Home team in CAPS:
Buccaneers (-10.5) over PANTHERS
Tampa Bay has shifted key personnel — including Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette and Pat O’Connor — to the IR. Still believe road chalk should be good, given that Panthers are expected to continue to employ Cam Newton at quarterback.
EAGLES (-10) over Giants
With their superior ground game, complemented by the solid field generalship of QB Jalen Hurts, the Eagles should be expected to continue on their merry way. Jake Fromm appears good to go under center for Big Blue, but Hurts is capable of utilizing much more of the field and is making the most of his opportunities.
JETS (-2.5) over Jaguars
The most recent top two draft choices — Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson — face off here. The Jets had 19 players on the COVID-19 list as of Friday. Key Jacksonville edge rusher Josh Allen has also contracted the current pestilence.
FALCONS (-6) over Lions
With Lions QB Jared Goff testing positive for COVID, Tim Boyle or David Blough may be “next man up” under center.
BENGALS (-3) over Ravens
Laid low by multiple COVID- compelled personnel losses, veteran journeyman QB Josh Johnson is in for the Ravens. His most-recent NFL appearance was a rousing three-touchdown (317-yard) effort, when leading the Jets in a tough 41-27 loss to Jacksonville in early November.
Rams (-3) over VIKINGS
Both of these teams are currently on the right side of the playoff-qualification line, but at 10-4, the Rams have more room for error, and the Vikes (7-7) still have a game remaining against the modest Bears. Adam Thielen remains questionable for the homestanding Vikings — along with RB Dalvin Cook, already out here due to COVID.
PATRIOTS (-2.5) over Bills
Bill Belichick continues to coax efforts no other NFL head coach is typically able to match — even with a rookie quarterback such as Mac Jones. Buffalo counts on QB Josh Allen to amplify its pedestrian ground game, and with a relevantly stable defensive effort, expecting the Pats to outlast this foe.
CHARGERS (-9.5) over Texans
Houston has managed just three straight-up wins this season. This is excellent news for the Bolts — that, and league history reflecting the utter dominance of AFC West teams over AFC South competition (a fulsome 80 percent over the past dozen years or so). Justin Herbert rakes in another win.
SEAHAWKS (-7) over Bears
Playing out the string, two distressed league disappointments make the best of it. The Bears have by far the worst passing attack in the league, simplifying Seattle’s defensive task to a marked extent. Nick Foles is expected to start at quarterback for the Bears, whose team over/under was last seen in the “17” range. Consider the Bears’ team Over/Under in the 17.5 range.
Steelers (+7.5) over CHIEFS
Don’t doubt coach Andy Reid’s troops will win this game, but the margin is an open question, once Pittsburgh defensive minds determine the optimal stop-unit deployments at halftime. The Steelers’ underdog tenacity is well known and must be respected.
RAIDERS (-1.5) over Broncos
Not always thrilled to lay with the Silver and Black — especially late in the season — but the home side has registered definite improvement behind Derek Carr. We’ll see if some year-to-year improvement will stick.
Washington (+10.5) over COWBOYS
Owner Daniel Snyder’s club is considerably fortified with the return of two QB Taylor Heinicke, backed up by established No. 2 QB Kyle Allen. Of course, old-enemy visitor would be thrilled and delighted to spoil Dallas’ day. Sustaining its depth under pressure will be Washington’s issue.
Dolphins (+3) over SAINTS: Off their epic shutout of the Buccaneers last time out (sweeping the season series), the Saints had one sound quarterback on the roster — ex-Notre Dame operative Ian Book, who is expected to make his league debut here before veteran Blake Bortles was signed as insurance. That leaves us with the Sea Mammals, in a game we expect will boil down to a defensive struggle.
Last week: 8-5
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