Bryan Altman

While it feels like a prerequisite for writers and journalists from all disciplines to start any piece written this week with some sort of vague and ultimately unimportant piece of commentary about the election — if only to prove that we know that the election happened, know that it was kind of important, and can convey that we don’t just have sports on the brain 24/7 — I’m going to forgo all of that. 

We’re here to talk sports, read about sports, attempt to arbitrarily predict how sports games will end (at least I’m better at predicting stuff than 99.9 percent of the pollsters) and make fun of the fact that I’ve compiled an 8-17 record over the last two weeks after a tremendous start to the year.

So with that out of the way, let’s dive right into last week’s numbers.

ATS (Against The Spread) Record – 4-8-1 (Season Record – 61-69-4)

Straight Up – 8-5-1 (Season Record – 72-59-2)

Locks of the Week – 3-2 (Season Record – 26-22-1) 

Locks of the week remain solid and I’m still picking winners, but that point spread thing… woof. 

Onward and upward. 

As always, here’s how we’ll break all of the games down. 

No way we can lose – locks of the week: As you can guess, these will be the stone-cold locks of the week. The games that I’m so confident about that I’d put my life’s savings on them if I had a life’s savings to wager.

Feeling pretty… pretty good: Not quite willing to bet the farm on this batch, but as Mr. Larry David would say, I’m feeling pretty… pretty good about these games.

Heads or Tails: These are your true toss ups: they can go one way or another and you should pick with caution even after heeding my expert advice.

All spreads courtesy of CBS Sports.

(0-9) Cleveland Browns @ (4-4) Baltimore Ravens (-8) – Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET

ATS – Browns

Straight Up – Ravens

Level of confidence – Feeling pretty… pretty good.

As expected, I got plenty of flack for picking against the Ravens once again last week. I expect to get it again. 

I think the Ravens win this one, but the Browns keep it close. The Browns arguably should have beaten the Ravens in Week 2 when these teams met, and divisional games are always relatively tight, especially coming off of short weeks and in primetime. 

Ravens win by a touchdown. 

No Way We Can Lose — Locks Of The Week


Bob Levey/Getty Images

(5-3) Houston Texans @ (2-6) Jacksonville Jaguars (-2) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Texans

Guys, rest assured… I just checked, and there is no mystery ailment plaguing the entire Texans team and sidelining them for the game. I have also confirmed that the Jaguars are still 2-6 and coming into this game on a three-game losing streak.

I also looked into the possibility that this game is being played in an alternate universe in which the Jaguars acquired Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and a clone of Jerry Rice from 1995 at the trade deadline, but that didn’t happen either. 

Being that those are the only things that could have happened that might explain that point spread, I’m going to have to go with the Texans.

The line is completely and utterly unintelligible. Texans all the way. 

(1-7) San Francisco 49ers @ (3-4-1) Arizona Cardinals (-13.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Cardinals

The 49ers’ defense is solid against the pass, but they cannot defend the run for their lives. They’re the only team in the league allowing over five yards per carry at 5.3 and have allowed 200 more yards on the year than the next closest team to them, the Cleveland Browns (SF – 1,544 vs. CLE – 1,318). 

Keep going?

Ok. What makes that stat even worse and more staggering is the fact that the 49ers have only played eight games, while the Browns have played nine. 

You see where I’m going with this?

David Johnson runs wild. Cardinals win the clock, the game, cover the spread, and get to .500.

(5-3) Minnesota Vikings @ (4-3-1) Washington Redskins (-2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Redskins

Two full weeks is an awfully long time to have to sit and think about a tie. Such a mundane ending to such an extraordinary trip to London can’t have left a good taste in the Redskins’ mouths.

But now, they get a welcome treat stateside in a Vikings team that’s licking their wounds to say the very least.

The concern I have is that there’s no cure for what ails Minnesota right now. Their offensive line isn’t getting any better and Adrian Peterson isn’t coming out of the tunnel to pick up their rushing game any time soon.

