I want to take a minute before we get to the picks for this week to appreciate just how ridiculous Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown’s last two weeks have been. Brown has caught 20 passes for 313 yards and five touchdowns. That account for a full 48 percent of Roethlisberger’s 650 passing yards, nearly a third of his completions (63) and a full 62.5 percent of his touchdowns (8) in that span. The Big Ben to Brown connection has led to monstrous games for the Steelers offense and it has been beautiful to watch. Especially when Brown is making catches like this.
In a year in which so many exciting players have gone down to injuries, watching Antonio’s masterful displays of his craft is one of the few joys left on Sundays.
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 I’m so confident about that I’d wager 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 lines courtesy of Sportsline. All times Eastern.
Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys (-1.5), Thursday 8:25 p.m.
Level of Confidence: Feeling Pretty…Pretty Good
ATS & Straight up: Redskins
Nothing I’ve seen from Dallas and Dak Prescott in the past two weeks inspires any confidence in their ability to beat anyone. Let alone a division foe who is raring for revenge. Kirk Cousins and the ‘Skins are fighting for the playoffs and I think they get a step closer here.
No Way We Can Lose…Locks of the Week
New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills (+8), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Patriots
The Patriots have turned into their usual December killing machine. Buffalo found success slowing down the Chiefs last weekend, but the Patriots with a red-hot Tom Brady are an entirely different animal.
Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons (-3), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Vikings
The Falcons have started to find their stride on offense, in particular, wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones went off for 12 catches, 253 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week, but that came against the Buccaneers defense. This Vikings unit is one of the best in the league at shutting down opponents’ passing games (11th in NFL) and they get after the QB (30 sacks, t-9th). Minnesota gets the win on the road.
Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Chargers (-13), Sunday 4:05 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Chargers
The Chargers have gotten hot at the right time. The Chiefs are struggling, the Raiders have their own issues and the Broncos are, well, likely out of the AFC West race. That means Los Angeles, which started the season 0-4, is right in the thick of things at 5-6 on the year. The main reasons for that are a dominant pass rush and Phillip Rivers. The Browns, after some promising play at the beginning of the year, have tailed off to their normal level of terribleness. L-A gets the big win to get back to .500.
Feeling Pretty…Pretty Good
Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens (-3), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Ravens
Flacco and the offense haven’t been good, but the defense is legit. The Lions offense can be explosive, but the defense has been terrible since losing Haloti Ngata earlier this season. Alex Collins finds some success on the ground and the Ravens win.
Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars (-9.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Jaguars
I’m hesitant to take the Jaguars in any games featuring big lines solely because of Blake Bortles. I don’t trust him to not turn the ball over. The Colts are bad, but Jacoby Brissett has been able to keep them in most games. They cover here, with Jacksonville pulling it out.
Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets (+3.5), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Jets
The Chiefs have fallen apart. They’re 1-5 in their last six games after a 5-0 start to the season. The offense looks stagnant and Alex Smith has reverted back to his normal checkdown self, not pushing the ball down the field the way he was at the beginning of the season. The Jets have also lost five of six games, but they’ve been within one possession in each of those losses. They get over the hump here and beat a struggling Chiefs team.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks (+4), Sunday 8:30 p.m.
Straight up: Eagles
This is a tough one. The Seahawks always play well in front of their home fans and Russell Wilson has been an absolute magician this year. Seattle also shut down the Eagles last year, winning 26-15 in front of the CenturyLink crowd. But, the Seahawks defense is banged up, and the Eagles front four could present big problems against a bad Seattle offensive line. This will be a good barometer for just how good the Eagles are, and they squeak by with a win.
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5), Monday 8:30 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Steelers
Pittsburgh is rolling, and Ben Roethlisberger is finally looking like his old self. As mentioned at the top of the post, Antonio Brown has a large part in that with 20 receptions for 313 yards and five touchdowns in the last two weeks. That’s insane. While that production has to tail off a little at some point, the Steelers have enough weapons to beat their AFC North rivals on Monday night.
Heads or Tails…Toss Up
Denver Broncos @ Miami Dolphins (+1), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Broncos
I refuse to pick the Dolphins anymore. I’m done. Picked them to cover 16.5 points last week. They lost by 18. Nope, not gonna do it again. Now, watch, they’ll somehow end up winning this game.
Houston Texans @ Tennessee Titans (-7), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Titans
The Titans have been playing with fire in recent weeks, playing close games against bad teams. They beat the Colts by just four and beat the Bengals, Ravens and Browns by just three. I have zero reason to expect that they’ll beat the Texans by a touchdown. All available evidence says otherwise.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers (0), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Packers
Brett Hundley and the Packers offense didn’t play terribly against the Steelers on Sunday night. He’ll have a much easier task against a bad Buccaneers defense this week.
San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears (-4), Sunday 1:00 p.m.
Straight up: Bears
The 49ers will start Jimmy Garoppolo for the first time since acquiring him this week. Garoppolo did complete both passes he attempted last week and threw his first touchdown pass as a member of the Niners, but this is the first time we’ll get to see him play a full game. It’s a bit of a soft landing for him as the Bears defense has begun to struggle in recent weeks after being hit by injuries. San Fran keeps this one close, but the Bears running game eventually puts the game away.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints (-4), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Panthers
New Orleans won the first meeting between these two teams back in September and the Panthers looked awful in that game. Cam Newton in particular, played poorly going 17/26 for 167 yards and three interceptions. It’s been an up-and-down season for Newton, but he and the Panthers have started to get on a roll winning four straight since an ugly loss to the Bears on October 22nd. The Panthers defense makes a couple of big plays and so does Cam as Carolina takes over the top spot in the NFC South.
Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals (+7), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Rams
The Cardinals surprised a lot of people by getting the win over the Jaguars last week, myself included. But, this week, they’re playing a much better Rams team that got back on track with a big win over the Saints last Sunday. Rams get the win.
New York Giants @ Oakland Raiders (-7.5), Sunday 4:25 p.m.
ATS & Straight up: Raiders
The Giants just benched Eli Manning because head coach Ben McAdoo needs to “see more” of Geno Smith and what he can do. Ask any Jets fan, they’ll be able to tell you. The Raiders offense is banged up, but they should be able to get the win.