signing Aldon Smith who hasn’t played since the 2015 season and hasn’t recorded double-digit sacks since 2012.
DeMarcus Lawrence only had five sacks in 2019 after tallying 25 over the past two seasons combined. Their next best pass rusher still on the roster was defensive back Jourdan Lewis who had four followed by Jaylon Smith who had 2.5. Dallas will need to find a complementary rusher even if Lawerence returns to form.
New York Giants
Best Move: Tagging Investments
Free agency was ugly for New York Giants fans expecting to be aggressive in trying to upgrade the talent around Daniel Jones for his sophomore season. At least they didn’t let an investment walk for nothing. Leonard Williams was acquired mid-season and while that always made his return likely, it still wasn’t a given.
Williams hasn’t been all he was cracked up to be leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft when he went sixth overall to the New York Jets. He has just 17.5 sacks in six years and his career-high is just seven back in 2016. As a down lineman, huge sack totals aren’t to be expected but he was touted as a game-changer. The Giants mostly tagged him because they traded for him.
Worst Move: Not Adding Weapons
New York will return their top three receivers from 2019 in Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. That should be a boon, and perhaps it will be. None of those three saw all 16 games, started more than 10 games, or even cleared 750 yards. Evan Engram has seen less and less game action due to injury as each year passes.
Levine Toilolo and Eric Tomlinson are nothing more than backups. Lewis is a scat back. Where are the playmakers? Giants brass is putting a lot of faith in a group that has dealt with injuries of varying severity throughout their careers. That is counter-intuitive to the notion that a young quarterback like Jones needs to be surrounded by talent. Maybe this situation is the exception.
Next Move: Protect the Franchise
Jones took tied with Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Allen for ninth in sacks taken with 38. He did so while playing in 13 games (12 starts). Only Kyle Allen of the Panthers took more sacks (46) in as many games as Jones. Their offensive line was middling at best and they just lost both of their starting tackles.
New York has attempted to replace one of those starting tackles with Cameron Fleming. Stealing a piece from the rival Dallas Cowboys is sweet burn, but Fleming has all of six starts in his career. Counting on him to step in and be a bookend might be too tall of an ask. They have Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler at guard, but tackle is a weakness.
Best Move: Bolstering the Secondary
This was a tough call that almost resulted in a tie. Pairing former Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave with Fletcher Cox should have interior lineman worried. But the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line, even in down years, has been formidable. Their secondary has been the total opposite of that. Darius Slay was brought in to change that.
Philly ranked third in rushing yards allowed but was 19th against the pass, further illustrating the deciding factor in praising Slay’s addition over that of Hargrave. His 55.9 percent completion percentage allowed is better than any Eagles corner from 2019 and that was a down year for him. He also got out of a bad situation in Detroit so he could look to show out for his new team.
Worst Move: Ignoring the Offense
Carson Wentz made it through an entire 16-game slate for the first time since his rookie season. He was the only one as only three eagles total even appeared in every game. The receiving corp was especially hard hit last season by injuries so the lack of movement is surprising. By year’s end, Wentz was leaning on converted college quarterback Greg Ward.
This offense leans on tight end Zach Ertz and a multi-faceted ground attack. But Wentz still needs more, reliable weapons. Especially if the ultimately moves on from disgruntled receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has dealt with his own injury woes throughout his career. Most mocks have taken note of this and have the Eagles targeting the position early in the draft.
Next Move: Find Another EDGE
Philly ranked 14th in sacks last season; very average. Signing Hargrave should do wonders for their already stout run defense. But they are wafer-thin on the edges. Their top pass rusher, Brandon Graham, is 32 years old and Vinny Curry just walked. That just leaves 2017 first-rounder, Derek Barnett, and 2018 fourth-rounder Josh Sweat behind Graham.
Picking 20th, the Eagles are in prime “best player available” territory. Many mocks have them taking a receiver in the first, but the position is considered to be as deep as it’s been in years. That opens the door to not only a position that isn’t necessarily a need but could still be a great value. They could also trade down if they aren’t in love with anyone.
Best Move: Revamping the Secondary
The Washington Redskins finished 2019 ranked 18th in passing yards allowed, marking the third straight year they regressed from the previous season. Redskins brass responded accordingly, moving on from starters Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar, as well as reserve Aaron Colvin, and replacing them with Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby.
Safety isn’t an issue with Landon Collins and Montae Nicholson but cornerback was clearly a different story. The issue is that neither Fuller nor Darby had particularly good seasons. Fuller’s was the better of the two, but he allowed 77.8 percent completion of throws in his coverage and dealt with injuries.
Worst Move: Ignoring D-Line
What’s worse than having the 18th-ranked passing defense? Having the 31st ranked run defense is a pretty good guess. Washington found themselves scraping the bottom despite having invested plenty into the position in the last three-plus years. Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne are both former first-round picks but only Payne played like one last season.
Matthew Ioannidis was their best lineman. The former fifth-round pick led Washington in sacks with 8.5, an impressive number from a lineman in an odd front. It could simply be a matter of not being able to play any worse, and the switch to Ron Rivera should help. But with Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley in the division, they need to up their run stuffing.
Next Move: Figure Out QB
Dwayne Haskins couldn’t seem to catch a break as a rookie. Rumors started immediately after he was drafted about not everyone in Washington not being on board with the selection. Then, during the season, video surfaced of Haskins pleading with his offensive line to block only to be met with apathy. Even this offseason he has dealt with former coaches questioning his intelligence.
This is an interesting age in the NFL. Quarterbacks used to get every chance to prove they weren’t the guy before a team admitted they gaffed in taking them. In Haskins’ case, the buyer’s remorse seemingly happened before he was even taken. If the Redskins are going to commit to him, they need to say so in no uncertain terms. How do you get a proper evaluation if you aren’t even looking to conduct one?