On top of that, Washington is No. 7 in the NFL in sacks with 22, averaging nearly three sacks per game, which should spell disaster for the Vikings.

Redskins take this one and the Vikings continue their slide. 

(4-4) Miami Dolphins @ (4-5) San Diego Chargers (-4) – Sunday, 4:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Chargers

This is actually going to be a fun one to watch. The Chargers and the Dolphins are both still in playoff contention, but just one more loss will seriously dampen those hopes for either of them. 

Miami has won three games in a row — each of them coming at home — to get back to .500, but a West Coast trip all the way out to San Diego is going to be a tough one for them.

The main reason?

Melvin Gordon. The Dolphins have struggled all year against the run and Gordon is wreaking havoc each week in his second year in the NFL. Look for the Chargers to exploit the Dolphins’ weakness and run their way back to .500, covering the four-point spread in the process.

(3-4-1) Cincinnati Bengals @ (5-3) New York Giants (-0.5) – Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Giants

The Bengals will be well-rested, but let’s be real — they’ve been thoroughly underwhelming through the first half of the 2016 season. Their three wins — @ NYJ, 23-22, vs. MIA, 22-7 and vs. CLE, 31-17. 

That is not a veritable who’s who of NFL opponents. 

On the other sideline, the Giants have won three straight and are playing their fourth straight game at home on Monday night, so they’ll be ready to go for this one as well. 

The line being what it is (-0.5) means oddsmakers like Cincy to win by 2.5 at a neutral site. I’m not seeing it. 

Giants win and keep the good times rolling. 

Feeling Pretty… Pretty Good


Dylan Buell/Getty Images


(4-4) Green Bay Packers @ (4-5) Tennessee Titans (+2.5) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Titans

I would say something like, ‘will the real Green Bay Packers please stand up?’ but my fear is that they already have. The Packers seem to be a middle of the road NFL team with a one-dimensional offense that defenses can figure out, along with a mediocre defense that opponents can hang points on week in and week out.

But, let’s not kid ourselves, the Titans are flawed as well.

Their defense has been abysmal in recent weeks and they could have issues with Green Bay’s offense, provided it actually shows up. As much as I’m terrified that this might be the week that Rodgers and Co. put it all together again and come out angry and silence all of their critics, I don’t see it happening. 

I like the Titans at home with the points. 

(2-6) Chicago Bears @ (3-5) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-1) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Bears

The thing to ask yourself here is how much you actually value the Bears’ win over the Vikings on Monday Night Football last week.

I’m still trying to figure that out myself, but my immediate takeaway — even though the Vikings are in a world of hurt right now — is that it was pretty impressive.

Jay Cutler performed admirably and actually looked — dare I say it — interested in football in his triumphant return, and the Bears were able to move the ball on a formidable Vikings defense. 

Tampa Bay’s defense will be a cakewalk comparatively. 

It looks like Mike Evans will be back for the Bucs after exiting concussion protocol and that’ll be the Bears’ key to winning this one. 

If they can stop Evans, they win. 

I think they do and Cutler’s resurgence continues at least one more week. 

(3-5) Los Angeles Rams @ (3-6) New York Jets (-2) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Jets

If there’s one team in the league that can’t exploit the Jets’ atrocious secondary, it’s the Rams. Their passing attack is among the worst in the league and their rushing attack hasn’t been much better, so don’t expect to see them use the run to open up the pass, especially against a Jets team that’s great against the run. 

The Jets, for some reason, will once again trot out the worst quarterback in the league even though he has an MCL sprain, which makes picking them feel slightly ridiculous. But, I still like the Jets to win a low-scoring struggle of a game against the Rams. 

I wouldn’t recommend watching this one. Jets win, 13-10 in a snooze fest. 

(6-3) Denver Broncos @ (4-4) New Orleans Saints (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Saints

On the surface, the line is confusing. But when you look back at how badly the Broncos struggled against the Raiders last week, things start to come into focus just a little bit. 

Everything about the Saints offense is better than the Raiders’ and New Orleans should be able to follow the exact same script that Oakland laid out for them this weekend. 

Use Tim Hightower and Mark Ingram to soften up the defense. Control the ball and the clock, then let Drew Brees do his thing in spots against the Broncos’ No. 1-ranked passing defense. 

The Broncos will get theirs against the Saints, but — dare I say it, once again — this New Orleans defense is actually growing up a little bit.

They’re not the pushovers they were earlier in the year and I think they’ll do enough against Trevor Siemian in a hostile environment to get the win and cover the spread. 

(7-1) Dallas Cowboys @ (4-4) Pittsburgh Steelers (-2.5) – Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Steelers

I’ve been waiting for “that game” from Dak Prescott for half of a season now, and I don’t think it’s going to come. You know, the game where he gets completely flustered and dominated by a tough defense in a tough environment on the road?

Kid has been unflappable.

I don’t think Dak is the reason the Cowboys lose this game, but I think Dallas as a team will struggle in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are going to be out for blood after an awful loss to the Ravens and need this game to keep pace with the Ravens in the NFC North.

Look for Ben Roesthlisberger and Le’Veon Bell to put on a show and secure the win for the Steelers.

Heads or Tails


Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

(6-2) Kansas City Chiefs @ (3-5) Carolina Panthers (-3) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Panthers

Don’t look now, but here come the Panthers. Everyone’s preseason darlings were left for dead after a crushing 41-38 loss to the Saints back in Week 6, but they are now riding a two-game winning streak into their matchup with the Chiefs. 

Ironically enough, they’re facing a Chiefs team that can certainly relate to the season the Panthers have had, having rallied from a 1-5 start themselves last season and rattling off 10 straight wins en route to a playoff berth. 

Now the Panthers need to beat them in order to keep those dreams alive. 

I think they get the job done. 

Sure, Alex Smith will be back this week, but the Chiefs looked beyond lackluster on both sides of the ball against the Jaguars last weekend. I think the Panthers will continue their winning ways and extend their winning streak to three games, vaulting themselves right back into the playoff picture. 

(6-3) Atlanta Falcons @ (4-4) Philadelphia Eagles (+2) – Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET

ATS/Straight Up – Eagles

Even though the wins have turned into losses of late, there’s no changing of narrative surrounding Carson Wentz. The kid is still the real deal and has shown poise and potential even in defeat. 

Now, he’ll square off with the top QB in the NFC — and maybe even the NFL — this week when he meets Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons. 

But as much as I want to bill this as a showdown between those two, this one is going to come down to the Eagles’ defense. The Falcons have been a model of consistency this season. Their defense is consistently ‘meh’ and occasionally clutch while their offense is routinely unstoppable. 

You know what you’ll get. 

The Eagles defense needs to be dominant to keep this one close. They don’t want to get into a shootout with this team. At home, I like their chances of doing just that. 

(6-2-1) Seattle Seahawks @ (7-1) New England Patriots (-7.5) – Sunday, 8:30 p.m. ET

ATS – Seahawks

Straight Up – Patriots

It’s been a while since I’ve been genuinely excited to watch a Sunday Night Football game. In all honestly, one the Jets lose and I slog my way through the 4:00 p.m. ET rack, it’s time to flip on something else. 

But this game… this is a different story all together. 

So many storylines and so much talent on both sides of the ball. I really can’t wait. 

I think the Patriots hold serve here and win, but by 7.5? That seems straight up disrespectful to the Seahawks. I know the Bills’ offense moved the ball efficiently against Seattle in their own house and that’s what many expect to see from New England, but I think New England’s defense may struggle to stop Russell Wilson and company here as well. 

This could be a shootout, and will definitely be a fun watch either way.

Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for a championship for any of his other three teams.

Questions or comments? Feel free to follow Bryan on Twitter or send him an email.

Post Author: bryan.altman.